Day 8 – The more the merrier!

Dan and I awoke with a spring in our step… ok so that is a total lie being that both of us felt like we were actually dying by this point, however we also knew today was our last full day of cycling as the final day was only going to be a half day. Surely we could push ourselves through another full day of pain!

So I bet you are asking yourselves just how did the above picture get taken if we are both cycling… well we did have another reason to be pleased today… we had the amazingness of an entourage!!! Think Tour Du France support cars! (Ok think Tour Du France if that too is a big green Range Rover covered in NSPCC balloons and posters!) Said support car was driven by Nikki’s very lovely Daddy and had in her mother, sister and brother all wearing very fetching green NSPCC t-shirts, to the french we must have looked like a bunch of escaped mental patient, or just simple ‘The Crazy English’.

The support from Nikki’s family was especially appreciated today as both Dan and I were starting to flag, now that’s putting it nicely! They did for us the best thing possible… they put all our panniers bags in the back of the car thereby making our wonderful bikes as light as a feather. Brilliant idea yes? That is until we hit wind, suddenly our bikes were so light Dan and I struggled to keep control of them as they felt very very different to the bikes we had been riding and had got used to over the last 7 days. To any one watching us it would probably have looked like it was wine in our water bottles instead and we were clearly three sheets to the wind! Of course this is already the recommended way to ride a bike in France, so we probably didn’t look that out of place!

The other slight predicament we came across with having a support car was they took our water. So although we both kept one bottle this we obviously drained quite quickly, not a problem surely we will just fill them back up at the car, that’s if we ever came close to the car again! We would see the car in the distance parked in the lay-by, a little burst of speed and we would be with them, so speed we did! We would get to about 5 meters away ready to stop and fill up, but noooo as soon as we got anywhere near they would set off again into the distance and stop. It was like a perpetual game of leap frog and we were losing badly!  We considered hand signals, waving frantically, weaving down the road, a flare if we had one, or even a siren (There was one on Nikki’s bike but alas it wasn’t loud enough!) anything to try and get the cars attention. Finally after about 8 times of doing it they did finally stop and allow us to fill up, their excuse for keep driving off… they were motivating us!! Uh huh… safe to say we were both already motivated enough thank you very much!

However we both got our own back. When we stopped to have a picnic on the grass, they all came and sat down with us… we looked like a lovely family of crazy green t-shirt wearers. As many of you cyclist will know, although riding the bike is hot work when you stop you feel the chill, therefore we went to put our jumpers on while we ate, as we opened the panniers bags it was like a mass exodus away from us! Safe to say the rest of the family didn’t eat much lunch after that… oh well that just meant more for us. One would think us and our panniers bags were starting to stink slightly!

At this point Nikki would also like to say a big thank you to her big Sister who is a trained occupational therapist. For the last two or three days Nikki had started to struggle with a pain in her knee and ankle, resulting in numerous pain killers and ibrophen gel having to be constantly applied, however with Kat part of the entourage today Nikki’s knee and ankle were nicely bandaged so she could continue on! That however didn’t stop them swelling and swell they did, her leg was now starting to resemble an elephants more than a humans! Thankfully we were near the end of our adventure and she would be able to rest it soon!

Nikki also encountered another problem today! Due to the consumption of food and water the desire to pee made itself know in a bad way. Now Nikki is not one to pee outdoors, in fact she has never done it before in her life, so unlike for Dan peeing in a bush was not an option for Nikki. That is until we had gone a further 2o+ miles down the same road and still found no toilet, by this stage the pee prance was actually painful for her and she was desperado! She was finally convinced to pee being a bush, as long as we never spoke about it (whoops there goes that promise!). So with a now thankfully empty bladder we got back on the bikes, less than 5 mins of cycling and suddenly we see a sign…. 500 meters and there is a rest stop with toilet!!! Safe to say that is the loudest Nikki has ever cursed!

While cycling through one of the numerous small towns France has to offer, we became separated from our entourage vehicle due to a diversion. The diversion sent them round the outskirts of the town but as we were on bikes we saw no reason why we couldn’t go through it, upon cycling about 100m down the road we found out just why there was a diversion…. one big ass fun fair!! Safe to say we had to get through it as fast as possible, as never mind Nikki’s head, Dan’s head was ready to explode with all the different sounds coming from every stall! We think each stall holder was having a competitions with the other stalls on how loud they could be and how many songs they could play, mix that with the sound of the children laughing and screaming and we were glad when we got to the end of it. I think it was possibly the most surreal moment of our day and not anything that we had expected!

After what had been a long and interesting day we were both very glad when the Largeon sign came into view, not much longer to go now! Upon arriving at the house there was such an amazing atmosphere, we were greeted like heroes returning from battle, OK so I admit that that is a little dramatic but you try cycling for 8 days and trust me you will feel that that is the response too! Keith and Jocelyn, our host for the night were really really lovely, we both can not thank them enough. They even agreed to doing our washing, though I imagine they probably needed clothes pegs on their noises (that or full on gas masks) as they put our washing in the machine. When we got to their house we were also greeted by a family friend of Nikki’s, the Blot family! It was lovely to see them and the thought that they had driven so far just to come and see us and wish us luck meant so much, although trying to follow a french conversation while so tired certainly had its problems. Dan and I were also well aware of the state we probably looked, with our sun burnt faces, crazy helmet hair, elephant leg, nasty clothes and of course that horrid stench that was now following us everywhere… if we had been Sims we would have had a green fog surrounding us! But the Blot’s didn’t seem to mind, or at least were polite enough to not mention it!

They stayed talking to us for about an hour and when they left we were finally able to grabs showers each and put on clean clothes, this was especially needed as the Hall’s (our hosts) and the Henderson’s (my family) decided to take us out for a meal. Being able to wear a dress again and feel girly was amazing, I can only imagine Nikki felt the same! (I am joking of course it was Nikki wearing the dress not me!).

The meal was lovely, though I think due to just the sheer exhausting we both found eating a full meal a little difficult, however our left overs were bagged up ready for the day after ( it was pizza, so easy to box up). Though the strangest part of the meal was that everyone in the entire restaurant seemed to know exactly who we were and what we were doing! It was like being minor celebrities, the feeling was rather freaky… although that wouldn’t be the last time on this trip we felt like celebrities…..

Thank you to everyone who supported us while we were doing this, we really can not thank you all enough! Our donation page is still open if you would like to contribute. Please go to http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge and remember all the money raised will go to the NSPCC to help prevent cruelty to children! Thank you so much!

Nikki & Dan xx

 

Day 7 – Green eggs and ham… well, it almost was!

Hi Everybody,

No, we haven’t gone crazy, no, we haven’t got lost (again), no, we are not still on our way to Angers. What with the exhaustion of the last few days of cycling, then the want of a holiday while abroad, writing blog entries was the last thing on our minds. So, we are catching up with them now we are home to tell you about the last few days of our adventure.

Day 6 saw us cycling from the lovely french town of Vitre into the large city of Angers. If we’re being honest, it was not the most exciting cycling day ever. The roads were long and monotonous and it was pretty much one road all the way down, and yes, there were hills! With Nikki’s knee starting to swell, you can bet how happy she was about those! The real “adventure” started when we arrived in Angers…

Angers was a busy bustling city that we had to try to navigate our way round. After about half an hour of constant stopping, checking the map, turning round, and indecisions, we were finally crossing the right bridge on route to the Rue de Lac du Maine. About half way across the bridge, Nikki suddenly got very excited and pulled out the camera, much to a puzzled faced Dan. All become clear when Dan looked over the bridge to see two Frenchmen playing, wait for it… French horns!

The whole concept did make Nikki smile, even if their playing was quite bad. It turned out Angers is a rather musical city, but more on that later. The route to the hotel took us through a large parkland in the centre of the city. We have to say it was a lovely sunset view, and the park was full of cycle paths. In the heart of the park was the etape hotel, a hotel chain much like Premiere Inn, however this was an Ethic Etape. The whole place revolved round eco-technology and green practices such was walking or cycling rather than using cars, making sure electricity wasn’t wasted, etc. The hotel itself was lovely, although it did give off a slight youth hostel feel. We were both however very impressed with their bike storage facility. Our poor abused bikes each got their own little kennel for the night.

After making sure both bikes were tucked in warm and snug for the night, we went to check out our room. Our room was a little basic to say the least, but was a good size and had everything we needed. From the height of the toilet (yep, it always comes back to that!) and the grab rails everywhere, we had the slight suspicion that we had been given a disabled persons room, but oh well at least it had two beds which is all we really needed. By this point, we had realised we were starving, but town was a 15 minute cycle away which neither of us were prepared to do, after all, our bikes looks so snug and warm. Thinking the bar would still be open, we walked over to the main building where were were greeted with the sight of one closed bar, two vending machines of chocolate, and three french men who were staring at us. We quickly ran back to our room. So that left us with the puzzle of how do you feed two tired cyclists without leaving the confines of the hotel room? The answer, ring Nikki’s French speaking brother. Alas it turned out that Nikki’s French speaking brother was at a family meal, so back to square one. The solution to our problem was internet pizza! Why didn’t we think of that sooner? (For those concerned that we broke our no spending policy, we used the donated “Magic Mastercard“). Our craving for Pizza had been started the previous night. On the way to Vitre we were both running on empty and in serious need of food! We found a town 15 miles outside of Vitre and found that the only place open was a pizza parlour. The UK mainly only have tomato based pizzas, however here they had white pizzas, that being a pizza whose base is topped with creme fraiche. This combined with beef hache, onions, potato, and cheese was AMAZING!!!!
Now, in the UK, provided you speak English, ordering a pizza online is easy. In France, provided you speak french, ordering a pizza online is easy. This is where it got difficult. We were in France, but we speak English (surprisingly enough). Not so easy. But fear not citizens of the blog, there was an internet superhero ready to lend a helping hand! Google Translate! Turns out that if Google translate was a superhero, its special power would be the power of anti-climax. We had found a pizza place in Angers which delivered and set google translate to work on translating the site so we could understand it. It would seem that if traveling, Google Translate isn’t your best companion! Here are the four steps to ordering a pizza according to google…
Despite how google had translated it, we continued trying to order in the hopes that we wouldn’t be betrayed, and we would have pizza in half an hour. The good news is within half an hour, our pizza arrived. The bad news is, this is what it looked like…
Yes, I did taste as horrid as it looks, however we were that hungry that we still managed to demolish it within ten minutes, but not before finding a little frenchman’s hair in it, leading it to be christened as “Mr Fluffy”. Clearly the French don’t have the same strict food hygiene laws that the UK has. To continue eating we really must have been hungry! We’d also like to point out that the pizza came with a salad and a portion of chips. Turns out the salad was lettuce in a box, and the chips were ready salted crisps. The best parts of this meal were the only bits that had not been prepared at the pizza place; these were the two cans of peach flavoured iced tea.
Now, back to what we were saying about Angers being a musical city. While finishing off the remains of the fury pizza (or at least as much as we could stomach after that find), we discovered how thin the walls of the hotel were. Now, we can only assume that the only explanation for this is that her neighbours had kicked her out for being too loud, so she’d checked into a hotel to practice, but in the next room there was a girl learning to play…. We’d like to say something soothing like the harp or the triangle, but alas… the violin! The one instrument that has the power to soothe the senses or grate at the nerves, and you can guess which of the two a novice does! The way things were sounding, by the morning our nerves would look like something from a zombie horror film! But we had a secret weapon! A secret weapon in the form of the iPad! Not only was this magical piece of technology here to enable blog writing, but it was also connected to the internet, and via iCloud could access my entire iTunes music library. It also has several tv episode loaded on, and The Inbetweeners movie . Now, Nikki is not a fan of The Inbetweeners, however the film did make her giggle as she succumb to the effects of her comma tablet. The tablet was the root of several amusing incidents along the trip, much like when Nikki had taken it at this hotel, Dan knew within a few seconds due to her tone of voice, even though she tried to deny that she had taken it. We think the violinist took the hint and shut up, allowing us to get some sleep.
As you can imagine, it’s not the 5 star luxury we’ve been becoming accustomed to, we’re doing all the hard work so you just have the easy job of donating at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge.
Thank you
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

 

“Advice after injury is like medicine after death”

Good morning everyone… I am so sorry I dropped off the radar for the last few days. Don’t worry I haven’t had a change of heart and am backing out I am still very excited for the set off on Saturday morning. The reason however for my absence is all due to a family emergency. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook will already know what happened, but for those of you who don’t I will explain….

On Monday Dan and I had had a good day on the bikes, I was full of confidence etc and I had just home and got my laptop out and was starting to think about going over the route and getting things ready for packing etc, when I received a phone call from my grandmothers neighbor. It seemed my grandmother has fallen in the garden (and yes it was a fall in the garden and not her having a go on my bike as suggested) and looked to have broken her arm so they where calling for an ambulance!! 😦 So I ran downstairs, got my bike out and cycled to my grandmothers, though I think my bike may have had this modification added….

Added bike rocket booster!

Added bike rocket booster!

I managed to make the journey to my grandmother’s house which is just over a mile in the grand total of just over three minuets! I think that is a brand new speed record for me! It’s safe to say I am definitely loving this speed thing now!

As for my grandmother I got to her house is time for the ambulance arriving and off we went to A&E (If anyone is wondering why the grand-daughter went to hospital it’s because I am the family member who lives closest) anyhoo… my gosh I did not expect to be in casualty as long as we were! We arrived at 7.30 ish and left at around 2am! Yes you read that right 6 and half hours in A&E with a 86-year-old lady! I was rather disgusted!

Turns out that she has badly broken her left arm, fractured her hand and needed stitches in her head. Add on to that the two bandaged legs she already has from ulcers and she is starting to look a bit like a halloween mummy! Anyway as you can imagine trying to get the carers and everything sorted for her has been a slightly stressful job, and has delayed me slightly this week with planning, not something I needed! So now we are on hyper drive to make sure that everything is ready for our little trip at the weekend!

I can’t believe it is counting down so fast, though I actually think I have gone past fear now and a starting to look forward to it! On Saturday morning there is going to be a film crew as well as photographers all coming to watch us set off, so lets hope I don’t have a wiggly start as that wouldn’t look good! On day one a good friend of ours has decided to cycle some of the way with us, so feel free to do the same and join us as well. We also have a few friends meeting us in Manchester and happy to buy us lunch, so that gives us something to look forward to.

If you haven’t donated yet I really urge you too, as 650 miles is still seeming a long way to cycle so any support would be so greatly appreciated by us both. If you do want to donate you can easily do so on our website which accepts PayPal as well as all major credit and debit card, remember all money raised is going to the NSPCC, the web address is http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge thank you to everyone who has donated so far, it really does mean the world to us.

Finally as we haven’t had a funny picture in a while though I would end on this one… strangely enough Dan didn’t seem to like this idea of a way for us to get to France…

Of course I would be the one in the armchair!

Of course I would be the one in the armchair!

Nikki xx

3… 2… 1… PULL!!!!!

So, the other day, I had the though of “what happens if Nikki can’t make it up a hill?” and there was the obvious answer of get off and push, and there was also a slightly crazy idea (yep, another one on top of cycling 650 miles to France!). That idea was….. wait for it…. a bike tow rope!

The look many of you are sporting now!

Believe it or not, its not as stupid an idea as it sounds! During team races in Australia, riders will often tow the weaker members of their team to continue forward with speed without leaving team members behind. In fact, an Australian company called Bike2Bike has designed a retractable tow rope just for this purpose. Their tow rope is a bit more advanced that the one I created yesterday, however mine does the job just as well.

Another “feature” of this tow system is that it can easily be stored in the top pannier bag, and doesn’t take up that much space or weigh much.

And just in case you didn’t believe me….

Dan

“Feelings are not supposed to be logical. Dangerous is the man who has rationalized his emotions.”

How come whenever during training we have gone out on the bikes its has usually been cold and maybe just a little bit wet as well but today when the weather is lovely and sunny and all I want to do is go out on my bike (yes you did just read that right I WANT to go on my bike!) my bikes is currently at Blackburn Cycle and Scooter center having it’s last check. In fairness it is obviously important that the bikes do get checked over as it is a hell of a long way that we will be cycling on them, and Betty has started to develop a few click-y noises, but we will be re-united on Monday. Dan’s bike is also in having its MOT at the moment and will have his back tomorrow.

I have to say my emotions feel a little bit like they are all over the place. I am scared and occasionally just realise exactly what it is that I am doing and start to panic and my heart beats crazy fast and I feel like I am about to be sick! But then other times I get really excited about whats to come and I think about crossing that finishing line and how amazing it is going to feel knowing that I have done this. So yeah I feel a little bit like a wreck at the moment and can’t believe I have another week of dealing with these emotions war-ing inside of me! Grrr!

But the big news of the day: THIS TIME NEXT WEEK WE WILL HAVE SET OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How much of a scary thought is that! The last 6 months seem to have completely and utterly flown by, seriously can people believe it was 6 months ago that I came up with this crazy idea to cycle to France. It all sounded so easy when we planned it!

I just want to say a thank you to those who came last night, and thank you to Sahara as they where really good, but then again I expected no less! I had such a good night it was a brilliant send off!!

So our next date now is at the start line, hope to see you there!

Me and Dan at the moment with our bikes having their MOT's!

Me and Dan at the moment with our bikes having their MOT's!

Thank you to everyone for all the support these last 6 months and who are continuing to support us. If you would like to like to donate just like Carl & Michelle, Georgina, David & Amanda, Tim & Esnayder, Matt and Les then please got to http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge all the money that we raise is going to the NSPCC to help prevent cruelty to children, so please everyone show your support for this amazing charity!

Nikki xx

 

We all have off days

As Nikki said, I have been working long hours recently, so when it came to writing a blog entry, all I wanted to do was fall asleep! But, after a full nights sleep, I’m back!

So, as the title says, we all have off days, however on my off days it seems that I injure myself on the bike. Last thursday was no exception!

We were on the way to Skipton, when just outside Gargrave I came off the bike again, or rather didn’t as the case was. The front wheel must have hit a rock and I lost balance, but as I was clipped on, I went down with the bike. Nikki, who was behind, had the horrible feeling that I’d broken my leg given how I landed. Thankfully it was just swollen and bruised. Its now one massive bruise!

As well as the huge bruise, I also got road rash. Now Nikki thinks this should be a game of spot the body part, so heres a poll for you to pick an answer from.

One thing about the day I found highly amusing was Nikki’s trainers. This was the first day that our cycle clothing was matching, making it clear we were doing something for the NSPCC. As my cycle shoes are a dark grey colour, Nikki had bought some new trainers, as her old ones had a hole in the sole. Nikki hates trainers! The amusing part was the quote of “I’ll happily pay over £100 for a pair of heels, but I’m not willing to pay more than £10 for trainers!”. To be honest, I think she’d rather cycle bare foot than wearing them!

Today we are both unable to go out on the bikes, even though we wish we could given the practically tropical weather we have here at the minute (its sunny AND warm! In the north of the UK!). The reason for this is that both bikes are currently in the shops being checked over ready for the trip, which is now only a week away! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it! However, tonight is another R2R milestone, the Charity Gig at Koko’s in Burnley. Its not too late to get tickets. Sahara will be headlining the event, then DJ Jim Random of NSB Radio will keep the party going till the early hours! We hope to see you all there! you can get tickets in the following ways…

1) Buy them from http://www.sahara-online.co.uk

2) Buy them directly from Nikki or myself

3) Contact us directly and we will add you to the guest list so that you pay £5 at the door

4) Donate £5 at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge and we will add you to the pre-paid guestlist

5) Show up with a flyer that will be distributed in town tonight for £5 entry

or 6) Just show up (although that will be £8 on the door)

All proceeds will go to the NSPCC.

Dan