The Magic Pen

Time to pack up and head off to pastures new. We had decided to head for Le Puy-en-Velay in the Massif Central.

When we are touring in France we use combination of Michelin maps, one of which is a large “big picture” route planner at 1cm = 10kms. A couple of years ago we discovered that a ball point pen that we possessed was handy in judging distances and driving times between points. One pen length was worth a hundred on our big picture map. “A hundred what?”, I hear you ask. “Precisely!”, I reply.

The Magic Pen and map In selecting Le Puy-en-Velay as our next destination, my astronavigatrix had been pacing pen lengths out on our map and decided that Le Puy was 2½ pens away. “That’s about 250 kms”, said she, “about 160 miles”. Off we set. Since it wasn’t too far, we elected to take the scenic route initially and avoid the autoroute until we needed to negotiate Clermont Ferrand (or Clement Freud, as it has become affectionately known). After we were about half way there, I already had 120 miles on the trip odometer. Whoops! Astronavigatrix now remembered that the magic pen was worth 100 miles, not 100 kms. The magic pen is actually 14cms long, add 2cms to allow for road bends, twists and turns, and you arrive at 16cms=160kms=100miles. It is remarkably accurate provided that one remembers what it is worth 100 of.

No problem, we had plenty of time and driving in France is utter bliss compared to the bedlam of the UK. We eventually arrived after 270 miles and 7 hours driving. We rejected our first attempt at a camp site as being too dull and too far out of town but settled in happily to our second choice.

It is worth noting that, having driven 270 miles diagonally across France, we are still on the banks of the same river, La Loire.

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