Making Time

Very busy day.
I make time to sit outside
soaking up sunshine.

Cycling Challenge

Cycling challenge badgeWe did it! A week ago yesterday my husband and I completed our 45 mile cycling challenge in aid of our local hospice on our tandem. This is to date the longest distance I have cycled.

I have to say, I have discovered there are one or two advantages of being on the back of a tandem: 1) You don’t get so many flies in your face and 2) You can hide behind the driver when you come to a hill so you don’t see how steep it is or how far to the top!

We were well ‘rugged up’ to start with as it was a bit chilly. After about a third of the course it (and us) had warmed up and the route passed a short distance from our home so we took a diversion for a drink and the chance to strip off a bit before re-joining. A short while later we came to a local hill that has always caused me problems. I have never previously got up it and usually try to avoid it. That said, on the few occasions I have tried it I have managed to get a bit further up each time before getting off to push. Hiding behind the driver on the back of the tandem this time I/we did it  – not that it has ever caused my husband a problem. (I am also pleased to report that a few days later we tackled it again on solo bikes – and I got all the way up it!)

We did have one or two minor mishaps along the way; we broke three spokes and the dog jumped out of his basket! Okay, I’ll explain. The first broken spoke we mended at a canal-side café, where we took the opportunity to have out packed lunch followed by an ice-cream. After our experiences in Spain last autumn, when we broke seven spokes, we now carry spares. When we completed the ride we found we had also broken another two. Hubby has since checked the wheel thoroughly, thinking there must be a reason why the spokes keep on breaking on the same wheel. He had had the spoke tension checked and was told it was fine, but has now decided that they probably need to be tighter, being a tandem, so they have all been tightened up and we will see what happens next time we ride out.

Setting off on our cycle challenge

Setting off on our cycle challenge

As for the dog jumping out of his basket – well we have a small basket on the front of the tandem (see picture) in which a small soft toy dog travels. He has our front light strapped to his wrist. On the way round while going along a bumpy country lane he flew out of the basket and landed in the middle of the road – he hadn’t been wearing his seat-belt! We stopped, I went to fetch him and we fixed him more firmly in his basket with a bungey-cord as a seat-belt. A group of other cycling challenge participants caught up and stopped to ask if we were all right. “Yes, thanks.” we said, “we lost the dog!” We all laughed and one lady confided that her husband had a soft toy seal in his bicycle panier!

The last couple of miles were probably the worst, I was just about ready to stop! My knees ached, my thighs ached, my wrists ached, my shoulders ached and I didn’t want to see another hill for a long time to come! Interestingly though, when we finally stopped I was fine and the next day bore no lasting effects.

At least I can now feel confident that I will be able to complete the Pedals de Clip classic road racing bike rally in Spain in a couple of weeks time. This will be only a mere 46 km on my Motobecane road bike ‘Captain Beaky.’ Just don’t remind me about all those hills!

Success

Success!
“Captain Beaky” bike and I,
up that hill at last,
the one that has for so long been
our Nemesis.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
There is a hill near my home that I usually avoid on my bike because the few times I have attempted it I have had to get off and push, though each time I have managed to get a little further up before getting off. We managed it at the weekend on the tandem but today I managed it for the first time on a solo bike – I’m proper chuffed!

Done

The latest edition ‘put to bed’,
my spring magazine is done.
Time at last to do other things…
or maybe just relax in the sun!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I still have to address the envelopes ready to post them out while I wait for them to be printed. I do enjoy doing the magazine but it is always a relief when it is all done and dusted for another six months.

Sorry!

Sorry, no proper post today. Having been very busy publishing ‘Simply Elfje’ before taking a break to go sailing I am now spending all my time compiling the magazine that I edit twice a year for a sailing association we belong to. The Spring/Summer issue should be out around now, so I’m having to prioritize – I must get the magazine done. Then maybe I can concentrate on issuing the e-book version of ‘Simply Elfje’ – I promise you it will be worth the wait!

Company

Galloping
white horses
riding the waves,
keeping our little yacht
company.

In Their Element

Riding
the wind,
silently soaring, swooping
effortlessly, in their element.
Seagulls.

The Best Laid Plans…

Barbican 33 yachtMy regular readers will know that I have been away for a couple of weeks. The plan was that we would take our sailing boat, a Barbican 33 called ‘Red Dawn IV’ (a 33ft family cruising yacht pictured) across to Calais, where we would get the mast removed and stowed along the cabin top before entering the French canals. We were intending to leave the boat in Lille until after our return from our forthcoming classic road race bike rally in Spain next month. Then we would return to the yacht, take it through the Belgian canals into Holland where we planned to leave it over the coming winter.

So we went, via Ramsgate and Dover, to Calais. As we went through the swing bridge into the marina we passed two boats coming out on their way to the canal entrance. One was a motorboat from Ramsgate, the other was a yacht crewed by a group of young Australians, who had also had their mast removed. We booked our mast removal and began the preparations for doing this. We took the sails off the boat and I hoisted my husband up the mast so he could remove the Radar dome and some of the ‘yachting string’ ready for the mast to be lifted off the next day. That night the two boats we had passed returned to Calais.

They had paid for their inland waterways licences and as mentioned the Australian foursome had paid to have their mast removed. They had been allowed to lock through into the canal and travelled a couple of miles up the canal to the first bridge where they came to a standstill. After some time and several phone calls they discovered that the canal bridges were all closed and they could not proceed down the canal. Nowhere had this been explained or the information displayed. The Australians had paid – a lot of money I might add – for a month on the canals, to get to the south of France where they planned to sell the boat before returning home to Australia. They had also done thorough research about their trip and nowhere had this closure come up. It was not mentioned on the French inland waterways website.

After many phone calls over several hours the girl in the marina office in Calais was eventually able to confirm that this was in fact the case and the canal would not open for another 10 or 11 days. The motorboat couple had only paid for a week (and that was expensive enough!) so there was no way they could get into the canals. They decided to return to the UK and try to get their money back since they had been sold a useless licence.

We considered our options but at the end of the day decided that we hadn’t got sufficient time to wait and then get to our chosen destination. So it was up the mast again for my husband to replace all the detached components and on with the sails once more – we too would return home. Meanwhile the Australians had little option but to try to continue. They chose to motor up to Dunkirk and enter the canal system there. With no mast and sails and a fairly rough sea they had a lumpy journey but last we heard they had made it safely and were in the canals. We wish them good luck for their onward journey.

We were annoyed and disappointed but at least we hadn’t removed our mast and paid for our licence. We crossed back to Dover and then on to Ramsgate where we met up with the aforementioned motor-boaters to lick our wounds. Here strong winds blowing in the wrong direction kept us in harbour for several days before we could finally make our return to our home port of Bradwell in Essex, where we had cancelled our marina berth. We had to phone ahead to see if we could have a berth for the season after all and fortunately they were able to oblige (we have been there many years and they know us well). We then had to wait a couple of days until our son could come to pick us up as we had no car there – we weren’t intending to return! It’s a good thing we had the folding bikes so we could at least get out and about while we waited.

It seems that the French left hand doesn’t know what its right-hand is doing. Why on earth did they sell people canal licences and let them into a canal that wasn’t open? As I say, at least we had not involved ourselves in this wasted expense, but I wonder what real hope the couple on the motorboat have of getting their money back. Our plans for later in the summer are now completely upset and we shall have to do a lot of re-thinking. To be fair though, we did have a couple of lovely, relaxing weeks away on the boat, even if the WIFI was frequently unreliable, but then it is good to have time away from that too!

It’s Here!

Latest news:

Simply Elfje

Final cover version ‘Simply Elfje’ final cover.

Good News! My ‘Simply Elfje’ book of the blog is now available to purchase from Amazon. I have tweaked the colour of the cover a little and here is the revised version.

To buy a copy from Amazon UK please click here. It is also available from Amazon.com and in Europe.

There will eventually be an e-book version for Kindle, however I will be away now for a couple of weeks and have run out of time to do the conversion. I will do it on my return and hopefully it will be available in early May – watch this space.

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Narrow Boats

Narrow boats
on the canal
underneath the fresh
green weeping willows.

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