I would love to thank everyone who came out to see me off on Saturday; I have never felt like such a celebrity all my life! So many people showed up to see me off…even the town crier!! After an emotional goodbye I left Abingdon Market Square with a convoy of friends riding beside me. After the first 10 miles Mike, Richard, Stuart and Toby turned back for home while Phil, Rob and Mark continued further with me.
A short while later Phil, Rob, Mark and I stopped at Compton for a rest and refueling stop, grabbing big lunch of fish and chips (roughing it!). At this point I was finding getting used to the bike very demanding and was glad to grab a moment to rest and recharge! Feeling slightly heavier after a very filling meal we headed towards my first nights campsite, about 10 miles away at Oakley Farm near Newbury. This is where I said my goodbyes to Phil and Rob, who headed for home, while Mark (who was going to continue with me up to Portsmouth) and I put up my tent and enjoyed a well earned cup of tea.
A short while later Matthew and Katey drove down and joined the two of us for a meal at the pub round the corner and I tried to make the most of the excellent grub. The problem was I didn’t really have an appetite anymore…even after all that cycling! I don’t know if it was the nerves but I hadn’t really slept properly or eaten when hungry for the whole week before today. It was a nice meal and once we finished Matthew and Katey dropped us back at the site, bid me farewell and drove back home.
After a poor nights sleep Mark and I packed up and left at 9:30, cycling 10 miles and stopping at a small cafe by a petrol station to have a breakfast of mackerel on toast. I still didn’t have much of an appetite but ate the grub anyway as I knew it would help my energy levels, which would be important later in the day. I struggled on to Winchester with Mark as moral support and my knee was beginning to ache a little now. I was hoping it was simply my body getting used to my bike again as I had not experience any aches or pains at all on any of my training rides. We ground through the 10 miles from Winchester and arrived in Portsmouth around 2.00pm. We grabbed a coffee and some snacks and scoffed our faces till we couldn’t eat anymore. Mark left at this point as he had to catch a train back to Oxford and I was finally left alone for the first time since my journey began. I cycled towards the port and caught a late night ferry to France, arriving on the other side of the channel the following morning. After the lengthy ferry trip I departed the French port around 7.00am, putting multiple layers on before I left to compact the chilly weather. Heading east and following my GPS I set off towards a wild campsite near Saint-Pierre-Du-Corme, where I would be camping during my third night. During the day my appetite began to return and I stopped for a traditional French lunch known as a cheese and ham baguette.
My First Day Biking in France
The following morning I pulled myself out of my tent and struggled up the hills, through the cold and rain, towards Bailleul-La-Vallee following the D28. It was a tough days riding as I was still struggling to get used to the bike as my left knee was still aching. I eventually flew along a down hill section towards the La Sienne River, where I stopped and a police car suddenly approached. I thought “I’ve only been in France 2 days and I’m already in trouble with the feds!” but luckily they just wanted to know where I was going and, after a few broken words of English and French, they wished me luck with the rest of my journey. Later on during the day I stopped at Sottleville, where I ordered a coke from a friendly lady at a small café and we talked about about my trip. Over the last few days I have been slowly becoming more comfortable making conversation with strangers and the more I do this the less I worry about being stuck by myself.
I am now staying in a campsite at Eure-Et-Siene, where I plan on resting my legs and get some bits sorted before travelling onwards, moving through France and on towards Belgium.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for future updates!