Finding Km 83
29.07.06 by Buffalo Bill
Granville – Arromanches 137km – 13th July
I was riding along the D514, the coast road that runs along the Calvados coast from Carentan to Honfleur at the mouth of the Seine. There are many points of interest along the road, the beautiful beaches that were used by the Allied invasion of D Day, and the many seaside towns, Arromanches, Deauville, Ouistreham. I found this redundant piece of road, from nowhere to nowhere, which seemed to be an apt metaphor for my trip.
A little further up the road I noticed this kilometre stone. Between Granville and Carentan I hadn’t seen any kilo stones, only paint dashes drawn at right angles to the road. I had by this time on my trip given up any idea of finding Km 83. And let go of the love that it represented.
But when I looked at this kilo stone, I saw that it was marked 90. Which meant that somewhere on the D514, the Calvados coast road, I might be able to find Km 83. That there was a chance that the love that I had lost could be found again.
Suddenly my whole journey seemed to be making sense. I had been wandering aimlessly around west France, my movements determined by my injured tendon, and bounded by a calculation of the distance from Dieppe, my link to Blighty and my eventual return home. I had no purpose other than to ride and think.
But now I started to believe that I had been brought to Km 83, that my lost love was not lost but merely at the end of a long journey that I had to make, that it was merely a question of seeing how long the road was that led me back, that I only had to follow, and that this love would be waiting for me.
I was excited and felt my heart beating faster in anticipation. I reached the next stone. 89. In 6 kilometres, I would be at 83, and everything would make sense.
And then I saw something that made me question my symbology. A car park. The entrance was bounded by old D513 kilo stones, their markings obscured by the weather. I looked quickly around, but couldn’t see an 83. But maybe it was one of the effaced stones. Maybe km83 was redundant and had been re-used. Or was the place that had been marked by the stone my goal? I rode back out of the car-park and continued East.
I reached 84. And then the road split. The new road, the current D513, went up a hill and avoided the centre of Grandcamp-Maisy. The old road, the former D513, went through the centre of the village. I checked the distance on my clock. And followed the new road. Perhaps there was a new km 83 on this road. I passed 1000 m from km 84. And there, gleaming in the sun, perhaps 4 metres in height, was this statue. Angel of Peace.
I rode further East and found km 82. Then I rode back, measuring the distance on my clock. The statue was at km 83. The fork where the old road rejoined the new road on the other side of Grandcamp-Maisy was right by the statue. On the old or new road, this was km 83. I was at km 83. And I had found an Angel of Peace. But I wasn’t at peace. My symbology had been disturbed. The symbol of my lost love, the cipher of the bond between she and I, was marked by an Angel of Peace. Did that I mean I should be at peace with this lost love, and let it go, or that only if I found this love again would I be at peace?
I felt elated that I had reached km 83 merely by riding, without seeking, but confused by what I found there.
I guess that symbols are what you make of them.
‘I am the message and the messenger
I am the little address and the mail’
This is the seventh part of my journey to France, ‘Looking for Km 83’