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Showing posts from August, 2017

15. THE AUTOMATIC BAGUETTE DISPENSER....

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Today was Monday and It was to be our longest day of cycling yet. An early start from the villa allowed us to blast it. It took almost 2 hours to get back to the Euro Velo 1 where we left off yesterday but once back on track we were flying. Note; beforehand we did take a few moments to swing by the automatic baguette dispenser in the centre of the village (a novel recommendation by the Rugby revellers).



It was a blistering day the route ventured inland slightly and we followed the canal to La Rochelle. This was where we met another couple of young touring cyclists (not as crazy to be on a tandem), and for the rest of the day we kept passing each other, to the point where it became hilarious.  We stopped in La Rochelle for a huge amount of ice-cream (from the biggest selection I have seen in my life), for crepes and to admire the architecture and absorb the prettiness of the place. We made use of the facilities in the sea life centre and then continued on our way towards Rochefort. Ou…

14. THE MOTHER OF ALL COINCIDENCES...

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As coincidences go this was a pretty good one; L's ex work colleague from Rugby was staying with his family and their friends in a holiday villa in a small village not far from our route. Back in the UK we had said that we would drop by if we had the time and as luck would have it, we did. Little did we know that by the end of this evening we'd discover the mother of all coincidences; I would be sat at the same table as my year 7 geography teacher's sister! What a small world we live in!


We followed our coastal route until we were directly south of the villa then we headed north on a canal tow path which would bring us straight into the village. The coastal route before the tow path was a particularly wiggly one today, and a road cycle distance from this mornings campsite to the villa would have been perhaps 2hours. We however had spent over 6hours wiggling around following those Euro Velo 1 signs. We'd taken a break around 2:30pm after an insect, well a u.f.o, had fl…

13. COMPLET COMPLET COMPLET....

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It was about 5.30pm when we passed a campsite which we thought would do, but we changed our minds when we were told the price of €24. So far we'd been paying €10-15 a night so we decided to continue cycling. After all the weather was great, sunny but not too hot, the route was particularly beautiful and we reckoned we had another hour of energy left in us.  We were glad we continued because we passed through a village having a bit of a knees up. There was a band, country dancing, beer and food on the go, flags bustling in the breeze and a huge inflatable arch over the cycle path. We cycled victorious over their finish line...only our own finish line; Aubeterre-sur-drone, was nowhere near here.


Pinpointing a campsite to aim for on google maps we cycled for another hour, however when we rocked up we were confronted with the dreaded word 'COMPLET' (full). With no room to squeeze in a small tent in we cycled on to another nearby campsite, they too were COMPLET. Nightmare! It …

12. PICNIC ON THE BEACH...

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It was friday and the third day in a row we'd had pain au chocolate's for breakfast...whilst still in bed. It had become the new norm. L's staple breakfast of poached eggs and avocado on toast which he'd had everyday for the last year, was out and pain au choc's were in. Some days we'd even have two! We were really troffing on the pastries which wasn't doing any good for my low sugar diet and I was starting to wonder if despite expelling a load of energy peddling everyday, that we might return heavier than when we set out.

After yesterday's not so early start we planned to get up early this morning so as to put in a decent effort but alarm issues meant we woke up late. I'd forgotten that the iPad was still running on UK time and it was the second occasion I'd made this mistake. L was not impressed!
Through the last of the flat plains we passed a lot of aquatic capturing equipment; rows of wooden huts which were stood high on stilts each with an…

11. DONKEY IN THE CAMPSITE...

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It was Thursday. We awoke to rain bouncing off the tent, not bothering to get up in the hope it would go away we fell back to sleep. It didn't go away, I thought we'd left all that behind in the UK but for today at least it would appear not. Towel toga made a come back under my crappy pac-a-mac. At least it was still will quite warm whilst raining so neither L or myself were actually cold, just sodden. Tandy was on top form, no groans or squeaks, the smooth EuroVelo 1 route was better suited to this contraption, the canal tow paths from the Midlands to London really were not.
The route had us winding round the perimeter of field after field in an area of flat lowland. We cycled the whole day though this area. There was hundreds of water inlets dividing fields with small wooden bridges for us to cross. Despite being flat it was the hard cycling because of a constant head wind.  We were barely moving forwards and after a couple of hours of the wind getting evermore stronger we …

10. HUGE MECHANICAL ELEPHANT WALKS THE STREETS AND RONALD MCDONALD GETS L IN A STRESS...

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The Euro Velo 1 (or Velodyssee) was marked with small orange signs. The route runs all the way from  from the UK, down the coast of France and into Spain. We were only doing a small chunk in comparison. We cycled west out of Nantes along the Loire river towards the sea, then south down the coast before stopping around 6:30pm at a campsite in St Brevin-les-pins. 
Earlier in the day we had got slightly lost in Nantes. The cycle route zig zagging here there and everywhere along with the bustle of the city, had thrown us off course. This wouldn't have been a problem if the sun wasn't so bright making it impossible to use the screen on either the phone or the iPad. It was partly my own fault for turning down the screen brightness on both so as to charge them quicker with the solar panel. The solar panel I might add was one of the most useful pre trip buys we made and in this glorious sun was working brilliantly, clipped onto the top of the panniers. There was enough cable allowing…

9. PATISSERIES GALORE AND THE GERMAN LADY WITH THE LITTLE DOG

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I can't say either of us enjoyed sleeping in a chair on the ferry. A French lady wittering over the intercom woke us up with news we would soon be arriving in St Malo. I felt pretty gross. Luckily there were showers but I had to step over various sleeping bodies in order to get there.  Off the ferry we put Tandy back together attracting the attention of a British couple who had been speculating what had been in the bike bag. They'd thought some sort of sports equipment, windsurfers or something similar and seemed delighted that it was a folding tandem. They took photos, oblivious Tandy was no Bike Friday, instead a China crisis made of cheese.  We set off into St Malo where we spent a few hours looking around the old walled town. Oh and most importantly testing the produce from a handful of patisseries. Well it would be rude not to. 
Catching a train from St Malo down to Nantes via Rennes gave us a head start incase of any more spoke related issues. Waiting for the train at S…

8. THE OVERNIGHT FERRY...

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It was Monday. We'd had a fabulous weekend in London with family and friends, attended a wonderful wedding and now it was time to continue our journey.

We decided to fold and bag Tandy and carry everything between the two of us. This decision was made after Friday's nightmare but it soon became apparent that this method wasn't any easier. Loaded up like pack horses we set off walking to the train station. L was wearing the rucksack, I was carrying both panniers, one over each shoulder and jointly we carried the bike bag between us: A handle each. We needed to stop every 50yards for a rest and we took up the entire width of the pavement as we struggled ever closer to the station. After a while L resorted to carrying the bike bag alone with the handles around his neck. I could see his neck veins bulging as the straps restricted blood flow, The last thing we needed right now was for L to pass out, luckily this didn't happen. In return I also carried the rucksack.
A crisi…

7. TANDEM NIGHTMARE ON THE LONDON TRAINS..

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We'd successfully (subject to ones personal interpretation) followed the canal network from the Midlands to the Thames. Cycling across London was out of the question because time was getting on. Looking lost and unusual we attracted the attention of two BBC producers on Brompton bikes who stopped to chat about our journey. Despite originally heading in the opposite direction they kindly offered to escort us on our contraption to the nearest train station. It was a sight, our 3 bike strong mini wheel club zipping through streets and side alleys. Those bromptons were nippy, peddling like the clappers we just about kept up.

Wheeling Tandy onto a train was difficult, people were stood in the way and not just that but when wheeled on, the front and back wheels literally touched door to door the width of the train carriage. Trying to jiggle Tandy 90degrees so as not to block the doors either side involved what seemed like a million point manoeuvre. Back forth back forth, inch by inch, i…

6. ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE CANAL...

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It was a beautiful morning. The chickens were clucking (thankfully no cockerels), the birds were tweeting and the peacocks were also making there own, if not slightly weird, noise too. Life at the hippy commune was as you would expect, quite relaxed. Setting off back on the canal tow path towards London we were a little apprehensive about the back wheel spoke issue. They were still creaking, despite redistributing the bags so as to have the rucksack over the font handle bars leaving just both panniers on the back. According to L steering the contraption was challenging enough without having to deal with a 15kg rucksack swinging like a pendulum from the front handle bars. One of those useful bungees soon quick fixed that problem, seriously can't find anything they won't fix...other than spokes.


We saw a lot of crazy stuff along the canal once we passed under the M25. For example a car body shell seamlessly grafted onto the back of a narrow boat, a VW people carrier type I thin…

5. A NIGHT AT A HIPPY COMMUNE...

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Yesterday evening we'd diverted off the tow path into Milton Keynes. The weight of all the luggage and myself on the back wheel, combined with a very bumpy section of tow path, and of course Tandy's joke 20inch wheels of Chinese quality, had resulted in a broken spoke. Halfords, Go Outdoors, Decathlon etc were all still open but none had the right size spokes and by the time we'd zigzagged from one to another we realised we'd broken 2 spokes. We should've been camping last night but instead found ourselves sleeping in bunk beds at MK YHA. 

Red sky at night: Shepard's delight. It was true, Thursday morning was a stunner. Finally some dry weather. We spent the morning at a bicycle repair shop, we'd phoned every single one in MK in search of the right size spokes but to no avail. We found a repair shop who had the time to repair Tandy but they had to go and track down some spokes of a similar size (not quite perfect but best of a bad situation) from elsewhere. …

2. WILD CAMPING WITH NEIGHHHHHBOURS..

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Monday was the start of our 500 mile journey. It was a few months ago when we first concocted the idea of cycling from our house in the midlands to the south of France...on a folding tandem bicycle (just for extra laughs.) Admittedly a number of drinks consumed by both parties may have been a strong influence in the decision making process. Neither of us cyclists, we bought the thing off of eBay, collected it from a run down warehouse in Birmingham (a story for another day), took it out on a 4.5 mile practice cycle and then deemed ourselves fully qualified cyclists and thus trained and ready for the trip ahead. Tandy then sat in the living room for over a month, ready and eager for this day.
After handing over the keys of our house to the new buyers we set off in our hastily overpacked car, found a secluded layby down the road, stopped and reorganised the car. I'd got cramp after being completely boxed in with stuff and a pot of yogurt had spilt everywhere. Not long after leaving t…

4. RESCUING A SHEEP & BUSTING THE BACK WHEEL...

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The room was tropical, we'd had the heating on full blast over night to dry out our soaked clothes. Yesterday Tandy's stand had repeatedly worked loose so in frustration I'd unscrewed it and tossed it into a bin. The lack of a stand did make it awkward for leaving the bike, it now needed propping up against something but the weight of our luggage made the whole contraption prone to falling over. I fell victim to this before we'd even left the room that morning, Tandy fell over onto me, badly bashing and bruising my arm... It was lucky there was no one staying in the adjoining rooms. A full English (served by the woman who only a few moments earlier had been hoovering, she my have even cooked the breakfast too, who knows!?), set us up for the rest of the day ahead. We needed it, it would be another day relentlessly hammered by the rain! 
Half way through the day we passed a bleating sheep with its head stuck through a fence, so we took a ten minute break under the cove…

3. AND INTO THE CANAL HE FELL....

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It rained all day. Our lightweight waterproof macs were useless, perhaps because they were incredibly old, we were completely soaked through. I remembered now that I'd planned on throwing mine away after discovering this last time I'd used it, but somehow it had ended up back in the drawer. When we hit a rut and fell off Tandy it didn't much matter that L ended up in the canal (in terms of wet clothes), I'm sure the actual experience was slightly traumatic and ego bashing. I'd fallen into the hedge and was just brushing off the nettle stings trying to fighting off uncontrollable laughter, whilst L stood processing the whole situation.
The tow path had got progressively worse and in parts we had to walk and fight our way through the overgrowth. In better sections it was still slow and hard going due to the combined weight of myself and all the baggage on the back wheel, and the wet grass creating a lot of drag. The next challenge of the day was a steeply stepped ir…

1. BEFORE IT BEGAN

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In essence we'd quit our jobs, sold our house and traded it all in for a tandem bicycle, a tent (both of which we'd bought off eBay) and a life on the open road.
Selling up and going travelling had been on our minds since the back end of last year but it wasn't until May this year, when we finally got the house on the market, that the ball got rolling and shit got real. Having not sold a house before we had no idea how long it would take to find a buyer and for the sale to go through. We'd had friends who'd sold in just a few weeks, and heard horror stories of houses taking years to shift. All that in mind we thought allowing 5/6 months would hopefully be enough time and so planned to go away come October. The plan as it stands is 3 months in Asia followed by a stint of up to a year in Australia, depending on how we feel at the time. We weren't prepared for what happened next...We listed the house with purple bricks for a massive amount more than two local e…