P&O Ferries – Astounding understanding and service.

In the passenger movements for P&O I am a very, very tiny part however they have always been outstanding in their service and understanding, particularly in recent weeks and events.

They were prepared to put their name against an unknown man and his venture and offer me a return passage home when I had completed the challenge. On telephoning the person who had arrange this to say I needed to come home with it uncompleted was not easy and also to ask if they would continue to honour their offer and help me get back my cycle and trailer as funds were going down. I was met with nothing but kindness. It was up to me to get there but, after checking for me, a return ferry was arranged. A massive thanks for this.

With the odd exception I have always used P&O to cross to Europe. Only on one occasion many years ago did I meet an issue and in hindsight the staff member was only doing his job when I was slightly late for a ferry crossing. Apart from that all contact points have provided excellent customer service.

Usually booking have been simply completed online but on times when their contact centre has been called I have only had mature, understanding, unhurried, calm, quality service. It must be mayhem for P&O staff at peak times and their patience must be stretch. Why don’t we take a moment to consider them, go to the onboard information desk and say THANK YOU! Or write to them about good service. Just as important in my mind as doing so for poor service and complaining (usually the permanent ‘Mr Angry’ type)

Dover – Calais or Hull – Zeebrugge the cleanliness of the ships, considering the intensity of usage has been brilliant. Cabins on Hull – Zeebrugge real good and comfortable. Services at all Terminals clean and adequate. Food aboard Hull – Zeebrugge is great, second helpings for me! Traditional or Eastern (or dread the thought – healthy salads). Attentive service. A good floating hotel for the night. Entertainment in variety of forms.

Take a cruise. Try out a mini cruise to Brugge. Two nights on board ‘chilling’ (bottle of wine, couple of beers – lovely jubbly) and a day in a historic town so close to the Zeebrugge Terminal. If good weather bring your cycle and ride there. Absolutely flat, canal side ride, The Belgians, along with the Dutch, do give a big priority to cyclist. It is a pleasure to ride there. I would say that about a great deal of mainland Europe. They are producing some great cycle ways (Velo Routes).

Okay, you could say I’m somewhat biased (or bribed) because of the help received. If you think so then that is your opinion. I would urge you to put my comments to the test. Go P&O!

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We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it..

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it – and stay there, lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again… but also, she will never sit down on a cold one any more.
–Mark Twain

I had been watching a little of a new programme on BBC T.V. – A Question of Sport – Super Saturday. I got up and walked out of the room. It seems again we are been fed a programme which is as bland and as interesting as a dry Weetabix. None of its content seemed to attempt to stimulate thought. Why do we sink downwards to bland idiocy rather than trying to raise standards upwards and strengthen the mind? Why do we feed the lowest common denominators in our society rather than feeding those above to give those below something to aspire to? ITV was similar on Sunday. What dross ‘Catchphrase’ was! Three ‘c’ list (if that) ‘celebrities’ jumping up and down in frenzied excitement over guessing the blindingly obvious ‘come out of your shell’ and the bonus of ‘bolt from the blue’. Again I walked out.

This set me considering. Wisdom? Experience? Individuality? No one seems to have, or create, their own individual experiences of living life. Please don’t get me wrong. If someone tells you they dove into a wall at 100 miles per hour and it hurt – it did and it will do. You don’t have to have your own individual experience of that. What I’m meaning is few seem to have the desire to rise above the low level of herd instinct, thoughtless lives that seem to be lived today.

People sit watching T.V. without asking ‘is this adding to my quality of life, my wisdom, my life experience, my individuality?’ or asking, as in my case, is this taking me closer to God?
I have never played one however I suspect watching T.V. is similar with these ‘video’ games which are available. The constant repartition of this or that level, same pictures, same experience over and over again and it is someone else’s creation. Living someone else’s world. Why don’t you create one yourself!

And it seems to me you can see mediocrity in education. Education has all the benefits of commonality with none of the benefits of individuality. Listening to my Grandson speak about his lessons they appear to be as dull and bland as that Weetabix from early. Where are teachers allowed to veer off curriculum and talk about their personal experiences of a subject or even life itself! Fear holds them back and within this fact alone is a whole new issue of a general desire to deceive yourself or others because not being honest is generated by fear.

Similarly with food. Masses of the population only experience food prepared en mass for our consumption by McDonald’s; Burger King; Domino’s Pizza’s; M&S; Asda; Waitrose; Sainsbury’s. We are all eating food prepared in a massive kitchen just as school dinners or prison and hospital food is but we are allowed too take it home and, now here’s a difference, re-heat it, to have in our individual kitchens or, more probably, off a tray on our knees in front of the T.V. I have a good friend who has an allotment. He is a great example of someone able to put in effort to be individual and not accept poor quality food (or anything else for that matter). To know the difference between various types of potato or tomato and know their different tastes. Amazing to me and he has my admiration.

I will try to end with travel. Here though consider how we want to to ‘go abroad’ though we use immense effort to take much of our familiar possessions and food with us. We carry our homes on our backs (caravan’s). This is not just cost or freedom it’s not letting go of our surroundings. Consider the phrase ‘package holiday’. If that is what you buy your are buying someone else’s conception of a holiday and you will do your best to conform to it. You will be ‘packed’ in to an aircraft to eat the same food, transferred to accommodation with most of the same people, to eat (in the main) English food and drink English beer or lager.

In all the above little, or no, new experience has been had to expand our wisdom, experience or individuality. Seems to me we are loosing the power to choose and to make decisions we want based on a desire to grow as human beings. To aspire to something better and learn. This though means risk and it means possibly been accused of failing. This accusation usually made by those who never try. So why not take a risk? Cook some different food. Switch the T.V. off and switch on the radio. Go to the library and get a book. Rattle the ‘cage’ at school – push them to examine their motives. Do something different for a holiday – help out somewhere. Join the YHA (the Youth Hostels in Europe are great. Luxembourg City – right in the centre for something like 20euros a night – great cafe with great food – talk to people from other cultures staying there. I shared with a Moroccan, a Pole, a Rastafarian and a French Canadian originally from an African village, Bendelein, near Labé, Guinea. He had cycled 12000 kilometres in the course of getting his education to ‘better’ himself and to get to Canada. An inspiration.

Let’s occasionally be a bit like the cat in Mark Twain’s quote at the start and take a risk. Once taken, let’s learn from the experience and gain some wisdom so we can be better next time. Don’t let a bad experience put you off. Not going to stop me. I want to go back and see all what I missed. Writing this is a risk. I may be completely off track. From the experience, and any comments, I may learn and grow and be better than I was before. And doing anything is better than those two T.V. shows.

For most though I fear we are too far down the line of accepting mediocrity and feeling safe to get back to taking risks and trying something new. Shame.

Closing Announcement

ORIGINAL CONTENT FROM PHILL – REPOSTED BY JAMIE


 

I have abandoned my cycling challenge attempt.

 

I am sat in a room in Strasbourg trying to write something to explain why. I do not want there to be

excuses. I am grateful and happy I made the attempt and have gone the distance I have. There will

be more writing to put down my experience for others. This may take more time than is available

now.

 

The following is for those who have donated, or may still yet donate, to HG1000.

 

I hope you will allow your donations to go to HG1000 even though little of the original cycling

objective I undertook was achieved. Why do I hope for this when you could easily say no?

 

I suggest because I stood up to be counted for those who have little. During the time away I have

written something about having emotional and material points of reference taken away so you can

have a vastly different new experience of life. Part of that experience was not having piped water

‘on tap’. It was to be under physical effort on a lonely road with no visible habitation or reference

and getting low on water. This fact starts to niggle in the mind and the appreciation of what you

have within your home becomes starkly apparent! So, allow my actual  experience to be felt in

you. The next time you go to the tap in the kitchen for a drink, possibly when you are hot and

thirsty after some physical effort pause….and imagine only a trickle of dirty water coming

out….and you can’t phone the water company, can’t go next door, can’t go to a standpipe, can’t go

to a shop and buy a bottle. Consider!

 

Even though I didn’t achieve a cycling challenge I want to believe I prompted others to help others

and for those who have donated, or will donate (please do), to say ‘yes, there is a family whose life

I have improved and who can now experience clean water from a tap as I can’.

 

Thank you.

 

Is the challenge of cycling to those 18 historic Tour de France stage finishes chosen possible? Yes.

Is it possible to cycle them at one attempt, by that I mean at one visit, not coming back next month

or year? Yes. Is it possible to do this solo? Yes. Is it possible to do this solo and without any on the

ground support? Yes.

 

What would the conditions be for all those ‘Yes’ answers? In my opinion, the following:­

 

Have unlimited time. Have plenty of funds that are totally focused on the task and you are not

having to draw on meagre personal savings. Doing so starts to sap mental resources.

 

Be able to speak French with some fluency. I couldn’t. I took 20 weeks of beginners/intermediate

French. Probably fine if you are in a car, or a tour bus with time to relax and grow the little

language you know already. This is not enough when you are tired and do not have the mental

capacity to bring to mind the words to get the speedy resolution to what you are needing.

 

Be mentally prepared for loneliness and isolation and have experienced these under difficult

situations.

 

Be physically fitter than I was. Not necessarily able to ride longer distances or consecutive days

distances. Fitter in arms, and hands for example. The ability to undertake with reserve strength

unexpected repairs. I do not class myself as unfit. Nor was I at the start. The distances planned

were not stupid. The vast majority around 50 miles per day which for myself was ridable.

However, after a number of days of rough road surface including Belgian Páve my wrists were

giving way. I am right handed and my wrist, fingers and ‘hand’ there had lost most feeling. I could

not, cannot at this time of writing, squeeze thumb and forefinger together. The body of the hand is

numb as well. This means it is nigh impossible to use a spanner, tyre leaver, hold items necessary

for tent erection. Some basic toilet and hygiene action are slow and painful.

So ensure all parts of your body are well prepared because if something weakens it will affect your

mental state.

 

Be better prepared with the route. I know I was as far as it went and for someone with all the

preceding points in order it would have been fine. Where weakness creeps in is when the

unexpected happens and you do not have flexibility built in or the language and physical strength

to deal with it.

Know the ground well before you go. Understand well what you will meet.

 

Be comfortable in the surroundings you may find yourself in. For example a bus station, a rail

station. Not being so saps your mental resource by having to solve issues of what to do and where

to go. It becomes hard work. So have experience of it.

 

Remember, the ‘familiar’ takes little or no effort. The ‘unfamiliar’ takes effort sometimes only

mentally, sometimes only physically and sometimes both!

 

The above are my opinions of what would enable ‘yes’ answers. What could have been added to

my journey to make it a success which isn’t above

 

In my opinion a support car. Someone following or going ahead. Having all the above vested in

someone else except the pedalling. Over a year ago I had hope that kind of support may come from

parties I approached. There would have been enough interest in an event that covered major

historic cycling issues coupled with the Tour De France in the UK along with charitable work and

attempted by a 63 year old ‘character’. It was not to be the case. Possibly then my belligerence

kicked in. Well, I’ll show ’em, I’ll do it anyway. This, along with the want to do something for

others – isn’t that what life is about – helping those less fortunate, maybe blinded me to the

elements above I was missing.

 

What have I learned? More about myself. More about where I do not have faith, or my faith is

weak. For example, at certain stretches of road. One, after Libin. Another before Strasbourg the

canal side was cold, dank and lonely. Dark valley bottoms. There I struggled mentally. However,

He was there. It was my failure to see Him.  Pain is the difference between what is and what I

would like it to be. I could not see that on many an occasion. The elimination of ‘I’ would like it to

be should have happened but sadly it didn’t so we had pain.

 

This is all I can express at the moment and anyway this wifi place is kicking me out. It was

difficult to organise and I will not abuse it as I need it tomorrow.

 

Love to All

Eventful Mons to Givet making us a day behind

Had a first night in Givet.
During the journey on Thursday to Givet we had a puncture in the trailer tyre. This was 25 km from Givet. At that moment there was despair.
Soon into the days ride out of Mons we had some 4/5 kilometres of Belgian Páve. I am informed it is a ‘National Monument’. That may be so but it is awful to ride on. Early on in the cycling calendar there are two professional classic races run over a lot of the páve and it can cause mayhem. Well it did with my wrists and backside. Then the N40. Nice road but a switchback of up and down. The ups being long. Pushed twice. The trailer a dead weight. After a time we were on to a Velo Route and a nice run it was. As there is no-one about you feel very isolated. Went on a long with with a couple of long coasting runs, though the long gentle ups went on for a long time as well.

The route took me away from that onto side roads. Very dairy cattle and very dairy farms. Met my first two dogs – rushing and barking at me. Makes you pedal!

Had been climbing I suspect throughout the day as the land just seemed higher. Itt was proved when there was some long smooth downhill stretches (with no up bits) at some 45 kms per hr. Suspect part of Ardennes forest. Beautiful woodland.

Through a village/town heading for an old railway track which I anticipated would be like the earlier on in the day. Found it be not smooth. Ruts, water puddles, twigs, branches and other goodies lining the track where two wheel ruts were evident. Persevered and came to the end which was a velo route. I checked with a group of men and women at the junctions and they said Givet 25 kms off. Well, I hadn’t reckoned on that length and was feeling jiggered by then. But needs must so off we set. Soon after noticed a different noise. Stopped, looked backwards and down to flat tyre! Still some 25 kms to go. As colour drained a little with thought of mending a puncture God arrived. He was in the form of a Flemish cyclist who, simply put, took charge and fixed it. There had been some 6 holes in the tube and we suspect all caused by the one thorn he had pulled out at first. Six patches down and still loosing air. Face getting whiter, phone going off to say battery out – hhmmm. My Friend, who had been joined by another observer, came up with the solution. Take one of my spare main tyre tubes and double it up to fit the small trailer wheel. Resolution.

He would give no name or take a reward.

A lonely ride then into Givet and arriving late at hotel, about 1830 I think with 100 km’s done. Shower food and not good reports to others done (whinging somewhat) hadn’t really removed that stomach knotted feeling. Indecision about pulling the trailer which losses camping equipment (but will I use it).

Well, booked another night here and in the morning went about search for replacement tubes and patches. It was done however away from routine surrounds it’s all an extra effort. I hadn’t slept that well. Cramp on a number of occasions woke me. I am glad of this days rest.

I decided to pull the trailer tomorrow, Saturday, to a hotel booked at Neufchateux about 40 miles- 65 km’s away. Done this because need rebuild a bit of confidence and have some security. Carol and I discussed dumping trailer just before I left but frankly I must camp at some stage or we run out of money. Solo, without following car or motor home mentally leaves you needing some comfort – a hotel. And I repeat again – some commercial sponsor to cover this would have meant less pressure of wondering – can I afford this?

We’ll see. Doze on the bed beckons as shoulders and wrists typing this suffering. I also might run out of wifi time until tomorrow night.

Lille to Mons

B&B Hotels did there usual good job. Valerie was the receptionist on arrival. She said she would comment on web site. Well looked after. I’d done some washing but it hadn’t dried. Will deal with sometime.
Our mileage today – 83 km. Left B&B Hotel at 0730. Total riding time 5:50 hours. Average speed14.2 km/hr. I was on target for arrival at Mons for about 1400 but the same thing as happened in Lille happened here – getting lost! The bigger cities are not easy to navigate around. The plus of a cycle is you are going slow so can watch the SatNav the negative is the roads and traffic bust you up. The road into Mons was a bit bumpy but nothing like earlier inn the day.

The day! First the ride then some thoughts. About 20 km of road first and it wasn’t difficult. Mainly flat. Then to the canal path. Good riding except it is made of concrete slabs (bit like M2/M20 sections with pitch/tar in between). When you pass the joins the backside takes a hammer.

The day was overcast but about 17C so fluid still important. Got a refill by a workman from the large lock keepers building. More like station signal boxes – big. Considering the barge sizes then needed. The path snaked out on and on and on, all 40 km of it! Only saw suggest 4 people the whole time. Lonely. Came to path closed barrier! Oh? Went off to look for a way round and was struggling. Spots of rain began to fall so phone navigation shut down. Then knight in shining armour came along. A Dutch guy and we managed to converse and he got me round the issue an back on track. He asked what I was doing and said he would post on site.Rain stopped – was only spots. Next issue wa s turning of planned route to get to Hostel. SatNav confusing me. A fishman at bank side offered help. Turned out he was a friend of a Hostel employee. I have names written down but there up in room. Next help[ was riding closer into Mons and a guy on a mountain bike pulled alongside. Commented on trailer etc and offered to ride with me to Hostel. Who says there isn’t a God. I was pooped by the hill up to Hostel. In a dorm with 3 others. Met one, visiting from Quebec so a French Canadian with little English to go with my little French. More about this at some time.

Oh the last, I don’t know, 10km of ride was like been on the ballast between railway lines. Hammered the heck out of hands wrists & rear end.

Decided to treat myself as the Hostel told me they were not charging for the dorm as a help to my ride so 28euros better. Went to Le Carrillion. Had Tuna on peaches on salad. Real good. Followed by Spaghetti Carbonnara. Also real good. Felt full for 22 Euros.

In view of possible weather I have booked a hotel in Givet for tomorrow night. 48 euros. Bit OTT but next bit might explain. (getting a bit tired now writing this so it might be rushed)

Emotions. Language had been stripped away. Companionship stripped way. Place of rest different and unknown. Next meal – unknown. No T.V. No walking to a cupboard for a biscuit. The things we take for granted. It helped with gratitude and know doubt we will come back to this for I feel it will make a big change in me and home habits.

Sure there is more – Ah – Nick. Is charging. Did the test but suspect drain more than pumping in on a long stretch. But have plans to cope with it. More at some stage. Jiggered now.

Adventure in Lille

Some quick stats for the day – jiggered. That tells most of it! Joking aside we covered 76 km for the day (47 miles). Left the Hof of last night at 0800 and arrived B & B near Lille at 1600 (just before a great big clap of thunder and a downpour.)

The morning was a long drag of straight flat road. Don’t anyone say flat is good. Flat means you have to pedal ALL the time. No respite. Stopped and replenished water and a cola. At a few minutes before noon crossed the La Lys from Menen in Belgium to Halluin in France. Never crossed a border at cycling speed. Interesting to see the immediate change of car number plates , road signs, way cycle paths are marked. And language. Now Belgium has many attributes not least the reverence to cyclists but for all it had looked after me for two days it was good to be in France! Issue is I shall leave again tomorrow and right down to Strasbourg there is a criss cross with Belgium, France and Germany. But, good to be here. Bought an excellent sandwich and at it in the town square. They had a peel of tiny bells tinkling Alouette, gentille alouette. Every 15 minutes. Drove me mad (no was nice – but for a lifetime there!) Got on bike andd as I wobbled off a rather bashed up man started towards me with a ‘can’ in hand, wobbling a bit. Now I like to help but felt now wasn’t the time and he looked somewhat well past. My conscience to look at this. Our wobble was under way and so was I.

We ticked of Wasquehal as a Stage (with photo’s) and moved on into a big city center of Lille. Arrived the centre and so ticked off Stage 2 (with a photo). Orange shop was near so we organised a data card for 2 months.

Now it seems as though this sounds easy but on the ground getting into Lille was debilitating, the phone battery was well run down (Question e-werk charging though the green light is on – maybe phone is just draining more than e-werk can put into it – Nick Gilbert – if you read this a comment via email may help). I switch to SatNav for B&B Hotel and couldn’t find it! All bang in centre of like a Trafalga Square! Bit if ooopos what am I doing here came on. However we stuck to our guns, didn’t panic, did some other imputs and we were on the way out of it – to where – well it was in Faith. And the B&B loomed. So made it.

Now I’m off for something to eat. Check the weather, make sure all kit charged up. We have washed clothes and hung to dry in shower. I’ve showered. Want to be abed by 2100 if possible and on road by 0800 tomorrow. So much easier to get main miles done early if possible. Not rushing to get a base camp. The B&B lady brilliant. Must write to her boss. She help me bring my bike in to the large reception toilet and promptly locked the door saying it will be safe there!! I can get it out to go for food now so must dash.

All for now folks though sure emotions need writing about. God, the Big Book and my Bible played a big part to get Faith. Badly put – hope some people know.

To south of Brugge

We are under way. Sounds like a great ocean liner and in my size case probably is though this journey may address that. The ferry journey was smooth and uneventful. I was well looked after. Had a conversation with a young student about photography. He is from Leeds and still using ASA 200 and 400 film. Good for him. Teaches better than digital.

As I was preparing to leave the ferry in the morning some young French motorcyclists struck up a conversation (broken and pigeon of course). Very attractive ladies and good looking men wished me good look. I offered to swap mode of transport but was not taken up. Anyway, off the ferry and all equipment appears to be working okay and charging. What I don’t know yet is data usage nor have I approached a solution of a local SIM card. I think we can stand the cost, if any for a little until we are truly in France.

Following the gps on ViewRanger map wasn’t the easiest and I did take a few wrong turnings. Not the fault of ViewRanger. It is as you come to turns and splits in road where the routes are close together I read them wrong. They are soon corrected as the gps can be seen to be off the blue ‘route’ pretty quick

We made good progress and found our stop over – Hof Van Steelant – in Loppem just south of Brugge by noon! We left the ferry about 0830 but then got out of the port by 0930 – passport queue and all that. There was no one in at the Hof so I cycled back to Brugge.

In the sunny weather as it was the cycleways were a joy. Slow ride watching the enormous barges passing. We have nothing like this as the island is small though we have let the inland waterways go. Here, and in Europe in general they must be so useful. The network is large and wide and the size of transport varies. There were barges carrying containers, sand, coal and wood. As they passed road barriers came down and the roads either swung up or around to let them pass. The cyclists, and there were many on all manner of bikes waited patiently, chatting away.

This opens up another area. Cars give way to cyclists. You are waved on or across. Cars stop. The whole ethos is different. Cycle routes abound. You have special sets of red, amber, green cycles and they are prioritised against cars. But the drivers wait patently. No apparent frustration. To me an example. I would also say that a nice turn of a ladies ankle (and higher!) was seen on the cycles and all so elegantly attired.

We had a cheap meal at a cafe in Brugge and rode back to Loppen. Still no one home so I sat on the lawn and had a nap in the sun. The lady arrived and showed me round. Very impressed. Food is organic. Have a look on the web for it to get a picture. Son about our Callum’s age (12) brought me a cooling type of strawberry smoothy.

I will walk into the village soon where I’m told there is a place to get a bite to eat. I’ll try it – we might not be able to afford this luxury later but I don’t want much and I can’t see it been expensive.

So, all charging is been done and reports given so Carol knows I’m okay. The first blog from the journey. Lille tomorrow so should be okay to keep up to date there.

Nearly forgot, been so hot went into a chemist in the village and got some after sun lotion. The lady behind the counter seemed to think it would not be as sunny tomorrow!

The day before departure

A lady, Maggie LaCoste from Experience France by Bike (www.experiencefrancebybike.com ) advised me to keep a note of my experiences and also my emotions as I travel along. She wrote to me ‘You really need to write when the emotion of the day is fresh in your memory. After three weeks, days will definitely begin to blur!’

So today I write of some of the emotion of today. I had a kept note of a quotation by Katherine Mansfield. It is:-

“Regret is an appalling waste of energy, you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in.”

Tomorrow, I leave my wife, Carol, for the longest period of time in our life together. We will be separated and she has already had a few tears that I did not wish to cause her. I would have no fear of not going, of pulling out of this challenge. What other people think say or do is their business and as the saying goes – names will never hurt me. I could regret it though. I could regret not having turned a wheel. That is where the quotation comes in – the regret would be a complete waste. So I shall crack on and be separated for a while.

Thinking on separation, my life is sometimes filled with all kinds of separation. Some separations are temporary only. I must remember friends, mates, family members – a wife – the people in my life are only lent to me. If they accompany me for some part of my journey, I’m usually blessed. I don’t get to control or keep them though. I recently left my part time job and so my boss and friend Peter. Our journeys may continue though in a different guise. For the last part of it with him I was blessed.

Separation can start thoughts of “if only”. That can go nowhere but straight to regret. It supports a false belief that I can control what happens in other people’s lives. “I should have,” “I could have,” and “I would have” are all variations on the same theme. They postpone acceptance and any necessary sadness.

At times it’s me who does the leaving. I can count it a success, not a failure, when I’ve had the courage to acknowledge the truth of a departure – temporary or permanent. The truth of my departure now? Maybe I’ll discover that.

Lets see what the good Lord gives each day as I follow what I have been taught of – ‘Praying only for knowledge of His will for me today and the power to carry it out’.

Tomorrow will be what it will be. A Power great than human power is at work.

A ‘testing the equipment’ ride

I am glad I’m a ‘lark’ not an ‘owl’. I’m not a stay-a-bed. Prefer to get to bed early and get up early and this morning was one of those mornings when you reap the benefits.

Earlier in the week I planned to do a ‘full kit’ ride today, Wednesday. Nothing too difficult, a ride to York along a route I’d not used before. I had crossed the Aldwark Toll bridge before on the cycle when going to Malton and on to Scarborough but never taken a right turn, through Beningbrough Hall grounds to get to York. I had previously ‘coughed’ my way along the A59.

What a wonderful morning! I set off at 0700 when there is little traffic about. Got through Knaresborough and on the Ferrensby. Bright, clear, cool cycling weather. It was great just to there but as I got settled into the ride I began so get the real aroma of the hedgerows. Wild garlic. Elderflower. Hawthorn and, I’m sure a host of others to make a magical aroma. Birds flitted about and a few leverets pocked there noses out onto the road side. New born learning about life, possibly a short one as I started to be overtaken by the ‘commuters speeding along. Far to fast.

It was good to turn off to Beningbrough Hall. Cattle were lazing about and even their sweet aroma filled the morning air. I had never been to the Hall but as it appeared it looked impressive and worth a visit. I resisted the temptation to break off and go to the open Farm Shop where Teas and Coffee were being advertised and rode on.

Soon I was at the start of the run in to York along the cycle paths. I wasn’t too impressed. There will be boundary and field reasons for cattle grids however they seemed to arrive ever 500 meters. The surface of the paths left a good bit to be desired and it marred the morning ride a little. Arrived York a got my ‘coffee and cake’ and sat at the entrance to the Museum Gardens watching the passing traffic and people. Characters among them to be described at some other time perhaps.

Reviewed the ride so far. Cycle okay. Developed a bit of squeak within the Burley trailer (disappeared later – I think and hope). All mapping working and charging though I had forgot to connect up the E-Werk to the buffer battery at the start of the ride but corrected it about Knaresborough. It is a weight the kit and I know I’ll suffer later but it is what it is. You can feel it as I pushed through Museum Gardens (no cycling). This was to bite later as well.

Soon finished and a return ride reversing the route started. Somehow, the journey out didn’t seem as bad. Day had warmed up and the gap between the hedge rows had been filled with flies. Keep your mouth shut! The fresh of early day had warmed. I stopped in Newton on Ouse and disturbed the peace of a Devon couple who were also enjoying an off cycle rest. We chatted, Looking like retired and of around my age they have a camper van and took rides around on their journeys. So we enjoyed a few minutes company and moved on, he advising me to wear a helmet and relating his experience of an accident. I write this so if anything happens to me and he reads of it he can say – ‘told him so!’

On we rode and were soon at 70km and getting near to home (it turned out to be 89 km all told). After turning up to Marton cum Grafton the ride had become harder for me. Little sharp, stabbing rises come along and I started to, well, yes, struggle a bit and got off to push. I will meet a lot worse soon but maybe I’ll have been ridden in by then. The worse was the rise up on the cycle way from the Nidd towards Bilton. Touch of cramp and a sit down at the top resolved and we were soon flying down past the Gardner’s Arms and on to home.

55 miles. It’s about what I expect to do in France. There are longer days but as I was back home by 1530 it means I can take a little more time with these. Hope we have built in enough slack.

I must also remember I won’t have Carol to welcome me home. There will probably be a tent to put up!

9 days to go!

Been reviewing where I am in the planning and preparation. I think most areas are covered.

The route? Only the last two stages to review and correct. By the time I get to here experience should take me through any hitches. Google cycle routing is, in the main, ideal. It searches out the levellest and most cycle friendly way. What it can’t distinguish is where people have put up barriers or where a ‘path’ goes through a field or along a hedge row. You can find cycle paths and canal tow paths which are overgrown! Going along the route and checking where it leaves or joins recognised roads in Street View has found a good few places where re-routing was necessary. Taken a good few hours to do this though I think worth it.

Equipment? All ready to pack – I hope! Bike has been serviced and checked over. The only issue still outstanding, and it is a big one – charging the phones which carry the ViewRanger routing application. The E-Werk unit was found to have a split wire. This was replaced under warranty and I now have a charge going into the buffer battery. However, when a phone is attached it doesn’t show as receiving a charge. I have only ridden a few km to put in some charge the battery and maybe it isn’t enough so will do a few more and see. I have though a spare buffer battery as the current one has been on for a year and it just maybe the charging has taken it to the end of its lifespan. We have time to check this with the new buffer/cache battery. As both phones have been used from the E-Werk before I can’t see the issue been there. I hope not! Nearing the end of elimination process though.

Had an interview with Laura Hill of the Harrogate Advertiser yesterday (Thursday 8th). In hindsight there were things I forgot to mention. Like the only two people who have helped me out (sponsored me) towards some food and accommodation for the trip – Senior Aluminium Systems and Marsland Timber.

It’s cost Carol and I a big chunk of our savings and a little more help would have been appreciated from local businesses. I only needed £500 to £750 from a few companies to give a safety margin and allow me less ‘wild camping’ to keep limited funds together. I have asked a good few locally but maybe I picked the wrong ones as nothing was forthcoming.
Nationally, P&O Ferries were brilliant with help and guidance. My old previous employers, from where I draw a pension, were not prepared to help and certain well connected cycling entities were less than helpful. Hey ho they have their agendas.
A big help has been through the Diocese of Europe. Revd Francis Wainaina of St Andrew’s, Starbeck suggest I contact them and what a help there has been. I have accommodation in Strasbourg, Versailles, Marseilles and in a couple of places along the Bordeaux route and then Brive to Brest route. Not many days out of the journey but enough to have friends to welcome.

Andrew Jones, who has already been supportive with suggestions and guidance told me something I didn’t know that Bagnères-de-Luchon is Harrogates twin town. Andrew is to facilitate communication there and I hope to be a able to carry a message from Harrogate to their ‘Mayor’ (or whoever). There website is good.

Still a week to go to prepare! Anyway, always in my mind is that my efforts here are less than those HG1000 helps – I can get a cool drink of clean water – they can’t!