A Travellerspoint blog

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 Comments (2)

Journey from Bourg St. Andeol to Le Pradet.

Up at 6 a.m. Suited and booted and ready for the off, should really get in the habit of looking at the old Gal first tho`, I looked and could see that the tyres needed air.. Now the back one is a new one manufactured by the Peoples republic of China, as was the tube. The tyre itself is puncture resistant so does cost a little more than a normal one. Bought both items, Oh.. let`s see, 3 – 4 days ago, 19 Euros. Now couldn`t get the valve to operate properly. Pumped the air into the tube and the back pressure then put the air back into the pump.. Oh such fun, you should have been there.!

On the road by 0900, back into Bourg st Andeol, pattisserie and other shops, took some pictures. Do you know I could have so easily sat alongside all the old fellas in the outside coffee shops, Didn`t have an easy run today.. Still on the D86 which then became the N, something or the other, oops! bad memories there, but no, it did not suddenly become a motorway. - Pont Esprit, veered eastwood to Mondragon on the D44, N7 again this was not a motorway to Orange and it`s Arc de Triumph... Now this something is it not, It`s a version, albeit much smaller than the one in Paris.. Hey I missed Paris, perhaps I should not have?... I could have compared that with this.. This one in Orange, looks so alone, so right out of town.. and it`s smaller.. However it is compelling.. It rivets you, It`s celebrating something that took place 2000 years ago... Victories.. Of those over them... and it`s still there.. worn, slightly jaded, but my word still stunning... and so, so neglected.. Starbucks slipped up there …Oh for heavens sake! Did I say that ! (look at the photo`s).. Spot of lunch, sardines, olives, bread and cheese... This cheese, I must stop.... but it`s so so lovely!

Onwards to Courthezon, Bedarrides to finally, Sorgues – It was the sign for a Campsite, you have to develop an instinct for them. It`s still regarded as being too early in the Season for many.. So right now its a little cheaper.. Or they are just not open.. So instinct is a good tool. They omit a lot of the time to say exactly how far away they might be.. A nuisance when you are at the end of a hard day in the saddle so to speak to then find you have another 10k to go... doable, but who`s to say next time that it won`t be further.... Great in a car, a little more difficult on a bike.

Campsites these days are all about vehicles and their needs.. The size of them, what`s in them, what they can do with them, How much they can charge for them, what they are dragging around with them, on trailers, or what can be strapped to the back of these wonderful great Leviathans ..

I probably looked like a backwoods boy, you know, mouth hanging open as people disembarked from these ships of the road and were then deployed to their various tasks in the ``setting up of camp`` it`s almost a military operation. Can also be very funny...Now the man with the remote controlled caravan, under the directions being given by his wife, is trying first one position, and then another...I`m sorry, pay attention at the back. I`m not talking about the Kamasutra. I`m talking about positioning the caravan in the best possible place, to take advantage of all the amenities that are on offer. In my experience husbands and wives rarely agree on this..One always has to defer to the other. It is more amusing when dogs, or ducks, or small children are involved...I don`t think I will ever want to forget the memory I have of large posh caravan trundling around, sometimes in the undergrowth, apparently under its own steam..Bushes being squashed, dogs being rounded up, disturbed ducks taking flight and all of it accompanied by; - let`s just say ``challenging comments`` from both parents. You cannot pay money to go and see first rate entertainment such as this.

Camping in La Montagne, an attractive name for a very average campsite, amongst the pine trees, dark and gloomy, no grass and it rained overnight. It is situated alongside a motorway. The bar prices were e2.50 for 25cl bottles of Kronenbourg.. My thirst matched the bar tab.. Ouch!.. Next day a lot of what I packed was indeed mud... e15.00 per night. I was at this time just short of Avignon 30/5/11.

The weather was beginning to change, there would be thunder and lightening even if it didn`t actually rain, it was going to and heavily, for quite some time to come. I was to find this out. It would also be the day of the 1,000th mile, and what would turn out to be a very good run to Mallemort. Large Campsite at e14.00.a night. A very varied scenic ride from forests to craggy imposing mountain ranges. From granite craggs topped with medieval battlements, tall, grand and definitely imposing!, to open fields, babbling brooks and raging torrential rivers, it was certainly raining somewhere! And more of those pretty villages. I should really have pedalled further and longer but was so enjoying the views and shops that I didn`t. I bought baguettes, and cheese and yes I know! - and coffee. It was almost like a proper holiday..

Stayed that night at Camping Durance (the river) - Luberon (the region) This became the day of the beginning of over a week of incredible weather, incredible for me. The locals just think its a tad inclement, and what is this fuss about?. That night tuesday the 31st of may 11 – It felt and sounded like my poor tent was being thrashed with multiple birch switches and from all directions. Ceaseless lightening coupled with thunder, all of it remaining overhead or possibly may have been a succession of other storms coming and going.. Huge amounts of debris the following morning, scattered all over. The next couple of days me and the old Gal didn`t dare go out fully laden, she can be a bit unpredictable at the best of times, let alone with surging winds of up to 70k..

Friday the 3rd was the next time I could get out.. It was still raining and occasionally very heavily,
I said goodbye to some newly acquired friends, who said I should really stay, the weather has not really changed, this break in the weather is just a ploy, it will return, it will get you..I had things my own way, I left to get on, got out the gate, turned right, travelled 30m and hid under a tree.. for the next hour, hoping that no-one would come out of the camp and see me, the heavens were alight with thunder and lightening, the rain had returned. Another break in the weather I dashed to Mallemort, it was a washed out market day, a coffee shop, I tied the old Gal to a tree and watched her drown. I supped at a cafelait, and looked at her mournfully.

The following days were more of the same, I stayed at campsites, I slept out. Sleeping out does not appear to be a problem. I suspect it goes on quite a lot, what the eye does not see the heart does not grieve. I just try to make sure I get on a site at fairly regular intervals. Fast forward a little bit to Monday the 6th, I`d just left a campsite at Gemonos, a very damp and dank place, particularly with the weather being so grim. There were culverts everywhere and some had been built in the mid 1800`s so I guess the whole place was a flood plain, coping with all the water that came off the mountains on its crashing, splashing journey to the mediteranean. Climbed out of Gemenos for 10k, it was a gradual thing, it was early and I was fresh, the old Gal was creaking a bit with the added weight of water (everything was still wet – impossible to get dry – even the air is wet).. Along the flat for around 5k and then down for 10k into the heart of Toulon. Every now and again, on my right hand side I would catch a sight of the azure blue of the med, at those points I felt grand.

The more aware among you will spot that I didn`t call in at Marseille. I did not meet anyone who would say to me. ``Yes there are campsites in Marseille`` Other folk said don`t go, it is not for you!.. I will never know now whether it it was, or whether it wasn`t... I do not think there are any campsites at all in marseille. I will never try to find out, if you do, please keep it to yourself. Bottom line I guess is, I just didn`t fancy sleeping rough, out and in the city if there turned out to be none!.

This is the reason why I`m suddenly in Toulon, well actually Le plage du pin de Galle in Le Pradet... Just east of Toulon..Two fine beaches within 5 minutes walk, down the cliff.... La Plage de Monoco is the other more natural and wild looking, but both are very very pretty.. Cold sea, but what the heck who cares, it`s the Med.

We spoke of luck earlier on in the Blog... The following are just thoughts on two events:

Cycling mile after interminable mile after leaving Normandie and edging slightly east, but still southerly over vast farmed fields hardly a tree to break up the monotony of it all.. Sun beating down, overwhelming weariness, then suddenly a puncture... I stop, tyre now completely flat, only takes moments for all the air to leave. I look around and I`m in an oasis, ok, So it`s a humped back bridge, but it`s over a river surrounded by a small group of trees. Shade, essential as I`m exhausted by it all.. Water to dip my inflating inner tube into.... Not a sign of any other shade as far as the eye could see in either direction. That is the Good luck, you might possibly consider it bad luck I got the puncture in the first place. But it is a fact that I will collect punctures, it comes with the mileage. The trick is to have punctures/breakdowns in the right place, and a garage is only slightly better than an oasis.. And a garage can be a whole lot worse than an oasis, and we all know garages like that don`t we?

Coming down a hill on my way to Mallemort, not too fast there`s a stop sign at the bottom. Suddenly I hear an empty water bottle abandon ship, it falls off the back of the bike, shall I leave it? - No, I thought nobly, there`s enough litter about, don`t add to it, go back and pick it up.
As I`m pushing the old Gal to the spot where I thought it might have happened, I see my phone on the footpath, not in the bushes, but on the footpath and in full view! It was intact, usually in similar situations, bits fly off in all directions.

I have had problems with this phone since it ran out of contract, around August of last year. The screen blanks out quite often as I`m scrolling, or going from one application to the other. With texting it can be embarrassing... I`m in the middle of texting, screen blanks, keep going, its going to screen you just can`t see it. Come out of predictive, come down two, select non predictive, listen, it beeps, now spell, Hit the key, go along a couple of hits, select.. repeat actions to finish the word, back into predictive, and then you finish. Now be brave you know how far down the contact list he/she is, nine, ten, eleventh now select, and …....... send...

Don`t ever do this, it might be the moment that your life changes forever..!

We are odd aren`t we, - Human beings - We adapt so easily to different scenarios and then just get on with it.. But why didn`t I adapt like any other human being and just gone out and bought another phone?

Oh finish the story!.. Right !… Luck?... Well the fall from the bike resulted in the phone itself doing a diagnostic, it saw the the fault, fixed it and it has worked perfectly ever since.. Nonsense I know, but the reality is, is that it is working fine now, and in a strange and slightly perverse way I do miss the excitement of ``the old way of texting``

Luck - I went back without realising I`d lost it, it was also in plain sight, otherwise I would not have looked for it. When I realised later that I`d lost the phone I would not have known where to find it. I would not now foresee how I would have managed without the phone... The whole aspect of the trip would have changed.. It is not always possible to get internet access, this I have found out. Huge reliance is placed on a phone... Why didn`t I get it replaced when it first started to act up?. Well that`s easy, if I had of done, then quite clearly I would have broken it.. It is after all a slightly hazardous trip.

I love my luck...

However having said that I am not having too much luck uploading photos, maybe something to do with the connection.. I will try again tomorrow and thereafter... one upload of a single photo takes a fortnight.

Posted by BikingBarman 09:01 Comments (2)

Travelling from St Just en-Chevalet to Bourg St Andeol

As I was leaving St Just en-chevalet, some of the people that were about, were shouting words of encouragement, leastways I think they were as a I cycled past. Some made that pedalling motion with their arms; I`ve seen it before, it`s as tho` they are frantically turning a winch. It`s meant to urge me on, I find it embarrassing, I mean being caught quite openly struggling whilst going up a hill..I don`t think I`ll ever get used to it. I mean there is no way of hiding the pain.. I must just get on with it!.

Have bought 1:250,000 (1 cm=2,5km) as against what I had been using 1;1000000 (or 1cm:10km)
that is 4 x the scale... It has been life changing really, the difference that this has made.. Why didn`t I do it before, extra weight, economy... both entirely daft reasons... I have seen the light !

Stayed that night in another municipal campsite alongside the River Boan. I remained quite at a high altitude, maybe 700 or 800 metres although I didn`t realise this at the time. I stayed for a couple of days there, It meant I could Skype, pay bills and do all that day to day stuff that still has be done even tho` I`m away. A charming young lady pounced on me as soon as I navigated the barrier, hey that stops vehicles, but not a shaven headed thug like myself. 5 euros and they had internet access too... it`s hard to get It when I want it, so when I do get it I have a feast.

Thing are becoming a little more difficult, I have this pain in my left shoulder and upward to my neck, which will not go away, it does if I have these days off, but then comes right back again immediately I return to the regimen of cycling. I guess it relates to my riding position, drop handle bars, being hunched, almost like sitting at the bar.. (Now there`s a thing of the past). Next time perhaps a more suitable bike, with maybe straight handlebars, I really don`t know the answer to that one.. Anyway where am I ?. Yes the object is to complete, and not cry off thru` injury, So if it does mean easing off a bit, so that I can complete the Ride, then so be it.. .. whadya think guys?

Didn`t leave Boen until 1130a.m. I was indulging myself on Skype. It was only the 3rd time I`d used it since being out here. - A sudden thought. For the 2nd time on this journey I have been plagued with more flies than I`ve ever experienced before. There is always that constant background droning noise that denotes flies. Then suddenly the sun drops behind the horizon, still light mind, they all stop. So Tent flat open. All flies have gone off to do more interesting things.

Look, more about flies later, I instinctively know you want to hear more about these pesky varmints.

All now packed, quick trip to the supermarket for a couple of days rations and we`re away. Considering I was late, didn`t do to badly with the mileage, started on the flat, with little hills through to Montbrison where I met some steeper stuff, then as I got into St Just Rambert all on the D8 the last stretch into St Etienne it became a little more difficult. I found St Etienne a tad unpleasant, maybe because it was a hot and sunny afternoon, maybe I was tired. It was around 5pm. It was the rush hour, it was just awful navigating the traffic. And then this grim hill to get out of the place, misleading signposts and grumpier motorists. The drivers weren`t having an easy time of it. Had to rely on the `old sun on the right shoulder trick` but with care I might add, as the right road might initially head off in the wrong direction. I have to say I was very glad to leave St Etienne behind me, wouldn`t live there for all the tea in China.

Spent that night of course, in a field, the grass was short and soft.. I`m nearly behind the hedge – but because of the sweep of the road, I can still still be seen, on this occasion it can`t be helped. The journey here was interesting, in maybe 3 to 4 Kilometres the altitude went to 1000 metres. I found that an effort, it was as I say hot.. Now, I know you have been waiting waiting, this is the bit I promised you: More about the flies..! At around ¾ of the way to the top my head became the local meeting point for what seemed all of the flies, they brilliantly kept six inches in front of my nose and I know they were behind me, even up above. Certainly hundreds of the wretched things. I know I`m sweating with the effort of cycling, and that it was this that was attracting them however, it was beyond irritating it was horrendous, I breathed in they were in my nose, my mouth and buzzing around inside my helmet. Bloody awful and they were with me all the way to the top. Now the peak is described as a Vista Panoramica, well I have no argument with that statement... The name is Guzay, and it`s about 3 miles or so back from where I eventually spent the night,, on the short and soft grass... Dusk had fallen and I hadn`t been rousted – A cold supper tonight, will I have nightmares? Not for that, or the worries associated with my increased cholesterol, I just love this french cheese.

To all those people who saw me helicoptering my flourescent jacket furiously at them on their way down, I can only apologise. It were the flies - they were cause of my manic behaviour.

An eventful night that night on the short and soft grass, the increased likliehood of being spotted from the road raised my pulse, and unusual animal sounds throughout the night. What were they these big doglike sounds, barks are clearly defined by dogs, these were rolling ragged sounds which became muted – much like throat clearing.. Very odd.. I wondered much later whether they might be cows?..though why I say that I`ve no idea.

Left next morning at 0815, bag of rubbish on the back of the bike. I have this thing: When I`m at home, I might pop into Raynes Park for, lets say a newspaper. On, the way out however I`ll drop my rubbish off in the bin area of the flats where I live.. Well I`m sure you are way ahead of me. A similar thing happens with the bag of rubbish on the back of the old Gal, I end up taking it on a journey. Wait a minute I`ve just thought about those flies again. No - Couldn`t be could it !

It`s the 24th of may now. Through Planfoy, then a village called La Republique, onward to Col de Republique, eventual height of 1200 metres, and downwards pretty much all the way to Annonay. A very exciting 5 or 6 kilometre ride. That night Camping Communautaire de Voure in Annonay.. hosted me at 5 euro`s I think.

The following day became the day of `Day of the Stove` It`s spluttering and gasping. It now had become to much to bear for it and for me, it had to deep cleaned. Took it all to pieces those that I could. The pump mechanism defies me to this day, with its quite clear instructions to – align – twist – and pull. Sounds simple enough.. It`s quite beyond me. Everthing else, fine. It`s american a Whisperlite single burner (MSR) tube from the bottle connected to the burner via a tube. It`s multifuel, burns white gas, which is a kind of extra refined petroleum, burns very hot and clean. This was the fuel I started off with as I bought a litre with me. Now, no one has really heard of white gas, thats fine it is after all a multifuel stove, there are others I can use, there`s diesel for one, and dried elephant droppings for another, but I have opted for sans plomb, unleaded petrol, change the jet and bob`s your uncle, cleaned all the bits and bobs, reassembled, pressurised with the pump aaaaaaand it wouldn`t work. Fault find chart says clean it again. So did so, 4 times, and yes It then worked..

When I first bought unleaded petrol for the stove I didn`t know how the whole deal would work. What I mean is at the petrol pump. For instance can you buy petrol in amounts of a single litre, well I`ve never bought a litre before. I remember the days (I`m my dad now) when the minimum amount would be a half gallon, Anything less, well the meter would not have kicked in. And then there`s the queue, I`m on a bike on a french petrol forecourt, I park up, that`s difficult, is someone going to make off with it. It`s quite busy, lots of back and forth. I`m behind a lady, who`s looking at me with a deep sense of unease, The driver behind me thinks that he`s next, I`m thinking I am. But I don`t appear to have a car, but I do have a bottle. Can`t they see I have a bottle. The lady plainly relieved drives off, I plant my self firmly in front of the pump, I won`t let this car encroach on my space, I need room to operate. You know, the pump has a huge nozzle when you compare it to the small aperture on the bottle, it took ages. However , after all that, it all worked quite well really, and I gave the cashier euro 1.68 ..

There`s a moral here somewhere, oh here it is - if something doesn`t work the first time then clean it 4 times, it will then work –

This will be for no apparent or logical reason. It did work in a shabby fashion before I cleaned it. I then clean it 3 times, so it is cleaner and will work in a less shabby fashion. But no. It stubbornly continued not to function at all. Inanimate object wanted the fourth cleaning, before it then innocently sparked back into perfect working order.

There endeth the `Day of the Stove`

I`d better move on a bit I think otherwise I won`t get this in the post (Modern day interpretation of losing my internet connection)

Since Annonay, the cycling once I`m in the rhythm, has become a little easier.. It`s a state of mind. I Just keep going.. So then I went through or passed nearby - Tournon Sur Rhone, Valence, liked that city life, Charmes sur Rhone (overnight) Montelimar, and tonight I`m at Bourg St Andeol, (They are connected by the route D86 - mostly) liked the look and the feel of the town centre there, but that`s all I get, cos I`m leaving.. Heading off tomorrow for Orange and Avignon.

We shall see what we will see.

Posted by BikingBarman 07:02 Archived in France Comments (5)

Issy L`Eveque to Boen

all seasons in one day

This bit of the journey is from Issy l`Eveque. Damian the Chef de Camp a young man in his maybe mid 40`s and who has the most extraordinary hair, you know, long and huge and reddish. Has a job for the next 5 months thru` September. He was now to look after an ever increasing amount of tourists... Well, O.K at the moment he had me.. But there would be more, he would pull – he had so much of the Gaelic charm. Someone else was now drawing into the Camp.. There would now be several other campers and of course, the season had now started proper..The Campsite was truly open, word had spread. It was time for me to move on, for heavens sake, keep those pedals moving..This is not a holiday - I`ve Gotta get to Cyprus, then I can have a holiday.
P.S 14 Euros a night.

By the by - The Campsite unfortunately did have a deficit of local shops,the nearest being 10K away, fine for a guy and a motor, rubbish for me and my Bike, very rarely can you buy anything there in the local villages, as it seems most of the shops open briefly in the morning and shut at midday, they might then open at 1430 or 1445 thru` till maybe seven.. I really don`t know but it is certainly something along those lines..... However, I must state I have been thru` at these times and they have not been open at all. So as you can now see I have absolutely no idea what I`m talking about. Let us move on..

Did have a chat with Damian, before I did leave, and he did say that yes, it was quite right that there was a depletion of village life in a way that I`d mentioned before, but here in the area of Issy L`Eveque the reasons were different. The property here was so cheap, so certain folk have taken the decision that the the long commute, and maybe not coming home very night might be the way to get on the wretched property ladder.. Oh!.. So it`s not just an English thing then!...

On Tuesday the 17th.. slept out not far from Lapalisse which is again not far from Le Donjin. Did 45 miles that day. And yes I know I`m slowing. This day should not have happened, it all can only be described as a meanderless wandering. .. It does get worse...Spent the best part of the morning packing up at this wonderful site at Le Dijoin a wonderful municipal campsite..... Tis council. Oh yes it is, but are we not glad.. Nine euro`s.. I have nothing to complain about that.. showers, laundry, common room, with power and internet.. and of course the most charming company, met Rob who is going to go somewhere (hey! He`s my age) in Spain on a Tricycle... Some Trike..It did cost him around £3,000. The expense is all down to the gearing and the independent nature of the back wheels.. The bearings are expensive..I also left late that day due to meeting an expansive american couple on a Tandem, with a wife who I think plain and simply humoured and also quite clearly adored him... .. Saying cheerio to Rob also, who you just know you`ll meet again at and in the most unlikely of places.. Morrisons maybe.?. and there was in addition an English couple from Surrey who were cycling to Yugoslavia... I`ve forgotten what for, but they did have to be back for an important date. Some child`s wedding I think!.... It`s all slightly bizzare don`t you think.... This sort of thing never happened in the Edward Rayne....Well not as far as I know..

The miles, and the miles, and the miles. If the road is full of lumps I`m now accepting of it.. I`m to forget cycling the Raynes Park way... On the flat.. I have really began to notice more and more that there is so much more skyline than I`m used to, this I consider to be a fair exchange. Bring on the Central massif...Er!

I`ve wandered off the point, Oh yes, meanderless wanderings.. – Travelling with the sun burning on the right shoulder in the afternoon, when you don`t quite have the right scale of map works, it really does.. No, Not when it`s cloudy it doesn`t... Nor is it to be relied on at around midday... I guess you can all work that one out... I think I was using a bluff strategy.. It led completely to my bout of meanderless wanderings.. a third of my mileage was spent on correcting my route... and getting it all back on track. I was nearly depressed... slept in the woods that night.. listening to the wild life scampering about.. reading, texting those that text me.. and texting those that haven`t. It`s a mobile on, mobile off. Save the power.. who knows when I will get the timing right and arrive a proper site again at an appropriate time of day.

When place names have an additional word or two added on, such as `de Montagne you sort of know what you are going to get... Le Mayet de Montagne was such a place.. Very pretty, and er, hilly.

The next paragraph, or two; - I have thought pretty hard about whether I should include it.. It is very much an addition to my never before published list of `extremely silly things that I`ve done`.

I`ve decided to call this ``I will never ride a bicycle on a motorway – but I might do``

Cycling out of Lapalisse (now that`s a Town, I saw folk and open shops) I headed southwards following the signs..One pointed out quite clearly the motorway to Rouen and it was in regulatory colour, I know what that means. Underneath that sign was one other, quite ordinary road sign, a sign for me and my old Gal and Tippilina my silent navigator and erstwhile companion riding on the Bow, a sign that said Le Mayet de Montagne, and pointing in the same direction. This can happen, and is normal, it just means that there will be a slip road and it will veer off to the right, and it will happen in the next few minutes, long before I`m on the motorway. I will not be going on the motorway.

Inexplicably, I was now pedalling furiously on the motorway, there was no way out, nowhere back and nowhere to hide. How long would I be on this racetrack, ten miles?.. can`t stop I`m sure the penalty for walking is far higher than cycling?. The Gendarmerie will have been called by every car, lorry and bus that has passed me.. My days are numbered, how incredibly embarrassing!...

This stretch of motorway appears to have been an ad-on and my bit was around 4k`s long, before thankfully ending, and yes I was able to continue my Journey to Le Mayet.. etc.. Whilst I was recovering from my near death experience and regaining my bearings, a very nice couple in a 4 x 4 pulled alongside. They enquired as to the reasons why I had risked life and limb on doing such a stupid thing.. Now these guys were the Gendarmarie, all I could do was to be charm personified, and emphasise that I had made a terrible mistake and that I had no intention of repeating it..Ever! ….Phew!

It is true that the police look oh so young...These two, one female, the driver, were so very polite that my apprehension was almost a pleasure.

I stayed over night in St Just En-Chavalet municipal very pleasant, clean good facilities and at the
very inexpensive cost of 3 euros and 5 cents.

Today as I write, Saturday the 21st of MAY 11.. I`m sat in Boen campsite using their free wifi.. It`s another Municipal and again absolutely in pristine condition.. and 5 euro`s a night for me and my Gal. My spot is down by the river.. and right now I`ve a spot of washing to do.

Posted by BikingBarman 04:13 Archived in France Comments (0)

Travelling from Boulencourt to Issy-L`Evique

A change of weather, a change of fortune.

all seasons in one day

Today is Friday the 13th of May 2011.
I am not superstitious, the reason why it is that I have decided to go nowhere at all today will become apparent as I continue to write. You would be wrong to assume differently.

I was leaving Boulancourt with a sense of loss really, it had become a comfort zone for me. Now I was to be back on the lonely road and pressing on, trying to regain that sense of adventure that I used to have in spades when I was younger.

It was Sunday the 8th and as I was packing up to leave, I noticed quite casually and without any sense of irritation that I had a flat back tyre and a broken spoke on the front wheel. After effecting the necessary repairs I was then back in the saddle for around midday. That night and the following night as I made steady progress southwards I slept in as it turned out, very silly places. Ploughed fields which have just been seeded, and manured.. Do not do this, it was impossible to cook. We have all seen flies haven`t we. These were large, black with their pearl green, enamelled livery, and in their vast numbers, reduced the visibility substantially... uurgh!

I have now taken the decision, that in the future I shall cook-up on the road, and then camp further and later on.

Tuesday was an odd day, I left the hedge early and was enjoying the rolling hills of green, had my 2nd puncture around the 25 mile mark, took the kit off the bike, upended the `old Gal` prior to removing the rear wheel and beginning the process of repair and then, as I began to stand up – I fainted! … Talk about feeling insecure, I felt dreadful, not ill, well initially yes, but not after ten or so minutes. I felt just fragile, in a sense that I knew for sure that I was no longer as tough as old boots. Hmm I had to think that one thru` ! I did hurt my bum bone tho` It must have been the point of impact with the road. Still sore today. However I am fully recovered in all other ways.

Wednesday was the day of becoming fed up, becoming slightly peeved with the ups and downs, the similarity and the repetitiveness of it all. I found that I was now giving up on the hills and pushing the old Gal on foot, copping out really. I just think I was becoming tired with it all. I was thinking of bunking off for a bit, you know get in at a campsite and rest up. Had just struggled up this one hill to find right at the top in a small layby a bench table under a tree, this will do I thought. Out came the Wok, Olive Oil, Garlic, Chilli Pepper, Salt, Onion, slightly fried, add thinly sliced new potatoes and saute. Added tomatoes and tuna fish, the work of moments...., Perfick.

Camped in, yes, a field, warm with the setting sun and the buzzing of minature rural life. Upped the tent and just texted, and read, and slept.. However later that evening around 11pm … Thunder and lightening and all things frightening. My word did it rain. What a magnificent Tent. It stood impervious to it all. To those that are interested its a Helium 200 one/two man tent..

Completely rained in the following day, attempted several times during lulls in the rain to get kit packed, but was just getting everything wet, so when met with such staunch opposition, I did what anyone else would have done, I just threw it all back into the tent, climbed in after it, and read, and slept.

I was at this stage on the southern outskirts of a largish village named Luzy. Midpoint between Autun in the east and Nevers in the west, where roads D981, D985, D973 all meet. There was suddenly `a window of opportunity` Right! - Everything wet, it all went on to the wet bike, I was also wet, we struggled thru` a wet, clinging, prickly hedge, I climbed on the old Gal and we all went off down a winding wet road. Oh, and the rain was easing off.

I was on my back to Luzy, I needed the campsite, any campsite, I needed scrubbing, to be dried out, to enjoy a leisurely shower. I was passing thru` Luzy, I took a winding upward road, outward south easterly for 10k to a village called Issy-L`Eveque... and there as I came over the brow looking down toward the right was a small lake, surrounded by trees, the sun had since come out and it was now a lot warmer from the cold of earlier. This was it, I freewheeled down the hill, took a right and pedalled up to the reception window … It was shut, there was a message - it was still the closed season.

From behind me I heard ``Bonjour Monsieur`` He came from out of the trees he said they would be open tomorrow and could I wait. We spoke for some time. To be truly accurate he spoke and I listened and tried my best to understand. We came to an agreement that I was free to choose wherever I wanted to camp, that he would open up the Latrines, that I could charge my phone. That I was to be happy, and so I was, and so I am still. This will be my home for the next two days. I`m going to enjoy it immensely.

I took a cycle ride back into Issy-L`Eveque, at around 2.30 pm, the following day, it`s a small village, several shops including a florists that also sold some fruit and vegetables, a Boulangerie & Pattisserie, a tourist office a cluster of around, I dunno, 300 hundred houses spreading out from the village centre, In which there was a church, open to visitors. There was though, no evidence of any people, the shops were closed and since I have been in France it has been typical of most small villages that I have travelled through. That is apart from the odd one or two people walking about, there has been little sign of life, front of house, it may be that life is very apparent `back of house`.. For me cycling thru` the majority of these villages since Dieppe has sometimes been a lonely experience. This might not be true perhaps someone could enlighten me as to what is really happening within these villages?... Is everyone at work?, are they second homes?, How can the people that do `live` in these villages manage without the obvious support systems that go with a social network that used to be a village.? What happens to the old folk who still now sit on the same bench in the same village, and which no-one walks past as they used to, and as they did in the old days?....Would love to hear some other views!

And so this is why I am not superstitious. I have been extremely lucky, and there is 11hrs and 50 minutes left to go of the 13th... I am expectant, I am hopeful that I`ll get more of the same good luck.

Posted by BikingBarman 01:47 Archived in France Comments (4)

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