Cycling Around the World

France - Saint Malo, France to Irun, Spain

My first 12 Days in England have been pretty tough for this first time solo old timer :), but I have learned a lot, an awful lot. Now to France, and this is going to be another big challenge. Sometimes I sort of wish I had done at least a few days practice beforehand, and maybe even cycled a couple of days each week to get my muscles right, but no, not me :), but I am really glad I did it this way. 

Day 14 - Arrived in France

I found a campsite just an hours cycle away, as I had a weeks worth of clothes to wash and dry, and the ones I had on I've had on for 2 day :O

So now I'm just waiting for it all to dry and thought I'd take a 5 minute cycle to the estuary. Its quite pretty around here and there is a nice place to have a meal, oh and a beer later :)

Tomorrow will be about 30 miles inland and south to my next campsite. I got the very last pitch on the one I'm in now so I was lucky, but just the thought of all fresh and clean clothes. Great

Well what a wonderful welcome in France.

A short cycle to my first camp, so was able to wash my clothes from the last week, and that was cool, but my next door neighbours were something else.

One guy could speak English fairly well, and the other 3 could speak some words and understand quite a bit, but me, well other than Mangetout, I was all but useless.

This was a little luxury on the Ferry from Portsmouth to St-Malo :)

Never the less, these wonderful people invited me to their table for BBQ and beer, and a birthday too. I tried Camembert warmed up in tin foil on the BBQ for the first time, sort of like having fondue, only different, we broke huge bread sticks and dipped them in.

We talked for a good few hours, and this wonderful group even donated to JUMP children's charity for which I will put over to on their behalf shortly. I'm now sat down at the beautiful little harbour typing this out on my laptop, and everyone is smiling and happy, a bit like back home :) A great day, now a few beers in an hour maybe and a good nights kip for a 50km ride south tomorrow.

Having just finished typing this post, a lovely woman named Carol and her family, came over to me from their house while I was sat here on the bench, and gave me a crepe. Can you believe it? Since coming on this cycle it's like I have entered another universe. It's just great.

Day 15 - Food shock and no phone service

I cycled 30 miles inland and south to cross some of the country and hit the coast, unfortunately, there was not a thing open. Not a shop, not a pub, nothing. It was like being the last man (real man :)) on Earth.

It was obviously some sort of holiday Tuesday and I had not noted it. I left this morning with no food and only 2 bottles of water, intending on re-supplying just down the street. Not so.

It was 30 miles before I found my campsite, and they have a bar and restaurant so I am getting some food now at 7pm, I'm starving. My 2 water bottles lasted the day, weirdly, but if desperate, I would have just asked someone for water.

By the way, I took time out from this post to eat my meal. It was labelled "Mixed Grill" :), Yeah right! 2 skinny sausages, a small slice of ham, and some skin fries. Total calories about a 1/4 of what I burned today :), I feel like I'm on The Biggest Loser :)

The satnav took me down a tiny track and I fell off the track and into a bramble patch, so a few cuts and scrapes, which attracted flies of course :)

On top of that, well, I haven't been able to phone out or receive calls since I beached in St Malo, despite making 3 calls to my provider before leaving the UK to confirm everything was OK. One call is never enough, and it also turns out 3 calls aren't enough either.

I used a landline at the campsite office, and still no joy. It was like talking to a brick wall. I feel like coming back to the UK and paying Virgin Mobile a visit in person.

Oh yes, and that noise in the crank area of my pedals is back, but now its constant. I'm in the middle of nowhere and not a sole speaks English, and it will be days before I can reach the coast and hopefully another bike shop. At least this time they should be able to pinpoint the problem because they will hear it.

And so my friends, another day is done, and I'm off to bed in a little while, and tomorrow I'm assured the shops will be open as usual, whatever usual may be :) I also left Virgin Mobile to play around with the connection, so if I disappear of the radar for a while, it's their fault because they are useless.

Day 16 - Stocked up in case I couldn't find digs

55 km today to a town supposedly brimming with hotels, B&B's and Guest Houses. Nope :), it was closed. I mean the whole town was shut. No people, nothing. So I have cycled on another few km's and I'm camping at the side of the road tonight at a picnic ground. My tent was in the bushes and my bike locked to a tree, and I had my own table and chairs. The traffic didn't bother me one bit, and in fact I felt relaxed.  

It was a much better day than yesterday and I covered the most distance in a day so far. I'm going to struggle with charging my phone so I'm switching it off until tomorrow once I've posted this. It's just 100 km now to the coast, where I hope to find more things open better campsites and digs, and the sea better be there or there will be trouble! Goodnight :)

Day 17 - Learned after 17 days on the road

Padded shorts are a must have! Oh wow, I shudder to think what my butt would look and feel like with out those padded shorts under my normal shorts, but if you have ever seen the rear end of a baboon, you will have a good idea. Padded shorts are a lifesaver.

Any muscle you have that you didn't gain cycling, is useless unless you have to carry the bike. I am really quite a strong guy, but that strength matters not when cycling. On my second day of this cycle I just knew I was going to be feeling all new muscle pain from all new muscles :), and I did, and still am too.

Always carry some sort of food in your bags in case - like here in France - nothing is ever open and if it is, nobody knows when :) Bread seems to be the most popular food where I have travelled through, and Pizza seems to be the national dish. But those foods are no good in your panniers, you need jars of things or packets of things, high in energy and protein, that could get you through a whole day or more, just in case. I went a whole day without food from the day before, until 7pm that day, and even then it was far less calories than I burned that day.

Wild camping is easy as long as you have food, plenty of water, and a change of clothes for the following day, well at least a change of underwear anyway. Getting in digs once a week helps top everything up and ready for another few days of camping. Campsites sometimes let you charge things up in their offices I have found, but you don't really want to leave your laptop or mobile phone on a chair in the shop or reception.

You travel at just the right speed to enjoy your surroundings, or get a really good look at them at least. Walking would have been way too slow, especially for here in France up to now. Driving might be ideal here actually, as so far there really hasn't been anything to see other than corn, wheat, barking dogs, a few villages with nobody around, and steel shutters on nearly all the windows of houses which was a surprise, as I can't ever remember seeing steel shutters on a single house in the UK, makes you wonder what's up with that. I've actually on seen one police car up to now, so there might be a connection there.

Carry more water than you think you need. I purchased 2 plastic collapsible 5ltr water carriers before I left the UK, and in the morning I'm going to fill one of them, because even though it's extra weight, the feeling of not having to panic finding water is worth it. I also have 2 bottles on the bike and 2 smaller collapsible containers that hook onto the bags.

If someone told me I would be drinking around 2 gallons of water a day or even more, I would have laughed, as trying to get me to drink a glass of plain old water before I set out on the cycle, would have been a tough challenge. And yet here I am, I'm like a camel. Every chance I get I have my head under a tap and storing as much as I can, and during the first week or so it was just coming out of me as quick as it went in, so I started taking dehydration tablets that help keep a good electrolyte balance and I have noticed some difference, but I still can't stop drinking water, that horrible plain old tasteless nothing that I couldn't stand before I left.

I feel I need digs at least once or twice a week to keep you sane, well that's how I feel up to now. I can camp and wild camp no problem, but also need a mattress and some space to stand up in, and my own shower room. Not always, but just now and then when I'm drenched because of the rain and the thought of setting up my tent which was wet through when I packed it that morning, just doesn't seem appealing.

People will interact with you as a cyclist. I have met so many nice people up to now, and expect to meet a lot more. I have been given food, drinks, reduced rates on digs and campsites, and chatted to so many people, which when travelling alone, is needed really.

Weight falls off you. At least that's how if feels right now. I actually feel like I have lost over a stone in just these 17 days. I have no idea how much weight I have lost, or even if I have lost any at all, because I don't have scales, but I do feel like I have lost a lot.

Travel at your own pace. I have been rushing I suppose, because I have been weak in the muscle department and experience, and so have always felt I'm lagging behind and need to pedal faster and longer, but in reality I need to start taking things easy. I'm in no rush at all, and must stop rushing. It's in my nature that once I start something I am like a bull in a china shop in a madness to complete, but I don't need to, and I am trying hard to take things more easily.

I feel I am settling into it now, it has taken some doing, as everything I have is on my bike, but I do feel I am accepting that more and working with it better than I did the first 10 or so. If you only had your suitcases full of things, and didn't know where you were sleeping from one night to the next on a very long holiday, you kind of get the picture. This is a real adventure in every sense, each day brings new things both good and not so good, but in a way, it's all good.

And so, the last 3 nights have consisted of 2 campsites and one wild camp night, so today while it is raining all day, I have booked myself into a little B&B for a warm shower and mattress :). It's well earned I can tell you :). Still 2 days from the coast roughly, but that's cool.

Day 18 - and how fast has that gone hey?

After a night in cheap (ish) digs, and a wet day previous, I cycled 43km south west towards the coast in the rain this morning, which soon turned to glorious sunshine.

I arrived at the best campsite to date. €20 for my pitch, which is as much as I would ever want to pay for a campsite, but it included my washing machine token, an electric extension cable and electricity of course to my tent, ready for episode 5 of Game of Thrones I downloaded last night at the digs on my laptop, and a few beers at the bar of course.

It has a bar, tables outdoors, and super clean showers, which I have already used :). My washing will be done in an hour, so I will hang it out on my line.

On the way here I mapped on a supermarket which added 3km to my journey, but worth it, because not only did I do my Big Shop :) , but on the way I overtook my first other cycle tourer half my age :)

Now, it wasn't easy, as keeping my face straight, sweat off my brow, and knees from buckling was pretty hard to disguise :) but I did OK. Well, it was a little fun and some extra exercise.

I stocked up on tins of mackerel fillets in tomato sauce for my emergency pack I'm building, but could I find ordinary peanut butter anywhere? Nope! It's like Rocking Horse sh#t.

Every flavor of chocolate, including banana chocolate, and that's it. It will be somewhere I'm sure, but for now, a great day, and, and, I'm now less than 20 miles from the sea and Saint-Nazaire.

My targets were to make it from Warrington in Cheshire to Portsmouth, then make it across the Channel to St Malo France, then to make it across land to the Atlantic (which I will do tomorrow), and the next will be to make it the whole way down the Atlantic coast to San Sebastián in Spain.

Day 19 - I'm on a mission to the coast

My mission for today was to make it 20 miles to the sea, cycle over a huge bridge, and ride on another 5 miles to a campsite.

Mission complete :)

The bridge was great fun actually and there was little in the way of wind so it was a go. If the wind had been to vicious I would have cancelled it, maybe, oh who am I trying to kid I would have still done it knowing me.

I'm on the coast, and I feel so much better about that, as all I've seen since Cheshire is rolling hills of wheat and corn, for hundreds of miles.

Sure, it can get really windy on the coast, but as long as it's on my back it's cool :))

I will take my real camera out on the beach once I've set my tent up and got showered. There is also a fireworks display on the beach tonight: France vs Great Britain in a battle. Well we know what the outcome is going to be here in France tonight :/

Day 20 - 32 miles on and I have arrived at a campsite in Saint-Gervais

I've made better progress than I imagined I would by this date. Last night I was invited by a lovely family over for a coffee, or two :). They were really nice and some of the family could speak good English which is great.

They invited me over for coffee in the morning too, but I was all packed up by 8am and they were all still tucked up so I didn't want to wake them. I cycled along a really nice bit of coastline with lots of shops and people about. The queue's at the shops were far too long for me to wait in, they were down the block.

My map was then taking me farther from the coast to the next campsite, so I made my way back to the coast, and as I did so, a lady pulled up in her car and asked if I would like to join her and her husband for a beer and a little something to eat, and of course I said yes please.

They were restoring a really great place near the seafront, and I was invited to a swim in the pool too, but didn't dip as I would have stayed in all day and I still had 14km to go to my site.

We did share beer and salmon pate on crackers though, and had a good chat. I was then asked to a light lunch of salad but had to push on. I'm now at my site after stopping once more for a cold beer, and I'm going to catch the mobile pizza guy in an hour.

Day 21 - And not too bad at all

I had a lovely coffee from my Cambridge family on the next pitch, then waved goodbye and set off to do 26 miles today because I wanted to be close to a town that I need to call into in the morning, but not too close that I wouldn't get a campsite.

I'm 9km North of a Decathlon sports shop where I hope to pick up a compact lightweight camp chair as I'm tired of sitting on the floor, and then another 5km farther south to call in at a bike shop to get them to have a little listen to the noise.

I arrived at 3 different campsites this afternoon, 2 of them were fully booked, and the third one was simply taking advantage of that fact and over charging. But you just can't beat a shower, washing your clothes, and a beer.

Oh, I found a huge supermarket today and did some shopping. I found peanut butter, cordial (concentrated juice) to add to my boring water, and I found chocolate chip biscuits. Now all I needed was cold milk and it would be cookies and milk :)

I couldn't find any milk in a supermarket the size of a big Asda, so I asked and got a blank stare. Then an English guy heard me and said follow me. He was local and said this is the only place he could get fresh milk in the fridge. There was about a dozen 1ltr bottles so I got 2 with one for morning. Great.
On top of the kind family offering to make me coffee this morning, there was also a lovely couple who invited me into their home for lunch and beer, to which I obviously and graciously accepted. Then later in the day, there is a circus entertainer and clown who didn't speak English, but came over with a beer, and accepted it with thanks :)

Day 22 - At 33c, a hot one

I'm now less than 2 days from La Rochelle. I did 30km in total because I stopped at a Decathlon Sports store to try to find a chair as I was sick of sitting on the ground. They didn't have one but I found one at another store.

I also wanted a bike shop to look at the noise, but all the bike shops I found, would not have had the tools to fit a bell, let alone look at something complex.

I left quite late from the campsite this morning because I was invited for coffee from a lovely German couple. We chatted about all sorts, and I told them it was great to be offered coffee with milk and sugar.

I mentioned to them that I was going to get a gas burner for making my own coffee, but that I would have to try to find some instant coffee too.

We said goodbye and I pushed my bike over to the campsite office to give them their power cable back - the one I use to power my chandelier in the tent :), and when I came out, there was a full jar of instant coffee under a strap on the rear of my bike! That was such a nice gift from my German friends. So now I was definitely getting that burner, and did.

At 33c I have drank a lot of water, and shed a lot too. I've had a proper detox today :), but now I'm at my campsite at just 3.30pm because it's just to hot to push on and I'm in no rush anyway, as I have made much better time from St-Malo than I thought I would. Peanut butter breadstick and 1ltr of milk for breakfast it was, then Pizza in the early afternoon. Now unpack and a nice coffee on my burner :)

Day 23 - and 67km done today

The most so far. Of course that's nothing to a regular cyclist or seasoned cycle tourer, but to me its a fair old stretch.

I found a great little group of shops with veg, fish, and other food stores, so got myself a nice little lunch together of belly pork, bacon joint, and bananas :) Energy.

30c today and sunny after a drizzly start. I didn't get going until 10am and I'm now in my campsite 13km north of La Rochelle at 3.30, chilling and about to take a nice cold shower, then make myself a coffee :)

There is a swimming pool on this site and it's pretty quiet, so I may take a dip later or first thing in the morning.

I wanted to be just outside La Rochelle so that I'm the morning I could try another couple of bike shops in the city because the grinding noise on this KOGA is driving me crazy.

Day 24 - KOGA dealer Ecovelo BIkes in La Rochelle treated me like a tit

Sat outside a KOGA bike dealer in La Rochelle while the guys here take my bike apart in the hope of being able to fix the noise. English is a barrier but they have heard the noise so words will likely not matter and they will have a good idea of the problem. On turning the pedals backwards, the mechanics eyes went straight from the pedals and crank, to the Rohloff hub.

That was a little unnerving, as the hub is a sealed unit which only Rohloff themselves can tinker with, and is so basic and strong by design that there is very little to tinker with. Through some English, the first thought from the mechanic is that there could be tiny metal particles moving about inside the hub and that an oil change to clean this out might help.

Rohloff gear hubs are known for being practically indestructible, which is one reason I went for it. The metal particles, if there, will be tiny and as the hub heats up and the the oil and partials expand, the grinding will increase as the day goes on, which is what's happening.

Of course, the problem could be something different all together and I hope to know shortly. I will update this post as I find out. I'm also wondering if the bearings in the sprocket between the hub and the Rohloff my be dicky. I can think all I like 🙂
And OK, let's try and put this into some sort of perspective. First, take a good look at the picture taken with my phone. Now my day. I have no idea when, or if, my bike will get fixed tomorrow, the day after that, or even next week. I have no idea yet if I may have to return to the UK with it so I can dump it on the doorstep of my dealer to deal with.

But right now I have just had a great haircut, and I'm sat at a lovely harbour side bar, drinking down a few scoops of lager, and watching the people go by. I will get my head down tonight at the £5 campsite, which is really quite clean and tidy for the price, and in the morning I will rise early, take the telescopic fishing rod I brought with me and sit and fish of the harbour, which is just a few hundred meters from the camp.

I will then later in the day take a ride of 3 miles to the bike shop to see if the oil change kit has arrived. If so, they can see if that works, or if it hasn't arrived, it's back down to the town to do some photography, down a few scoops, and have a lovely meal. Am I disappointed that my bike is not well? Of course I am, I'm really annoyed about it, but there really is little I can do but try to force feed myself that horrid beer and terrible food :))

Day 25 - The most expensive blob of grease in the world

After an hour fishing in the harbour this morning, I cycled the few miles over to the bike shop - Ecovelo in La Rochelle - and was received with a smirk and a shrug from the assistant!

I just looked at him and he simple said "no oil, 10 days, maybe longer, don't know" and then he turned to carry on opening boxes. Now, anyone who knows me, knows I'm a very patient and very nice guy. I can keep my cool very well, but there comes a point...

I used my Google Translate then to say "so that's it, your a KOGA dealer, my bike is under warranty, and your refusing to help?" He shrugged his shoulders again. At a fraction of a second before the point of no return that he could see in my eyes, he points to the phone, then reached for it.

He talked for a little while then put the phone over to me. It was someone from his head office at HollandBikes.com She spoke English and told me that the problem is with the Rohloff hub and nothing to do the company I bought the bike from KOGA.

I told her I bought the bike just 2 months ago from KOGA as a whole bike and under warranty. Not bits of a bike, a whole bike and I want it sorting. I told her that I have 12,000 followers watching everything that is going on right now, that this cycle is also in support of a charity, and that already 2 people who have said they were interested in the KOGA are no longer interested.

She then asked me to give the phone back to the assistant so that he could take down the serial number so she could then phone the hub maker Rohloff. While I'm waiting outside talking on the phone to my dealer in Leeds, 3 assistants including the one that can speak English but wouldn't that morning or the day before, were all looking at the hub and talking to the agent from Rohloff on the phone.

The English speaking guy then told me that they have to take the back wheel off and the rear sprocket and clean it all out, because the agent from Rohloff said the noise cannot be coming from inside the hub, but from the bearings and fittings between the hub and the frame.

He said that Rohloff said I would have to pay him for the work today, then get it back from my UK agent and warranty. Then I sat outside the shop for an hour, before the English speaking guy came out and said I will have to come back for the bike later because they we're doing a bit of decorating on the front of the shop and wouldn't get around to doing any work on my bike until later!

He said I can take another bike to get around on until I call back at 4. So I had been sat like a plonker for an hour outside the shop, and they hadn't even started on the bike. So now it's 1.30pm and I will be back at 4.

A call a few minutes ago from my UK dealer, saying KOGA had been in contact with him to ask for the address of the Ecovelo La Rochelle bike shop so they can hurry out a tube a silencer grease, because as it happens, it appears that Rohloff are aware of this problem because it is a new part or something.

1.40pm - And I have received an email from the Product Manager of KOGA, who expressed that "I don’t believe this dealer is suitable to be a KOGA dealer". And I agree of course, as who would want a dealer like that representing their product. So the situation right now is that I call back into the shop at 4pm and see what, if anything, has happened.

I'm going for a beer 🙂 Be back shortly.

4pm - I'm here at the crummy bike shop they call Ecovelo and they have taken the wheel off as per instruction on the email they have been sent, taken off the sprocket, greased the space and thread between the sprocket and the Rohloff hub with a very stiff grease, and put it all back together again.

I have no faith in this shop as a result of their terrible attitude, and don't expect for a minute that they cleaned out all the bits before putting it back together again. Such is their attitude, I don't even expect that they have even taken anything apart before greasing. They may have, but who can say.

Time will tell if this issue has been corrected now. Rohloff say there is no way the noise is inside the hub, and can only be the sprocket area. They have admitted being aware of the noise issue and having to use a heavy grease, so the €95 I have just been charged will have to be returned to me. €95 for a large serving of bad attitude is a little on the pricey side don't you think? :))

Anyway, I reluctantly tried to pay with my credit cards but their machine is on the blink 🙂 They asked me to go to a cash machine to draw the money out!!! I know, it just gets worse 🙂 I told them I get charged a fee for withdrawing cash, but they never offered to give me the fee I would be charged. Instead, they have me sat outside their shop until they can get the machine fixed.

4.30 - The machine is fixed and I part with my 95 sobs. But I will get it back, and the important thing is that I get to continue on tomorrow, heading farther south along the Atlantic coast. I've got to write a book at the end of my adventure 🙂

After being treated so well by my friends at Pedal On in Tadley and Rides On Air in Wallingford, the terrible treatment at Ecovello La Rochelle has come as a real shock. Truly, if you are planning on using a bike shop in La Rochelle, avoid Ecovello like the plague. Just my opinion 🙂 Now it is 6pm, time for a shower, a few scoops, and a nice meal.

Day 26 - Could have fried an egg on my noggin

33c heat and 60km I rode, it was roasting. Hot enough stationary. I found another one of the Super U supermarkets that sold cold fresh milk, so couldn't resist and bought a packet of chocolate chip cookies and had them with the whole litre of milk, right in the car-park. It was nearly at the checkout :)

Cycling from La Rochelle, with a few detours thrown in due to my not liking being on the motorway with not an inch of hard-shoulder, I arrived at a great little campsite called Camping Valerick. A 2 star rated campsite but one of the nicest little places I have stayed at. Clean showers, well maintained ground, small and really quiet, and of course internet for my laptop :)

So I set about my nightly routine of putting up the tent, making the bed, taking a shower, changing into the clothes I washed the day before, washing all the clothes I had on today and hanging them out to dry on my line, and getting my posts up of course, and some phone calls.

I'm now just 21km away from Royan and I will hope to catch the ferry across the Gironde in the morning, so will be setting off early. It's Sunday and still holidays tomorrow of course, so it might be a wait, or maybe not at all, we will see.
A good day today and a good sleep tonight :)

Day 27 - and I seem to have taken a wrong turn to the USA

It's a lazy day today :) just 30km. This is because I say so :)

I cycled 21km to the ferry port that would take me from Royan and across the Gironde Estuary.

I arrived with less than half an hour to go until the ferry left, and it was all so painless and cheap, at just €5.

On arrival it was so hot, and I had made such good time getting to this point, that I decided to do just 9km more to a campsite I found.

A couple of beers later while I wrote this post, and I will now book myself in.

My calculations suggest that I have just under 300km to go before I reach the Spanish boarder. That's just amazing as far as I'm concerned.

If the weather holds out I should be arriving in Spain in less than a week. But for now, it's time to set up camp and go and have a nice meal :) 

All set up for the night. There is supposed to be a storm tonight, so that will clear the air. Might even have a dip when the tide starts coming back in.

Day 28 - 81km done today. My best yet and seems crazy

I recon about 15km of that was on the road, the rest was on cycle paths and narrow tracks.

I'm at my new campsite and an easy day away from the The Dune of Pilat, which is the tallest sand dune in Europe. It is located in La Teste-de-Buch in the Arcachon Bay area, just 39km south from me now.

I really want to see that, so I travelled more km today so I would have less tomorrow. I can then have time to find a campsite near it and go take some pics. The storm last night was a nothing really, just a bit windy, and it had been roasting here today.

Its pretty much the end of the school holidays here now, so I hope to find cheaper digs from time to time instead of mostly campsites. Anyhow, if ever there was a day I deserved a beer it's this one :)
A scorching hot day, 40km done before noon, and it was time for a nice lunch on a park bench, before setting off for a relaxed afternoon doing a few more km's.

Day 29 - Biggest sand dune in Europe

Day 29 - and I was hoping to be able find a spot for my tent, close to Europes tallest sand dune. Oh well, I'll see if I can find it tomorrow :)

46km done today and I feel pretty tired. I even had to pause on a relatively small hill, because my legs had just given out.

Sure, I'm lugging some huge weights about, with these panniers chock full of things, but at this point I don't want to part with anything in the bags really. And besides, maybe the 81km yesterday and the heat being in the 30's didn't help much. Oh, and the 2 pints I had for lunch couldn't have helped :)

No, these guys are travelling quite light with it being a short break and are packed for simply hotels. Great day though. Had a big breakfast this morning and I'll have a nice dinner maybe tonight.

Less than 200km now to the Spanish border. I have cycled over 1100km this month so far, and I feel it :)

A great day, with the tent now set up and me off to do my daily jobs of shower, washing of clothes, changing into clean clothes, writing my journal, and chilling until tomorrow.
Lunch time and the ferry crossing now with a bunch of great lads cycling the coast for 500km down to Spain. We cycled together for 35km this morning and they will continue on their way once we cross on the ferry.

Yes, their places had food and mine had beer, but that's only because I had a huge breakfast just a couple of hours before :) It's true! :)

Day 30 - Let there be protein 

Click here to edit text OK, I can't hold it back any longer. I'm really struggling with the food, or lack thereof. Ever since I landed I have struggled to find fresh milk, fresh eggs, cooked meats like cooked whole chickens. My body is suffering withdrawals from lack of protein. I know I'm in another country and they eat differently, and I respect that and appreciate that completely.

I'm just talking about my own body and health, and the fatigue I'm feeling. Today I thought I would leave camp and detour to a large town in the hope of getting some chicken. A whole chicken actually, as my body just can take another baguette!

I arrived in a busy town and circled it like a rabid dog until my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets! There it was, like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, a shop selling whole cooked chicken :) But no :(, as I waited my turn to be served, the shop keeper asked the person behind me for his name.

Oh dear, it was on now! I raised my voice at him saying it was me, and pointing at myself. He looked shocked, and then pointed to his book and asked if I had ordered the day before! "Your kidding me" I shouted, I couldn't believe it. You could only have a chicken if you ordered it the day before!

Yes, people get by quite happily on dry baguettes three times a day, but I'm just really struggling, as I very rarely eat bread at all. If I was in a car I suppose I could nip around searching out different towns and places for different things, but as I'm cycling, I likely miss all those treasured cooked meat shops.

So in this town I ended up ordering a pasta and fish sort of thing that came warm. £10 for a takeaway tub. I ate the 2 prawns and a small piece of fish, the rest was just pasta and empty sea shells :), and it ended up in the bin, and you guessed it, I ended up having a £5 baguette with vertically nothing on it. £15 sobs down and I'm starving to death.

I'm sure in time I would adjust and lose any muscle I have, but I'm just so used to eating high protein foods, animal protein at that, but thankfully I'm just a few days away from pastures new, Spain. Please Please let there be protein aplenty at affordable prices in Spain.

Well other than my body adjusting to my new "foods", and burning 1000's more calories per day than I did at home, I'm doing really well. I have to recommend to everyone that visits here with the intention of camping, whether its with a caravan or a tent, that I have found the 2 star campsites to be the best.

They don't have dancing girls or funfairs, but they also don't have crummy DJ's playing all sorts of crap until 4 in the morning either :) If your looking for a place to chill and park your arse for the night, get a nice shower in some peace and in a nice spot, its 2 star all the way, and it's much cheaper. I pay on average under £10 a night at 2 star, or double that at 3 star and get no sleep.

I cycled 50km today in my dash to the border, and hope to be in Spain soon. It is very beautiful along this part of France though it has to be said, with hundreds of miles of lovely sandy beaches and a sea you can swim in. There are places I have visited along this Atlantic coast, that I would love to visit again for maybe a long weekend. I'm in a great little spot tonight next to a lake, and its going to be quiet. I'm going to sleep, and I'm going to give it hell tomorrow :)

Day 31 - and a whole month since I set out on this crazy adventure

11.45am and oh what a wonderful day. The suns out, 34km done, and look, chicken, cheese, milk :) I'm going to sit here until it's no more :) Oh, this little lot costs £20 sobs here :( , way too expensive. The chicken was without question a rare breed. But, I'm smiling from ear to ear at the moment :)) I'm going to enjoy this, then crash out under a tree like a lion.
It has actually felt like a month to be honest. Some days have flown and some have felt they would never end, but over all it's felt like a month, to me.

I'm now typing this leaning on my unpacked tent, wet washing from last night already on my line, and while waiting for my milky coffee to boil on my little stove, and I'm wondering what the next month could possibly bring.

According to my maps, there is less than 100km to the Spanish border, but by the time I've thrown in a few detours, taken some wrong turns, and read the map upside down, it will be more like 150km :)

But still, I will be in Spain within the next few days. I set off from Warrington in Cheshire on August 1, arrived in St-Malo in France on August 14, and set off from St-Malo southward on August 15.

I'm expecting the cycle across Spain to the coast, via Pamplona, Madrid and to Valencia, to take around 3 weeks, maybe more due to the terrain be a little lumpy :)

From Valencia to Southern France ( :/ ), about a week and a half, but maybe longer because I'm going to rest up for a full week at some point before France again.

It's going to be interesting for sure, but you know that already :)

I can say this now with some authority; If you are sat at home thinking you would love to do a long cycle tour but you couldn't because you are not a cyclist and have never cycle toured before, then I'm living proof that everything will be just fine.

Going solo is probably that bit harder for most, and for lots of reasons, but I've found social media to be a must. Keeping in touch with my friends from all over the world, updating them daily, and getting feedback of course, has almost kept me sane :)

Not having a specific route to follow either, gives my day plenty of adventure. I know I'm going south and east, so I might pick a big city to target like Madrid, but then I will choose my route to Madrid on a daily basis depending on what's around, how long I want to cycle for, and where I want to sleep that night.

It's all pretty much up in the air really, and I like it that way. If I were given an exact route to follow for all or any part of this cycle, I would feel restricted and probably not continue.

So thank you everyone for all your support and assistance during my first month. Steve

Day 32 - And its September 1st 2017 24km's from Spain :)

After cycling 70km yesterday and 73km today, I'm now just 24km from the Spanish border. Sure, I could have cycled on for another 2 hours until 7pm tonight, but why kill myself trying to cross the border, only then to still have to find a campsite.

I'm not in a rush, so I booked myself into a campsite already and will take it nice and steady tomorrow over the border. I will then carry on for a while until I find another place to set up camp.

It's not been a tough day, but I'm just in the middle of setting everything up and the lad in the next tent had a laugh like a donkey, so I'm moving it. I've had my warning :)

My diet has improved really well, especially now that a friend told me that Casino signs are markets and food shops and not gambling places :) I took this pic with my phone from the campsite. Looks like a few bumps in the road ahead through Basque Country :))

Day 33 - over the Spanish border I went

A little farther on, and I had myself a beer with the Parros Negros bikers at their own clubhouse, before continuing on to a campsite. Can you spot my bike in the lineup :)) It's funny, but I didn't really know what to expect with regard to crossing the boarder, as I had never done it before in Europe. I sort of half expected a patrol or place where your bags were checked or something, but nothing. Not any sign you have crossed a border.

I thought I would try to get hold of my Pilgrim Credentials which could get me into a hostel or two along the way, but the first place I tried wasn't open for hours, and the second, a church, which was said to be open all the time, was closed, and wouldn't be doing Credentials until next Tuesday, so I rode out of town. So here I am in Spain and I'm heading to San Sebastián tomorrow 7km away, then on to Bilbao, maybe :) It's all up in the air and I like it like that.