Well i am back, and have been for about three weeks now, and yes i did do the London to paris cycle- i haven't just been conning you all out of all your money but i have been busy with work, kids and a final fundraising event since i came back, and also a bit lazy, so if i don't do this now i will never do it and i have got lots to tell.
So after my london jolly i slowly got back into training, did lots of mileage on the moors, including a very big hill at hexworthy where i was planning on cutting through to ivybridge and then back to Plymouth before i discovered the time, and thought it best not to get lost in the middle of dartmoor, and travelled back the way i had come across princetown and burrator back to civilisation. I got a marriage proposal en route from a toothless tramp in princetown, whilst i was eating my nice and spicy nik naks, and he was rolling his baccy. I picked up my first pair of proper lycra cycling shorts in a cycle shop in tavistock, where i was passing through, soaked after a hail storm in the middle of the moors. (If i had realised how much they would feel like i was wearing a nappy i could have saved myself £20 by shoving a couple of pairs of pampers in my old favourite stretchy shorts.) I saw lots of road kill ( animals of course although i did also come across a few accidents where cars had come across the wrong side of the road just ahead of me, or pedestrians had been knocked over, and it does make you think-- what if i had been 5 mins earlier or later, and i continued to get dive bombed by flies and definately swallowed a fair few.
I also narrowly missed knocking over a blind man on a pedestrian crossing. Yes, i know, i should have been more attentive, but he just stepped right out in front of me and all i had time to do was go "arrgh!" which did seem to make him hesitate in his tracks enough for me to swish by him in a flash, missing him by a shirt collar.
I repeated the plymouth to dartmouth cycle( 65 miles) and the road out of dartmouth didnt beat me again, and then i finally clocked up 75 miles by cycling from mount egdgcumbe through Whitsands and on to looe and polperro, and back across the bridge then onto the moors, back through Plymbridge to Marsh mills finally reaching 75 miles on the mileometer as i got to my door. So after that i started to chill a bit, and had a complete rest from cycling for the last week. I also had my bike serviced in a proper bike shop, and a new pair of slick tyres fitted, and for the first time since i started training i discovered what it was like to have wheels and pedals that glide and brakes that do not squeal and it was quite a revelation, and from then on, i knew i would actually enjoy the ride.
I did intend to write this post before i set off, but the last week before the cycle passed in a blur of work, bike servicing, and shopping for last minute items, mainly luggage. I'd discovered that cycling in the heat for long distances with a back pack on eventually leads to Neck pain so i was anxious to travel as light as i could and spent a good half an hour perusing the Luggage section in Halfords, and eventually decided on a rear saddle bag, and a box type bag which is fitted to the front handlebars. I also bought a mini bike pump, a set of inner tubes various other puncture repair kits and patches, (none of which i knew how to use) a high Viz vest and also fingerless gloves because i had also discovered that when cycling in a heat wave with sweaty hands, grip shifter gears don't grip and they don't shift, and pretty soon you are on your way hurtling into a hedge, and i gleefully handed this all over to the bike man/till assistant who looks like he wants to top himself every time he sees me. Having got all this outside i then realised that i somehow had to transport all these luggage solutions home, so one by one i had to squeeze all my purchases into my backpack, and then proceeded to cycle home with it all precariously perched on my spine like a cycling hermit snail.
Once home, i quickly realised that the front fitting box bag was going to completely obscure my vision of my front wheel, which is never a good idea, and at any rate i didn't have room on the handlebar what with all the cables, grip shifters and the top end mileometer from Aldi. I also discovered that i had no idea how to work the nifty mini pump, so the next day i returned that and the box bag to halfords, having found another mini pump under the stairs( again, i didn't know how to work it but this one was free!) And hurrah, it was a different man serving me, and i swapped it all for a smaller back pack and got myself £30 back! I then spent the rest of the evening before the girls went to bed wrestling with the rear saddle bag( a simple twist and turn action that necessitated me loosening and bringing the saddle right back out of the optimal position it had taken me 800 training miles to achieve) and ended up frustratedly hitting the saddle and being close to tears just as my 5 year old keira glided past me from the bathroom, looked at me knowingly and sighed: "sometimes it's hard being a grown up isn't it mum?"
As well as all the luggage, i ended up buying a range of cycling/ sporty tops in sports world, some long sleeve tops and tshirts on buy one get one free in Mountain warehouse, a sporty bum bag for my camera and ipod and also bought a whole load of mini toiletries in superdrug ready for my Trip, so all in all the retail and leisure industry in plymouth has done very well out of me and maybe i should have approached these sectors for sponsorship. In fact, in superdrug, when the man who served me commented on my evident impending vacation, and i proudly announced that i was in fact preparing for the london Paris cycle, he offered to sponsor me on the spot. ( see, Halfords man, this is how you get customers)
So when i eventually got around to packing on the night before i set off, not only was i distracted by last minute ipod tunes to download and cameras to charge up, i also had to make essential decisions such as which of the sporty tops to take, as i wanted to travel light, and whether to take my trusty trainers which i had worn throughout my training or the new cheap pink pointy shoes from sports world which although not in the most breathable material would make my calves look less big. ( I took both) So i finally got to bed at 1 am and was then totally unable to switch off, so awoke knackered the next morning and after some final last minute packing, and james idly enquiring at 8.40 what time the train was and me responding 8.50, it was then a final wild rush to get both kids dressed and out the door in time to get me to the station on time. Which i did in the nick of time before narrowly missing the change at exeter, when i discovered it is no fun trying to race across three platforms with a back pack a rucksack and a bike, when the lift doesn't work, and you have a pair of tied on trainers head butting you at every step.
Then finally after traveling through just about every town in the south east and changing at Clapham i eventually arrived in Croydon, only to discover that the hotel was in fact in purley which is a suburb of croydon, and i could not take my bike any further on either the metro, or the Tram. So eventually after trapsing around in the heat wave for an hour with all my luggage looking for a camera shop because mine had just conviently decided to die, i found a nice taxi man, who was able to fit me, all my luggage and bike in and take me to the hotel where i felt sure i would meet up with lots of eager and excited cyclists like me. Except i didnt. I met one bloke called Dom, from manchester but now living near London, and then later on that afternoon a strange man walked into my room followed by a strange woman who was his wife. He said goodbye, she stayed and that was my room mate for the night. we both went straight to dinner, i paid an extortionate amount for some cold barbecued Prawns, we went back had a cup of tea in our respective single beds, watched some mad programme where they were trying to convert yobby mouthy aussie women into ladies for some inexplicable reason and went to sleep( or tried to) at 10 o'clock ready for a 5 am breakfast the next day.