Day 2: Bodging it! (Monday 29th Sept)

September 29th, 2014
  Today Total
Distance 29 miles 92 miles (148km)
Height gain 470 metres 1354 metres (4442ft)
Calories 1300 4100

On day 1 I cycled a relatively long 63 miles (101km) which considering it was the first time I'd cycled with the bike fully laden was quite good.  I light of this I was amazed that today my legs weren't feeling too bad, so I set off early in the hope of getting a morning ferry to Calais and getting a few miles in on the other side of the channel.  I was also amazed that I wasn't feeling too bad as I didn't manage to find a cheap hotel so at about midnight I settled down on a bench on a cold damp village green somewhere just out of Canterbury and slept there.

The GPS I'd bought for the trip had cunningly avoided all the major roads and in doing so took me through some beautiful but really hilly scenery.  Sadly the bumpy, hilly roads took their toll on the bike again and it was starting to rattle a bit.  But the toll on the bike was slightly different to what the toll of driving though Dover might be as shown on the "Welcome to Dover" sign which appeard to have the words "drive safely" written in blood!  However, although the gears had survived, as I reached Dover I discovered both of my panniers had broken, the clips that hold them to the frame had both snapped meaning that every time I hit a bump they would fly up in the air like an old man's comb-over catching the wind. And when I rounded a corner they would fly out like a child at a wedding pretending to be an aeroplane. Granted, this must have looked funny to someone following, but for me it was dangerous. So in Dover I quickly visited a few bike shops to see if they could help, but no, I appear to have bought very specialist panniers! So I had to improvise....

dover blood

After buying random bits of metal and plastic ties I was stopped by an old man who said "hey, it looks like you're about to do the tour of France on that thing" now I'd pay to see that, a tour de France on a butchers bike!  But figured from his statement he'd probably never actually see then "Le Tour" and I headed to the ferry port and managed to get a ferry leaving a wet Dover just after lunch. I wouldn't recommend cycling though as you have to cycle to and into the ferry with all the big lorries and coaches who don't give you any space at all and are more interested in speeding as fast as possible to be at the front of the queue.  That's bad enough but then I had the embarrassment of lots of truckers laughing at my bike as I cycled up the steep ramp onto the boat.

Dover

But in no time I was in Calais, but instead of cycling on I found a hotel which bizarrely allowed me to take my bike to bed with me!  After explaining the problems with it he told me to take the bike into my room.... but just don't tell the cleaners...  So then I set about bodging the panniers...  So all you need to fix your broken panniers is two metal corner fittings, a couple of screws from a spare bike light fitting, some plastic ties and two tools which aren't suitable for the job but with brute force and ignorance plus the weight of me and my big feet it might just work....

bike bed

Et voila, lots of little bits of metal.... two sliding grips with plastic tie loop and two metal stays to stop the sliding grips going the wrong way. Granted, every time I need to take the panniers off I need to cut off the plastic tie, but I bought 100 so I should be fine!

before

So lots of work on the bike today but just 27 miles to show for it, although if I added the ferry distance that's about 47miles.... Sadly this means I've lost about a days cycle so far which could make the difference between getting to Andorra or not as I still have no feel for how long it will take...  Pants.

after

For more detail on route click HERE.

day 2 route

(© google maps)

Day 3. An unpleasant blockage. (Tuesday 30th Sept)

September 30th, 2014
  Today Total
Distance 77 miles 169 miles (272km)
Height gain 1474 metres 2829 metres (9281ft)
Calories 3100 7200

Today was my first proper cycle on French soil, actually not strictly true as I cycled around the island of Morea in French Polynesia, but excluding name dropping exotic colonies, this was the first time! 

I decided not to keep to the conventional coastal route to Paris but take a large detour towards a town called Arras, however what I wasn't expecting was the hilly nature of the countryside. I know the Somme area quite well and there are a few hills but nothing like here.  It was very pretty, so much so that it's actually been designated a national park.... "Caps et Marais d'Opale Natural Regional Park."

All was going reasonably well.... if I don't think too much about the hills.... until I reached Auchel then something quite bizarre happened and something that probably would never happen in the UK. They closed the road (D341) most of the way to Arras. 

roadblock

At first I thought, no problem, I'll follow the detour, but the first detour took me on a long climb to the top of a hill. Unfortunately at the top of a hill it quickly became apparent that the only way ahead was forwards down part of a motorway. Back down again.... then I used the Garmin GPS I had. To the top of another hill and then down a road which turned into a dirt track which I could not cycle down. Then my GPS after another steep climb took me to a road where bicycles were not allowed but by now I'd had enough, I cycled down it anyway.....

GPS showing the almost constant climbs.

climbs

After about an hour I found a way out through a random housing estate in the town of Divion but then came across another blocked road. This time I followed the detour but it was another biggy and took me up yet another steep hill via the small but pretty towns of Fresnicourt-le-Dolmen and Servins, but here I finally decided to do what the French do and ignore the diversions... nothing, no road works or anything.  

Route Diversions

 (© google maps)

In the end, thanks to getting lost and diversions taking me down roads I could not go, the last 20 miles to Arras took almost 4 hours with all of the hill climbing taking its toll.  After 80 miles I had to call it a day.  Although looking at the map the detours may not seem too bad but it had been demoralising, not being able to get to a point I could basically see.  It also added about 10miles further to the days cycle.....

Arras

arras

For more detail on route click HERE.

day 3 route

(© google maps)

Day 4. Snapped. (Wednesday 1st October)

October 1st, 2014
  Today Total
Distance 83 miles 252 miles (406km)
Height gain 798 metres 3626 metres (11896ft)
Calories 2800 10000

Today was the reason I'd made the soul destroying detour yesterday and didn't go directly to Paris. I set off to a little place called Grove Town, just south of a quiet little town called Albert.  On the journey to Albert I soon saw the reason I was here, as the early morning mist cleared to a perfectly blue sky to my right was an oasis of green trees and grass with the sun reflecting off thousands of pure white stones.  In front of the stones, three or four gardeners were tending to flowers while in another part, stone masons were putting finishing touches to the entrance way for the forthcoming armistice in the 100th year anniversary since the start of the war.  This was the first of many First World War grave sites I passed on the way to Albert.

WW! Graves

As you could guess from the name Grove Town, it's a British place and one rarely visited as it's not near any major sites and pretty well hidden down a number of country lanes.  This is the place on the Somme where my great grandad is buried and I try to visit every now and again to make sure the grave is being looked after. I eventually arrived at about midday to this oasis of green surrounded by bleak sandy brown clay ploughed soil. 

Grove Town

Grove Town

When there I placed the four poppies I'd had taped to the front of the bike since the start of the trip against the stone. Four poppies for each one of us in the family.  If you've got good eyesight you may also see that the date he died was the 28th September, the same day I set off. Coincidence?

grave

Cycling on to Paris I had to clear another dirt track. It was a little bumpier than I'd hoped but thought everything was OK until about 10 miles later when SNAP!  One of my spokes on my back wheel broke. I didn't have a way to fix it there and then so I had to nurse the bike and buckled wheel until I got to the next big city so I could get a replacement. A while later in a place called Parvillers-le-Quesnoy and again in Damery my GPS went mad, not only wanting to take me down dirt tracks but also massive detours, so far on average between 10 to 15 miles extra a day, this was majorly irritating. Because of this extra distance and the speed I had to go, I didn't make it to Paris which was also annoying as I'd booked a hotel which was non-refundable. £50 gone... more than I've got in charity donations so far! So, it had been an 83 mile day but I was still 50 miles north of Paris!

Here's a view of my dashboard I've been staring at for days!

dashboard

For more detail on route click HERE.

day 4 route

(© google maps)