Monday, 10 June 2013

One Last Thing

After last year's ride to Turkey, when I had had enough rest and celebration and finally decided to fly home with the bike, I asked the young man, Ali, at the bike shop in Calis - next to PJ's - if he could give me a box. He did better than that. He packed the bike in the box for me. I watched him and it didn't seem too difficult. So, on Wednesday evening I set about packing my bike for the flight to Geneva which I was still sort of intending to do. It took me ages, about an hour, but I managed it. There was a bit of room for packing in the form of a sleeping bag and mat and that would have saved some space in the bags. I then did some more route planning and actually booked a couple of hotels along the way.

Thursday morning, decision day, came and it was obvious to me that Plan B would be a non-starter. I just didn't feel up to it. Something wasn't right, whether it was physical or mental or a combination of both I knew I wouldn't be going out there again. So the bike came out of the box and I cancelled the hotel reservations. I was just about fit enough for the Thursday night real ale session. I hadn't had a drink for more than a week, unheard of for me, and made my way to the Anvil, happy to be back but feeling like I should be somewhere else. I was telling Nigel the tale and he remarked straight away that I didn't look like I was 100%. That made me feel a bit better - like I wasn't pretending - but I will always feel that if I had stayed a bit longer I might have recovered enough to continue. Every day I think about where I would have been if I had kept on going. I would have just reached Italy today - see what I mean.

So that is the end of my overseas adventure for this year. As far as domestic cycling is concerned, there is the Manchester to Blackpool ride in July and in September the Manchester 100 to look forward to. I haven't been on a bike since I returned home but I'm sure I will get my appetite back before long.

One last thing. Although I haven't anywhere near completed my intended challenge, any donations will be very much appreciated. These can be made into the account detailed on the "Donate" page. I will feel so much better if the little effort that I did manage can raise some funds and awareness for these very deserving causes, Joining Jack and Joseph's Goal. They shouldn't suffer because I couldn't see it through. They shouldn't suffer - full stop.  

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Tea and Sympathy

Well, lots of tea anyway. There was a lot of confusion among family members because I don't normally do the sensible thing. After sleeping all of Sunday morning I was afraid to eat too much in the afternoon - just tea and toast all day, although I was very hungry and risked a boiled egg for supper. I then managed to bring the blog up to date, basically to let those who were interested know what was going on.

On Monday I was on the well worn path to Manchester airport to drop off the BYW yet again. The plan was for me to meet over there towards the end of this month but it doesn't, or didn't, look like happening. As Monday wore on - Mondays do wear on, don't they? - I gradually began to feel better and ate quite normally. Tuesday I was better again and today, Wednesday, I have been sufficiently inspired to look at flights to European destinations. I found an Easyjet flight to Geneva on Friday afternoon for a decent price. This persuaded me to research an amended route through Italy and Greece with options for accommodation and I then called at Halfords where a pleasant young man gave me a cardboard bike box, the type bikes are delivered to shops in. (Only real "bike" people will understand this).

The provisional plan is to get the bike in the box and fly to Geneva and make my way, as previously planned, to Athens. I will see how I feel tomorrow and will decide then whether to try again. Everything is in place.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Stage 4 - Orphin to Etampes. 1 Jun 2013

I felt a bit or bits of cramp as I lay in the sleeping bag at night and I had to get up and massage my legs, calves and toes for quite a while before I could settle properly. The cramps were signs of dehydration so I had a big drink of water which had the added benefit of preventing me staying in bed too long in the morning. That must have done the trick although I could never say I slept well. I must have had about 20 sleeps each of half hour duration and eventually emerged from the tent in the morning feeling a bit fuzzy. I wanted to get going as soon as I could so I didn't bother with breakfast. I didn't need an angry farmer giving me grief. I wasn't in the mood at all. I packed up the camp and set off under virtually cloud-free skies. It was pleasantly warm and there was little or no breeze.

I passed through Sonchamp and countless other little rural villages, St this and St that, and arrived at the town of Dourdan at about 1030. I was feeling weak and needed fuel so I stopped and had some breakfast on a bench just outside of the town. The going was tough for the next hour or so which was a shame. I rode down very quiet lanes through some beautiful wooded areas. The scenery and countryside were amazing but I couldn't enjoy it. I was struggling and my twisted logic convinced me that I hadn't eaten enough. I bought some sandwiches and orange juice from the Carrefour just before Etampes and found a nice quiet park near the centre of the town. I ate the sandwiches but felt something wasn't right so I decided to just sit there until I felt better. I passed a bit of the time writing up notes of the previous days progress until about twenty minutes after eating I was, let's just say, quite ill. I had unwittingly got rid of all of the day's intake of fuel and probably a bit of yesterday's too.

I sat there feeling sorry for myself and considered the options. I certainly didn't want to continue that day. I could find a hotel there in Etampes and rest for a day or two and see how it went. It would be unwise for me to eat again that day and I probably wouldn't really be capable of doing a decent ride for a day or so after I felt straight. I looked at two hotels and they were 75 and 80 euros per night. I could maybe take a train to a town further along my route and rest there for a couple of days but there was no guarantee I would be feeling better even after that time and also I would be further from home. I then heard a train slowing down and realised the station was quite close. That swung it. I made the short ride and checked at the station and found there was a service to Paris. From there the Eurostar to London or a flight to Manchester were the options. A flight would require packing the bike in a box so the train was favourite.

I took the train to Austerlitz station in Paris and rode to Gare Du Nord. It was surreal riding my bike through such a busy cosmopolitan city, across the Seine and past the Bastille Monument and through the Place de la Republique, after the quietness of where I had been earlier that day. Apart from anything else, there was a big Rugby Union match on and hundreds of supporters with flags and banners and tooty tooty things.

I asked at the station and found that the Eurostar to London would cost 279 euros - there was only first class available - and I was prepared to pay it. I mentioned the bike and the girl disappeared. She returned and told me I would have to put my bike in a box. I felt like putting her in a box but instead I went outside and asked a few people on bikes if there was a bike shop nearby. Nobody knew of one. My remaining phone battery was quite low so I had sent messages home requesting details of flights and trains. I couldn't check on my own phone. There was a cheapish flight to Liverpool the next day from Charles De Gaulle which became an option but the box would still be needed. I thought about staying in Paris and asked at a few hotels but they were all full, probably because of the rugby Union game. Then the skies darkened and rain began to fall. I made my way back to Gare du Nord and saw Calais on the destination board. Voila! I bought the ticket at an automatic machine, with a cheeky 25% senior discount, and set off for Calais at about 4.15pm with changes at Amiens and Boulogne. The changes were a bit awkward with a bike and bags on and off. The journey took four and a half hours and I slept most of the way.

I rode, thankfully, downhill from the station at Calais and managed to get my ferry ticket at the Terminal for the 11pm crossing and was first on the ferry before all of the cars. As I sat down I received a message from home that there would be a train from Dover at 7am next morning to Manchester with three changes. In one of the lounges I watched the end of the big French Rugby game and fell asleep again. I had an idea about offering money to any lorry driver who was going up north. Near me was a French chap and I gestured for him to look after my bags while I went and asked in the Trucker's Lounge. I couldn't go through with it so went back to my seat. The French chap then gestured to me to look after his bag and I nodded. When he returned he was puffing and panting and sighing and trying to get comfortable. I asked him if he was driving in England. He said "Yes, Liverpool." I was amazed at the coincidence and obviously asked if he could help me out. He said he only had a small car but he would give me a lift if the bike could fit in. He then said " I hope yer don't mind me driving fast. I wanna get there quick ter see me kids". When the boat docked at Dover we were the first ones down and we somehow squeezed the bike into his Citroen 206.

The boat landed at Dover at 11.30pm English time and Eric, the French Scouser, dropped me off on the East Lancs Rd near Kirkby at about 3.45am and I gave him a decent chunk towards the petrol. Young Tom came and picked me up and I was in bed fast asleep at 4.30. I woke about 1pm this afternoon feeling a bit better and I have improved sufficiently throughout the day to allow me complete the story, a little earlier than I would have liked.....or is it?

Stage 3 - Brionne to Orphin. 31 May 2013

I was quite tired so I decided not to go out for a meal and a few drinks in Brionne. I therefore saved a bit of money which was just as well because the "hotel" was more than I would have wanted to pay and my vague daily budget wasn't too badly hit. I had Weetabix and banana for tea, updated the blog and turned in.

In the morning I asked if breakfast was included and was not surprised to find it wasn't. I had more Weetabix and bananas and left the Auberge de Vieux DonJon with few words. After I had paid the chap put his card in my hand and I had great delight in placing it back on his table.

Early progress was good along the valley of the river Risle until I had to turn away from the river and was met by a wall of tarmac. There were a few hairpins like on proper cycling and I managed it at the usual (just above) walking pace. At the top I turned onto the D613 signposted to Evreux, yesterday's target destination. The beauty of this was that I wouldn't have to check maps for a couple of hours and could just crack on. It was a busy straight road and mainly flat, murder if it was windy and... you guessed it... it wasn't.

I made it to Evreux in about two hours and easily negotiated  my way through the town to head for Dreux. I wasn't feeling brilliant and decided to stop after Dreux wherever I could find a decent hotel or a campsite. Nogent was a decent sized town and I asked at a Tabac which is like a little pub/betting shop. I was directed to Coulombs which wasn't far away although the hotel was up a short  and very steep hill which I didn't need. A single room was 80 euros which was too much so I set off down the hill back towards the next town. A car was heading towards me with his lights on, and then another one and then I realised I was on the wrong side of the road - a bad sign.

The next town was Epernon and there was a hotel advertised on the outside of town. I rang them and found that a single room was 85 euros. I saw a sign for the railway station and figured there is normally a hotel nearby. I asked a chap at a pub near the station and he said the hotel I had rung was the only one. He said there would be decent priced hotels at Rambouillet which was the next stop up the line on the way to Paris. I was pretty tired and fed up and the prospect of Paris - London - Wigan flashed through my mind for a second. I plugged on through a couple more tiny villages, probably further than I should, until, enough was enough and I found a little wood off the road past Orphin where I set up camp out of sight of the main road. I had cereal again for tea and turned in at about 8.30.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Stage 2 - Le Havre to Brionne. 30 May 2013

First Real Day

So much for "getting settled" on the boat. I sat in the terminal until 10 o'clock when I was told I had to embark and then proceeded to stand in the car park for an hour with all the motorcyclists. They were good fun but the high-viz guys were painfully slow getting the boat loaded and it didn't leave till nearly 12 o'clock midnight.

I had a seat booked in a little quiet room with about twenty places. I was really tired so I didn't even walk around the boat. The seat reclined but not enough so I unrolled my sleeping bag and mat and kipped on the floor. I couldn't get comfortable and didn't sleep particularly well. I was awoken an hour earlier than I had expected by an announcement to "get to your vehicle" so I must have dropped off OK. I grabbed my clothes bag and toiletries bag and took a chance that the toilet would be free. The assembly area outside of the room was full of people who had been ready for ages just dying to queue up. I wandered through them in my vest and (long) pants and found the bog was empty. I did what I had to do and then got ready and was soon on the deck loading the bike for the day.

I got out of Le Havre reasonably well. It is quite a big place and it was really busy being morning rush hour and with the ferry traffic as well. I rolled along the footpath slowly early on in the same direction as all of the ferry traffic. The signs in the town were good although the skies weren't. Later on there were choices to be made and I had to keep stopping to look at the map. There were no road names just occasional numbers which scuppered me a bit. My planning was generally the names of the roads so you live and learn. The heavens opened and I was in the middle of nowhere so I couldn't shelter and got soaked. I waited in the first available bus shelter and had a bit to eat. The rain eased and I set off. I was wet anyway and felt I needed to make progress. There was a decision to make at nearly every junction and I got a couple wrong but there were a lot of options and I wasn't particularly worried. I knew where I was going - just not going the quickest way. I bought some water - flavoured mmmm- and bananas at a Carrefour and got on a decent stretch of road where I knew where I was going so I made decent progress for a while, although it was raining steadily and not pleasant at all.

I was feeling a bit tired and there were early signs of saddlesoreness. The day's destination, Evreux, was still a long way off so I had a decision to make. Get stuck in and get there or stop somewhere else like Brionne. There was also an option to stop at Brionne for some food and rest for an hour and then finish the job. There would be enough light. There were further complications because two of the three phone batteries were flat and the laptop was on its last legs. As I slogged up a hill the decision was to stop at Brionne but then on the downward slope it was carry on to Evreux.

Brionne won. I'm in a hotel which is just about acceptable but my host can't or won't speak English and it is too expensive. After settling in I had trouble getting the wifi (French call it weefee) going. There was nobody about when I looked around. Later I rang "reception" and it must have transferred to yon mon's mobile. He said he would sort it tomorrow. I said it was very important, me being an eminent author with thousands, OK hundreds, let's say 5 or 6, hanging on my every word. He paused and said "5 minutes" in excellent English. Ten minutes later there was a knock on the door and a there stood a tiny, about 4ft tall, and extremely thin young lady with a similarly thin but 6ft plus young man. They tried all the usual things I had tried and the girl tried to attach to the wifi on her own phone without success. I then suggested the obvious, i.e., "reset" or "recharge". The young man disappeared and before he came back "voila!" I always wanted to say that in real life. So, old Tom out-geeked the French geeks. I've done some washing and sorted the electronics out. I need to organise tomorrow's route (without using road names) and will probably then have an early night. I may be camping for the next couple of nights so may not have internet access. I will keep notes and will update the blog when I can.      

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Stage 1 - Frome (Salisbury) to Portsmouth. 29 May 2013

Mel's offer of a lift past Salisbury was most welcome. I had not been on the bike for a week and hadn't carried the bags for more than a year so I couldn't have made the 80 miles or so.

Getting ready in the morning took me back to last year. The contents of the bags strewn around the room to be meticulously replaced in the bags in the correct order depending on the day's expectations.

We loaded the bike and stuff into Mel's camper van and set off. Frome is quite a hilly little number and I would not have enjoyed leaving the town for that reason alone. The countryside on the way to Salisbury was tremendous, typically English I would say with all the shades of greenery on the trees in the gently undulating landscape.

Mel told me another tale of his involvement with the Town Council. Some County workmen were repairing broken stone flags with tarmac. When asked about this atrocity they said it was County Council policy. Mel and other Council members waited for them to finish and then went around digging out the tarmac themselves and replacing it with proper stone flags donated by a local merchant. He then revealed that it is not County Council policy anymore.

We got to Salisbury and wandered through the town to the cathedral. A very impressive place it was too. There was an exhibition about the Magna Carta in an annexe type building which was particularly interesting but my main thoughts were elsewhere.

The time came to set off and we called at Greggs for a butty or two and drove uphill for miles in the direction of Southampton. Thankfully there were no obvious places for Mel to turn around so he kept on going. It was his idea - honest. I was keeping quiet until enough was enough. He kicked me out and we said our farewells. Don't leave it so long etc. I was just about ready to get going when I saw him waving with a toot from on the other carriageway.

So I was on the road again. Rain had threatened from about midday but the clouds seemed quite high in the distance. I took it really easy. There was no rush. The boat didn't sail until 11pm and I didn't want to be hanging round for too long. The road was busy and quite narrow in places so I went on the footpath when there was one.

That Peter Kay type rain started about 5 miles from Portsmouth. I stopped and sheltered in a bus stop for half an hour or so and the rain eased a bit. I called at a Co-op for some milk for tomorrow's breakfast and some fresh orange juice and landed here at the ferry terminal which is warm and dry. I'll get on the boat as soon as I can and "get settled"

Away we go

Tuesday 28th May, the start of the latest adventure.

I woke with just about enough time to see my little girl off to work. Next time I see her will be in the warmth of Calis Beach or maybe Rhodes. I made the final arrangements and said my farewells to Tom III and MLW and set off to Wigan Wallgate for the train to Frome. I couldn't believe the weight of the bike with the bags on. I was knackered after the 1.87km ride and for a second I doubted that I could ride 60 miles a day fully laden. I reminded myself that I had done just that a year ago and made myself feel a bit better.

I had my train ticket but had to book the bike on each of the three legs of the journey separately with three different companies. The Manchester to Bristol leg was ok but the other two didn't have a booking policy. It depended on whether there was room on the train which caused me some concern in the lead up. All was fine and it was an uneventful journey in the end. I  got soaked in the five minutes from Frome station to Mel and Sandy's house but soon dried out with warmth of their roaring fire and the warmth of their welcome. We sat and chatted for ages and then I caught up with the blog while Sandy prepared the food. I got my stuff organised a bit better and we then went to the Cornerhouse for a couple of pints. The Butcombe was ok but was a bit ruby which is not really my type of beer. We had a laugh wondering what Americans would make of "butt comb". I then enjoyed a couple of pints of a paler beer brewed on the premises before we wandered back for food, wine and the ubiquitous photographs and memories.

Sandy is the perfect hostess and in her spare time "sorts out" all the adult education in the area. She is very modest. Mel revealed that there would be very few courses available if it weren't for Sandy's hard work and expertise.

Mel is also semi-retired. Can you imagine sitting in the pub on a Friday night with a group of like-minded grumpy old men complaining about the Town Council? Mel says "Let's do something about it", and they did. They formed their own political party -IFF - Independence for Frome - and shifted the Conservatives at the next election. He is now the Leader of the Council and quite glibly told me of the main focus int he coming year. "We're going to remodel the town centre". He said it like it was made of lego.

These revelations didn't really surprise me because these two were always very motivational characters and it looks like they will never stop. The best thing about it though is that their "hobby" improves other people's lives.

Nine hours sleep sorts most mini-hangovers and I'm here now in the morning, suitably fed and ready to start the proper bike ride. Portsmouth is 80 miles away which I have deemed to be too far so Mel is taking me to the other side of Salisbury  which is only 40 miles from the ferry port for the overnight boat to Europe. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

And on the Last Day...

.....all hell let loose.

I never stopped. The remainder of the family - YT, the BYW, the even more BYD and Barney - all went out visiting and kindly left me to my manic final arrangements - up and down the stairs - in and out of the garage - until I was happy to be invaded by those remaining family members who were not being visited by my lot.

I made tea for thousands and a few coffees and, to be honest, enjoyed boring everybody with the intricate details of last year's ride until, just as they were all dropping off, the cavalry arrived home. I sloped off and watched a bit of cricket and Championship playoff footy. We then had a lovely sort of farewell meal together and I eventually packed the bags and loaded them on to the bike.

Sorted. Bedtime. What will tomorrow bring?

Manchester 10k Sunday 26th May

What a great day. I hated getting up so early on a Sunday to catch the 0941 to Deansgate but it was worth it. So much positivity everywhere. All of those people of all shapes and sizes giving up their time and effort for the benefit of others. I had a go during the running craze few years ago but events were never on this scale and so well organised.

My nephew, our Dan, was away early and we saw him bounding along soon after the start. We moved to near the finish line and had segs on our eyes but didn’t see him at the end so I can only conclude he wimped out and didn’t finish until we get official confirmation. Tom junior went a bit later and we saw him pacing himself early on and also near the end. He got round in about 50 mins but he hadn’t trained much and it was a rare hot day so he was happy with his time. He’s got the bug now and is intending to go for the Wigan 10k later in the year amongst others. The BYD is also inspired and made some vague indication of interest but I can’t see it really.

All of the mainstream charities were very well represented - and so they should be - but we all know about them and as I came away I couldn’t help but feel particularly good about my choice to support two very deserving and little known charities which desperately require more awareness.    

I was very tired when we made it home and didn't feel like doing any packing or sorting so I watched the cricket instead. I got some enthusiasm from somewhere later on and got the bike ready to some extent. My hero of a son went to work in the local pub despite his earlier efforts and I was there like a shot when he finished at 9 0'clock and rang home to see if we fancied meeting him for a pint. We did. 

One day to get my act together before lift off on Tuesday.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Headingley Test Match

The annual reunion at the Headingley Test Match went well. We convened at Phil's house on Thursday evening and went for a few quiet pints in Guiseley. We stumbled across a quiz in one place and came third. One of the questions was "If you flew in a straight line from Paris to Milan, which other country would you fly over?" If only the question had said "cycled" instead of "flew". I would have had a chance. The others had a few more drinks when they got back to Phil's house but I had a cup of tea and then went to bed.

Friday morning in the Leeds area was miserable and cloudy and the forecasts were grim so we set off expecting delays and interruptions. It was raining steadily when we arrived at the ground so we went in search of a sensible cup of tea until we knew what was going on. We called at the Original Oak in Headingley, a pub I first visited approximately 44 years ago. We resisted the temptation of an early beer and all had tea or coffee. The cricket coverage came on the TV and it was confirmed there would be no play for three or four hours. We did our best and made the tea last as long as possible but before long the inevitable occurred. The kitty was set up and seven pints of the delicious Leeds Pale were on the table and the banter was in full flow. The rain and banter continued and we supped and laughed all day, moving steadily Northwards up Otley Road. We eventually discovered at about 4 o'clock that play had been suspended for the day which  meant that we would receive a full refund.

We closed the evening with an Indian meal in Guiseley and again I resolutely had a cup of tea back at Phil's while the others hit the red wine. The weather was beautiful this morning and we enjoyed a bacon butty in the sunshine. I returned home early this afternoon and have been looking forward to my bed since I walked through the door.

Young Tom and other family members are running in the 10k in Manchester tomorrow morning so I will be there in a supporting role. Tomorrow afternoon will see me making most of the final arrangements for my own challenge.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Elderberry Arms

Darran's pop-up pub session went very well last night. I can honestly say his home brew was the best I've ever had and I've had some home brew over the years. We also had a fine selection of exotic cheeses, pasties and a scotch egg tasting session thrown in. We tried to sit outside and managed to last an hour but it just wasn't on. I felt suitably stuffed and can safely say it was a very successful and enjoyable weight-gaining enterprise. 

First thing this morning I was chasing invoices which is a bloody nuisance and shouldn't really be necessary but human nature is what it is. If you can't do anything about it you just have to put up with it. I then went to collect a T shirt or two from Joseph's grandparents. I went for the slimline L size as I will be losing a few pounds when the ride gets under way. Photos were taken and these may be viewed on the website sometime soon. 

I have booked my spot on the ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre. It leaves at 2300 on Wednesday so that leaves me plenty of time to get to Portsmouth from Frome. I will then set off from Le Havre at 0800 the next morning which is a nice early start. I hope to get a decent distance done on that first day and may get ahead of schedule. I have also been looking at the ferry from Ancona to Igoumenitsa which is quite a distance. Hopefully, departure will be on the afternoon of the 16th June with arrival in Greece early next morning so that will almost be like a rest day. That's a long way off and a lot can happen in between.    

I am now preparing for the trip to the test match at Leeds to meet up with mates from long ago. It will be good to meet up with the old Uni mates again. Back Saturday afternoon for final preparations.      

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Recent Training etc

For anybody wondering what this is all about I have copied the first ever post of this blog below. This was written on 8th November 2011. In those days I had the stamina to write something almost every day but nothing like the stamina of the unfortunate ones who read it. More recently I have tried to be kind by only writing about interesting things but that is debatable. 

"How did this all start?

Years of playing football Saturday and Sunday, together with a family history, left me with mild arthritis in both knees. The left is worse than the right, or should I say, the right is better than the left - more positive. I couldn't walk up hills in The Lakes, certainly couldn't jog, so I took up cycling. This happened about 4 years ago.
We have a small apartment in Turkey in the lovely little resort of Calis Beach near the town of Fethiye. We spend many holidays there and some family members also have apartments there.

It was at the last holiday in front of a number of witnesses, I jokingly announced that I was going to cycle over next time.

I later (sober) gave it some thought and it gradually dawned on me that I could actually do this and the more I thought about it the more I realised that it would be quite an adventure.
So I'm going to do it. Training is under way. Other arrangements are being made."

That is the past, this is the future. I have just about finished my bike training now with a blustery 25 miles up to near Preston and back. Other physical matters however need to be addressed. At my weight and speed I will be using approximately 600 calories per hour for 5 or 6 hours, a total of 3000 to 3600 calories per day. I will do my best but I doubt if I will be able to take in that amount of energy on the ride so I will spend the next few days increasing the size of my camel's hump which I have been cultivating on the front of my stomach since the end of last year's ride. 

The first opportunity for this most important "exercise" will take place tonight. I told my Thursday night pals last week that I wouldn't be able to make it this week and they decided to change their night out to Wednesday just so I would not miss out. I feel humble and hope to do them justice. It will not be a normal Thursday night despite the fact that it is a Wednesday. The event will take the form of a home brew tasting session at Darran's pop-up pub, The Elderberry Arms, ie his garage.   

The reason I couldn't be with the boys tomorrow is that I am off to Leeds on Thursday afternoon for the Test Match which starts on Friday. There will be a bit of drinking and eating involved and this should just put me straight. The sacrifices some people have to make! You just do not understand what I have to go through!  

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Planned Route

Decision day came and went and, as if there was any danger, I have decided to "get on with it". I'm pleased to report that I have had the green light from my most worthy chosen charities and have updated the DONATE page so please have a look there and see what you can do.

I will be leaving on 28th May by train (I know - what a wimp) to Frome in Somerset where I have a couple of friends who will put up with me for the night. With a moderate hangover and full of pasta I will ride to Portsmouth the next day

and take the overnight ferry to Le Havre. From Le Havre I will ride diagonally across France passing South of Paris to Brig in Switzerland rising up steadily and with a few climbs towards the end

From Brig I will NOT be riding over the Alps. I will leave that to Bradley and the boys. No, I will sensibly take the train (not again?) under the Alps to Domodossola in Northern Italy and, hopefully, freewheel for a couple of days down the other side.

I will bomb along the pan flat Po valley and then follow the Adriatic coast down to Ancona where I take the ferry to Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland. From there I will follow the coast around to Athens.

That will be the end of the bike ride but from Athens I will be taking the ferry to Rhodes which is only an hour or so from my adopted home in glorious Fethiye where I will rest for a week or so before flying home early July to enjoy the remains of the English Summer hahahahahaha (cue hysterical laughter).

Here is the planned route

Stage Day Date From To Dist Total (km) Gain (m)
1 T 28/05/2013 Wigan Frome (train)
2 W 29/05/2013 Frome Portsmouth 120.0 120.0
3 Th 30/05/2013 Le Havre Evreux 117.0 237.0 439.0
4 F 31/05/2013 Evreux Etampes 118.0 355.0 513.0
5 Sa 01/06/2013 Etampes Sens 99.0 454.0 426.0
6 Su 02/06/2013 Sens Chatillon 120.0 574.0 675.0
7 M 03/06/2013 Chatillon Gray 113.0 687.0 723.0
8 T 04/06/2013 Gray Pontarlier 111.0 798.0 1206.0
9 W 05/06/2013 Pontarlier Montreux 101.0 899.0 718.0
10 Th 06/06/2013 Montreux Sion 71.0 970.0 300.0
11 F 07/06/2013 Sion Brig (rest) 54.0 1024.0 280.0
12 Sa 08/06/2013 Brig (rest) Domodossola train
13 Su 09/06/2013 Domodossola Legnano 100.0 1124.0 254.0
14 M 10/06/2013 Legnano Cremona 113.0 1237.0 44.0
15 T 11/06/2013 Cremona Mirandola 105.0 1342.0 66.0
16 W 12/06/2013 Mirandola Alfonsine 108.0 1450.0 75.0
17 Th 13/06/2013 Alfonsine Pesaro 105.0 1555.0 192.0
18 F 14/06/2013 Pesaro Ancona  63.0 1618.0 59.0
19 Sa 15/06/2013 Ancona dep 1500 Igoumenitsa arr 0930 nx
20 Su 16/06/2013 Igoumenitsa Preveza 91.0 1709.0 997.0
21 M 17/06/2013 Preveza Agrinio 97.0 1806.0 632.0
22 T 18/06/2013 Agrinio Aigio 105.0 1911.0 818.0
23 W 19/06/2013 Aigio Korinthos 96.0 2007.0 354.0
24 Th 20/06/2013 Korinthos Athens 85.0 2092.0 482.0
25 F 21/06/2013 Athens dep 1800 Rhodes arr 1000 nx boat
26 Sa 22/06/2013 Rhodes Fethiye boat

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Decision Day Tomorrow?

Bad weather and punctures have impeded my training this week. I set off the other day but got a puncture after 2 miles and had no spare tubes so phoned home for a lift. It took me a couple of days to get spare tubes so that set me back but it rained almost non-stop anyway. To make up, I fully intended doing a long, long, all day ride with the Wigan Wheelers today but bad weather was forecast for this afternoon and I decided to restrict my efforts to a morning ride only and managed a 30 mile ride up to Preston and back. It was quite windy and I got wet near the end. Dodgy weather is forecast for all of this week but I feel I need to go out and ride every day, whatever the distance. I have done nothing like the same amount of training as for last year's ride but with a full weeks training I am confident that I will be able to "grow into" the distance and will manage OK.

So there it is. I have decided that it's on. I have quite a bit of organising to do and a number of people to contact about final arrangements but don't see a problem.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A Few Positives?

I tagged along with the Wigan Wheelers again today and managed just short of 50 miles at a decent pace (for me that is). It was almost ideal cycling weather, nice and warm with a slight breeze here and there. Before anyone asks the question, ideal cycling weather is - nice and warm with a howling gale behind (for me that is). I felt OK throughout and hopefully didn't hold them up too much.

After lunch, which was "sin free breakfast", seemingly everything bar sausages, I split from the main group and made my way back homeward through Newburgh where I called in on my "mentor" Robin who is not too well these days but battling on and smiling as usual. He made me two perfect cups of tea which I enjoyed along with the usual shedfull of chocolate biscuits and his own brand of encouragement, all of which were most welcome. The last leg was fairly eventful. I dragged myself over Parbold Hill without stopping but soon after I had a rear wheel puncture which is no surprise given the state of the roads in the vicinity. I fixed it OK which was quite a pleasant surprise, remembering the last puncture I had in the middle of Bulgaria where I used up all my supply of three spare tubes and ended up thumbing a lift. I've just checked and that occurred on 10th May last year. I wonder where Yuri, the "Mad Russian", is now.

I probably won't manage a ride tomorrow. I'm taking the BYW to the airport around mid-day and there is some dodgy weather forecast later in the day. I could get up early I suppose. Behave!

Decision day is getting closer. Looking more likely, I think.

Good Luck to Wigan Athletic tonight.

Here is today's ride. The time doesn't include for stops. I'm not that slow, honest.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Coming along nicely but....

I have managed a total of 124 miles or so this week which is a decent increase on past weeks but I think I need to step it up a bit in the next three weeks and lose a bit of weight and also start to carry a bit of weight, that is, with the bags on here and there. I now have a provisional departure date of 28th May but I am still not 100% certain to go. I have therefore set another date of 14th May for a definite decision so I am doing all the necessary preparations so that I will be ready whichever way the coin falls.

If I do go it will be a bit of a cop out because I will only be riding to Athens and then travelling by boat across the "Great Green" to Rhodes which is only an hour away from Fethiye by ferry. The whole trip should only take about three weeks. Not the same challenge as last year but a challenge all the same and promising to be quite spectacular in places.    

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Third of a Year

Its a third of a year since I last blogged - and what a turd of a year it has been so far.

I started it off with the best of intentions. The plan was to slowly build up my mileage and get myself in shape for this year's ride to Turkey in April, around the same time as last year, but this time using a different route. I had approached a number of good mates to ride along for all or part of the way and there was some interest so I was hopeful of a different type of adventure.

After my New Year's day ride to retrieve the car from my mum's I did a couple of shortish rides in the cold weather and then got this "man-flu" all the women talk about. I'd struggle for a week and then think I was getting over it but then find myself welded to the bed next morning, unable to move. Any time I did feel reasonably well there was a blizzard (ok a bit of snow) or other inclement non-cycling-friendly weather, ie wet, windy, cold. The training obviously suffered and an April departure was out of the question. Also, one by one, the members of the prospective entourage had to drop out, all for good reasons, so I was then confronted with riding on my own which wouldn't be a problem but I just would have preferred going with some select company.

Over the last few weeks, however, the weather has improved slightly and training has gone well. I have done a couple of 30s and a 40 and went out with the legendary Wigan Wheelers yesterday and completed 60 odd miles. My legs (and bottom) don't feel too bad today and that has given me the impetus to make the tentative announcement that there is a possibility that I am provisionally intending to set off some time in the last week in May. I am being deliberately vague because I am nowhere near as committed as I was last year for some reason and I "may not feel like it" when I get nearer to the day. Having said that the slightly warmer weather has increased my enthusiasm slightly and I feel moderately positive.

It's good to be back blogging. I just hope somebody is still out there to read it.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year's Day 2013


Drove to mummy's last night with the best of intentions but had a couple so we got a taxi home. This means I need to get on the bike and ride the 10 or so miles to retrieve the car. So commences training and preparation for this year's challenge, which is again Wigan to Fethiye but his time using a totally different route and hopefully with a few close friends for company. I've not been on a bike now since the Manchester 100 which was on 2nd September - approximately 13 weeks.

A training schedule needs to be sorted, and adhered to, equipment needs to be organised. Apart from that - not much.

Watch this space and follow me on twitter @tomkel3184.