The morning of Sunday 7th June felt strange. Certainly it was clear that 4.5 hours sleep after 4 days of exertion was not enough (!), but apart from that it felt quite bizarre to see our group dressed in “civvies” for breakfast and not having to rush to clip themselves back onto their bikes, which had become new appendages for us all over the past 96 hours!
I shared a table with James and Matt in contemplative mood, and then joined them for a walk under the Eiffel Tower (too busy to ascend) and back to the Trocadero/Chocolate Factory, now teeming with people, for a few photos. We’d hardly been out for two hours yet it was time to head back to the hotel, gather up belongings and pile into the bus to the airport to return home.
At Charles de Gaulle I spoke with an extremely tired Lloyd Williams about the forthcoming Welsh camps, his week off and golf and once on the plane I finally managed to properly “meet” Rhys Blumberg and talk all things rugby, including learning about his own eventful career.
The trip to Cardiff was short and soon we were passing through passport control and baggage reclaim, hugging and waving goodbye and spilling out into the car park, where I saw B for the first time in five days, and headed home, battling traffic and roadworks, and talking almost exclusively of the adventure that had just ended.
On Monday though, it was time to return to Cardiff Arms Park, the scene of our jubilant departure less than a week before, to collect my bike which had been repatriated by PIE. Entering the bar and seeing all the bicycles neatly stationed around the perimeter was almost akin to entering a graveyard. The silence was quite perturbing. Bereft of their owners, the bikes looked, and felt out of place! All in all it felt like a sad, but fitting end to the trip. I was glad to see David picking up his bike as I left though, to pick up my spirits and talk over the journey and the experience as a whole.
So that was that, after a manic, eventful and thoroughly enjoyable 5 days, the long-distance cycle ride to Paris was over. But what is certain is that nobody on the trip (myself included of course!) ever forgot just why we had embarked on such a physical challenge in the first place. Owen Williams is an inspirational man and we all hope that our fundraising efforts this year will, in some way, help to change his life for the better.
If you’ve enjoyed living our adventure to the continent though these blogs, don’t forget it isn’t too late to donate. Please support the on-going fundraising effort by giving a little here: www.JustGiving.com/StayStrongForOws-GJS