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The old Gal and I made it to Venice, well not exactly!

I tied her to a tree in Fusina.

sunny -35 °C

Le Pradet to a spot slightly west by 8 miles from St. Raphael, this being just east of Frejus, a distance of around 30 miles. Frejus is west of St Maxime which in its turn is west of St. Tropez, and the aforementioned St Raphael, 15 miles further to the east is Cannes. All places mentioned are on the route D559 which at times become the N98. When I reach Cannes I will be 20 odd miles from Monaco. At that point I will have passed Nice, this being my only real chance of getting a replacement hoof, so I`m told by others, for the old Gal. I hope I get it.!

Now I know you were attentive and noticed those evocative names that I`ve `dropped`.. To be honest despite all the fun I`m having it is tainted with the slight worry of obtaining a tyre. I`ve changed one, and `The peoples republic of China` I`m sorry – have let me down badly on that, that tyre has been discarded, it could not deal with weight of me and my bags. The old Gal can, but Chinese tyres cannot. I`ve now changed that one for the one I`d all this time been carrying – My Michelin Continental touring plus 32-622 with a slim tube... So now no spare, and a balding one on the front wheel, and yes before you say it I will, another balding one in the saddle.

For me, because I have loved the sea, particularly the mediteranean, and for so many years, is why at this time it was good to see her again, and it made cycling along the D559 an absolute pleasure. The road runs alongside at points within metres, then Climbs steeply upwards for a mile or so, still with a view of the sea, and then swoops downwards again. Sometimes the road drifted inland for a while but would always come back to the sea with a rush, and at that point I always got this lifting of spirits – not that they were down, but that they were boosted to these almost euphoric levels.. Really really happy days of pedalling .... Looking back from this point...(Day/Time of writing 5pm Monday 13th June). .. It will always remain an added dimension of cycling to Cyprus, that something extra, A superb add on, that experience of cycling down the length of the French, and a little of the Italian Riviera.

It was not all plain sailing however, as you know. I had a total of 5 punctures, and a lot of the resultant grief was the incompetence of others, but I must also mention my own incompetence. I assumed that the staff in bike shops knew what they are doing, this is not usually true of me. I`m usually a tad more cynical. By explanation: My attitude could have been more relaxed than it would have been had I been in the UK.. Here in France, I was more like a simpering dog, because I was struggling, a kindly word in a language I didn`t understand disarmed me. It was an appreciation that it was their intention to help me, so inevitably because of the way I felt and against my better judgement I let them do just that – Help me - Result was that it was much like letting lunatics loose with the chickens..... I shouldn`t have done it... But there we are I did! I`m slightly shame faced ... but I`m over it - I`ve moved on – The experience will become a much embellished story for a night with friends and a beer, at a point much much later. … What a cracking mixed metaphor that was !....I Love it.... I`m gonna keep it in!..

Because I`ve been begging internet connections along the way, which I have to say works reasonably well.. It has of late become more difficult to do so successfully... McDonalds? yes I`ve done that, have you tasted the Cheeseburger, I squashed it into a palm sized shape... When I asked for it, they took it out of a ``heated place` and gave it to me – not on a plate, but already wrapped, it was ready to go. It was like a warm, squashy bar of spongy playdoh?, push a finger into it and you then use the impression that remains as a mould to make? Oh I dunno - a replica finger ?. I took this and it must be said, a fairly decent black coffee to my place by the window... examined and finally tasted the Cheeseburger....... Right, lets move on... The cost? 6 and something euros inclusive...... It should be noted that their free internet service wouldn`t let me post photo`s.. and booted me off lots of times.

When I arrived at Menton in the full knowledge that this would be my last night in France, I was on full look-out duty for the one campsite that existed there... Twas a bit tricky. I`d already checked with the tourist information office, who it must be said collectively, very good. You can ask them almost anything. One fellow cyclist I`d met earlier on in this trip would always get them to ring the campsites ahead to make sure that they would be open and ready to accept him. I always wondered how it was that he knew he`d have enough fire in his belly to get himself to these farflung destinations. It is hopeless for me, my planning consists of no planning... Get on the bike and ride as far as you can, and then at a reasonable time, and with sketchy details in mind, prepare to land and set up camp.. I`m more lucky than not and there has mostly always been somewhere close to hand. Sleeping out is no real problem just so long as you don`t do it consecutively for far too many times. You instinctively know when that moment has arrived. The Campsite is called St Michels Plateau. A plateau it was not, it was on the side of a hill, and camping was on Piano or Piani, which as most will know are Step or Steps. It was going to be like that now for me for my remaining time cycling alongside the med. The mountains encroached on the sea and a lot went on in the sometimes very minimal space between.

Next morning I made my way to Italy, and within 20 or so minutes I was there and pedalling my way to Ventimiglia. I had arrived, and not a soul knew. I had a rough idea where the actual event may have taken place, but I can`t be sure. There wasn`t a separation in the Tarmac, you know this bit laid by the French and that bit laid by the Italians, no clues at all - bar one. They`d forgotten about the language on the roadsigns, it was where they`d slipped up. When I saw those I knew for sure I was in Italy.

Over the ensuing days it was quickly through San Remo, Imperia, Alassio, Albenga, Loano, Finale Ligure (was there one before this?) Vado Ligure and Savona, then onwards to Varazze – I then made a decision to go only as far as Arenzano to the campsite there which is on a little spit of land. On the South side you have first the railway, a few metres from the camp perimeter, and south of that by only a few metres is the sea and the beach. Access to that is a fob system, thru` the gate, thru the tunnel (under the railway) and on to the beach which in itself is very narrow..Oh! - I nearly forgot, on the north side of the campsite is a very busy main link road that would eventually take me to Genoa. The campsite itself is a hubbub of noise, full with people and the places they live in all squashed together. The narrow pathways which join the individual camp sites together are busy with people... But it is all very clean.. The sanitary area was really attractive, potted plants with huge leaves, tall and grand so you could hide behind them if you so wished, seats to lounge on and people and kids chatting.. It put me in mind of the Roman Baths, where all sorts of activities took place, as well as the more conventional uses of the ablution block. But here, as far as I could tell it was all very proper and extremely pleasant. I would never ever have thought I`d say anything like that about a toilet - But there it is - I Said it!

The decision to break off here at Arenzano, was purely to get a good clear run through Genoa and plenty of time to do it in, and then getting out and into somewhere rural to sleep and eat, away from city folk, it`s a very built up area, industrialised and very busy, there`s the Port and all the activities associated with that. Ferries also leave here for a range of places: Malta, Spain, Tunis and Tangiers to name but a few. There are also the activities associated with the Commercial Docks, containers and the movement of.. I was a bit apprehensive well, the old Gal more so, ``we could be a blot on the windscreen of one of those trucks``....... She said!

Enough of Arenzano. I took my leave, said Addio to no one in particular but to everyone in general and made off toward Genoa. Even when I arrived it took another hour to get out.. It is quite a journey on a bike.. It was not too long before I spotted a decent Bakery, it was Sunday and there was, as I expected the rush for the few remaining hours of trading, I took stock, thought too many people and not enough goods displayed and left... We then headed off to another venue and bought two wonderful looking slices of Foccachia. One a Vedura - green veg and potato... and the other a more standard fare, but still a generous slice of Foccachia, tomato and mozzerella with a liberal sprinkling of basil and thyme at another venue ten minutes away.... Could there be anything wrong with my purchases, always go to the busiest restaurants they say?.. I ate them later at Lunch, they were marvellous.

It started off as a slight incline but did develop into a hill and then it was full on climb all the way to Rovegno.. It was ok, and enjoyable it helped that I was leaving Genoa and all its industry behind..and was now heading up into the peace and quiet of the mountain forests.... It wasn`t until around 6pm that I arrived at Rovegno, for me, one of the top 3 campsites of the whole trip and it had come as a complete surprise. Best things usually do don`t they?

Campsite La Fontinella in Rovegno has been run for around ten years by the same couple. Most sites are only open for part of the year as is this one. They are too far away to be patronised by the beachside holiday camping crowd, and considered too low in altitude by the mountaineering fraternity. However there is a lucrative market between July August and maybe September when it is too hot even for the Italians to sunbathe on the beach... La Fontinella then cashes in.. I guess we would not like to be there then – But May and June... Perfect, great natural facilities, terrific forest walks and a lot less people!..

Made it only as far as Rivergaro, 40 miles, decided that Piacenza would wait until tomorrow!. Not much to say about this one so I won`t. 14 Euro`s for the night and 50 cents for a 3 minute shower. Did not have a ``stop`` facility for the shower shavers amongst us!..

It is a great town but a cyclist would be doomed to wander its busy streets for all eternity unless he knew someone who knows those Signless streets. They have names but no directions or road numbers as to where they might lead. I must qualify that they do! but they are of the motorway kind, and for me, they are off the menu, bikes, as you and I know are banned...I wanted to go to Mantova, and the only signs that have any relevancy would put me on the Motorway.. It`s the scale of the map thing again, I do know that... Anyway, finally spoke to a chap who gave me perfect, but complicated directions that would put me on a cycle track alongside the River Po... He and I struggled to find a word that would describe the sort of road I`d now spend the best part of the afternoon on, I suggested and we then settled on ``Cyclepath`` (I should have kept my mouth at that stage firmly shut!).. He was such a helpful and approachable guy.. A more appropriate phrase to describe this route might have been ``A road, unmetaled and used by heavy agricultural machinery and in all weathers`` - Such a hot day, the old Gal lost a spoke on the front wheel. Such an adventure..but of the slow kind. I`m here now in Cremona tending to her and my needs.

This is purely an aside, but when the old Gal and I were in Monte Carlo, all that time ago, we imagined what it must be like. We, like those 200 Kilometres an hour formula one racing cars were now treading the same route. It`s funny how the realisation hits you. Suddenly without any awareness of anything other than surviving as a cyclist and being amongst and close to other threatening motorised stuff, and at the same time trying not to get flattened, and then as the task develops into ultimately getting out of there unscathed, that this is a very famous and a very recognisable racing track, and I was on it, and I was racing!....... It was bloody marvellous and I survived!...

Todate, and primarily because of the unavailability of WiFi I`m A Bit behind... I must catch up. I am now in Venice.. I`m staying on a Campsite in Fusina, and just across the Lagoon is Venice, a ten minute boat ride. Tomorrow, I Tie the old Gal to the tree, walk out of the campsite, and down the road, 3 mins, up the gangplank, board the ferry and toodle across to St. Marks`s square. I am so much looking forward to it, albeit slightly guiltily .. well I should be working shouldn`t I .. !

It occurs to me that many of you may have no idea that the one motivational reason for me to begin this trip and then to complete it no matter what, can be found on Justgiving.com/brian-pilkington/1 .. Do please visit.. let me know what you think.

Posted by BikingBarman 05:52 Archived in Italy

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Hi Brian, thanks for your blog. I'll post it up on the wall for all to see, I've had loads of customers asking how you're doing so now I can tell them. I get lots of questions from customers, most often asked is how far has he gone so far (in miles), and I bet he gets a few punctures? We would love to know the 'stats' on your next blog.
Cheers, Deano.

by Deano.boss

Hi Brian, I have taken a ridiculous time to get around to catching up with your blog, but I am at last now doing so. I always feel compelled to do these things in chronological order, so starting oldest first to get a real sense of your journey thus far. I have still only got to the end of June! I did sneak a preview at your latest entry though and noticed you are having some serious bike issues. I hope you have found what you need and are back on your wheels again.

I think what you are doing is quite amazing and I must say I am most jealous. But at the same time you know I got my bike out the shed for the first time in ages the other week. I went for about a mile, and then returned home. Exhausted! So, it went back in the shed. You will understand what it’s like when you get to my age!

As for me I haven’t been on a big ‘bike trek’ like yours, but have gone trekking (I seem to be best on my two feet at walking pace, can go forever). What I appreciated the most was meeting so many people and seeing so many places and all the little sharing experiences that I am sure you have also enjoyed. But I also know despite meeting so many people those meetings are always transient affairs and so strangely it can get kind of lonely at times especially when you are having a difficult time. But after any difficult time I find there always is a reward around the corner just for passing the tests.

So I hope things are going well for you now, but if they are not - keep going and I know things will be great. Besides, I am really loving reading your posts and your humour too does make me chuckle.

I wish you all the best, I bet despite all challenges you're having the time of your life – so enjoy!

by stevem23

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