Day 5 – Good things come to those who wait

Bonsoir!

So, the English leg of our Journey is now over and we are on the way to France. We’d like to say that the day has been stress free, but come on, its us. There have been a few issues, the biggest of which was Cyclemeter dying after about 20 miles. The phone did not charge properly on the previous night, and so when we set off, it only had about 20% battery life.
We could bore you all with tales of hilly roads which we really dislike, but we have been informed that its getting a bit boring. So, what else happened along the way? Well, when passing through the town of Alton we saw a steam train at the train station, and so of course, went to have a look.

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The rest of the trip to Portsmouth was pretty uneventful until our arrival.
While we had a bit of spare time (not much mind you), we went in search of maps for the French leg of the trip. While walking through the city centre, we saw a queue of people with bikes and the Police were looking at them all. Naturally we went to investigate.
The Police were offering free bike security checks and registration. Much like a car has a unique registration plate and is linked to its owner, our bikes are now registered to us on a Police database. In essence, our bikes are protected by the Police!

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“Excuse me sir, is this your vehicle?”

It would seem that Portsmouth signs are really confusing and were put on earth to confuse simple minds like ours. After having to use maps on Nikki’s phone, we eventually found that we were headed in the wrong direction. We also had Nikki’s dad directing from France over the phone. This wasn’t good when we had to check in in just over 15 minutes time, but…

WE DID IT!!! We made it to the ferry on time! While in the queue, we got taking to other cyclists who we would be sharing the ferry with. There was a really friendly family with two daughters who were enjoying the easter break by cycling around northern france. Nikki particularly liked their bike, they had converted an adult bike and a child bike into a tandem… why didn’t we think of doing that!?

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The other cyclist we met was Phil from Bristol who was cycling to Cherbourg. We have to say it was lovely meeting these people, as normally if we had been in a car we would have never have talked to anyone whereas instead we spent 2 hours in the bar talking with Phil (don’t worry, we haven’t broken our no spending rule, Phil kindly bought the drinks).

Now for the fun part!
It wasn’t exactly the smoothest crossing ever and Dan doesn’t have the best sea legs, so I think he was really struggling. The interior designer of the boat clearly didn’t have seasickness in mind when they designed this boat! The carpets in the corridors all had waves on them. This coupled with the rocking of the boat made for a very queasy tummy!!!! However we had more pressing problems , we did not have a cabin, but we had reclining chairs, which we both thought would be sufficient as a reclining chair is meant to do what it says and recline. How wrong we were! The chair reclined about a maximum of 10-15 degrees, and so it was near impossible to get a decent nights sleep on one. Add to that that they were next to the bar and the thought of getting any sleep went out of the window, or the porthole! So then the hunt began for a place to sleep! Thankfully kind Phil let us leave our bags in his cabin, so that took some of the pressure off. We contemplated corridors, bench chairs in the restaurant, and even under stairs on what looked like an engineering deck. After traversing the ship for at least an hour using the map in Nikki’s head, we finally found somewhere in the most unlikely place. It was squishy, it was quiet (for the time being), it was colourful, can you guess where we slept?

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No, your eyes are not deceiving you, that really is a children’s play area with a giant inflatable octopus! We started out sharing one pillow between us, however after a couple of hours, they turned the air conditioning on. Why would you do this in an abandoned children’s play area?!
So, once again, Nikki was on the hunt, but this time for a blanket. She came back with one blanket, and one inflatable pillow! I have to say, the pillow was the most useless invention ever! We had to now change our sleeping position. We were now sleeping top to tail and sharing the blanket. I have to say the blanket is the most ironic thing ever. Its covered with words describing a good nights sleep, but that is certainly a long way off what we were getting. What must we have looked like to passers by? Two grown ups (used in the loosest possible sense) in a children’s play area, covered in an electric blue blanket, cuddling each others legs!

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Disaster stuck again around 6am when children came to play in the area again. What made them thing this was an acceptable thing to do in our “bedroom”? As so the hunt began, again!

*WARNING* – If you are easily shocked, stop reading now!

After much searching of the corridors we finally found a cabin that the participants had left. Sneaking in, we locked the door and claimed it as our own. I think that is the best half hours sleep we had all night. Of course we could have been caught at any moment for stealing a room. It would have been rude not to use all the amenities at our disposal, and so used their bathroom, and left them a little “present”. We’re not saying who left it!
Eventually we got thrown out of that room too (only because it was time to disembark), but not before Nikki became a pikey and stole all of the toiletries, sachets, biscuits, etc. Then on passing other cabins, she stole more! We now have a stock pile of 20 mini biscuits! As you can tell, it was an eventful journey if nothing else!
Lets hope after our night of scavenging, the 62 miles to Vitre won’t seem too bad! If you would like to help, please consider donating at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge.
Thank you

Nikki & Dan

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Day 4 – Cabin fever sets in…

As today’s journey has been rather uneventful other than the last 10 miles when we got a bit lost and took 3 hours to do it, we’ve decided not to bore you all with uneventful road, the weather, etc, but instead to share with you some of our experiences on the road.
So we know some of you have questioned our sanity, especially when we first started planning this trip, but if you saw us over the past few days, trust us, you wouldn’t doubt our sanity any more, you’d know we’d gone crazy! Along with our craziness we have also become quite candid and seem to have no problem sharing personal details, especially regarding our toilet habits. (O….K…..) Yes, you did just read that right, we have for some inexplicable reason started sharing information regarding our bowel movements with one another. Betting you’re glad you’re not with us now! Now while riding the bike everyday we seem to have come across four main issues. So much so that we have now classified them with their own unique name and specific “dances”. You too can try these at home, and you don’t even need music! These are the following:

1, “THE PEE PRANCE”
This movement involves a slight shuffle along the floor trying not to jiggle too much otherwise you jiggle your bladder. Your feet will barely leave the floor, and you will take small steps. Failure to do so could result in disaster and the overriding urge to find the nearest bush!

2, “THE POO POLKA”
This one has slightly more disastrous consequences than the Pee Prance if not performed correctly, and also results in a look of confusion/desperation on the sufferer’s face as they try to work out if its gas or something a little more solid. To do the Poo Polka all you have to do is “shake your tail feathers” as you walk. The more pressing the feeling, the more shaking is required.

3, “THE WEDGIE WIGGLE”
This one Dan and I have become quite expert at, it is similar to the Poo Polka but shorter, although that depends on just how far up ones wedgie has gone. The main characteristic of this move that separates it from the Poo Polka is that hand stretched far behind the back and the back being arched. The suffer leans backwards, grabs hold of their underwear, then wiggles in a downward direction until said underwear has been dislodged from ones posterior.

4, “THE SORE BOTTOM SHUFFLE”
As you can imagine, after four days on a bike we are feeling this one. To do the Sore bottom shuffle requires some skill and expertise. We’d like to add finesse to the list but we all know thats not true! The sore bottom shuffle goes like this… (to the tune of the hokie kokie)
“You put your bottom to the back, you put your bottom to the front, back, front, up, down, move it all about, you do the bottom shuffle and keep your bike straight, thats what its all about”

We hope by the time we get home that you have all mastered these dances too! We’re in the process of planning a celebration party on our return and we expect to see you all perform them!
However it would seem that our sharing of toilet habit stories isn’t limited to time on the bike, but also in hotels, public places, and currently MacDonalds where we are writing this entry. In fact, the other day Nikki sleptwalked to the bathroom, got back into her bed, and decided to tell me in gret detail all about her experience while she was gone for the 2 short minutes. The conversation was longer than her time away… Oh yeah, she was asleep the whole time!
For those of you who may be interested (and if you are, you are a strange strange person!), Nikki wrote yesterdays blog post about the hotel when sat on the toilet. How you ask? Well, this was actually a stroke of genius (theres a fine line between genius and insanity!). As the blog is being written on an iPad, and we have a bluetooth keyboard. Nikki took just the keyboard into the bathroom with her and left the iPad charging on the bed while I packed the bags. As Nikki could not see the screen and what she was typing, there was the occasional call through the bathroom door of “Dan, can you check what I’ve just typed” to which my reply would be something along the lines of “backspace three times, right now add a t”. It definitely made it a little different from your average blog post…
So hands up, how many of you are reading this while on the toilet now? Surfing and pooping is a totally legitimate sport!

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The reason we are doing this and sharing all these somewhat personal stories with you is to help the NSPCC. Please consider donating at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge
Thank you
Nikki and Dan

Our night of luxury in the Ethos Hotel

ok so I have decided to do you all a quick blog post about the amazingness that has been our night in the Ethos hotel!

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A night of luxury is clearly what we both needed, and the Ethos hotel didn’t disappoint us! Our room has the comfiest beds I think either of us have ever slept in, in fact so comfy that Dan snored his head off all night! I am going to blame his snoring on the fact we have been breathing in so much crud on the roads and are both sounding rather horse now! Our room also had the luxury of a mini kitchen, sink, kettle, toaster, microwave and fridge. The bathroom has the deepest bath i think I have ever been in, after spending a good half hour in there I decided I want to become a mermaid full time! The bathroom has underfloor heating which has been heavenly on our aching feet and the main room has the softest squishest cream carpet. (By the way I hope I am not making you all jealous) The tv in our room also had full sky so we ended up watched the latest Pirates of the Carribbean film while we ate our tea, yes we did eat our tea in the room, despite planning to go out the truth is we where both just far to knackered and decided a bedroom picnic would be a much better idea!
Although I am not sure how much this room is to stay in normally as obviously the Hotel has donated it to us for the night I would fully recommend that if any of you are considering making a trip to stay in Oxford that you consider booking this hotel, I promise you will not be disappointed.
In fact we were so happy with the room that when the alarm went off at 7am this morning, we reset it for an hour later! Yes this does mean we are a little late setting off this morning but I don’t care! Once up we went for breakfast, which we have just come back from and it was amazing. Now I should point out that the restaurant isn’t connected to the hotel it is about a 3-5 min walk, but trust me it was worth it, The restaurant is a lovely cafe on the river front and the food was amazing! As we need to have a hearty breakfast we each ordered three things off the menu (ok so the waiter did give us a few funny looks) we had the full english which wasn’t like any full English I have had before, maybe its because we are in the south now but it was very very posh. We also had the pancakes with fruit, maple syrup and cinnamon. My gosh they were tasty! And just because we had eaten enough we also had the musli porridge which was full of more fruit than I have ever come across! Of course we followed all that with fruit juice, water and hot chocolate. Safe to say we are ready for the day ahead!

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I think the only two negatives we have to say about the room is that there was nowhere safe to leave our bikes so we just had to strip them of everything valuable and chain them up outside, but we weren’t too worried as like Dan said on Facebook Oxford seem to be a city of bikes and they are chained everywhere and I actually mean everywhere!! The only other thing that bugged us slightly was the very noisy fridge. It hummed all night and made it sound like we where on a plane, but then again it can’t have put us off sleeping too much as I slept like a log (in fact I think that might be the best night sleep I have had in a single bed) and Dan slept in superman pose all night!
You can tell that we are have really enjoyed our room as its now 11am and we are only just setting off! Best get our cycling grove on!!!
Wish us luck!

Nikki & Dan
Xx

Day 3 – The A34 2! (The A3400 – The Bitch is back!)

As you may have guessed from the title, we hit another bad road today, but before we tell you all about the A3400 we will tell you some of the good things that have happened today. First and foremost we made it to our end location before 10pm! In fact it was only 8pm which meant that we can relax in our hotel room, speaking of which, we have a hotel room, but more about that in another entry. We have also had really good weather today, none of that evil rain which everyone keeps assuring us is coming. We’ve been given donations (Nikki did a sneaky bit of donating outside of a Tesco). We also made it to Stratford upon avon by dinnertime. When planning the route, one of Nikki’s insistences was that we went through Stratford upon Avon as she has a lot of happy memories there.

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We have also managed to cover another county! we cycled the entire length of Warwickshire. It seems we are storming across the country!

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Anyone watching cyclemeter will see that we made some good speeds today, one being almost 40mph at one point!
Those of you following our facebook or twitter feeds will have seen a very cryptic status about how we were very happy cyclists. This was the best part of the day when we stopped at The White Hart pub in one of the little villages between Stratford and Oxford. I admit we primarily we stopped to use the bathroom as there are only so many places you can go when you have no money. The barstaff and locals were so amazingly friendly that they gave us a coke and some salted peanuts and came and chatted with us while we sat in the sunshine having a rest. The landlord then insisted on making us roast beef sandwiches which were muchly needed and delicious. We would also like to say a huge thank you to them for their very generous donation to the NSPCC.

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But enough of the niceties, on to the nitty gritty moaning. We seem to be good at that! Today we hit the A3400 (AKA The A34s big sister as we christened her!) Despite our high hopes, she turned out to be just as evil and malicious as her little sister. Just like her sister, every corner we turned lead to a massive steep hill, however today they seemed steeper and longer than those of her sister. We had such high hopes. The hellishness of the A3400 probably wasn’t helped by the fact that Nikki has been unwell all day and has been unable to keep solid food down. Not good when you’re cycling 60 miles, however a quick call to “Super Phil” the problem was revealed. Dan and I are not getting enough fluids back into our systems and are suffering from a lack of salt and dehydration. This is a problem we plan on rectifying tomorrow by drinking lots of water and electrolyte drink. Tomorrow we face the A340, or the A34s middle sister as it has been christened. Everyone please keep your fingers crossed that she is not as evil as her sisters…
Once again the reason we are doing this crazy challenge is to raise money for the NSPCC so please please please consider donating at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge.

Thank you
Nikki and Dan

p.s. Off to bed now ready for tomorrow, promise we’ll tell you all about the hotel soon.

Day 2 – The F**king A34!!!!!

We would love to be able to tell you that today has been a better day, but remember that road we told you about yesterday? The A34? It was back with a vengeance today!
As you can see from our title, its not a road we like! We hope by the way, that you read that as “F-astirix-astirix-king” and dont know any other possible meaning for it. Nikki didn’t know what that word meant, until today that was! Now it seems to be following every other word from her mouth! She has become such a potty mouth, not that I’m much better! The root of our new found profanity filled vocabulary can be found on the A34! Why I hear you ask. Thats simple! From Manchester to Birmingham, its seems like one sodding HUGE hill!!!!!! It never seems to decline! Not what you want on a bike with aching muscles and the sun beating down so hot that factor 50 sun lotion is required!
However despite the shocking road we still managed to keep quite good time (as you will see if you follow cyclemeter). We did a few little detours on country lanes which Nikki enjoyed and took some photos including the strange sight of a field full of goats. We’d never seen so many goats in our lives.

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No matter how hard we tried, we always seemed to meet up with the A34 and her hills. It was like an awkward meeting between a vicar and a satanist. Even when the road seemed to level out, guess what was hiding round the next corner… Yep! another hill!
Detouring from the subject of that god forsaken road, if anyone was following Cyclemeter today, they may wonder why we didn’t leave Stoke on Trent till 11, and also why there was a large gap before entering the city. Two simple answers, the first being that we became tourists and did a spot of sightseeing.

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Sightseeing and setting off late was a decision we would later regret.
The answer to the cyclemeter discrepancy is also a simple one. The iPhone died! Technology eh!
We were making excellent time and hit the outskirts of Birmingham around 7pm with only 7 miles to go. Easy we thought. What fools we are. Birmingham seems to be a mass of roadworks and diversions. What should have taken 45 minutes took 4 hours! As you can imagine, it got cold and dark, again! Thankfully tonight we are staying an amazing person off couch surfing who is an avid cyclist himself and completely understood our situation.

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Despite getting here so late (no cyclemeter is not lying, it was 11:10pm when we arrived), Michal was still waiting up for us, made us some tea, and made us feel so welcome. He also let us do the washing in the washing machine which was an added bonus as we did get slightly hot today! Safe to say we are both thoroughly exhausted and looking forward to a good nights sleep. Hoping tomorrow will be a better day. Safe to say we won’t be making the same mistake in the morning.

Please help make all this worth it by donating at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge

Nikki & Dan
xx

Day 1 – It’s been “interesting”

So, Day 1…
It seems that the day has been one of delays. We set off from Rishton slightly later than planned, however we were amazed by the turn out we got to wave us off! The original plan was to set off around 9/9:30am ish, however after photos, interviews with the film crew, and goodbyes it was nearer to 10am. Eeek already!
We would like to say a really big thank you to Emily and Charlotte for thinking of the idea of bringing flags! What a brilliant idea! We think the photographer loved it too as we now have lots of photos with them. I think Dan’s little brothers loved them too as they waved them like crazy when we set off. It really was like a little party atmosphere, although we still didn’t feel like it was really happening, although after today its starting to feel more real! I should point out that I left a little surprise on Nikki’s bike which I think made her giggle, I stuck an L plate on the back of her bike, and after her slight wobble at the start I think it was needed!

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Also a quick thank you to Co-op, Rishton for letting us do a shop for food for the day for free. It has been muchly needed all day.
Once we hit Ramsbottom we noticed a slight problem with Dan’s bike, that being the utterly useless pannier bracket for the lights which had suddenly taken a liking to spinning around and looking at the floor. Not only was this a massive pain, but it also meant that when indicating left, the back light would be indicating right, and vice versa. So yeah, bit of a problem! However, being so close to home, Dan was able to ring his mum who very kindly came out with a replacement pannier rack with a different light fastening which could not spin. While waiting we had something to eat, then fitted the replacement rack. This little issue set us back by almost two hours! Not a good thing when you’re on a tight schedule anyway.
We did however manage to make up some lost time when we cycled our hearts out on the way to Manchester. We should point out though that we think there was a little glitch with Cyclemeter as we have been informed that at one point we were doing 259mph. We were fast, but not that fast!
Got to Manchester about 3pm and met our lovely friends Emily and Charlotte.

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They very very kindly agreed to buy us some lunch, we certainly weren’t turning down that opportunity, plus it also gave us a chance to have a catch up as with all the chaos when setting off we didn’t get a chance to talk.
If we weren’t already running a bit late, maybe having 1hour and 45 mins in Manchester wasn’t the wisest of plans, though I have to say I wouldn’t change that as seeing them was amazing!
When we were leaving them though we did see something that suddenly made us question whether we really did have such heavy bikes… this bike…

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Yes that is an ambulance bike and weighs a killer 9 and half stone! Try getting that up a hill! No thank you!!! Mr Ambulance man was lovely, we had a really good time chatting with him, I guess thats what this challenge is all about, meeting new people.

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Leaving Manchester, Dan and I had high hopes for making up some lost time. How wrong we were. It would seem from Manchester on the A34 is hills, hills, and a few more hills! So much for making up lost time. It got later, and later, and later until it finally broke me. Im sure this wont be the first time Dan sees me cry on this trip, but despite the pain, the tears, the darkness, and the cold, we pushed on and reached our end location for the night. A little later than planned, but at least we made it.
Not the greatest start for Day 1 but at least we did it, and tomorrow is a brand new day…
We’re doing all the hard work, because trust us, this cycling is killing us, all we ask is that you sponsor us please.
http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge

Nikki & Dan.
Xx

And so it begins…

Oh my gosh the day of days has arrived! All those months of planning and in a few short hours we will be on our way! My stomach is feeling slightly full of butterflies but at the same time I am so excited to get started. We hope that quite a few of you are going to be able to turn out today to see us set off, or even if you just wave at us on route.

I guess for the next 9 days me and my bike are going to become the best of friends, though how much I am still going to like Betty after she has killed my legs and bottom is still to be decided!!

Yesterday we got all our packing done so I think we are ready to go, if there is anything you think I desperately need but might have forgotten or not even though about please message me ASAP. Thank you. Though I have to say I feel as though my bike looks like this: (actually let me re-phase that and say I think DAN’S bike looks like this)

One fully loaded bike!

One fully loaded bike!

But then again I was the one in charge of getting the first aid ready and I am not saying I am a hypochondriac or anything, but the first aid kit was starting to look a little more like this:

Well you never know what might go wrong!

Well you never know what might go wrong!

Fingers crossed we won’t need it! Well I am sorry this is only going to be a quick post, I can’t stay on long due to the whole setting off today thing, but what I did want to do most importantly is say some very big THANK YOU’S! There have been some amazingly generous people out there, and not just the people who have sponsored us on our Virgin money giving page but those as well who have helped us in other ways such as those lovely people who have come along to our events and bought tickets and played the raffle etc and all those amazing people who have put money into our collection tins.

We would also like to thank Kathryn and Jim for donating  a French Supermarket voucher, The staff at Spar, Barrowford for having a collection between them so we have another English voucher for food, Emily and Charlotte again for food vouchers! Also like to thank Gayle for putting us up tonight, Michael for putting us up tomorrow night, Ethos hotel in Oxford for our third night and Mandy in Basingstoke for our fourth. We would also like to say thank you to Doreen in Congleton for agreeing to make us a packed lunch today as we pass, Steven and Tracey Henderson in Pangbourne for doing the same, and Jim and Frieda in Portsmouth for making us one last meal before we get on the Ferry.

As far as France is concerned we have a big thank you to say to Colette at Le Petit Billot in Vitre, to the staff at the Etape Hotel in Angers as well as Keith and Jocelyn in Lageon for both putting us up and making us a meal as well as the wonderful people at Rimbard Manor for everything they are doing to make our last day as perfect as possible!

Finally I have another big thank you, however this one is a little different as I am not sure who to thank. However we would both like to say the BIGGEST thank you possible to the amazingly kind anonymous donater who has sent us £90 on a prepaid MasterCard for us to use as food money along the way! It is safe to say any worries I had about not getting the right amount of food in me have now vanished. Honestly we can not thank you all enough, it means the world to us!

We hope to see you all on route and please if you haven’t done so already please consider donating towards this amazing charity! You can do so at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge thank you!

Nikki xx