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Week 26 Lasne, Belgium to…The Brandenberg Gate, Berlin!

Apologies for the delay in blogs uploading! Technical difficulties in the last couple of weeks meant we had to focus on the ride and then a lack of broadband meant we had to focus on getting evidence ready to submit once we were back!! There is still an issue with photos uploading and hopefully we will add these later…

Day 176

After a late finish yesterday it was hard to get an early start from the cottage and we decided not to wake ourselves up with the cobbled section and pottered down to the metalled road. Weaving our way back to the route the weather was decidedly damp and with intermittent light showers we were to be on the soggy side all day. A slow route on an off bike paths and up and down short climbs had us stopping for coffee and waffles sooner rather than later.

Feeling a bit warmer we carried on along the bicycle lane only to have a car honk and pull us over… a man got put and flashed a police ID at us before talking rapidly in flemish. “Do you want to die?!” He exclaimed when he realised we were English…we looked at each other confused but it turned out we had missed a red light and ridden over the junction of a side road on the cycle path. We apologised for our mistake but he was not impressed “Next time I hope the car hit you so you will learn!! You have money? It cost €272 for this mistake!!” Funnily enough we weren’t carrying that amount in cash and (guessing he had better things to do on a Sunday afternoon) he sternly waved us on!

At the next junction we figured out the bike traffic light was at normal traffic light height, well above eye level. But also that the bicycle and main traffic lights changed at the same time so we were still at risk of right turners, and probably safer when we had accidentally run the light!

Moving on it was a long slog to the border with Holland and a closed road diversion has us backtracking and going around the lanes. The brakes needed adjusting too due to the horrible weather and by the time we reached the border it was dark. Holland lived up to it’s reputation though and wonderful bike paths with sensible traffic lights had us flying alongside the main road. If anyone is in doubt whether we are on a sightseeing holiday or a record attempt: we rode the whole of Holland in the dark (sorry not many photos!) only stopping for a late evening kebab before another late arrival at our apartment in Germany.

In the last country now, but it never gets any easier…

Day 177

If you follow strava you’ve probably noticed today hasn’t gone to plan…

May be an image of 1 person, bicycle and road

We dragged ourselves slowly out of bed, tried to cobble.together breakfast from last night’s takeaway and whatever remained in foodland and brush the mud off damp clothes to try and get on the road.

It rained from the off. We negotiated cycle paths and unfamiliar junctions, get shouted at in seconds of putting a foot wrong for not being in.the cycle lanes. Wet leaves and raised tarmac from tree roots were a horrendous combination and numb hands from.sodden gloves just made matters worse. Towns and traffic lights slowed us down.and routing wasn’t always straightforward. We stopped at a pharmacy to pick up supplies and then at a petrol station to sort out the brakes again… the rain never stopped and we felt exhausted with the effort of trying to push through the slow riding with sodden clothes and aching bodies…

We checked the distance.

We’d done 13miles.

Coffee and bockwurst at the petrol station helped a but it was still miserable. We tried and tried to ride fast, smoother, more efficiently. We were so determined.

Another coffee stop. 45miles by 3pm. Dark in less.than 2 hours. 70 planned miles to go.

Braving the damp again it.wasn’t getting easier. We managed to ride past a hotel. But then a few miles uo the road Stevie has lost his hands again, all the gloves making no difference and he is shaking and cannot hold the bicycle true. SteLa the Tandem is complaining as well, ominous clunks and grit grinding constantly in the discs.

We stop.

The hotel is less than a mile back. Darkness, danger and disaster is forward. We grit our teeth and turn around.

55miles. 330miles to go.

We’re not out of the running, but our 180 day dream seems so far away… but if we run over can we last on the road. Today it felt like the three of us were falling apart on the road, coming apart at the seams like Stevie’s shorts have. How much longer dare we give it as the light diminishes and the weather gets worse.

Or do we rest recover and reappraise. Then go big, go hard and go for the 180 at the Gate!

It’s too late and we’re too exhausted to know the answer tonight…

Day 178

Welcome back to the rollercoaster ride that is SteLa Tandem…

We made a really positive start: up early packed and ready to go before breakfast and then stocking up on the buffet and smuggling extra supplies out in our bulging pockets!! On the road just as it was getting light we were delighted it wasn’t raining and starting to feel more positive. It was definitely warmer and Stevie even took his newspaper out (..if you know…you know…!🤣)

The going still wasn’t fast though as we continued to navigate towns with ever changing cycle paths and crossings. A brief McDonald’s stop for hot drinks and we pressed on through the busy streets.

We were more than a but surprised when a man waved us down and asked if we would like a cup of tea in English. We didn’t know ot at the time but Scott had made a 680km round trip to meet us and not only supplied tea, but also snacks, dry lube and the loan of a waterproof set of gloves for Stevie! The icing on the cake was a set of STELA chocolates! 😍

Feeling motivated by the amazing support (although we have no idea how he managed to find us with the number of route diversions we took today! ) we hit Bielefeld, which turned out to be a major city. Dodging trams and the Christmas Market slowed us down more and we even didn’t have time for a gluhwein!

The going continued to be tough into the night and it started to rain again. Disheartened at our slow pace it was hard to remain focused and calm. The evening shift dragged on and on, especially as we had some noises from the bike we’re not happy with.

Arriving in Hameln without any rodents in tow we set about checking the bike and wondering what on earth to do about the remaining 200+miles…

Day 179

After Stevie had been up to 2am checking the bearings and greasing then it was a groggy start and we were faced with big decisions:

– Stop in Hamlen, wait for the bike shops to open and see of they had the bearings losing riding time.

– Ride on and try bike shops along the way

Ride on and just hope the back wheel holds out for the last 200+miles….

We’d put our plea for help out and we ate massively grateful for everyone the offered advice and tried to help- sorry we didn’t get back to you all at the time!

We decided to make a start and headed for Springe where a bike shop opened at 10am, riding the grinding wheel on the way.

The shop did not have the bearings but by this time the amazing Hope Technology Ltd had come to the rescue again and found that one of their retailers My Bike Time in Hannover had then in stock and ready to fit!

But they were over the far side of Hannover to the North of our route and crossing a major city would lose us at least half a day’s worth if distance.

The wheel was rolling but still noisy at this point so we decided to continue riding hoping there was a strong chance we would make it to the end and if not at least we knew where new bearings were.

The going was tough and cold with a biting headwind and we soon stopped at a McDonald’s to warm up and fuel up. The daylight was already slipping too fast and it was hard to stay positive and focused, riding on what felt like a ticking time bomb of a rear wheel disaster.

At around 60 miles we couldn’t ignore the fact it was definitely getting noisier as the bearings ground down more and we could feel the riding resistance increase, a bit like riding through metallic gravel.

We literally ground to a halt a few miles later. Pur gamble hadn’t paid off and it was too much to risk the axle and the entire wheel integrity to continue.

We were about 160miles from Berlin.

Laura had a small meltdown and then we started looking for somewhere to stay as it was now cold and dark. Finding a guesthouse 2miles up the road we decided to limp there, but then on the off chance Laura checked the bicycle shop opening hours-they were open until 7pm and it was only 5pm despite the dark!

We sprung into action! Getting to the guesthous it was closed and dark but used to these sorts of accommodation disasters by now we made our priority getting the wheel to the bike shop. We called mybiketime to let them know we were coming and see if there was anyway they could fit the bearings despite the late hour and they immediately agreed and put the workshop on standby for the wheels arrival!!

One set of bearings were seized on and took one getting off but they stayed late to help us and amazingly got the wheel fixed and back to where we had stopped by 8pm. We were just about to set off again when Andreas Andreas who we had met earlier if the day appeared again-he had seen our plea for help and found us with the tracker!! We were so grateful for the offer and also the offer of somewhere to stay but we had already made a plan:we would ride through the night to our original destination for the day about 40miles down the road. We had a hotel to stay there and having made such a bit effort to fix the wheel wanted to do whatever we could to stay in track. Riding into the night, the roads were empty and it was quiet…finally! A sense of peaceful determination settled in and we arrived at the hotel around midnight, eating our emergency rations before getting to bed and setting our alarm for less than 4 hours time. We had 120miles to Berlin and with our night ride we had a chance to get there on 1st still…the 180th day!

Day 180

The alarm went off and we pretended we had had a full nights sleep, putting in layer after layer of clothes for the last time. It was a chilly start and the headwind felt like it was pushing us away from Berlin, but after our momentous effort last night we were determined not to let it phase us.

The cold soon seeped in though and it was still dark when we pulled in total the first garage for coffee and bockwurst. But we had done over 20miles before dawn and less than 100miles to go!

The down booties came out again against the cold headwind and instead of the celebratory ride to the gate we had imagined we we pushing hard into the wind, wrapped up and having to keep stops minimal. Another garage for hot drinks at over 70miles and we had around 50 to go…the fixed 50 is one of our standard training rides and we could scarely believe that is we had left!

We managed to stay rural through parks and countryside until about the last 20miles when we had to navigate bike paths running from one side of the road to the others and up and under bridges and road crossing. Darkness descended and our ambitions of getting to gate before dark had long since vanished. It started to sleet and then to snow and with a bike path on the wrong side of the road with oncoming headlights Stevie was dazzled by the stars wars effect of the snow in the wind. Visibility was poor and we were relieved to hit streetlight roads, but then having to be more vigilant at junctions as the traffic got busier and more cyclists appeared too scooting around us at the lights on speedier machines.

10miles to go.

It seemed to get colder and colder for the last miles and they seemed to drag, roundabouts and traffic lights slowing our progress and frustrating our attempts to stay warm and power on through.

A long straight stretch made it hard to judge distance and feel like we were making progress, the road seemed never ending…and then Laura looked up at a set of lights and there it was!! Lit up in the snowy sky the gate towered in front of us…one last junction…one last push…the lights changed from red to green…

And we road through it!! Back through the Brandenberg Gate!!

Even though we knew they would be there it was a shock to suddenly be surrounded by family and friends we hadn’t seen for so long. Over in a flash our moment of triumph was quickly turned to practicalities of getting witness statements signed and photos taken as the snow fell around us. We were both shivering and cold and the snow encrusted on the front of our panniers shows that the conditions were far from ideal.

Not the end we had imagined but we had done it…18,078miles in 180day 12 hours and 25minutes arriving at 18:25hrs on 1st December.

We had done exactly what we had said we were going to do, despite all adversity right up until the end. Our ride is over but we will be living these moments for a long time yet.

Week 25 Hendaye, France to Lasne, Belgium

Apologies for the delay in blogs uploading! Technical difficulties in the last couple of weeks meant we had to focus on the ride and then a lack of broadband meant we had to focus on getting evidence ready to submit once we were back!! There is still an issue with photos uploading and hopefully we will add these later…

Day 169

There’s nothing quite like having to put on yesterday’s wet shoes…

We’d done a pretty good job getting as much as possible dry in the “bijou” hotel room but there is only so much to be done when as soaked as we were last night! We weren’t feeling the most energetic either and a very slow start packing and maintaining the bike saw us on the road later than planned. It did allow us to watch the storm clouds roll over though and start in the sunshine.

Our first day in France started well with great views of the beaches, packed with Sunday morning surfers. We pulled over in St Jean de Luz to replenish our foodland bag with supplies. It’s a Sunday so the liklihood of finding provisions here after midday is low-we know this from previous French cycling trips!

Stocked up on baguette and cheese we faced some ups and downs along the coast to Biarritz. The roads were busy with Sunday morning traffic and the cycles came and went, inevitably getting us shouted at by angry French ladies driving whenever we missed one!

On the whole everyone was friendly and encouraging and we got a few “bravos”! Biarritz was rather nice and we felt rather scruffy passing the chateau like hotels and restaurants. Deciding the coastal route would be quieter to Bayonne we were surprised to be stopped by Charles and his wife from the Tandem Club who had tracked us down despite our deviations and failure to pick up and messages from 48hours due to lack of WiFi! They had cake and fruit and coffee and we were really disappointed we couldn’t stop longer to chat, but we were running pretty late by this point.

Happily Charles advice was right and the roads got flatter from here as we picked up cycle routes and tracks through the forest. Only stopping briefly for our picnic lunch we managed to miss a heavy shower sheltering in front of a closed restaurant.

A big push to keep the speed up and we arrived at Parentis en Born well after dusk but feeling less traumatised than yesterday and with a drier walk for Laura to get the pizzas in!

Day 170

Not such an exciting day for photos…but a more exciting day for mileage!!

17,000 miles done! 1000 to go…

We made a really big effort to have a timely start this morning with the bags packed and ready to face the torrential showers after breakfast…apart from there was no breakfast! The signage in the hotel staing the times and the message asking if we would like breakfast (to which we replied yes!) were fibbing!!

Feeling like we were on the back foot already we found the nearest bakers and tucked into croissant and pain au chocolats before trying to psych ourselves to get out into the rain and dark.

We managed and got our heads down for the first few hours for it to brighten up somewhat-much better than we were expecting! Skirting South of Bordeaux we made good progress before lunch stop…at a pizza van!!

Having eaten mostly pizza and bread for the past 24hrs we had little excuse to keep at it through little villages and towns, sometimes with busier roads and then quieter back roads again. A thankfully shorter night ride tonight and a route deviation to find dry accommodation to the most beautiful farmhouse. A warm welcome from an English couple running the bed and breakfast and a complimentary half bottle of Bordeaux to celebrate getting into 3 figures mileage to go!

Day 171

We’re not done with weather yet…

We reluctantly left the wondrous Logis du Poirier where everything was beautifully clean and comfortable and the idyllic surroundings were only topped by an amazing breakfast.

A short retrace to route and we were in rolling hills again, surrounded by lush fields and countryside. We had managed to start in.the dry despite it being wet when we got up and watching the storm clouds roll in front of us, we were not impressed by the sight of rainbows through the sunshine.

Barely missing an epic storm cloud near Saint-Claud we could hear thunder too! We were doing well and enjoying views along the river and of chateaus along its banks when Laura noticed a dreaded bounciness to the back tire… with the last puncture/blow out we had at less than 4000 miles, you can’t say over 13,000miles without one is bad!!
Great performance from our marathon Mondial Schwalbe tyres.

Getting it fixed not only put us into dusk but also had us cop our first proper icy downfall. We’d seen hail on the road earlier so were pleased to avoid that but it was still pretty unpleasant.

Behind schedule with the puncture we got to Chavigny pretty late and had rhe surreal experience.of ordering kebabs under the massive castle ruins.

Day 172

A thankfully dry but predawn start in the depths of the old town of Chavigny. Having not really had our fill for dinner we descended on the first boulangerie and after working our way through the pastry section and topping up Foodland from the carrefour we were well supplied for the road and the bells tolled us out of the town.

A bright start but we soon got caught in a shower and felt grumpy about being wet again. We caved early on for more coffee and pastries (is an almond pain au chocolat the most calorific foodstuff on the planet?) Hit by crosswind the riding got a bit tough, especially for Stevie on the front. Just as we approached Tours we passed another cyclist who “whooped” enthusiastically at us… it was only Anisa who had tracked us down and come all the way from the UK!!
We try not to encourage fellow riders, as nice as it would be, as the logistics meeting up, different speed/tempo or riding and our need to focus on the day to day make it really tricky! But Anisa has encountered us on several ultras/audaxes before so is used to us being tired and grumpy!
We pushed on through Tours and had a quick break standing up (another Audax trait Anisa didn’t bat an eyelid at!) before diverting along the Louire Valley for a flatter ride and better chance of accommodation. It was a cracking evening and the wind was being us. The river was beautiful and we narrowly escaped the storms again, flying along the road with Anisa behind. We made great progress (for once!) to Mer where Anisa peeled off to get a train and we went to ransack the supermarket for a treat of a pasta dinner in a self catered apartment.
Hopefully such a morale boosting day will set us up well for a good stint tomorrow .

Day 173

A day where our progress probably looks more exciting on a map than it did on the ground!

The morning followed the Loire to busy Orleans where we were foiled by a franchise McDonald’s not opening until midday (sace bleu!!) and pushed on through the outskirts of the city. We then went for some main road bashing to make the most of the wind behind us, but it made for tedious riding.

Then in complete contrast we ended up cutting across country on back roads to get towards Rambouillet-an audaxers mecca! Stevie wasn’t sure if Laura was trying to traumatise him, but it seemed somehow appropriate with fond (?) memories of Paris-Brest-Paris.

Getting some nicer roads as the sun was setting unfortunately had us hit the school run too and some crazy drivers in the bigger towns. Disaster struck on one of the last climbs when Stevie dislodged his sunglasses, he swerved trying to catch them…but it was too late! There was a crunch as they went under the back wheel…

Feeling a bit disheartened we pushed through the last few rolls to another apartment and a takeaway pizza to cheer us up!

Day 174

After carefully exiting the gite with our precious tandem we set off along misty rover roads with a few short sharp climbs over the ridges formed by the chalk and flint apparent in the ground.
The sun was shining though and it soon warmed up. Despite our early morning raid of the boulangerie, we got peckish early and stopped for coffee and sandwiches-which were more like 24″ baguettes! Subway eat your heart out!
Stevie also found out that the World Cup was on (Laura is still mostly oblivious), going to show how absolute our focus has been over these final weeks.

Heading North a bit further you could be forgiven for think we were making a break for Calais, but finally we turned right and head East to Berlin!

A chaotic time getting through Amiens cost us an early finish and risking missing the shop down the road we stocked up at Aldi before heading along a long straight road to a wonderful gite for the night-more suited to a party of 6 for a week than two cyclists for the night, but we’re just relieved another day is done!

Day 175

Cricky…I had to go back and check this was all the same day!
Leaving the luxury gite later than planned, we were cornered by the owner’s mother and had a rather disjointed conversation in our poor French where she was convinced we didn’t have the correct distance we rode per day! Feeling unsure if we were encouraged by her disbelief we set off into the surprisingly cold most morning.

We soon crosed over the river Somme and passed numerous cemeteries for various nationalities through the morning. The sense of the history of the region hung as heavy as the mist and a engraved message on a church local to an Australian cemetery said simply “we stand with Australia”. Knowing how far away Australia is now, it seems even more poignant that lives were lost so far away from home. Tractors plowed heavy clay/soil fields in furrows where trenches may once have been.

The sleepy Saturday villages soon got the better of us and we were on the hunt for second breakfast… a restaurant looked tempting but time consuming…and then delight of delight: a pizza vending machine!! Selection made and the captive pizziola (who we are convinced is locked inside) and in a matter of minutes boxed pizzas were posted through the slot!

Calories sorted we got back on the road but the cold dank mist made it a chilly ride to the border with Belgium. Plenty of deer warning signs (Laura has previously “discussed” her thoughts on these), but there was no deer and no “welcome to Belgium” sign! We’re pretty sure France had one in the other direction…

But it was certainly different- the pace felt fast, signs were brighter and the shops more mainstream/chains. A hectic start had us stop for coffee before tackling our way through a number of small towns where everyone seemed in a rush. Surviving the melee we bounced out onto backroads, potholes and dodgy surfaces before rejoining another busy main road with equally bad surface…we couldn’t win!

Pulling over to pick up the evenings supplies we had the weirdest supermarket experience of the trip with a store like a warehouse, a whole room that was a fridge, free prosecco tasters and a checkout that wasn’t a checkout and didn’t accept visa cards!

Getting back on for what should have been the last few miles up the main road before a turn for the b&b didn’t got to plan when the turn put us straight onto cobbles! (Yes we know we are in Belgium but we intend to get the bike and ourselves to Berlin in one piece not do a Paris Roubaix). The cobble went to gravel which then descended to a farm track! Able to see what we were sure we’re lights of the b&b ahead we had to make a detour right around on more cobbled streets before eventually arriving very late and unimpressed!

Stats:

Weekly mileage: 774 miles

Total mileage: 17,678 miles

Pizzas: 6!

Punctures: 1, after over 13,000miles without one!

Week 24 Halifax to Hendaye

Day 162

A lie in until 8am felt pretty luxurious but then we were raring to go to to box the bike and switch in our new shiny Hope freehub.  If you look carefully you can see the remaining spring…

A bit of negotiation to get on the airport shuttle and we went through the rigmarole of checking the boxes in.  With the most expensive bill yet to get them on the plane, we were fairly unimpressed to have to open them all up again because they didn’t fit through the tiny xray machine at Halifax.

Finally through all the hoops of passport control and security we celebrated with an amazing Mexican meal and a few PFDs.

A matter of hours later and surreally we were back in Monteal wait for the integration flight.  With a 5 hour Time difference we would lose most of a night’s sleep and the wait just compounded our feeling of hours lost. .Finally on board.we settled in for a long uncomfortable night having failed to get an upgrade to extra legroom seats!

Day 163

Stumbling bleary eyed off the second flights with swollen feet and ankles (this has seemed a particularly bad side effect of flying during this trip…possibly related to a break from the continuous exercise load?) we  queued through “non EU” passport control to have our boxes beat us to baggage reclaim.
10 flights and the tandem to arrive safe and sound has been crucial to the success of our trip and the sense of relief everything those boxes turn is immense.

Although this time we did spot them being unloaded from the plane and Laura may have speculated what wondrous activities we’d have doen if they had been “unfortunately” lost for a week…*

A brief debate with the customs officer as to whether the bike was old at 6months and we narrowly avoided paying tax! But then to the build up which is a well oiled machine.

Setting out in relatively warm weather it was a bit busy to get out of Lisbon but then opened up to rolling fields. A coffee was required to perk us up after such bad sleep on the planes. 

Trying to see if offroad section could help us cut off the corner backfired and we climbed up to Santarém at dusk.  As we left the town the castle on the hill way illuminated but as the dark encroached we were left feeling we we’re missing the best views.

A supermarket sweep for dinner and a beautifully eclectic hostel with the ubiquitous blue patterned tiles on every wall.

#savetim

Day 164

A great first night’s stay in Portugal in a lovely hostel set us up well for the day.

We started in out in variable weather but with the wind mostly behind us and enjoyed the Portuguese countryside and villages with their beautiful tile houses and architecture.  We got lots of “kudos” for the tandem with people smiling and waving and the old lads outside the taverna nudging each other and given us a firm nod as we rode past.

Our stop of the day was outside a supermarket and by this point it had started to pour quickly got back on the road.  Jetlag still had broh of us getting drowsy though and we failed to get a cup of coffee.

The road soon wound up through the hills giving our legs some elevation we weren’t used to and a sweeping descent hampered by the rain.

Hitting Castelo Branco as it got dark we skirted the edge of city.  There was still another climb to go before we rolled into the sleepy village of San Miguel d’ Acha still rather soggy. Welcomed into a beautiful b&b in and old stone building we feared we had missed any hope of dinner…but our wonderful host did snacks and a plate of tapas and a cheeky port was just the ticket!!

We’re leaving Portugal tomorrow so needed to make the most of it! 路‍♀️

Can you spot Tim?

Day 165

After a lovely continental breakfast at our bed and breakfast “casa” we set out under clear skies…but we  feared it was not to last as a couple of dotwatchers and our lovely hostel had commented on the rain due through the day!

And a tough day it was…the feeling like it was all uphill turned out to be correct and we got a significant morning dunking.  Through the drizzle we had glimpses of vineyards and olive groves and as we climbed we were sure the views were getting more scenic, we just couldn’t see them!

Finally reaching a summit amd q brief descent into Sabugal we were gasping fir a break after only 30 something miles. A supermarket proved just the ticket with a little cafe selling rolls and pastries. We tried our luck and ordered a selection trying to guess what they were as we ate.

Back on the road there was even more climbing and we missed a turn in a smaller town to be diverted into an endless maze of cobbled streets.  It seemed to take an age and most of Stevie’s sense of humour to get out!

Finally back on track we had but a few more climbs before a rather undedstated entry to country number 18 Spain! 

We decided Spain was lovely as the skies cleared, it warmed up and we finally got some flat miles.  The climbing wasn’t over and there were still some drags to go but we felt more motivated with the change in country, scenery and weather.  We practiced our limited Spanish (and tried not to confuse it with other languages) and pressed on into dark.

The practice paid off as we arrived at a local motel, seemingly for truckers and workers where the enigmatic chap behind the bar didn’t have a word.of English but was very happy to relay everything we needed to know in very fast Spanish. A mixture of gesticulation and Google translate got us through as soon we had a room, the bike safe, several plates of amazing tapas and un cerveza por favor…

Maybe a close shave given we’d not booked anywhere but a very welcome respite after a tough day uphill.

Day 166

We opened the door to pouring rain this morning…not the encouragement we needed to get back in the saddle. 😖

But we did. And it did get better, desayuno completo (full breakfast) had consisted of a croissant, orange juice and coffee so we were pretty peckish by the time we got to Salamanca for second breakfast. Taking a punt on a cafe, Laura’s near fluent* Spanish came into force again and we successfully acquired eggs, bacon,chips and more coffee and orange juice. Feeling refreshed we were relieved to shed our waterproofs and got a bit excited as we approached our 2nd Antipodeal point of Alejos!!

So we reckon this means we’ve technically cycled around the World and just need to get back to Berlin…

It seems a long way from Wellington, New Zealand though and still a long way until the finish line, but now every day counts!

Successfully negotiating the city of Valladolid we stopped at the first small town the other side and found the hostel in the quaint town centre. Feeling slightly paranoid from past experience we had a sense of rising dread as first there was no one there and then no one answer the phone…but after several minutes wait and lady appeared and told us everything we needed to know in rapid Spanish!

We soon had everything sorted out with the help of Google translate and unfortunately were forced to have more tapas for dinner instead of microwave meals…😂

Day 167

We awoke to the patter of rain bouncing off the shutters and it was another morning where it was a struggle to get our heads off the pillow…the fatigue runs deep…

Finally making it to breakfast a bit later than intended it was again a light affair of jam and croissant, not exactly the fuel we needed for a big day in the saddle.

We headed off into the countryside regardless and were treated to picturesque landscapes and quaint sleepy villages. It took Google maps to locate a second breakfast as everything seemed hidden behind shutters and very local. Tracking down a bar cum bistro cum cafe we ordered Spanish omlette and bacon rolls… to be presented with two massive baguettes each, one filled with a carb heaven of potatoes and egg omelette the other piles of crispy bacon. We accepted the challenge.

Fuelled up the rolling countryside continued and kites wheeled over plowed fields as we crossed the huge plateau we had climbed up to. We’d been watching the weather blow across but as we approached Burgas we finally got caught in a shower and then a beautiful rainbow. The elevation came with a temperature drop though and the wind, rain and snow on distance peaks had us shivering by the time we got to the city. Pilling into McDonald’s to warm up and layer up in clothes we’d hoped we’d packed for good in Canada we decided to brave it to the hotel still 39miles away in the dark and cold.

After one last climb we were finally descending though so able to pick up the pace after we’d warmed up. Trains races by in the dark but we were parallel to the main motorway to Vittoria Gastiz so had an empty road to ride. We made good progress but it was still a long day and late arrival at our hotel, but thankfully the Spanish still serve food at 10pm! Another embarrassing attempt to communicate and we were soon very well fed and off to bed!

Day 168

And we thought yesterday was a big day…

Starting out from the vaguely alpine looking hotel mission #1 was to get to Vittoria Gastiz and up and over our first climb of the day. We were quickly on a isolated country road watching the weather roll across and hoping it didn’t hit us on the climb. We avoided the showers, but were still pretty chilly at the altitude by the time we reached Vittoria and grateful of a cafe stop to warm up and don more layers in preparation for finally some descent.

A bit more climbing first though and the drags seemed to go on and on as we rounded a large lake. Finally losing some of the height we’ve accumulated over the past few days we still struggled to pick up speed on a rough road, suffering from subsidence and therefore frequent roadworks. Hitting the significant climb of the day we already felt knackered and the challenge we would have relished and the views we would have admired at the beginning of our trip were lost on us as it was all we could do to get our heads down and get up and over.

The weather rolled in a the descent and rain soon had us shivering and having to stop for respite in a cafe. We’d lost the light by this time too but there was nothing for it but to switch about layers and hopethe rest of the way down, with a few blips, was warmer and kinder.

The next challenge was different though as the route sandwiched between river, mountains and motorway was intricate and weaving in and out of towns full fo Saturday night revellers to dark cycle paths. Feeling disoriented between the bright lights and raucous noise to the dark and silence it was hard to keep track of the route ahead. Finally reaching the outskirts of San Sebastian we headed East and over what we thought we some small lumps, but the profile from earlier had skewed them and in the dark and rain it took everything we had to get over the steep inclines. More convoluted town work and barely a glance as we entered France, our 19th Country!!

The hotel was closed when we arrived and it took some negotiating to get ourselves and the bike in safely… Stevie was so shattered he didn’t even noticed we were still (attempting) to speak Spanish!

Stats

Total mileage 16,904 miles

Weekly mileage 716 miles

Puncture 0

Pizzas 5 😍

Week 23 Montmagny to Halifax

Day 156

Almost a perfect day…

We started out into a great tailwind and flew up alongside the St Lawrence River. Treating ourselves especially to a McDonald’s second breakfast 40miles in before being blown up river to Riviere du Loup.

The rain clouds were in front of us and the big skies in Canada were apparent as we watched the fronts blow through but stayed dry and mostly in the sunshine ourselves.
The villages and lakeside houses were picturesque and interspersed with farms of dairy and agriculture with large grain towers.

We turned 90degrees and Riviere and thought our luck was in as the wind followed us to help us up a steady climb.  Feeling pleased with ourselves nearing the top we felt sure we had a plan set to get to Halifax and the next 5 days.  Freewheeling at the beginning of the descent we weren’t even too put out by a set of roadworks ahead… until we started to peddle and nothing happened!!

We’re not going into detail here as we have some options and Stevie is working his mechanical magic but we had a good few miles on foot and we’re very grateful of a descent down to tonight’s accommodation!  Down jackets went on and we stayed calm in  the face of potential disaster and made a plan.  These are the sort of things we have contingency for but we don’t miss another flight and can stay on track…

We will let you know if we need help from the World Wide Web but please bear with us while we figure out what is still possible…

Day 157

It doesn’t seem like just 24 hours since we were trying to figure out what to tell you lot after a rather nerve wracking evening…

Pleas for help went out left, right and centre to contacts in Canada and we are so grateful to everyone that has offered help.  Stevie got his tools out to see what the damage was… as a few of you guessed we had a problem with the freehub not engaging and investigation revealed 3 out of 4 of the springs that support the pawls had broken and it was a bit of a mess.

If that sounds like gibberish to you, simply the freehub is the thing that let’s you freewheel where the wheel spins and the pedals don’t.  If it breaks the opposite happens… you spin the pedals but they don’t spin the wheel!!

Our only hope was to clean it all up and wait for the hardware shop to open to get some decent grease and hope the pawls could then stay in place with centrifugal force until we get to Halifax and source a new freehub in the meantime.  Laura got to work on this waiting for the hardware store to open and then in the backseat getting rather cold fingers sending message after message out.  Did you know Lisbon has a Bromptom specific bike shop?

Pete at the tandem shop had one on standby for Europe but amazingly we then got a message from Mark to say Hope International were flying one out for us!! What an amazing result and massive reassurance!!

Feeling exhausted already from all the stress, the bike was holding up well and we still had a day’s ride to get done.  Sticking to the highway we had some tailwinds but felt tired, if very relieved.

Now we thought all we had to do was get to Halifax…

… and then we got another message from @cycle.touringlife making us aware the bad weather for Saturday is actual a hurricane… she’s called Nicole…

It’s definitely not over yet..

Day 158

The freehub has arrived in Halifax!!
Cannot thank Hope International, NRG Enterprises and Mark enough!

But we will need to get there…and Nicole is still heading our way for the 12th!

It’s not been an easy day either as although the wind is behind us it’s a freezing Northerly and has got to be one of the coldest days in Canada despite beautiful sunshine.  Following the river we opted to get off the main road today which reduced the elevation but got a bit interesting when we ended up pushing over a swaying suspension walking bridge!! Stevie had his suspicions but the road opened up again bit we still road past sunset.  Missing the turn to Fredericton cost us an extra hill and freezing cold by the time we got to the shop Laura warmed her hands up in the roast chicken cabinet before doing the routine supermarket raid for dinner, breakfast and snacks.

Another suspension bridge to our motel but thankfully rideable this time and we piled in and cranked the heating up!

Going for more distance tomorrow we are hoping to beat the worse of the impending storm but we’re still hoping the tandem holds out until we collect the freehub too…it’s a race to the line again!

Day 159

We weren’t best pleased to wake up to rain that hadn’t been forecast this morning…but at least it wasnt snow!
It was certainly cold enough to start and with the wind on our backs Laura soon was rather chilly on the rear.

More layers on and a few climbs to warm up but we skipped the last Tim Hortons until Moncton as it was a bit too early for our morning stop.  Riding off into the wilderness (or so it seemed) again the road was lined with endless birches and not of the best quality. Taking a break at a quaint village store which definitely sold everything (apart from new freehubs…) we snacked standing up before pushing on.  Not the easiest ride and although Stevie it was “downhill to Moncton” on the profile this didn’t seem to transpire.

A tough day… but another big milestone: 16,000miles!!

The race to Halifax before Nicole gets her way is still on!!

Day 160

A rather colourful start from the surprisingly colourful city of Monkton and we were soon in our last province in Canada: Nova Scotia. With seemingly more English place names (Truro, Oxford, Colchester) some rolling terrain led down to the coast and essentially the other side of Canada!

We are feeling particularly tired and groggy for some reason though but a picturesque stop and some good snacks from last night’s leftovers cheered us up a bit. Stevie wasn’t impressed by the lack of a bench and it would be the second day in a row without sitting down all day.

Pressing along the coast we finally turned South and up and over Folly Mountain, which was thankfully less dramatic than the rockies. It was still a long day though and we rode through our last stunning sunset in Canada. Laura got the Disney on for the last stint and we made good progress to Truro leaving what would be a very reasonable distance to the airport tomorrow.

But we have had the calm before the storm today and Nicole is still on her way tomorrow so it will certainly not be an easy ride in!

Day 161

We could hear the rain pounding on the motel window before we got up, coming in waves and making the prospect of a bike ride less appealing!

But we slowly packed up and wrapped up and got on the bike. It was wet and dreary and expected and the headwind made for slow progress, but every peddle turn was closer to the end of Canada.

Finally the airport came into sight but we had an agonising loop around 3 sides of it to get to the hotel.

Getting into the nicest hotel room in weeks the tandem was safely stored in an office and we set about doing laundry and catching up on admin.

Soon we had a very important vistor- Mark from Tamarack cycles had arrived with the new freehub from NRG Enterprises and Hope International!! We still can’t believe the fantastic assistance we’ve had from these guys and also that the broken one had survived 500miles on centrifuge alone!

He had also brought beers and we had a freak chat about all things cycling and long/ultra-distance.

Next up was Dominic from Cycle Touring Life who was not only dropping off the all important boxes for the flight but also took us out for dinner with his lovely wife Clare. Dominic was the first sponsor to get behind us and his Erro panniers and the Woho bike packing gear he has sourced have been amazing!! Not to mention bailing us out in Malaysia when two of the panniers were destroyed.

It felt completely surreal to have a “normal” evening out and a fantastic end to the vast leg that has been Canada.

We can’t thank all those that have helped so much here enough!!

Stats

Weekly mileage: 617 miles

Total mileage: 16188 miles

Punctures: 0

New freehub:1 and continents left: 1

Pizzas: 1

Week 22 Mactier to Montmagny

Day 149

Feeling slightly guilty putting on 2 pairs of sock, a pair of shoes and then shoe covers in front on Barefoot Sue’s wonderfully healthy bare feet we set out into a very reasonable temperature this morning. 

Beautiful  scenery again alongside lakes and with Autumn colours lingering on.  Halloween is a big deal here and loads of houses have fantastically scary displays and we hoped we didn’t looking part of the scene as two tandem riding zombies.
A brief stop for coffee and cake and we made the decision (against good advice) to take the more major roads to try and go a bit easier on a niggly knee Stevie has.  The roads weren’t awful but certainly less scenic and it then started to rain too making for a rather dull afternoon.
Headwinds took the wind out of our sails a bit and spme rolling hills slowed us down at the end.  It was just getting dark when we heard cheers from the road and we’re delighted to have such a reception at our accommodation for the night.


Andrea and Stephen are not only tandem riders but also audax randonners so very experienced in the need so soggy tired cyclists and have actually been following our escapades since we rode Lands End John O’Groats in 2020.  We had a great evening swapping cycling stories and a whole load of freshly laundered clothes to look forward to for the morning!

Day 150

Wow…150…we can’t really believe it!

Having been fantastically set up with full bellies and clean clothes from Andrea and Stephens we set off into mist again bit it was much warmer now.  Some steep short hills to start with soon woke the legs up but a scenic route full of Autumn colours had been suggested by Andrea to help keep us off the busier highways. Dodging wild turkeys and little black squirrels carrying nuts as big as their heads we made and early stop at a bakery.


We had the usual chat (where are you from? Where are you going? What will you do when it snows.?…) at the bakery we stepped out to find two other cyclists admiring the tandem.  Jim and Mary were the  only ones to brave the forecast of rain on their group cycle ride but had got lucky with the weather abd were delighted to meet us.  They took the photo of us and our details and have tracked us down online and it’s fascinato hear Jim has also ridden the length of Canada!
We had a lakeside ride into Belleville and back into motels after a few nights of wonderful hospitality.

Not the most exciting of days…apart from WE’VE ONLY BLOOMING RIDDEN 15,000MILES!!

Day 151

A beautiful dawn start in Belleville and it was certainly a beautiful town.  This set the scene for the day with countryside interspersed with lakes and woodland and little villages and towns to break it up.  For the first time in a long time the weather felt spot on: not too cold or hot, not to humidity or dry, light winds (albeit in front) and just blooming pleasant.


This made for a rather leisurely first garage stop but gave us the motivation to push on.
A quick bit of cold pizza on the side of the road and Laura scoured the undergrowth carefully having found out the sore itchy rash on her “upper thighs” was likely caused by contact with poison ivy! Unlike to UK ivy the plant here has can cause almost burn like sores due to the highly irritant sap and more worried about bears in the bushes Laura must have squatted unaware!!!


A safe washroom and a quick drink at Westport set us up to ride into the sunset with the road flattening out again after a series of undulations.  Near the outskirts of Ottawa and ready to ride through tomorrow.

Day 152

Do you need a can opener for your worms…?

Most of the challenges on this record attempt aren’t physical…unless it’s trying to access Canadian canned goods! The beer bottles are great- easy twist caps (as you may be astounded to know we didn’t bring a bottle opener!) but cans are another matter…barely any ring pulls!
Now after the third or fourth near miss of finger amputation opening cans with the multi-tool you might have thought Laura would remember to check before purchase but when faced with a wonderful array of cylindrical foodstuffs it’s not always easy to focus on how you will access them!

Last night was the last straw and having wandered the whole supermarket Laura found herself in the cooking utensils aisle with a sealed can of baked beans…a can opener was purchased!

Considering Stevie has trimmed down spanners and weighed tooling by the gram prior to the trip it was not surprise he was not impressed. A discussion this morning and it was left in the motel…and then retrieved…to live in Stevie’s back pocket, assumabley to constantly remind Laura of her folly!

It travelled through countryside turning to town to city as we approached Otttawa and was whisked along a beautiful bike path along the riverside before crossing the bridge into Quebec.  Peering past it Laura got views of the parliament buildings of Canada on the far banks of the river.  It got warmer and the bouncy roads and removal of layers failed to displace the can opener as we traced the river East.  It is very much a French province now with all the signs in French and a different feel to the culture.  Eventually the roads settled down and we did too after so much city work, just catching a glorious sunset as we crossed back into Ontario for tonight’s motel.

And it is just as well the can opener came along for the ride as there turned out to be no less than four cans to open for dinner!! ( Guess who does the shopping! )

Day 153

A late start…but with good reason! Stevie took the opportunity of a spacious motel room to put on the last cassette of the trip and change out the chain and jockey wheels to, giving SteLa the Java a much needed spruce up at the same time!

We set out into glorious sunshine and the heat kept rising as we shed layer after layer of clothing, no expecting a +30’c shift for a few weeks ago! Soon waving goodbye to Ontario we were now in Quebec proper and the weather added to the strange feeling we were on holiday in France! ( I assume you lot are checking the tracker to make sure we aren’t).

With good weather and the wind due to come behind us we made the decision to push for a full day distance and booked the motel at our first stop, accepting we may be a bit late.

We moved from countryside with dairy farms and tall grain stores to suburbia along the river banks and passed a huge hydro power plant.  Trying to pick smooth and speedy roads was challenging and we edged closer to Montreal. The light faded all too soon and we crossed the massive Jacques Cartier bridge over the river in the dark with the skyscrapers of the city shinning below.  It was slow going on the way out with horrendous potholes and lots of traffic lights but we finally made it through and to our motel, tired but very pleased with our progress on a “maintenance ” day!

Day 154

Another glorious day weatherwise! I’m sure we’ve earnt this somewhere in the monsoon…

A warm start and with  the wind behind us we winged our way alongside the river past quaint riverside houses and a massive power station on the far banks.

A break  at Tim Hortons is Louiseville took longer than planned as there seems a rather relaxed atmosphere to everything around here but we did have to novelty of seeing a young lad come in and order a batch of coffees before cycling off to deliver them on his bright red trike!

Diverting on a more Northerly course after Lousieville the scenery changed to dairy farms am agriculture with the maize field stubbly with the remains of the crop.  The forest encroached again as  we went North and another large hydro station at Shawinigan.  A flying descent down to the river was only diminished slightly by the climb up the other side.  It was even warmer by this point and Laura got down to short sleeves-a weird contrast to the Christmas decorations going up in the villages already.

Another sunset finish but with the clocks going back tonight this looks to be a permanent fixture of our rides now!

Day 155

Not such a sunny start from a rather unusual hotel (there could definitely be another ghost story in the making there…) the rain quickly caught up with us from the winds behind.  A quick pharmacy stop to top up on sudocream and toothpaste (not to be mixed up!!) we approached Quebec to cross back over the river on yet another massive bridge. 

It brightened up enough to get some views and the bridge felt rather unnervingly high up.  Another smaller one was more picturesque before we quickly ended up in countryside again.  A bit of a rolling ride for the rest ofnthe day before heading back down to the banks of the river with the wind blowing us in and drying us off.

Weekly distance 729 miles

Total distance 15571 miles

Punctures 0!

Pizza 4 😋

Tins opened by Tim the tin opener: 5

Week 21 Thunder Bay to Mactier

Day 142

We’ve made a tactical decision…

The irony of being woken up by a thunderstorm in Thunder Bay was not lost on us early this morning…

…hoping that it was still the early hours more disappointment came when the alarm went off 10minutes later and after late night of admin and drive belt changes (we know how to live it up in smelly motel rooms!) we were still flummoxed by the time change.  Although we’ve ridden through many thunderstorms on this trip, dragging ourselves out of bed into one before it gets light is another matter… we rolled over a got some more much needed sleep.

When we did get up we were faced with a dilemma: over 120 miles into headwinds and up hills or under 70 to the nearest motel. Camping in between was unappealing given the weather and lack of bear spray. Feeling worn down by the challenges over the past few weeks we knew we could do the longer distance and get in after dark…but was it worth it? Knowing the wind would turn tomorrow added to the conundrum as why ride headwind miles today when they will be tailwind miles tomorrow?

Stopping early would give a proper chance for recovery after such good progress through the first half of Canada, Laura time to work on the ferry issues (an potentially rerouting Europe!) and Stevie time to rest a knee niggle he’s been managing.

Dropping the distance was hard thing to get our heads around though and we didn’t want to lose momentum.

We got on the road and into a dismal day.  Missing the Terry Fox memorial statue ( inconveniently on a road you’re not allowed to cycle on ) we at least got some views of Lake Superior whilst using what might be the worst public loo in Canada!

Then the rain came and cold and wet our decision was made! We didn’t have the time to push on and it was just miserable!! Finally finding an open garage at over 40miles sustained us to Nipigon where we stocked up at the shop for a cosy night in making plans and resting up.  More miles to factor in but hopefully it will pay off in the long run.

Day 143

We started out slightly later than intended (Laura may have melted her shoes slightly.. ) it was still pretty gloomy and we’re going to have to get used to dark mornings.


Bit we’d missed the rain and the sun and views of the massive lake Superior soon came up.  We were to be treated to views of the lake all day, but usually while flying down a sharp descent before grinding up the other side.  Our poor legs have forgotten what a solid climbing day on the laden tandem is.


Facilities were still sparse with 2/3 of the mornings 2nd breakfast opportunities closed, either fir the season or permanently. We finally got a sandwich at Pays Platt near a native community reservation.


The hills didn’t relent for the afternoon and too soon the sun was setting like a blazing fire over the lake.  We finished off the ride in the dark, now paranoid about another accommodation disaster but were checked in and tucking into instant noodle surprise for dinner.

Day 144

The geese are getting bigger..

An early start and still dark…which will be something we’ll have to get used to now!  We weren’t overly cold setting out but were looking forward to it warming up as it got light, but if anything it seemed to get colder.  Stopping for a snack mid morning we donne dmroe layers and it was just as well as the Northerly winds were freezing and the first garage at 40miles was shut! Not as cold as it has been but still seriously chilly and we suffered numb hands and feet.
Making White River we treated ourselves to burger and fries and bought a thermos bottle, fed up of trying to drink icy water.


The sun came out for a bit in the afternoon and the sunshine on the lakes improved our spirits. Laura was on moose watch, but the warning signs were sadly inaccurate…
Or moose only come out at night?!

Stocking up in Wawa for the evening and a long ride to the next facilities tomorrow we were pleased to make the motel before dark after a reasonably solid day.

Day 145

It’s been the kind of day where if you just look at the photos it will look blissful, beautiful and serene…

…here’s the truth!

Starting in the dark again we were riding into dawn and hoping it warmed up a bit.  The wind was still from the North at this point and cold but it was due to come from just about all direct various points of the day.  Our foodland bag was bulging as we knew that facilities were even scarcer than previous days- as remote as the Nullabor desert!

Stopping to pee in the woods was accompanied by a check for bears and snack stops were brief.  We were definitely due a break by the time we found a scenic view point at 45miles and got to enjoy some scenery.  A lot of the views we’ve had have been on short shape descents, soon followed by the accompanying ascent and we felt sure we must have done most of the elevation for the day.

Getting our “picnic” of cold rolls and our new thermos of coffee we were glad we’d thought ahead and enjoyed a few moments of sunshine, until a cloud came across and we rushed to get back on the bike as it suddenly got a lot cooler.  That wind is bitter!

Pushing on again for another 45miles the restaurant, gas station and store we had expected were all closed and luckily we had plenty of snacks left as it was now well over 100miles between any facilties.

Lake Superior was vast and the hills kept on coming giving us glimpses of what seemed an ocean between the pines and granite crags. The sandy beaches in the bays gave more of the impression of a  seaside rather than the World’s largest freshwater lake.  The sunset and we still peddled, a few more sharp climbs before finally getting to Sault Ste. Marie with a sense of relief!
Finally time for a cup of tea!

Day 146

Another long one as we juggle more accommodation options! The don’t feed the bears signs have put us off camping sightly…

We skirted around Sault Ste Marie and managed to avoid crossing into the USA by accident to head West, diverting off the highway before rejoining it later in the day.  The scenery has changed again: lots of Autumn colours and still lots of lakes but much more populated than the last few days which aas good news in terms of stops and we managed to get an awesome second breakfast of bacon and eggs and poutine at a roadside cafe.

With reasonable weather we made progress and picked up and official bicycle trail giving us more room in the shoulder which was much appreciated at the traffic was busier than we’d got used to too.  It was still a long day in the saddle to get to Spanish, but our mileages are totting up and a couple of you regular followers have pointed out were now averaging >100miles per day!! And don’t our legs know it!!

Day 147

It didn’t seem that cold as we set off from the motel and we had visions of us getting lovely morning photos by the “Massey” sign (well done to everyone that spotted that-it was on Laura’s crib sheet!)

A few minutes in and we rode into the mist…or the freezing air soup.  Laura faired OK on the back but poor Stevie took the brunt of it on the front with the moisture refreezing on his bar, gloves and beard!

Luckily Massey wasn’t far down the road and although the photos didn’t come out great it was a necessary stop for warm drinks and more layers.  Braving the cold again we were sure it would burn off soon, but we were horribly wrong and it took until 11am for the mist to lift!

Diverting on a bicycle trail onto a minor road backfired too at the surface was potholes and intermittent linear cracks made our lives a misery.  Combined with Stevie’s numb hands despite 3 pairs of gloves changing gear was tricky to say the least.

The sun finally broke through and we pushed onto Sudbury meaning to stop there for food but in no time at all Laura’s amazing routing to avoid the busy centre (we’re now not sure there was one..) put us straight onto back roads with more cracks and awful surface.  Tim Hortons came up just in time over 80miles in!!

A bit of a tailwind cheered us up a bit but the road surface back on the highway was still awful and the Thudbuster was getting a full work out on the back while every point of contact became more painful.  Everyone seemed to be a rush too and more close passes than we’d had in Canada so far didn’t help pur mood. Finally onto a rolling back road we pushed hard for another big distance to Noëlville for the first suitable accommodation in an Airbnb.

We wouldn’t have known it but it was Denise and Tim’s first time hosting and we couldn’t have been made more welcome with Denise going to the shop for us before it closed and then sharing a meal a few beers and getting a look at Tim’s retro hot rod fixie bike! It’s been a long time since we’ve had a good chat in the evening and a wonderful end to a hard day’s ride.

Day 148

After a wonderful night’s rest at our Airbnb in Noëlville we set off into pea soup again- but thankfully not as cold and persistent his morning and the mist lifted to a glorious day.
Running a bit late for a snack we were rather confused when a vehicle in the hard shoulder flagged us down… only to find out that Carrie and Len had been following us, both virtually in real life!!
Taken aback by our first en route cheering on we were really grateful for a very kind donation and advice that there were places to get food just around the corner.  Another real spirit boost for us.

Almost as good was the pizza vending machine around the corner for lunch and this set us up for a rolling route past Parry Sound through a miriade of little lakes with occasional beaver houses.


The sun got lower and the lakes were perfect mirrors of the woodlands around reflecting the light spectacularly on their glassy surface.  Tha ksful of a shorter day we made good time to our next Airbnb run by the lovely tSue who turns out to be a barefoot runner and cold water swimming instructor!  Laura was disappointed not to have time for dip but Stevie wasn’t convinced by the ice bath!

Stats

Weekly distance: 784 miles

Total distance: 14842 miles

Punctures: 0

Pizza: 1

Week 20 Swan River to Thunder Bay

Day 135

A “getting it done” kinda day.

Another cold start and with headwinds most of the way it left Stevie suffering in the bitter blast with Laura hiding behind in her “neck gaiter”.
We picked up supplies at a quaint time-gone-by kind of shop, which was just as well as the cafe we were aiming for didn’t exist and had us snacking on the side of the road trying to stay warm enough.

There seems to be a Ukrainian influence here and we passed lots of little cemetery, peaceful and quiet on the roadside. Finally about to turn out of the wind we came upon an unexpected cafe which made up for the one missed earlier and had much needed cups of tea.

It sustained us enough to get the last mileage down down a quiet road with lots of abandoned and dilapidated buildings. A glorious sunset led us in and pizza on the menu made Laura’s day after a tough ride yet again.

Day 136

Another chilly chilly start at dawn, but the sun was out today and it gradually warmed up despite the headwind. A tough ride to our first stop…65miles down the road! We were both shattered and hungry by the time.we got there, wiped out from pushing into the wind but finally warm enough to consider taking some layers off.  Stopping at a roadside restaurant we went round twice on sandwiches and soup before tucking into dessert too.  The friendly owner then gave us a couple of packs of M&Ms for the road too!

With 45 miles still to go, crosswinds were a welcome relief but we were still struggling to get the speed up.  Another beautiful sunset but we road into dark, and dark it was with no signs of civilisation around.  Finally we spotted lights glimmering through the trees and reflecting on the lakes below. Laura spotted the sign for the lodge we had booked a couple of days before and we pulled up relieved after another tough ride…

There was a closed sign on the restaurant door but this was no surprise as we’d been told the restaurant was closed…but then the bar door was closed too and we thought this odd as the website said this was open until 8pm and it was 8:05pm…we tried both doors anyway then called the number only to hear the landline fainting ringing inside.

Yet another accommodation disaster.

Investigating around the back we found a guest who then helped us try and contact the Owners as there was no number to call. Soon a few people were trying to help us out but to no avail.  We’d  just upped our ambitions from the tent to the corridor which had been left open when one of the guests offered us a spare bed!! We were taken back by his kindness but he refused to let us sleep on the floor we we got warm and clean and he even shared his chicken and gave us tips on way to stay down the road!

Faith in humanity restored we settled down after another big day, ready for an another big day tomorrow.

Day 137

Feeling extremely grateful to have slept in a bed, but not entirely well rested after the stressful end to yesterday we set off in subzero temperatures again.
We ate up most of the remainder of our previous for breakfast and waved goodbye to Dave who had helped us so much (and apologised for Stevie’s snoring )

A brief glimpse of the water was all we got of the massive lakes we can see surrounding us on the maps as we wound pur way through them initially to then head South East -finally towards Winnipeg after our jaunt to gain mileage.

The wind was meant to be turning in our favour but it was taking its time about it and it was a tough push to second breakfast…or rather lunch at 50miles in.

The wind and direction gradually aligned later in the day and like so often we managed to pull it put of the bag later on.  We were relived and delighted to reach Winnipeg as it has been really tough going these past few days and this means we are still on track.  The prairies will soon be behind us and we are looking forward to a change in terrain from the endless flat straight roads which are more of a challenge mentally if not physically.

A hotel with and actual reception let us in our room just as it got dark and we’re getting an early night before a (hopefully) easier day tomorrow.

Day 138

Leaving the motel to another glorious sunrise the massive living skies of the prairies were soon blotted out by skyscrapers as we crossed Winnipeg.  We were soo on the Trans-Canadian Highway and heading East along yet more flat straight roads.
A brief stop as we need to get to the motel by 6pm to check in and we picked up cross tailwinds and put the hammer down!!

We’ve made it halfway across Canada (according to the sign) but there’s plenty more to go!

The road got more forested and slightly more undulating towards the end and we were treated to a view over a lake as we reached a small summit- we’ve been missing the views!!

Getting to the motel with time to spare the welcome party was out to greet us and we’ve got some good time for recovery.

Day 139

A relatively warmer start amd a surprise as we bumped into an expat from just down the road in Allenton!

The scenery started off good and only got better- forests, lakes and rocky outcrops…it was like pocahontas would jump out from behind a tree any minute.  The road rolled all day giving us the most elevation we’ve had since the rockies but in steady ups and downs.
It warmed up significantly and we could barely believe the difference to a few days ago!


Tailwinds helped us through and it felt like the most enjoyable day we’ve had in a long time.  A solid stint after brunch (where the server was from Yorkshire! ) and we’d broken the back if the rode to reach Dryden at dusk.
Hopefully more of the same tomorrow!

Day 140

Wow! 40 days to go… hopefully…

We aren’t brimming with confidence today because just before leaving we’ve found the Fundy Bay ferry we planned to get 2 days before our flight is undergoing maintenance and not running until 1 day before our flight… there is a detour but this will involve a fair bit of rerouting and possibly missing out on visiting Cycle Touring Life who have been an amazing supporter of our challenge.

We needed to get on the road and the next stumbling block was we opened the motel door to rain!
We’d kinda forgotten about rain seeing as this was the first time in Canada!!

Switching to waterproofs and neoprene gloves we set out to a day with less elevation, hills and a slight headwind.  A very remote road left us waiting until 65miles in for a cuppa and two footlongs (we have Subway ordering down pat now and just have to hope we don’t get stuck behind someone that dictates their salad preference tomato slice by tomato slice…)

Stocking up on dinner as well we pushed through the last few miles to an isolated motel.  The sky had cleared a bit to give us some views on the way in and quickly got settled in a warm room to rustle up some dinner.

Day 141

A peaceful start from the motel by the lake we’d stopped at and an early win when the Owner knocked  on the door and gave us muffins!

It was to be a day of headwinds and hills so not easy going.  With long distances between places we had to take what came along so ended up having a fairly early stop just under 30miles in for an unusual second breakfast of chilli and chicken burgers! It was all fuel for the tank though.

We had lost time though…mostly because we’d hit another time zone.  Not as unexpected this time (even if it does seem to be the one bit of pretrip planning Laura failed to do…) but still made us feel on the back foot.  With a long way to Thunder Bay we pressed on and as it heated up we peeled layer after layer off. It feels like  completely different season and as it’s warmer at night too may give us options to camp which can help split up distances. 

We had a stark reminder to stick to campsites though as there was a young bear which had been hit by a car dead on the side of the road.

It was still warm as we reached Thunder Bay at dusk and a supermarket sweepof Walmart to stock up on essentials before things become more remote again.

Stats

Weekly mileage: 783miles

Total mileage: 14,028 miles

Puncutres: 0 (we don’t dare mention them now after such a good run…!)

Pizza : 4

Week 19 Leduc to Swan River

Day 128

A glorious sunrise start from the wonderful motel after what felt like a well deserved night’s rest.

We decided to divert from the less straightforward route through Beaumont (and hoped for some Mark Beaumont like speed to be transferred to us ) as the roads were quite due to it being Thanksgiving!

Heading as close to Edmonton as we dared we verved East with the skyscrapers in the distance And opted to take the more minor road East.  This made for great scenery and a quiet ride, but no facilities: just as well we had stocked upon motel buffet breakfast! Getting back onto the Highway we were crossing a National Park so we’re still without a break at 40miles but had the widn behind us so decided to push on. Lots of lakes and waterfowl but we also saw what looked like bison grassing and beaver lodges in the lakes. (Look closely at the photo).

The road flattened out and the wind picked up and we were flying! Getting to close to 60miles the next town was off route and we still decided to keep pedalling snacking on the move.  80miles in we had reached Vergeville in record time and finally caved at a Tim Hortons again.  Laura was queuing for food when she heard a lady exclaim ” you’re going where?!?” To Stevie.  As she got more and more details her incredulity grew and grew and the group of three ladies were really impressed with our trip.  They followed us on social media and found us on the tracker and then gave us some cash!
We said we’d add it to the charity donations, but no! They were admanent this was for us and we were overwhelmed with their enthusiasm and support! Another seperate lady who had overheard the whole thing came and gave us another note too- it was wonderful and surreal!

Still buzzing back on the bike we were flying again, the speed frequently in the 20mph now. Waterfowl overhead were psyching themselves up for migration and we had one of those rare moments of reflecting on how far we’d come.  Making fantastic progress to the motel we still had plenty of time for recovery after a big day and can barely believe the day we’ve had after so many tough times!

Day 129

We smashed it!
It was windy to begin with and it only got windier! Every time we stopped it was like we had to hold the tandem back to stop her starting on her own, like an impatient steed. The tailwinds have been epic.

We’d got to the point we never thought this day would come, so many tough times: illness, injury, weather, hills, mountains, road surface, cities, traffic, route issues… sometimes it feel like all we do is complain and we try not to feel hard done by as if these challenges are what cycling around the world is, then it is up to us to take them on. We chose to be here.

But, we hadn’t dare expect this, powered along by the winds that normally hinder us! We’d forgotten that karma works and luck can be on our side (or at least the law of averages…)

Blasting through the first 50 miles to second breakfast in a wonderful classic diner playing country music and serving pancakes we were set up for the rest of the day.  The terrain was flat but not boring with little  lakes full of waterfowl, the odd field of cows and little villages and farms dotted along the route.  We could hardly get our heads around the miles flying by, we are so used to working on a 10mph average.  We arrived at North Battleford around 4:30pm, far earlier than we expected and turn off the main road to the town.

WHAM!

The crosswind hit and we slowed to a crawl, hit by  massive crosswinds for the last miles across an exposed bridge. Laura ready to bail from the stoker seat of they got blown too close to the edge.  In the motel early and a takeout curry to celebrate!

Day 130

We got up
We rode fast
We had a diner brunch
We rode fast
We hit Saskatoon
We rode fast
We got to the motel early..

Might sound straightforward and 20mph+ and a 157.5mile day is nothing to complain about, but it’s not as easy as it looks on paper!
Firstly and slight deviation from straight tailwinds to slight crosswinds was a huge challenge in winds this strong…especially when it pushed us into the traffic.
Secondly the concentration, especially from Stevie on the front, to hold and steer the fully laden tandem at high speeds is not to be underestimated.  The number pictures taken today show it wasn’t an easy ride in the backseat either!  We swapped our front panniers around at the brunch stop the help with a speed wobble we’d been having and it took us two goes to get out the exit back onto the Highway the wind was so strong!!

But we have had a massive dayband are rapidly putting ourselves in a great position to catch up the mileage we need to make our original 180day target in Berlin…it’s still a long way off yet but having days like the past few give us confidence of what might be possible.

And also, we hope, show how hard it has been when we’ve struggled average 10mph or stopped at 80miles!!

We change direction slightly tomorrow and the winds change too so our flying run maybe over for now, but we are just so grateful as even just the thought of going the other way is sickening!!

Day 131

A bitterly cold start had us finally cave and ait we needed to source some warmer clothes-we had had some sent to Dunedin…but they had arrived after we got to Canada!

We still had tailwinds but made more of a steady start today to get to 2nd breakfast at  Subway. Laura’s hands were too numb and the winds were too  strong to take many photos.  Pushing onto Regina we hit cross-tailwinds which were challenging but nothing compared to what we had to come.  Stopping at Walmart Laura lucked out with Leggings, mittens and a neck gaiter… but they didn’t have a single pair of gloves for Stevie to go over his current ones (it is pretty cold with the wind chill!)

The  search will continue and we agreed to keep options open as we hit the crosswinds proper heading North. We sometimes have a set destination on a day and book in advance but when the distance we can cover is less easy to determine we often have a conservative and stretch distance.  In this case we had 3 options: 14, 22 and 44 miles from where we were (at 95miles). Give the past few days the stretch distance didn’t seem ridiculous…until we got on the road!
The crosswinds were thankfully from our left but blowing us into the grassy verge.  If it hadn’t promised a soft landing we don’t know what we’d have done as it would have been too dangerous.

We quickly realised that 14miles was plenty in these conditions, especially as the wind is due to drop tomorrow.  Struggling all the way we reached the motel with relief.. only to find it shut, the telephone number not working and accommodation looking dubious. We discussed options, the stretch was too far, the middle distance motel didn’t pick up and we were pretty sure it would be a bitter night wild camping affect our performance.  The most reasonable option seemed to be to back track 7miles to the last motel.  It took a bit if courage to get back on the blustery road, and we took minor roads to avoid the traffic but if was the toughest 7miles of the past 3 days with cross-headwinds/severe crosswinds and both us needed to be on the ball to stay safe, ready to pull over at a moments notice.

Making it to the hotel it was another cosy night in!

Day 132

A rather chilly start had Laura kitted out in her new wardrobe and Stevie wearing his down booties on his hands…

It is clear you can’t take your eye off the ball for a minute when planning record breaking logistics and after the faff getting a motel last night we’d not tried to book tonight’s until this morning.

And it as full.
And the other two “hotels” on Google maps were a retirement home and possibly a pub?

So Laura searched nearby areas…nothing…until a last ditch at Airbnb found one spot on…until they refused to accept our booking.

With the clock ticking to get on the road and already feeling like we’d had  mission Laura eventually found an Airbnb roughly the right distance but more due North than East.  Plumping for it we got on the road and rerouted not to back track to it later.

Which went well until it turned into an actual back-track of a gravel road. Feeling frustrated we couldn’t get anything right today we diverted to the original route which not only gave us a stretch of out and back at the end but also made it a 127mile day instead of 107miles and we had left late after all the accommodation faff.

We were just about on track though…then the gear cable snapped.

Working quickly in the bitter cold Stevie somehow managed to keep enough feeling in his hand to get the new one in and got the gear set up spot on first time!

Back on the road we tried to push hard to warm up to Fort Qu’appelle and fuelled up there before pushing hard into crosswinds to try and make up time. It was tough going though and we hit the dark and cold again.  Luckily the wonderful Airbnb people left the apartment open for us and after our second A&W burger stop of the day we arrived late but relieved and ready to warm up and make sure we’ve got tomorrow’s plans nailed before bed!

Day 133

We had a bit of a lie in this morning to 6:30am after having got to bed close to midnight after yesterday’s antics.

We felt vaguely refreshed but rather stiff and sore after the big push to get there last night and had a slow chilly roll out after a light breakfast.  Pushing onto Foam Lake for second breakfast it only got colder but with cross tailwinds we made reasonable progress.  Over easy egg and pancakes fuelled us up again and it seemed everyone in the restaurant wanted to know what we were up to- one girl even came in especially as she had spotted us on the road and offered us a bed for the night! A less optimistic gentleman speculated whether we’d make our distance today as it was “a very long way” and warned us repeatedly it was very cold… buy he wished us well in general!

It warmed up a bit in the afternoon but we were still feeling pretty tired and I think the endless expanse of the prairies is getting to us a bit. With the wind mostly behind to get to Yorkton in time to go shopping for Stevie gloves.  Finally replacing his ever so slightly worn out liners and getting some heavy duty gauntlets.  We might need to slim down his glove collection somewhat though…not all of them are pictured!

Day 134



We made a mistake…
…we thought it has been cold the past few days…
…we were wrong!!



It’s certainly looking like “fall” here with beautiful colours in the trees but it was certainly crisp steeping out the motel room., despite us wearing the most clothes yet. It certainly wasn’t warming up and definitely agreed with @epicrideweather “feels like”, with a weirdly dry cold- no ice or snow and barely any frost.



Surviving the long push to Subway the down booties came out again for Stevie. Thawed put slightly we had a long drag after lunch into a forest area- a welcome break from the monotony of the prairies where the vast landscape seemed infinite. There were small lakes admist the tree and beaver 🦫 houses (aka lodges) amd evidence of their tree felling. Suddenly Laura heard a loud splosh and there was something swimming that wasn’t a duck! With just his eyes and nose sticking above the water there was a trail of ripples as the beaver swum along. Too cold to get the gloves off in time Laura missed the photo opportunity.



We have also made another mistake amd got caught out by yet another time zone! Adding some mileage here and crossing into Manitoba we had lost track a bit but at least it was dark later. Missing the grocery store was a great excuse to order takeout pizza.

Stats

Weekly mileage 880.66miles

Total mileage: 13244.66miles

Pizza: 1 (15″ epic of my dreams…)

Punctures: 0 but one snapped gear cable…

Beavers: 1