And so it begins.

3 Sep

Well, my first few days of cycling are over. I am writing this from a sofa in a holiday home overlooking the Loire river, I shouldn’t get used to this!


Before my trip began I had a good old shin dig at my house to say goodbye to everybody. Thanks to my parents for all the lovely grub and organisation, the cake was a spitting image of my bike too, well done Mum. Thanks to everyone that came, it was a great night. However due to it being such a good party it meant that when I left on Monday morning I felt truly awful, still hanging and very run down. Not exactly how I had planned to be starting my voyage but there you have it.


I rose early Monday morning said goodbye to my parents and had the obligatory photo in front of the house. I rode the few miles up to Cheriton where I would be picked up and taken through the Channel Tunnel by a chap called Norman and his wife (This is a service provided by Euro Tunnel not a strange arrangement). While I was waiting to be picked up I was going to smoke my last cigarette, unfortunately I felt so bad I could only manage 2 puffs and had to dismiss it as a bad idea. Probably a good way to give up in actual fact, but it didn’t feel that way at the time.


Anyway, I reached France in one piece and began to cycle; up and down hills with my bike weighing a tonne and a stiff headwind whilst feeling under the weather, lovely. I struggled on, fuelled by as much baguette and Camembert as I could force down but by about 3 I had to submit and have a nap by the side of the road. I was awoken not long later by a Frenchman enquiring if I was OK. I was, and carried on with the task at hand; getting down to Ousson-sur-Loire for my family holiday which started Saturday, something which felt like it loomed over me and put a lot of pressure on me. I managed 70km that day and camped on a municipal football pitch near Montreuil.


Tuesday was much of the same, I hadn’t slept well, I woke up feeling pretty ill, the cycling was challenging due to hills and headwind but it was drizzling a bit as well. Again not the nicest start to my trip but I struggled on heading south. I managed 120km and camped in a forest near a road. From Wednesday things got a lot better, the hills began to flatten out and the wind died down a bit. The scenery was all pretty similar, fields of wheat that had just been harvested, wind turbines, radio masts (always a welcome when you are close to them as you know you are at one of the highest points in the area), tractors and the occasional forest.


I have not yet paid for a campsite but have found a few nice spots. A couple of football pitches which have been nice; a couple of bits of forest but one of my most audacious was probably Thursday night. I had had a nice day’s cycling, hilly to begin with but the afternoon was spent tacking with the wind, as the road meandered I would either be helped or hindered by the wind which made for interesting riding. As I had done around 100km I decided that I should stock up on water and find a camp site as there was a storm approaching. As I approached a little French village I found one of my usual watering holes, a cemetery. Well this was an especially nice one, nice and green and not yet crowded with graves and it had a nice awning area with a bench to take shelter from the rain, perfect flat ground too for my tent. Now I did wonder how offensive somebody might find this if they were to come in, personally it didn’t bother me at all, but I thought the chances of someone coming in were pretty slim so I risked it. I made my wash in the morning very swift too, someone turning up when I was in the nip wouldn’t have been good.


The Friday after my night with the stiffs was pretty uneventful cycling wise, the wind had shifted in my favour and I was on cruise control. I reached Chateauxneuf-sur-Loire early in the afternoon and had my first beer for 5 days so that I could charge my Kindle and send an email to Mum. I got chatting with a few locals and impressed them with the scale of my trip, I made an exit when the nutty old lady drinking Pernod sat a little bit too close and kept hinting at me buying her a drink.


From Chateauxneuf I followed the EuroVelo 6 cycle route along the banks of the Loire; this route goes all the way from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, it is well signposted and follows either quite roads or separate cycle paths, it made a nice change to the usual scenery and not having to stop and look at the map regularly. I arrived to the holiday home by the banks of the river early and made myself comfortable, had a beer, took a dip and awaited my parent’s arrival.


So for the rest of the week I will be chilling out, stocking up my fat reserves and enjoying some nice alcohol with my family. The first week didn’t really seem like the start of my trip to be honest more of a warm up of what is to come. I need to make a few decisions now though, follow the EuroVelo route, which looks lovely and scenic means I would meet more cyclists and not worry about busy roads. However that avoids the alps and takes some of the sense of adventure away from carrying along on my planned route. Decisions, decisions.


I am still free of nicotine, the first week has been fine, it is worse now that I am sitting around with nice food and wine and not cycling a lot. But, I am feeling good about it and I am definitely coughing less. I am yet to hang out with smokers though, that will be the real test. I might treat myself to a cigar at the end of the week to celebrate but we will see.


Here are a few photos from the party/first week of my trip.



3 Responses to “And so it begins.”

  1. johnsch123 September 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Dear Philip,

    We have just looked at your latest blog and photographs. Don’t get used to the luxury of the holiday home, with good food and company, you have a long way to gol

    Enjoy your next stage, take care and we look forward to the next instalment. You make everything sound interesting with a sense of humour.

    Love to everyone and enjoy your holiday.

    Grandma and Granddad


    From: Phil’s Bike Tour – To China, and back? [] Sent: 03 September 2012 10:37 To: john.schoner@sky.comfo Subject: [New post] And so it begins.

    philb0412 posted: “Well, my first few days of cycling are over. I am writing this from a sofa in a holiday home overlooking the Loire river, I shouldn’t get used to this! Before my trip began I had a good old shin dig at my house to say goodbye to everybody. “

  2. mandi holmea September 3, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    Hi phil leah an i have just read your first of many updates sounds great especially the grave yard camp out brilliant xx we are to print your adventure updates to show the ressies leah said they would like it and keep asking after you xx all the best young jesus xxxx

  3. Andrew September 10, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Hah! Naked washing in a cemetery! Very good. You have also shaved your head, which I also quite like. Read this from an internet cafe in Oviedo in the mountains west of the Picos de Europa, about to head high up into the mountains en route to Santiago.

    Reading this makes me think I ought to start one, but I probably won´t. I spoke to someone who got their blog sponsored by one of those cash passport companies, who gave them a bunch of money for putting their logo on the blog and mentioning that they had found it useful… worth a go?

    Anyway, good luck mate!

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