It’s going to be a very memorable birthday (and yes it was a big one) is probably the best way to describe it. The plan, midnight to midnight, Big Ben to Eiffel Tower in under 24hours. 313.3km in total, 1 diabetic, 1 bike, 1 day (I like the use of one’s you might of noticed last time). It all started well enough, rode to the station, train down no real problems. Thinking back though it was probably my first error as lunch was my last proper meal and only snaked for dinner and before the ride. Got to Euston and got utterly lost trying to get to Big Ben. Was having a few issue with the GPS trying to “help” by using alternative routes not the one it was meant to use. In the end I did get there with half an hour spare. Ended up getting bothered by Romanian beggars though which is difficult to cope with.
Once going in central London with even at that time of night a lot of traffic the GPS continued to be a pain until good ol’ turn it off and on again and all sorted. Then made good time escaping the city. It was quiet surprising seeing so many foxes. Counted 9 of them which is so odd when up here I’ve only seen 1 in the last couple of years. The first 50km or so was foggy out of the city, and it proved a very sticky kind of damp and was also quiet hard to cope with the reduced visibility down to under 5m or so.
By the time I reached Lowes I was feeling quiet sickly and ended up vomiting beside the road. I blamed the very rich mix I had chosen to use on my drinks to try and cover the lack of having anywhere to get food stops really and also the strange salted and herb flapjack I had been nibbling. Possibly more the early stages of dehydration as I had only drunk about a litre. I make it into Newhaven just after 5am which wasn’t bad going, at just under 20km/h which is the kind of speed I would need come France so that was good and I was keeping it pretty gentle also.
Stopped at the McDonald’s near the ferry port and got plenty of protein in for breakfast and a couple of water bottles and a nice warm cuppa. Raised a few eyebrows this loony cyclist wondering in at that kind of time. Sat there till about 7am after having a couple more bottles of water before venturing down to the ferry port to see it all closed up and having nothing but two huts for passport checking and not even a waiting room. So utterly pointless that was I went back up to McDonald’s and got another couple bottles of water. Think my dehydration levels were starting to come back I hope although the lack of salt was probably still a problem but salt on the food helped I hope. Eventually left and bought a couple more bottles of water (yes that was 8 bottles!) and pootled down to the ferry port. And waited 2nd in line for them to open. In the process met a nice couple, Andrew and Jill on a tandem going to Paris also but doing it over 4 days. We had a good chat and discussed all kinds of things, D, bikes, and tours.
The ferry seemed to travel faster than I was expecting of it, yet also took a long time to get across the Channel. It was nice though and I got a decent lunch on board, although again in hide sight could of probably done with a lot more food really. I think I managed about an hours sleep and got the GPS and phone recharged which both were very nearly out of juice.
Once in Dieppe it was sunny as I got off the ferry but just as I reached the leaving gates it started to drizzle it down. Left my legs out but put my waterproof jacket back on and continued to try and get out of Dieppe. The roads were heavy at coming up to rush hour and it was hard with tailbacks everywhere but cutting through most of it well at a reasonable pace. Once on the quieter roads managed to turn things up a bit and got some distance it. It was nice seeing the signs for Paris though 170, 150, 130, 110km to go nicely coming down and also beginning to recognise the names of places from the mHealth Tour. I’m sure we didn’t go through many of them but I think we we’re in the same region again which was a nice feeling. The weather was getting much worse and I was getting pretty soaked and miserable at this stage so ended up hiding in a telephone box to get changed into more waterproof kit and also make up more energy drink using my two two of the bottles of water I had brought from McDonald’s that morning. Pressing on the distance was coming down nicely and I was still on schedule just about to make the tower in under 24 hours. Even setting off the slow down signs in towns which always gives me a nice grin when they flash “50 Rappel” at me.
I had just left the town of Gisors and was pressing on to Paris. In the middle of nowhere, pitch black, the full moon covered in clouds as the rain hammered it down my rear tyre goes. I get into a side road, which was nothing but a muddle track to avoid the main road and trucks on it which were the majority of transport at this time of night (9pm ish). I can barely see anything and eventually get my helmet light from my rucksack to help see. Couldn’t find anything in the tyre but with so much mud it wasn’t made easy. This was the first time I had changed these tyres which I got from the Tour and were originally fitted by the mechanics on that tour. Wired tyres argh a total fight, changed the tube, inflate it and BOOM, something must be in there still arrrgh!. Had to do it again and then couldn’t get the tyre back on at all! Spent 90mins getting more and more frustrated with it, getting more and more soaked. Getting more and more utterly ticked off at the time this was costing me. Eventually thought sod it and walked me and myself back to Gisors about 2km back now.
Cold, soaked, the only good thing going was my bloods! Walking into town I see a police car so wonder over to have a chat in very broken French. Was there anywhere to find a hotel still open now, no. Is there any 24hr restaurant or anything, no. Would you mind if I come hide and dry out at the station please? No chance! Bloody wonderful! I eventually find a bus shelter with a small plastic canopy roof and a bench in it from where I was able to change my rear tyre again. Seemed to be keeping inflated. I pondered for ages do I press on, don’t I, what do I do! Do I phone a taxi to take me to my hotel in Paris, how much would that cost after midnight?! Would they still be open considering how nowhere in France seems to do 24hr opening. In the end I pulled my legs up next to my chest and wrapped my arms around them and made a small ball of myself to attempt to keep warm as the rain pounded down. I did get a couple hours sleep but woke up frozen. I don’t think I’ve ever been that cold. Shaking violently, teeth chattering, bloods good though! I check the back tyre and it was still inflated. The rain was still pouring down though! Feeling ill again I ran to the local bushed and threw up yet again. Not sure if it was dehydration still or a chill or something with the cold effecting me. Hid back under the shelter for a while but I wasn’t heating that much up and when the rain relented a little thought to hell with it and got back on the bike and pressed onwards!
It started to dry out which helped a little and I was back to setting off speed warnings on the road signs which always made me feel like I was progressing again. The 24hours was well gone now. But I can still get to my train on time though to get home! And then thud thud thud the back tyre again ARGGHHHH!!! Not again. My feeling of let’s get this over with and getting on with things soon becoming utter frustration and annoyance. Luckily it wasn’t a full flat and more a slow puncture so managed to get me to this roadside 24hr pizzeria place (only place I had seen open 24hrs in France!). It was actually a room with a pizza vending machine in it. But it had lights, and it was a dry room if a little chilly. I had half a pizza for breakfast, half as the other half was frozen cold by the time I got to it, and it’s actually pretty difficult to eat a pizza not cut into slices as one giant disc. Sulking and wringing out my clothes weren’t helping. Next door a patisserie was opening up and an hour later I was in a lovely warm place with a mountain of fresh warm bread and croissants (creme croissants mmm NOM) and a good warm brew.
I received a message off Caroline from the mHealth Tour after posting a picture from the muddle side road with bike in bits. She offered to come pick me up and get me a nice warm shower. Once picked up we drove over the hill from where I was hiding and could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. I was less than 2 hours from the finish. Dejected, defeated, utterly annoyed at wrong choices and mistakes. It was a hard lesson but learned lots. I never made it to the Tower but did see it. The Tower as a completion I knew that would have to be next time when I do this correctly with the correct equipment. So close
Getting home also proved to be “fun” though. I wasn’t going to meet my train home so tried the website to change the ticket time and it was timing out. So ended up calling them, but the office wasn’t open for another hours arrgh. Eventually get through and ticket changed. Good! I get a nice warm drink, showered and cleaned up at Caroline’s before she gave me a lift to the station before she went to work. I owe her so much for helping me out, a total star! Unfortunately the bike wouldn’t of been able to make the train so I had to get the ticket changed again (thankfully they’ve didn’t charge a fortune for it like last time). The bike nicely get’s scheduled in to be back in London on the same train as me, great!
Back in London and no bike. They had decided to move to the following train! Which then became the train after that one. Now, I had originally planned that I had space for things like this between getting into London and my train home. Unfortunately with the bike delays my tickets home were now also useless. Eventually getting the bike and me to Euston I had this feeling of disaster waiting to happen as it takes usually a days notice to book a bike onto a train. Thankfully though the girl at the station was able to get me and a bike on a train home (ish), but couldn’t refund the ticket. Thus another massive charge! The ish in this being the train only went to either Preston or Glasgow. So Preston it was! My feet were cut to shreds by this time, blisters from the walking in wet cycling shoes I’m sure wasn’t good. I had picked up some blister plasters in the station to try and patch things together as best I can which gave something to do while waiting for the train home. These train fixes ended up costing over twice as much as the original ride was to of cost. Not good at all but getting home was more important really now.
Making it to the home station and getting the bike off I go to lock the bike up and I’ve gone and left my rucksack with helmet attached to it on the train. I get worse! I have a good chat to the folk in the station and they call around and retrieve it in Lockerbie. So a nice warm station and a good chat with the station staff as we watched the delays roll up on the schedules (seems someone was threatening to jump off a bridge so they had to turn the power lines and stop trains in Crewe) which was delaying trains up to 3 hours, or cancelling them out right (guess some people were coming off worse than me). 90mins later though I was reunited with my bag and kit and on my way home to a nice warm comfy bed. I’ve learned loads, and I will complete this next time!