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

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

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

R.I.P. “Cleatus”

Hi all!

It feels like AGES since I made an entry!

There has been a development with my bike, that being that I no longer own it!

Nikki and Dan by the canal with their bikes

From left to right and above to below: Nikki, Dan, Betty, and Cleatus

At this point I think I should point something out. Nikki, as sad as she is (joking) has named her bike Betty, and thinks that my bike needs a name. Seeing as my shoes have cleats to clip onto the pedals, and also because the bike handles like something a hillbilly would drive, it got named Cleatus. As you all know, my bike, an Apollo Target, has had nothing but problems since day 1 (literally!), and so I was close to the end of my tether with the thing. Sunday pushed me over the edge!

Our original intention was to cycle to Bolton and back on Sunday. We set of and headed for the canal to cut out Whitebirk roundabout, which is one big ass, scary roundabout on the outskirts of Blackburn. All seemed to be going well, Nikki was keeping up, and I was testing out the new cycle glasses with a built in camera. While cycling along the canal Nikki noticed it looked as though it was frozen, so I stopped to throw a twig at it to see if it was. It was! We then set off again, or rather, Nikki set off. I noticed a strange noise emanating from the back of my bike. We spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out what it was, thinking it was the rear mudguard catching, but had no luck in fixing it. While riding, it sounded as though the motor off a hairdryer with wheels… sorry, a moped, had been attached. We decided to head into Blackburn to see if we could get it fixed. First point of call was Blackburn Cycle and Scooter Centre, hopeful as we were that like some other shops in the town centre, it might be open on a Sunday. Alas, no it was not. So we headed to the store the bike originally came from… As Nikki asked, does anybody in Blackburn actually know what customer service is? If at Spar I was to treat people in the way we have be treated repeatedly in Blackburn, I’d have been sacked long ago! The staff were either “arsey” with us and instantly on the defensive as soon as the bike’s problems were mentioned, or the equivalent of a zombie who’d had the urge to eat flesh removed! The woman who was “serving” us was also instantly on the defensive when we said it had been to Blackburn Cycle and Scooter centre. Sorry love but I think they know a bit more about bikes than you! After a while of me having to stay silent while Nikki spoke to them, it transpired that the bike was in worse shape than we thought. The front wheel was buckled, the brakes needed replacing, and the gears were shot at. All we could do was cycle away because no mechanic (and I use that term in the loosest possible manner) could look at it until today. Now, these people are supposed to have some knowledge of how a bike works…. how is it that while cycling back up to the canal we noticed a fault that they had not, and not just a little one, it was a biggie! The back wheel was wobbling about and catching the frame as the bike moved, hence the strange moped like noise! Now neither me nor Nikki are experts about the mechanical workings of a bike, however we both know that is not meant to happen! At this point we had to be picked up by my dad as I could not cycle on the bike, and I could not walk because I would damage the cleats on my shoes.

Fast forward to Monday. I took the bike back to the Burnley store of the shop it came from (where may I add, the staff are A LOT more helpful and friendly!) wanting a refund for “Cleatus”. When I told my parents that I was going to do this the night before, they both said “Take Nikki with you, she’s better at this kind of thing than you”… Thanks! It is true, but still! lol. The manager of the store said that he could either do a refund, or a deal on a better bike. I know that two men who work there are very knowledgeable about bikes and cyclists themselves, and so I returned later that night when they were both working to get their opinions as to which bike I should get for the 650 mile trip. The correct bike for the job was selected, I had to pay a bit more towards it, minus the cost of the Apollo Target and some discount, and I now have a bike suitable for the trip. So, I introduce to you all, the Carrera Crossfire 1…

Carrera Crossfire 1

Like “Cleatus”, the Crossfire is a hybrid, although overall the Crossfire is a much better bike, and the quality of the components is clear just from looking at it. Complete with front suspension, high pressure inner tubes in the tyres, a lightweight aluminium frame, and a 21 speed gear set, I am confident that this bike will get me to France! I have now kitted it out with “Cleatus’s” pannier rack and SPD pedals, however the tyres will not allow the mudguards to be fitted. Now comes the part that clearly has Nikki stamped all over it. The Crossfire needs a name. Personally I say Crossfire, but apparently it has to go to a public vote, so please leave suggestions in the comments below.

Now that I have had a new lease of life, please help support our endeavours to aid the NSPCC by donating whatever you can at www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge. Also, please “like” our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/r2rchallenge.

Thanks

Dan

Three for the price of one

Hi all!

As promised, I am doing a proper blog. A bit later than planned because as I was writing it last night, the day caught up with me, and I fell asleep!

So firstly, a few days ago, Nikki hinted that I had pushed myself the most I had done so far in training. This is true. On monday I cycled just over 42 miles! This trip took me from Barrowford to Gisburn (along the most dangerous road in the UK!), towards Clitheroe, through Great Harwood into Rishton, into Blackburn, back to Rishton, then to a friends’ house in Burnley.

http://maps.google.com/?q=http://share.abvio.com/596f/10ad/4e82/d477/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20120109-1149.kml

According to Cyclemeter, 2012 calories were burnt that day! Strangely though, the next day I didn’t ache at all, in fact, I felt as though I could do it again! The only thing stopping me was the fact that I was working.

Throughout the week, I did several random trips, one of which was a 10 mile round trip to Burnley. All the way round the bike seemed to be having trouble gearing into 1 on its main gears, however, by the time I got home it wouldn’t move at all, it was stuck in 3! So, yet again, another trip to Blackburn Cycle and Scooter Centre! I should have just bought the bike from there! I’m sure that I wouldn’t have had all these problems if I had done! Needless to say though, after all the problems with the thing, the company it came from will be getting a letter of complaint!

So, yesterday… Lancaster!

All I can say is if you’re gonna go to Lancaster when temperatures are around -1, go in a car! It was bloody freezing! By the end of the ride, I couldn’t feel my fingers or my feet! Don’t get me wrong though, the actual ride was quite enjoyable!

Nikki and the bikes outside Lancaster castle

   

After seeing a few sights in Lancaster, then having dinner, we set off. On this ride we tried to implement a walkie talkie system to communicate with one another, as its hard to shout over the noise of cars, especially if you’re out of breath. First attempt at it and it didn’t work! I ended up holding the walkie talkie while trying to cycle as it had become unclipped. Obviously not a good idea! We did however manage to come up with a beep system on them to say when we needed to slow down or stop.

Because of being on bikes, for obvious reasons we could not use the motorways meaning we had to use A roads on our trip down to Preston. If the roads we encounter on the actual trip are any bit like the ones from Lancaster to Preston, I will be happy! I think I must be getting fitter because I didn’t feel to be overly exerting myself.

Nikki also did well with the roads, and any stops we made were generally due to sorting out her iPod rather than her having a problem.

While riding in the VIP lane (AKA Cycle lane), I noticed that all the bike symbols painted on the floor seemed to be different, ranging from what looked like road bikes, to mountain bikes. This gave Nikki the idea that on the actual trip to France, we should take photos of anything bike related that we see.

On a final note, I would like to know where the real Nikki is! Last year she wanted to cycle wearing vintage clothes and stiletto shoes, now, cycle wear and trainers! I think it’s clear that the real Nikki has been abducted and replaced with a cyclist impostor! =P

Who are you and what have you done with the real Nikki?

Please help make our efforts worthwhile and visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge to aid the work done by the NSPCC.

Dan

 

Bike Mods

Hi all,

So… its been a while! I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year!

During our little break, I have to admit that I haven’t been on the bike as much as I should, mainly because of a promotion at work. As Nikki mentioned way back when we first started this crazy adventure, I have my own video production company, Bluevortex. As this is in its infancy, I also work at a Spar store in Barrowford. Over the Christmas period, I was running the place, and so had little opportunity to get out on the bike training. However, new year, new start; as of today (yesterday and today were included) I will be cycling to and from work each day, and days when I am not working, I’ll be out on the bike. Days when I can’t really be bothered going out (come on, we all have them!), there’s the exercise bike, although I am dubious about the stats from its computer!

Over the festive period, my bike has been outfitted with several modifications; I’m not kidding! My love of gadgets has extended onto the bike! For starters, the crankset (as I’ve said in a previous post) has been replaced with parts from Blackburn Cycle and Scooter Centre, so hopefully the chain taking out its guard will no longer be an issue. Secondly, I got a set of “bicygnals” for Christmas. These are basically bike lights , however, they have indicators! Also, using wireless technology, the front and back lights sync with one another.

Mounted to the front of the handlebars there is a tiny camera to capture action shots for the documentary. Apparently it records in HD 720, but I’ll believe that when I see it! For the £15 it cost from Groupon, I highly doubt it!

Finally, the latest modifications, which I have literally just finished adding, are mudguards and an iPhone holder. You might be saying “hang on, I’ve seen photos of your bike, and you already had those!”, which is true, but they have been upgraded. I recently received as a gift an iBike iPhone holder which encases the phone and also makes it weatherproof. However, due to the mount being the same as that of the bicygnals, both could not be on at the same time. Wrong! Using a bit of creative thinking, and some long screws, I managed to mount both items onto the handlebars, and both work perfectly! As for the mudguards, I cycled to work this morning, only to be hit in the face by all the water from the front wheel all the way there. This afternoon I bought a set of front and back guards and fitted them once I got home. I think I made things difficult for myself by not taking the back wheel off, and so had to remove the bike stand and the pannier rack in order to get to the areas I needed. I also now have a massive blood blister on my thumb where I trapped it in a pair of pliers while attempting to loosen a screw which had threaded. Even now, I can feel my heartbeat in it, although I suppose typing doesn’t help!

The big day is only 3 months away now! 9am on the 31st March 2012, we will leave Rishton, along with all our money. Cyclemeter will be tracking the entire journey so you’ll all be able to tell where we have got to along the way. Please help support our efforts and the work done by the NSPCC by donating what you can at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge!

Thanks

Dan

Money money money

Hi!

This is slightly later and shorter than planned! I wanted to write it last night, but to be honest, I fell asleep, and now I’ve just finished work (its another friday blog when i’ve finished work at 11pm).

Last night was the night of the quiz at the White Bear Inn, Barrowford. Nikki and myself got there early to set things up and also to get food because we knew we wouldn’t get chance later! I have to admit, it was a bit worrying when it was about 7pm and the pub was still a bit quiet! Fortunately it picked up a bit towards 8pm when we had an influx of family, friends, and random people showing up.

Shortly after 8pm, the quiz was underway, although both Nikki and myself were a bit disappointed that only 6 teams took part in the quiz. The thought “come on people! Its for charity!” came to mind, but I was amazed by how many raffle tickets we sold! Over 200!!

The quiz was met with some very positive feedback, and we were told by the vast majority involved that they had enjoyed themselves and that the quiz was very good! (Thank you Niall!) The raffle was also a success, and I would like to thank each and everyone of the local businesses for their contributions to that! Without them, we quite literally would not have been able to do it!

Altogether last night, we raised a total sum of £175.50 for the NSPCC! If you would like to add to the money raised so far, please donate at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/r2rchallenge! Also, please like our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/r2rchallenge, for all the latest news about our challenge!

Dan