Monday, October 3, 2011

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea

Day 1: St Jean-de-Luz to Navarrenx

The Wheezing Geezers are finally off! After what seems like a year's training (it was!) and after what seemed like thousands of calf-aching pains (there were!), we got dropped off at St Jean de Luz and headed off in the bright, warm sunshine which luckily stayed with us all day. We quickly found the D918 thanks to superb map making and orienting skills (mine!) which took us straight out of St Jean and into the Basque countryside. Beautiful green hills with a backdrop of the Pyrénées mountains.

Off onto the D918 after having our photos taken on a 'groin' thingy at St Jean.
On the D918 we cycled East through Espelette, Cambo-Les-Bains, then took the D10 to Urcarry, then the D22 to Hasparren where we had lunch. A salad followed by fish steak with vegetables. Delicious.After a beer or two (it was very warm) we cycled off slightly slower than we arrived, going through Méharin on the D14 then Luxe-Sumberaute on to St Palais.

On the bridge over the Gave de Mauleon at St Palais

Onward on the D11 to Aroue then the D23 towards Charre. The homeward stretch was East on the D343 then the D115 to Castetnau-Camblong then Navarrenx.

Let me just say that I've never been anywhere hiller than the Basque country. Hilly, hilly, hilly. Did I say it was not flat? Even on the trip that Shaun and I made last year all the way from Suffolk to the Béarn, we never encountered so many hills in such a short space of time. Barry began to think we'd hoodwinked him into coming by telling him it was all flat. We never lied to him honest! Because the weather was so good and very warm it made the hills seem even more difficult to get up, but eventually we got near to home-ground and decidedly tired after our first day, we met up later for some pasta and wine to fortify us for Day 2.
Near to St Palais, the name in French, then in Basque. Although the Basques would prefer it if it wasn't in French at all!

This must have been taken early in the day as Barry is smiling
Distance: 97 kms

Day 2: Navarrenx to Marciac

We awake (in our own beds at home because we're at home!) to the sound of dripping water (well, I do because we've got a leak in the back of the house). After yesterday and the constant heat and sun it's very difficult to believe that it's actually raining and a bit cooler. Anyway, we'd planned to meet each other a few kilometres up the road in Lay-Lamidou to head off on the D2 to Monein, a very hilly 20kms away.

You can smile now, but just you wait till later....!
We didn't have to wait long to suffer

We know this route very well as we've all trained on it but still, the hills are pretty steep and we're soon sweating by the time we get to Monein. We avoid a very steep hill that the Tour de France rode up this year and head out onto the D2 towards Pau, the capital of the Béarn. This is an un-interesting, straightish road that I've always regarded as a very boring road to cycle on and scoffed at other cyclists on it. Now I'm doing the same, but it's much more interesting if you're actually going somewhere with a purpose.

We head straight for the centre of Pau itself and for the Chateau where Henry IV was born.
Below the Boulevard des Pyrénées we catch the tiny funicular train that takes us up to the town and from there we cycle round Pau, looking for the D943 to take us North East out of Pau and towards Morlaàs. It's at Morlaàs that we encounter a very long and steep hill that really saps our strength. Luckily it's still overcast an a bit spitty so we're kept cool and there's plenty of shade. The road is busy and not very pleasant to ride. And so this road goes on with plenty of steep ascents and some very long, welcome descents too. It very soon starts to get a lot sunnier and hotter.

Having looked closely at the maps this morning, we decide to deviate from our original route, avoiding the worst hills by going more South and then cycling North through a valley between the ridges that we've been cycling over. This means we head for Vic-en-Bigorre along the D6, then cut off a corner going through Caixon. Through Caixon were flew down a fabulous, very long descent through a wooded area that seemed to go on forever. By now it had warmed up alot and we were grateful for the shade (and the downhill aspect) and we stopped for a bit in the village of Nouihan.

'Morts'? I know how they feel

We joined the big D935 coming up North from Tarbes, crossing the river Adour  to Maubourguet, then took the D943 towards Marciac. The reason we were going via Marciac, is that Shaun's friend Eric had offered to put us up for the night which was very generous and very welcome. We arrived at the very pretty village of Marciac around 5pm and had a welcome beer. It was here that we tried to be very '21st Century' and upload some text and photos to this here blog so that everyone could see our progress. Our chosen instrument for this task, Barry's Blackberry had other ideas, however. The Blackberry was just as much use as, well, a blackberry.
"Hello? Civilisation? Where's my masseuse and smoking jacket?"

When I first asked Shaun if Eric actually lived in Marciac, he said of course he did. When I asked him again, when we were actually there, the answer was a bit more vague. This was to set the pattern of Shaun's avoidance of the truth, half truths and downright lies when it came to distances expected and gradients of hills. It turns out that Eric lived about 4 kms away (really 14 kms away). When questioned about where on the landscape he lives, he doesn't live on a hill. Not a hill, but a 'ridge'. Which in my book is a hill, just a very wide hill. So, after 14 kms, then an unexplained 3 kms we eventually reach Eric's village. When Shaun said he lived on a ridge, he didn't explain that this ridge was reached by one of the steepest hills in the Gers and definitely the steepest we'd seen so far. We were beginning to doubt anything Shaun said to us after this. Not only was it about a 45% gradient, but it had been newly gravelled. Great! It was like trying to ski vertically up a mountain strewn with peanuts.
Eric and Marilyn's house. Near-ish, but not very near to Marciac

Eventually we reached Erics, had showers, changed and went out for dinner. It was a great evening and we ate and drank very well. We all slept like logs. Logs with achey legs.

Distance: 118 kms

Day 3: Marciac to Lombez

After the luxury of Eric and Marilyn's house (having separate en-suite rooms and everything), it was difficult to leave on the Sunday morning. We even had our filthy cycling clobber washed and dried by Marilyn, so were lovely and clean, well rested and eager to get off. Barry, however was just content to take a leisurely breakfast in his 'lounging trousers'. Shaun and I have obviously led sheltered lives, as neither of us had seen, let alone worn such things and they became a special object of ridicule for the whole trip (deservedly). We were amazed at what Barry had brought them with him as, in his words, he was going to 'take the absolute essentials'. In Lord Barry Young's (as he was to be known) world, this meant everything, almost including the kitchen sink. It was all we could do to get him to leave behind his cut-crystal decanter and matching 16 wine glasses. He wondered why his panniers were so heavy as he struggled up the hills!

The view from Eric's house, almost near but not very near to Marciac
Once Barry's valet had loaded up his steed, we set off across the ridge (not a hill don't forget) down onto the D3 to a very small but beautiful village called Tillac.In the middle of this village is just one street that is a slice of medieval life in the shape of a tower with an arched entrance into a proper cobble-stoned medieval street. It was a great surprise, unexpected as it was, just in the middle of nowhere.

Tillac entrance

Lord Barry Young spoiling the view of the 'High Street' in Tillac
 In the shop opposite we bought some ham and cheese and some baguettes for a possible picnic lunch. We also tried in vain to buy some oil for our chains as they were getting noisy. Lord Young only had extra virgin olive on him.

We turned left onto the D16 on towards St Maur, then on to the N21 North to Mirande. We then took the D104 towards Loubersan, then stopped at Seissan to have lunch. Amazingly for a Sunday there was a bar serving food that was actually open. No ham and floppy, sweaty cheese for us then! It was baking hot by this time too, so we gladly drank beer and sat down to a four course lunch of soup followed by salad, then pork and potatoes and an individual flan for dessert. We couldn't actually manage the flans, so we took them away with us.

Handy reminders of which road you are on
 We promised ourselves a little nap by a babbling brook, but even though Shaun had promised us a shady place to rest our weary, sweaty bottoms, all we saw were more and more hills, which didn't please Barry as his gold-topped cane kept sliding out from it's Union-Jack flag holder, threatening to topple the statue of Queen Victoria from the rack on his bike.

I don't know why we couldn't have turned left here...
 At Saramon, we took the very picturesque (but also very hilly) D626 and arrived around 6pm at Lombez, our destination. We were suitably tired, sore and dirty after our hot day, so after finding our hotel just a few metres into the village you can imagine how relieved to find that (a) it had room for us (but for only one night - that's all we needed) and (b) it had a swimming pool! Lord Young is an habitual pool user, but for Shaun and I it was a gift from heaven! Naturally we dived straight in (it was like ice!) and had the young French wench bring us ale (Barry's words, not mine). God, it was great!

The 'Val de Save' hotel, Lombez
The downside was, as it was a Sunday, their restaurant was closed but there was a pizza place open just up the road. After stuffing our faces with three of their finest 'Lombezgois' pizzas, we repaired to a bar to relax, only for Shaun to almost get into a fight with a local when talking about the talents (or lack of) of the Toulouse Rugby team. We made a hasty exit and went straight to bed after we'd jettisoned the sweaty ham and cheese and by now, rock hard baguettes.

Distance: 72 kms

Day 4: Lombez to Montgiscard

After eating a typical (overpriced) french breakfast of tea, coffee, croissants, jam, and some stuff that looked like baby food (which we didn't eat) we bought some more chewy bars and looked for some elusive oil. It was already very warm and sunny, so we sped off on the D632 in the direction of 'Le Mona' which we thought hugely appropriate as he was here with us in the shape of Barry. Unfortunately we didn't get a photo of him alongside the village sign, but here's one of him actually smiling...

He's smiling because, for some strange reason, Shaun had volunteered to swap panniers with him and carry his heavy load for the duration of the day. "My legs are tired" said the blue-blooded one and Shaun, having been promised a knighthood or something, gave in. We insisted on discarding the top-hat, hip-flasks and his ornamental dagger collection and duly set off. Shaun more slowly and Barry noticeably faster.

"But how am I meant to function adequately without my mini-fridge and  decanter?"

Following the D632 we went through Bragayrac, Ste Foy-de-Peyrolières and then North-East to St Lys. Here we had a coffee/tea next to the imposing church and Lord Young found some bananas and some precious oil.

 The flans that we had carefully carried with us went into the bin at this point. Refreshed, we cycled off onto the D12 to Muret. This was originally to be Day 4 stopping point, but as we'd made Day 2 to Marciac quite a bit longer, we chose Montgiscard to be our stop for tonight. At Muret we found a bar to eat lunch - a plate of 'charcuterie' and a not very good steak with pasta. This time however, we did find a river nearby to sit and rest for a bit in the shade.

Cyclists, bike, horse
After our break, we set off South East on the D12 to Lagardelle-sur-Lèze, taking the D74 through Les Maurices, the D68 for a bit to Pouze and on to Montgiscard. All very hilly roads which were made even harder under the blazing sun. As we were seemingly cycling vertically most of the time, the views are just stunning. Even Barry had to admit that the effort of grinding up each hill was well worth it for the tremendous views we got when up there, and it really did seem that we were very high up.

So when we reached Montgiscard, it was quite disappointing to find out that there were no hotels or B&Bs there at all. A huge church and a bar/restaurant, but no lodging. Luckily the bar owner took pity on us and phoned a friend who runs a motel in Donneville, North of there. Shaun had assured us it was 6 kms away, so Barry and I then assumed that, as Shaun was completely unreliable when it came to distances that it would be more like 10. Strangely, it was only 2kms away on the N113, a big bonus when you've already cycled over 70kms in the heat.

Donneville was right on the Canal du Midi, which we'd planned to cycle on to Castelnaudary, Carcassonne and on to Narbonne. The motel was just that - a separate restaurant with 'pavillions' or little chalets in the grounds of it. Our chalet had two beds and a fold out one that we eventually managed to work out how to put up and Shaun volunteered to have that (we made him, as he's the youngest).

The nearest open restaurant was a longish walk up the road, so we walked alongside the canal to it only to find it didn't open for another 30 minutes (it was 7pm). In fact it was a very nice, spacious place, but I can't for the life of me remember the name. We did have a lovely 'soup de poissons' and lamb though. All washed down with a bottle of this...

We managed to walk home in the dark along the busy road without incident and found our 'pavillions' lit up like a brothel in green neon lights! At least people notice it I suppose. Even though the chalet was very small, we had to bring the bikes inside with us over night - not trusting to leave them outside.

Distance: 74 kms

Day 5: Montgiscard to Carcassonne

Day 5 was meant to be Montgiscard to Castelnaudary, but again, as we've got a bit ahead of ourselves we decided to go straight to Carcassonne and have a day off. Hurray! As we are starting off on the Canal du Midi, which obviously will be flat, flat, flat, we will have a relatively easy day and then a day with no cycling. Or that was the idea. Shaun had read a guide to cycling the Canal and it mentioned certain places where the path is less than perfect. Where we began, in Donneville, the surface was great- a proper fine grained gravel, very solid and wide.

Part of the Canal with a good surface to it
 This went on for a good while. We'd left at around 8.30 into a chilly but bright morning. Lovely avenues of plane trees alongside making a cool, dappled light on the path and the Canal itself as the day began to warm up nicely. Despite Shaun's insistence that there'd be refreshments every 400 metres or so (I might have exaggerated that bit), there was very little opportunity to stop and have a coffee. We'd left our motel with just a few 'pain au chocolats' and a 'pain au raisin' with which to mop up our coffees/teas when we found somewhere suitable. Which we didn't. So we stopped at a picnic bench anyway as we were getting hungry by this time (around 10am).

Nice croissants, but no hot drink

 We still wanted a hot drink, so decided to turn off from the Canal at the next promising looking village. This was to be a place called Avignonet.

The village with no-one in it. And no café

 We could see a large church on top of a hill (we couldn't get enough of them!) so headed that way in search of a bar. After trying to scale the hill that led up to the church (easily an 80% climb!) that wound round and on and on, we came to the church. Absolutely no-one around, no bar, no cafe no nothing. We found one human being who told us the nearest bar was, of course, just a few metres on from where we'd turned off. So, down, down, down we went to 'Obelisque's' bar next to the noisiest, dustiest roadworks in Christendom. We were glad to get back to the Canal after that. At Castelnaudary we have a good meal on a moored barge. Steak haché for Barry and me and Shaun had a Toulouse sausage, washed down with a couple of ice-cold beers. It's very warm.

Our lunch stop
 We switch over to the North bank of the Canal at Port Lauragais and at Col de Naurouze back to the South bank at the Ocean Lock. At this point in Shaun's book (Cycling The Canal du Midi by Declan Lyons) it states that the path is "in very poor condition" but then says that "it does improve very quickly". That is an understatement and we found it very difficult going. There are many, many large roots and ruts where the earth was obviously wet but has dried into long, deep troughs. Shaun found out the hard way exactly how tricky it was to cycle over it. WIth quite narrow tyred bikes (28 and 32mm) it's not to be recommended. Barry had slick but wider mountain bike tyres with front suspension and faired only slightly better.

He'd already mopped up all the blood before I'd got my camera out
We didn't find that it "improved very quickly" at all. In fact it got worse before it got even slightly better and then, 14kms outside of Carcassonne, it disappeared altogether, without a 'by your leave'! The sign just said 'Fin de piste cyclable' and that was it... No clue of where to go, whether it continued later on, nothing. We had no choice but to join the D33 towards Carcassonne and follow that. After a few kilometres on the busy and very hot road, we decided to look for a Canal path again. Sure enough, the next right turn took us down to the Canal again and the path. I say 'path' but it really was just a single-track dirt rut. This was very hard going and the last part of our journey into Carcassonne took a very long time. On the road we knew we were 14kms away, but following the canal we must have done at least 20. It seemed to take forever. We were very glad to get off the Canal and into Carcassonne, especially when we came over the bridge on the D33 and saw the 'Cité Medieval' for the first time. It really is an impressive sight and our photos don't do it justice.

Disneyland, I mean Carcassonne
 We found a 'Hotel Mercure' just below the Cité remparts and, as it had a swimming pool we thought it was a great choice, having decided to have a day off here. Finding a restaurant to eat at in the evening was very easy as the central square is chock full of them. We had various salads and the obligatory cassoulet with some good red wine. We slept like logs. Noisy logs, but logs none the less.

Distance: 93 kms

Day 6: Rest Day in Carcassonne

A welcome change from getting up early and sitting on a saddle, today we strolled leisurely into town, found a bar and had breakfast. Several croissants, pain au raisins and chocolatines washed down with hot coffee and a tea for me.
How very civilised
 A bit of sight-seeing around the Cité and then it was time for lunch! This we took a long time over as we were in no rush to go anywhere. Salads as a main course and while I drank beer, Shaun and Barry had jugs of cider. In fact it wasn't the food that kept us there but the constant flow of drink. Eventually we made our way back to the hotel and went for a swim. Lovely.

We saw this in the back garden of an ordinary street

A long mural spelling out the name 'Carcassonne'
No sooner had we digested lunch than it was evening and time to eat again! Off to the square again and this time we had steaks and frites, loading ourselves up for tomorrow's last push to Narbonne.
The Medieval Cité lit up at night
Lord Young can't half pick 'em
Distance: 0kms!

Day 7: Carcassonne to Narbonne

A hot day was forecast and they weren't wrong. Initially though, there was quite a thick fog, so we waited until it had started to go before we set off. There was also a 50km wind from the Med forecast too and they weren't wrong about that, either unfortunately. From Carcassonne we got straight onto the D303 East towards Trebes.
Nearly there Barry, nearly there...

Then the D610 to Marsellette, going South on the D57 to Argeliers. This was all quite hard going as the wind had picked up and it was also very warm. We'd had a decent breakfast but soon looked forward to lunch. East again on the D6113 through Douzens, then Moux. We came to Fontcouverte and decided to stop at La Faubourg near the river for lunch.
Lunch. I can see a sausage in there. And beers

As days go, this was pretty uneventful and we had the feeling that it was all coming to an end which was great (less pain) but sad (we'd had a great laugh). We finished the day by going South on the D106 and then some minor roads to Thezan-des-Corbieres, the East on the D423 to Portel-des-Corbieres, the D3 to Sigean then finishing up at Port-La-Nouvelle.
Look at those smug buggers!

A hard but very enjoyable ride, I think even Lord Young would agree and very satisfying that we managed it. We even started talking about next year's trip. Just don't mention snoring. Doh!
Barry found a sign that eloquently summed up his feelings about the trip

Distance: 74 kms

Total Distance: 528 kms

Friday, September 16, 2011

Making a 'Bee-Line' to Brussels

Shaun and his wife Steph along with two other couples have been on a cycling trip to Brussels. This is Shaun's account of the trip...

Day 1. BSE to Harwich. 

Tom, Tina, Steph and I met at our house in Bury for a bike check and (1st) breakfast which proved vital as my bike had a puncture and Tom needed to change his brake pads. Rain showers were forecast all day so spotting a break in the weather we set off early. Grey and over cast but no rain. Our route was a fairly direct run south east through Bildeston and Hadleigh to Mistley and then finally Harwich. It was just like a training run really as the usual banter and chat meant that we ate up the miles and barring an idiot white van man overtaking on a blind bend and then having a go at the poor woman he ended up 6 inches from. Why couldn't she see he was much more important than her and get out of his way?
The ride became very scenic as we entered the estuary and as we were ahead of time we slowed to enjoy the break in the clouds. Training for my next event (Med to Atlantic) started today as we found it impossible to ride past an ice cream van and then 2 miles further on we found our scheduled tea and cake stop at Mistley (Dave would have been proud of me as I happily stopped and relaxed). We diverted into Harwich to find a pub as we were early for the ferry. The Pier hotel provided a suitable stop over looking the estuary and provided suitable refreshments after a 45 mile effort down through familiar countryside. The cycling was comfortable with a crosswind that didn't cause any issues.

The Happy Group! 

Day 2 Hoek Van Holland to Antwerp.

An early start after docking was aided by our first (and not last) very friendly and helpful Dutch cyclist on his way to work in Rotterdam. He led us all the way to our rendezvous with Ian (the 5th member of the group) 5 miles down beautiful cycle lanes that started at the ferry terminal. After breakfast we boarded the ferry for the crossing of the river to Rozenburg. This is a busy area around Europort and we needed to cross 2 motorways and 3 bridges but the wonderful Dutch cycle ways didn't let us down and we negotiated it all with out once cycling on a road. Out into the open countryside we cycled across the first dam and then headed south east into a stiffening wind which lasted all day. The rain joined it shortly afterwards, the type of rain that I thought only we Brits had. A fine drizzle that seems like nothing but soaks every thing in seconds. It makers visibility in clear glasses hard so I took them off. The flies of southern Holland loved that and headed straight into my eye for sanctuary. A quick stop to off load them and off we went into the wind and rain again. A few seconds later a bee (I say bee but it was clearly a giant African killer bee with attitude) tried to find cover in my mouth. I asked nicely but the little blighter (that's not what I said at the time!) wouldn't leave. When I forced the issue with a polite spit, the hairy hitch hiker stung me quite unnecessarily on the lip. 'On your way you little scamp' I said, though Tom insists that I didn't use those exact words. By the time we reached our lunch stop my cycling companions were finding the going hard. Apparently sarcasm and cycling don't mix and the constant laughing made pedalling almost impossible for them. My famously handsome features had been transformed into a Mr. Potato Head caricature. The swelling reaching from my chin to my left eye. Attractive it was not.

Inflating to 120 psi is for the tyres only Shaun!

Back to the cycling. Flat, not unexpected, wet, not unexpected either, very windy, while not totally unexpected it was unrelenting. whereas anywhere else there are contours or even hedges to shelter behind, Holland doesn't do either. The dams are the highest points on the landscape and you feel it. The oestdam in particular was a long hard slog and the low visibility means that you can't even see the other side. But persevere we did and the other side appeared. A chat with a Belgian cyclist worried me. Surely my planning wouldn't let me down!!! He looked at my map and assured me that it was not possible to follow my route in to Antwerp. I had decided that a 20 meter section of grass (I know! not all cycle route after all) would connect a marked route with a tarmac road that wasn't shown as a cycle route and started with a barrier barring the way would lead us directly into the port surrounding the city. He suggested a 20-25 kilometre diversion east. I took a gamble and suggested we follow my planned route (my lovely companions wouldn't hit a fairground freak would they?). It turned out to be a nice road down the side of a river with only the occasional angler to worry about. Past an empty golf course and sure enough the port appeared. At this point and with more kilometres under our belt than expected we were confidant of an imminent finish to a cold day. Straight away the cycle routes as we crossed into Belgium were fewer and much poorer! Maybe Holland wasn't so bad.
The swing bridges over the many waterways being uncooperative meant a much more meandering route that added yet more kilometres. We did get a rest as a very loud klaxon announced the passing of the longest and slowest freight train I have ever seen. Finding the hotel was the final obstacle and needed Ian's wife Julie to come out and meet us at the central station and then walk us back. the beer at the end was very welcome. A fantastic pasta meal crowned a 94 mile day (ok, my plan failed. I know we had a few deliberate detours for coffee stops but it was supposed to be 73 miles!!!) Must do better! Can't give Dave the satisfaction!

Foreign signs and everything!

Day 3 Antwerp to Brussels.

The way out of Antwerp was nearly as dull as the way in but this time the industrial area was derelict. We headed South West to use the cycle ways down the river. Our breakfast stop was uneventful until Tom spotted the world's (almost) smallest man doing his shopping!! This marked the turning point in the morning and we enjoyed the brighter weather as we wound our way down towards 2nd breakfast stop (Tom seems to need 2 breakfasts and 2 lunches. He questioned my close examination of his feet that night and although not conclusive they were larger and hairier than normal. Maybe a distant Hobbit ancestor lurks in the West closet!!). A close encounter with a very speedy skater (25-30 kmh) ended our journey down the river which was more westerly than we really needed but gave us a welcome break from the wind. We turned South Easterly and our navigation problems began. Ian had scouted out a series of cycle ways that would lead us in a meandering but steady route to Brussels but as we found last year, they were impossible to locate on the ground. Our stops to check the map and look for signs ended abruptly when despite a slow journey down a cycle route that was no better than a footpath (we could be back in the UK it was so unsuitable) finally found us at least 5 kms too far south. Back to the old tried and tested 'pick a town on the right bearing and follow it' method we perfected in France. We followed the compass and despite a false start it soon came right and we made much faster time following the road signs. We had decided that we could still beat Michael and Michelle (Tina and Tom's other halves who were sipping their Champagne on Euro star) meeting us in Brussels. We calculated that by the time they caught the bus, they would arrive at Ian's house at around 3pm. The race was on. Our decision to take a more major road than normal because it lead directly where we needed to go was a huge success. It ran for about 10 kms through Grimburgen and out the other side. Good cycle path that had right of way over all the side roads and lucky traffic lights saw us sail through unhindered. Grim town but great beer we discovered that night and only 6.5%, weak by Belgian standards! We crossed under the final motorway and we were in Brussels. Ian forgot to mention that after 2 days of pan flat roads we now faced a hill. Not a big hill or even a long hill but it knackered all of us. Poor Steph with the Harris/West flu bug (you can fight it out amongst yourselves over ownership) suffered most here but with her usual grit up she went and our final barrier arrived. Ian pulled the ride over to describe a kind of roundabout free for all thing. 'Just follow close and close your eyes' he said. No one knew how we were to do both but we all agreed. Tom and I sent the two ladies off behind Ian. We figured that if they ran into problems with all the cars that needed negotiating then at least they would act as sleeping policemen/cyclists or a battering ram for us. We should get through unscathed. After all, age before beauty always used to be the done thing, right girls!
We made it and all of a sudden we were at Ian's house. 2.45pm we must have won! Wrong! the cheating champagne sippers had taken a taxi and arrived before us. Tom's computer showed 199.4 miles. We had to cycle round the block to break the 200 mile barrier, right! Wrong again!
A cold beer and handshakes confirmed that we had finished.
A satisfying and eventful ride I think we all enjoyed. I did.
Thank to Julie and Ian for putting us up a being great hosts. And Thanks to Tom,Tina and Steph for being great company.
Tina and Steph did this only 3 months after taking up cycling! That deserves a round of applause in my book. Chapeau!
I can't wait for the next ride.

I bet that tasted good!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Getting Shirty

Our special 'Atlantic to Med' shirts have finally arrived and don't they look great!

 Even Barry modelling one doesn't spoil the racy design and great colours. Designed by me (Dave), printed by Watt Custom and paid for by Fellowes. Shame we're going to make them very sweaty and smell bad. Thank goodness we've got more than one each.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Wet and Wheezy

As part of our strict training program (!) Barry and I planned a 90 km trip to and from a town called Peyrehorade on the borders of Les Landes, about 45 kms away. We took the picturesque small route via smaller roads there and the weather was overcast, but warm and dry. After our lunch at the riverside in Peyrehorade, this all changed however. And not for the better. Oh no. Despite this summer being one of the wetter summers I can remember here, there are always a few million more gallons of rain to be dumped on unsuspecting cyclists casually roaming the highways of France on a Sunday. And they were dumped on us from a great height and for a long, long time. All the way back in fact.

We tried smiling, we really did

This was the best photo we took all day. At least it was an underwater camera. What's odd is we don't even look as if we were saturated to the skin with hypothermia.  Well, it could be a typical day during our trip and now we know what that will feel like. ****ing uncomfortable!

This is what Peyrehorade was meant to be like...

Dave and Shaun on last year's trip
 This is the sort of weather we're hoping for at the end of this month *crosses fingers*!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bike Maintenance

As there are now only three weeks to go before we set off, Barry and I thought we'd get the bikes ready and prepare them for their little jaunt. As Shaun has left his trusty steed in our capable hands (snigger) until he arrives, we thought we'd adjust the unfair advantage that his super-light velo has by introducing some equalising extra weight...

Don't anyone tell him!!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

And then there were three...

We, the Wheezing Geezers will be cycling across the bottom of France from St Jean-de-Luz on the Atlantic coast to Narbonne on the Mediterranean sea at the end of September 2011 for a very good cause - Cancer Research.

Last year, Shaun and I (Dave) cycled from Shaun's house in Suffolk down to my house here in SW France. You can read about that trip here.

This year there is an extra Geezer, Barry.

Barry, Shaun, Dave
We'll be using this blog to keep anyone that's interested up to date with our progress. We have our own website where you can find out more about what we're doing, when and why here.