Day One – Ethos to Dover Ferry Terminal
After getting up far too early it looks like we managed to set off at about 7:38 from outside Ethos looking a little bit like this before we started.
Day One did start well we got to see a few of the sights of London. We did almost end up in a skate park when I got one of the turnings slightly wrong. It seemed to take forever to get the the Cutty Sark, but we were on our merry way. Somewhere near us crossing the M25 it was coffee time and so we started on our various venues for the trip.
One of my favourite sections of the day was the cyclopark which is basically bits of old A2 where they have build some new A2 for cars. There was also plenty of downhill to get level with the A2 that made for some quick pace.
We literally divided the route in half distance wise to decide on a lunch stop and hence hd our lunch in The honourable pilot in Gillingham.
So the weather got a bit wet latter in the day, but we were still in good spirits. Somewhere in Dover I ended up in the wrong gear trying to pedal going up a hill and basically stalled, now not being used to SPD pedals I fell over sideways in the rain. To make things worse although she did a damn good job at not doing any major damage to me, Saskia had no choice but to run me over. Given this fall and the head being much closer to a moving bike wheel than I ever want to be again, I don’t think I’ll ever ride with no helmet. I was saved twice in one go first from a fairly hard impact with the ground and then from a moving bike wheel. So the helmet is being retired now I’m back and it’s time for a new one despite it not cracking you can see some damage on it, and better to be safe than sorry.
As we got towards Dover we said to each other various versions of “this must be the last hill”, what i didn’t expect was finding a hill so steep given the rain and dark we were all to cautious to cycle down. (Having looked this up it was Bunker’s Hill, I might have to go back and get a photo)
Eventually we got to the Ferry Terminal and it’s quite scary navigating around the port on a bike amongst the lorries as we’re all trying to change lanes. What we also learn is Dover is not set up for cyclist to wait for ferries in the wet, as you’re just expected to wait in a lane for boarding. I do have to give credit to the P&O staff though who as soon as they could got us loaded onto the ferry so we could start to dry off a bit and warm up.
As it had got so late by the time we got on the ferry we declared it sensible to use the van to get us and our bikes to the F1 hotel, and given we were staying in Coquelles rather than Calais itself it certainly didn’t feel like cheating.
Day Two – Calais to Bruges
So given how late we got into Calais we ended up with a breakfast planning meeting, and then as the sun was out were all ready for the off, this time a bit less wrapped up. One of the uses of the van becoming leaving some thin
gs in it to dry out.
So fairly early in the day I made an SPD error, when I was moving slowly behind cars in traffic and one stopped I’d not given myself enough time to get my feet out, so I knew it was coming and just enjoy the video…..
I fell off a few times on the trip, I’ve decided I’m not the biggest fan of SPD pedals and will either buy some plain boring pedals or go back to the toe loop ones the bike came with. Fortunately for me Saskia only caught this one on the goPro she’d borrowed and I didn’t do any major damage.
We had an awesome day speed wise for our day two helped both by glorious weather and navigation in the afternoon becoming mainly follow that canal for ages, then follow another one for ages!
Day Three – Tourists in Bruges
Was spent as tourists enjoying Bruges
Day Four – Bruges to Breda
What a long day with 10.5 hours of moving time according to Strava.I think if anyone ever asks Mark to follow the 85 on signs to find a hotel again they might want to run a few miles after saying that.
I can’t wait to see how the video from the walking through what seemed like miles and miles of forest comes out as despite it being a long day we were all very much in high spirits as it stayed warm and dry into the night.
It was also Saskia’s birthday and one of her highlights of the day was getting to hold a two day old prematurely born lamb at a cafe we found at a sheep farm.
I’m not sure if it counts as a highlight, but whilst doing the long walk through the forest in the dark as we couldn’t be sure enough of the ground to ride it Mark and I did sing “Happy Birthday” in apparently surprisingly good harmony.
As Saskia was spending her birthday with us rather than being at home, we had to have cake once we’d got into Breda, given how late the day got we had to claim UK time to make it so the cake wasn’t a day late.
Day Five – Breda to (almost) Amsterdam
Despite a nice enough hotel the last day started with at least myself fairly tired from the long day the day before, and everything was damp and slippy which was slowing me down on any cobbles as I couldn’t find my confidence whilst ridding on them. There was also some fairly brutal wind and it just got colder and colder, as we were not managing to ride fast enough to generate the heat to warm up more than the wind and rain were cooling us down. I managed a fairly hard fall over at one point, tears to the eyes levels of pain. Then just before Boskoop I managed a second one and was too cold and wet to succeed in remounting my chain having managed to knock it off falling.
We’d already agreed to meet with my Dad in the Van is Boskoop to try and warm up. this turned into eat dinner and consider the options. Given I couldn’t stop shivering despite being in a warm Pizza restaurant and being in dry clothes. I knew unfortunately for me the only sensible conclusion was the journey was over, but as it was starting to get dark and we’d already had to make the switch to roads not scenic cycle routes option we weren’t really missing much. I can’t believe some of the things I saw and just how much I enjoyed myself even when doing exercise for longer in one session than I’ve ever tried before.
Day Six – Amsterdam
We spent a day as tourists in Amsterdam, might try a different boat trip if I ever go back…. The recorded audio tour was really not good at all, and I lost count of the times we bounced of the various bridges and other boats.
Day Seven – Coming home
It really was quite pleasing to see how long it took trains and a boat to undo all the work our legs had done to get us so far away.
My thoughts after this trip
Firstly I’m still in amazement that not one of us managed to get a puncture, I think I put this down to not only carrying spare tubes, but also a spare foldable tyre and a Carbon Dioxide gas inflation system.
Where as we might not have made it to an Amsterdam signpost, we certainly could do the distance and if we chose to take a more direct route rather than following the long distance “fietsnetwerk” routes we would easily have been in Amsterdam. The sheer enjoyment of this trip came from the sights we saw not just racking up the place names. Expect some more blogging as the videos get edited into something to remember the trip by. Yes there is more than just me falling off.
I never ever want to cycle London to Dover again and having done it once I won’t feel guilty for getting the train to Dover before jumping on a boat.
I’m really grateful to Mark and Saskia for coming on the adventure and being part of an awesome cycling team. It was good fun to watch the dynamic between Mark and Saskia change two good friends of mine got to know each other and politeness turned into banter.
My Dad was also an amazing help on the trip and hugely patient with early mornings and late nights and basically spending much of his day waiting for us. He ended up having to drive an even bigger van than we booked as they didn’t have one the size we wanted without another booking. This however was great when we ended up using it as a mobile dry changing room in the rain.
I certainly want to do more trips, and LEJOG is of course still something I’m keen to tick off, but then as we came bak into Harwich we had a good suggestion from the Border Force lady as she’s got a Danube cycling holiday lined up.