Falmouth Wheelers
Sunday November 19 2017 
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La Manche to the Med.



 

         After reading the book “Down Hill All The Way” by Edward Enfield; in which the author cycled across France from north to south avoiding the high parts. I thought that this would be a great ride and set to designing my own route, with the idea of crossing France avoiding as many hills and climbs as possible. So the plan was to follow rivers, use cycle paths, tow paths and quiet lanes. The use of Google Earth was a valuable tool and enabled me to navigate through towns and cities as well as alongside canals, rivers and cycle tracks.

Many hours were spent planning and checking the route which would start at Le Havre and end at Montpellier a distance on paper of some 700 miles. The route was based lightly on the author’s trip as he also stayed on minor roads and valleys, closely following rivers, old train tracks and keeping away from steep climbs.

After selling the idea to some other club members we had a group that were all keen to have a go. This would be a self supported trip, carrying all that we might need including tents, spares, clothes, etc etc. Most cycling books reckon that 12 kilos as a normal pay load, however we were all above this. My load was nearer 20 kilos, carried in two rear panniers, a rucksack and a saddle bag which was mounted on the front.

The weeks before the off we carried out test rides with most of the kit being loaded. A final 35 mile ride proved successful but also hard work, the use of all the gears and slower speeds were the name of the game, so with this knowledge we all looked forward to the departure date.

A week before the off Fred had a tumble off his bike and heavily bruised his ribs as well as scraping his knees and elbows. I had to travel up country and assist my Father whose eye operation had given him a few problems and he needed some help around the house. So a decision was made to delay the start by a week.

Departure day had an early start. I picked up Fred at 05.30 hrs in the hire van with the 4 bikes as Richard and David were in another hire car. We planned to meet on route and this we did at Exeter services for a quick coffee and to check all had their gear; you know passports and that sort of things. Then on to Portsmouth and drop off the hire cars. This was a hurried operation as the drop off point was on the street kerb with double yellows. Bikes quickly unloaded then loaded up with the panniers and bags. Vehicles checked in and handed over. We then started a 4 mile ride to the ferry port. This was an eye opener! Too much weight in the front made for a wobbly ride quite scary and certainly not that safe in the Pompy traffic! The short ride to the port was certainly interesting; with the unbalanced bikes and re-stowage was a must. Once on board the ferry a quick repack and load distribution was carried out by all, then we were ushered to higher decks, so the bikes were left in the care of the crew to await landing at Le Havre.

1900hrs French time we docked. The doors open and we are ushered off amongst the rest of the travellers into the Le Havre rush hour traffic!

We had intended to pick up the D982 to get out of the Port but took the wrong right hand turning. However we continued in the rush hour traffic until the road widened, but when crash barriers appeared on both sides and signs for the Peage appeared we smelt a rat! There was a small mumbling in the group about navigation and paper bags or similar. Just hoped this was not going to be the theme for the trip. We stopped on the approach of a roundabout and sent Richard off on a reconnaissance, after we had lifted his bike over the crash barrier. A few minutes later Richard returned with news that he had found the correct route, so we all lifted our bikes and gear over the crash barrier and joined the D982!  

We then cycled out of Le Havre on much quieter roads and headed to Tankerville and crossed the Seine over the mighty (and quite busy) Tankerville Bridge.
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  Then across the flood plains, heading south and passing through a small village called Marais-Vernier; pretty, very neat and slightly Swiss looking. With well groomed cattle and tidy flower bordered gardens, which were idyllic in the early evening sunshine. Then our first climb, over the ridge to get to and follow the D90. Half way up the hill a hairpin bend to the right then another climb to the summit, lowest gear and the first real test. Richard and Dave shot off leaving Fred and me to slowly climb, getting used to the load and Fred’s aching ribs. Over the top we joined the D39 which followed the small river all the way to our first night’s stop. The sun was now very low in the sky and the shadows long. This made for a pleasant ride on the small lanes hardly meeting any traffic at all.

On arrival at the Pont-Audemer campsite, the light was fading fast, so tents up was the first item on the agenda. Fred, Dave and Richard went into a practiced operation of synchronised erection. But my tent was new and I had never erected it before and being tired and somewhat relieved to have made the first destination, struggled to make sense of all the small poles and material that lie at my feet, so decided to boil the kettle instead.

Fred came to the rescue, being a bit of a “Bear Grills” type and soon showed me the way and I had my first erection, one of many during this
trip!

Can’t remember what we did for food that evening, but after that long day sleep was not difficult to achieve. (35miles) cycled. And 245 driven!
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 Day 2

 

We awoke to a grey morning and after packing everything away, loading the bikes and waiting for Richard to repack and repack again, we cycled into the town and found a bar for breakfast right in the centre of the town. For me hot chocolate and a croissant, sitting outside and watching the locals arriving for work.

We navigated out of the town and headed to Pont Authou, aided by memories of studying Google Earth at home and recognizing certain junctions and bridges helped with the navigation. With fresh legs and a brightening day the cycling was great. We were all getting used to the loads and keeping upright, apart from Richard, who already had taken a small tumble, and stopped to repack his bags! At the next town we picked up the disused railway line which has been converted into a cycle path.

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         This path was superb in better condition than many of our B roads, clean edges, litter free and even had a sign post to the local villages that we passed. We stopped at Neubourg for drinks and food, none of us was having any issues (apart from Richards packing). We bought some fruit and continued on the cycle path to Evreux. Quite a large city with traffic and now the heat. We headed into the centre and had lunch in a typical French restaurant, on the pavement at the corner of a busy junction, Salmon and pasta I recall, Oh and a bottle of Rose. After a visit to the Information Centre (this was to become a regular occurrence). We had a quick discussion with two lads outside who were on route to India! Yes, India on bikes. Again carrying all their belongings and in no particular hurry (strange folk). We left the now hot city centre and cycled uphill out of Evreux; but we were refuelled and ready for what the afternoon would bring. At the top of the busy road we met road works, with huge tipper trucks which did not appear to be very friendly, our planned route took us straight on but the new development required us to turn right and follow the diversion. After a quick consultation and with huge lorries wanting to turn right, exactly where we had decided to stop and talk. Thoughts were that we move on and turn in the direction of the route as soon as we could find a road heading that way. We were looking for the D671 and a junction by a duck pond (oh yes you can navigate across France using duck ponds). So we headed across country slightly off piste, but heading in the right direction (well according to Fred). Soon back in small lanes and as Fred had predicted the said duck pond arrived!

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Onward in the heat, finding and following the route as planned. At Neuilly we picked up another river, the Eure and followed it past Anet. The ride was very pretty using cycle paths and small lanes all running alongside the river and of course avoiding major climbs. Our destination was a campsite at Marcilly-Sur-Eure. Fred had been put in charge of campsites and had provided a huge list of sites along the route we were travelling, so his choice was never disputed. After about 76 miles we found the signs to the site, however we did not realise that the last mile was uphill (steep). The climb was worth it; a campsite within a pine forest with shop, bar and much to Fred’s delight (or engineering) a pool. So as soon as tents were erected the pool was the main attraction!
77 miles cycled.

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 Day 3

 

Early start. Packed and ready just waiting for Richard to readjust his bags again and make sure all were loaded. This time a downhill start, well after Richard got on then fell off!! At the bottom we discovered a friendly looking bar with the smell of coffee and bakery items so breakfast was declared
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 Back to the river and we continue following it and heading towards Etampes. The weather was already hot and sunny; the ride was full of banter and setting the world to rights. Again the cycle paths were easy and well kept with the usual French views. Etampes was exciting. As we navigated through the town we were covering distances at a good pace, although we were now heading east to get over to another valley route before heading south. The road surfaces really were good which helped us to roll along. The D63 took us towards Malesherbes changing to the D449 before returning to the 63. The countryside was interesting and so far not one bad toot from the French only supportive hoots and waves as the cars passed wide and slow, possibly muttering “Mad English”

At Malesherbes we stopped for refreshments and a rest; then on to the night’s campsite at Boulancourt. We stopped for a late lunch and whilst watching the world go by we were served another pasta dish which really hit the spot. The campsite was set in the grounds of a posh manor house, was very prim and proper, but really friendly. After yet another erection it was off to the showers and a good clean. Personally I was starting to hurt a bit in the nether regions and looked for the creams and lotions that according to the labels should keep all the sores at bay! Tonight was another French World Cup game and we were invited to sit with the French in the TV room and help cheer them on. Well we found a small bar cum Spar shop in the village and settled down in the corner with a tray of beers and nuts (not my fellow riders). Strangely, just prior to kick off the place emptied and we were on our own. Now the bar lady who up to now had been extremely friendly and happy to take our Euro’s for beer, was wanting to close, so we left for the campsite a short walk away. Halfway there I suggested that we get a bottle Vin rouge and join the French in the TV room so I turned to go back to the bar (could of only been 3 or 4 minutes) but the place was closed, shutters down, door bolted and no one around, so back to the game, dry.

The game was won by the French and certain things were said regarding our own dismal performance in the other groups, but none of us cared. Had it been rugby then Dave would have caused a riot so we left the French to their celebrations and retired.
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 However the celebrations went on for quite a while and then at around 2 in the morning the caravan near us turned on its radio and played music till about 4. Dave was not amused!
82 miles cycled. 

 

Day 4 

So you can imagine how we all felt in the morning, anyway tents packed and gear loaded, we wait for Richard to re pack readjust and then repack again. So far every day the load has been stored differently with all sorts of ropes, stretchies and ties being used. Then after another fall he would reload the bike yet again. Today’s weather was again sunny and set to be hot, the route was to take us across miles of wheat fields, flat with far distance views which seem to take forever to reach. The huge watering devises spraying the crops provided us with quick showers, cooling us down as we cycled. Very welcome.
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The first town we came to with an open bar I think was Chateau-Landon. We sat and enjoyed the coffee and bakery’s offerings. Then onward, all going well with favourable comments from the team on the lack of serious hills and the progress being made. Next to a village called Bransles.
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We forked right and then after a few miles at the cross roads we went straight across; except that straight across was a forest trail not a path or road. Follow me was the command and like lambs they did! After about half a mile I got a tad worried, the under growth was encroaching more and more and the surface was flint and large stones and certainly not good for a road bike, heavily loaded and difficult to ride on the flat. Then it happened. No, not Richard falling off yet again, but a pop and a hiss as my front hit the flint! We managed to continue to the end of the trail and get back on country lanes, as the last of the air left the tyre and a replacement tube was called for. It was hot; with no shade, but despite all of this the new tube was duly fitted and inflated a true team event. Soon we were on our way, albeit we were again off piste and not entirely sure which way we were going. But in the true spirit of adventure, Fred took control and again like lambs we followed. According to the route we should be heading towards Sens. Eventually we picked up the D81 and were back on track. Some way along this route which had long straight sections that seemed to take forever to ride, we entered a village which had a huge dairy plant that once operated on both sides of the road. But now they had closed the route with huge gates and “Keep Out” signs (in French) but no signs to a detour; so once again Fred took command as by now the heat, and tiredness was setting in and the rest of us just wanted to find a café! Again Fred’s nose sniffed out the way, via a short detour of about half a mile and found the new road which skirted the factory and we were on our way to Sens. Sens is quite a large place and a has a wonderful descent to the river Yonne with nice stone bridges and plenty of café’s to choose from.
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Fred and Richard disappeared to find the tourist information centre (this was becoming a regular thing with Richard I think he has a fetish about visiting these places. Nothing to do with the young females who were manning them of course). Anyway after a short while they returned with information that a good campsite was about 10 miles along the river.

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  This again would take us off route and after a quick discussion and Fred’s map reading ability we found the route could be taken two ways as they both met at St Florentin. The route I had chosen had quite a few chevrons, whereas the river route did not. So at a vote of 3 to 1 we followed the river route. It was quite busy and with some horrible long stretches which seemed to go on for ever. The heat was sapping, but eventually we
entered Villeneuve-sur-Yonne.

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  A beautiful town with all the charm of a walled township with multi arched stone bridge and oldie worldly buildings and a music festival. Bliss! Tents erected, showered and creams applied we hit the town, found a beer shop and joined the locals enjoying the festival. Then back to the camp site for another well earned sleep.

62 miles cycled 13

 

 Day 5 

        After a good nights sleep we were all up early and packed ready to go. Whilst we waited for Richard to readjust repack and again re-tie his load, the sun rose higher into a completely blue sky. This looked if it was going to be a hot one! The plan was to get on the road as soon as we were ready and stop at the first open café or boulangerie and have coffee, hot chocolate and croissants. As planned less than 5 miles down the road a suitable café appeared. After breakfast it was on along some long and straight roads till we arrived at St Florentin. The D905 was quite busy but the cycling was fair, a few small hills however the heat was the problem. This road was rewarding with views across flood plains and more and more fields of grain, but it was very hot and soon water bottles were empty and energy levels were reducing. Somewhere along this road I hit a small mental wall as my legs were tired and my nether regions were aching and very uncomfortable I just wanted to stop; but the route offered no shade and certainly no cafés or bars! Richard spotted my distress and as the cycling medic produced an energy paste/gel and told me “this will fix you, more energy than 6 cans of Red Bull!” If you imagine squeezing a table spoon full of warm tooth paste into your mouth and then try eating it, that is how it felt and tasted. What water we had left I drank and tried to get rid of the taste of concentrated raspberry toothpaste! Thanking Richard for his kindness and doubting his parenthood, we pressed on till we got to Tonnerre; a lovely town on the canal Du Bourgogne. By now we were all knackered and in need of sustenance. So Fred being the Boy Scout sniffed out a small bistro in one of the back streets with a shady area for the bikes. After a fine meal of poulet and frites with a bottle of Rosé (or was it two) and copious amounts of water, we checked out that in the next town there would be a suitable campsite and as the day was still extremely warm we head for Lezinnes

The campsite lay on the banks of the canal and was scorching. It had electric gates and keys to the washrooms and toilets and a very important man in charge, who in very good English explained the rules and what could be done and what we could not! So we pitched the tents where we wanted and carried on as normal. This was a short day in the saddle, but with the heat and aches and pains most of us had, it was enough. After a shower and sort out we walked into the village but did not see a soul. Dave was most upset that there was not even a bar or a café open. So glumly we returned to the site where we bumped into our host for the night, the campsite manager. I asked if there was anywhere we could buy some wine or beer locally, as we could not find any life in the village. Low and behold he went into his office and opened the back door to a wall filled with wines! Say no more but Dave was a happier man.  

56 miles. Cycled

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 Day 6 

As yesterday was very hot, we decided that today we would get up early and be on the road by 06.00hrs and hopefully get a good distance in before the heat became too much. So early to bed and try to get a good night’s sleep. I woke and all was dark. I couldn’t see my watch let alone read the time but thought it must be about 5ish. All I could hear was deep breathing from the others and some snoring but won’t go any further! There was a little bit of light in the sky but not as much as I would of expected, so with that thought I wriggled around found my torch and read the time. nearly 5 o’clock, well that will be alright; by the time we are packed the leaving time of 06.00hrs would be close. So I got up still thinking it’s a bit dark and decided to wake the others. I rattled Dave’s tent and whispered “wakey wakey rise and shine” and the reply was F**** off you daft B******d its only 04.00hrs I looked at my watch again and realised that it was on the wrong time zone so went back to bed!

We left a little after 0600hrs; it was grey and overcast with some drizzle in the air. Right out of campsite and then right again onto the canal towpath. This was great, no one about, silence, and no sound other than tyres on fine gravel No cars, no people, just wild life. We cycled for miles, well 70 actually alongside the canal. The first stop for breakfast was the Hotel Le Marronnier.

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 Not sure where it was. When we asked the barman for something to eat the only thing he could suggest was citrus tart with ice cream as breakfast had finished. So that would have to do!

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 A bit further along the route we met a huge barge entering an Eclusse and stopped to watch the proceedings. There was a party of Americans onboard, enjoying the scenery. One I recall was painting a picture on the foredeck with easel and paint pots; another was cycling along the path following the barge. We spoke to the skipper and to our surprise we found he was from Plymouth!

We continued onward and arriving at a small village Pont Royal I noticed a boat which looked familiar. As we got closer I realised that it was in fact a boat we had stored at the boatyard in Falmouth. Taffy it’s owner and I had spent many hours talking about cruising the waterways of France. After pleasantry’s, we were about to continue when the rain started. As luck would have it next to the bridge was a restaurant serving lunch at a very reasonable 12 Euros including Vin. Two and a half hours later we emerged into the wet air as the last of the storm was passing. I think we had annoyed the owner by putting our bikes under the sunshades, leaning them up against the tables to protect them from the rain. It is not considered good manners, even if there is no one outside!

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 The rain faded and that great smell of countryside and newness was everywhere. We arrived at the next big town Pouilly-en-Auxois, where the Canal entered a 4 km Tunnel. We followed the path and picked it up at the other end, another good use of Google earth.

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Onward we went with Fred stating that we were not that far from Dijon and isn’t Dijon slightly out of our way. Then the penny dropped it was such a great ride I had forgotten to navigate away from the canal at Le Pont d Ouche. We had overshot by about a mile, so returned to the town and picked up the route again. In both books I had read we were to head up into the hills to get to another valley. In one book this hill was referred to as a nemesis, but surely if you cycle in Cornwall nothing can frighten you! “See you at the top” they said and the long gruelling grind began. No messing about, straight for the lowest gear and enjoy, and breathe, enjoy and breathe! I stopped 4 times I admit. It was over 4 kms of hill, my lungs were bursting and my legs like jelly. I reached the top to find the team munching on crisps and joking about my condition. Not sure how high we were, but there was no view as the mist and light rain set in again. Still the best was yet to come, as we descended nearly 9km into Savigny-Les –Beaune to a small campsite with log cabin effect bar and restaurant. So began the routine of tents up and showering; then straight to the bar for the best steak and chips in a roll I have ever had.

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 More Beer and then off to bed, knackered.

90 miles cycled. 

 

Day 7 

Awoke to a dry morning and dry tents, erecting them under the pines trees was a good move. All packed and ready, we waited for Richard to repack readjust and then readjust again! Down the hill to the bottom, then we headed for Beaune, on to Chagny and continued to Givry were we stopped for a coffee. We sought out a bike repair shop, as there was a lot of creaking and groaning coming from both of my wheels. However after a quick inspection we were passed fit to continue (unlike my bottom). A small squirt of oil and the creaking stopped (unlike my bottom). So we headed out to the next cycle trail which would take us towards the river Soane.

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 We had bought lunch from a small supermarket and planned to stop along the trail, at one of those nicely provided picnic tables; however none were to be found On this stretch of cycling I was struggling, pain, discomfort and the thought that I might not be able to complete this challenge had their effect I lagged behind and really struggled to keep up the pace. Eventually, we all stopped for lunch, watching Richard fall from his steed rather than dismounting in the usual way. Admitting my condition, it was then revealed that Richard not only carrying performance drugs and potions, he also had pain killers which he assured me would do me good. So with the aid of some pink tablets I was able carry on. We arrived at Cluney and set up camp yet again. Then instead of a shower it was straight to the pool with our new friend. Thomas was an American guy who was also on a cycle ride, but heading for Italy to visit a friend. He was a large chap with the biggest hands I have ever seen and when Richard guessed he was a basketball player he thought we were psychic as this is what he used to be. He played for some team in Spain in an earlier life. We all got on well and went into town where we had the longest wait ever for a pizza and watched France win again! 
54 miles cycled.

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Day 8 

Early start. Leaving Thomas soundly sleeping in his tent, we continued on the cycle path heading south. There had been reports of bad weather coming up from the Med, so we thought we would try and beat it by putting some distance in today. The path was interesting and had a great surface. We went through a long tunnel to Du Blois Clair. Nearing the end of the trail the expected café was shut so we had to keep going. We headed to Crèches-sur-Soane, crossed the bridge and turn on to the tow- path of the Saone. Disaster, it was totally unsuitable for the bikes, coarse gravel and uneven, with a selection of what can only be classed as rocks. In only a few hundred yards Fred’s rack detached its self from the frame. After repairs and good use of cable ties we were mobile again; this time we took a path away from the river until we picked up some small roads which ran parallel to the Saone. We continued heading towards Lyon, on a well sign-posted cycleway which often went on the edge of the river, we stopped just outside Lyon for more refreshments and ice creams, whilst watching a huge vessel ply its trade along the Saone. We soon entered Lyon, busy, crowded and rush hour! Richard wanted to find the tourist information shop but we declined as we just wanted to get through this city. Photos on bridges taken we were soon on the other side and quieter roads became the norm again. The route kept us on the flood plains and either side were hills and even some mountains in the distance. We found a campsite at St Clair Du Rhone. It had a 5 star rating, but the restaurant was shut, the pool was closed, Internet cost extra and there was no phone signal or shop, good eh! On arrival we had covered 98 miles; so before fully unloading the bike, but having put the tent up, I went out and did the additional miles to break my duck and cycle over 100miles in a day. Oh and apply more Cream!!

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 Day 9

 Awoke to another fine day with blue skies. So after a quick cuppa we packed and checked our steeds, while we waited Richard to repack and readjust his load, then we were off. Some B roads to start with, then we dropped down to the Rhone. We were to follow the V2; a cycle route which started in Germany (good name eh!) and ends at Montpellier which is handy as that is our route as well. As we were deciding which way the V2 went, we spotted a café over the bridge which was open and serving Croque Monsieur. So not having had tried one before, four were ordered... Most enjoyable. We chatted with a couple of Brits who were also heading for the Med, running a bit lighter than us and also a lot faster. Half way through our brekkie they departed and were gone, we ordered more coffee and watched the traffic cross the bridge and enjoyed the morning sunshine. 25

 
We wound are way along the V2 which followed the river and passed through many towns (nearly all we got confused or lost in), all with spires and great architecture. Also we were cutting through vast orchards of fruit, apples, peaches, plums and many others.

The route kept crossing the Rhone and we could see the varied traffic using the river. There were quite a few British boats heading north.

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It was hot and very tiring, only Dave seemed to be ache free. Fred still had some rib aches and Richard, well I can’t possibly let on but if he was a horse! And my issues would not make good reading!!

We glided into Valance and surprise, surprise we headed for the information centre to enquire about campsites (well that’s what Richards story is). It was quite interesting that nearly all the tourist centres Richard took us to did not have a good knowledge of anything which was further than a few miles away and certainly were not clued up on campsites (apparently during the summer holidays a lot of young French female students take part time jobs in the centres, so now we know Richard).

We continued out of Valance to a possible campsite but came across another a few miles out, with an open bar and cold beer.

This site seemed to have a lot of live-a-boards and hippy youth, but was extremely friendly and it was clean and we had no other options as two beers had been consumed. So stay we did and enjoyed the on site restaurant as well.

63 miles cycled.

 

Day 10 

Up and away; well when Richard had repacked. The sun was already up; this was going to be a hot one. Again steady cycling quite, flat with only a few hills. We stayed on the V2 and stayed close to the Rhone or the canal, we went past several Barrages.

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 We think we passed a nuclear power station, right on the banks of the river. There were barbed wire security fences and signs banning stopping and taking photos, so we kept going. Strange thing was it was 38 degrees on the approach and rose to 40 as we went past, then dropped to 38 again. We just hoped we would not glow when we retired in out tents this night! There were also lavender fields, cooling towers and many old towns.

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    We stopped at a supermarket and bought lunch, went to the river bank, ate in the shade and rested. Then onward through more orchards watching the workers picking peaches and stacking the crates. We passed Mondragon and stopped in Caderousse for a short break. This walled town would be worth a second visit, but after refreshment we headed on to the campsite which offered a pool on site, restaurant and extremely clean showers. But it was very hot.
88.5 miles cycled.

 

Day 11 

We all woke early. The thought of hitting the Med today was either too much or was it the reality that we were going to do it with out to much mishap or incidents, well one puncture and a sore behind is good going, or were we counting chickens?

 

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Today’s route would take us again beside the mighty Rhone. We would leave the scenic mountain ranges behind us, pass Avignon and leave the Rhone at Tarascon. We stayed on B roads which were not too busy, with long flat straight boring bits; but they were direct. It was hot again and with a strong head wind from the south. At Beaucaire we entered the flats of the Camargue.

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 We cycled in a peloton and soon arrived at St Gilles again recognising the scenery from Google Earth visits. We stopped for a drink, but were too early for lunch, so decided to push on towards our goal, the Med. The temperature got hotter and the wind much stronger. The reeds were bending and the storks were sitting in their nests. We settled into a rhythm, with the plan that the lead would change every 15 mins. I was suffering with my aches and pains and Richard was slowly succumbing to the past 10 days. Fred put on a spurt or was just fed up with the rest of us, and forged ahead! After a few minutes Dave decided to catch Fred up and pulled away leaving about a 2 minute gap between us. As Richard and I rounded a blind bend, I can only remember a heart stopping sight. Dave was flat out on the ground with his bike on top of him. Fred was leaning over him trying to talk to him. What we had not seen was that on the bend Dave had clipped the tarmac edge, dropped into the soft verge and fallen off. Fred who was riding the stream line had no alternative but to crash into and run poor Dave over before taking a parachute roll into the ditch. First reactions were to dismount and help. I stood guard on the bend and Richard and Fred checked out the damage. After some coaxing Dave started to move and explore the damage to himself and the bike. I stopped a few cars and we managed to clear the bend of debris and bits of bike. Dave had skinned knees and elbows, a good graze on his thighs and a great skid mark up his back (Fred’s tyre pattern) and Fred had grazed knees and arms. 31 32

 The ironic thing was that while we were cleaning Dave and Fred up and reassembling the bikes on the verge away from the apex, a lady driver stopped and gave us a right royal telling off for stopping on a corner! When Richard in his best French explained to the slightly irate woman what had in fact happened, she gasped with slight shock and drove off with no offer of help!

We carried on, counting our blessings. As with all accidents it could have been so much worse. After a few more miles we came to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, so the injured peloton pulled in for a well earned lunch. We could smell the Med and I mean smell the Med! Dave pedalled on with the thought of a swim and a chance to relax his muscles Fred also had the same thought so the pace picked up. Aignes Mortes another walled town looked inviting, but the urge to finish and with tightening wounds we continued to journey’s end Le Grau du Roi. We cycled right down to the beach and spend a few minutes reflecting on the past 11 days and what we had achieved. Then Dave said “What about my Bloody swim then!

  

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 We headed west to La Grand Motte and found a campsite that was heaving. It was strange to be with masses of people again, all rushing around, shouting and doing whatever. We decided to give that site a miss and carried on west until we found another smaller site and booked a pitch. It was still hot and Dave still had not had his swim, so after a quick erection we grabbed our towels and headed by foot to the beach. We all had a swim in the Med’s surf, and some of the aches and pains were eased by the refreshing salt water. Then a quick rub dry and off to find a beach side bar. Brilliant!!

69 miles cycled. (6 feet Flown)

 We headed back to the campsite to find railings being erected along the roads around the site and lorries being parked just outside the entrance. Tonight there was to be a Rodeo style event, which bulls were a part of.

At 7 o’clock the crowds gathered and horses turned up with riders and helpers. Without warning fire crackers or similar were let off on top of the lorries and the bulls which were inside started snorting and stamping. Then, on a whistle the back door opened and a very confused and upset animal leapt out and ran down the track surrounded by several horses and riders. The track ran around the adjacent park and back to the lorries. Interestingly the barriers were large enough for us to walk through but not the bulls! Then it was explained that as the bull was being herded around the track people would rush out, run alongside the bull and try to wrestle it to the ground! There was huge cheering and clapping whenever someone managed to achieve this manoeuvre and after each bull had completed a lap it was returned to the lorry and another one released, very strange.

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  Afterwards we returned to the sea front, found another restaurant and reflected on the past 10 days and the 800 odd miles covered!!

 

 

 


37

The next day we again packed up and headed for Montpellier. We cycled another 26 miles all on cycle trails right into the heart of the city; having our own traffic lights, signals and special crossings for the huge tram system which operates there. Once at the Station we were greeted with the news that the trains did not take bikes on Sundays. We checked the coach route and found it fully booked so decided to hire 2 cars and drive back to Morlaix. 

 38

 

 39
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 With both cars loaded we shared the driving and headed north.

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On route we stopped at the Millau Bridge and wondered at its construction; then got caught speeding by some road works camera (pretty sure Dave was driving!) 42

 

 On towards Morlaix. We arrived at midnight, completely knackered at Richard’s sister’s home; where we were all kindly put up for the night. We woke to the best breakfast of the trip. Thanks! 

We continued to Morlaix, intending to return the cars and cycle from the city to St Pol. However, this simple operation was a tad interesting as the drop of point Richard had planned turned out to be wrong and in fact we only realised this after the bikes were unloaded. Richard and I left Fred and Dave to guard the bikes and we returned the cars to the correct station with 15 minutes to spare of the 24hr hire period.

Then a gentle ride to St Pol to the famous Wheeler’s hotel “Cheval Blanc”, a visit to the local bar and a visit to the local Indian for a great meal.
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 After a relaxing night we then had a short (but hilly) ride to Roscoff (should have ignored the cycle route) and waited the arrival of the ferry home. Robin (my neighbour) was duly waiting at Plymouth with Pasties and drove us all home and back into the fold, this was a Tuesday evening and I can still hear Fred asking if any of us would be out in the Morning! 

 

A big thanks to my riding mates, Fred Pullen, David Spargo and Richard Mace.
Over 800 miles ridden, not a bad word spoken and jokes all the way.
Over £1400 raised for MacMillan.

 Would I do it again?

You bet, perhaps not as fast and certainly with a support vehicle and most definitely with a better Saddle (and lots more cream)!

 

Bikes

2 x Specialized Tri Cross

1x Giant

1 x Dawes

 

Number of Mishaps

1 Puncture (me)

1 Rack failure (Fred)

Load movements, Many (Richard)

Falling off 1 major and too many to remember up and offs (mainly Richard)

Number of times Toys were thrown out of Pram 0

Number of disagreements 0

Number of Bars visited (can’t remember)

 

 

Thanks

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You have read the book, now watch the video:   
 http://youtu.be/Z_FV0SV5Ij8






 Bernie's  daily log (with lots of help from Liz, back at mission control):

  (Bernie has asked me to write this for him as he only had 10 minutes internet time at the campsite). The ferry crossing was pretty uneventful. People were interested in what they were doing and one man even bought them all a drink. Trying to get out of Le Havre was more difficult than they expected. At one point they nearly ended up on the peage! Once over the Tancerville Bridge (picture 2) they cycled 35 miles before stopping for the night  at about 10.00. They got the tents up before dark, but found they were under a street light which kept them awake! This morning they left at 7.00 when it was a bit overcast. Breakfast was hot chocolate and croissants at Pont Audemer. The weather warmed up and they picked up the old railway line to Le Neubourg. Thi was apparently better than the roads and was well kept with all the hedges trimmed. Lunch was at Evereaux and guess what, they got lost again in the roadworks,trying to get out of there. It got very hot in the afternoon with temperatures up to 27c and they finished cycling at 5.00 after 77 miles. Tonight they are camping at a place called Anet and are intending to go and watch the football in a local bar. Liz

All. Going well now at Anet after 76 miles in the heat, 45 miles on great cycle tracks which are better than the roads! Weather is brill wine is cold and humour out off this world. Just had a swim having trouble getting Fred back in his clothes! Bernie

Hi all. Still going. 30 plus today, a bit hot on the bike. We are now at Boulancourt, a nice campsite, listening to the french game. 2-0 I hear. Not sure what we do tomorrow, but hope its less than the 85 miles today. Lots of humour and micky taking. Bernie

Day 4 A bad nights sleep. The locals were up late celebrating the win, 4.30  before all went quiet!! The next morning started with some rather long hills and then over miles of fields on small but great roads. The sun was also up early and  the heat was affecting us all, when the P (puncture) Fairy paid me a visit. We made a slight detour  on route to Villenneuva a very nice place but very hot. The campsite was adequate, but next to the high speed railway, so guess what woke us this morning! Today we have reached Lezinnes which also is very hot. Only 56 miles though due to heat. I think we will getting up early from now on, as 37degrees was today's treat! We are all coping, some with sore legs and even sorer botty for one of us. Nearly run out of Vasaline, so tomorrow's ride will include a shop. I believe the mileage is now around 300 and very soon we will be turning south. Just hope the northerly wind stays, as it has been against us for 3 days. That's all for now.  Off for a nap if I can find some shade. Boy it's hot 37 today so only a short ride of 56 miles at Lezinnes with 300 miles under our belts, been on some great roads and cycle paths which are kept in better condition than our A roads! The P fairy gave me a visit yesterday right in the middle of farm land which goes on for miles and miles with no shade at all. Tomorrow will be an early start a see hope to get another high mileage day before the heat gets up, we should hit a cycle path which is over 40 miles long All spirits are high but legs are tired still a quick dip in the pool should help.
Still going, spirits good with plenty of good banter. 74 miles on tow path nearly 12hours of cycling 89 total for day, brilliant scenery and good food, some of us are a little sore but it's good to know we are over half way, rained today but at least it was not 37 degrees like the day before. Hope to get to the long cycle trail. Today and continue heading south

Day what ever Had a blinding plan yesterday; plan was to get up at 0530 and be on our way by six, before the sun got up. I misread the time and was told that 0430 was a bit early or words to that effect! After packing we left straight onto the tow path, 75 miles of it to be exact. Wonderful countryside and quiet. Although level it is quite hard to maintain any speed and some parts were a bit soft. The morning sunshine gave way to grey skies, which suited us all after the previous day's heat; only 22c. Past Rougemont, to Buffon for our first stop, coffee and lemon tart. On to Monbard and all the villages between. We stopped at Pont Royal for lunch, 6 courses for 13 Euros! We met some friends from Falmouth,  who are cruising the waterways, an amazing coincidence. On past Chateaunef, to Pont du Ouch  where we left the towpath and were back on country roads. Up a 5 kilometre hill which was just what we needed, but then  we had a 9 kilometre descent to the campsite. Just got the tents up before the rain returned. Nearly 12 hours in the saddle (cream supplies getting low).
Today we're having a later start at about 9ish and heading for Chagny, then onto one of the long cycle trails.

 

Bernie is again having trouble getting wifi, so has asked me to let you know how they are getting on.
Day 7 Another very hot day and more beautiful scenery. They stopped at a transport cafe, where they had another huge lunch. They were forced to stop at Givrey at a cycle shop as Bernie's bearings on his back wheel were very noisy. The man gave it a squirt of oil and said it would be ok for another 300 kilometres. I'm sure he told me more about what happened that day, but I don't think I was listening very carefully!
Day 8 After a night at Cluny they again woke to a hot sunny day. They passed through Maconand onto the  towpath whichbecame so rough that Fred's rack was shaken off the back of his bike. They  decided to go out onto the minor roads but unfortunately the bit of map they needed was the bit I had put a post-it over and laminated; so they got lost again! They joined the Soane at Crèches sur Soane and followed into and through Lyon. They intended to stay at the campsite they thought was in Vienne, but found it was 20 miles further south. By the time they got there they had covered over 100 miles. Tomorrow they intend having a quieter day and only doing about 30 miles. Liz

 

More problems with the wifi in France. Apparently at the moment it is getting clogged up up with emails coming in from Brazil. That's what they are being told anyway! Again they are battling with the heat. There is a big storm expected in the area where they are today, but they intend to keep ahead of it. The cycle paths are not quite what they were. Although beautiful with hills in the distance and plenty of vineyards (Sorry no photos), the surfaces are not so good. They go from tarmac to gravel with potholes, and from lovely countryside to being thrown out almost onto motorways! The tracks are also beginning to affect the bikes, which are starting to rattle and bits are becoming loose. Physically though, they're all doing okay and having fun. Yesterday they did sixty miles even though the intention was to do only thirty.  The end is in sight  and they can smell the sea! They overnighted south of Valence. Today, they plan to get away early and do another 60 miles which means tomorrow will be the final push. They plan to reach The Med tomorrow afternoon and be heading home on Sunday. Liz

The temperature hit a new high yesterday, 40 degrees! The lads cycled 88 miles, which was more than intended, because the breeze they created was keeping them cooler than if they had just sat around. They clocked up 22 miles before breakfast, then did a few more hours before buying pasta salad at the supermarket and sitting by the river to eat it. Last night was spent at Avignon in a campsite surrounded by pine trees and they were treating themselves to a meal at the local restaurant. Another early start is planned this morning and if the bikes hold up they should easily cover the last 60-70 miles to La Grande Motte which is just east of Montpellier. Sunday or Monday they hope to catch a train to Paris and then another to Morlaix, or hire a van and drive directly to Roscoff. Liz

Now at St Pol and it's raining, so staying at Le Cheval Blanc. The ride was brilliant, great fun and bloody hard. After Cluny we cycled the train path to Lyon very hot and sticky; then on down the Soane,  which was a little disappointing as the tow path was poor and rough, but the scenery was fantastic. Lyon was fun and the navigation was spot on. We did 100 miles in one run. After Lyon we sped down the Rhone; huge boats being overtaken with ease. But the continuing heat was exhausting. The next campsite set in a pine forest was pleasant, but the camp restaurant was closed!
The final push to the Med was across the the Carmargue where it was 38 degrees with a 20mph head wind; bit like cycling into a hair dryer. Half way across disaster,  Dave clipped the edge of the road and fell; Fred right behind launched over him and also fell off!  Richard and I arrived a few seconds later to a scene of carnage with panniers and stuff all over the road, right on a bend. Dave was moved to the edge and we picked up the debris, Fred had cuts and grazes and Dave had some cuts and tyre marks on his back from Fred's launch pad. A lady driver stopped and said that it was a silly place to stop on a bend! When we explained the situation she said sorry and just  drove off! After a few minutes they both remounted their bikes and we continued to journey's end, the Med where we all had a dip in the sea! We then found another camp site and drank some beer! Over 800 miles covered. It's a great feeling it's all behind us. We cycled to Montpellier yesterday to be told no trains take bikes, so hired two cars and drove to Morlaix We sail home tomorrow.
Thanks for your support.  It has been epic. Something I think you should all do. Bernie

 



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