Every day in our town people’s day starts with the anxiety of not knowing how they will feed their children, stay warm, or keep a roof over their head, all because of debt.  Low pay, vulnerable employment, crises and ill health are some of the indiscriminate causes.  At Christians Against Poverty we believe nobody should be held hostage by debt and poverty, thinking their situation is impossible.  CAP offers hope, and locally our Debt Centre Manager, Gary Foulds and Debt Coach, Bernard Wallbank, offer a listening ear and provide a real solution to peoples debts.

To support their work locally, I have taken on the challenge of a 1000 mile sponsored bike ride through France, from the ‘Channel to the Med’, to raise funds for the Southport & Formby CAP Debt Centre. As I count the miles down, through your generosity people can count down the days until they are debt free and can breath again.

If you can support me, then please use this form…and follow my daily blog from 20th June to the 8th July

Sponsor Patrick Evans Bike Ride

Thank you for your support.”

Patrick

Saturday 6th July

Day 16

Camping at 700 feet above sea level made for a chilly night and start this morning, coolest of the whole campaign.  It did not take long to get warmed up with two early climbs taking us to about 1000 meters.  Then there was an about a 15 mile gradual rise to 1180 meters through what looked more like a Swiss valley, with a ski resort signposted to our left, and Swiss chalet type homes  perched along the valley sides. 

Once we reached the peak it was a deep descent over about 15 miles to just above sea level to within 10 miles of the coast.  For me this was probably the most challenge part of the whole journey.  The wind had stirred and together with a heavy bike and unbelievably steep roads made for a nervy finish.  I managed to keep it together and took it slowly, and this was helped by light traffic.  

We thought we would see the sea from many miles away, but having navigated the suburbs, the first time we saw the sea was at the waterfront.  We were 8 miles from our destination in the old town of Nice, and enjoyed the final lap to the end.  For me and Mark it was wonderful to be greeted by our wives, Louise and Carole, and my daughter Jess.

Prayers for us – nothing…we are so thankful to have reached our destination, and thank God for our safe journey, and all the generous donations from the good folk of Southport & Formby towards the CAP Debt Centre.  You guys are truly amazing in your generosity and encouragement.

Prayers for others – pray that God will bless the funds raised and they will tell others of God’s provision for them.

Friday 6th July

Day 16

“Have I ever told you about the time I cycled through the Verdon gorge?”  Apologies in advance, as this is likely to become a well worn phrase.  

Today’s ride was the toughest in terms of ascent, with the only category one climb of the whole ride.  This climb was about 5 miles into our day and lasted for the next 9 miles with an elevation of 800 metres.  We left at 7.15 am and we’re climbing by 7.45 for about the next two hours.  In the cool of the day and the shade of the gorge we made remarkable time.  There was hardly any traffic and we had viewing points pretty much to ourselves early on.  

The tunnel with no lights in it and a bend partway through resulting in total darkness was a ride of confidence.

We were rewarded by amazing views.  At about 10 a couple of helicopters flew over the gorge and it felt over us so we gave an obligatory wave.  

The gorge is 700 metres deep, sheer drop at places although it was good we were driving the southern road and could hug the rock when needed.  The gorge is 25km in length, 15 miles, and undulates with two challenging climbs doubling our initial ascent.  Second only to the Grand Canyon 

At a cafe just beyond  the final climb a gentleman said if he had a hat he would have taken in off in recognition of our feat.  

We had lunch on the plateau before descending through the lower reaches of the gorge which continued to offer a spectacular landscape.  A tough but rewarding day.

One more day to go of 57 miles with our final two climbs in the first 20 miles before the descent into Nice. We’ve been warned to have our wits about us because we’ve not ridden in town/city traffic for the last couple of weeks.

Prays for us – a good trouble free last day.  Mark has had some difficulties with his bike and we hope all will be well for our final ride.

Prayers for others – we’ve cycled coming up for 900 miles, and some miles are tougher than others. When recovering from debt, some repayments at certain times seem tougher than others.  May those with such challenges ride through the toughest with confidence and strength.

Thursday 5th July

Day 15

Today has been our shortest cycle day although with quite a lot of climbing.  

We stated through about 10 miles of flat land before the landscape became more undulating.  Every lavender field had cars parked at the side and tourists snapping away with their cameras, so we decided to join in (well it is a holiday).

We cycled through a number of pretty villages, although we were always gradually rising.  

Today has all been about preparing for tomorrow which will be 50 miles and 2000 meters of ascent, the highest single day of ascent of the whole trip; it will also take us the the highest point of the trip some 1200 meters above sea level (Ben Nevis is 1345 meters by comparison). Riding along the Gorges du Verdon, second only to the Grand Canyon, is tomorrow’s objective.

Fortunately the temperatures are peaking at about 29 degrees which is cooler than the highs of 36 degrees earlier in the week, and there has been some cloud cover which has helped.

Today, my wife Louise and daughter Jess, arrive in Nice for my hopeful arrival on Saturday, and my companions wife Carol arrives tomorrow morning.  Me and Mark are ready to meet them, just 107 miles to go!

Prayers for us – that we reach our destination without any last minute injuries or issues.

Prayers for others – pray for those approaching the end of their debt repayment arrangements through CAP, that they will see it through to completion.

Wednesday 4th July

Day 14

We started the day with breakfast at 6.30 am on the small terrace outside our B&B; our host offers breakfast at a time to suit his guests, as he understands the need to beat the sun.  

The first two thirds of the day were up hill although very forgiving at about a 2% climb for the first third.  This allowed us to ruse quickly and in the first 10 miles of our ride we saw one truck and one car.  It felt like the road was open just for us (and the goats).  I must say it was probably a couple of the best cycling hours I’ve ever experienced.  We were fortunate to have the shade of the gorge and the cool of the height of our ascent.  

The views were amazing, and I even managed to provide a short video for this mornings assemblies at Farnborough Road Primary School for Tabz and the Pais team.  At their request this was about change, so I was able to talk about the change of scenery and heat over the last two weeks, as well as in our fitness.  Two weeks ago I’d have struggled to do today’s ride…we are now “cycling fit”.  This is were our fitness is increasing day by day.

There may be some videos we can show of this mornings climb.

We stopped in the village of Sault for a second breakfast. This allowed us to pop into Albion bikes en route to check my breaks were still good for the final ascents, and they are. They also had a gauged bike pump, and my PSI had fallen to 60 bar from 100 bar.  With pumped up tyres we save a gear or two. 

We continued our climb to about 1000 meters before our ascent to today’s B&B in Beaudine.

Tomorrow sees a 37 mile ride but with some quite tricky steep elements, before our toughest day of the whole ride on Friday. 

Prayer for us – the heat has been more forgiving today, in part because we have been at a higher altitude.  Pray that we will travel safe for the next few days.

Prayer for others – it was strange that for the first ten plus miles this morning it was all uphill but enjoyable.  That just doesn’t seem right versus my experience.  It was in part because the uphill was manageable, and through training and experience we’d got use to such a ride.  This enabled us to enjoy the scenery and enjoy the chat.  Prayer is that for those in debt living on a budget, that through the transition to this they will be able to breath again and enjoy the journey.

Tuesday 3rd July

Day 13

Last night saw a victory for Belgium in the World Cup, with about forty of their nation erupting in celebration at the final whistle in the campsite bar.  Fortunately my ear plugs silenced them to allow me to have a good nights sleep.

We were up at 6 for a 7 am exit from the site – we are very adept at keeping silent and using sign language to allow the other campers to sleep in.

Our terrain was very flat as we made steady progress at 16mph (average touring bike speed is 12mph).  We soon reached the Rhône river and cycled along its bank, getting stuck in commuter traffic for the local nuclear power station.  The Rhône is massive in its breadth, and there is significant barriers at its edges to stop flooding.  

Soon after the power station we were headed towards the bridge over the river, only for the road ahead to be closed because of works on the bridge until mid July.  The diversion was many many miles out of our route and the heat of the day was beginning to rise.  We looked on google maps and saw the bridge was open to cyclists but not cars…could this be right?  I’d previously been barred from crossing another bridge a few days earlier by a rather over zealous workman, and my negotiation skills in English with a French accent oddly failed.  Mark, with very good French therefore took over as chief diplomatic envoy in Anglo French relations.  It was like a scene from the Cold War film Bridge of Spies – after a couple of minutes of flattery by Mark in relation to the French national football team, a path was cleared for us to pass through.  Mark is wasted in marketing, I’d have him as chief Brexit negotiator.

We we most relieved to cross the bridge and proceeded across flat terrain, and had breakfast in a small village surrounded by an old style flood defence system.

We continued with a tough climb through the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, probably, and rightly so, one of the best wine growing areas in the world.    

A small pretty village.  We continued along the flat at a pace, seeing sunflowers in what was now Provence, the final French region of our trip.

All of the climbing today came in the second half of our journey, and it was the hottest we had experienced. 

We eventually arrived at our destination of Villes-sur-Auzon.  This is a small village although has many cyclist who use it as a base to climb Mont Ventoux.  This is a very popular iconic cyclist climb and often forms part of the Tour de France – it was not for us with the weight of touring bikes and panniers.  Our B&B for the night was spot on, with a tremendous history; it’s name is La Sarrasine, and the balcony of our room formed part of the barricades of the town from 1388.  

The heat had been especially oppressive so a siesta was called for which was awesome…a deeper sleep I don’t think I’ve ever had.  We awoke to the sound of thunder and rain, our first of the tour.  Although short lived it instantly cleared the air.

We managed to watch the England game but were not impressed it went to extra time as we’d booked breakfast for 6.30.  

Prayers for us – the heat continues to be our nemesis, so continued prayer that we will cycle taking sensible precautions.  An update on the knee – it’s great, no wincing pain, thank you for all your prayers.

Prayer for others – heat can be so oppressive, and so often we try and work through it rather than give in to it and work around it.  Debt can be similar, and there is something special when someone caught in a debt cycle seeks help and is able to deal with their debt positively and with support.  As Martin Lewis says of people he has referred to CAP, they tell him they can suddenly sleep at night.  Pray for those in our neighbourhoods, that they will seek and receive freedom from the oppression of debt.

Monday 2nd July

Day 12

Today started with us helping ourselves to breakfast in Nellie’s kitchen which she was happy for us to do at 6.30!

Today was going to be tough with a 7 mile climb starting within a mile of our B&B. The first couple of miles woke us up for sure and we passed by an area frequented by Le Tour.

Our climb was rewarded with our longest single ascent that the whole ride offers, some 750 meters along 14km of winding roads.

We reached a small town where there was a round protestant church (round, the understanding is, so that devil doesn’t have a corner to hide in).

We then had low lands in the Ardeche valley before going through the tourist area to Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, with its iconic arch. We stopped for a photo opportunity before heading. along the Ardeche gorge, just 14 miles from our campsite for the night.

What was all the fuss about this being a tough day? Then we met the gorge! The first 240 meters was awful, no fun what so ever, and the heat was full on

 We just took our time stopping regularly in shade to take on water. Eventually we reached the summit although the gorge road was very hilly, and in the heat 14 miles took a couple of hours…it was this section rather than the start of the day, which was a beast. We arrived on the banks of the Ardeche with campsites abounding. The next couple of days the heat moves from 31 to 34 degrees, although our mileage and ascent thankfully reduces until we get to Friday. Early starts will be the order of the day.

The Ardeche has a very different feel from the other valleys we’ve passed through. The vegetation, and consequently the ushade is vastly reduced, and the noise of the crickets is a constant backdrop.

Prays for us – that we can continue to make good decisions to lesson the impact of the weather.

Prayer for others – pray for all those who struggle in the heat, especially at home in the unseasonably warm weather. May they be able to stay hydrated and safe. May those who are especially vulnerable have good neighbours to look out for them.

Sunday 1st July

Day 11

After our rest day, we started at 7.30 this morning to take advantage of the relatively cool morning. We were cycling through the city (large town) of Mende by about 8.15 after which we picked up our largest climb of the tour so far. Despite being a large climb the ascent was only 2-4% which was comfortable. We stopped regularly at every viewing opportunity, including a lovely road side chapel.

As we continued to climb there was a castle on a hill with a very helpful and welcome tunnel beneath; the first tunnel of our journey.

Thereafter we picked up coffee and pastries from a tabac and Boulangerie in a lovely spa village, stays at which are available on prescription in France we are led to believe. We then headed upwards again as our total height above sea level reached 900 plus metres.

For the last few days, some 120 miles, we have been following the river Lot and just before the brow of the summit we reached its source, a small stream. This stream becomes a mighty river reaching the Atlantic in Bordeaux.

We reached the summit, at 1132 meters above sea level and there was another sign stating that at this peak there is a great divide, for every river to the west leads to the Atlantic and every river to the east the the Mediterranean

A local cyclist from Mende arrived at the summit and we chatted and exchanged stories; he was only 80 years of age. He does that or a similar cycle a few times a week in the spring and summer.

We then had a great descent to our destination, although what became apparent was the mistral wind from the med. We suddenly had a very distinct feel that our terrain was changing, for this is now southern France.

We stayed in a chambre d’hote this evening and had a lovely meal provided by our host Nellie. This included herbal tea at the end consisting of nettles, lemon balm, mint, sage and verbena, sweetened with local chestnut honey. Really good.

Tomorrow is our second biggest climb day with some 2000 meters of ascent. Early to bed!

Prayers for us – that the hills will be forgiving and that we manage ourselves well in the heat.

Prayers for others – it has been great for louise, my wife, to attend church this morning and be with the church family. Pray for all of those who seek family, that they will find it in one form or another.

Saturday 30th June

Day 10

Day of rest

Friday 29th June

Day 9

This morning was a 6.45 get up and I felt really rough after a bad nights sleep.  The thought of cycling filled me with horror, I could not imagine a day of climbing.

After breakfast with our host we were on the road, and started the day in the shade of the trees along The Lot River, passing a lovely riverside chapel.  We soon reached a supermarket for supplies and I was beginning to feel human again.

We had three big climbs ahead of us, the first about 5 miles, the second 6 miles, and the third 8 miles.

The descent from the first climb was enjoyable, but from the second climb was amazing.  If I never have another descent as good then I won’t be disappointed.

During that climb an English guy sped passed us on his carbon bike – morning lads – do we have English on our backs?  Earlier a vw camper van had driven past with an English plate and when we got to the bottom of the hill the cyclist and partner were enjoying lunch.  From

Somerset they too are doing the route.  

They are sharing the riding and we’re taking a day each but found this too tiring so are splitting the days between them.  They are following the same guide book as us and stated, much to our comfort and agreement, the meters of ascent quoted in the book are significantly understated.

Mark has just told me we started the day at 250 metres and climbed to 750 meters twice with the final climb to 850 meters from a base of 450 meters (Parbold hill is 130 meters).

We finished our day, despite all our climbing, towards the top of the Lot River.  We are camping tonight with a rest day tomorrow before the final push of seven days.

Prayers for us – the heat and the sweat is causing concerns for energy and hydration – prayers that we are able to manage this.  I’ve not drank any alcohol thus far!

Prayers for others – I know that without my good friend Mark i’d not be here, I’d have given up long since.  Mark is a great navigator and encourager. Thank you God for the support of friends in all circumstances.

Thursday 28th June

Day 8

I forgot to mention yesterday that whilst sat on a river bank having lunch we saw a kingfisher; amazing.

Given the intense heat currently, we decided to make an early start and were on the road by 7.30.  It was cool, it was bliss.

The route today would be about 60 miles with the final large ascent being achieved by 30 miles.  If we could get that by lunchtime all would be good.  We are finding our guide book “France en Velo” is pretty spot on with its mileage calculation but way out in terms of ascent.  Today was about 1250 metres (10 Parbold Hills), about double the guide book prediction.
 
Soon after leaving our destination we had the first climb of the day which was forgiving.
 
We then got to Figeac by 10 am which was good as the heat of the day had not kicked in, and the town sat below our two big ascents.
 
The ascents were tough but manageable so long as we periodically found a tree to shelter under whilst we took on water.
 
The road follows part of the Camino way, with the traffic signs warning drivers to take extra care.
We reached the end of our big climbs by 11.45 which was great.  
 
 
We stopped at our high point summit for the day in Montredon. We got talking to some Swiss gents and French ladies walking the Camino who joined us for lunch.  We sat outside the church which was a stopping point for the Camino were the walkers got their Camino passport stamped, as well as receiving complimentary refreshments.   The church had the same design of font as two days previous, the shape of a scallop shell. Whilst we sat having lunch about a dozen walkers over the hour passed through many with scallop shells adorning their person.
 
The afternoon started with a leisurely descent to The Lot valley and we followed this for the rest of the afternoon.  It was great to know our climbing for the day was in the Behind us.   We stopped off for ice cream – my choice of duex boules was thyme, and rosemary – brilliant flavours that worked.
 
 
Our lodging tonight is a 12th century town house in the town of Entraygues-sur-Truyere.  Amazing renovation by an enthusiastic British couple.
 
To pray for for us…that we continue to cycle around the weather and keep ourselves healthy.
 
Pray for others…I’ve been especially thinking of those whose health is debilitating them from their normal rhythm of activity, so my prayer is that God will bring healing and wholeness to those known to us in need at this time.

 

Wednesday 27th June

Day 7

Today started off in the Dordogne region. We were on the road by 9am for a long but relatively gentle climb from the Vezere river, over to the Dordogne river.

We stopped of in Sarlat-la-Canéda for a wonder round. This has been a popular area for holidays for my companion mark, so he knows his way around well. We stopped and enjoyed the bustle before heading off again. It was hot with little wind so we enjoyed the cycle along an old rail track with plenty of shade.

Shade was also doing along the base of the Dordogne river with the ricks and over hanging trees providing dapple shade interspersed with the heat of the sun.

We had a riverside lunch ahead of tackling the first significant climb of the ride in our first seven days. It did nit let us down. It was 2.5 parbold hill’s in succession in my view. As we cycled up some 280 meters the vegetation changed with shorted trees with less leaf protection from the sun.

We stopped a couple of times for shade and water. Eventually we got to the causses du quercy, a plateau that sits across the space between the Dordogne river and, I think, the lot valley.

It was tough riding in the 32 degrees of heat. The key focus is staying hydrated and not running out of energy, so every chance to take on water and energy, we grab.

The knee is holding up well and does not have the same intensity of pain it had the first few days, which is a great help. Today we rode 55 miles approx and climbed about 1250 meters of ascent. Tomorrow I think is 65 miles and about 1500 meters of ascent.

Things to pray for for us…that we will stay hydrated in the heat, whilst maintains our energy levels, and that there will be enough shade.

Things to pray for for others…thank God for the work of the CAP debt centre in our town, and for the commitment and care of the debt advisor bernard Wallbank, and of the debt centre manager gary foulds. May god bless their endeavours.

 

Tuesday 26th June

Day 6

Today started off very easy with us catching the train from Limoges to Brive so we could cycle onto Montignac and pick up our route again.  

 
Today was a gentle 45 miles or so, with the first 20 on the flat with only 90 metres of ascent…home from home.
 
Once we picked up the route again we followed the Vézère river, with a couple of significant hill climbs over a few miles; the terrain has changed from the Loire valley with its vast plains of agricultural land.  This change is welcomed, although the ascent each day increases significantly.  We therefore allow our mileage to reduce accordingly.  
 
We arrived at a most beautiful church of st Leon in the late afternoon.  It’s about 8-900 years old.  Inside it’s stripped back, and on a very hot day like today, offers a cool and reflective space.  The moment I walked in I felt tearful for I sensed the presence of God powerfully, perhaps because of the hundreds of years of prayer making it what we describe as a thin place (heaven and earth, the Celtic saying goes, are only three feet apart, but in thin places that distance is even shorter).
 
A candle was lit for those I know that have recently passed from earth to heaven, and for those who mourn them.
 
This valley is one of the Ways of St James through France to Camino de Santiago.  
 
Towards the end of the day we passed by rock faces that had been inhabited by Troglodyte cave-dwellers from 55000 years ago and continued to be lived in, until about 300 years ago by humans.  
 
We ended the day in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.  We had a great meal that ended with local produce of goats cheese and honey which really works – try it!
 
Having lost a day and a third, whilst disappointed we are not deterred.  The bikes are running well and the knee trouble of mine isn’t worsening.  We will see what the next three days of cumulative hill cycling brings (Saturday is a rest day).
 
Things for prayer for us are that we will be able to stay hydrated, and safe in the heat, which could rise progressively from 30 to 35 degrees through until Sunday.
 
Things to pray for, for others, centres around those who battle through the elements.  This afternoon, when I went from the overwhelming heat of the day, thirsty and tired, into the refreshing cool of st Leon’s church, I wondered about Jesus on the day of his crucifixion.  He was mocked and jeered, beaten and belittled, and literally hung out to dry.  How he would have ached for the cool shelter of such a church.  Yet through all of this, he continued to pray to his father for those around him.   I thought of all those who have travelled to Europe from the likes of Africa and Syria, not knowing what each day of their journey would bring. Such journeys echo of those made by peoples in the bible.  May those who make such sacrificial journeys, in painful circumstances, open to the elements, seeking safety and security for themselves and their families, know that there is a saviour who made the most torrid journey of his own, so that we all may know the freedom of a life renewed and refreshed through Christ.  That is the journey to the foot of the cross, and to the cool morning three days later when we are aware that Christ has risen.  For this is the most important journey that any of us can make.  May we though endeavour to bring about the end or war and famine, the end of inequality and injustice, so that people are not having to make such journeys across barren lands, and rather they can know a new life in Christ.

 

Monday 25th June

Day 5

Today started with some tough decisions.  Bike maintenance was the priority although the nearest bike shop open (many places closed on a Monday according to the internet) was in Limoges…a 50 mile journey away.

Mark was uncertain he could get there by cycling, and for me it would put pressure on the days that lay ahead.  We took the decision to bin todays leg.  Disappointingly this means we will not complete the 1000 mile challenge, rather it’s more like a 900 mile challenge.  This will allow us to meet our pre booked daily destinations from now on.

So we taxied to Limoges which was a cosy journey!  We travelled by the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, the silent village, where all of the inhabitants were executed by the Nazi’s.  The village has been left in tact as a memorial to those who died, and as an educational experience for future generations.

We arrived in Limoges at Jeremy’s cycles not knowing for sure jeremy would be open or would have time to fit us in.  At 11.30 they (Jeremy and his “papa” had us in the workshop and an hour later had finished.  We met local cyclists as we waited who were intrigued by our ride.  Many new spokes for me following day ones woes, plus a new centre cog.  

Marks gears all sorted.  So we then went to our B&B and planned getting back on track…which means getting a train to Brive and from there to day 6’s planned destination.

We had time to relax and look around Limoges and it’s historic buildings.  The lions outside one of the churches have been well patted, and use to be the markers for the entry to the city; enter at your own risk.

Looking ahead the weather is set for about 30 degrees so we need to stay hydrated.

Prayer request is that we get back on track and arrive at our day six destination.

Prayer request for others follows our own experience.  For all those who set off with great intentions only to be set of course and feel they’ve failed.  This especially applies to those struggling with debt, who envisage it engulfing them, when in reality it’s so often circumstances beyond their control and experience that may have caused it.  May we support those whose circumstances have had catastrophic consequences, and assure them that in God’s economy they are as precious and as valuable as gold.

 

Sunday 24th June

Day 4

Sleeping under canvas was better than anticipated although the ear plugs helped.  I awoke to my valet Mark serving hot chocolate, followed by porridge.  Much appreciated.  Having packed up our pitch, we again headed straight south.  The landscape was less flatter than yesterday, although this meant the wind was more forceful, and not always in our favour. Mark, who with his Garman satnav is a great navigator having already plotted the route ahead of us heading out.

One of the roads that went for many miles had crosses at regular intervals, and lead to a town with Celtic origins – La Grimaudière.

The landscape also changed in terms of properties with slated roofs beginning to be replaced by terracotta slates.

As we reached Marçay a spoke on my rear wheel gave way – I’m beginning to take this personally!  And then we stoped in Marçay as Marks gear cable to his rear wheel had broken.  Instead of 30 gears he only had 3 for the remaining 30 miles of our day.  He did really well with some testing hills.  About 5 miles from our destination for the night, a Logis b&b on the River Vienne, my gear cable to my pedal gear set broke, leaving me with only 9 gears.  We arrived at our destination in good spirits despite of this, although we are now making some contingency plans to find a bike shop ASAP tomorrow, as the technicality of the work is beyond our capability.

We’ve cycled coast to coast and Lands End to John O’Groats and never had the tech issues we’ve had in these last four days.  Still we are staying positive.  

My knee gripping, which was significant this morning, now pales into insignificance.

We have a plan that involves a detour to Limoges tomorrow.

Suddenly, rather than thinking of this ride as a whole, I’m now just taking it one day at a time.  Unless something stops us in our tracks, eventually we hope to arrive in Nice.

As we struggled today, we came across the demarcation line that had existed across France during the Nazi occupation.  We had already seen many memorials for those who had worked for the resistance.  These symbols continue to be so meaningful for us.

Prayers for us – that we will be able to stay positive despite those things that we had not planned.

Prayers for others – having spent a night in a sleeping bag for the first time in a long time, whilst novel, it was not like a proper bed.  Who in their right mind would choose to sleep out on the streets.  A prayer…Lord God, we pray for all those whose reality is sleeping rough in the absence of a place of their own to call home.  We pray for our society, that we will have patience and tolerance towards those who are homeless.  May we strive to irradiate the injustices that result in people living tough by asking each day…what can I do?  In the name of our saviour Jesus Christ, who himself was born in a borrowed stable.  Amen.

 

Saturday 23rd June

Day 3

 

We started the day by travelling east for a few miles and then turning right and crossing the mighty Loire river.  We then continued in an eastern direction pretty much following the roads alongside the river which was thankfully flat.  Just before mid day we left the Loire river and headed south and lunched in the shade of the Maire in the village centre of Fontevraud-l’Abbaye.  Thereafter the day headed down very long straight roads, with spires or castles on hills as our way markers.  The road undulated but was forgiving.

We arrived in the village of Moncontour and had our first night under canvas.  Not before doing the chores – washing!

 

Friday 22nd June

Day 2

Well today has been a great days cycling, leaving Fougères at 9am.  We travelled due south on D and C roads which were a tad busier than yesterday.  The Loire valley is fairly flat with gentle climbs, although these were not to be deceived as our total climb was around 1200 metres.  The roads were long and straight with farmland either side, as well as passing though a few woods which gave great shade.  Vitre was probably the prettiest town on two sides of a valley gorge and with a medieval castle perched at the top of one side.  Lunch was at Chatelais, a take out picnic.  Such was the heat of the day that my phone, in its holder on the front of the bike, overheated thus forbidding more photo’s.  As with a lot of journeys, it’s the last few miles to the final destination that takes the time, and that took us over an hour adding another 6 miles to our day.
 
The journey was worth it as we arrived in La Possonnière, with Laura our host providing dinner.  Her home in the annex of a 18th century chateau that has some history…not sure quiet what!  Even the cats made us welcome.
 
Oh, the knee; well it starts of tight and sore after each rest although through the day becomes easier…things are looking up.
 
To pray for…
For us – That the weather does not get the better of us, that my knee holds up, and that we have safe travel.
  
For others – At Bescar Lane Methodist Church we today lost Joe Hartley at the age of 98.  Joe was a fine fellow and one of the last Dunkirk veterans.  We give thanks for Joe and ask that those who grieve will know God’s assurance.  As we cycle through France we see many memorials to those who lost their lives in the world wars, and as we do we give thanks for all those who strive for peace, and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Thursday 21st June

Day 1

Me and Mark, a good friend from Leicester Poly back in the day, arrived in St Malo at 8am. Thirty cyclist were the first off the ferry, many heading for a three day tour of the peninsula before heading home from Cherbourg. We headed to the beach for the send off photo. Overcast to begin with on the coast. We followed the headland to the east of St Malo until we reached Cancale and followed the coast to within 8 miles of Mont Saint Michel. From there we headed south and inland, stopping for lunch in Pontorson. After lunch we were making good time to our destination of Fougeres. With about 4 miles to go, a gear change on my bike resulted in the chain jumping of its carriage and crunching onto the ends of the spokes and bringing me to an immediate stop. Some how I got my foot out of the cleats and remained upright.
Mark helped get the bike rideable to Fougeres which is a fairly large town with Hubert’s bike shop…what a hero Mark and Hubert were. Hubert had to replace 5 spokes in total. Eventually we got to our lodgings for the night, watched the end of France’s win in their World Cup game before heading out for food, amidst a music festival with a performance stage around each corner.

60 odd miles completed and about 850 metres of ascent. We are on our way although my left knee is causing me significant anxiety. Will I be able to ride on it for the next 15 days?

Nothing though to the anxiety many in our neighbourhoods face with the pressure of mounting debts, especially when the unexpected hits and threatens your good intent.

 

Wednesday 20th June

Ferry just left Portsmouth bound for St Malo and I didn’t do a runner to Gatwick airport for a flight to the Caribbean!  About thirty push bikes on the ferry, so we’re in good company.  Looking forward to getting in the saddle tomorrow and getting underway.  Thanks for all your encouragement and good wishes, Patrick

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