Posted by: Zombi | July 5, 2010

Episode 2…

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Posted by: Zombi | July 3, 2010

Episode 1….

Sorry for the delay but here is episode one…

The rest will be uploaed over the next couple of days (when I’ve finished editing them!!).

Posted by: Zombi | June 23, 2010

Three strikes and I’m out

The trip home was supposed to be the easy one!

After cycling back from San Remo to the nearest station, reaching my campsite in Nice was very welcome.

The following two days have been spent doing very little other than eating. Probably as a result of the large calorie shortfall over the last two weeks I have spent the last three days hungry. Meal, rest, meal has been the formula I have worked towards.

After finishing on Sunday, I had, or thought I had, until 9pm on Thursday before my train overnight to Paris, eurostar to London then train home. The weather has been great and I love Nice so what could be better.

Tuesday saw me potter out on the bike and eventually locate a bike bag to transport the bike home in in a bike shop near the port. That was me finally all sorted.

This afternoon, following mincing round he promenade enjoying the rays (as in sun rays, not two people called Raymond) I meandered back up to the station with just enough time to get the train to the campsite and be in place for watching the England players put my mincing to shame.

“Please note” the station speaker boomed, “due to strike action, trains will be disrupted tomorrow. Please check notice boards for further information”. Darting round like a ferret in a hall of mirrors I scanned the hall for information. In typical French style there was nothing. Eventually I managed to find a small information desk with a rather stout lady who had little desire to give out any information. I guessed this by the fact she greate me, I started asking her if my train would be affected, then, halfway through her phone rang, she answered it and proceeded to chat away for 5 minutes before greeting me again asif she had never seen me before. Following eventually getting my question out she looked down and wrote on a peice of paper “tomorrow strike”. Excellent, have you ever thought of being a news presenter? With that thought of considered insightful response I’m sure it would be jus your thing. A little more questioning resulted in me finding out there was not disruption there were just no trains at all.

The queue for the ticket office was remarkably small. When I arrived I asked if there were any trains to Paris I could get tonight to avoid the strike. “Yes there is”, I was told. “In one hour and forty five minutes but you will have to pay”. Surprised I asked, “but it is not my fault the train isn’t running, your company is on strike”. “Ah yes, but we are not on strike yet so we have not stopped you getting your train”. “but you just told me again it wasn’t running?” “it’s not, we are on strike”. Seeing I wasn’t going to get very far with this I decided it would be best to get back to the camping as quick as possible and try to get back for the last train running to the capital. Miss that and I miss all my connections.

After eventually reaching the campsite it became clear I wouldn’t have time to pack, get back to he station, buy a new ticket and get on the train after dismantling the bike.

At least I can watch England I thought. French television was showing the USA game. Great!

After a couple of phone calls home for a couple of favours it became apparent that a flight home might be the best option. Either was was going to be expensive as I would have had to repurchase eurostar and train tickets anyway.

So, back on the bike and off the 6 miles to the airport. Jet2, shut. Bmi Baby, abhorantly expensive. As I was leaving the BMI desk she told me to try Easyjet over in the other terminal. “great thanks, oh and by the way, the flight tonight was expensive, what about tomorrow, is there anything cheaper?”. She looked surprised, “tomorrow there are no flights, there is a strike.” Oh for….

Now I was left in the position that if I didn’t get a flight today, and it was 5:45 now, I wasn’t getting one tomorrow and it would be Friday or Saturday before I was getting home. With work on Monday the thought of arriving home on Saturday wasn’t great, not to mention the extra cash I would be spending.

Arriving, by now sweating, at the Easyjet desk I asked again if there were any flights back to England today, knowing I needed 2 hours to get back to get my stuff, get back and check in, I wasn’t hopeful.

Yes sir, we have one more to Gatwick tonight, leaving at 9:45. I could have kissed her. Unfortunately she looked like Elton John so I didn’t. “Can I have one ticket please, how much is it…”

You may have heard stories about how airlines give tickets away at the last minute as they may as well get something as opposed to nothing. They don’t. They know, anyone buying a ticket on the day isn’t doing it on a whim, they are doing it because they (think) they need it. The airlines charge accordingly.

240€ later and I was peddaling back to the campsite to get my worldly belongings. 1 tent with a slight leak, 4 cycling magazines (used), 1 blue sleeping bag, half a packet of biscuits and a binbag full of unwashed cycling kit that a swarm of bluebottles would pass over in preferance to a cow pat (Gordon, if you think I am landing on ‘that’ you have got another thing coming).

Mess in tow I emerged back at the airport and preceeded to start dismantelling the bike to get it in it’s new bag. With that done and a few other bits and bobs popped in as well so I didn’t end up with more than the two other bags I was allowed I hotfooted it over to the spectacually good looking girl on the check out desk. She smiled, because that’s what she was paid to do. She would probably squirted me with mace if she had her way (in fairness she was very nice to me). Leavering my bike bag on the belt, aware that I had a 20kg limit I saw the scales tip 21.7kg. She looked at me like she wanted to help me out. “Do you have much other stuff?”. “No” I squeeked. “Just these two bags. They are only light” I winced as the straps cut in to my fingers due to the weight.

She smiled, “ok, that will be fine”. I could have kissed her. In fact I did try but she had one if those buttons which made a security screen shoot up in front of her. I nearly lost my nose it went up that quick.

My flight is due to leave any minute now (10pm ish). I have a bus booked for 6am tomorrow morning from gatwick arriving in to Leeds around 12:45 (I think it goes via Nice). Nonight won’t be the best nights sleep ever but I have slept in worse places and at least I wi be on my way home.

It has been a long trip all in all, the way home has been the most complex but it looks to be nearly over now.

Thanks, you’ve been a great audience. That was my last blog but the videos will be up in a couple of days.

Ben

Posted by: Zombi | June 20, 2010

Day 17 Nice to San Remo

I wanted to come up with a classic opening line for my update to inform you I had finished. Something clever but simple, upbeat whilst calm, funny whilst respectful. I have had quite a while to think of what would be appropriate and think I have something suitably intallectual.

Woooooo yeeeaaaahhhh. Haaaa Haaaaa. Have that you scorcher. Whoop whoop whoop!

Fitting I thought.

There was no more fitting way for the journey to end than with the mother of all storms.

This morning I was woken by the sound of thunder crashing down like it was going out of fashion. I don’t know if it was because we are near the mountains but it was louder than I have ever heard. Due to the fact I am as brave as a lion (one of the cuddly ones normally reserved for Tour de France stage winners) I stayed in bed and waited for the rain to go!

When the rain subsided I emerged like a weasel out of it’s… weasel house? (does anyone know what a weasel lives in?) Everything was re-packed, as has been the routine every morning, and just like every morning, the packing has been that little bit more disorganized than the day before!

When I say everything was packed, the wet tent and sleeping mat remained as they were. At this point in the journey I had no intention of sleeping in a wet tent again. “Cheat” I hear you shout. Well I rebuff your, quite valid, cries with the confirmation that, to ensure the correct weight was carried, just outside Nice I bought two 1.5ltr bottles of water which went in my bags purposefully untouched to counter the weight of the tent.

The ride from the campsite to the centre of Nice was wonderful. Dedicated cycle lanes all the way whisking me, past the airport, right on to the Promenade des Anglaise. The ride along this stretch was fantastic, the town to my left, the Mediterranean to my right. All it needed was one out of control poodle (my predictive text proposed ‘poof’ instead of poodle. It made me smile anyway) and I would have been swimming to San Remo.

Leaving Nice to the East I was met with the first main climb of the day up to Eze. A lot of height is gained quite quickly and you get some great views of the coast and the town. Unfortunately, for someone who is not to clever with heights, cycling next to 200ft drops, even with a small wall in the way, does keep you awake!

No sooner had I passed through Eze than I had a great descent to Villefrance sur la Mere and then a climb back up to make my first border crossing of the day into Monaco. The lines blur a little in Monaco with the Principality and the town of the same name and the centre which is Monte Carlo. Before I knew it I was zipping down to the centre of Monte Carlo, taking the famous ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ corner at a similar speed to the F1 drivers who live in the area. I was then on to the finishing straight before taking the 1st turn up the hill towards the casino. At this point I was going at a similar speed to Steptoe on his cart, who has never lived in the area!

Sweating in cycling gear desperately in need of a proper wash I emerged between the Hotel de Paris and the Casino to a hail of flashlights and shouts from excited tourists. I had arrived, my public were waiting. It turned out they were not waiting for me and I had probably just ruined somewhere in the region of 150 photographs of the Casino for tourists wishing to tell of the rich streets of Monaco. A playground for the rich and famous. “But what about the tramp on the bike?” they will be asked.

“Next year dear, we shall go to Wakefield” they will decide.

Photo’s complete I carries straight out of Monaco towards the Italian border. My second border crossing of the day, quite impressive I think you will agree! Now knowing I was going to be crossing borders during the day you would think I would have ensured my passport was safely secured. Well, before you scoff, it was safely secured. Not so clever now are you!

Yes, as I was approaching the Italian border my passport was safely tucked away in the top draw at the campsite 25 miles away.

I had worked on the basis that as this was going to be a land border crossing and hardly a contested border I should be fine. Suddenly I was having visions.

“Your passport sir”

“Ah well, I am awfully sorry but I appear to have left it in France. You wouldn’t be so kind as to let me pop across, I’ll be three hours at most and it would be frightfully kind. I’ll pop right back, I promise.”

“Men, take him away. Full cavity search”

“But sir, shouldn’t we just turn him away?”

“Erm, can I speak to the consulate”

“Men, do as I say”

“I demand my phone caaaaaallllllllllll”

I passed without incident. You have a lot of time to think on the bike.

Pleased I was in Italy, and intact, I made my way through Ventimiglia leaving me with only San Remo to reach. At this point, 5 miles to go. Half my commute to work. It dawned on me, I’d forgotten my shor… (I’ve used that one already haven’t I) I might just make this. What do I do when I get there? Is cycling through the centre, arms aloft too much? Can anything be too much in a country where brill cream should be applied by putting “a grapefruit sized amount in the palm of your hand before running through hair to ensure a full covering”. Should I be more subtle and just pull over and have a quiet moment to my self (and no that is not a euphanism)?

In the end, dissapointingly I rolled in to the centre and realised I didn’t actually know where the finish line of Milan San Remo was and for that explicit reason I didn’t know where I was going. I wheeled round for a while before heading over to the front, to a long straight road which did look like the finish. As I pulled on to the road I heard an almighty roar. Grown men were cheering and shouting. People were dancing about the noise was incredible. I was taken aback. I don’t know how Amy had sorted it without me knowing but what a reception. It was something quite special and was an amazing way to finish. I almost had a tear in my eye.

It turned out Italy were playing in the world cup. I had forgotten. They had just scored. My big moment taken away. It was just like the time at school I was accused of cheating in art. Apparently my tracing of Eric Cantona was way above my usual standard. “Did Timothy do it for you?”. It was a tracing, how could I have got it wrong!

Following a couple of pictures to prove I had made it I then had the rather unglamarous ride, 9 miles back, to Ventimigllia to get the train back to Nice.

Tired, pleased, content and a little confused I showered, changed (I always do it in the wrong order) and headed in to Nice for some tea. I’m not sure it has sunk in it’s finished yet.

The Stats:

Miles: 1234.7

Days: 17 (includes 1 rest day)

Punctures: 0

Repairs required: 1 (electrical tape to rear rack where screw came loose and fell out)

Cans of coke drunk: 40 (ish)

Potential boyfriends on the Journey: 2 (I bet Yogi is still thinking about the ‘one who got away’ (not that I am insinuating he was trying to abduct me!))

Longest day: 19th June – Aix en Provence – Villneuve Loubet – 112.6 miles.

Shortest day: 20th June – Villneuve Loubet – San Remo – 45 miles.

Top speed 42.7mph

Average speed: Still to be calculated but it will be just over 13mph.

Things of note I have passed:
1 dead badger,
1 moped (that makes up for the mountainbiker!),
1 tractor.

I think you will agree that is quite an impressive list.

Things that have passed me:
1 mountainbiker,
1 butterfly (that was quite a humiliation),
1 moped (the road went uphill again unfortunately),
1 Novelty train full of tourists in Monaco.

Embarassing guessing games in Chemists: 1.

Crashes: 3.

Top speed of a crash: 3mph.

Phonecalls to Amy pleading to be allowed to come home: 36.

Phonecalls to Amy where I have been told to stop being a puff and if i didn’t carry on she would sell all my football and cycling stuff on eBay: 37 (she phoned me back once, just to confirm).

Hillarious incidents involving a ferret, tombola machine and a ladies brassier: 0.

Last, but most importantly:

Total money you have all raised: £1146.50 (that includes all monies I have or have been pledged an amount, there may be a little extra to add on to this).

Thank you’s:

Now I have no intention of this being like an oscar winning speech because, well I have not won an oscar and I am sat in a wet tent!

Numerous people have really helped me enormously with completing this trip and I have been amazed with how much we have all raised. The money really is going to an excellent cause and I can only say thank you once again for being so generous.

Notable mentions go to Ravensthorpe Cycling club. Without them I couldn’t have pedalled out of Bradford let alone England.

Saks hair and beauty in Halifax for their generous donation but far more importantly, making me look this damn good.

Karen and Dawn at work for picking up my crap. Dawn, you can have the last laugh as you hand it all back to me and Karen, I know, for the next 6 months you will use this against me in each meeting, document or deadline we have and I don’t blame you one bit!

Simon, Janene and Eva, without their support and encouragement both before and during the trip I would now be in a ditch in Wakefield crying.

Amy Dunn who has had to listen to me whitter on for the past 9 months with unrelenting regularity, rather like a machine gun trapped on ‘fire’, about what bike, wheels, route, sponsorship, clothes etc I need, want, have already got. She has listened, helped and let me prattle away without once telling me to shut up. Then at the end, I sod off for three weeks and leave her with the washing up! I can’t imagine it has been easy but I honestly couldn’t have done it without you Amy. Thank you.

(Amy has just been on holiday, had three weeks away from me and knows when I get back I will be prattling on about wheels, clothes and the Tour de France. Hang on, she has had it easy!)

There are plenty of others who have helped me out massively and it really is appreciated. Don’t think I have missed you because I will remember.

Thank you all so much for your support, we have raised a great amount. (If you still want to sponsor me either email me at Benblyth@yahoo.co.uk or search for Ben Blyth at Justgiving.com)

I will be popping back here for a few more hillarious anechdotes following my trip home (my overnight train to Paris leaves at 9pm on Thursday) and I have also been in charge of a video camera for three weeks so I will pop the videos up in a week or so.

Finally, has anyone any idea how I’m getting my bike home as I still seriously have no clue…

Posted by: Zombi | June 19, 2010

Day 16 Aix en Provence – Nice

Let me be up front. As you may or may not know I have exceedingly little will power.

This morning when I set off from Aix I was clear in my mind that I would be stopping halfway along the planned route for the night to ensure I would be left with two short days. I would, under no circumstances, be going all the way to Saint Raphael. No way. Not on your nelly.

Well I didn’t. I continued on for another 35 miles to finish up at Villeneuve Loubet, at a campsite I know well, 8 miles out of Nice. Instead of the planned 50 mile short day I ended up adding tomorrows route on as well and completing the longest day of the trip. 112 miles in total, incidentally beating my longest ever ride by 4 miles. As pleased with this as I was I must admit. I did have a little help. I got the train. (for the avoidance of doubt, that was a joke!) I got the bus.

No sooner had I set off, I realised today was going to surpass yesterday. Yesterdays breeze was no more, it had turned in to a real wind, blowing in just the right direction. I must have done something to please someone somewhere!

The pace with which I was going was unbeleivable, as opposed to the standard 13mph on the flat which feels painfully slow I was pushing 16-17mph up a gradual incline at one point and reaching the high 30’s downhill. Passing through towns was a nightmare as I was quicker navigating junctions and roundabouts than the cars, slowing my average speed.

With this assistance in mind, knowing you must never look a gift horse in the mouth (I often wonder if vets are in a catch 22 with that statement) I tore up the route I had planned, which was focusing more on minor roads and instead went straight for the main roads, following signs to Saint Raphael with the intention of seeing how far I could get.

Normally riding on the largest roads is a pretty depressing time, lorrys thundering passed you every minute as you ride in the hard shoulder is pretty dull (although for some of the time triallists I know that is the perfect way to spend twenty something minutes) however today, with the speed I was picking up, it felt exactly the right place to be.

Lunch time came and went, as did the sign for Saint Raphael (110km). Not me today I thought. Muppet.

Before I knew it I was only 35k’s from Saint Raphael. Aware of the news reports I had seen about the storms and flooding I was keeping my eyes open for any potential issues. Ip to this point there had been nothing more than some very full looking rivers and some flooded vinyards.

Le Muy is a small town, like hundreds of others round France. As I arrived, like all the others, ready to ride through the centre, as opposed to the longer bypass route often available (quicker by car but never by bike) I noticed signs diverting all cars to the bypass. As the corden was only blocking half the road and clearly not trying to stop anything at all entering I passed it and continued through the town. Initially, everything was normal. A few shops, people sat outside cafes, nothing of note. As I headed out the far side of the town, slightly down hill, I realised the bridge was closed and I would have to cut across to the bypass/ringroad. This was blocked with all the additional tragic and then I saw what was causing all the havoc.

The bottom half of the town had been totally devastated. There were police, firemen and the army everywhere. I can only describe it as being like something you see on the news. There were smashed up cars all over the place. Everything was covered in mud and I saw one car stood up on it’s bonnet against a tree. The town supermarket was destroyed, front windows smashed, mud throughout what I could see of the store. I passed either a campsite or a static caravan park and it looked like a childs toy box. Caravans were just piled into each other, some smashed to bits. It’s not as if they are light things.

Finally, as I was leaving town, the thing that really troubled me was the sight of homeowners, covered head to toe in mud, clearing all the crap from their homes. Furnature ruined, all their belongings out in the street, the only way to salvage anything was to hose it down. To say I had missed the storms by a few days, I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like.

The rest of the afternoon felt a little less euphoric.

As I rolled in to Saint Rapheal, the thought of another 35 miles didn’t seem too bad, especially as I was now following the coast road. Passing through the likes of Cannes and Juan Le Pins was superb and even better with the encouragement of a couple from England I traded places with over a few miles.

Finally, after 7:30 in the saddle I arrived at the campsite. Tent was whipped up and I was on the next train to Nice to get some tea.

Being here, somewhere I know quite well is strange. It feels like I have not cycled here.

Tomorrow (or today, as you read this) will be the last day amazingly. I will be pleased to have finished but it will feel a little strange. There will be a feeling of, what do I do now.

It’s been a long day. It’s now 1:10am, it’s raining, and I need my sleeping bag. It’s been a great day and by all accounts, it is going to be sunny from… you guessed it, the day after tomorrow (Monday)!

Finally, before I sign off. Thank you all for the comments and support so far. Each and every message has been much appreciated and I thought I had responded to them all although it became aparent the other day my comments hadn’t been saved so I really am sorry. Thanks again and let’s see if I can do it tomorrow… and no, I’m not extending the trip to Milan!

Ben

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