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Under The Tuscan Sun

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1/ I have never heard of the film and
2/ The picture hardly fits

My excuse for the first is that you can't get a much better title for our first, gloriously sunny day in Tuscany. My excuse for the second is that I took all today's pictures on the camera, forgetting that I have no means of uploading them. So this one was hastily taken on the phone at dinner.

Our flight was bang on time and it was wonderful to step off the plane and feel the heat of the sun. It may be late September but in London today would make 'phew what a scorcher' headlines in the Sun.

We popped to the Tower for a photo opportunity and I was a bit gob smacked. Maybe I am a bit of a rube but I was really surprised at how leany it was. Leanier than a leany thing. Although not main tourist season there were lots of people about – though admittedly most wanted to sell us a fake Rolex.

The first 20 miles of our ride were on pretty busy roads but once we hit the coast things quietened down and the scenery was great – lots of pretty bays and houses built mostly on faith clinging to the cliffs.

We did a lazy 40 miles and we are in Cecina, a smallish place but a chuffing big campsite with all amenities. We have a nice shady pitch, power, free showers and all for 4 euros each. We are now in the campsite restaurant where the photo was taken. Quite apart from choosing food we had to choose a drink. 4 euros for a beer or 6 for a bottle of wine….hmmmm, tricky.

Tomorrow we start work.


Judgement Day

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So, when you are deperaretly trying to complete all your work so you can bugger off cycling for 10 days what do you most need?  That’s right….Speed Awareness Training.  No I shouldn’t have broken the speed limit, yes it serves me right, but what a futile exercise.  If you ever need to design a 4 hour course on stating the bleeding obvious Essex police have beaten you to it. 

Anyway that is all in the past now.  By getting up at 3:30 I have managed to finish my work and survive SAT; just a few bits of admin and I can head to Alan’s from where we will get a taxi to Hethrow tomorrow morning.  Alan is slightly less prepared.  Late last night he emailed me to say he cannot find his tent.  You might think that when planning a CAMPING trip you would check you have a tent a little ealier than this but welcome to the world of cyle-touring with Alan.  Any minute now I expect an email saying he can’t remember where he put his bike.

Fortunately for Alan the weather for Pisa in the next few days looks like this:

 so he will be comfortable sleeping under the stars.

Assuming Alan knows where his passport is we will hopefully report safe arrival and completion of the first 40 miles tomorrow evening.


There Will Be Blood

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Less than a week untill we set off.  The photo shows my bike fully loaded before being dismantled and packed in a box.  Britsh Airways now refuses to take bikes unless they are propely boxed and this may present a problem when we fly home from Sicily.  So far Alan’s attempts to locate a bike shop in Catania that can sell or give us a box have been fruitless. 

Although we are only looking at 80 miles per day, Italy is chuffing lumpy and I am starting to worry about fitness.  For various reasons I have hardly ridden in the last month and my super-fitness from the summer is fading fast.  As you can see, the loaded bike is not exactly light and things could get ugly in the mountains. 

Do you think that people who broadcast on the radio at 3am occasionally wonder whether ANYONE is listening?  I know the feeeling 🙁


The Italian Job

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We may have somewhat shot our bolt on the movie titles – this one was too good to resist  but we are struggling to think of more. 


This year’s trip is a shortened end to end of Italy; we didn’t have the time for the full thing unless we went for a silly 100 mile/day pace which we are both getting too old for.  So we are doing Pisa to Catania in Sicily.  This is still 830 miles over 10 days with plenty of mountains so we don’t feel too much like shirkers.


Neither of us has cycled in Italy before and we are looking forward to experiencing:


·         Italian motorists – we imagine them to be very calm and sensible motorists with a minimum of gesticulations and ‘mama mias’

·         Speaking Italian – I got a book and it seems you just put a vowel on the end of every word; if the word already ends in a vowel you just add another one

·         Authentic Italian cooking – hopefully there will be Pizza Huts all over the place

·         Spotting the EXACT moment when pretty Italian girls put on 5 stone and grow moustaches (or maybe they go via some sort of pupae like a butterfly in reverse)


We will try and file a report each day as well as uploading the odd photie, though these might be a bit pants as we will have to use very low quality pictures to avoid bankrupting ourselves with roaming charges. Our route takes us past many famous tourist sites so hopefully Alan will pull his socks up and cycle fast enough (and faff little enough) to allow time to see some of them.




Sunday 5th

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We arrived at JOG at 5pm after a lovely day riding up the East coast in glorious sunshine.  Despite the sun it was chilly and we were ‘glad’ of the many hills to keep us warm.

Just two more end to ends as a Bike Adventures tour leader in the next 8 weeks to look forward too :-). Sure beats working for a living!


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Saturday 4th

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The hostel in Fort William was exactly what you would expect for 15 quid a night but we were all so tired we slept like babies (woke up with pooey pants).

Today it was cool and cloudy with a pesky headwind as we worked our way along Lochs Lomond and Ness to Inverness then a mad dash up the A9 to
Invergorden.  If you have never been to Invergorden (and I imagine you haven’t) then you will probably want to keep it that way.  The people seem friendly enough but far too many fingers for my liking.

Tomorrow, John O’Groats.

Ps The photo is actually from yesterday.

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Saturday 3rd

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No report yesterday because we finished very late and had to rush for showers and food.  We had sun for our first full day in Scotland and it would have been a good day had Stuart not broken a spoke in the late afternoon.  A few weeks ago Stuart had patiently explained how it was perfectly ok to use sport wheels using very few spokes as they were special indestructible ones.

The wheel completely collapsed.  Luckily he had spare spokes (ah…so he KNEW they might break) and I was able to effect a repair though it all took time.

We spent the night in Stirling and today we headed into the highlands and across the pass of Glencoe which was spectacular in perfect weather.

For once we made good progress and made it to Fort William by 6pm.  We are staying in a hostel – 5 bedded room.  Basic doesn’t begin to describe it.

We have covered 700 miles in 7 days.  Everyone had found it challenging and sore bums and knees are standard but I have no doubt now that we will all make it.

It looks like we have exhausted Scotland’s 2011 quota of sunshine so the forecast for tomorrow is ploppy.  That should wipe the smile off our faces.

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Wednesday 1st – Och Eye The Noo

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Yup – Scotland, and 500 miles done….. though our jubilation is tempered by the thought of another 400 to go. 

A pretty good day all things considered.    Michael seemed remarkably fresh this morning despite an evening with his girlfriend and the rest of us were eager to leave Stalag Luft VII (or the Whitburn House hotel as it is also known) so we were rolling at 8:30.  Unfortunately John was struggling with a very sore knee so we told him to take some pain killers and man up a bit.

Today was all about Shap Fell (often known as Shap Hell), supposedly the toughest climb of the trip.  Basically a 5+ mile climb of about 8% gradient.  The 45 miles before and after were scenic but nicely flat so all the work was in that short middle section.

The boys did me proud.  Nobody walked, some didn’t even use their bottom gears and only Michael wept a little. 

Tonight we are in Gretna and have already had to fend off the advances from the bridesmaids in a wedding party also staying at our B&B.;

Tomorrow we head for Stirling unless we meet the right girl and stay to get married.

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Tuesday 31st

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What should have been an ‘easy’ day was messed up by mechanical issues.  Stuart had a puncture early in the afternoon, then a 2nd and a 3rd.  Eventually he found a split I’m the tire wall through which the tube was escaping and getting ripped so a trip to the bike shop for a new tire was needed.

So we ended up reaching our hotel at almost 7pm.  Our accommodation is a grotty  hotel (or quite a nice prison) but we are mostly too tired to care. 

Tomorrow we will be in scotland, cleverly staying in the one part of the country with rain while the soft southerners enjoy their mini-heatwave. 

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Monday 30th

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Today it rained.  A lot.  Sometimes it was just heavy and other times it was torrential.  This was rubbish.

To make matters worse we had to do 110 miles so all round it was a ‘difficult’ day.  The falling off count for the day 1 was 1, Stuart somehow managed to career into a ditch completely unaided by bolting horses.

The world finally ran out of rain about 4pm so we had a bit of sun for the last few hours.  Annoyingly it was only at this point that I realised that the rain cover for my bar bag makes a fetching rain hat and you can see me modelling it here with matching vehicular accessories.

We are in Church Stretton, Shropshire which is very pretty AND has a Chinese so we are having a rubbery meal.

Tomorrow we are going to Preston where Michael has a girlfriend (I mean his girlfriend lives there, not that he has them dotted around the country).  Hopefully he will be too tired for any conjucals.

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