Friday, 31 May 2013

And another...

Cycling cartoons

A while back (a very long while), I used to draw catoons for the then named 'Transport 2000's magazine called 'Transport Retort' (yes, I know). Also the London Cycling Campaign's magazine called 'The Daily Cyclist'. They were focussed on cycling in London and raising awareness of cyclists and cycling in big cities. I'll put one or two of the better ones on here...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


This blog, attached to our bike hire business will document some of the trips myself and my friends have undertaken over the last couple of years. The first here (below) was done in 2011. That's me (Dave), Barry and Shaun.I've posted it in the right order so that you can scroll down and read it 'properly'. I'll do that in future with any complete trips. Please read it and comment if you'd like to (I'd like you to!)


From the Atlantic Ocean to the Med. - Day 1

Day 1: St Jean-de-Luz to Navarrenx

The Wheezing Geezers are finally off! After what seems like a year's training (it was!) and after what seemed like thousands of calf-aching pains (there were!), we got dropped off at St Jean de Luz and headed off in the bright, warm sunshine which luckily stayed with us all day. We quickly found the D918 thanks to superb map making and orienting skills (mine!) which took us straight out of St Jean and into the Basque countryside. Beautiful green hills with a backdrop of the Pyrénées mountains.

Off onto the D918 after having our photos taken on a 'groin' thingy at St Jean.
On the D918 we cycled East through Espelette, Cambo-Les-Bains, then took the D10 to Urcarry, then the D22 to Hasparren where we had lunch. A salad followed by fish steak with vegetables. Delicious.After a beer or two (it was very warm) we cycled off slightly slower than we arrived, going through Méharin on the D14 then Luxe-Sumberaute on to St Palais.

On the bridge over the Gave de Mauleon at St Palais

Onward on the D11 to Aroue then the D23 towards Charre. The homeward stretch was East on the D343 then the D115 to Castetnau-Camblong then Navarrenx.

Let me just say that I've never been anywhere hiller than the Basque country. Hilly, hilly, hilly. Did I say it was not flat? Even on the trip that Shaun and I made last year all the way from Suffolk to the Béarn, we never encountered so many hills in such a short space of time. Barry began to think we'd hoodwinked him into coming by telling him it was all flat. We never lied to him honest! Because the weather was so good and very warm it made the hills seem even more difficult to get up, but eventually we got near to home-ground and decidedly tired after our first day, we met up later for some pasta and wine to fortify us for Day 2.

Near to St Palais, the name in French, then in Basque. Although the Basques would prefer it if it wasn't in French at all!

This must have been taken early in the day as Barry is smiling
Distance: 97 kms

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Med. - Day 2

Day 2: Navarrenx to Marciac

We awake (in our own beds at home because we're at home!) to the sound of dripping water (well, I do because we've got a leak in the back of the house). After yesterday and the constant heat and sun it's very difficult to believe that it's actually raining and a bit cooler. Anyway, we'd planned to meet each other a few kilometres up the road in Lay-Lamidou to head off on the D2 to Monein, a very hilly 20kms away.

You can smile now, but just you wait till later....!
We didn't have to wait long to suffer

We know this route very well as we've all trained on it but still, the hills are pretty steep and we're soon sweating by the time we get to Monein. We avoid a very steep hill that the Tour de France rode up this year and head out onto the D2 towards Pau, the capital of the Béarn. This is an un-interesting, straightish road that I've always regarded as a very boring road to cycle on and scoffed at other cyclists on it. Now I'm doing the same, but it's much more interesting if you're actually going somewhere with a purpose.

We head straight for the centre of Pau itself and for the Chateau where Henry IV was born.
Below the Boulevard des Pyrénées we catch the tiny funicular train that takes us up to the town and from there we cycle round Pau, looking for the D943 to take us North East out of Pau and towards Morlaàs. It's at Morlaàs that we encounter a very long and steep hill that really saps our strength. Luckily it's still overcast an a bit spitty so we're kept cool and there's plenty of shade. The road is busy and not very pleasant to ride. And so this road goes on with plenty of steep ascents and some very long, welcome descents too. It very soon starts to get a lot sunnier and hotter.

Having looked closely at the maps this morning, we decide to deviate from our original route, avoiding the worst hills by going more South and then cycling North through a valley between the ridges that we've been cycling over. This means we head for Vic-en-Bigorre along the D6, then cut off a corner going through Caixon. Through Caixon were flew down a fabulous, very long descent through a wooded area that seemed to go on forever. By now it had warmed up alot and we were grateful for the shade (and the downhill aspect) and we stopped for a bit in the village of Nouihan.

'Morts'? I know how they feel

We joined the big D935 coming up North from Tarbes, crossing the river Adour  to Maubourguet, then took the D943 towards Marciac. The reason we were going via Marciac, is that Shaun's friend Eric had offered to put us up for the night which was very generous and very welcome. We arrived at the very pretty village of Marciac around 5pm and had a welcome beer. It was here that we tried to be very '21st Century' and upload some text and photos to this here blog so that everyone could see our progress. Our chosen instrument for this task, Barry's Blackberry had other ideas, however. The Blackberry was just as much use as, well, a blackberry.
"Hello? Civilisation? Where's my masseuse and smoking jacket?"

When I first asked Shaun if Eric actually lived in Marciac, he said of course he did. When I asked him again, when we were actually there, the answer was a bit more vague. This was to set the pattern of Shaun's avoidance of the truth, half truths and downright lies when it came to distances expected and gradients of hills. It turns out that Eric lived about 4 kms away (really 14 kms away). When questioned about where on the landscape he lives, he doesn't live on a hill. Not a hill, but a 'ridge'. Which in my book is a hill, just a very wide hill. So, after 14 kms, then an unexplained 3 kms we eventually reach Eric's village. When Shaun said he lived on a ridge, he didn't explain that this ridge was reached by one of the steepest hills in the Gers and definitely the steepest we'd seen so far. We were beginning to doubt anything Shaun said to us after this. Not only was it about a 45% gradient, but it had been newly gravelled. Great! It was like trying to ski vertically up a mountain strewn with peanuts.
Eric and Marilyn's house. Near-ish, but not very near to Marciac

Eventually we reached Erics, had showers, changed and went out for dinner. It was a great evening and we ate and drank very well. We all slept like logs. Logs with achey legs.

Distance: 118 kms

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Med. - Day 3

Day 3: Marciac to Lombez

After the luxury of Eric and Marilyn's house (having separate en-suite rooms and everything), it was difficult to leave on the Sunday morning. We even had our filthy cycling clobber washed and dried by Marilyn, so were lovely and clean, well rested and eager to get off. Barry, however was just content to take a leisurely breakfast in his 'lounging trousers'. Shaun and I have obviously led sheltered lives, as neither of us had seen, let alone worn such things and they became a special object of ridicule for the whole trip (deservedly). We were amazed at what Barry had brought them with him as, in his words, he was going to 'take the absolute essentials'. In Lord Barry Young's (as he was to be known) world, this meant everything, almost including the kitchen sink. It was all we could do to get him to leave behind his cut-crystal decanter and matching 16 wine glasses. He wondered why his panniers were so heavy as he struggled up the hills!

The view from Eric's house, almost near but not very near to Marciac
Once Barry's valet had loaded up his steed, we set off across the ridge (not a hill don't forget) down onto the D3 to a very small but beautiful village called Tillac.In the middle of this village is just one street that is a slice of medieval life in the shape of a tower with an arched entrance into a proper cobble-stoned medieval street. It was a great surprise, unexpected as it was, just in the middle of nowhere.

Tillac entrance

Lord Barry Young spoiling the view of the 'High Street' in Tillac
 In the shop opposite we bought some ham and cheese and some baguettes for a possible picnic lunch. We also tried in vain to buy some oil for our chains as they were getting noisy. Lord Young only had extra virgin olive on him.

We turned left onto the D16 on towards St Maur, then on to the N21 North to Mirande. We then took the D104 towards Loubersan, then stopped at Seissan to have lunch. Amazingly for a Sunday there was a bar serving food that was actually open. No ham and floppy, sweaty cheese for us then! It was baking hot by this time too, so we gladly drank beer and sat down to a four course lunch of soup followed by salad, then pork and potatoes and an individual flan for dessert. We couldn't actually manage the flans, so we took them away with us.

Handy reminders of which road you are on
 We promised ourselves a little nap by a babbling brook, but even though Shaun had promised us a shady place to rest our weary, sweaty bottoms, all we saw were more and more hills, which didn't please Barry as his gold-topped cane kept sliding out from it's Union-Jack flag holder, threatening to topple the statue of Queen Victoria from the rack on his bike.

I don't know why we couldn't have turned left here...
 At Saramon, we took the very picturesque (but also very hilly) D626 and arrived around 6pm at Lombez, our destination. We were suitably tired, sore and dirty after our hot day, so after finding our hotel just a few metres into the village you can imagine how relieved to find that (a) it had room for us (but for only one night - that's all we needed) and (b) it had a swimming pool! Lord Young is an habitual pool user, but for Shaun and I it was a gift from heaven! Naturally we dived straight in (it was like ice!) and had the young French wench bring us ale (Barry's words, not mine). God, it was great!

The 'Val de Save' hotel, Lombez
The downside was, as it was a Sunday, their restaurant was closed but there was a pizza place open just up the road. After stuffing our faces with three of their finest 'Lombezgois' pizzas, we repaired to a bar to relax, only for Shaun to almost get into a fight with a local when talking about the talents (or lack of) of the Toulouse Rugby team. We made a hasty exit and went straight to bed after we'd jettisoned the sweaty ham and cheese and by now, rock hard baguettes.

Distance: 72 kms