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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sunday ' s Ride

No more postcards, we are back and I at least will be riding on Sunday. 9 am in the usual place and if I am there bring your raincoat

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ride and a postcard...

Hey you lot,

Ride is on for 9 am tomorrow and we have a special treat with Joseph bringing little Edward to meet us for the last part of the ride and for a cuppa. 
Let me know if you're a starter. 

I have posted Andy's latest postcard below...

Hmm.  left it a bit too long to continue the diary, many things will be lost in sweat over the last 10 days!
Thursday of SF week is the picnic. After the hot days preceeding we were expecting more hot weather and so itturned out. Met the others  and headed off together. Lost Joan a few times on the hills but she was with us when PeterD found a Carrefour that sold week bix.  Coffee  stop not long after. We had coffee but the French riders were having beer! Great view out of the back window.
Getting hotter and hillier  as we found the queue for lunch. No sign of Murk who was to meet us. Duck, potato/cheese and cake  went down very well then time for a snooze with the pbp aspirants making sure their techniques  were sound, judging from the amount of snoring coming from them.
After lunch we did the circuit down into the old coal mine which is now a sports complex with grass ski slopes, chairlift, lake etc looked pretty ok for a coal mine which of course are much better to look at than the big wind turbines we rode past on the way back to Albi.
Dinner was fried chicken and chips from one of the vans at the conviviality tent with everyone except Murk. He had made it to the picnic area but decided the walk was too far so he had a nice lunch in a nearby village. He had a light meal in his camper.
Friday was a flat ish ride so we did the p3 and finished with 116 or so. Very hot in the arvo so needed a good cidre or two to cool off. Silly paying the same money just to get fizzy water.
Dinner at the restaurant at the airfield was a bit pricey but they had Grimbergen beer and steak which suited me. The risotto  was a bit light on but they did have a power point to charge PeterD ' s phone. A late night for Murk.
Overcast for our last ride for the week. We decided that the loop  up the Tarn then back down the other side was too good to miss so we just did the p1  course. Started raining early and did much the same thing all day. The control at Ambialet was stunning. Curches on the tops of hills (one 1250ad  so right up there as one of the oldest we have found), the power station that looked like a châteaux and the beautiful bend in the Tarn river. And as well as that the live music - Catalan we think- prompted one of the old cyclists to get a crowd of riders tripping the light fantastic. A two hour stop which could have been longer.
The ride back was even  better than the ride up with the lush vegetation giving way  to views  down the valley and even a couple of tunnels to enjoy in the absence of cars.
Still raining at Albi so we had a snooze in the tent before tea. Met the others for the final dinner but the long queue that showed little sign of moving was too much for Murk. He needed an early night before he drove to Geneva the next day.
We managed only til 11pm when we deserted before the deserts came.
Great food and entertainment again. Walked back to the tent in the rain.
Sunday for us was pack up day. Fortunately it was dry in the morning as we packed our panniers and loaded up the bikes. Murk said his good byes and we joined the others for the ride to the stadium to assemble for the parade. Leigh had a puncture on the way so with the help of an old French racing cyclist (showed me his framed photo) we had it fixed quickly. Start of the parade was delayed as we put our raincoats on and off a few times before the skies lightened. The Kangaroo were a great hit again and our small group made a large impact on the crowd.  In the last 100 m of the Parade the vollies narrowed the lane to allow one cyclist through the cheering crowds at a time. Quite an experience - partly because I was not sure I could keep on track and not skittle a few of the over enthusiastic ones, and partly because I thought we should be applauding them for their time and effort over the last years  and a week to make it all work so well. Bravo!
After the parade we said goodbye to Joan, Peter,  Leigh and Allan who were staying until they caught their train towards pbp on Tuesday.
We headed north towards Paris or so I thought. Little did I know. We followed the main road out to Cordes with St Antonin a possibility.  the rain settled in big time after allowing us to ease into the long 6% grade out of Albi. The loaded bikes were not so spritely now!   we made it to Cordes, only 30k and decided that we would camp there.  Thecamping ground was a few k out of town but a nice walk. Another medieval village built on top if a hill, each one better than the last it seems. After a long walk around the crowded streets we had a lovely meal at a small restaurant near the camp.
Got to St Antonin for coffee the next day, another beautiful French village. We had our lunch along the road watching the Chateaux high above us. After a long climb out of Caylus we noticed the 'keep out' signs. The area for the next ten rolling k was an army base with deserted  villages and no signs of life except for the army barracks where we could hear the men singing in the distance. Very odd feeling going along the very scrubby plateau. Could have been a million miles from France. As we descended the plateau in the heat of the day we stopped to admire the limestone cliffs and the distant sight of the Lot valley.
The run down was very nice at the end of a hard day's riding. Even better was the sight of another Medieval French village. Thus one is called St Cirq Lapopie and will live long in my mind's eye. The first view from the road junction was of the old town rising steeply from the lush valley with the curve of the Lot river competing the scene. We camped at the ground close by and walked up for an explore and dinner and both were excellent. No rain in the after noon and getting warm again.

On the road early heading to Gramat   just short of Rocamadour. Beautiful ride up down the lot valley for a few k then right turn to head up the Cele river valley, a gentle climb until Bengues  and lunch sitting in the sun outside the church. The climb out of th he valley to Espadallie  was a typical French gut buster and we used our lunch fairly quickly. Maybe these legs are getting too old for the 8 per centers or maybe the garmin just gives me too much information. Anyhow we found a lovely old hotel over the top of the hill to prove that it was beer o'clock. The restaurant inside was full and the tables in the shade across the road were at capacity as well. At 2.30 in the arvo they must have been doing something right. Undulating to Gramat where we decided that we could manage the last 18 k to Rocamadour. As we rode in I tried to work out whether it would be as good as Iremembered it from 2003. Approaching from the west you do not see anything special at all, just the rather scrubby landscape. We set up camp and headed in the general direction of the village, now with a bit of a glimpse of the deep valley in front but no signs of anything special. A few meters further and we could see the amazing sight of the châteaux at the top and churches and houses clinging to the rock face further down. Full of tourists of course but not enough to have worn the stone steps down to the fossil layers - thousands  of pilgrim feet would have achieved that.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Hiya all,

Survived my first ride on a cows head today uninjured though a little undignified, celebrating with a more gentle ride tomorrow.
Ride's at 9am, let me know if  you can make it or I'll send the cow around.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

They're in France...

Mazamet. Too much for tea at the hotel - must learn not to have the three course deal even if it sounds ok. Used the Internet to get a few things done - free Internet at the last camping place was useless.
Met an older chap from nz who was also riding around and when he mentioned 1200 G asked him if he was going pbp. The 1200 turned out to be an enormous BMW motor bike. He has done quite a few trips including Norway to nz.
We started in the morning just as the rain did, great timing. Tried an Aldi for a sim card to no avail but did have to queue for ages as the cheques were slowly written out and processed. Drizzle and overcast on the way to Castres so into the main square for hot chocolate.  Met an English cyclist Rosy who was also heading to sf. Decided to stay the night and after circumnavigating the town eventually found the camp. Set up tent and headed back to the Goya Museum which was worth the 5 euro.  Cidre hot chocolate and crepes followed then a trip to the supermarket which was around the corner but only visible after looking for it on the Internet. Rosy told us about a velo route to Albi which we might try tomorrow.
A few spots of rain on the ride back to the camp slowly got heavier with lightning to match. Our first home cooked meal turned a bit soggy. Retired to the tent at about a quarter to seven and two hours later it is still pissing down. The new tent survived its  first rain. Still overcast in the morning. Castres is full of one way streets and these ones did not work to our advantage as we were pushed away to the west twice so eventually went with the flow and found ourselves at a great boulangerie at a tiny town called Semalens. From here we headed north through rolling green hills and our first sunflowers. Glo was suffering and we rode through Lautrec without a sideways glance. The most direct route to Albi was deemed essential so we ended up on a busyish road which we realised had the gravel bike path beside it most of the way into Albi. Third time lucky to get a cold drink and ice cream in Albi before heading to Terssac  to get our paperwork from the pick up  point. As usual the strangers table was quiet and friendly. They also had noted that they will refund Peter and Jan's entry after they cancelled - the call of Vienna was more pressing!
No sign of Murk, our octinagarian friend from Lancefield. We rode off to the camping and with a few directions found our allocated spots and Murk already there with Australian flag flying over his camper van. He had talked his way in to the right place. After setting up the tent we headed down to the convivialati tent for some food and the best cidre  in the world. 
We are part of a contingent of 13500 cyclists and 2700 volunteers, mostly camping on the Albi airfield/motor race circuit. It is enormous - 1.5k  to the food area, 1.8k  to get to the gate. Mostly camper vans with some camping with bikes and panniers. Next year Dijon if anyone is interested!
First day's ride for us was the Sunday 3rd longest of the 4 routes.  120k  with 1400m  of climbing as it turned out. The climbs were  regular  and tending to the steep end of the scale. Past the enormous Aldi cathedral through the hills to the first Accueil  at Valderies for a very nice cake and short black. Nine  am, hardly anyone bothered to stop so we had the table to ourselves.  Beer tent was being utilized however. On to the beau village of Monastic for our jumbo sandwich. Saw Peter and Leigh coming in as we were going out again. They took the long route from there and we didn't see them again until dinner in the Permanance. Hot day, lots of cyclists, lots of hills with the occasional châteaux. Cidre  when we finished,  shower then off to dinner with 500 of our closest French cycling mates. And Alan Walker, Joan, Peter and Leigh. Then to a well earned sleep

Monday decided that the 60 of a flattish p2 course would  work for us and it did. Hot again so early start and finished by 12.  
Tuesday. Great day today. Ninety k started in the drizzle and ended in a pleasant 28 or so. Climbed up to Realmont with few other cyclists - I think lots of riders needed a break and sat out the weather in Albi coffee shops with the Donnan  team. Had a good lunch and look around Realmont. Lots happening in the town square and saw a poster for the next edition of Bubbles and Sebastian. Whoohoo for maremma films. Took short cut to Lautrec. Great place and turns out their windmill was used to crush a nut which provided a blue dye that Mark's great grandfather used to buy to use in their paint factory in Holland. A combination of road, gravel bike paths nasty climbs got us back to Albi in time for a cidre  and then off to tea in the potato restaurant with Alan, Joan, Peter and Leigh. Murk no where to be seen after visiting his dutch friends that he hadn't seen for 20 years. The 2 year old baby was now ready to get married!
Wednesday. Forecast was for 36 and Glo still coughing. The loud French voice had just ceased when the cough opened up and hopefully kept him awake til all hours. Easy to decide to have a day in Albi which we had not really had a chance to see this time around.  A Dutch couple chatted with us and Murk and it turns out they have stayed with a friend in Mt Macedon. After changing the charging system on the bike (the spinergy  was not giving much power at the speeds we were riding) we rode the 6 k into Albi. A coffee in front of the enormous church could have been more leisurely but G was on a mission. Crowded church first then 3 hours in the HenryToulouse Lautrec museum. Great museum and great palace which contained it. No sign of previous owners - chased out by one of the revolutions? Afternoon meet a strong around town then stayed for the organ recital in church number 3. Back to the camping trying to do the very tired looking riders coming back from the days programme. No sign of Peter Donnan, Leigh Patterson and Joan who were  planning to do the longest ride because it was flatter than the second longest. 150 k in the 36 degrees would be a fair ride.  Off to the permanence for dinner, still  no sign of Joan who appeared during the main course - taking her time and getting lost. No sign of the accordion player, lastseen fast asleep and very sunburnt at about 7 pm.  dinner included some very nice polenta  - first edible polenta I've come across! Still warm at 9.30

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Andy and Glo in Spain

Monday 27 July 2015. Made it to Santa station on the bikes.  always hard to get the feet going round in circles at the start of the ride. A couple of adjustment wobbles and we were off. Last bit to the station was on their bike path. Fantastic.  got two tickets from the machine, no charge for bicycles.  12 euro each to Puigcerda and 3 hours on train. Checked out access  yesterday on our trip to see Pili at Tarragona. still humid  but should be cooler up in the mountains hopefully although seems to be hot everywhere in Europe except for Belgium where aidan had rain yesterday. The countryside around here and indeed the dirty streets of Barcelona  are crying out for a good fall. Hopefully only at night when we are in accommodation!
Barcelona has been very enjoyable. Airbnb fairly basic but only $50 per night and Nahuel was very friendly. Used the metro a bit but most le shanks pony as usual. Didn't try the city bikes but they were all over the place. Barcelona has heaps of bike and pedestrian infrastructure all put in since our last visit. High population density seems to have encouraged alternative means of transport to  the car. Pity the Australian planners haven't had a look over here. Rubbish and recycling also seems much better with fewer larger bins for all to use?  
Barcelona was hot humid noisy and smelly so it seemed apt to overhear the song 'tar and cement' in Spanish at one stage of our half marathon around The town.  the first of many runners enjoying the heat was some one wearing a melbourne marathon Spartans top. Only a ten year version so I didn't say hello. Strange to say I was wearing a marathon t shirt myself

Was not until nearly lunchtime  that we entered the first church. Worth waiting for, the Cathedral ticked all the right boxes.

While waiting for the Puigcerda  train we
had 25 minutes on the platform (thank heaven for lifts!) to work out how to get bikes on train
like in France they were all different. When ours came it meant a lift up from the station level but we managed.  This train didn't have the low entry for bikes but did racks for them (in winter you stack your skis in the same place. Another 3 hours and we are on the bikes at Puigcerda. Unfortunately couldn't find the train tickets when the inspector came. When he returned after we had gone through every several times he asked how much we had paid and decided we had bought them so no extra fee. Much relief from us.

Coffee at Puigcerda before we started at about 2pm. Only 1 k to the border - seemed so easy to ride from Spain to France in the Pyrennes!  the work started quickly as we labored out of town.  didn't look like it but the slope was 6% and in the heat 36- we knew we were cycling again. G. did the bonk ina big way after 11k! A fair bit of traffic and lots of climbing for the afternoon. We climbed 600m up to the plateau and turned north. Temperature dropped so by 5.30 when we reached the lake it was only 15
Hadn't done a huge distance but felt it on our first day camping at Lac de Matemale was good. Coolish night but ok with the single sleeping bag.
Started after 9 to try to warm up. Climbed 30m in the first few ks  then it was just about all downhill. Went from 1530m down to about 200! Spectacular  gorges especially  St George  Gorge very steep and narrow, lots of  cutting out of rocks to allow the road and Aude river space. Camped at Alet  des  Bains, small English  run camp in a medieval  village. Dinner in the old monastery  garden.  headed off in the morning to St Hilaire another Cathar town with a large monastery.  Lunch was ham and cheese baguettes opposite the church.  Into the amazing Carcassonne in the early afternoon.Camped and spent hours in the old citadel  and then more time in the vibrant old town . Tired by the time we got back to the campsite so had the 3 course meal, read for a while wondering about whether the few rain drops would turn into rain. Did not happen until the next day, Thursday. Rain early which stopped for us to pack and start riding but set in by the time we had climbed through the vineyards to Lastours
lastours has 4 Cathar 'castles'  perched high above the town. Rained the whole way up the hill. 40 k of 4-5% before we could finally roll down the hill into Mazamet.Had intended to go another 200 to Castres but dived into the first hotel we came too.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


Hey all,

Ride is planned for 9 am tomorrow.  Let me lnow if you are coming so I don't have a sleep in instead.



Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ride's on

G'day gang,

Ride is planned planned for 9am tomorrow.
I'm keen to ride out to Trentham or Metcalfe which will make it about 100k but with plenty if opportunity to shorten it if you are time limited or not so keen.
Let me know if you're coming otherwise I may chase the sun and stay north of the divide.