Archive for October, 2009

15th to 22nd October

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

14th October (Day 6)
Making good progress today – lovely sunny day. although a definite chill in the air. All going well, until we realised that we weren’t on the road we should have been. And had been cycling for at least 12km in the wrong direction – rubbish!

Anyway, we decided to head for Ancy-Le-Franc, and found a lovely warm hotel there with internet access. With a takeaway pizza (essential cycle food!) we crashed out on top of the computer!

Day 7
Jon wasn’t feeling too great today, so used morning to catch up on internet stuff, and then planned to do 50km to Vittreaux where we found a deserted campsite. But it was so cold when the sun set, we were in bed by 7.30pm, after a dinner of pasta and frankferters! Rocknroll!

Day 8
No wonder we were so cold last night – the tent was actually frosted up this morning! And my bike was frozen, so the gears weren’t working that well. Anyway, we set off, even though I couldn’t feel my fingers and I was almost wearing all the clothes I had! But we made good progress through Beaux and lots of vineyards.My first blag was to negotiate a 1/3 off a hotel room for charity, which I did, and we then followed it up with €5 off our meal. – Touch!

Day 9
Big 110km ride today to get down to our hostel in Lyon, and planning the route along the Rhone river was a result as it was quite flat. When we got to Lyon we were directed up a very steep hill to get to the hostel. Jon nearly got to the top, but I was struggling with the weight on the bike. We found we were sharing a room with two Aussie winemakers, who were working for 8 weeks in the Rhone, which was quite ironic as that is one of the things Jon wants to do later on in life. The weather started getting misrable, and we witnessed a pizza man sliding off he moped (he was ok), and some very bad parking in the city centre.

Day 10
Brilliant – our first rest day. Managed to catch up on loads of admin, and update the website etc.and then we had a wonder around Lyon. We do look funny (well tramp funny!) in our matching casual clothes and flip flops, but luckily the weather was really sunny so we had fun taking lots of pictures of unsuspecting french people! We have been dreaming of home cooked burgers when cycling along, and for dinner we found a little Irish bar making home made burgers. It also had 3 lookalike film stars which was very amusing – Mini Me, Jason Statham and Jackie Chan!

Day 11
A complete bitch getting our of Lyon, partly as Jon’s ankles were really sore and I was so cold that my fingers and toes went numb – it was only 5 degrees! But the cycling was ok again as we were following the banks of the Rhone, and we were making good progress. So after lunch where I went into a supermarket 3 times as I kept forgeting things, we put our heads down and decided to go on past Valence (our planned stop). We then spent 2 hours mincing around trying to find somewhere to pitch up the tent, but with no success. Even the owner of a closed campsite wouldn’t let us use a small corner – jobsworth! Jon got the hump as it got dark and his ankles were hurting. But luckily we found a hotel, although I upset a mad frenchy south african lady suggesting the €50 would be a good room rate for her to accept! However she soon flirtly warmed up when she saw Jon and gave us some home cooked stew (which was lovely). Unfortunately when she extended this hospitality to desert we had to accept. She brought out two dishes which looked like ice cream, but in fact was a popular french desert of cheese and cream. Well it was mouldy cheese and lumpy cream and totally minging.

Day 12
I think she put us up in the coldest room of the hotel, but we woke up glad that last nights desert didn’t churn our stomachs too much! She very kindly gave us tea and french bread with lovely homemade apricot jam before sending us on our way. More flat roads, but after lunch the clouds got darker and then we had 3 hours of rain to deal with on our way to Chateau Neuf du Pape (Jon’s favourite wine). We pretended that we were interested in purchasing a case, and blagged wine tastings in two shops, before buying their cheapest bottle to enjoy over a supermarket buffet in our double room – cosy!

Day 13
Gusty winds – this day is going to be trouble! Well it was. The bikes were being pushed all over the place, and stopping at an Intermarche provided the only break in the day. It got much much worse in the afternoon, with the wind gusting to 50mph, the torrential rain battered us sideways.We both nearly came off our bikes when f**kin french lorry drivers added another 20mph of wind into the equation. We had to draw on all our strength and push on to get to our revised destination, Pertuis. Clearly camping was not an option, not only because of no campsites, but also everything was soaking. This was as tough, if not tougher than London to Dover, so we felt a great deal of satisfaction, when we found the budget of all budget hotels (which can only be described as a cave!). We found some morrocan food, with mountains of coucous and meat, which was just the ticket!

The first challenges, 9th to 14th October

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Well what a week it has been so far. To be honest there were times leading up to the challenge where I thought it wouldn’t be possible, but here we are already on day 7.

The challenge started from the Bank of England on 9th October – challenge being the operative word (sorry Plurimi, I know you hate that word!). The first we faced was getting used to some 30kgs of extra weight on each bike, but fortunately neither of us fell off in front of the crowd! The next challenge was getting out of London, and after that was trying to use the cleets. Dom stacked it twice in the first 10 miles. Reaching Rochester we realised we were losing the challenge of time for making the ferry by 7pm. Dad opted for the train, and we all put our foot down along the A2. About 20 miles outside of Dover, the heavens opened, and the challenge of torrential rain and bad visibility forced us off the A2 into windy village roads. With the lights of Dover in the background, we realised we were not going to make the ferry, and were forced into a warm bath and bed in Dover.
The second day we made steady progress. We stopped in a small town called Abberville and managed to find probably the worst 2 star hotel in France, the short rather odd looking hotel manager had a servere mucal problem and made it known through wierd wretching noises and hocking up greenies- we shouldn’t have opted for the horrendously overcharged breakfast, we were lucky not to find something green and salty in our tea!
The third and final day with Dad took us on a long ride to Beauvais. Jon used his best possible French and managed to get 3 French ladies to lead us to a hotel with internet, he continued to use his broken French to try to haggle for a free room but they didn’t have a clue what he was trying to say. Good to use the internet to pick up e-mails and a nice pizza in a pub with a beer was a treat.
Then there were two! We ploughed on towards Criel, the full map of France we had wasn’t quite cutting it and we were clearly doing more miles than we had to by missing shortcuts, new map now top priority. Set up camp in a town called Lizy and cooked frankfurters and pasta on the trangier. Trouble was the fuel we picked up took ages to light and cook the food. Methalated spirits was a very important thing we forgot!
We had gone off course dropping Dad off near Paris so we decided to use our 5th day to make up some ground to get back on track. A hostel with internet access was our goal in Troyes 120km away which we arrived at by 9.30pm that evening. Dodgy roads approaching Troyes dual carriageways at night time are no place for two Englishmen on bicycles! We arrived shattered but with a great sense of achievement, we were given cheese and bread once we’d checked in which was a right touch.
Still not great at the morning routine we need to get better. We find ourselves repacking every morning which takes ages. Dom decided to hand wash all our clothes and with no dryer or airer in the hostel it was clear they were never going to dry in time. By the time we’d left the hostel it was 11am. Have made a rule to leave 1 hour after waking up and to repack the night before if need be. Once we did leave had a great days cycling through the Champagne region and were gifted with clear blue skies. A great opportunity to take some camera footage although it was a bit chilly.

The Big Build Up, October 2009

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Well I knew this challenge would be tough but boy have we been tested in the last couple of weeks- we’ve been tethering on the edge but being a bit of an adreneline junkie that’s where I perform best.

After a year of planning we finally secured a lead sponsor- Plurimi Capital 10 days before the start date, with cash in the bank we were able to purchase some of the equipment we had not been able to source through sponsorship. By the time the money came in from Plurimi we literally had 3 days to make all our purchases along with final packing, goodbyes etc. Final purchases included outdoor gear (tent, stove, sleeping bags etc) and camera/video camera for documenting the challenge.

We did manage to source a net book, a 500gb hard drive and 10 4gb memory sticks from Technology Group which arrived at 5.30pm the day before we left so not a lot of time to upload software, transfer tracks etc. Other equipment we sourced was a Power Gorilla and Power Monkey (solar pannel) from Power Traveller, this awesome and vital kit provides us with power when there’s no plugs. Also we were povided with sports wear and emroided fleece tops from Otis Sports, cycle jerseys from and most importantly bikes and all of our biking equipment from Ridgeback and Madison. Our sponsors have all been amazing without them our challenge simply could not have taken place.

I must admit I didn’t really sleep properly in the days leading up to the challenge. We were scheduled to speak on BBC Breakfast a day before we left but I unfortunately found out a 5pm the evening before I was due on that they weren’t going to run my story. I was really deflated and gutted as I was hoping that could have been a catalyst for the remaining funds we need in our contingency account. After drowning my sorrows in a whisky for an hour or so I picked myself back up- this trip was going ahead before BBC Breakfast was on the cards so the show goes on.

Friday 9th October seemed to come around so quickly, before I knew it we were at the Bank of England surrounded by some 50 family and friends including people from each of the four charities we are supporting; Macmillan, Orchid, Willow and Starlight. We posed for some photos and then were off on our merry way. Without even having riden the bikes fully loaded before (due to time restraints) we began the 11,000 mile journey, next stop Dover.