D Day minus 12 months.  11 Jan 14

– we returned to Stratford upon Avon and took possession of our recumbent.


D Day minus 11 months. 31 Jan 14

– Daz and I handed in our notice at work.  We are in the Army – Darren has served 29 years and I’ve done 22.  We have to give a year’s notice so our last paid day will be 30th Jan 2015.  We have a year to prepare.


D Day minus 8 months.  13 May 14

– to date other than cycling to work we have only completed 3 rides.  Not good given we’ve had the tandem since Jan but the weather and our schedules have prevented more.  Our first excursion was a 30km loop to Longparish.  This was a success but we realised how slow the bike is on hills and when we go slowly it’s very very hard to keep a straight line.  The next ride (45km) was also a success – we attract so much attention; all good.  On this ride we’d taken a heart rate monitor – my mistake for sure.  Oh dear my heartrate 85bpm.  Daz’s – 135bpm.  OMG I was skiving or Daz was clearly unfit (LOL).  I had mentioned that we seemed to be changing gear too soon and I never seemed to have any resistance but Daz didn’t take much notice.  The heartrate seemed to confirm my point of view.  I wanted to work harder but I didn’t have a chance and seemed (except on hills) always to be spinning out. Was this just Daz’s preference – to cycle with a high cadence? If yes we clearly weren’t going to complement each other.  But we researched the phasing of our pedals.  We were slightly out of phase with the captain leading.  This reduces the effort of the stoker.  Richard what a chivalrous gentleman you are – we assume you have this set up to allow your wife a slightly easier ride.  Daz immediately changed ours to 90 degrees out of phase; captain leading.  The theory we have maximum effort throughout the pedal movement.  Our next ride out (only 25km) allowed us to check if the new phasing suited us better.  It does.  We both feel happier.  And now I have some resistance to work against.


Note from Darren… wow, a tandem, wow a recumbent tandem, look how fast we go….wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Can we go yet? Can we go yet?  Can we go yet?  Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?  Why not?  Why not?  Want to go now!   What kit can I research, ponder, weigh up, assess?  Buy! Buy! Buy!  Did Hels mention the bike comes apart in two and we can put it in 2 bags? Amazeballs! Not that we will have to do that often as the aim is to cycle as much as possible and ferry over the waters, unless it’s a big crossing like South America to Africa or something like that… excited? Much!

Return to Hels.  As you can see Darren is very excited about our impending trip and I liken him to an excitable puppy. He is known affectionately as the ‘puppy’ – and you can practically see his tail wagging when he’s excited.

D Day minus 8 months.  27 May 14.

We had another test ride yesterday.  It was supposed to be 50 miles but the weather was so awful that we decided not to do the full route.  So we only cycled 22 miles.  We’ve just bought our front panniers and our Trangia cooker.  We think we’ve got most of the kit we’ll need now.  The only big decision and purchase is what IT to take with us and what gps system to use.  We’ve also opened a new current account with Norwich and Peterborough and we’ve got a new credit card because of the low or non existant foreign currency charge.  We’ve also got a new credit card.  (thanks Dawn Baker for this tip ).

D Day minus 8 months.  31 May 14.

Another test ride but over the weekend this time.  We cycled from Andover to Lee on Solent –  64km in 3 hours 18.  We were absolutely delighted with our performance and had a few celebratory glasses of wine – not wise when we were there before lunch.  We then did a little more cycling and visited Angela and went to see the allotments.  So probably around 70kms in total.  Daz wore the heart rate monitor and his average for the day was 134bpm.  So he’s working hard and had to go to bed early (bless him).  Having spent a lovely evening with our friend Jane we cycled home on Sunday by a different route and got to cross the Hamble on the pink ferry.


The v small pink ferry across the Hamble

But we managed to fit the bike on!We completed 75kms and got home about 3.30pm.  It was a brilliant ride and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  I wore the heart rate monitor and we now have conclusive proof that unless I really concentrate I only work hard on the hills.  The heart rate monitor focuses my mind and I’m learning how it should feel when I’m contributing to the shared effort.    We’d also set up music – we have a little speaker and it sits on the back pannier so I can control the volume.  An absolutely brilliant ride and I’m looking forward to the next one when we’re going to throw in some camping.

D Day minus 7 months.  08/09 Jun 14.

And so to our first proper cycle out with camping gear.  We decided to ride to Wallingford, a lovely market town on the River Thames north of Reading.  Distance by car…60km.  Route as planned using the National Cycle Network (NCN) / Sustrans… 87km.  We were packed and ready to go by 0850hr and I’d only had a couple of minor meltdowns but had had 4 cups of tea.   We had music, maps and heart rate monitor all to keep my tiny mind occupied whilst on the journey and so off we went.  Disaster – we thought we’d packed brilliantly but poor Daz couldn’t get his legs past the over packed front panniers so he couldn’t pedal and when he went to stop he couldn’t reach the floor either.  After some repacking, we were off again.  10miles from home the predicted thunder storms that should have been over by 7am hit us.   Thunder n lightening, very very frightening!! We waited out the worst  under some trees next to a power sub station (Darren did point out we were probably highly attractive targets for lightening strike thank you very much!) and once it had slackened off a bit we continued with our journey but with full waterproofs.

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Our main concern for the trip had been getting up Faccombe Hill which we’d attempted on mountain bikes in the past and struggled.  But we managed to conquer the hill, although very very slowly and very sweaty since we were still in full waterproofs.  We rested and stripped off our waterproofs and thought, with the skies clearing and the nemesis hill over, that we’d have an easy day ahead of us.  We couldn’t have been more wrong.  It wasn’t long before we were on the Kennet and Avon canal.

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We’d expected this to be nice easy, level cycling.  Oh no, it was extremely narrow and badly overgrown.  I was nervous as hell on the back and I’m pretty sure Daz wasn’t much happier.  Daz kept swerving and ducking to avoid stinging nettles.  I always forget but Daz doesn’t cope well with nettles.  It’s because of his hay fever (i think), the stings really bother him and often turn into a rash and if really bad, can affect his breathing.   He was cycling in shorts and T shirts but to deal with nettles he put his full waterproofs back on.  Even protected from the nettles the path was still hellish.  Too many people and dogs and not enough path for us on our bike with laden panniers.  At one point Daz went to stop for some walkers and put his foot down (canal side) unfortunately under the long grass he was putting his foot onto was the sloping bank into the canal – very scary as we started to slide into water.  (Fortunately one of the walkers pulled Daz up).   Another part of the path where it opened into a big field with 2 worn single tracks to choose from, we thought would be fine but of course we only had to catch a wheel on the edge of our rut and we were on the floor.

We’d had enough.  When we got on the canal at Kintbury there was 22 miles to Reading.  I knew that we wouldn’t be able to do it.  It was exhausting.  We were making slow progress and mentally we were drained.  It was dreadful.  We managed to get to Newbury and went to a cafe.  We’d been chatting and convincing ourselves that the Reading side would be better but a couple started chatting to us and they knew the canal and told us it was worse.  Thank you – whoever you are.  If it hadn’t been for you we’d have persevered and suffered for our stupidity.  Instead we looked for an alternative road route and only came back to the canal near Aldermaston.  Great advice guys.  Thank you so much.

So from Newbury to Reading then north to Wallingford.  After the canal the riding was fairly uneventful except for me trying to navigate through Reading – sorry Darren.  We finally made it and arrived at the campsite in Wallingford at 5.30pm.  We’d done 94km and we were shattered.  This had been one of the hardest things I’d ever done.  It’s difficult to describe but mostly the cycling isn’t too bad but once my legs are fatigued – which was actually at Faccombe Hill, any ascent creates a burn in my thighs which intensifies as the hill continues.  There is no relief until the top.  The only escape is to stop peddaling but of course this isn’t an option.  The burn by the top is all consuming – it’s the only thing I can think of.

Back to Wallingford – within no time at all Daz had the tent up and I’d prepped the other camping items (we do work well together when we set up /rip down our camp site) and then we were off for our showers.



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Sunday – we cycled home by a slightly different route.  We were out of the campsite by 0715hrs – I couldn’t sleep through the birds singing but I’d slept like the dead until then.  We were in Reading eating a lovely breakfast by 1020hrs and then we went home via Basingstoke.  We really struggled physically and were both very tired.  Daz was in a lot of pain – his knees and his numb bottom and I was just very tired with the burn in my legs almost a constant.  But we did it.  91km and we were home by 3.15pm.


D Day minus 7 months – 14th June
We planned a week in Wales. The first weekend was a first aid course in Plas y Brenin near Betws y coed. As part of our Army training Daz and I have completed MATTS (annual training test) in first aid numerous times but we wanted to see (as part of our resettlement) how others approach the subject. Of course the main thrust is the same – airway, breathing and circulation but instead of talking about catastrophic injures/ gunshot wounds and the use of tournquets this had a much more practical thrust. Emphasising what’s most likely and how to act accordingly. It an excellent course with excellent tuition and our course mates were great.

The remaining 6 days were filled with scrambling up Tryfan, a 2 day off road motorbiking course and 3 days cycling. We had the car and our posh camping gear and so the cycle days were without laden panniers (Thank God) And since this is about our cycling preparation I’ll just mention those cycling days. Day 1 – Monday. We cycled from our camp site (2 miles outside Betws) to Conwy Bay along the valley road. Once at the coast and having explored the city walls, we chased down another tandem (traditional type) that turned out to be ridden by a Dutch couple who were just nearing the end of their 3 week cycle trip (1600km done) and had cycled many countries on past trips including Italy, spain, China and were planning a trip to Norway.

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From Conwy we turned west towards Bangor and then picked up the A5 Snowdonia Road back to Betws. The scenery was magnificent and the weather was glorious. The steady uphill for 10 miles – not so good.   92km done.

Friday – we had moved to a campsite Graig Wen near Dolgellau looking down on the Mawddach estuary. I’d booked this site and had agreed to the bottom field – sold as a secluded site with good views but with no option to drive to our pitch. What was I thinking? We had to transport our gear in a wheelbarrow and since we had a lot of gear – it took several trips. The pitch sloped; the views were of a mud flat and the midges/horse flies and mossies were horrendous. Not my finest moment of planning but Daz was generous about the situation and only made veiled hints that the site sucked.



Back to biking. From our site we picked up the Mawddach Trail, cycled over the Barmouth Bridge into Barmouth for a fat boys brekkie and then up to Harlech and towards Portmaddog. Then we discovered the bridge at Portmaddog was closed and had to cycle all the way round the estuary. And then onto PortMeirion – a village built by Clough Williams-Ellis in 1925-1975.

Then from PortMeirion we retraced our route back to Barmouth over bridge and round headland to Fairbourne for dinner. Then finally home to our sloping, midge infested pitch where Daz foraged for wood and lit our camp fire. This had nothing to do with man’s constant need to set things on fire it was as a midge deterrant – obviously.

Final day of biking. Saturday. from the campsite we went south along coast to Tywyn. My grandmother lived here so I had spent time here as a child. From here we cycled over the new pedestrian bridge just outside Tywyn toward Tonfanau and then on to Tal y llyn lake and up through the Bwlch llyn bach pass

D Day minus 6 months –  Jul 13/14

Off to Swansea and the Gower peninsula.  It’s my birthday treat so no camping – we’re in the Marriott at Swansea.  Saturday we’re off to a late start – this isn’t really like us and doesn’t bode well.  The weather is misty and overcast and we’re not confident given the forecast.  We head off south west along the sea front and then head inland towards Gowerton and then clockwise around the Gower peninsular coast.  Our first stop of the day after a few rolling hills is Weobley Castle where the lovely lady only charges us entry for 1 person having seen us turn up on the tandem!  Thank you.  A quick trip and photo shoot around the castle and we are off again this time in search of the mornings first coffee.

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And actually as its nearly lunchtime we have some cheesy chips in Llangennith to fuel us for the next few hours too… yum!  After looking at the map and figuring what might be a shortcut along some bridleway along the coast we set off… down a lovely big hill to a camping site on the very north west edge of the Gower… the ladies at the front gate were surprised that we were going to attempt the bridleway on the tandem, as they said it was more fitting for mountain bikes… but looking at the map again and the big hill we had ridden down we decided to persevere and if push came to shove well.. we’d just have to push n shove!!

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And indeed we did, although some of the way was rideable the ladies had neglected to mention the very wet, muddy and rocky sections before we got to the bottom of a very steep hill off the beach front and up into Rhossili.  After a quick breather we pushed on further to the coastal headland at Rhossili and enjoyed the views out to Worms Head.

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After Worms head it was pretty much uneventful apart from a very rude steep hill we had to push up out of Three Cliffs Bay and into Northhill.  Then a short ride through the back streets onto the head at Mumbles.  The weather took a turn for the worst as we headed down into the Mumbles seafront and we blasted through before stopping for shelter in a lovely watering hole the other side of the town, just a few short kilometres from getting back to the hotel.  A quick pint… or was it two whilst we waited for the worst of the rain to finish and we hopped back onto the bike to complete the days ride on the 75km mark

The next day saw us taking the bike in the car and then cycling from Llanelli towards Carmarthen along the glorious Welsh Coastal path.  We passed some lovely new developments in Llanelli looking out to sea, some people playing tug of war on the beach, lots of people walking and cycling in the parks as we cycled past enjoying the day and the brighter weather.  And then as we came out of Pembrey Forest we had to go along a bund to get to Kidwelly.  Fence to the right of us, open fields to the left, and just as we are about to move off a small herd of cows pop out on the bund in front of us from behind some gorse… ” Remember the bull when we were motorbiking in Wales?” one of us said with laughter in our voice…”oh sugar it is a bull!!”   Our hearts were pounding as the bull moved towards us, saliva dribbling down its chin and to the floor as it huffed and chuffed towards us.  We looked at the fence as we slowly backed away, looked at the bull , the laden bike and wondered which way was the best to leap should it go for us!!

Thankfully the disaster was averted as the bull and his ladies wandered down off the bund and into the open fields allowing us to push off and get past them as we hyperventilated to get the adrenaline out of our systems!!! Phew.

Kidwelly castle after the bull was a bit of an anticlimax and we decided to pop into the tearooms adjacent for some tea and cake… followed by paninis and soup… not the recognised way around but maybe I was still thinking about the bull!  At this stage we had done 35km of the 108 we knew we would be doing today and I knew that we would then have to drive all the way back to Andover, so I felt no guilt when I said to Hels that I thought we shouldn’t carry on with the full route today and that perhaps we might enjoy a rather shortened version 🙂 smiles all around as we decided that was the best course of action and we set off back to the car, reversing our route of the morning.  No bulls this time and all quite uneventful, but still another 70km ride for the day.

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D Day minus 5 months – 12/13/14 Aug

After a week’s AGC orienteering camp in the Lake District

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we went to Ladybank in Scotland to visit our friends Debbie and Larry and Leah and Eve (and let’s not forget Sasha the collie).  During our stay we’d planned a 3 day cycling adventure.  However, we’d also planned to spend our rest day in the Lake District cycling but couldn’t because Daz had somehow hurt his left knee during an orienteering run. So he rested it on Wednesday but still found he was unable to run on it for the last 2 events Thurs / Fri and further problems when he ran straight into a tree branch on Friday – almost blinding himself.

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By Tues in Scotland he felt that his knee was sufficiently rested.  So off we went.  Day 1 plan.  Get the train to Dunkeld and then cycle to Callander.  We were up early and on the train by 0722.  By 0930hrs our bike was assembled and off we went. Only 101km to go.  The first 20kms went without incident but by the time we were handrailing the Tay Loch trouble was afoot.  We don’t know the exact reason for the problems but possibly a combination of the following;  we hadn’t done much biking recently and were not as fit as usual; our pedals were not in their usual position – so we were out of phase but not providing power throughout the whole pedal rotation; Daz was trying to protect his left knee and in doing so probably over stressed his right knee and hip; and the terrain – not the  big ups and downs of Wales but constant undulations short steep ups and downs – needs effort and precise gear changing  and only a few bum gear changes and too much braking soon lost us all our forward momentum.  We arrived at The Falls of Dochart and stopped for a photo shoot and a cup of coffee.

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We also finally adjusted our phasing to its usual position and off we went.  We reached the Head of Loch Tay the sign posts said 21 miles to Callander and we were told it was all downhill.  If only.  This was the longest and hardest ride ever.  The phasing adjustment had made a huge difference but unfortunately the damage was done.  We were shattered and Daz was in a lot of pain.  But there was nothing we could do – there was no way out.  There was nothing between us and Callander and pushing wasn’t an option.  We persevered.  The last 10miles were the longest 10 miles of my life.  We were now dismounting for every uphill (however slight) and I was pushing!

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I could also see that even the effort of lifting his leg over the cross bar to remount was causing Daz huge pain.  And then 1/2 mile from Callander…  as we crossed a wooden bridge, a pinch puncture.  First we thought we could just carry the bike the last distance but it was just too difficult and we did our first ever puncture repair – well tube change.  And finally cycled into Callander and found our B&B.  We were destroyed – this might sound melodramatic but this had been a horrendous day for us.  We’d done 101km but Daz was in agony and I was absolutely shattered.  The B&B – What a fantastic find Annfield Guest House.  Thank you to our lovely hosts.  First of all they were kind enough to park our tandem in their greenhouse and then they made us a lovely pot of tea with yummy little cakes.  They also had a huge DVD collection of all the latest films.

For supper we popped round the corner to Mhore Fish – I had a cod and chip supper but Daz had the seafood pasta.  Then back to the room.  By this time it was clear that Daz’s knees were fxxked.  He could barely get up the stairs to the room.  By now his left knee was only scoring a 2 for pain but the right one was up there on a 9.  He couldn’t straighten his leg and was having to use a pillow to support it.  We knew we wouldn’t be able to complete our cycling adventure.  Day 2 was supposed to consist of cycling from Callander to Glasgow via the Trossachs but instead we just cycled 25km to Stirling (and we only did this because it was pretty much flat or downhill).  In Stirling we dismantled bike and took train to Glasgow.  Here we put the bike into left luggage and went for a pint and to meet our friend Katrina.

After spending the night with Katrina we caught the train from Glasgow to Ladybank.  Day 3 was supposed to be cycling from Aberdour to St Andrews along the coast of Fife and back to Ladybank.  But it wasn’t to be.

This was a massive knock to our confidence.  We’ve even wondered if the tandem was a mistake but we’re going to persevere.  Thank you to our friends in Scotland for such a great holiday and to Leah for our fun day at the fringe and to Eve for creating our flag.

Unfortunately our confidence had been knocked and after this experience even Daz was wondering if the tandem was a mistake.  Back at work and we discover that Daz, as a result of an overextension incident in Nov last year whilst orienteering had  been compensating and as a result all sorts of problems had arisen.  So no running and strengthening exercises for him.

D day minus  2 months – 28 Oct 14.

Since Scotland we’ve barely used the tandem.  Daz has had laser eye surgery and is convinced his eyesight is now better than 20/20.  We’ve been on a cooking course in Ashburton, Devon and I’ve completed CELTA (teaching English as a foreign language) and Daz is on a bike technician’s course.  We’ve used all our resettlement and learned some new skills and had a brilliant time.

We’ve also made a discovery – – hosts all over the world who’ll feed and accommodate travelers in exchange for some work and we’ve been seduced.  We’ve decided to postpone the cycle trip and in Jan we’re off to work on a husky farm for 3 months (it’s in north Finland); then we’ve arranged a 2 month stint in southern Sweden on a horse farm; a month’s stint in Norway on a dairy farm and possibly 2 months in Iceland.

But before we leave we’re off on a 2 week tandem holiday?  is that the right word -after all we start next Monday – so that’s the 3rd November.  It’s going to test us in many ways but we’ve decided camping is a step too far.

D day minus 2 months – 4 Nov to 14 Nov

So the plan:  to cycle from Andover to Birmingham and back over 10 days in a circuitous route staying at friends’ houses, warm showers hosts ( ( and hotels.

Day one Andover to Stan’s house in Melksham, 77km.

The weather was a little wet at times and some of the route along the Avon and Kennet Canal was full of pot holes and wasn’t great, but we made it to just outside Melksham and met up with an old friend for a chinwag and to keep warm whilst waiting for Stan and his family to get home from work.    During the ride I realised I had packed way to much equipment for the actual cycling that we were going to be doing, and as we hadn’t been on the bike for a while it was better if we cut the weight, so Stan very kindly let us dump a load of kit with him including the front panniers.  Thanks Stan!

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Day two Melksham to Gloucester, 78km.

Weather not too bad and now with the lighter bike we were feeling much better.  We left Melksham and cycled north west to Gloucester via Lacock which is a National Trust village we had visited once before and is very pretty.  We then cycled through lots of other lovely little villages before cycling down a very big hill into the outskirts of Nailsworth and then onto Gloucester.  Hels asked me why I had picked Gloucester as a stopping point on our trip rather than Cheltenham… I then proceeded to say that Cheltenham, as a new town was probably not as nice as Gloucester….duhhhh what a plonker of a decision that was after Hels pointed out that Cheltenham was so much nicer and older than  Gloucester!!  At least we got an upgrade at the pub we stayed at in the city centre after I complained the TV was broken…  Shame it overlooked the busy pedestrian, noisy street!  We walked about the city in the evening catching up with some of the wild animals near by!

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Day three Gloucester to Malvern 45km.

Plan today was to only cycle the 45km to Malvern then go for a walk on the hills.  However, after a lovely lunch and a couple of glasses of wine in Upton upon Severn we didn’t make it to our Warm Showers host Matt and Janine until it was too late to go up the hill due to the poor weather and failing light.  Matt and Janine  were our first Warm Showers hosts and we couldn’t have asked for a better experience… thank you so much guys, if we can ever repay the favour 🙂   Got to say mind you the climb up into Malvern was a hard push!! Matt and Janine had cycled from Athens to London for 3 months and is was great to hear about their experiences and how they found the trip.  They now run their own cycle shop in Malvern, Best of luck guys!!

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Day four Malvern to Alcester 47km.

We were supposed to be heading for Stratford and going to see Richard Cresswell who built our bike, but as we cycled along about half way through the day it started drizzling, and we made the silly error of not stopping to put our waterproofs on.  Soon we were absolutely drenched and were really feeling completely demoralised because the satnav died and we had no idea how much longer we needed to cycle – a serious pisser in torrential rain.  By the time we got to Alcester we made the decision that enough was enough and we looked for somewhere to stay, fortunately we found a pub with room and they even let us park the bike inside the pub!!  It took us a while to get showered, warm and hang all our wet kit on the radiators before we had a little nap!! Then we had a lovely meal in a local restaurant that certainly perked us up!

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Day five, Alcester to Birmingham via Richards.  45km.

Well we set off  refreshed and popped into see Richard to talk about the bike rack and general biking stuff and have a cuppa.  It was great seeing him again as he is a really cool character and we chatted about our future plans and also his trip to Norway he had just completed on his tandem with his wife.  But we had to get on as we needed to get to Birmingham.  Little did we know how much a problem it would be.  The weather was atrocious and at times we were cycling through flood waters about a foot deep.  Now as you have seen the bike, it wasn’t a problem for me at the front but Hels was getting all the spray from the front wheel and was drenched.  Water was pouring down her legs into her fab new waterproof socks – they’re so waterproof they hold a good little pond.  Then the fire brigade was carrying out a rescue exercise on the canal we were supposed to follow so we had to try and find a diversion.  The satnav and my phone mapping all failed to get us to Broad Street so we were a bit threaders cycling round and round struggling to find our hotel.  Hels was so cold and wet she was almost in tears.  Finally, we found our hotel. Fab news for the hypothermic.  So whilst Hels got warm I sorted out the bike and kit.  What a hero I am!!!!!


Day 6, rest day in Birmingham.  We had a lovely time in Birmingham, dinner, plenty of wine and seeing the sights of the city.


Day 7, Birmingham to Royal Leamington Spa. 46km  Not too bad a day, we cycled out of Birmingham on the canal, which for the first 8 km was ok, but then started to get a little bitty what with steep slippery bridges to get over and the towpath becoming muddy and treacherous.



Day 8, Royal Leamington Spa to Buckingham. 67km.

Well today was very hard, we had a head wind, and the route was very hilly.   It was hard going and I wasn’t feeling very strong at all.  We had a near miss with a hunt that was trotting along the road towards us, but became skittish when they saw us and started to slide on the slippery, wet tarmac and one rider lost his mount completely but luckily managed to land on his feet.  We’ve always been careful on our bikes round horses and were surprised that the hunt was coming towards us at such a speed.  We’ll be even more careful in future –  not sure what they make of us on the tandem!  By the time we got to Buckingham Hels wasn’t feeling too good and after a couple of days of coughing and spluttering she was really now sounding bad.  We discussed our options that night over dinner and we planned to continue.  However, when we woke to more rain the next morning Hels finally called it a day.  The only problem was that we were in Buckingham, still at least 3 more days of cycling by the original route or the direct route would have been 132km, and in our state we wouldn’t have made it.  After some hunting around we finally spoke to a very nice man at a local vehicle hire centre and we were able to rent a van for the day at only £40!!  He even came and picked me up form the hotel to get the van.  We chucked the bike in the back and 2 hours later were back in Andover.  Where dumped the bike and Hels grabbed the car and followed me back to Buckingham to drop off the van.  We then turned around and as I had never been to Oxford, and we already had the Hotel booked we stayed the night and then had a lovely day in Oxford including doing a murder mystery walk around the city, which we are quite fond of!!

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So all in all an interesting and challenging cycling trip which made us realise how grim it is trying to achieve mileage and reach hotels etc when the weather is so poor.  We had joked that on our world trip we would only cycle if the weather was fair and this has confirmed this view.  There really is no pleasure in cycling in cold, wet conditions.  On our return Hels finally discovered that she had a chest infection which explained why she’d spent much of the trip coughing and wheezing.   Sorry Hels!

D Day minus 1 month – 28 Nov to 02 Dec

And so finally as we near the jump off point we arranged a trip to Bruges in Belgium to take in the Christmas Markets and have a few drinks with friends, Carl, Trish, Brett, Kate and Jane.  Unfortunately at the last moment Vicky and Gav and Jaq and Tracy had to pull out but we were still intent on having a great time.  We all met at St Pancreas and caught the Eurostar to Brussels then a connecting train to Bruges, arriving early in the evening on the Friday.  The market square in the city centre was beautifully lit and in the Christmas spirit with all the stalls and bars open, selling their wares and alcoholic beverages!

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We had rented a central apartment for all of us and it was a fantastic place.  The next day we all split up and went our own way for a while, me n Hels went and did the cultural tour, taking in the cathedral, churches and other historic monuments including the monument.


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That evening and the next we had a fab time sampling the many Belgium beers and boy are they strong!! But it was a great time and we were glad to have our friends around us on one last celebration!!  Thanks guys.