Thursday, 6 June 2013

We're all going on our summer holidays.... more working for a week or six.....

Yes, that's right, six, count 'em, 6 weeks off. Hurrah! But they're unpaid. Boo! The explanation - as mentioned last time I trundled down to Hemel Hempstead on Tuesday to learn my work-related fate. The good news is that we've got some big pieces of work in the pipeline so we should be alright for the future. The less good news is that we haven't actually won them yet, so with the company still loss-making everyone in it is taking a financial hit of some sort, whether that's committing to a period off completely like a few of us, or longer term reduced hours working, like the rest. For me, a shorter period of no work at all works quite well, because I can go and do something else, instead of still being tied to my computer three days a week.

And my six weeks starts at the end of today. The period was always going to be book-ended with trips to France - this weekend it's a Ryanair Nightmare (East Mids to Dinard and return) to see the house, whilst at the start of July me and Mendip Rouleur are punishing ourselves in the Pyrenees. So, what to do with the middle bit? In a startling feat of imagination, I'm going to, erm, have another trip to France! This one's going to be a bit different however...

Not different from the first in that it'll start in Brittany. Not different from the second in that it'll involve a bicycle. What makes it different is that a) it will involve a tent, panniers and leisurely riding, and b) it won't involve a car. Next Thursday morning I shall ride my laden-bike (of the LEJoG and London-Paris previous campaigns) down to Macclesfield railway station, to take a train to London. There I shall negotiate the most hazardous 3 miles of my entire trip in all likelihood, riding between Euston and Waterloo railway stations, the latter of which being from where I shall take a train to Portsmouth. At Portsmouth I shall take the overnight ferry to St. Malo.

The plan continues...I shall ride the 50 miles or so from St. Malo down to our house near Ploeuc-sur-Lie, where I shall stay for two nights. And then my cyclo-camping tour starts. There'll be three phases to it:

- the bottom section of the Nantes to Brest canal
- the westerly section of the Loire Valley, before turning north to:
- Le Mans, where, I hope, I'm going to watch an afternoon practice and evening qualifying session for the 24 Hour race of fame and notoriety
- & Fougeres, en route back to Ploeuc
- couple of days or so at the house, then ride back to St. Malo to do the same journey home as on the way out, but in reverse obviously. It'll only be 650 miles or so in total, but I intend to do quite a lot of pootling, and not much less chateau-photographing and boulangerie-sampling.

When I first conceived of the trip I wasn't going to have a plan as such, and I still probably won't book any accommodation, just finding it as I go along, but I think you need a rough idea of what you want to do. And if I hadn't spent part of yesterday on the interweb, I wouldn't have found out that you can get tickets for the Le Mans practice afternoon and evening for the princely sum of €30 for example (rock concert thrown in for free between the daytime and nighttime stuff; what's not to like about that?). Coupled with the easy rider nature of the tour (well, who knows?) there'll be some sensible stuff at the house too.

The ferry tickets are bought, the train tickets are purchased and bike reservations made, and rather sadly, the panniers are well on their way to being packed. I've even bought a solar-powered iphone/satnav recharging kit. Some bike maintenance and rough route planning are all that need to be done now. The ride won't perhaps be the best preparation for Pyrenean hills, but it'll certainly be better than sitting in an office. I'm not sure if I'll blog again before I go, but I'm certainly aiming to when I'm there. It'll be with an ipad if it happens, so the posts might be short and sweet, but I'll do my best, not least because when you become a gentleman of advancing years, such as myself, the memory ain't what it used to be.

I'm now off to my sunshine-dance. Wish me luck with that. Oo, one last thing - if you read these blogs why don't you follow me on Twitter? I have fewer followers on there than I seem to have regular readers of this nonsense. I'm @skinslive - and I'll post mini-updates and photos over the next few weeks on there as well as here. Thanks!

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