BBB-the Tour de France

Day 1. Halifax to Gatwick. 258.6 miles, 416 Kms

So those of you who know me well are probably aware that a lot of folk call me Big Bad Brad. However, for this bit of my life, the new BBB stands for Brad, his Bird, and the Bandit. That is because all three of us are on now well on our way to Monaco, and we will be spending a lot of time together over the next ten days. After months of planning and purchasing and patience (maybe not the last one for the bird), we set off this evening from a very rainy Halifax just after 6 pm.

I worked today, but Lena had taken Tuesday and Wednesday off, to prepare for the holiday. I got home just before 5, and we finalized our packing, loaded up the bikes and ate the last bits of fresh food in the fridge. It was really pissing down quite hard, just the perfect start to a summer vacation. Our bike gear is pretty good, but even so the prospect of a four hour ride in the pouring rain is not significantly attractive.

We have managed to fill every corner of each pannier that we have, so we have brought enough clothing and equipment for a small army. We decided not to plan on doing any washing on the way, so have ten days worth of clothes, socks, undies and deodorant (plenty of that one).

While planning our trip, having booked the time off from work, we realized that of we set of on the eve before our holiday started, we would gain most of a day on the continent. We found an offer online of a hotel room for 9 quid, near Gatwick, so we booked it there and then. I am now in that very hotel room, but without a wifi signal so I will type this up but post it next time we get near a signal.

We rode through about an hour or so of bad rain, then it cleared and we stopped for fuel (both for the bike and for our tummies). A burger and a cup of unleaded later, we set off into quite a clear evening, only for the rain to start up again within 20 miles. It rained on and off for the rest of the way, but not nearly as hard as the first stint. Yorkshire rain is much harder than the southern stuff.

The last hour was ridden in darkness. Motorway biking is boring, but we did it as we wanted to get here quick. We have about an hour and a bit ride in the morning to the Chunnel at Folkestone, and then a short train-ride later we will be in France. Le yippee!

Under the sea to the continent

Day 2. Gatwick via the Channel Tunnel to St Dizier. 515 Kms, 320 miles.

After a late night and a long ride yesterday, we only had about 6 hours sleep. We had to get up to get down to Folkestone for the train ride under the English Channel, and so the alarm was peeping way to early for humans. We got dressed, loaded up the Bandit, and went to tesco to get a couple of last minute things. Tesco also had a Costa Coffee, so we had a breakfast and coffee or peppermint tea as well.
We rode through sporadic drizzle for just over an hour, and got to the tunnel about 2 minutes before they called our train, following which we rode up various ramps, through sets of cones, down more ramps, and finally in to the train itself. This was my first crossing via the train, so it was rather unfamiliar to me. I have crossed to Calais and Rotterdam fairly often, and once even went on the ferry to Harwich, but have never been under the sea to the continent.

On the chunnel train
The loading was very well managed, and we ended up with another couple of bikers. The train ride was very smooth, and took about 35 minutes. Again, the dismount was very slick and ran smoothly, and there we were, lost in France. The satnav got a bit confused- maybe it is English at heart, and tried to take us back to Canterbury via the tunnel, but a bit of cursing and re-programming later, and we were on our way to our French journey.
When we planned this trip, we couldn’t decide between leisurely days and easy riding in the north and centre of France, or a battering down to the south coast. The cote d’azure won, so today was part of the price of that decision- over 300 miles of riding rather than taking the scenic route and bimbling through picturesque villages.
We stopped twice for fuel, a couple of times for wee’s, and had a nice salad at one of the services. We stuck to the motorway and paid a couple of tolls, and arrived around five thirty this evening in St Dizier at our hotel. Well, it is a restaurant with a couple of rooms above it, in a town that looks like it has seen better days. The buildings are lovely, but the people look like the kind who appear on daytime television screaming at their brother because he sleep with his girlfriends father. Never mind, we are warm, comfortable, enjoying a beer and very happy.
The restaurant looks interesting, so we are going to attempt a meal here, a bottle of French wine, and plan a glorious night of sleep.
Be good, mes ami.