Kept a log on Facebook, just copied and pasted the details into here.
Well…… Not in France till Day 2 but…….. Spent today waiting for trains and doing a lot of people watching outside Starbucks. Observations made include: Groups of lads on the beer think everybody is watching them and will walk as slow as possible though any wide open space. Groups of girls on the beer are only interested with the people in their group and girls in other groups that might have a better outfit. Dogs are really silly and that’s why I like them. Leeds station is a good place to spot beautiful women. Skinny men with moobs look worse than overweight men with moobs, which is good news for me.
Spent the rest of the time learning the French for “I am sorry, I am English” I don’t mean it, but it may warm me to the French folk!
They would not let me on my original train to Dover because I did not have my bike reservation ticket with me, the ticket office were going to charge me £100 for a later train but I did my puppy dog eyes and she let me off! Phew. (That would of really cut into my spending money!) I had to be seperated from my bike and strap it up in the luggage carriage, my OCD was working overtime, spent about 20 mins making sure it was held in place securely and spent the rest of the journey wondering if it was bouncing off all the sides of the train.
I am really concerned about the weight on the bike the luggage is about 5 to 6 stone and I am worried I am putting all sorts of strain on the bike, but then I just keep reassuring myself that my weight plus luggage is the same as one Mark Robinson or one Nic Howarth on a bike and they are built to take that kind of force (you know I love you boys!!)
On the ferry and a bigger bout of OCD making sure the bike is secure! Just bought a solar charger to add even more weight to the bike! But always good to have power
So in 1.5 hours I will be in France and starting Day 2. As soon as I am off the ferry I am cycling to Lille to pick up my train to Paris to meet Nic at about 1600.
Got to Calais at midnight a lot earlier than was planned so had a nighttime ride to Lille. At about 0400 met some locals in a field on a joint hen/stag do. They gave me food and water which was nice. There were no lights and it was foggy just riding past open fields so it was quite creepy. In the morning about 0530 the sun started to come up and it was just beautiful! Met a gorgeous working horse in a field which looked stunning with the sun behind him. Started to go through some beautiful villages. Got to Lille which also looks a good place to explore. Got the train to Paris. Nic and mike (looks like Bradley Copper) and we met some of their friends. We watched the tour, it was really cool. Mikes friends were buying shots and it gets really hazy from then on, don’t remember anything past 1100. My mobile was flat and upon recharging it appears I was AWOL at half 8 in the morning! Way too extreme at my age! Glad I can just get on with a sober few weeks now!
Got to Grenoble. Followed the Garmin the wrong direction TO THE TOP! of a 3500 ft mountain. Had to turn around and go all the way to the bottom. It was thundering and lightening all around me which was a bit of a concern. Because I had gone the wrong way. I was not going to make the campsite though and felt with all the lightening the safest place would be out of the open space! I asked a guy if I could put my tent up in his garden. His wife gave me food and water, beautiful people. Going to get some sleep and set off at about 0500 to the site. It is down a busy road so want to do it before the traffic builds up.
Finally got to campsite about 0800. Bumped into some of Rogers friends that are making breakfast for me. Good because my pitch is not ready till 1200 but look at this setting — at Le Bourg d’Oisans
So got to the campsite at 0800 and had food. At 1200 got to my pitch and had to dry everything out from the thunderstorm the previous day. It did not take too long as it is a blistering day with not even a cooling breeze. I just got my home set up today and got my bearings. Went to the supermarket and got my food for lunch and tea. Lunch was ham, cheese, bread, fruit. Tea will be pasta, tuna and veg. I am just using a single burner and don’t have a storage box so takes a bit if planning! Went to the tourist information and picked up a pack that has routes for 30 different rides in the area. Tomorrow I tackle Alp d huez. I think the thing to do here is get up early and ride in the morning before it gets too hot so I will aim to set off at about 0900 and should be done for lunch because I am going to do the full loop that the tour went this time on the first pass up. Thanks for your comments, I am not ignoring you, I only have WiFi in the cafe. A better PIC of the horse for Becky!
Day ????? Ah yeah Day 5
Last night had a walk into town a lovely quiet place. Bet it is not like that in ski season or when the tour is on though.
Made my pesto pasta with tuna for tea, lovely and only one pan to wash up.Think the cooker at home now is overrated so going to get a monthly supply of campingaz when I get back
Got up this morning at 0800 rode to supermarket, made a ham and cheese sarnie for breakfast and one to pack up for lunch. Picked up the alpe d hues map and set off. Handle bar packed up with duffle coat, sarnie and camera, chain lube, tools and mini tripod, I travel light because every ounce counts (seriously, I really don’t know how other cyclist set off just with a couple of things in their back pocket, I think I need to learn to be more strict with my cargo).
The ride to the top is not too bad, a few people went past me, I went past less the trick is just treat it like you would walk a British mountain, don’t stop for a rest or you will stop more often. Just safely, safely, then when you know your nearly there start to pick it up a bit. I followed the tour route though and went a bit further up by about 300 metres, I think. This takes you over the Col de Sarenne at 2000 metres. The road was not as bad as what was made out by the pro peleton. It was no worse than Stocks Lane, but I do understand it would be different trying to squeeze 200 riders though the pin hole size gaps the supposed fans were creating! The scenery is spectacular though, I know the pictures on my phone will not do it justice.
It is starting to feel more like home on the camp now I have been here one night. The temp every day is 31 degrees, a heat wave starts tomorrow till Sunday 35 degrees, how they don’t class 31 degrees a heat wave is a bit confusing!
Another good thing about being here PISTACHIO ICE CREAM! Why oh why can I not get this back home!!!!!
Going to do a low level ride tomorrow, but the ride I have done today I will defo do again before I leave because I want to film the decent, they might come past me on the up, but it never happens on the down
There are a lot of beautiful walks round here so might do that instead tomorrow, just to break it up a bit.
So much for the easy ride today! Opted for the La Berarda route from the guide book, Difference in hight 1000m, Altitude 2000m, Distance 66km. It was so hard, nearly had a paddy with myself getting there, the downhills were first gear keep on peddling scenarios, so as you can imagine I was dreading the way back but it was weird to be flying up what seemed to be the uphills. When I got to the proper decent though all was forgiven. Took me back to my motorcycling days, anchor on on the straight, knee out, distribute the weight and get round make or break Kevin Schwantz styles! I am going to have to work out a way to film it cause it feels good. The scenery on this ride though was spectacular. There is a spot on the road where you can do the white water rafting, so there were families going down getting picked up further down and giving it another blast, mom and pa looked scared shitless, but the kids seemed to love it, looked good fun
Last night I went round to Paula Haworth friends tent for some beers and I am going round there tonight for a BBQ, really cool people. Also, Warrant Doyle and FAM will be in a campsite near here in the next few days. I don’t need to text him I will listen for his booming voice reverberate throughout the valleys
I am managing to live off quite a small amount only a couple of Euros for my breakie, I save half for a packed lunch. Most of my cash is going on my endless supply of ice cold coke and my daily Pisstash ice cream but these are essential! Hope you like the pics from today! Defo need to do very little tomorrow though.
Got up late for me it was about 9. As stated was just going to have an easy day today, so just went to the supermarket for bread, jam, and syrup to flavour my water for the sugar kick on my rides. It never tastes nice though because 20 mins on the bike and you might as well stick a t bag in the water gets that warm!
After that I have just sat and sunbathed and read my book on my blanket outside the tent. And I have just got back from a 30km flat afternoon ride because I thought it would be cooler. I was wrong, the breeze is even hot, just like opening the oven door!
Tomorrow I am going to take on my biggest one day challenge ever, makes Alps d’ Huez look amateur. I am going to tackle the La Marmotte. La Marmotte is a route that takes in all the biggest climbs in one day. My reasoning behind this is that to do the ones bigger than Alpe d huez such as Col du Glandon, Col de La Croix de Fer, Laurent and the biggest Col du Galibier. I would be doing lots of miles just to get to one of them each day, so the answer tackle them in one day. So tomorrow up at 0500
, 174km, 5000m that’s 1500ft of climbing. Look at the pictures I have taken of the elevation from the guide book!!! It finishes with an accent of d huez, so it will be the 3rd time in 4 days when I will have done that bad boy. There is a group on camp that say they are going to the La Marmotte but not do the Huez at the end cos they have already done it, I don’t know if it is just me but if you miss d Huez at the end you have done a tough ride but you can’t say you did La Marmotte. I will drag my bike up by my teeth if I have to. The guide book says 8 hours to complete, but the guys here are not here to take pictures and have a packed lunch like me so I am going to expect more like 10 to 11 hours. But the key things is I get it done!!! Probably my only chance to say I did all the big famous mountains of this area in one day, so I will try not to fail, sugar a plenty!!!!!
On a separate note, I am loving this, having the time of my life, I fit in with the touring character, I believe I have found my gang. We enjoy a shared interest in the sweatband and headbands, we smile at each other, we talk to each other as we are riding up the mountains, we shake hands when we depart, gentleman style, lovely! And all the other tourers (not me) have the coolest moutain clothing. The others are too busy looking at their stop watch and any reflection to see if their team kit clashes to appreciate where they are only joking guys don’t be offended!!!! The daily life is just so chilled as well, it is really really cool.
So tomorrow, I have been invited back round to Warrens, hopefully to celebrate!!! If I manage it including d Huez at the end, I think I might have to sink a few beers!!!!!
FAILED!!! yep I should have checked the weather forecast before deciding on my grand plan. I got up at half 5 set off at half 6. I reached the first Col du Glandon (1924m), then ploughed on to the second, Col de La Croix de Fer (2064m) both higher than d’ huez. When I got to the top of the second col the information booth was just opening and he put up the weather forecast. Even though it did not look too bad at that time he said it is predicted storms at about 1500/1600. That is when I would of been near the top of the highest (Col du Galibier). I thought about it for 10 mins and decided to turn back. If the storm does not materialise I will be a bit annoyed cos I felt good and was just ready in the head for a long day, but if it does happen I will be really really happy and think it was a good decision. When I made the decision I was just thinking back to that first day when I got caught out in one when I was up a mountain, I am not afraid to admit I was papping it big time. Bad shit happens to you and sometimes you are not in control of it, in this instance I thought ‘hey up laddie, you don’t need to get caught out this time’ . So we will see later if I was soft in the head or not still did a 94km ride with 2064m of altitude. So I have ticked off the other two highest cols though, which only leaves me the highest one in the area to do. Tomorrow is forecast not to be too great as well with the potential for storms. But when that passes, decision time, do I try the La Marmotte one last time on about Tue/Wed and do all the cols I have already done on my way to do the highest or do I ensure I can tick them all off by just riding out to the highest and back which is still s 100km ride? Answers on a postcard please
Which ever one I/we decide to do that will be my last big ride. I will have a couple of days rest before I start the 680 miles to Biarittz.
I have to say, even though it is a couple of hours off the predicted time, it is very windy and cloudy at the moment, but I do not sense a storm
Going round to Warren’s again for tea tonight, burgers and chips, sorry frittes! Ummm!!!
After tomorrow the next few days are meant to be clear skies again, but with much lower temperature, should make the big one more bearable!!!
Well dudes!! Hope your all having a good week/holiday, whatever your up to?!!!
BTW Glenn Teal been trying to not look at the camera, but it is so difficult with worse results I think, sorry
Also I have changed my mind on thermarests. You just can’t rely on them to inflate themselves, once given a bit of lung power as well they are very comfy, they are back on my long trip tick list
On my cycle back from Warren’s campsite I noticed the flashes of lightening over the valley this was about 2200. By the time I got back to my site the storm was in full effect. Non stop lighting show till about 0700 this morning. It is just lashing it down now, looks like the Lake District more storms predicted for tonight then with the exception of Thursday blue skies for the rest of the week, but with a more bearable 23 degrees. So I have decided to do one more mountain ride I am going to do the Col Galibier tomorrow or Wednesday but that will be it, my legs do not have anymore mountain rides in them at the mo, and my arse, ohh my arse, highly conditioned arse is starting to complain As you can probably tell from the pictures I am not complaining or bothered by the rain one bit. I have bought a load of food, some new headphones to replace the already celotaped ones that went caput this morning, I have my book to read and I am going to get my cocoon and chill out listen to tunes, read and eat and plan my route down to the coast then across the Pyrenees to Biarritz. Plus the rain is a good creepy crawly massacre. I set off from here in 5 days and I really am looking forward to seeing the sea. Having a base served a purpose, but I think I must be a bit of a traveller cause it is the unpredictivess of the bits in between that make it exciting!
At the supermarket this morning I bought all the supplied I need for the rest if my stay here and a few extra tins if sardines and tuna to do me on my travels. It takes over 5 days to show any transactions when I check on my banking app, so I really do not know where I am with funds, so I am going to try and make sure I do not use the card for 5 days and just live of my supplies.
Crap a bit of blue sky is showing, please dont make me feel guilty about lying in my tent!!!!
Well, I did it! I did the La Marmotte! 194km and 16,400ft of actual climbing. Got up at 0430 set off at 0530. First port of call the Col du Glandon (1924m) then on to the Col de La Croix de Fer (2064m). I felt so good this morning I attacked the Croix de Fer with a violence I last felt when I was a teen watching First Blood Part 2. At the Croix de Fer Neil dropped of his wife Helen off to meet me cos she just wanted to do the Col du Telegraph (approx 1600m) and the Col du Galibier (2600m). So we headed on and completed them two as well. Now the final one was always going to be a matter of will power, the Alpe d’ Huez (1900m approx) the reason why this was going to be hard was because when you arrive at the bottom of it from the Galibier I had two choices the campsite is 300 metres away if I turn left and the base of d’Huez is 300 metres away if I turned right. I turned right and completed the Marmotte. I can’t believe it, it was the most physically and mind bending thing I have ever done! Right at the top of Alpe d’ Huez Neil and his son were waiting for me. I think I must of had a bit of altitude craziness cause when it got tough I just kept on imagining Micheal Cane telling the mountain off in his distinctive voice ” You don’t Wanna do that Mr Col de La Croix de Fer” like I say crazy but it worked. So to summerise since being here, I have done Croix de Fer twice, d’Huez 3 times from different routes, La Sarenne twice from different routes, Col du Telegraph, Col du Galibier and Col du Glandon twice. And done five of them in one day as part of the La Marmotte. My work here is done I do not want to go over another col, unless I have run him over in his own white van! I can’t even touch my bum cheeks at the mo!.
As soon as I got back I just had to demolish a pizza and frittes. A requirement considering the effort of the day!!!
I did not have the best night sleep in preparation though because the camp staff waiters thought it might be a good idea to entertain the girls of the site in their caravan till 0400 this morning, I was on the verge of tourching it with the excitement of Carrie written on my face! Think they will behave tonight!!!
Yesterday, when the rain finally stopped I did a bit of spring cleaning, so you have some really interesting images of that process! Just thought it might be good for you to see the inside of my digs.
I am really ready to move on now, my tent has been here too long and things with more legs than me are starting to think it is their natural habitat, stupid crawlies!!!
Today was a steady day. I could not even look at my bike, the thought of riding it the 10km to Warren’s for tea and back was filling me with dread, my ass is that sore. Gonna have to start using the vas.
I have made one last plea with the campsite if they will refund me two nights so I can leave on Saturday instead of Monday. It will give me a bit of a easier run into Biarritz which will mean it will be better to fit in Mont Ventoux and the Col Tourmalet on the way. Because it will make the route better and take a bit of pressure off I have decided that even if they do not give the refund I will leave on Saturday anyway. To offset the loss I will make sure I do at least two nights wild camping or two nights in someone’s garden cos that was quite a pleasant experience.
I planned my route down to Mont Ventoux which I am hoping I can get done in one day, but to take in a nice ride it does take me over a couple of 1600m cols so I will need to see how long that takes. If I can get it done in one day I have the next route planned from Ventoux to Montpellier. There is no point in planning more than that yet, just see how far I get cos I might need to jump on some main roads if it starts to take a while.
Because I am leaving on Saturday I need to make sure I am not sore anywhere so I am going to leave the bike alone for the next couple of days and just do a couple of walks to some lakes and a waterfall that you can swim in.
Warren made a top meal again. Pork chop with veg in a white wine, garlic and philly sauce, scrummy. They leave their site tomoz and are going further south for two more weeks in the sun.
My other buds, Neil & Helen, Mark & Allie, Dean & Cheryl plus the seven kids are leaving on Sat/Sun so we are all going out for Pizza on Friday night which will be really cool. The lads had a go at the Marmotte this morn got up at half five, they could not do the last col though, shame because they have been wanting to give it s go all week. They are really fit guys though, fell runners and rock climbers, know their outdoor stuff big time. Really really nice families. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post I met Neil and his 8 year old son at the top of Alp d’ Huez, Neil had spent 4.5 hours just going up a bit at a time so 8 year old Tom could tick it off. Splendid effort Tom and Pa!! Mark is doing the same with his lad tomorrow.
I am wanting to move on as well cause I am getting really annoyed with these buggie things. If anyone can tell me what they are just for interest sake I would like to know (see picture). They are about the size of a dot all the way up to about 5mm Max. They do not bite but are a real pain in the ass, just cause I want to be the only living thing in my tent. There is just so many of them. They do not get in anything you can leave your shoes out all day night and they do not go in, they appear to live in the grass and just love climbing, including your legs if you are stationary for 5 mins. During the course of the day they cover the tent, then when it gets cool they are gone. Like I say just for interest sake, I want to know what I am sqaushing, eating, flicking! Feeling a bit of bob Dylan today
I decided to walk up and over Alpe d’ Huez through the woods by 10km to a place called Lac Bissin. Really nice spot.
At the top of the Alp I bumped into Mark his wife Allie and their two lads, both made it to the top on their bikes with their iddle wheels ahhhh. One is 7 and the other is 9 so good effort by both, well done boys! They also have a daughter called Molly and she is such a chicken, she is knee high but she acts like an adult, makes me chuckle when she speaks I will get some pics of the full gang when we go out for pizza tomorrow.
So my last full day on site tomoz, before I set off on my travels again on Saturday morning. Going to get a cup full of clothes powder from Neil and spend tomorrow morning washing EVERTHING! before I am in the wild once more! I have been hand washing stuff, but it is not the same.
Trying to think of some music that sums up today! OK I think I have it. ‘Satisfaction’ by Wendy & Lisa. Now I know the weather in the UK has not been the best, so listen to the song imagine you are holding the hand of your best friend sat beside the lake in the pictures. If you are currently somewhere beautiful, no matter where that might be, keep your eyes open
Have not slept well up till now because it has been really cold at nights and it is the cold that has a lot of damp in the air. So when you wake up it does not feel too pleasant cos your clothes etc feel wet from the heavy dew. But last night slept in the Biff for the first time and I was lovely and warm and slept like a log. Gorgeous.
Got a text from Warren last night, they moved on to the Ardeche and he said it is scorching and at night it is a dry air and they were still up warm outside at midnight. So I had better prepare myself for a different type of heat on the bike!
In the pics there are three pictures showing my starting point near Grenoble and where I want to end up over the next two days. By the end of tomorrow Malaucene and the day after somewhere slightly past Monpellier would be good, maybe Agde.
So going to get my clothes washed, properly, then when I have them out to dry, I might have time to walk to a waterfall Warren told us about. Also got to make sure I get a full charge of my phone and Garmin in the launderette while I have power. I am using the map to navigate cos there are set routes I want to take but it is good having the Garmin as back up, providing it does not send me up the wrong mountain in a thunderstorm again, if it does EBAY!! That was human error though, how was I to know there were two places with the same name quite close together
Went to reception and the boss lady that can’t speak English, that had previously said no to my refund request was managing the desk, but next to her was a girl that spoke English. I thought this is my chance! I asked the girl to translate for me. I said I know I have been turned down before, but cos she is a very beautiful lady and when she smiles it makes the Alps an even more wonderful place to be and I know she would love to help a poor cyclist on his travels etc etc would she reconsider?? Yes, it worked, I broke the Lady of Steal down, completing the La Marmotte was my greatest achievment till this moment and now have 40 more euros in my back pocket and it is pizza tonight whoop whoop!
Did not get to the waterfall today cos I want an early start in the morning so just got my stuff packed, the only things I need to get together now are my sleeping bag, thermarest and tent. The bike weighs even more now though cos I have all my food supplies that I was expecting to use up, but cos of the hospitality of Warren and Neils crew I did not need to cook, even last night they invited me to their BBQ and gave me many beers. I have a plan to use it up though, I will buy a baguette from a bakery each morning and half to use up my nutella and jam and use half to use up my tins of sardines and tuna. By the time I get to Biarritz I will have very fishy breath the friendliness of people has been beautiful, hope it continues, just now the bar man has given me a pint on the house, splendid!
I will not have WiFi now maybe until I hit the Atlantic Coast so I will only turn my data roaming on every few days and do some bulk uploading of my diary. So the next time we speak I should have done Mont Ventoux, gone past Montpellier and be on my way to the Pyrenees towards the Tourmalet, should be, hopefully!
Just looking forward to Pizza Night now, see ya laters dudes!
Hung over to hell! Made slow progress today not because of the hangover although that did not help, but I had to go over five mountains over 1300m just to get out of this tourture pit they call the Alps. I am going to have to rethink my timings. I am currently about 30km south of Mens.
I am on a municipal campsite at Chatillon en Diois. It only cost 10 Euros for the night but it has a swimming pool, crazy golf and tennis courts!
Actually rode through some gorgeous scenery, I have to talk myself out of stopping to take pictures or I would not make any progress at all. Today crossed beautiful gorges, followed pretty rivers and went through quaint little villages.
Today, I was munching on a bit of my baguette as I was riding along and a little boy shouts from a car window bon appetite and I shouted back merci. I love the culture, I love the people and the place, it rocks big time.
So with one part of the trip complete, what have I learnt:
1) I need to stop having shots, they do my memory in big time!
2) Clothing wise forget about normal fabrics and go for performance t’s etc. They dry quicker and are lighter and fold up smaller.
3) You can cook some really nice food on a one burner.
4) It is hot, 70% of your budget will go on coka.
5) It takes a shit load of time to get anywhere in the Alps on a bicycle.
I am currently in Avignon and what a beautiful place it is, the kind of place you need to share with someone. I have been going through beautiful places all day, the river/canal that you see in the picture is about 50 steps away from my tent. It is just full if different kinds of castles as you can see. The other pictures show the hills I have gone through, one of the mountains I had to climb this morning and my grumpy face when I saw all the hills that laid ahead if me. Then you have a river that I rode along side for a while. My campsite that is 3 stars really nice and only 7,50 Euros so I treat myself to pizza and frittes and those lasted about 7 minutes, I kid you not!
This is one of the most beautiful city’s I have been in. A court yard with restaurants straight from a film set. Did not want to take pics whilst people were sat out eating. Defo a place for the rich and the cool, I looked a right freak.
I took my tent down and brushed my pegs in about 10mins, the back packers next to me had been at theirs for about 45mins before I got out of my tent, I told them they need some OCD systems and it is quicker
When riding I met a guy on the road called Renold, he lives in Switzerland but he is originally from Germany. He was cycling to Montpellier to see his daughter as he had recently separated from his wife but he was hoping to get this back on track. His wife is French and he spoke French and English very well. He also has several house in France. He is a music teacher, plays the flute and been part of some big productions. He has had a very interesting life, sailing, cycling, rowing. He told me some right tales that I better not share in the public area! Anyway, he took me to a beautiful restaurant half way on our journey the place and the food was amazing. He said he would take me to a campsite in Montpellier and he would make his way to see his daughter. Well the campsite was full, so he suggested stopping at his apartment with his wife and daughter and then I can move round the coast where there are more campsites. I thought this might be a good idea because it was getting late.
We rocked up at the penhouse in Montpellier his wife is just stunning and really kind. She made a beautiful meal and gave me toiletries for a shower. After food Reynold took me for a walk round the city at night. So I am currently in the spare room of this amazing apartment in Montpellier, get any better? Not at this moment in time
So today we went for lunch in a beautiful place again and I had another gorgeous meal, salmon, prawns and bulgur wheat followed by another amazing pud, sorry, ‘Cafe gourmand’. Reynolds and his wife paid and would not accept any money. We came back to the apartment and everybody had a siesta before we went to the beach. They bought some food from the markets at the road side and again would not accept any money. I am currently drinking Pastis which is like Ouzo while the family cook an amazing meal again. Tomorrow I set off cycling to the Atlantic coast, doing about 100km a day I should be there in six days. The generodity of people again is overwhelming!! Splendid Day!!!!
I left Montpellier at about 0900 this morning I did not sleep well, guess why, another light show thunderstorm at least I was not in a tent. Reynolds and his wife got up made cafe, porridge and fruit for breakfast. Then Reynolds escorted me out of the city and put me on the right road. As soon as we said goodbye the weirdest thing happened, I just automatically started singing the theme song from the Littlest Hobo! ” Just turn around and close your eyes and I gone again…..Maybe tomorrow I’ll want to settle down until tomorrow, I’ll just keep moving on….. ” etc. I was singing until a pretty girl came past me on a bike, then I thought I best calm down.. If I see another pretty French girl on a traditional cycle or scooter with a lovely summer dress flowing behind her, I think my brain might explode.
The ride was the hardest ride I have ever done on a bike. 160km made it all the way to Caconsonne. The road up and down, the headwind constant and strong the only good thing is it blew the thunderstorm right past me before it dropped its load. When we were discussing the route, we thought it would take me two days to get here, I got to a beautiful campsite at 1800. There is an area devoted to cycle tourers and there is about 100 tents all with Velo’s parked outside. The funny things is the majority are couples, friends or families, I did not see another solo traveller like you might expect, there is even a family of six untilising a tandem and trailer, in fact lots of trailers being pulled along by bicycle! The campsite is full of Americans, Canadians and Aussies, so you know it is good quality. Sport pitches, swimming pools and very clean.
When I left this morning Reynolds wife, Maria, gave me a cheese platter so for lunch I stopped and had a baguette, with a tin of sardines and Rockfort cheese. It was nice but I felt pogged, I realised that my diet has gone really bad by being here, before this trip I cannot remember the last time I had white bread, white pasta or regular dairy and I think I am feeling the effects of being free and easy. I promised myself that would be the last bread, dairy I would have, but as I write this I am tucking into a steak sandwich!!!!
I am feeling bad because my belly and my moobs are growing big time. My legs and ass are ok, rode over some cobbles and was well impressed with them, not even a ripple, but yeah, the rest, just like a jelly baby . Any way sandwich finished, where can I get Pistash Glaces?
When I first entered Montpellier a couple of days ago, I got a puncture, put my gloves down and forgot to pick them up, today had been the first day back on the bike and I have lost coordination in my right hand, just like what happened to Paul Jervis on the Candlelighters event. I could not even hold my toothbrush this evening, so as soon as I see a bike shop (which are not easy to spot) I need to get another pair.
So to sum up a really hard ride that would if been easier if I had my shielding buddies Jeerve and Robbo. But made better by having an ace campsite (13 Euros) and actually making it Herr in one day!!!
It looks like rain tonight, forecast for more storms tomorrow then sunny again. Hopefully, please let that wind die down, if I can do another 160km, which is a page and a half of my atlas I will be well impressed! Biarritz in 4-5 days instead of 6-7. Cool!
Update: just made it to the tent in time: another thunderstorm!!!!! It is because it is just so damn hot!
Got up this morning and it was still raining. I know the weather forecast is good from tomorrow for at least the next 7 days, so I was toying with the idea of staying at that campsite another night and setting off tomorrow when everything is dry. But then I thought all I am going to do is sit and eat and spend money. I thought even if I just go 20km it does not cost anymore and it is still forward progress. It was hard, the wind was stronger and the hills steeper and the rain still coming down. I carried on going, it is an early finish for me. But I have done 100km and ended up in Foix. The sun has started to show itself so I know tomorrow my love affair with France will be back on track. I have worked out that even if all my days are like today I will be at my campsite on the Atlantic Coast by the 11th. I am not booked in till the 13th, I am not going to ease up cause you don’t know what type of roads lay ahead. If I get to Biaritz early it will just be more time on the beach.
So I got into Foix and went to the tourist info, they said there is a nice site 3km from the town in the direction I want to head in tomorrow. They have availability from 1700, so I thought what would my pal Robbo do at a time like this, so I am sat in the sun having a Grande Beer, it is a holiday after all. It turned out to be two beers! Push the boat out Dyleron
It has turned out nice in the end, but I have to admit I was a broken man on this stretch. I saw some sunflowers that seemed to sympathise with me so had my photo taken with them. I am just wondering when this Department called the Pyrenees will flaten out, hopefully with the sun out tomorrow the wind will ease. It would be a lot easier to plod on through if I were more comfortable, so bike mods for my next touring trip. Flat bars, Rohloff hub, Brooks saddle. With these features it will be a true milage eating cargo donkey, and still look the Bee’s Knee’s. When the bike is parked up a lot of people enquire about it, I was not expecting that with a touring bike cause it does not look like a sexy carbon job, but I have to admit with its luggage up against a tree it does look kinda special. Leaning it against stuff put a couple of scratches on the frame, I just got the Brillo Pad out a light rub and the scratches gone, what a bike! I also scratched off the decals to make it more classy and chic
I like the idea now of building this up from scratch and adding your own preferences and touches to suit your style. Even though I did not physically put the bicycle together, I think I will take care of the mods. But I also want another motorbike and I can’t afford the RG’s, RT’s Z1000’s I had in the past so I am thinking of a custom job, based around a nice BMW Boxer. I have see a few rat/custom jobs on my travels and they look cool!!!! Martin Mason, up for assisting on a long term project???!!!!
I am just going to spend the next hour or two looking round Foix and then get to my campsite, I will probably stay on site cos it is too temping once in town to start parting with cash on beer and nice food, plus I need to start eating my cargo to lighten the load!
Thoughts For Today:
Even though I am travelling on my jack I am so glad I am doing this. Even when the going gets really tough I know there is always a Grande Beer just round the corner!
Pissed it down all night and was still raining when I got up. I don’t know if it is just sleeping in the fresh air or not sleeping properly but my eyes this morning looked so puffed up! They looked like Stallone’s at the end of Rocky III. Had the tent stripped down in no time and I don’t worry about it waiting yo dry cos it might just get wet again and it actually dries hanging off the end of the bike on travels.
I stopped in Foix and had a cafe in a bar then stopped off to get a couple of pain au chocolate’s, now we blame America for a lot of things but I love the fact I can now buy my Pain au Chocolate and Pain au Raisins, Maxi, yes double the size so I got three of each for my travels.
I just seemed to be flying today and everything felt ace. I was in St-Girons by 1100, so I stopped and got another couple of cafe’s and they let me charge my phone. I have to say I really like my coffee black now, with two sugars though! So I set off still feeling good. Me and Lucille (my bike) are now friends again after our two day spat. It was all fault, I should not have taken the weather out on her and I should not get jealous when people pay her attention. I started to blame her for putting on a few grams here and there until I remembered it was me that brought the baggage into the relationship. So on I went past St-Gaudens. I saw a guy and he was asking about the bike he was into his cycling and was telling me about his carbon bike and where he likes to cycle. He said there would be camping at Lannemezan which was another 30km away, I thought right that is my target for today. When I saw a sign that said 2km to my destination, I put the pedal down big time, sprinting as fast as I could, with all the weight of the luggage, bike swaying from side to side straight to the Tourist Information Office. “Nearest camping please” I said. Not here was the reply 8km down the road. At this point I have done 130km and the thought of another 8 after I thought I had reached my destination was a bit of a let down. I was even toying with the idea of a hotel at 21 Euros, I thought it is only like two nights camping, but then I took into account that I would have to buy my tea instead of making it. I said “Only 8km, no more”. She said “You will be there in 10-15 mins”. On my bike again arrived at the campsite and it is gorgeous, a small cute little thing, clean and the clientele seem lovely, a mixture of old couples and young families. There is even entertainment, a guy singing a mixture of French songs and Frank Sinatra. My kinda stuff when your in a place like this. If he plays Champs Elysees it will really make my night. I am surrounded by cute pensioners ballroom dancing around their tents. Excellent.
Well the good news folks is that I am 30km off Tarbes. This is on the right of my last double page spread to take me to Biarritz which is on the far left of the spread. So one more stop tomorrow night somewhere near or just after Pau, then if everything is consistent with the last couple of days, I will be dipping my toe in the Atlantic the day after. I really can’t believe it is possible by bike Mediterranean to the Atlantic in four days, cool! But I have been told I will be in the mountains again tomorrow. I have had a couple of snow covered summits to my left as I have been riding along, which looked amazing, the photos make them look a lot further away than they really are. Anyway must dash, ABBA is playing!!!!
Got up this morning very early, did not sleep last night thinking about how I should end the trip, how I should make my way to the ferry that sails on the 23rd, how long I should stop in Biarritz. Got the puffy eyes again, been fighting with Appollo Creed and Mr T again. Anyway got up and it was very overcast, was starting to think they were telling porkies about the nice weather. Dropped camp in a matter of minutes, so efficient now through practice. Loaded the bike neatest it has been loaded, went to move it, flat rear tyre! Now ordinarily it would not bother me but to sort it I had to take of the tent, take of the panniers, take of the handle bar bag. But I still thought just chill, get as far as you can today no bother, a recovery ride after the two/three days hard graft. Do while I was at it I repaired the punctured tube as well, cause I was using my last good one. Checked the tyre all was well. On my way to Tarbes I was just descending for ages and ages, started to see why the last couple of days had been a bit hard. I was not going to leave Tarbes until I had replacement tubes, oh forgot to mention the first bakery I found I bought six Pain au Raisins and a Cafe. Back to Tarbes, found a bike shop a proper posh one dealt in Canmondale and Italian brands biked on display were in the region of 4000, up to 6000 Euros for this Look race bike which looked amazing, got my tubes and asked if I could just borrow a pump to make sure my repaired wheel was up to full pressure, this was a mistake, he said sure bring the bike in, so I did, I was stuck for the next 30 minutes whilst they took pictures on their mobiles of the frame, the hydraulic convertor, then they got the mechanics out to inspect, weird! I had to explain how it worked etc. They asked who makes them, with pride Hope, West Yorkshire pal I left out that I think it is Bradford, somebody please correct me if I am wrong. Anyway, just started making good ground ended up past Pau. I am in Orthez, another 100km done, did not set off till 1000 as well. I am only 80km from Biarittz!!! Don’t know if I am expecting but last night in my tent I had a massive craving for Thlumps, crisps and coka. So made sure I stopped at a supermarche and got some supplies which I am tucking into now.
This place is really nice only 30 pitches and only 9 Euros like last night. So I had to make an executive decision seeing as I am counting every euro. I am going to stay here for two nights cos the village is gorge and I am not booked in to Biarittz until the 13th. If I get to Biarittz early I will have two very big problems, the campsite could be booked up till the 13th, and extra nights on the site are about 25 Euros a night instead of 9! So here for two nights which takes me to the 12th, I will travel 40km get another site for 9-12 Euros, then make my booking for the 13th. If I would have left this booking alone in Montpellier I would not of had a problem cause I did book it for the 11th but Reynolds did not think it was possible, cheers matey I could call to see if I could change back, but I have already changed the booking a few times and with the language issue, it is easier just to leave it, plus it saves me some cash. Met a new buddy, a French guy called David, he has been walking around the Pyrenees. Walked into town to get food and we ate outside our tents, a nice evening. Tomorrow I will take a few pictures of the village. BTW, the weather is red hot again!!
Riding in France has been lovely, the drivers are really considerate, sometimes too much so, you think just come bloody past, I have only come across one or two drivers that think roads were invented along with the car!
I have and I am currently eating a lot of bad things today, but what the hell!! Once you pop, you can’t stop, apparently even if your mouth is still full of marshmallows!!!!
Last night, oh last night, I did not know what the hell was going on. I got into my tent at about 10ish and was typing my update, eating Pringles and Flumps when I heard cars pull up and it started to get really really noisy. Lots of male voices, female voices, kids voices, wine bottles opening, cans crushing and what was really fucking me off, loads of fucking football type chanting in French coming from all angles of the campsite. I kept hearing them mention velo and cos I was the only one on the site with a bike every time I heard that word I peered through the fly sheet to make sure Lucille had not been kidnapped to be used as transportation to the bogs. There were young voices and old voices so I thought well they know the campsite rules, start to calm down at about 1100. Oh no not this lot 0330 before they stopped chanting and shouting out across the campsite. What was confusing me was the fact there were young families on the site and no one was telling them to stop. I thought maybe they are some rock hard family that have come here the job lot of them aunties, uncles etc. It was really really loud, all night long even after 0330 we had to endure their van doors opening and closing, them deciding it was a good time to blow up their air beds with the electric air pumps. I was even thinking about packing up and cycling, but I thought that might cause some kind of confrontation.
In the morning I heard David the French guy from yesterday packing up cos he was getting a pre arranged lift back home. He said “Morning Hugh Grant”. He called me that because when we arrived on the site at a similar time the first thing I did was lay my patchwork blanket down and have an ice cream and made some tea. There was all night to put up the tent but I needed my Pistash Glacé and caffeine!
I peered out of my tent and he started to laugh at my face. On observing the surroundings it all became clear. I had nothing to worry about and I did not need to get a refund on the extra night and move on. The loud 30-40 or so people were also packing up. I also saw rally cars and team vans. While they were packing up I thought I would walk into town to get some food for breakfast, and it became more obvious as to what had happened. In the centre they were about 100 rally cars all departing for the next stage of some sort of race. The guys on the campsite were part of this event, but for reasons I will never know were not doing the next stage, so I presume it was their time to party and let off steam. So it was some form of unprofessional race meet. I have been to Assen for the Moto GP so I know what these type of events are like and this was really really tame compared to a massive proffessional event like the Moto GP. So in my head I let them off the hook and took back the fictious beatings I gave them all last night!!!!
So today I bought a newspaper and just chilled outside the tent in the shade. It is blue sky with not a single cloud, red hot so I thought it would be a good time to give my clothes a wash as they have plenty of suntime to dry.
I am on the last of my food supplies from the Alps which is a good thing all the luggage weight will be gone while mine continues to gain.
When I rode into town this morning I did it without luggage for the first time since starting the trip, it was like trying to ride a bike all over again, it felt so light and nimble took me 100m to keep it in a straight line.
I have slung all the sweets away and have decided that it is back on the healthy food again. It is not on cycling 1000’s of miles and putting on weight! Today has been really relaxing, reading, sleeping in the shade, but I feel I am just killing time until Biarritz so I have decided tomorrow I will just go there without a night somewhere else, a day early and see what the crack is. If they are all full until my reservation on the 13th I will just do a night of wild camping somewhere cos it is weird thinking I could of been on the beach today! Today has been so chilled I even had to read the sports pages of the Daily Mail. Now for me to read stories on football, cricket and rugby you really really know I am just killing time!!!!!! Bring on the surf dudes!!! 80km tomorrow and I am there!
Well I am here. I don’t know how many miles it has been, I have not even turned the Garmin on after I got lost up that mountain in a thunderstorm on about day 3. I hope you can upload mileage and climbing data from mapped routes to Strava though, cos it would be a shame not to log um!
The campsite at Orthez was dead all day yesterday there was probably only me and another couple on site all day, it was like I was just in a field on my todd. At about 1700 all the families started to come back. It was still really quiet though, it only had 30 pitches and half of them were not being used. I went to bed and everything was fine except for this pissed up fella that was trying yo re-live the excitement of the previous night! He was trying to get the chanting going again and I could hear this teenagers laugh that was so prominent on rally night, god he is a prick. But this time they were told and everything was calm at 0100.
I got up and packed the camp, set off at about 0830. Got to the Atlantic Coast by 1130. Went straight to the Office of Tourism to get a free map of the town and directions to my campsite.
At this point can I just say the town/beach/place is amazing. It is like a coastal resort without the tackiness. Basically, there are no shit bars or places to eat, every single place looks like a top end gaff and sat outside are beautiful people, beautifully dressed or they are surfer dudes. It is a really cool place, intimidates the hell out of me! Gavin Walker, you would love it here! Champers all round matey.
I navigated my way to the campsite and was a bit concerned that the sign on the door of the reception said fully booked. But I went in and said I was a day early and was hoping that they could assist me with my problem. Isabella was very accommodating and suggested sharing a pitch with an Italian couple and we could half the cost for the night. When I found the pitch, they were not around and have a camper so I had no idea where to put my tent, or even if I should put it up without asking first. The guys in the pitch next door were already sharing for similar reasons, they were British, just starting to teach as NQT’s in September, they gave me some good advice as to the best place to pitch, but I have to say, they are a bit pricky as well, cockneys, shall I expand!? OK if I must, NQT’s with 40 years teaching experience!
Anyways, put up my tent went to reception found out where the nearest supermarket is, got some fruit, supplies for tea and a bottle of rose, the intention to drink on the beach, but school boy error, bought a cork top! Doh. Anyway, did not need it just laid down and went to sleep in the sun, you can’t beat that feeling, it is so amazing you just drift away.
As predicted don’t think my money is going to go too far here! Just on the campsite a beer is £6 and a Calipo is £3. The supermarket is cheap though, or should I say, normal. I got pen and paper out to do some sums! I am going to phone P&O tomoz to see if I can bring the date of sail a bit sooner by a couple of days, then I can cycle up Paris get the TGV to Calais and cycle all the way to Halifax via Gary and Lisa Waters and Hunstanton to pick up my Ti sestpost, do the exact same plan, just a couple of days earlier.
When I got back to the pitch after the beach the Italian couple were back, I asked if it was fine to share and it is cool. They are lovely, Stephan and Maya. Maya is expecting due in December, Stephan is a surfer. We bonded well over our love for Point Break. He also told me of another film I need to see called ‘Into The Wild’, by coincidence, David the French guy also recommended it, a true story, so I must give it a viewing, Shaun Penn directed BTW.
Anyway, now I am here, have I found the meaning of life? Am I enlightened? Do I now have an action plan to change my world? In a word NO! I am just as confused as I always will be!!! One thing I know for sure, you need to be in this place with a partner or a group of friends, you could have such a nice time here, but I know I have some form of confidence, but I ain’t going in posh places to eat on my own, even I draw the line at that.
On that front, I was sat on the beach, people watching, trying to get answers as to what I had just accomplished and on the shuffle a tracked played that just, I don’t know, just felt my mood. If you wanna know what it is click the link and imagine your on a beautiful beach watching life go on all around you.
BTW I can hear them cockneys outside my tent talking about which girls they have had and bars they are going to go in tonight and how it does not matter cos in their own words “They always bring the party”.
Well first thing click the link and have a sing a long with me. You wont get the tune out of your head all day!
Basically sat half the day on the beach people watching, I need to get some dark sunglasses because this is my favourite hobby, beats everything else hands down! The weather was perfect, blue sky and just a hint of a breeze to keep the sweat at bay. So from my beach time hobby I observed two things. The first patents have some tough calls to make I sympathise with every last one of you. There was this gorgeous little girl on the beach crying her eyes out in a really cute way though because she was finding it so difficult to walk the 20-30 metres across the sand, I felt so sorry for her because a little legs must of only been 30cm long and every ripple in the sand must of been like a sand dune to her. Her mom just kept on saying I presume cause she was not speaking english “Your walking, come on”. Now one time I would have said good one, your going to raise a good strong lassie there. But it was just the way she took 5 steps would stop and try to get assistance that was tugging on my heart. So yeah parents, you have tough calls to make eh.
The second thing I observed was how primitive we humans are. This becomes apparent when trying to pick you sunbathing spot on the clear open beach. Nearly everybody walks on to the sand, scans there head around points at a clear unused spot, which is surrounded by the way by other clear unused spots, will walk there and look around again and decide this is not the spot and the process can continue up to four times. Primitive, just like a dog deciding where to dump! Scan sniff, sqwat, not quite right, funny walk to a different spot!
I will start to make my may back on the 15th. I have to hot foot it the 200km to Bordeaux, then get the TGV to Paris. Would have loved to have stopped longer and cycle up the coast but funds are not going to permit that to happen.
But good news about the camping. She did not charge me for the first night and because if the deposit I paid I got 50 Euros back because I have only been charged for two nights even though the minimum on this campsite is four nights. Cool.
So as tomorrow will be my last full day in Biarittz in the morning I am just going to get out on the bike explore the other side of the town and the other beaches and take some pics for the memory bank. Come back to the campsite and get my clothes machine washed and dry. Then spend the evening on the small beach just outside the campsite, the one in the pictures. As you can see lots of space to sunbath, I want to find out and do dome research now why we decide one spot is better than another
So my last day before I make my way back home. I am going to count this as my last post. I have that last day of the holiday feeling and it is going to follow me all the way home and nobody wants to here about that!!!
So this morning the sun is shining bright got up made my brecky, had my hot chocolate and set off to the other end of the town. Where I am there are a couple of smaller beaches but right at the top of town there is a massive one that is just meant to go on and on. I won’t go that far up because I am quite content with the sand and sea where I am, I don’t think it will be any different just more of it!
In town I found this little spot, a rock out on the end connected by a bridge. I took a few photos there. Now I have been thinking of a suitable song that can sum up my time in France. Get across the feeling of the triumphs Lucile and myself have had together. Such as cycling numourous famous mountain cols. Completing the Marmotte in a time on race day would have been middle of the pack. Actually managing to get out of the Alps was quite epic. Then there was dipping the toe in the Med and the Atlantic all by bike. Can I say if you have not been to Biarritz you would love it, something for everyone and even though it is cool, it is so family friendly. If you don’t make it here at least once you could be missing a trick!
When I was on this rock connected by the bridge another guy and his wife came over and he started asking questions about the bike, he was interested in the frame and the hydraulics set up. He went away then ten minutes later he said can I take a picture of you and the bike, I said don’t kid your self mate you only want the bike do he did but the few people stood around were very puzzled, might of thought of us as a couple of celebs that they have not heard of, again Lucile keeps on attracting attention that I did not expect at all.
Anyway, sorry back to the song. I was umming and arrring between Mumford and Sons, Reminders and Embrace, Had A Time. But when I was on my little rock there was a guy playing a flutey type thing. You can see it in the pics and tell me, I think it is a Clarinet?? He started playing ‘Can’t help falling in love’. It is a beautiful song, one that I have always loved and fits how I feel perfectly. The others are beautiful songs but also have negative lines in them and the only thing negative about this trip is that I have had to cut it short by a few days.
When he was playing I gave him some money quick sharp took his picture and I had to get out of there cause I could feel a bit of emotion raising its head and a bit of water welling in my eyes.
I have had a beautiful time and I know me and Lucile are going to have lots of adventures together over the next forty years or so. She might get a few nips and tucks along the way but she will always be there. Some of the adventures might be long, some short, some just a weekend, but I know they will all be different and all be worth doing.
Well to sign out, enjoy the song and I hope you all have adventures as well in any form that floats your boat!!!
During my stay in Biarritz the evenings have got a bit overcast, this was the only clear night, if I had been two minutes later I would of missed it. You can choose your own soundtrack for this sunset. Magical x
Hot chocolate and bed, big day tomoz. I am on my way home Darran Jugroop get the kettle on laddie!
Paris was beautiful today. Had a meal with another biking buddy from Amsterdam. Bike touring rocks! And had a lovely conversation and shared some fruity bread with Eveline Bijlsma also from Amsterdam who I think has now caught the bike touring bug
Descending Alpe d’ Huez
14km, 21 hairpin, decent of Alpe d’ Huez condensed to 5 minutes
I know it is the uphill that matters but that would of been a film of Lord of the Ring type length EPIC! But going down is so much fun, this was my first decent had to overtake a few cars along the way, took 15mins. On my second attempt got down in 12.