My New Journey Starts tomorrow.

I am going to try to go around the world starting again from tomorrow.

The address is slightly different  jasperstour.wordpress.com

I would love it if you want to follow me!!

Jason

Day 95 Dover to Hastings 45 miles THE END

“The Hand of God”
As well as learning what the Mainland Europeans think of us as people on our little Island, I also heard these words “It always rains in England right?”
My answer was it can be a little too grey, with a bit of Rain that’s keeps us “a green a pleasant land”.
Just to prove the words ‘a bit’ should be ‘a lot’ I woke up to the English Speciality “cold sideways rain”, this is when (and if your a cyclist you’ll get this) it rains very hard and the wind (which will always be in your face), well, makes it rain “sideways”.
A little daunting if you’ve just spent 3 months, muttering under your breath “I’m too hot”, seeing,  I think a combined total of maybe 6hrs rain and your holiday is over…
Luckily for me I have some good mates who are either stupid or brave enough to meet me at the Docks and ride me home in this ‘traditional’ weather.
I’m a little nervous as I have to remember not to say “do you speak English” when I see them and remember not to speak loudly and slowly (like all idiots do) because something tells me it will help people understand me better.
Whilst I’m waiting, I get an opportunity to test English kindness.
Its a slow start, my first attempt to swap 70cents (with some Lithuanians) for 50 pence for a coffee results in a “gentle word” from the local constabulary about begging.
This is just a misunderstanding of course and I’m not about to give up,  so I head to the Train Station where my mates will arrive, here I attempt to see if the Station Cafe will trust me enough to give me Coffee & Cake and let me pay in two hours when my mates turn up with pound notes!
PASS… “Of course mate, we trust you” (even though you smell, are unshaven and a bit…rough).

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So I can now confirm we are also kind in England

Its a big climb out of Dover, about 5 miles of up and as we are heading West its only right that in addition to a wet grey English Day we have a proper stiff westerly wind in our faces….

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From Left to Right Matt, Dazza, Martin T, Nick and Martin M have braved the weather to tow me home, it feels really good to see them although I’m not too sure how they will cope with plodding along at a tired touring Speed and its kinda strange riding at others peoples pace, in fact doing anything with other people is a bit of a shock to the system.

This is us just after a massive plate of the English Signature Dish “The Full English Breakfast” (with Fried Bread and Black Pudding & a mug of Tea). How good does this taste!!

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Its a proper battle to keep up with my mates so I finally succumb to the “Hand of God”………..Despite mocking anyone who has experienced this in the past, getting regular Pushes from Martin M is, well Kinda welcome, in fact to be honest 100% necessary (and something to be experienced just the once). Nick & Daren even take turns  riding the Black Flash which means after 3 months I’m pannier free and able to sit on Martin & Matts wheel, much appreciated fellas.

I’ve had plenty of offers for somewhere to stay in  Hastings but I can only think of one thing……… Another night in my tent.

Small, flimsy a little uncomfortable but I love it, I feel Happy, Free and Safe in my Tent so a night on my favourite place on earth, the West Hill of Hastings is in order.

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Its beautiful up here with amazing views over the English Channel whatever the season and with my tent safely parked up in a nice quiet corner the only thing that disturbs me is the welcome sound of Badgers running  up and down by my tent all night…. Amazing Animals. See the little path in front of my tent…. that seems to be the route.

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So far its been great to enjoy the Green English Countryside, meet up with Friends, have an English (read European) pint of Lager, eat a massive Fry up and be treated to Fish and Chips with Risty!!!

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I’ve learnt the best way to travel is by bike, read negative stuff about each country your gonna visit and scare yourself witless then almost without exception find the facts are generally very very wrong and have an amazing time……….. Easy

Cycling………… More please……. Roll on April 2014

 

 

 

 

Day94: Tielt to Dover (England)

Tielt to Dover 77 miles

 

My mates in England have been telling me its gonna be wet & wild with a big headwind in England today and a Belgian Lady told me expect light rain today…. 

Not here my Friends, its another amazing Mainland European morning… A frisky wind on my back, blue sky with some light cloud, its only 69miles to Calais and I reckon its gonna be flat flat flat….

With my belly full of my last continental breakfast (chocolate on toast and much coffee) I’m good to go.

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Today the roads are nearly perfect and I’m on miles and miles of cycle lanes.

Its so good that I have an uncontrollable sobbing moment as I ride, thinking just how good a time I’ve had/having… (of course I keep going, my body only hurts when I stop)

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I’m in the French speaking bit of Belgium now, they of course still speak excellent English which means when I stop for a delicious Cake and then go to the coffee shop down the road (Fail), I discover Diksmuide is an important Historical Town. 

This is where the last example of Belgian WW1 trenches have been restored, there is a huge memorial to the fallen, just in front of it is the original memorial which it was built to replace after it was destroyed in WW2.

Yet again I find it hard to imagine what went on here all those (not so long ago) years back…..

I’ve made good progress so a wander around the trenches is in order.

I can’t tell you too much except, if your passing its worth an hour of your time, and it was a bit of a bloody hotspot to put it mildly (they were out of English Language Guides).

I have not seen a cycle tourist in days so I reckon a bit of Greg & Jason time is in order…..

Before I know it I’m in France and the Calais signs have appeared as have some angry looking Clouds and the wind which has been changing direction is now a fruity headwind….. 

But my day has one more Surprise….

Stefan (I am an Artist, computer geek, designer & filmaker,  and as I will add, slightly barking) from what was the old East Germany having is having a bit of a luggage calamity on his old boneshaker, it probably doesn’t help he is supping a beer as he is riding and hasn’t noticed stuff dropping off his bike… Its all held on by string, luckily I’ve got some bungee cord and I’ve got a new mate for my last night! 

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He’s determined that despite the now heavy rain he is gonna camp by the Calais Docks (I must of course show solidarity to my fellow traveller) but the French Police (Fortunately) are not having any of it..

He has 80euros and plans to ride to London “I have seen pictures of the beautiful Thames Barrier” & Wales “there are Stones like bridges” and the Isle of Wight “here there are some special old building”… a little optimistic maybe, but he is enjoying himself so much he videos everything on a 15 year old Video camera.. “My Friends will never believe me, they will think its all just a dream until I show them”

Stefan, I know where your coming from… Enjoy enjoy enjoy my Friend.

 

The 11pm Ferry drops us into Dover and some proper English Rain and a cracking thunder storm.

Here is my bed for the night in the “luxurious” Dover docks departure lounge.

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This is where I said goodbye to Stefan “I love my Tent so much, I must sleep in my Tent every night” he said, and with that he disappeared out of Dover Docks in the heaviest rain you can imagine!

He has bigger balls than me I think and is Mad as a Brush, but you know what, he is a shining example of proper cycle touring…. (and I am just a little bit, no, very very envious)

Jason

Day93: Leuven to Tielt

Leuven to Tielt 69 miles

 

I think I passed the Entrance Test for Paris-Roubaix (with Panniers) today.

I’m amazed, I had it in my mind that Brussels would of course be full of faceless bureaucrats who would live in a European Super City where everything worked perfectly and was very smart (all funded by us, the people of Europe) and provided perfect conditions for important decisions such as ‘how much of a curve should a Banana have?’

Well the bit I saw from a cyclists point of view is very different.

I think its the first big city that I have ridden into that is as rough as old boots.

It feels a bit edgy, its pretty grubby and the road surfaces, especially where you cycle are super rough.

Once you get to the middle, what a contrast, its a beautiful city, bustling cobbled streets and if unlike me, your stopping, I reckon you could have some nice lunch, culture and relaxation, what a pleasant surprise. (its 22c and clear blue sky today, perfect conditions I think).

The road leading out of the city centre just gets rougher & tougher for cyclists and on next 20 miles of  dual carriageway out of the town, its cobbles or sharing the road with some 18 wheelers or some of the most oversized farm machinery I have ever seen, for me and the Black Flash the cobbles seem better.

If something doesn’t break now I will be amazed….

But you know what, we made it to a nice right turn and into some beautiful country roads.

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First Job, coffee (In  Belgium Cake & Coffee shops are separate) where I discover with a coffee you also get an Advokaat which is an egg based alcoholic drink, kind of thick and gooey but just perfect for a badly shaken (but secretly pleased I passed the test) cyclist.

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I had a truly International set of roommates last A Brazilian Student, an Egyptian Engineer and a French Painter.

I then met my new (and first) Polish best mate Natalia who told me some lovely dreamy stories about Tove Jannson and the Moomins…

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This is all just great but I still don’t know what the Belgians are all about…

Well looking all day, I can tell you this, the main Business in Belgium is Car Dealers, Furniture Shops & Garden Centres and Agriculture.

Most importantly though, I think they are at least on Par with the Romanians in the smiling and Friendliness department.

I have had a great day waving and smiling with the good people of this country, not the most memorable countryside, but by no means bad either.

But when comes to the smile off, you have to be quick here, because they will usually beat you too it!! Brilliant, smile country!!

Its my last night to enjoy the excitement of wondering where you will pitch your Tent for the night.

Here are some pictures of the Sun getting lower, its always a great moment, slightly nerve-wracking but always nice to know you always find somewhere to pitch your tent….

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Or like me tonight, get a room in a Hotel.

I’m a bit pissed off with myself for not making the most of my last night in my Tent, but also rather pleased that for the first time in my trip I’ve  managed to knock 20 euros off the price of my room. To be honest my sleeping mat which now has a slow puncture (and some pretty disgusting stains) would have been one night to far for this shaken old body.

Belgium you have been amazing, and just to warn you Cancellara, next year its gonna be mine!!

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As for being European, yes please, as long as we can keep our pound notes, miles & pints and you consider driving on the right side of the road!

Jason

 

 

Day92: Duran to Leuven

Duran to Leuven 87miles

I read an AA Milne quote today that reminded me that despite the fact every part of my body is hurting, I have 3 days of riding left and its only my head that’s stopping me and I need to be sure I enjoy those days. I’ve also realised that I only hurt when I’m not riding, this is good.

Its the best sort of German Autumn morning and so far its perfectly flat, great riding, wind on my back, the sort of morning when you do very Un German things like run red lights (when its safe to do so) and have that great feeling of being just a little bit risqué (in German eyes) so good in fact, before I know it, I’m in Holland, no signs, no border guards and that’s it, without even realising I’ve not had a chance to say goodbye….

So here’s the flaw with the Schengen Agreement, and any boy of my age will surely agree.

We were brought up with clear borders, borders that defined nations, i.e. the French were always expected to wear striped blue & white shirts with a string of Garlic, a jaunty beret and of course be  riding a bike, the Germans would be wearing Lederhosen, eating Sausage and drinking beer, the Belgians would just be dull and the Dutch police would be expected to be smoking Joints and pretty chilled out and so on…

Add to this the fact that all of these Borders would be patrolled by  Men with Guns…

We never saw guns in England and besides from being a little daunting that at any moment you could be dragged from your vehicle by fierce looking guards and pistol whipped (if you had a vivid imagination) once you had crossed no-mans land you knew where you where going to be.

It was always a nervous & proud moment when you produced your old style British  passport, we were told everyone loves to hate the English…..No-one can forget the slightly distasteful look a proper French border guard would give you and the “come and have a go if you think your ard enough” feeling (despite only being 12 years old and incapable of punching my way out of a wet paper bag).

It marked a new nation & people to discover,  and feel, like a fish out of water, it let you know you had arrived somewhere different, somewhere to explore…

This was exciting and  Schengen has taken that away….

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What I have also discovered is that despite always being told that Holland is flat, this is not the case! Plenty of hills here and miles & miles of cycle paths…(part of me is looking forward to the battle that English cyclists face in the UK, its almost too easy here).

The road leads to Maastricht, which is full of the Dutch on the fast electric bikes….

Only 2 hrs later I’m in Belgium (borderless of course) and I find myself on the longest, straightest uninterrupted cycle lane (broken occasionally by very pretty Belgian Town centres with cobbles that threaten to smash you and your bike to pieces) slightly undulating but great for making progress, with plenty of fellas on rode bikes who are more than happy to let me hang on to there wheels, even though my legs are ready to explode!

In my first Belgian coffee shop I’m clocked as Bradley Wiggins and pose for photo’s for a couple of happy people although the mood could quite easily of turned into a major international incident when they describe me as “an old version of Bradley Wiggins”

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BUT this is Europe and asides from my mild frustration at the borderless situation, we are all friends on our mini continent now, and I know that despite the fact that (I have asked everywhere so I know this to be true) the Stereotype of the English is that we are snooty drunken homosexuals, (I can’t deny I’ve had a few boozy days out with my mates in Mainland Europe) if the borders and the tough looking border guards were still in place, a little part of them would love to be English and envious of my British Passport.

How do I know this? Despite the pain since Ulm,  Germany & the Germans have been amazing, friendly, kind and welcoming, and admiring of my brilliant journey (its always the English doing these crazy things they say)  as has the rest of Europe, almost without exception…

Ill be dragging myself out of my top bunk (21 euros for a Youth Hostel seemed so much more appealing than freezing to death in my Tent) accompanied by some bad language and a handful of Ibobrufen tomorrow morning… Getting my leg over my bike will be a proper painful task, but if the weathers kind and the Belgian roads are as good as today….

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As AA Milne rightly said…

“Always remember you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”

Jason

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Day91: Koblenz to Duran

Koblenz to Duran 72 miles

I have money, its 4c tonight so its Ibis budget for me…
Goodbye Rhine.. So far road to Belgium is Flat.
Ill be sad to leave Germany….

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Day90: Mainz to Koblenz

Mainz to Koblenz 67 miles

 

This bit of the Rhine is really something special.

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Grape Vines line the river on hills that are so steep you wonder how they can be used at all. Great Ride..
Body does not agree.

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Koblenz looks like it might be a great City.
Campsite perfect!
Got a puncture, rear tyre now resembles a sieve.

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Day89: Spires to Mainz

Spires to Mainz 77miles

 

No room at the Inn (Youth Hostel) tonight and campsite on google no longer exists.

Cannot camp on Youth Hostel Grounds, so here I am on the other side of the fence (under the Stuttgart flight path) in the Volks Park… 7am…. Hanging! I think the picture shows this!

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I should add I passed 5000miles two days ago.

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Forgot about that!

Cycling Kudos back!

Jason

Day88: Wurm to Spires

Wurm to Spires 67 miles

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Picked up the Rhine at Karlsruhe.
Pretty smelly after 3 days of no shower so experience first German Youth Hostel.
All ages here…
Meet a group of cyclists on 140k ride.
This fella on his 1972 Fausto Coppi (immaculate) restores my faith in cycling which may have declined a little in the last day or so!WP_20130927_007

Day87: Ohnastetten to Wurm

Ohnastetten to Wurm 59 miles

Rains All day

Most peaceful night in woods near Wurm.

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