On the Road to France, Chapter 6

          Even Italy is cold in March and this was England. My leather jacket kept out the wind but my dungarees didn’t. There was no windscreen or fairing on that classic motorcycle I was beginning to love so much. I got as far as I could toward the English Channel before pulling into an inn that was also a pub. I didn’t have much money and I couldn’t get any more until Paris. I took a cheap room and ran the bath but found that, by the time it filled up, the hot water was only tepid. I got in and stayed as long as possible but couldn’t get warm. After a sandwich at the pub and a dreamless sleep, I was ready early the next morning early to head for Dover, to board the ship, and to France.

          Finding some rags, I cleaned the cold March mud off my precious Triumph, shined her up, and got on the road. And this time it wasn’t long before I saw the white cliffs of Dover shining from a sun break through the heavy gray clouds over the English Channel. I was on the edge of hypothermia. The power of a few sunrays and a calming of the wind were welcome and important. I saw the beauty of those chalk cliffs, the sun lighting them, and felt the warmth spreading over me at the same time. On the boat I found a warm bench near the engine room and fell into a dead sleep.

          On the other side, in France, I drove for a while to get away from the congestion of the port and found a café where I could warm up and get something to eat before the long leg of the trip coming up. I didn’t have much money left. A spoiled child from a privileged and sheltered background is not well prepared for certain realities of the world. At that café I paid with my last traveler’s check and accepted the change in francs with perfect trust.

          The road was cold again as I traveled south to Paris. France wasn’t any warmer than England and it wasn’t long before I had to pull over. There was a frigid, light rain falling. The only shelter was a big haystack in a field and a storage shed which was locked. I wiggled into the hay for a while but that didn’t work. I had no choice but to move on.

          The rain got worse and night closed in. I was freezing when, finally, I got to a small town with a little hotel and café. That was when I realized I had been cheated earlier and that my money was gone. Only the goodness of the French people in that cafe saved me. They could see the shape I was in and gave me a room in the attic somewhere and a little food. In the café, someone bought me a couple of glasses of wine that warmed me while the freezing rain outside poured down in torrents. Maybe the people in that café were warmed too by their own kindness. It was a nice moment for very weary stranger on the road. I slept in peace in the little attic room.

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