Thursday, July 30, 2009

London to Paris Day 3 - The final leg

After having a very pleasant and pleasing day 2, day 3 started in a very similar manner, a bit cold but otherwise nice. 
After cycling through a very sleepy village we came back out into the countryside and another few hill climbs. 
What made this a bit special was cresting the hill and seeing a hot air balloon, no wait 2, 4, 7. 7 hot air balloons all at different heights, just rising above the peaks of some hills in the distance, the sun still quite low in the sky and some mist on the ground. It was stunningly beautiful, like a postcard.

The first rest stop came up on me very unexpectedly, it felt like I had only started and it was already time for a break. A quick stop for more bananas, water, and some raisins and I was off again. Spent a lot of the morning alone, which was incredibly pleasing and relaxing, I was truly able to relax and not think about anything, just the mileage that I was covering as the road zipped past at what several months earlier would have been impossible speeds.

As I stopped for a breather, I neglected to look ahead at the hill that was approaching, otherwise I would have just powered on up it and kept up my momentum. As I was a silly daniel, I didn't do this and had to walk for a bit after struggling with the first hundred feet or so. By stopping like this I was caught up by another rider, a girl from Italy who became a riding buddy for the next stage and a half. 
Whilst I was chatting to her I found out that I was the marker for several of the other riders and that they were trying to see who could keep up with me, I was easily spotted as for the 2nd day I had another brilliant white jersey on. The next rest stop also crept up on me and a pack formed as we waited for a few other riders that wanted to ride with us, for a bit of sport etc. I found this quite amusing and rode fairly close to the middle of the pack.
Eventually I got tired of how slowly they were actually travelling as I found it quite fatiguing compared to travelling at what I called my "natural" pace so I zipped off ahead and left them to it. I must not be a very social person as I much preferred my own company and enjoyed the cycle much more. 

The route took an unexpected turn and we ended up on very hilly terrain, I started to struggle a lot having wasted a lot of energy getting back up to speed after exerting myself by pootling along at a very inefficient (for me) pace.
The hills became daunting and at every part of the road it felt like the bike was being pulled down into the road and it took incredible exertion in order to make it move, on one hill I had to get off and push it to the top.
I thought I wasn't going to make it and that the next rest stop couldn't come soon enough. This was, as usual at the top of a hill. When I stopped here, I grabbed whatever food was available, it was getting more and more scarce as the tour was coming to an end and they had calculated it reasonably accurately.

I was egged on and left, knowing that there was an "epic" (their words, not mine) climb before lunch. This had me demoralised a bit, but a quick downhill blast on good tarmac cheered me up no end and we were soon back on the flat. I kept a lookout for anything that looked even similar to Paris but nothing appeared. 
The climb that was described as epic actually fitted the description, it was a series of alpine style hairpins that ascended about a thousand feet over the course of about 6 miles. For some reason I had no problem with this climb and the scenery was, as I am sure you are sick of hearing, beautiful. There was an almost middle eastern feel about it, lots of red rock (that I am assuming was sandstone) and an incredible heat, apparently one of the other riders clocked it at 38oC.
We arrived into a small city/large town and circled around what I am assuming was the outside of the city centre, lunch was at a golf course on the outskirts and was delicious (do you sense a recurring theme here?) and much appreciated even though the service was a bit disorganised.

During lunch there was a mini-briefing about what we were going to do that afternoon, especially with the entrance into Paris. After this, we all set off, largely as one unit and set about making it to the first stop, where we would regroup and set off again as one unit so that our entry to Paris was more condensed and organised, rather than very spread out as it had been over the previous days and rest stops.

The first hill was quite long and steep but nothing too stressful, what followed was a very steep and hairy descent through a village that must have been superglued to the side of a hill and had quite a few cobbled sections. Now as you can imagine, cobbles on a bike are bad, cobbles on a road bike, with high pressure skinny tires, no suspension and a saddle that felt like it was carved out of rock was pretty bad. Especially if your arse is already busted after a fall and 2 days of cycling on same saddle.

The regouping point was in a forest with a cycle lane through it, again very very pretty. Fruit was getting very low and had to make do with 2 scabby bananas and a half handful of the ever present raisins. Setting off together we were finally on the outskirts of Paris, this leg was a bit stressful and tougher than it could have been as there was a lot of jockeying for position nearer the front, lots and lots of traffic lights and a general uphill grind. As is usual with uphill sections, there is a downhill section that followed, made all the more interesting by the traffic, which being Paris at about 3.30 was backed up, overtaking cars on a downhill section with less than useful brakes and even less useful common sense is not to be recommended. It is however incredibly exhilarating and something you should probably do once at least (you may only get to do it once as it could be your last)

We grouped up once again at the Bois Du Boulogne, in paris traffic proper. This was to be our final stop before the Eiffel tower. This was an interesting leg navigation wise as there was a bunch of 80 tired cyclists, Parisian traffic, Parisian streets and a lack of signage. We all managed to make it through without much incident, I think one woman managed to hit a parked car and fall off but that was about it. We came down a hill and in front of us was it. The Eiffel tower, we had made it. It was an absolute site to behold and there was much ringing of the bicycle bells. It didn't quite stop there however, as we had to cycle around it, staying on the road until the entrance to the grassy area at the back. Upon arrival bicycles were promptly dumped on the grass and Champagne was distributed (well sparking wine that was quite warm)

After being chased off the grass by the park warden and interrupting someones wedding photos (very very very sorry about that) we had to get back on the bikes once more and head to the hotel. The bikes were popped into the back of a van and that was the last that we heard of them. 
And as luck may have it, that is the last that you will hear about the London to Paris cycle on this blog, unless of course I change my mind and decide to do it again.

Posted via email from Daniel's posterous

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trip To The Cinema

So last night, my wife, her nephew and myself decided to go to the cinema and catch the latest Harry Potter, it should have been a relatively painless experience but turned out to be very far from the truth.

Whilst the cinematic experience was in itself perfectly satisfactory, a good film, no interruptions in viewing by the projectionist, sound direction and levels all nicely set etc. The actual cinema experience left an awful lot to be desired.

Firstly and most importantly was the other patrons of the cinema, I was abused verbally and physically in the queue. I had to actually push someone back and basically tell them that if they didn't move their fucking heffalump arse I would move it for them. we had decent seats (i.e. not craning up or to either side to see the screen) but this had the effect of being right at the aisle, if one fucker went up and down those stairs 20 of them did. 

And what the fuck is it with the mobile phones? Do they have to have 12 million candela screens? Jesus H Christ, the guy in front of me actually answered his phone with "No I can't talk, I'm in the cinema" then proceeded to have a 5 minute conversation. Take that shit outside, you aren't that fucking important (believe me, he was no brain surgeon)
Every 30 seconds some cuntbag in my field of vision had their phone out and I was half blinded. Yes, you iPhone users as well, turn the fucking brightness down if you feel the need to use it in a very dark room. The only time I had my phone out was to make sure that it was on silent and that I had turned the vibrate off, does no one have any consideration for the other poor bastards that paid £6 for their tickets?

Secondly is the price. Last night cost about £35 all told for 3 people, a bag of sweets and a medium coke each. £35... I'm sorry but for £35 I would rather get a bluray disc, load it up into my excellent cinema system and have a few beers/ciders out of a Glass. It's no bloody wonder I don't go to the cinema anymore and paid out reasonable money for good kit at home. I'm just going to wait for stuff to hit bluray (or a HD Download :) ) and watch it there.

So all you inconsiderate cinema users, you can all go and fuck off.

Posted via email from Daniel's posterous

Saturday, July 11, 2009

London to Paris - Day 2

So after a very long and stressful first day cycling through the English countryside (which whilst quite pretty was a very gruelling cycle) we hopped on the ferry and made it to France in one piece.

Had a fantastic breakfast in the hotel, and made sure to stock up on starchy foods and generally fill our faces with french pastries and other goodies. After breakfast I decided to go and get my bike ready after it had been taken off the van it had stayed in that night, bringing my helmet, water bottles and gloves down with me to the grassy area outside the hotel (which was full of dog shit but anyway) I pop my stuff down and go looking for my bike. I then come back to the footpath and spend 40 minutes looking for my water bottles, did I leave htem in the hotel? did I leave them on the coach (no chance of ever seeing them again but I had them in my hand that morning) did I leave htem in my day bag with the other stuff that I might need during the day?) no, they were not in any of these places. 

They were in my helmet along with my gloves, exactly where I had left them, did I mention that we had a very long day previous to this?

We start cycling and I immediately find a problem, my foot is starting to hurt again and we hadn't even covered a mile, fortunately we had a stop after 2 miles at a cycle shop so people could pick up anything that they may have forgotten to bring. I managed to pick up a pair of adidas cycling shoes, in my size, for €32 which considering that they usually retail for about 3 times that I was quite pleased with.

The difference they made was unreal. I was able to put much more power down, more efficiently and my foot didn't hurt at all, €32 well spent in my book.

The morning's cycling was very pleasant indeed, with undulating terrain but travelling through a very picturesque part of France. The weather was ace as well, no wind at all but a very pleasant 33oC. Now you might think that this is unbearably warm, but it was very pleasant as even during the very fast downhill sections (where my motto was Tuck in, Fuck off) you didn't cool down much at all, but the lack of humidity made for very pleasant cycling weather. 

Coming in right (10-15 min out of 3 hrs) behind what I would class as the Elite Cyclists (guys that do it every day of the year and spent more on their bikes than I did on my car) I was very pleased with my progress and was able to spend a bit more time recuperating at each stop. 

Lunch, as the previous day was at the top of an incredibly long hill, not as steep this time however, but due to a headwind I had to get off and walk part of it.

After lunch we had a long downhill section to begin with followed by a series of hills. I think I ate the wrong things during lunch so was very tired and lacking in energy for the first 45 min or so, I don't think I had enough fruit for the fructose and other sugars that would have given me the necessary boost and kickstarted the oul legs again.

The next leg of the journey was absolutely magnificient, travelling through the rolling hills of the french countryside. I think that the elite class were missing out on some of this as they were driven to be first to arrive and would just keep the head down and cycle straight through, without taking a few minutes to appreciate the stunning beauty of the area. Unfortunately the jersey I was wearing that day didn't have pockets otherwise my iPhone would have been accompanying me and there would be a multitude of photos of just how beautiful the area is.

The next rest area was in a sleepy little village, probably a population of maybe 600. There was a wedding on and everyone in the village was out enjoying the good weather and the atmosphere. A stop at a local bar let me meet a few of my fellow travellers and I made good company straight away with one group in particular. They had the very very good drugs... A Doctor, a Pharmacist and a Psychiatrist, I mean they were packing everything, antibiotics, max strength codeine, the strongest painkillers without needing a controlled prescription etc. Good people to know. One of their party was really suffering though and was having a hard time making it through, she hadn't eaten since the ferry trip the previous evening and was having bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. She was absolutely driven to complete it though as she had lost her husband the previous year and was doing it for an arthritis charity that really looked after him.

Setting off from here there was a very much appreciated downhill section and some more rolling hills, nothing too strenuous and arriving at the hotel at 3pm or so was a welcome relief from the 7pm the previous day.

All in All a very good day and felt like I had done quite well!

Posted via email from Daniel's posterous

Monday, July 06, 2009

London to Paris cycle challenge - Day 0/1

Now that I'm back and settled after a few days in Edinburgh after completing the London to Paris cycle I've had time to reflect on a few things about it and life in general.
I'm going to write about each day of the cycle and what the terrain is actually like.
Day 0 Getting our bikes and getting to the starting line.
Interesting. Arrived in Stanstead after a seriously early flight, ran into an old friend at baggage collection but didn't have time to catch up properly. Discovered we did not have our visa card (which has since been reported missing) and had to make a cunning plan about our hotel in Edinburgh as they normally pre-authorise your card in case you rack up a big bill. Worked out fine in the end. Hopped on the stanstead express and was very glad we had sprung for the first class tickets as it was rush hour and the "poor boy" carriages were heaving. Got into Liverpool St. and immediately on to the tube to head to Wimbledon, arrived and was amazed at how busy the area was. Battled through the throngs of people trying to get the buses up to the tennis. Got our bikes from the very nice (and ridiculously cheap) people at TriAndRun ( ) fitted perfectly even though he only had our heights and weights. Now was fun, attempting to navigate the tube, train and road networks with bikes and large rucksacks to get to our hotel in Bexley several stops, waits and a reasonable walk later we arrive in what is essentially a village. Very pretty and nice and quiet, until we get to our hotel, which may as well have been sitting ON the motorway. Had some severely overpriced lunch and went for a sleep. Woke up and went to a local pub for a very cheap (but microwaved Iceland or similar) dinner, which was reasonably filling and didn't taste "bad" Early night, very hot room.
Day 1 London (Bexley) to Dover
This was initially meant to be London to Newhaven which was a bit shorter, the ferry company messed about the timings and we had to reroute our ferry via Dover instead.
Started off from the holiday inn after a lightish breakfast and arrived for the briefing. Got told, "today is going to be a bit stressful as we have a fixed deadline that we don't control, if you don't make it quick enough to the lunch stop you WILL be picked up by the back van. If you are not quick enough to the rest stops you WILL be picked up by the back van" etc. Got some more information and it decided to start raining, on go the ponchos.
The first leg was great, 20k in we had a stop with fruit water etc, set off again after about 15 min or so and immediately met some really rough terrain, bear in mind that these are proper road bikes we have with 0 suspension and pretty much no padding on the saddle, think sitting on the crossbar with a small piece of leather under you and you wouldn't be far wrong.
Lots and lots of uphill sections, really shit Tarmac and potholes, they neglected to tell us we would be cycling through the south Downs. Which in itself is a lie, it's all bloody ups.
On one of the ascents I drop down on the front chainring and the chain pops off (my fault, don't downshift under heavy power) binds up the cranks and turfs me off the bike, I managed to stay upright but my foot dragged under the pedal for a good 20 feet, I also managed to fall quite hard onto the crossbar with the associated injury, pain and indignity that it causes, needless to say I had a very interesting bruise that's still a bit painful and lumpy. At the top of one of the hills the medic passed me and gave it a look over, said it was likely sprained and my heart sank I thought i was going to end up having to pull out after not even lunch on the first day. Made it to the rest stop after sending laura on ahead, got my fruit and a small rest then set off again. Covered about 7 miles and couldn't make my foot work properly so waited for recovery by the Big White Van, got chucked in the back with the bikes as another couple were too slow/tired or something.
Got out at the next rest stop and got seen by a doctor who gave me some painkillers, note you CAN take ibuprofen and paracetamol together, and yes they do work VERY well together, got back on the bike and after a mile or two felt like a new man minus the very painful buttocks and groin, it didn't take the pain out of their but it did take the edge off. Another slightly misleading description of the terrain followed, "There's a bit of a hill before lunch" a bit of a hill. That would imply, to me at least, that it would be on the order of 4/5 in 100 not a 1 in 10 that went on for 4km. Managed to catch up with laura and passed several people, felt quite pleased with myself at not getting scooped by the van even though I left at the last possible minute from the rest stop.
Got to lunch and was severely disappointed, vegetarian with only a tuna salad for anything resembling meat. As I had taken so long to get there I only had about 20 minutes before we had to set off, whereas most of the others had about 50-90 min. The afternoon continues in the same vein, except the road surface worsens, really stressful trying to make a bike go up a really bad road as it literally drains the energy and willpower out of you. This time I see a worrying pattern forming, we are crossing valleys, so a downhill section that you can't really fly down as the road is rubbish, a bit damp, covered in gravel and quite windy, then it's counterpart on the other side of the valley, a long ascent on the same road surface, not good at all. Made worse by inconsiderate moron drivers who have acres of space on the other side of the road and yet still managed to hit Laura with their wing mirror.
Made it to the last rest stop near the back of the middle group of riders, a nice farmhouse with a grassy area to lie down on. Was informed that there was only another 20K to Dover. Did some mental calculations and despite my geography being rubbish figured out that we were still a reasonable height above sea level and that Dover, being a port, HAD to be at sea level and that meant one thing to me, more downhill than uphill and we were near food (okay, 2 things) hopped on the bike again and went like the clappers. Arrived in Dover after passing several people and forming a small platoon of riders on the outskirts of the town managed to make it to the port itself in a reasonable time and rolled in accompanied by the sound of bicycle bells from or group and cheers and applause from the 30 or so that had already arrived. Staggered on to the ferry after a small wait at the terminal for the later riders and the vans etc. Had a nice meal with everyone, spirits were a bit down as the day was so strenous and miserable.
Off the ferry at calais and back on the bikes to literally travel 2 or so kilometres to actually move 100m, stupid road closures and fences meant we had to drive around the whole terminal area. BTW Calais is very industrial and is full of very industrial buildings and not very pretty.
Got on the coach to take us to Dieppe, sat at the top of the stairs with our day bag and helmets, drifted off to sleep a few times but was startled awake by the fear of falling off my seat and down the very steep coach stairs. Got to the hotel after 2 1/2 hours and fell straight asleep smelling like a corpse and feeling like one as well.
Thanks today go to:
Dave the medic for looking at my foot and giving me temporary relief with some ibuprofen gel and lending me his Allen keys to lower my saddle.
Ian the doctor for giving me lots of painkillers and basically telling me not to be such a pussy and get back on the bloody bike.
Bob for making ne laugh by arriving at Folkestone and having to get on the train to Dover after he misread the directions.
Everyone else in the group for being really nice, supportive and friendy when I was lying on the grass at the rest stop with my busted foot.
And as always, my fantastic wife Laura, always pushing me on, being encouraging and always supportive and watching out for me.
Day 2 will follow soon as this has taken me about an hour to write on my iPhone.

Posted via email from Daniel's posterous

Saturday, July 04, 2009