To the foot of Mont Ventoux

Day 1 was all about getting to the start point of the first climb. The long drive and preparing the bikes and the cyclists.

Our home for the next week was a 6 berth motor home hired from a little place on the outskirts of Nice City.

The first drive was a long one and I didn’t envy Craig’s job for the day. He chose the toll roads as far as he could. I hadn’t properly looked at the alternatives so wasn’t in a position to judge the choice. But realised you have got to trust the driver to pick the driving route just like I trusted the Cyclist (oops I mean Aldo) to make the cycle route choices.

 

 

The little warm-up cycle took us through the town of Bédoin and out the other side past the start of the climb. There was more tinkering with the bikes than we imagined was needed but getting the gears and the brakes working well turned out to be the main achievement of the jaunt. We struggled for the first half but as soon as we started back we realised what looked flat was in fact quite an incline. We just thought the Garmins were playing up. Also the wind wasn’t our friend on the way out.

 

 

 

 

 

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Alps trip Day minus one

 

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Shave or Not ?

Thursday night was for packing but a sequence of events, including a surprise visitor put this on hold. Dhakin is within walking distance and was shouting our names, plenty time on Friday to pack.

I carried out an informal poll mostly with friends who had seen or contributed on my Facebook post. Most people’s reaction, guys and girls went something like OH FUCK NO There were not too many people with words of encouragement so thanks to the few including my old work friend Donna. And thanks to Cheryl who seemed stragedy keen on this and wanted to wield the razor and do the deed herself.

To some of my female friends out there…… MY LEGS ARE NOW SMOOTHER THAN YOURS

It’s all about the bum cheeks

I took the saddle from the old/winter/commuting bike and stuck  it on the new baby. As it happens I think it still needs a little adjustment so might have another quickie ride midweek. The white saddle on the all black number doesn’t look so good but the quality of the ride is more important than the looks.

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check out the unshaven legs

Today’s ride out was meant to be just a spin to check out the saddle. It turned out to be a lung bursting, thigh burning, wound tugging ten mile blast.

New Bike

Got myself a new bicycle for the trip but none of these

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Tested this one in LEIPZIG

These German bikes strangely have only got brakes at front, which you don’t use apparently. To brake you pedal backwards

I tried to cycle as slow as Helen but despite my reputation, I didn’t manage to.

 

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Tested this classic on the roads around Lake Garda

Alps 2016

It was early days and the first real trip for both of us. A little Island of the west coast of Scotland so close to home – Arran was our Alps. Both of us were lacking in fitness and were both carrying a little more weight than we are now so the big hills on this Island felt like mountains.

To be honest Aldo was carrying a bit more extra weight than I was and was a good bit less fit. I’m not calling him a fat bastard but he really struggled to climb out of every town. I’m not calling myself an evil bastard but every time I would wait for him at a point near the top of the hill, rest, wait for him to catch up again and carry on my way giving him no respite

These days Aldo is fitter and stronger than I am, he waits for me on hills and doesn’t fuck off when I catch him.

This years trip to the French Alps was all Aldo’s choosing, we agreed this. But I can’t help thinking he just wants his own back.

Final stage to Montijo!

I had booked breakfast at the Evora hotel as there was a good choice of bus times to Lisbon throughout the morning, so no hurry. I had a feeling breakfast might not be the best and considered skipping it but after the weakness I experienced yesterday morning I thought anything was better than nothing. And of course there was caffeine on offer. So we set our alarms for 7.20, enough time to wake, splash water on our faces and wander down to breakfast in our half sleep state, in time for the diner opening. Even for half past seven the hotel corridors seemed strangely quiet as we crept along to the stairs and down one floor to the reception and breakfasting area. As we got near the foot of the stairs, we could see the guy who was on reception yesterday. I knew what I didn’t like about him and didn’t need to explain it as Cheryl felt the same; he wasn’t unhelpful just a bit short and offhand, definitely not giving the customer service experience I expected. He was setting out the cutlery on the tables; this and the lack of food smells from the area suggested that things weren’t quite ready. Before we reached the dining area, before we reached the bottom of the stairs we were crudely informed that breakfast wasn’t open until half past seven. I thought we may have been a few minutes early and the receptionist, come waiter was pedantic as well as humourless. I looked at my phone to be sure, it was just after 7.30, so I shouted back in a quizzical voice. Only to be informed “That is Spanish time!”

“Feck!”, I thought. As we walked back to the room my mind started working overtime. Why hadn’t my phone changed to Portuguese time? Not very bloody smart for a smart phone. The iPad hadn’t changed time but I wouldn’t have expected it to as it hadn’t changed all the time we’d been in Spain. Ironically it was now back at the correct time. Cheryl’s watch had stopped in Segovia, a bit inconvenient for her but she had kept wearing it, I’m sure I saw her check it when we were told it was only half six. The bus from Elvas the day before hadn’t left 15 minutes before it was meant to, Cheryl was just at the bus station so damn early that she had caught the earlier one without realising. When we went back to the hotel for a 2 pm check-in yesterday, Mr Charming actually let us in an hour early, maybe not so pedantic after all… though still an unfriendly grump.

We returned over an hour half later, the Portuguese charmer was back on reception. He greeted us with a smile for the first time since our arrival. And of course the expected smart ass comment was delivered.. and another smile, so he does have a sense of humour. Hilarious. Breakfast wasn’t great and the coffee was pretty shit. We chose carefully and I gathered my now customary napkin full of little biscuits and pastries.

Very soon after completing the cobblestone run out of Evora I was giving myself such a hard time. I had skipped the base layer this morning as the sun was out and the forecast was for hot all day. It wasn’t so hot in the morning, it was pretty damn cold. For the next few miles I kept shouting curses at myself, mostly ‘idiot’ along with one or two other words that would tell any listeners what kind of idiot I was. I eventually got rid of this rage and forgot about being cold, or else it just got warmer.

I felt loads better today than I did at the start of yesterday. I still had this pain above my heel but it wasn’t hindering me like before and everything else was fine. I have a similar distance to travel to yesterday but only half the climbing and a significant part of this in the first 8.5 miles. At this stage I have climbed to 1150 feet, which is the highest point of the day. I didn’t mind the gradual climb, which was short of six miles but included no huge gradients. It was a good feeling as it was about 55 miles ‘down’ to sea level to the ferry port at Montijo, I didn’t kid myself that it was all downhill from here but there were no major climbs.

This was the windiest day so far and for the first 15 miles I was heading north-west, straight into the north-westerly. Three miles before reaching Montemor-o-Novo the direction changed to a more westerly route with only short spells heading north-west.

monMontemor-o-Novo is a big milestone of my journey. This is where I crashed out on the reverse journey two years before. As I approached there were tears in my eyes (the wind had found it’s way under my sunglasses). I continued on and cycled straight through the town, it was a bigger place than I remember. I clocked the cobbled hill where I eventaully stopped and the Stop sign at the far end of town where I first gave up. I had it in my mind to stop there and take a new photo at the signpost but I couldn’t be arsed stopping on a hill. I had got some speed up and was enjoying the descent. Aldo text me soon after leaving Montemor-o-Novo, halfway to my lunch stop at Vendas Novas. He’d touched down and was looking forward to welcoming me – with a Super Bock or two.

Vendas Novas was also longer to cycle through than I remember. I kept a lookout for the roadside cafe that we stopped at last time. It was the last building on the outskirts going away from the town, which means two years ago it was the first building in Vendas Novas. Last time when we asked Brian to find a good food stop in here he selected this place, which was ideal. Did he look around and scout about and make an informed decision, did he just get lucky or did he settle for the very first place he saw? Whichever, he made a damn good choice, good enough for me to revisit next time around. The place was quiet, empty outside so I parked my bike near to the table I was going to sit at. I had a quick look at the menu and a quick look at the translator page on my phone then went inside to order. The girl that served me was charming, I think I humoured her with my brillant and fluent Portuguese.

I don’t remember the road much from my lunch spot to the ferry port, except it was relatively flat but windy. I did have a few stops for text conversations and even a phone call. Aldo mostly gave me abuse but did check out the ferry times for me. Cheryl kept me up to date with her arrival, the hotel check-in and meeting up with Aldo & Karen among other anecdotes that kept me amused. One read ‘Hurry-up I can’t drink any more wine’. This was funny for two reasons, firstly because I knew she was serious and secondly because it took her two text messages to complete the message. Obviously the wine was starting to take effect.

The ferry hadn’t arrived at Montijo, I cycled round the area where I reckoned it should be docking. After talking with three Portuguese guys I found out that the ferry hadn’t arrived in Montijo at any time today, in fact for the last several years it hadn’t arrived. The ferry port was now a mile or two along the road in a place called Cias do Siexalinho, which was the port which we landed two years previous. Haha, two years ago I thought we got off the boat too early. Strange how we find reasoning for our mistakes, stop searching after we find the first plausible one and make it fact in our head without further investigation. Until it is shattered of course, by three drunk Portuguese guys who didn’t know the time of day.

I didn’t really realise it at the time and I never thought about it when I planned it but the ferry port was the end of my journey, at least as far as the cycling went. Aldo met me off the boat in Lisbon with the customary EE handshake. I was at Journey’s End. I have completed my Stage 1 and can now, as Aldo reminded me, get on with cycling the rest of the tyre track across Europe. The party was over and another one was about to start. When we reached the Square and met Cheryl and Karen, I realised that the party had already started, I was just a little late.

 

IMG_0461IMG_0501IMG_0470IMG_0586DSC_0349DSC_0343DSC_0345lisbon3lisbon2DSC_0372  lisbon7lisbon1lisbon6 IMG_0491How did you get a balcony?lisbon5

First day in Portugal

To avoid the scenario we experienced in Segovia, we have both been setting a morning alarm. Cheryl had an early bus to catch from Elvas, which was 10 miles away across the Portuguese – Spanish border and neither of us wanted another attempt at the world suitcase packing speed record. I also wanted to get away early, even earlier than the other days so as to limit the amount of time I needed to cycle in the heat. It was a slightly longer journey today, only about six or seven more miles than yesterday but the amount of climbing was double. I got up at 6.15 after hitting the ‘snooze’ just once. I started getting ready and at 6.30 I had freshened up and was nearly ready. Cheryl checked the sky outside; I wanted to know if it was cloudy or clear and already blue. It was neither! We should really have been surprised at the lack of light, it was a dark shade of black! I looked into the street and all the cars had their lights on, I brought no lights with me for the bike, why would I need lights in the Spanish summer? Nothing for it but to chill for a while and put out of my mind that extra time in bed I could have had.

I switched on the laptop, made some chess moves and checked the weather for the day. Still looking hot in Evora, from about mid-morning it hits the thirties. I ate a couple of the breakfast bars that we’d bought at Cortes Ingles in Badajoz the day before. These bars tasted rather good so I stuck another three in my jersey pocket to enjoy later in the day. I would have helped Cheryl do the remaining of the packing but she was surprisingly relaxed and doing some yoga; her bus wasn’t for another two hours yet.

Sunrise or not, I decided just to get on the bike and go. There was a cycle lane on the pavement and I was going to hit the quiet road that runs alongside the motorway when I get to the edge of Badajoz, which is only a mile or two from the hotel.

I tried the cycle lane for a while but the surface was poor as it was just a painted part of the pavement. It was relatively light now and I didn’t consider it a danger cycling on the road in this semi-light. The road wasn’t very busy with cars though nearly all of them had their night lights on. I thought this strange, as although the sun wasn’t out fully it was still what I would consider daylight back home, at least for half the year this was the best it would get.

Every morning so far I have felt full of energy, though it’s not always lasted the full day. I didn’t feel it today. Today I felt drained, tired and sore. My right knee bothered me at some point every day on this trip but never like it bothered me today and never at the start of the day. The knee pain extended up the outside of my leg along my IT band and my left hip felt like it was out of its socket. The niggle of a pain that started yesterday above my heel, behind my ankle was now bloody sore on every push down and pull up on the pedal stroke. It was a bugger because when my right knee hurt, as it did today, I would push harder with my left leg but I couldn’t today. The first eight miles into Portugal and to the edge of Elvas was directly west and straight into a headwind, not hugely windy but enough to make me feel even more sorry for myself.

I checked, the first eight and a half miles have taken me nearly an hour and I was still feeling sorry for myself. Reaching the foot of the climb through Elvas gave me a little respite as the road turned towards the south, I was sheltered by the town so couldn’t even feel the crosswind. I took the hill slow, but not really much slower than I had been going on the flat. Elvas wasn’t a big place, surely I could find the bus station and meet Cheryl and get some painkillers from her before she gets on the bus. At the top of the hill I get a text, ‘on the bus, lucky I got here early x’

Leaving Elvas the road turned again and I was heading due south and downhill, well up and downhill, though mostly downhill. On a little uphill section I thought my tyre was flat. I stopped and checked it. No flat but the back tyre was pretty soft. How long has it been that soft? What AM I doing here? No doubt the tyre had been soft all morning but had it been like that since I got the flat a few days ago? I pumped it up as much as I could; now my arms were hurting too. I realised that despite my efforts to fill the tyres with air, with this small hand pump they would always be less inflated than I would like. When I got back on the bike it felt great, my legs got a stretch and after a short while I could feel the tightness round my IT band and hip loosening. The pain above my heel even eased off enough not to bother me.

The next fifty miles were constant ups and downs. I did enjoy the many descents along the way but invariably as I was descending I could see the road rise at the other side of each little valley. At the end of the climb up to Alandroal I missed the turn-off into the town, going round on the main by-pass road instead. I stopped at the far edge of town and contemplated going into town for breakfast but it was all uphill so decided to carry on to Redondo, fifteen miles further on and breakfast there instead. I went through Redondo, over all the cobbled streets, up some deserted streets and through the centre of town but didn’t see anywhere that took my fancy and before I knew it I was out the other side. I stopped on the grass verge at the side of the road, under a tree and contemplated the final twenty miles or so. I fed myself with the remaining breakfast bars and some Spanish jelly babies, added sun screen, removed the base layer and had the obligatory pee though not necessarily in that order. The jelly babies tasted different from the ones we get back home, still tasted good, just different. I’m used to eating the expressionless British jelly baby but these guys had a look on their face, it looked like guilt. It was kind of Cheryl to get these for me as the two bags of jelly baby rations I had brought with me had prematurely emptied. 

DSC_0323[1]It’s not a great picture of São Miguel de Machede but as with every town in Portugal I have passed so far, all the houses had white walls and corrugated red tiled roofs.

When I reached Evora I was feeling the best I’d felt all day. It was a real workout today and I was working hard at the final climb into the town but the fact was I could work hard, at the start of the day I could not muster that energy. For the final few miles the temperature was into the nineties, it seemed I’d just about got here in time. When I got to the town square after a mile of cobbled roads I stopped at the fountain, removed my helmet and submerged most of my head. What a good feeling. Cheryl had text and told me she was in a café in a street just off the square. It wasn’t a surprise when I found her in a smart looking place with a young charming waiter. The food was good, she chose well.

The beer was good too……

As Cheryl got to Evora very early she managed to get some sightseeing in before I arrived. It was no doubt my poorest hotel choice of the trip and there was no getting into the room before 2.00. So after lunch in the old town we sorted out the room and got organised before an afternoon checking out the Roman remains and other attractions inside the Medieval Walls.

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