Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A Postponement?

Monday  1  June - Bouin
And so it ends! Some 750 kms from our destination the cracked or bruised ribs have won the day. Disappointed? Of course. Relieved though, that the damage Al has sustained will heal as long as he doesn’t laugh too much! The very thought! Some patience will be required as these old bones mend a little more slowly than hitherto.
The phone call was made and poor old Bren has missed out on St. Jean yet again! Not that he or Deborah gave any evidence of genuine disappointment, they just upped sticks, collected the car and drove the four and a halve hours to our hotel! What a pair of mates to have. Not that Brendan didn’t take of advantage of the situation to take the p….s. His hip having made a considerable recovery, he was in a position to mock my poor old man. Did them both good!
(But we have a solution to St. Jean; when himself is better we may well complete the ride by starting in St. Jean and finishing in our hotel in Bouin. So watch this space – again!)

Once again, our thanks to all those folk who followed the blog and kept us going with words of encouragement or abuse, and to all those who have subsequently telephoned to check on Al’s condition. I do look forward to continuing this blog after a short or long interval and bid you all adieu in the meantime. 

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sore, wet and windy

30. 05. 15   Cousept to Bouin   65 kms  (Couldn’t charge the garmin therefore no idea of ascent but quite a lot of upping and downing)

Did I mention that our shed had an upstairs which must have been less than two metres high. It was nonetheless occupied by two elves we never saw – just heard!  All shab and no absolutely no chic.
I had woken a few times in the night and was surprised to note that Al was sleeping soundly – a good sign, I thought. Although still unable to get up from the bed unaided, Al made it to the loo unaided – another good sign I thought. A peremptory shout from our hostess informed us that our breakfast was ready. After a thorough inspection of the entire site, we located a table under a makeshift awning with breakfast laid out. A reasonable repas was made into a good repas  with the addition of eggy bread! And the whole experience cost a princely 42 Euros.
Getting going took a while with Al insisting on doing as much as possible, despite the discomfort. Sensibly, we took the main road for a while as bouncy was not a clever option for bruised ribs and probably a few other injuries as well. The entire route now felt very different; we could actually see  the sea ( although this didn’t last long); we passed the commencement of our route of three years ago when we got two thirds of the way to the Black Sea before I fell off; we rode along the coast for all of about five kilometres before we were directed inland and thenceforward retained only glimpses of the ocean. Pornic provided us with a pretty bench for lunch (the bench was not very pretty but the view was).

A cold wind was blowing up and likely to rush up the old nostrils and having been subjected to a not terribly comfortable stopover last night, we reserved a room in an hotel in Bouin some thirty kilometres further on. Thirty kilometres of mostly old salt marsh, very flat and accompanied by old nostril wind.
Our hotel was a pleasure to behold and the beers which appeared were heartily welcome. Our room opened onto the garden in which was situated the swimming pool of decent size. Our kindly host retracted the pool cover and I went for a swim. I might add that it is a covered pool! The meal that we consumed a little later in the restaurant was delicious and in stark contrast to our bread and cheese of the preceding evening. We did feel that we deserved this not inconsiderable luxury.

I am writing this now on Sunday. The nostril wind is still blowing a hooley accompanied by rain and Al is still in a lot of pain but not ready to give up.  As a compromise, we will stay in this comfortable hotel  room for a further 24 hours (but without the luxury of a second restaurant meal) and reassess the situation tomorrow.  Sorry Bren, you might miss out on St. Jean yet again! 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Ouch and a Garden Shed

29.05 2015
Suce sur Erde – Cousept       65kms  ascent (no idea but a bit more than before!)
Before the action

This has been, by far, the most interesting day of the journey so far. However, not all points of interest have been entirely favourable. I shall begin with the favourable.
 We had found an interesting chamber d’hotes for the night of the 29th, courtesy of yet another open tourist office. The house was named Cube which will give an idea of its appearance. Very modern, clean and efficient with an agreeable host and an equally agreeable dog called Dom. So, we bade farewell and discovered a whole host of friendly people on boats on the canal and small marinas which Al has renamed ‘Bateau Parks’.
 Things were still interesting as we left the canal and headed for Nantes. A well  marked and well surfaced cycle track led us by the nose and lulled us into a sense of security which surprisingly didn’t last. In a flash we were dicing with death, roundabouts, crossroads, other cycle routes, trams and traffic lights! Nonetheless, we confidently followed the signs for ‘centre ville ’and probably found the centre although it was difficult to identify as there was no sign actually telling us we had reached our goal. In the event, it didn’t matter much as the less favourable interesting incident occurred at around this time.
 You have to imagine, dear reader, a thoroughfare which  consists of a pedestrian way, a cycle, track, a tramway and a road all going in the same direction and then a cyclist named Alan falling from his bike, hitting the upraised tramway (made of granite) and all in the twinkling of an eye. As interesting things go this was one we could happily have done without. He hit the deck like a ton of bricks and was instantly surrounded by people trying to help which was very encouraging but not entirely helpful. The most helpful, was the suggestion that it might be sensible to move away from the tramline before a tram came along and compounded any damage! That he was very sore was soon obvious but in true Wilkinson style, having examined body and soul, it was clear that even if hospital was an option, he was going to avoid it if at all possible. (Ironically we passed casualty just five minutes further along the route!) A period of time passed when we drank tea, returned Al’s handlebars to their rightful position, checked brakes and wheels and  then speculated on our options. We took option one: to carry on.
We missed an important bridge crossing, but with the helpful  intervention of a nice man we were able to take a ferry instead. Much more interesting (good interesting) and free.
Confident that we were now on the correct bank of the Loire, and Alan could still breathe, we found a tree and sat down to lunch and see what other points of interest arose. They were not long in coming. Our preferred option for an overnight (a B and B we had used on our West East trip) was full but the host suggested an alternative which after some confusion and misunderstandings we reserved. What we had reserved was not clear (a kind of tent in the garden – a chalet perhaps?). Finding accommodation was imperative as we were still speculating on how serious Alan’s injuries were.
Bouyed up (a bit) by the thought of a bed and comfort, we headed west into the first nostril wind of this journey! Not any old wind, a full on force 6. Demoralised, anxious and tired we arrived at our overnighter to be met by the owner saying they were full and had no record of my booking! That was one of those heart in your boots moments. However, anxiety over Alan’s health overcame any natural politeness. I didn’t care if they had a record or not, it was 18.00 and we needed to rest. Eventually, we were shown to our interesting (very not good interesting) shed in the garden! True, it had two beds/bunks a table and a stool. Lighting was in the form of a battery driven light and the toilets and bathroom were the other side of the field! We have endured much worse (not much worse - ed) so we set to, pulled food from the trailers and drugs from the rucksack and swigged a bottle of wine. Even before the wine Al was unable to get up unaided from the bed so things were not looking brilliant it has to be said. We would just have to wait and see how things looked in the morning.

(Mary says , if I hadn’t been so well padded, I could have been seriously hurt!  I want sympathy – ed.)

Thursday, 28 May 2015

I know an old man who swallowed a fly...

Guenrouet – Suce sur Erdre      around 57  ascent 330ms
It transpired that our hostess of last night is a practising masseuse in the nicest sense of the word, and this morning I lay on a bed of water while water pressure lumped its way up and down the back of my body. Okay as a one off, not sure about making it a regular habit! By 09.30 we had hit the lumpy, bumpy trail again with the intention of stopping a little short of Nantes. Past experience has shown that if we try to traverse a large town at the end of a longish ride, we get more lost than we need to and tempers are a little fragile. Well that was the plan.
There's a hole in this tube somewhere.
After about twenty kilometres I was stopped by hearing Al’s whistle, turned round and found him gazing at a flat trailer tyre! I left him to repair the damage and hooted off to the little town some three kms further on to buy some nourishment for lunch. On my return, I found things had gone reasonably well and the tyre was now reinflated and remaining so.
On our first night of B and B, well in the morning actually during breakfast, we met a couple who were making the trip to Nantes on a tandem. Very brave and still wed after 15 years! Since then, despite their greater speed, we have met them each day to say Hi. Shortly after today’s meeting and Al’s puncture, I noted with some alarm, that the other trailer tyre was looking particularly soft. No punctures in thousands of kilometres ridden and now two in as many hours. Never mind, Mr. Magic fixed the second puncture and while doing so realised that the fly he had swallowed earlier had left a message and his throat was sore and swollen. Things not quite going to plan!
So, a slight change in plan was required. As we began to change our plan we met up with a couple of lads almost lost. Generously, we shared our map and off they went (lovely boys they were too). We left the track and took to the road. They followed the signs. Half an hour later they came up behind us again, despite their youth and greater speed. We enjoyed a moment of hilarity and we continued along the road which they declined as it went a bit uphill! Youngsters!

By this time we were seriously behind schedule, but agreed to stop in Suce sur Erdre which is a little further from Nantes than we had anticipated but heyho tomorrow is another day.  

baboon bums

Josselin – Guenrouet    - 93 kilometres       ascent – not worth mentioning
Well, I think I was right about the fancy dinner. All three courses were beautifully delivered and we had a separate plate for each course – even three sets of cutlery and the price which didn't include coffee or wine was more than four times the meal we had enjoyed the night before! We think it might have been our wedding anniversary so that was our excuse. The washing dried though, and we were able to make a clean, non smelly start to a day which began so well.
It seemed that habitation had arrived both human and animal and we enjoyed our first view of boats squeezing into locks and ducks, herons, swans and squirrels not squeezing into locks but swimming- well the ducks  anyway.  The path was graded as a very good at the start! It ended up as absolute sh…..te. As the eskimos have thousands of words for snow, we need a similar number for path surfaces! My ‘bits’ will never be the same! (Bums like baboons - ed.)
As ever, it had been our intention to complete around 75kms which took us along the canal path (hasn’t changed much – just more activity) to Redon ……..Ugh. It took little time to decide to continue a bit. Mmmmm. At worst, we would end up in Guenrouet 20kms further on. The worst came to pass and the path got worse and worse and our legs got tireder  and tireder. I would have gritted my teeth but keeping them gritted was impossible with the shake, rattle and roll of tyres on gravel and bumps. Sounds great doesn’t it?!
Quite tired, we arrived at Guenrouet and sought out the tourist office which in spite indicating openness was actually shut  -  again! Following much head scratching,we sought assistance from the local creperie who directed us to a very nearby Chambre d’hote which was fab. We returned to the creperie for a galette eaten overlooking the canal. It’s quite pretty – the canal I mean- when you are not bouncing around with it just in the corner of your eye.

So all ended well and the bed feels absolutely wonderful!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Teeth Rattling

Tuesday 26 May 2015
Landeillau - St. Aignan    65 kms 156 m ascent
St. Aignan – Josselin      67kms 74m ascent

As these last two days have been a ride along the canal and thus are similar, I thought to write them together and inform you, dear reader, of the intricacies of riding a canal path. But first let me describe our departure from Landeillau. It was not the most efficient and not a little emotional as we must bid farewell to our kind and generous hosts and to and to D and B and all their friendship and support. That’s enough of the sloppy stuff! We did finally get everything packed and set off, after innumerable camera shots, for the canal path we had left yesterday. Herman and Sherman were delighted to be included and we remembered them with affection – not.
 So to the canal path.  In its great favour is the fact that it is flat- or nearly- just a few locks to climb. It is a route which has water to the left and fields to the right or water to the right and fields to the left! The surface of the path varies from very bad (f……… awful) to really quite good. So never a dull moment if you want to stay upright. The very bad rattles the fillings in your teeth and I dread to think what it is doing to the bikes.( Herman has put in an official complaint. Sherman, always a martyr, will suffer in silence.) Talking of suffering, it has to be said that those parts of ones’s anatomy which are in touch with the bike are taking quite a pounding. The Sudocrem is much in demand as is extra padding. Al has discovered an alternative approach – that of his saddle giving the impression of disappearing up his bottom , though,  in reality, the saddle has succumbed to all the bumping and descended into the frame! Looks very funny though.  So yet another downside to ‘flat’is that  it requires constant pedalling while seated, with  little or no opportunity to raise the bum above the saddle in order to restore circulation. We have also noted a drop in average speed as a direct result of all this juddering (not complaining) just acknowledging that this is another small price we must pay for flat!
On Monday, after some 65 kms and the last day of the bank holiday, we hoped to find some accommodation. What we did find was an information office that was actually open. The staff were enthusiastic and very well meaning but it seems likely that they had been imported from a different information office because it was a holiday. Thus, their knowledge of the local area was sparse. Nonetheless, after several false starts, a B and B was located, with a room to spare, a mere three kilometres further on. Our hosts were unable to provide a meal, but arranged for us to dine at a local restaurant for the princely sum of 22 euros (both of us!) for a four course meal, wine and coffee, followed by a two kilometre ride home which possibly worked off the coffee!
We have been disappointed with the lack of activity on our really quite a large canal but today all became clear – lock gates have been left open and areas of the canal are empty so any boat trip would surely end in disaster. Pity because we had no one to wave to. Even the ducks seem to have given up the ghost, and, although we have passed many a fisherman, we have yet to see any evidence of actual fish.

We look forward to another day along the canal bank tomorrow, after a fairly luxurious evening with a fancy bedroom and probably a fancy dinner, which will probably only differ from last night in its cost! We do, however have a fine view of the canal and our various items of recently washed clothing adorning the balcony. A demain!

First day on the Volodyssey

Roscoff – Landeillau             93 kms     1524m ascent  ?

It has begun.  Not quite as efficiently as one might have hoped. Some difficulty was encountered during the drive around the marina in Roscoff in an attempt to locate the beginning of the route but it was decided that, anyway a car park is as good a place as any to unload bikes, don appropriate gear, have a quick, unobtrusive wee, and head off. A relieved D and B waved us off and after half an hour of beautiful views of the bay, we were lost.  As ever, when you need them the most, the signs disappear but also, as ever, the inevitable helpful local arrived and pointed us in the right direction.
As the ride was designed to return us to Landeillau, we knew the distance that was required but were pretty clueless as to the type of terrain. Just as well really! After some thirty kilometres of pleasant riding (I forgot to mention we left the trailers with our hosts Barry and Arian……..hee hee………..), we were not lost but following and old railway line much like the one near home. There were though, some significant differences – the surface was muddy, potholey and gravelly and for eighteen kilometres it went up! We were both confused (it doesn’t take much these days) to note that although the track looked flat, it felt as though we were riding through treacle so it was with much relief that we arrived at a very old station and began to descend. And the track still looked flat!
Sometime later, we left the railway and joined the canal! And we were still making pretty good time. Our small problem now was to locate the correct bridge in order to leave the canal path to climb up a hill to get home! After a very small wobble, Al chose an exit and up we went and up, and up, a little bit down, and up, and then hoorah, Arian waved from the garden.
Quite tired, we gratefully accepted a beer from Barry, a shower, dinner and CRASH. That’s day one over. Herman and Sherman join us tomorrow! Probably won’t manage another 90 plus kms…….. no, definitely won’t  manage another 90 plus kms!

The Journey North

May 23  - Landeillau.
That’s the easy part over. We have arrived in Brittany after a journey which was not without some contention – (inevitably with Tom Tom or, to be precise, Garmin!) For reasons best known to computer buffs, the sat nav was particularly insistent that we should follow a long winded motorway route. As it had been decided before we left that we should meander along a less frenetic path, it was inevitable that there should be a difference of opinion. This resulted in our frustrated driver being bombarded by three voiciferous passengers instructing him to ignore the mechanical device and listen to the human voice. With a natural preference for the electronics, Al was almost, but not quite, in meltdown. Remarkably, Tom tom continued to instruct us to make a U turn for some 20 kilometres before admitting defeat.
In compensation for all this agro, Deborah had produced a ‘packed lunch’ unsurpassed by anything we would describe thus. A full spread of food littered the picnic table we had chosen to grace with our presence and we clearly won the competition for the best spread with our French neighbours. And, believe me, to beat the French at their own game, is a huge achievement. We fell short only on the paucity of knives!
By early evening sat nav informed us that we had arrived at our destination (yes, she improved as the day went on). It was with some misgivings that we viewed the building on our right. Certainly dilapidated and smelly with cows. Thankfully a few metres further along the track, we located our building on the left. Not dilapidated, with a beautiful garden and a warm welcome. Phew!

All packed now and ready to ride. Roscoff tomorrow.  Hopefully a fair wind and no rain. We shall see…………..

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Nearly Ready Again

May 2015.
It's all here somewhere!
Preparations for the commencement of La Velodyssee are moving apace, which is just as well as the intended departure date is only three days away! The resident purveyor of all things mechanical has scoured the barn for ‘stuff ‘and, unsurprisingly, numerous ‘must haves’ have proved difficult to locate, lurking, as they are, underneath lots of other ‘stuff’ which is not on the inevitable LIST and thus not required.  However, the sprawling heap of ‘indispensable stuff’ now litters the floor and simply requires the usual effort of packing a quart into a pint pot. (For those of you of tender years, a quart is, or used to be, two pints or a quarter of a gallon). The volume is, however, slightly reduced as we have decided to avoid campsites in favour of B and B to preserve, as best we can, the old bones and all the other old bits. Thus the tent has been superseded by orange survival bags and  space blankets!  As neither of these is conducive to a good night’s rest, and probably a target for the emergency services, we trust the guide books deliver their promise of plentiful comfortable accommodation.
Thanks to satnav we can get lost so much more accurately
Mr. Mechanic has serviced trailers and bikes. My important contribution was to road test my equipment and observe the behaviour of the wheels on Al’s trailer which wobbled wildly last year until the tyres were changed. I could report that they were straight and non- wobbly. Whew! The road test went well. What went less well was the performance of legs and lungs! Nothing new there then.
We leave for Brittany on Friday and have only one tinsy problem – at the moment we are without transport as the bonnet cable on the car is f……( broken).  Having managed to prise open the bonnet a hole was discovered in the condenser for the air conditioning. Heyho. Tomorrow though all will be well?!
The stalwarts, in the form of Brendan and Deborah, have volunteered again to accompany us to the start and return the car home and, even pick us up at the finish. That Brendan is unable to drive yet due to his new hip still requiring care, makes Deborah’s contribution all the more praiseworthy. We are really, really grateful, honest.

What will unfold on our first day of cycling is, as ever, a mystery. Our original intention of leaving Roscoff and cycling back to our weekend B and B is looking ever more optimistic. Me thinks, 100kms and 1200m of climbing is probably a tad unrealistic for an introduction! You must wait, dear reader, with bated breath, for the first foray onto La Velocittee.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Update 2015

March 22nd 2015

Wow! It is almost a year ago that I posted the last blog and, while not a great deal has happened, Old Bones are still functioning and looking forward to the next venture; but more of that later.
It has to be said that the summer months even in France were not up to their usual standard of warmth and sunshine- more of a hit and miss regime. However, thirty plus years spent in the outdoors in S. Wales has honed our ability to rise above the inclement foibles of ‘weather’.
 A couple of hundred kilometres further south there was a marginal increase in temperature and the quantity of sunshine, thus,  much of July and August was spent in the Cantal riding the area that we already know well and that I have commented on previously. The difference this year was the company of members of our family who are endowed with much younger bones and an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm for pushing puffing to the limit! Not to be outdone, we undertook to introduce them to rides we enjoyed and, if they thought us slow, they refrained from comment. I took as a compliment the statement from my daughter in law when she said that I looked like a proper cyclist! I am still trying to imagine what an improper cyclist might look like! Sounds like it might be a lot more fun.
So, summer came and went with a smaller than usual number of kilometres covered. If we thought that autumn and winter weather would surprise us all with a promise of balmy days, we were to be disappointed. The autumn was wet and the winter has been cold and wet! However, in between building bedrooms, chopping down trees and skiing, we have pedalled a good few hundred kilometres in the Haute Vienne and embraced the weather ……………..or not as the case may be.
In no way could the countryside around our home be described as hilly, much less, mountainous. Aware that we lacked practice in climbing, I put forward a suggestion that we should spend a couple of days in the Pyrenees! The knack I have for getting things wrong is truly unsurpassed! We booked a delightful B&B called Pyrenees Emotions on the summit of the Col des Ares. The owners of which provide all manner of outdoor activities so we felt confident of a sympathetic welcome and such was the case. In no way could they be held responsible for the fact that the mist was impenetrable, the rain persistent and the temperatures only a few degrees short of zero! Did we ride? Of course we did! Wet, cold but elated at the end of the day. Or more accurately, we were elated after a hot shower and a glass of wine. The old bones could still get to the top of a hill.

Encouraged by this fleeting sense of achievement, we searched for an enterprise for the spring/summer. So, confident but not over confident, Al suggested a north/ south journey through France. (My having vehemently discarded the silly suggestion of a north/ south journey through Africa!)  We discovered La Velodyssee, a route which commences in Roscoff and follows much of the western coast of France to finish at the Spanish border. What could be more pleasant? The answer to that question will be available at the hoped for completion of the ride! Preparations are in hand and we expect to actually mount the bikes towards the end of May……….to be continued.