Garmin Edge……If Found Please Return To………

A friend passed on this neat little trick to put your name and contact details on the opening screen of a Garmin Edge. Surprisingly I could find no reference to it in the instruction booklet but it works and at least gives you an outside chance of having it returned should you lose it. It worked on my 800 and 705 and should work on any unit with a startup.txt file.

*Updated 19/01/2020 works on my 810, 1000 and 1030

*Updated 08/03/2023 to include 1040

To set up the screen you need to plug you Edge into your laptop, screenshots are from my Mac but I am sure it is the same for a Windows system.

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 19.48.22

Highlight your Garmin in Finder, and then open the “Garmin” folder and then open the “Start up Text”

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 19.51.57

This screen pops up, first  you need to set how long to display the message, I went for 10 seconds and then type your contact details on the next line as instructed.


Save the file, unplug your Garmin and turn it on. Job done, open the beer…..

A Few Days in Jersey

After a rather torrid start to the year, a three week bout of flu was quickly followed two weeks later by Covid our year really started on 1st March with a four day trip to Jersey to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary. We had not flown since 2014 and although we could have sailed, a thirty minute flight from Southampton seemed a good compromise. We had previously visited Jersey in 2012 when we were sailing down to Portugal but had limited time so a return visit had been on our bucket list.

Parking and check in at Southampton Airport was straight forward with helpful and smiling staff and with time for a coffee we could watch the arrival of our plane from the cafe overlooking the apron. The Blue Islands ATR72 was a very comfortable turbo prop and 35 minutes later we had landed at Jersey and disembarking the plane the first advert you see at the terminal entrance is for wealth management !! We took a taxi to the hotel Pomme D’Or and a very jovial driver gave us the lowdown on what to see and after dropping our bags a quick tour of the immediate vicinity and shopping centre. The weather was cold and with a biting NE wind, the solace of a warm hotel restaurant and an a la carte menu won the day.

Thursday 2nd March

A leisurely start and fruit, toast, marmalade and a full English  breakfast was probably a bit over the top but I seem to recall 50 years ago to the day I was feeling considerably worse for ware and nursing a severe headache courtesy of my stag night. Breakfast done and I had promised Kaye a mornings retail therapy and I don’t think I have seen so many shops outside London and all seemingly doing good trade, certainly not the rundown high streets of the mainland. After lunch we took the bus to St Brelades Bay and walked the large expanse of golden sands although on this day the biting NE wind was testing and a valid excuse for coffee and cake at the seafront cafe. The bus system on Jersey works very well with a flat £2.10 fare for any journey and frequent busses. Our evening meal was a bit of an eye opener and testimony to rising prices, cod and chips for two with a soft drink and a bill for £50 seemed expensive, talking to our waiter who told us that a box of fresh fish from the wholesaler twelve months ago was £52, that same box this week was £212 and he was worried that it would eventually drive him out of business.

Friday 3rd

Another cold day with a biting wind but not to be deterred we booked a trip around Elizabeth Castle in St Aubins Bay.  Access is across the causeway at low water by foot or by amphibious taxi, we took the taxi. The castle is built from granite which must have been a mammoth task over many years, these old garrisons are foreboding places and even normal everyday life must have been akin to serving a prison sentence. The Castle is a timeline and traces 400 years of cannons and guns up to the German occupation of WW2. At 12.00 the Castle Gunner gives you the story of the Battle of Jersey at the Midday Parade followed by firing the cannon.

Our celebration anniversary dinner was at the hotel which was hosting the Indian Festival of Colour and the  Buffet was one of the best Indian meals we have ever eaten, all washed down with a glass of bubbly.

Saturday 4th

Our last day and a trip to Jersey Zoo, home of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Another bus journey through the narrow lanes where the verges are covered in daffodils and Camellias form the hedgerows. We normally judge the countryside as  if we were travelling by bike and on that scale it was very hilly with some sharp climbs. I have not always been a great fan of zoo’s but this one is an exception, the animals all look well cared for and healthy. The cold weather was clearly keeping a lot of the animals indoors but the highlight for me was walking through the butterfly house, with exotic species floating around the steamy atmosphere. The Durrell Foundation exhibition gives you a complete history of his life and work and was worth the entry fee alone.

Just one more bus journey, this time to the airport and our flight back to Southampton from what was a very enjoyable few days away.



Autumn Travels In The Motorhome 3

Monday 10th October

Having said our  goodbyes to friends Tim and Sue we set the Sat Nav to a Camping Car Parks Aire in Orleans. First stop was the supermarket to replenish supplies and listening to the news it suggested all petrol stations in the area were closed and out of fuel due to the tanker drivers strike. Arriving at the Aire at Orleans I looked at Kaye and she said,  No ! ,  a steep descent into a tree covered site next to The River Loire and as the surrounding area did not look great so plan B took over and we tapped in the co-ordinates to take us to the CCP aire at Lailly-en-Val. 

Approaching Beaugency we were in traffic as the car in front turned into a small garage with two fuel pumps, an attendant came out,  it was open and had fuel (although looking at it you would assume it was closed), we also pulled in to top up, the attendant told us €50 maximum, cash only and no receipts given, nice to see the black economy is alive in rural France. 

Arriving at the aire ( N47.770309° E001.685507°  €10.40 per 24hrs) it was relatively empty so a choice of pitches and then lunch of bread and cheese followed by a walk around the village and the now familiar sight of closed shops. Adjacent to the Aire was the village pétanque courts and we were entertained by the enthusiastic and animated locals taking their match very seriously. Once the locals had finished our on board pétanque set appeared as Kaye and I contested our own championship which Kaye let me win to maintain matrimonial harmony and avoid me sulking.

Tuesday 11th October

A cloudy but dry and very mild day so rather than move on we thought conditions were good for a  local ride. Cycling the back lanes to Beaugency and we were hooted by a car who then pulled alongside and wound down the window, very unusual for France but it was not abuse, they were trying to tell us our rear bike lights were on, an absolute necessity in UK to be seen by car drivers but not it appears in France, drivers must have better eyesight in France.

Our route was around the lanes and hamlets to the Northwest of Beaugency, predominantly flat but very open agricultural land and more by luck than judgement at the halfway point we went through the village of Josnes with a cafe for our coffee stop. The return trip was much the same with open flat countryside, through the village of Seris and then Mer before crossing The Loire again at Muides-sur-Loire , picking up the D951 back to Lailly-en-Val, briefly stopping at the Boulangerie for a couple Amandine pear tarts for afternoon tea. 

Wednesday 12th October

We moved the short distance to Chailles, another CCP aire near The Loire, we were going to stop at Blois but the reviews were not encouraging and driving through the area we could see why. Blois was very popular with the traveller community, every piece of open grass was occupied with one area housing hundreds of caravans. 

The bridge over The Loire at Blois

Chailles CCP Aire N47.543812° E001.31113° €11.88 per 24hrs , an easy access and still time for an afternoon cycle ride into Blois using the mapped cycle paths that certainly required you had your wits about you to follow. After a few false starts we were back on roads to The North of the river and heading West to cross back over The Loire at Chaumont-sur-Loire where we saw an advert for The International Garden Festival at The Chateau. Always looking for a good garden we decided to check out the entrance, cost and if we could park the motorhome, Following the signs up a 15% gradient on the bikes really tested the knee, the entrance and parking looked OK so a visit was on the agenda for the following day.

The route back to Chailles was again plotted using the network of cycle paths but after a short distance we got back on the road as the rough uneven surface posed a greater risk than the road. 

Thursday 13th October

A wet start for our visit to the Chateau at Chaumont-Sur-Loire but the gardens were looking great, there were 25 individually designed garden themes that were quite diverse. The valley of mist was just that, a very wet hollow area kept permanently misted, and at the other extreme a brick wall with four doors and you are invited to imagine the garden beyond…. really. If I am honest

Imagine the garden behind the doors !!

these gardens were probably a bit arty for me but the greenhouses and planted beds were much more to my liking, especially the Dahlias collection, sadly we were too late for the Peonies. The grounds are full of specimen trees and works of art mix with the planting. Without doubt the wackiest art for me was a  wood carving by Henrique Olivera in the Bee Barn and described as “a huge snake or root that has been buried for decades in the stone floor and suddenly begins to grow impulsively and out of control” all very Jack and the beanstalk. Having spent most of the day wandering the grounds it was well worth the entry cost and probably one of our trip highlights.

Jack and the beanstalk




Autumn Travels In The Motorhome 2

Friday 7th October

A  misty start and a rather chilly 5c and as I made my way to the Boulangerie, at 8-30 it was still not fully light. The only people about were a couple of fishermen who did not seem that happy when I offered a cheery “bonjour” but I guess on a cold morning when the fish are not biting you’ve not got much to be happy about.

One of life’s pleasures, a breakfast of fresh baguette,  croissant and pan-au-raesen, complemented with coffee as we waited for the mist to clear and the sun to rise. Our first ride of the trip and my first after being given the all clear by my consultant was to Sancerre. We went out along canal and river tow paths on a nice traffic free surface. We passed a couple of very large cruise boats and stopped to watch as one navigated one of the many locks with only inches to spare each side. 

The surface all the way to Sancerre was pan flat but the coffee stop was at the top of the hill at the sports bar, yet another town with boarded up shops, hairdressers, pizza parlour and sports bars seem to be the only shops open.

From the centre of town our route back was beautifully different, undulating countryside through the vineyards that produce the famous Sauvignon Blanc. Rather surprisingly none of the wine cellars were open so our planned wine tasting did not happen. Small hamlets we passed were all deserted, roads very quiet and the only activity were the tractors and ploughs in the fields with swarming flocks of seagulls. As we rolled back to the motorhome, 45 miles completed and my longest ride since my accident. A late lunch of bread and cheese in true French style in the sunshine as we watched the boats on the canal.

Saturday 8th October

A cold start, 4c on the thermometer but I’m sure there was a frost on the grass. We opted for a short morning ride to Briare and Gien as we wanted to be back in plenty of time to greet our good friends Tim and Sue who are on their two year tour of Europe.

Our route out just happened to take us past the local airfield so I could not resist popping in just to do a bit of plane spotting but alas it was all locked up and deserted. Briare was our next waypoint and the amazing canal structure, a real 19th century feat in engineering. A few miles down the road to Gien which was our turning point, by now the sun had a bit of warmth and we found a lovely cafe for coffee and cake in the town square.  A short ride back into Chatillon along the D951

By the time our friends arrived the Aire was again full so we decided to move with them to Camping Martinet at Briare, a fully serviced campsite at €20 per night. After a good chinwag over coffee and cake and a walk around the town and by way of a treat we thought we would eat out. Finding a suitable restaurant we booked a table, confirmed by an email, but when we got there in the evening it was closed so we had to find another establishment. A pasta and pizza house came to the rescue, one thing that has struck me on this trip is the high cost of food and eating out now in France. 

Sunday 9th October

A sunny start so with no cycling planned I walked into town to the boulangerie for a baguette and a pan-au-raesen. On the way back to the motorhome I came across a group of men looking very regal in red tunic coats and trousers amply decorated with gold braid, they were heading for the local park that was hosting the Festival of St Hubert that was all things hunting horns, suitably accompanied by barking hounds.

A late morning breakfast in the motorhome was serenaded with hunting horns, we then joined Tim and Sue for a walk around the canal complex and a plan to take the afternoon boat cruise of the canal network but arriving at the boat at the appointed time we found a note on the door saying it had been cancelled, we were now beginning to feel victimised so back to van after a walk to break out the wine, followed by a meal with Tim and Sue in their van before saying our goodbyes.

Autumn Travels In The Motorhome 1

To The Loire.

After a disastrous 2020 and 2021 we were looking forward to a return to cycling and travelling again in 2022 and it all started so well with a cycling trip to Girona in March using the trusty motorhome as a portable hotel.

Sadly it all went wrong at the beginning of June on a damp Saturday morning, a local cafe ride and what seemed a very innocuous fall at low speed while cycling uphill between potholes resulted in a ruptured quadriceps tendon which required surgery to re-attach and a long recovery period.

All of our Summer cycling and travel plans were cancelled and four months later I am at a point where I am able to return to the road but without putting too much strain on the injury so the flat roads of The Loire Valley seemed a good place to enjoy a holiday combined with a bit of cycling.

As a result of our Summer cancellations we had a ferry crossing credit from Newhaven to Dieppe to use before the end of the year so that was redeemed and we were ready to roll.

5th October

A 10-00am crossing was not ideal but the port allow motorhomes free overnight parking so we travelled down to avoid morning rush hour traffic. As the night progressed the wind increased and on boarding the ferry we could see the gale force winds whipping up the seas beyond the harbour and waves crashing over the sea wall and with an announcement that the outside decks were closed to passengers exiting the sheltered harbour was akin to riding a bucking bronco. 

Standing up was difficult but as time went by the winds eased and arriving at Dieppe the seas had calmed. After a very slow  passport check we drove on for 3 hours to our planned overnight stop at a free aire at Bonneval N48.179322 E001.387351 

Bonneval îs a beautiful very old town, the aire is situated by the canal adjacent to the old city walls which are lit at night with holograms projected onto the stone walls and what looks like a large and beautiful chateau is in fact the town hospital. A very quiet and popular overnight stop.


6th October

Not a great start to the day at Bonneval as we appeared to have no running water so our morning planned walk of the town was cancelled to sort a problem. After a bit of head scratching and some research courtesy of Mr Google I ended up draining our water tank to find the water delivery pipe from the pump had become detached, a not uncommon problem on a Burstner 728 so a bit of remedial work and problem solved although we now have no water. A coffee and pastry as a late breakfast before we continued and checking the news there is talk of a petrol tanker drivers strike just to complicate things a little more.

Our next stop was Inter-Marche at Partay to stock up with supplies for our trip, we also took the opportunity to top up our diesel tank.

Chatillon-Sur-Loire was the start of our tour and where we had agreed to meet friends Tim and Sue. The Aire is a beautiful site on the banks of the Loire Canal N47.591932 E002.759462 €10.50 for 24hrs inc EHU but no Wi-Fi. On arrival there were only 2 spaces left at this popular site and we witnessed a constant stream of disappointed motorhomers during the afternoon.

An early evening walk along the canal and into town and a high street full of boarded up shops paints a depressing picture of life in rural France.


After our week of Cycling in Girona we were staying on and meeting up with long time time friends Tim and Sue who were just starting out on a two year motorhome tour of Europe.

After a few days bumbling around the Girona countryside we made our way the short distance to Figueres, we located a free aire by the Castle and on arrival we were one of a handful of motorhomes and cars. After getting settled and lunch we broke out the trainers for a walk around the Castle. €4 each gained us admission to what was a very imposing structure.

Sant Ferran Castle to give it its correct name is massive with an exterior perimeter of 3.125km , built in the 18th century and when you look at the size and scale of the stonework you can see why they had a daily labour force of four thousand labourers. There are some amazing statistics for the fort but the foresight must have been building water cisterns to hold nine million litres of water. The fortress also boasts of bombproof vaults and an underground stable block that could accommodate five hundred horses. Like a lot of similar buildings it was used for a civil prison between 1906 and 1933. A large explosion that caused significant damage occurred in 1939 as the Republican Army left and post war it served as an Army barracks until the early 1960’s.

It is certainly worth the admission fee and we were not finished there, after tea and cake in the cafe we decided to walk the perimeter on a well worn track that gave you far reaching views of the countryside all the way to the snow capped Pyrenees. The landscape was a mass of wild flowers and shrubs and I was curious watching a lady searching in the grass and with very basic communication discovered she was looking for wild asparagus, apparently a delicacy of the area. In the short space of a few hundred metres we came across white rocket, broom, euphorbia, orchid, olive, fig, heather, lavender and gorse. This track was also a popular loop for the local walking and running groups. A nice end to day as we watched the sun sink behind the distant mountains.

The following day was the main event with a visit to the Dali Theatre / Museum. Tickets were pre booked on line and we walked down the hill for our pre-allocated start at 11-00. A few photographs outside and we then spent the next three hours mesmerised by the work of a genius. I am not going to list any particular works suffice to say that the building itself, for which he oversaw the renovation confirms suspicion that he was a troubled genius. The placement of every brick and piece of design has reason, probably one of the best museums I have visited.

After a spot of lunch at one of the many restaurants that border the museum and we walked the streets to the house in which Dali was born, rather sadly it is boarded up as a dispute over ownership is ongoing.

A great couple of days in Figueres to finish our trip as we begin the long drive home.

Girona Cycling Week

Saturday 26th March.

A part cloudy and chilly start at 4c, woken up by a friendly wood pigeon ably assisted on percussion by a persistent woodpecker, also evident as I stuck my head outside was the amount of other birds in the trees, Jay, Magpie, Sparrows, Goldfinches, Blackcap, Tree Creeper and plenty more that I couldn’t identify.

We had decided to start our week while waiting for the club to arrive today with a ride into Girona to explore the town. I allowed Komoot to suggest a route (big mistake) , it all started so well, out of the camp site up the very steep and narrow streets of Esponella and some quiet roads to Banyoles but then it routed us on some very busy roads and when it had us turning on the fast dual carriageway that is the C66,  Kaye thought better of it so seeing no obvious alternative roads and not being familiar with the area we decided to turn around and take in a few of the outlying small villages stopping at Serinya for coffee (€4 for 2 coffees) , Returning to the campsite I decided to take in a few more of the very narrow roads through Esponella, the settlement is very old but the vast majority of buildings have been well maintained, a lovely display of Irises and Sedum Palmeri in window boxes. The winding alleys must have been interesting to traverse before the bypass was put in and even digging through Wikipedia I could find no history of the town. A very pleasant first ride in the area which gives it a great feel for the week ahead.

Sunday 27th March

A balmy 11c to start and after overnight rain we had complete cloud cover as we broke out the bikes and cycled up to Hotel Mas Peligri to meet our fellow club members for a 10-15 start.

After the obligatory club photo we rolled out for the 100km ride to Els Angels and then Girona for lunch.

From the start we enjoyed beautiful rolling countryside through Fontcoberta and Vilavenut, the roads were all good rolling surfaces which made cycling a pleasure, just pedalling along and chatting in the sunshine is what you dream about all Winter. On through Orriols and the village of Camallera where a tractor with a big bale on a spike on the front gave us all a twitchy moment, he obviously didn’t expect to see us. Some beautiful long downhills followed by the inevitable compensating climbs. Through Flaca and Sant Marti Vell before the big climb of the day to Els Angels where we all regrouped for a Kodak moment. 

Another sweeping downhill, this time into Girona for lunch. The old part of the city was beautiful and we eventually settled on a pavement cafe, La Taska, for Pizza and coffee. A bit of sightseeing after lunch as people were enjoying the warm sunshine and generally promenading and looking cool. The shorter distance home was welcome and a final stop at the lake at Banyoles for a coffee before the final kilometres home.

A great start to the week with 120k covered and 1500m of climbing.

Monday 28th March

A sunny start but a chilly 4c, the forecast was for the temperature to rise quickly so shorts, short sleeve jersey and arm warmers and some furious pedalling to the start to stay warm. Todays ride was a loop around the Garroxta Volcanic Zone National Park. Our route out was past the lake at Banyoles and St Miguel de Campmajor.  Approaching El Torn we were picked up by another Brit who lives and works in the area as a cycle touring guide and gave us a tip for a good cafe stop for coffee and cake in Santa Pau which was a good choice and a great view over the town.

The coffee stop coincidentally marked the start of the climb through the Park, a lot of the road surfaces were in a poor state of repair, twisting and undulating and very reminiscent of Hampshire lanes and potholes. The scenery was lovely but not what I was expecting for a Volcanic region but once at the top our reward was a fast  5k descent to the main road back to Banyoles. After a few kms and just at the top of the next ascent we heard shouting and a sharp application of brakes when we spotted another of our club groups taking coffee at the route split. After exchanging pleasantries and another coffee we carried on ( well we were on holiday ) A very fast run back to Banyoles and as the group headed back to the hotel I carried on to explore a few more roads. I headed towards the hamlet of Vilert on the Rio Fluvia and a frightening but spectacular sight as two very large black boar came out of the trees and across the road in front of me, I certainly would not like to have been hit by them and the first time I have ever seen them. A great end to the ride of 100k and 1500m of climbing.

Tuesday 29th March

A part cloudy start at 7c and a high of only 15, the weather for the rest of the week looked decidedly unsettled so we decided to do our ride to the coast today with L’Escala as our destination and lunch stop. The route out was through open countryside on quiet undulating roads but with a noticeable headwind.

L’Escala has some very important 6th Century  BC Roman Ruins and although we cycled up to have a look it was a bit cold in the wind and lunch was calling. Restaurant 1869 provided sustenance on the seafront with good food at a reasonable price. The run back was wind assisted and included a 15k stretch of the N11 as a peloton. Another lap of the lake at Banyoles and we were back. 113km and 1500m of climbing.

Wednesday 30th March

We were awoken in the motorhome by rain on the roof and it was biblical all morning so the club rides were cancelled. The rain finally eased and by 2pm the roads were dry enough for a short ride as the sun appeared. I plotted a short 35k circular route through some of the local villages. From Esponella out through Villert. The countryside is undulating and it seems that oil seed rape is the crop that earns the locals a few Euros. Through Orfes and a beautiful tree lined road, white surface courtesy of traffic from the local quarry. 

Gallines was next and  the very winding undulating road to Vilavenut. All these villages look very old but the buildings all look like they have had time and money spent on them to keep them up to scratch and all are proud of their heritage flying the Catalan flag with pride.

Font Cobertra was the next little village dwarfed by a magnificent church and by the roadside wild orchids that had been carefully mowed around. 

The last village in my mini tour was Centenys, with very narrow streets, well maintained clean streets and an imposing stone arched gateway that gave the impression of a fortress. A very pleasant afternoon and even on the narrow roads Spanish drivers gave you room and slowed, showing patience, a trait sadly lacking in UK.

Thursday 31st March

A dry start but thunderstorms forecast from lunchtime so I joined a group doing the climb to El Mont and it was all about the climb, once it started it was relentless and the group split to ride it at their own pace. The ramps were steep with frequent hairpins and 10k at an average 8% made for some serious pedalling. As you climbed you could feel the temperature drop as you entered the cloud, the final push to monastery at the top was particularly tough but it was a relief to find a cafe for coffee and cake. With the group all together at the top the clouds parted briefly to reveal our winding track up the mountain and some spectacular scenery. 

Once all the group were fed and watered it was rain jackets on for a fast, cold descent to Serinya for lunch at the Bypass Cafe. We were probably a bit out of place with the artisans and lorry drivers but a 3 course lunch and wine for €11 per head was a just reward for the mornings effort.

Almost as soon as we arrived the forecast rain had started which made for a wet ride back to the motorhome but a very enjoyable day in good company made it all worthwhile.

Friday 1st April

The last day of the Alton CC cycling week and most were just doing their own thing.  A cold start and a chilly wind so I dug out the Winter jersey. I opted for one final climb which was Rocacorba at 983m with a few km of 10%. I joined a few other riders on the route out past the lake at Banyoles and as they carried on I turned left for the climb. I immediately noticed a bit of wind assistance, alas it did not last long and the large gust proved problematic all the way to the top. Some new sections of tarmac had been laid amongst the predominantly poor broken surface and it certainly didn’t help rolling resistance having to pick a path through the rough sections. The roads were still damp from overnight rain and I did notice the rear wheel slip a couple of times when I got out of the saddle, it was certainly a tough climb but at least there were no cars to add to the difficulty. The final 2k seemed endless battling the slope and a gusty headwind but once at the top the pain disappears as the magnificent views kick in. The obligatory selfie to prove I was there and a very strange wooden structure that was presumably a launching ramp for hang gliders. The rain jacket was definite for the way down and a very careful descent on the winding greasy surface had me wondering how much brake pad I had left. Hands and body were well and truly frozen as I stopped in the sun at the bottom to get some heat back into the body. On the way back to Espoella I stopped in the beautiful little hamlet of Centenys to take some photographs after transiting earlier in the week. A beautiful setting with houses and roads renovated and some impressive plant displays gave me garden envy. A lovely end to the week which culminated at a survivors dinner at the Mimolet Restaurant in the centre go Girona.


Girona Here We Come

Monday 21st March and a beautiful first day of Spring, the van is all packed and we are off for a slow meander down to Girona for a weeks cycling.

The first stop is the garage to top up the tank at an eye watering £1.82 per litre and then on to the services at Folkestone for an on board evening meal of shepherd pie that Kaye had prepared before we left.

We had arrived in plenty of time after heeding warnings of long delays resulting from the P + O debacle at Dover.

The check in was automatic and as we were early we were asked if we would like to pay extra to go on an earlier crossing, we declined the offer but were put on the earlier train anyway, there’s a lesson there.

Finding the train queue in the dark was interesting with a distinct lack of signage but twice around the car park and we found the “To France” sign.

A very slick operation from loading to disembarking and we were soon on the road in France, we had decided to avoid the toll roads for a slow ride down to see more of rural France. A few road closures and diversions delayed progress but after a few hours driving we found a lay-by just short of Evreux at 2-30am and got a few hours sleep before carrying on at 7-30am 

Morning coffee and  a Pain-au-raisen at L’Eclerc in Chartres and a quick leg stretch around the store saw me return to the van with plant envy, the cost of plants and decorative pots being 1/3rd of the price in UK.

We were now into the mundane driving bit, lunch of bread and cheese at a motorway aire on the A77 near Gien and a much anticipated afternoon stop for tea and my favourite French Tart, the French do make exceedingly good cakes.

We could now see an end distance for the day and Kaye found an aire at Roanne, Port de Plaisance, overlooking the canal basin. ( N46.038090 E004.082970 ) €7.60 for 24hrs with waste disposal and  €2 for a jeton for water or electric. We checked in at 5-30pm and opted for a walk around the port. The basin was home to an eclectic mix of liveaboard barges of various lengths and design, the common denominator was that none of them appeared to have moved in a long time and an awful lot had for sale signs displayed. Another evening meal in the van as we watched the sun set revealing a red sky and reflections in the water, the temperature dropped quickly but that did not deter a constant stream of joggers circumnavigating the basin.

Looking at the map we could see we were not that far from Provence and we could detour for a couple of rides and still keep to our schedule of Girona by Friday afternoon.

Wednesday 23rd, a clear start and 0c on the thermometer, a frost on the ground and as the sun rose a hint of mist on the water.

Todays target was to drive to the CCP aire at Bedoin and if we were in time get the bikes out for a ride. 

Approaching our destination and an odd occurrence as I had to overtake a guy on rollerblades occupying the inside lane of the A7, must have had a death wish given the standard of driving of French drivers. 

I love it when a plan works and arriving at Bedoin we had time for one of my favourite rides, the Gorges de la Nesque, even better than I remembers as the whole length had new tarmac, like cycling on a billiard table. The ride was fantastic, sunshine and light winds but a noticeable nip in the shady sections and then the second mesmerising moment of the day, in the middle of nowhere a young lady sitting on the parapet overlooking the gorge playing a violin, I’m sure if Kaye had not been there as well nobody would believe me.

From the top of the Gorge we coasted down to the main road and turned on to the D1 back to Villes sur Auzon so we also managed to bag the Col des Abeilles (996m). At Villes sur Auzon we retraced our steps through Flassan back to Bedoin. 

** Camping Car Parks Bedoin: €11.20 for 24hrs with all services and wifi.

Thursday 24th, a beautiful sunny day 2c to start, the plan is to drive to Intermache at Sault to stock up with provisions for the week and while we are there it would be a shame to miss the opportunity for a ride up Ventoux so with the shopping stored away the bikes came out and the pedalling started.

The lavender fields looked very regimented all waiting to burst into life and many of the trees were still in winter mode. There was a worrying lack of other cyclists and it soon became apparent a couple of kilometres down the road with a sign saying summit closed, oh well a coffee at Chalet Reynard it will be then.

At Chalet Reynard there was only one other cyclist and a false dawn as the barrier to the top was open, Kaye did not want to go on so she headed back to Sault as I took a swig from my bottle and decided to head for the top only to be thwarted a further kilometre up the slope with a locked barrier and a couple of Gendarmes looking on from their car so it was about turn and back for some lunch before continuing on to another CCP aire at Meze.

The drive took us to Avignon and through The Carmargue, the latter being strewn with signs advising us to “respect the environment” while behind the verges farmers fields are covered in plastic sheeting. On both sides of the road many equestrian establishments were home to the famous white horses and the wetlands were home to many water birds especially flamingos.

Driving through Montpellier and the traffic was manic with a lot of stressed and angry drivers. Arriving at our night stop we were surprised at the number of motorhomes in the aire but this was explained as a popular refuge for those coming from the bad weather Spain had endured the previous week.

Friday 25th Another sunny Spring day, 3c to start the short drive to Girona. Running down the coast there was a constant stream of motorhomes heading North. At the border cars were being stopped by the police but strangely they saw our UK plates and waved us through. We had just limped into Spain on minimal fuel to take advantage of the cheaper diesel prices and our stop also revealed far more people wearing masks than in France.

We soon found our home for the week, Camping Esponella, not far from Figueres, it looked a little tired but was clean,  and we were only one of a very few customers. Kaye wanted to get some washing done so I changed into cycling gear to check out the route to the hotel Mas Pellegri which would be home to our clubs cycling week in Girona. 

We’re on The Road Again.

Two years ago we were close to starting our cycle tour to Paris when Coronavirus hit and basically closed down the world. Now a full twenty four months later with most restrictions lifted we are ready to start cycling and touring in Europe again. 

We have taken delivery of our new Burstner Harmony 728G Motorhome which serves as our “team car” and with bikes loaded we are off to Girona to meet up with fellow members of Alton CC for a weeks “training camp”  and then meeting good friends Tim and Sue for an extra week in Spain as they begin a two year sabbatical touring Europe in their motorhome.

We have managed to use credits from our previously cancelled ferry bookings but prices have certainly risen, add that to the rocketing fuel and food prices and our bikes will play an ever important part in our ability to travel.

The first leg of our journey is to The Channel Tunnel and a late evening crossing followed by a few hours driving to pass Paris and then we will look for an aire for a few hours sleep before taking three days to meander down to Girona, so follow our travels here.

Five Days In Wales

Earlier in the year we had been keen to do a short cycle tour to Wales but with that word “Staycation” on everybody’s lips the problem was finding accommodation for our party. Eventually friend Darren managed to secure a booking at a time we all could make, the last few days in September with a base at The Pilgrim Hotel at Much Birch, Herefordshire. “Its Wales at the end of September, pack your waterproofs” was the instruction but the weather gods looked kindly upon us……

Wednesday 22nd September.

To make the most of our few days we agreed to meet in the hotel car park at mid-day and Darren had planned a short ride into Hereford so six of us changed into cycling kit and hit the road. The tone for our short tour was soon set as within 300m of the start a steep hill that tested the leaden legs after three hours of driving.

Hereford town centre

Some quiet roads and cycle ways led us to Canary Bridge over the River Wye and our first photo stop. The town centre was crowded for a Wednesday afternoon but we stopped for a coffee in true tourist style and were quickly spotted by a local cyclist who stopped to chat and offer local cycling advice. The homeward route was for a brief stop and look at the Cathedral before again finding some nice cycle paths out of the city, although Darrens route planning came in for questioning as we endured a long gravelly track but we were soon on smooth tarmac again and a last categorised climb up to the hotel to be greeted by team mate Andy with beer in hand.

After checking in and a shower we reconvened in the bar and I was somewhat taken aback when presented with a birthday cake and card to celebrate my 70th birthday, a lovely unexpected touch. Several beers and an evening meal later and we were ready for bed and tomorrow’s ride to The Gospel Pass.

Thursday 23rd September

A mild start at 14C with a mix of sun and cloud but with gusty winds forecast we decided to switch our rides around and opted for Tintern Abbey and save the Gospel Pass for Friday with lighter winds.

A downhill run from the hotel soon put us at the first climb at Orcop Hill and that set the tone for the day, it was either up or down and with potholes, mud, gravel and generally broken tarmac caution was the watchword.

Entering Monmouth

Our first stop of the day was at the castle ruins at Skenfrith by the River Monnow. I recognised it as a spot I had passed through on my LEJOG in 2015. The castle is of Norman origin and dates back to 1066.  After a walk around admiring the history we came across our first road closed with no pedestrian access so a diversion took us on a faster road to Monmouth and our planned morning coffee stop. Coffee and carrot cake for fuel and a brief cycle around the town and then the long climb up to Trellech before an equally long and winding descent all the way to Tintern.

The Abbey Ruins resulted from the disillusion of the monasteries and are a popular tourist attraction, car parks were busy and a steady flow of touring cyclists had the abbey on their agenda.

A leisurely lunch at the Bald Hare Inn and we then followed the winding River Wye north before crossing at Brockweir and a steep climb which was rather testing at this point of the day after a good lunch.

At Whitecliff a brief stop for a look around an early coke fired blast furnace 

The rolling countryside continued to our final stop to take in the spectacular views and Kodak moments from Symonds Yat  a settlement with history dating back many thousand years.  From the top the road gives an exhilarating  20% descent to the river valley below. From here the final 10 miles was again undulating and using the back roads meant we were free from traffic but but the very poor road surfaces that reverted to gravel in places made progress painfully slow.

We got back to the hotel at 17-30 and after a shower we regaled our day over a couple of pints and an evening meal.

Friday 24th September

A clear start with light winds and 14c was a good forecast for our cross country ride to the Gospel Pass, the highest Welsh road pass in the The Black Mountains. 

Grossmont Castle

Our first point of interest of the day was to see the ruins of Grosmont Castle in the village of Grosmont, the second of three local castles dating back to The Normans and 1066.  After the obligatory photo stop we pushed on with a few sharp climbs and descents before we started the long climb up the Gospel Pass. 

By this time the group were in need of a coffee and by sheer chance we were passing The Half Moon Inn at Llanthony as the clock struck 12.00 and the pub doors were thrown open. Suitably caffeined up we carried on somewhat hesitantly as a road closed sign stood in our way. Within a few hundred metres we met a touring cyclist coming down the pass who confirmed that bikes could get through,  the closure that was a road slip that had caused the carriageway to  fall away. The road surfaces were very poor but the lack of vehicular traffic was a bonus, as we climbed the cloud descended and drizzle started, the wind also picked up and the last steep few hundred metres were certainly testing.

Warning, cloud on hills…..

Cresting the summit the cloud was low on the hill and after a brief photo stop, a lovely downhill run all the way to Hay-On-Wye. As we descended out of the cloud the sun reappeared raising the temperature and our spirits. With sheep on the roads and wide grass hillsides the scene was reminiscent of a Pyrenean Mountain climb.

Rolling into Hay we had a quick circuit to look at the clock tower and the myriad of book shops that makes the town famous before settling for lunch at a pavement cafe. The one problem with lunch in the valley is that to leave the valley involves a climb and Hay did not disappoint with 22% appearing on the Garmin to test the legs. Once we had all reassembled at the top a most glorious 18 mile run on mainly flat roads before the final climb back up to the hotel. A really enjoyable ride and one I could recommend, what a beautiful country we live in.

Saturday 25th September

“Old Rosie”

After a couple of hard days climbing it was time to take a more relaxed approach to our holiday with a fairly short ride to Ledbury. 15c at Much Birch as we left the hotel and Darren soon had us routed on some quiet country lanes containing some impressive country houses. We crossed the River Wye at Hoarwithy  and after some rolling countryside we stumbled across Westons Cider Mill at Much Marcle which was open for coffee and cake, need I say more. For a country location it was remarkably busy with a steady stream of customers to the shop for stocks of scrumpy. My interest was raised at the sight of a working Aveling & Porter road roller that the company owns and displays,  Westons “Old Rosie” cider takes the name from this engine.

From Much Marcle the ride to Ledbury was again on country lanes with a lot of poly tunnels housing a late strawberry crop.

At Ledbury we paused in the high street to have a look around at the old timber frame buildings and once again attracted interest from residents wanting to share local cycling knowledge. Our original intention was to lunch in Ledbury but we decided to carry on to another recommendation, The Butchers Inn at Woolhope. This place was a gem with great food and plenty of it at very reasonable prices and we all agreed a good choice that only gave us a short ride back to the hotel for which we were grateful with the only two climbs of the day in the final 10 miles. 

Sunday 26th September

Sunshine and clouds for the last ride on our short break, we were returning for another look around Hereford and the surrounding countryside.  A mild 15c and a new game of spot the petrol station with fuel.

The great thing about travel by bike is the amount you can see and this was demonstrated as cycling along and looking over a garden fence we saw a model railway track that was surrounding a house, we had to stop and looking around you could appreciate the work involved including period signs of railways regulations and  immaculately maintained lawns and flower beds. 

Darren had marked a coffee stop at Wellington Garden Centre which as well as the normal plants  had a lot of old galvanised buckets baths and containers that seem to be in vogue as garden planters, the only thing I couldn’t believe was the eye watering prices being asked for this salvage.

Dan, Janice, Nigel, Kaye, Darren, Andy, Chris

Approaching Hereford town centre and a noticeable increase in traffic and a decrease in drivers patience towards cyclists, after criss crossing the streets we came back to the Cathedral with more time to look around the impressive building. I was doing my best to get a group photo when a very genial lady approached and offered her camera skills so we were all in the holiday snaps, she was definitely one of life’s glass half full happy people.

We then took a short ride around the corner to De Koffie Pot, a riverside restaurant complex where we finished our tour with drinks and a light lunch while watching aspiring paddle boarders tackle the River Wye.

A really enjoyable short tour in good company and on reflection five sunny days in Wales at the end of September in short sleeved jersey every day was probably more than even an optimist like me could have hoped for. The rides all seemed to have a common theme, just how many times can you cross the River Wye.