Penultimate eve

I often start to feel a little melancholy near the end of a tour…pleased that I am close to achieving the target destination, but sad that it is coming to an end, and life must return to a different version of normal.

After eating my breakfast and packing my gear it was farewell to the farm stay.

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The view from the farm looking north towards Dargaville

The first 30 km was relatively flat. I started with no wind! However, that was short lived!

I had decided to stop and stretch my back every 10-15 km today, regardless of whether it was in spasm. That worked really well as I did not have nearly as much pain, nor did I consume anywhere near the number of painkillers today.

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First back stretch stop view

I was going to be on the State Highway 12 then State Highway 1 all day, with fast traffic whizzing past. I had three close calls today…only four for the trip,  but three in one day! EEEEK.

My first close call was just before Ruawai, so decided I NEEDED a coffee, as it was too early for anything stronger. Upon departing the bakery, it has started to drizzle, and within a few km I was getting wet!

The rain would hit me three times like that during today’s ride…fortunately it never lasted longer than 10 minutes or so.

From Riawai I turned in an easterly direction, as I needed leave the west coast of North Island and align myself with the east coast as I headed towards the final destination of Auckland.

There were a number of hills to climb and descend from the 35 km point, as well as passing through a number of small towns. Some views.

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I should have considered stopping at Maungaturoto as had some nice looking cafes, but thought I’d hold out for the next town of Bryan’s…..

This caught my eye above a shop in Maungaturoto.

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Arriving at the ‘town’ of Bryan…. I was disappointed. All that was there was a highway T junction and a closed down business for sale.

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Missing a bike? Might be here…buy the business and look at all the junk you get!

I was now heading south, and I rode through Kaiwaka, and I am pretty sure this house can be found there…and yes, I am pretty sure it is a house, as there were no signs  up indicating it was a pre school, crèche or similar.

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Noah’s Ark?

I was keen to get to get to Wellsford as I had passed through there on my first day, having stopped at the Blue Cat. I was hoping they would still be open as I knew they made a great iced coffee!

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Looking east about 5 km before Wellsford

I loved the entrance display to Wellsford, I had to stop.

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Don’t forget the market on Saturday!

Yes, the cafe was open, and yes I enjoyed my iced coffee and real fruit icecream….

I was only 7 km from my accomodation so I dilly dallied for as long as possible ( ie. the cafe was closing!).

Leaving Wellsford, I noted that there was another welcome display, but this time, with pigs.

I would not mind one of these, but I might look a bit conspicuous with one strapped to my back, and then, if I fell it would not be pretty!

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At the bottom of the hill I turned right into a country lane, and groan, it is loose gravel.

Now I have done well so far.. every tour I have at least one fall..I like to collect scars as momentous of my trips. if possible, I then like to scar that scar…mostly fallen on loose gravel as a result of braking…

So when I said I groaned, I really did! It was uphill, loose with larger drifts. At the top of the first hill a car coming the other way stopped, and the guy asked if I was Sharron…yep…he was the accomodation owner…he told me I had the wrong tyres for this road…ooh yeah, I knew it too…

Very slowly and judiciously I worked my way up and down the gravel arriving at Barry’s with about 99.6 km on my Garmin…would I do another 400m to even it off at 100 km? Nah..could not be stuffed!

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That’s my room
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Boris the pheasant, and three hens rescued from a battery farm

So, the last night….what will tomorrow bring?

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Let’s stick together

Yesterday, all our problems seem so far away…so after our solo adventures yesterday a new day, new destination.

Leaving Taihape via the giant gumboot we headed into the French restaurant for some breakfast. The ride from town launched straight into a decent climb and woah, that breakfast came back to haunt me.

The first 20 km was scary, plain and simple. We were climbing lots on a busy highway, B Doubles one after the other, little verge. We were buzzed closely by multiple trucks and cars!

The first picnic stop provided welcome relief and a nice view.

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Below is an example of a tuck and the verge!

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More views from the picnic area, safe haven.

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It was a welcome relief to leave the highway and head towards Rangiwhahia and Manuwatu. The gorge was brilliant.

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The road weaves around following the river with undulating climbs.

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Another picnic zone with information re the local area.

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The picnic table ensured I could have another table shot.

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The table was a bit short!

One of the day’s highlights was the sheep moving along the road. It took some time to pass by us as they were taken aback by us and we moved off the road to try and encourage their movement.

However that was not good enough for this Kiwi sheep. The farmer waved at us to cross over the other side of the road and into the ditch.

The sheep passed and the farmer stopped to talk to us. He said he could see we were trying to do the right thing but that many tourists don’t. Locals know to get right down into the ditch!

Sheep rules!

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We rested under the large English trees at the Cross Hills Garden Centre where the cafe is only open October and November.

We followed up with a cool drink in Kimbolton, a somewhat unusual town. I quite liked the tiles at the local toilets produced by local school children.

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After purchasing some provisions we had a lovely tea and picked flowers on the way back to the motel to brighten the room up!

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Lovely bunch of local flowers!!

So only two days remaining. We have been in the road for 7 straight days and covered just under 700km!

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Go your own way

Today was interesting…brilliant view to start!

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Magnificent Mt Ruapehu

The mountain was to dominate the first half of the day, so here it is again, different angle.

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After Horopito ( 21.4 km) things got interesting as I lost Sue…I was waiting at the 26.9 km point where the ride bore left… but I will admit I had my back to the road for a portion of my wait.

Eventually I realised she must have gone straight ahead… only thing I could do was to give chase. I did for 4.5k  but then was concerned…. what if she had headed left after I took off??

I flagged a car down asking them to keep an eye out for her.

I went back to the junction and repacked and re balanced the rear saddle bag as it was misbehaving! I ate my prepared bacon roll…hmm… what to do.

My mobile phone had jammed up after getting out a couple of quick messages and wanted a passcode to re enter. It was not my phone so tried a few options.. fail.

Knowing Sue had notes in her bag and a sensible head, and it was a glorious day, I headed off passing through Ohakune looking for her bike! No luck so headed towards Waiouru. A few km before the town a cyclist caught up to me.

He works at the local army base and lent me his mobile to hotspot my iPad. There was a message from Sue! I did rather fancy an army chopper though for an aerial search!

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Darren from the Waiouru Army Base

It was a really hot day so I stopped and grabbed an icy pole and some water,  before cruising up the road and finding the local army museum.  I fancied the second one for driving on NZ roads to keep me safe! Should do the job… one previous owner, low mileage on the clock.. fuel economy??

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The road out of town was very fast and busy. Not a big fan of highway riding even though you have to do a bit at home in Tasmania.

I was quite relieved when i turned off after 20 km to take the back road to Taihape via Spooners Hill. Really pretty with unusual hills.

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Taihape is the Gumboot capital of the World! Appropriately they have a large gumboot! I am still a big kid at heart!

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Dinner was at a fabulous French restaurant. Great meal. We ordered two desserts and agreed to share. So we established Standard Operating Procedures for dessert sharing. The desserts, were awful! Ha ha ha

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Pure magic, pure class

Bit of a shorter blog for yesterday’s ride. I had wifi issues meaning I could write o’r post.

The title of the blog today is a line I have borrowed from zwifter friend John Paul Musumeci as it sums national park area appropriately.

After a fantastic breakfast at a local bakery, we sadly farewelled Taupo. We both enjoyed the vibe! We both could happily have stayed longer 0414C35E-35FD-44D1-BFB9-7458698D4F40

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Following the lake for a reasonable distance provided great views but you could not really relax too much to enjoy as there was a fair bit of quite close traffic buzzing past far too closely.

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We chose to stop at Turangi (48 km) for a few reasons. We were in need of coffee, it looked like it was about to rain, it was cold and we had a decent climb ahead of us.

We cruised into the Pink Cadillac singing the words of the famous song. Funky cafe with retro everything including crochet knee blankets!

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Leaving Turangi we headed towards the Whakapapa National Park. Road climbs steeply the notes said and yes it was an accurate description.

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Base of national park

When I climb I don’t stop hence no photos until it levels out,

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Enter a caption

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Volcano

The Tongariro Crossing is a day walk across the three volcanoes in the region looking into the craters. The Lord of the Rings red volten scene was filmed here. Sue will be back to do this!

We had tea at the local pub sitting outside taking in the view! Great way to finish a brilliant day’s riding.

Live the life you imagine!

Today was a brilliant day on the bike. I totally love New Zealand and all it has to offer.

Sue had breakfast in bed today prepared by her trusty co-companion. I questioned the breadcrumbs between the sheets and she laughed and said she was not sleeping in the bed that night.

Sue also learned today that chamois creme should be applied to the chamois!

The day was overcast but more importantly there was no rain and no wind!

Leaving Rotorua we passed a couple of geothermal pools, with steam rising in the early morning.

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We were predominantly on very quiet and beautiful back roads all morning. It was so peaceful and you could hear an occasional cow and the birds chirping.

However the serenity was broke  when Sue did not see me stopped at a navigational point continuing on the wrong road. I sprinted off at full steam shouting her name at the top of my lungs. Solid workout I must say! It turns out Sue had heard a noise but thought it was a sacred kiwi bird with an unusual call. It was just me….screaming Sue, Sue…

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Yesterdays severe storm damage was evident in many sections.

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7D65900D-82B0-44A5-86F6-6A4DCF8DD248We had a short section on the highway before stopping for some lunch. The nearest miss of the whole trip to date was from a guy in a blue truck that had the motto on the back “Live the life you imagine”. I wondered whether his was hitting cyclists as it seemed an oxymoronic statement given how closely he threatened my existence.

When we stopped for lunch I mentioned it to Sue and she had a similar experience. Found the truck just before lunch at a service station. Registration very clear!

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As we were leaving the Bull Ring Tavern we met Tony from Manchester, England who also works as a cycling guide for an English touring company. He was laden with 40kg of gear and is in New Zealand for 3 months.

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Tony also got buzzed by the same truck! 3 cyclists in a few km!!

We were thankful that we only needed a few more km on the highway before turning off into Tirohinga Road. This signalled an afternoon of climbing rolling hills in beautiful agricultural countryside.

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At around the 74 km point we were both low on water. The afternoon was quite hot and humid. Sue had stopped looking,for water at a closed Maori Community Centre.

We rode into a cadet training centre well off the road. It seemed abandoned but had a functioning water hydrant. Maybe I should fill up that empty new bottle I bought yesterday sitting pretty in my bike, ha ha ha!

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Upon leaving I experienced my first mechanical. I had dropped my chain and it was jammed underneath the black tool box on my bike. Sue had the sensible idea of turning the bike upside down. Yeah!! It worked and off we headed with 4 black greasy hands!

The next 8 km were to be the toughest of the day. Hot and a decent climb. Thank goodness for the water!

Then it was predominantly downhill to Taupo. First view.

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Closer to the lake.

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Then finally…

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So we checked in, ripped our cycling clothes off and went straight into the lake. Bit fresh but lovely. We then bummed around on the beach in the sun, with the magical snow capped mountain as a backdrop. So European and majestic.

We sat on the deck of the hotel and ate our takeaway dinner.

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Sue and I are both in love with this place! Dont expect us home anytime soon!

Finally this is what our bedrooms typically look like. A Chinese laundry. We will be cosy tonight too as we have to share a bed for the first time….and you can see me doing this blog too.B2A1C317-0608-48FC-B3A3-E89388923D41.jpeg

 

 

Wandering, pondering and hula hooping!

 

This jetlag is a nuisance. Your body is so totally out of whack and you don’t know whether you are Arthur or Martha. Well ok, I’m Martha, but for those who have done long haul and not slept for 48 hours, they will understand.

A solid sleep of 7 hours was interrupted by an out of whack body. So I gave in and rose early and we hit the streets to check out Bordeaux.

Did I mention coffee? We sat down near La Bourse, overlooking the Garonne. I ordered an espresso but when I saw Tony’s coffee I ordered a second coffee.

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Now that is a decent coffee, ketogenic friendly with scrumptious whipped cream too.

Next thing I found myself sitting on a horribly sloping, slippery wooden seat, in a confessional box in a lovely church I wandered into. I do have a fascination with churches from around the 11-13th centuries, marvelling at how they could achieve such brilliant stone vaulting and arches.

Surely the could have designed better seating in the confessional box? I’m mean if I am going to be there for a while, make me comfortable with a nice leather recliner?

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Not the most comfortable seat in the house!

Bordeaux has some beautiful old buildings and fountains.

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I was particularly impressed with the Monument to the Girondins.

0E1F1A94-801E-4CC1-B172-C31B1BF0DC63I sat on the edge of the fountain for some time, legs dangling, enjoying the sun, mesmerised by the sound of falling water. I allowed my mind to wander, thinking about life and some of its challenges. I think I could easily have fallen asleep but I was aroused from my deliberations with the site of a young bloke.

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I have long held a fascination with Aquitaine, and the region of Bordeaux forms one of its five departments  known as Dordogne. Around 400,000 BC, the first hunters arrived, living in rock shelters making flint tools. Whilst that is cool, my real interest is far more current.

I have a few heroines I favour. My favourite is Eleanor of Aquitaine, an extraordinarily strong woman who lived an extraordinary life. I like her because she  did not take crap from anyone and did what she wanted. She was Queen of France before marrying Henry Plantagenet. Together they ruled England as King and Queen, parents to Kings Richard the Lionheart and John Lackland.

She was a rebel. I admire her ‘ I don’t give a stuff’ attitude to ‘it can’t be done by a woman’ scenarios. She was told a woman can’t rule Aquitaine on her own – but she did. She was told she could not possibly go the The Crusades. But she did and she personally ‘won over’ Saladin.

A few years ago I was so excited when I was able to trace my genealogy to her as my 24th great grandmother, and since then I have traced multiple links via my genealogical research. I like to think I have some of her spark, spunk and zest for life!

So it was natural that I wanted to visit St Seurin’s Basilica, church where she married Henry, right here in Bordeaux.

However after walking there I found out Monday is the only day it closes. So after all that, I will return after one of our day rides, but here is the side door. 5097C33E-F8FE-40C2-9780-D855A95167B4

Below the church the crypt was open, with tombs going back to the second century.

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Heading back to our Air BNB accomodation we passed by the local Cathedral and has a quick squiz.

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To finish on a light note, there are lots of naked men in Bordeaux. I found this fellow ( he is one of many!)

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I also tried hula hooping today. One of my Zwift buddies Brian ( Betty) made me believe this was easy to do. So here I was, in a shop giving it a go. I am sure Eleanor would have applauded  me. I can hear my daughter Hannah saying ” Oh mum!”.

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So next up is a bike ride! Stay tuned!

Are we there yet?

Long haul travelling is not fun, by anyone’s definitions.

Travelling from Devonport to Bordeaux is a long way…a seriously long way, seemingly visiting as many airport as possible en route to maximise the number of handling transfers on the previous cargo.

Oh the precious cargo is not me! I am quite ‘what will be will be’ with me when I fly, although I do have a little ‘superstitious’ routine when boarding the long haul planes..I touch the side of the plane, giving it a quick tap and rub.

The precious cargo is my bike!! Unlike me, it is 100 percent replaceable, whereas I know I am not. I am unique, one off, never to be repeated, they broke the mould when I was made, type of woman. So I know it seems a little incongruous.

Devonport airport, the young buck at the check in counter suggested possibly I would like to pay $972 AUD for ‘excess baggage’. I very politely declined, quoting terms and conditions, showing him where on the website the terms and conditions were located.

HIs final question ” so you are absolutely sure about this?” I nodded and bang the charge was wiped.  If i had been wearing my heart rate monitor it would have revealed one very fast heart beat!

Melbourne to Dubai was via Singapore and the worst part of the whole trip. Just a seriously long time. The upside was that by the time we reached Dubai I had watched a very interesting movie about the King of Norway during WW2, and 8 episodes of the historical drama on the young Queen Victoria.

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Leaving Dubai

Dubai to Madrid was ‘my turn’ to have a window seat, and for me, the most interesting part of the trip. It was daylight and clear and I was able to see just where we were.

Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Suez Canal, Nile River were all clearly visible and I was fascinated.

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Sinai Peninsula
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Here we have Egypt on the left, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all in one shot. It also shows Eilat ( top left lake) a southern Israeli port and resort town on the Red Sea.
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Suez Canal at Port Tawfiq.
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Nile River mouth past Rashmeed, Egypt
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Spain!

Arriving in Madrid was interesting. Dry and barren topography where olive trees seem to be able to grow in really dry shale

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After clearing passport control in Madrid you then walk for ages, catch a train to go to a different terminal to collect your luggage. Tension was high as we had another flight to go but needed to source our bikes, that often arrive well after ordinary luggage.

Heathrow airport are excellent for bikes, arriving before ordinary luggage. Madrid is the opposite, ensuring nerves are frayed to the maximum! Some 30 minutes after all other baggage had been collected the bikes turned up, appearing to be in excellent condition.

Liberian Airlines insisted that I pay an additional 130 euro for the two bikes. I negotiated that down to a total of 90 euro! They don’t do bike bags as ordinary luggage and I was not confident on that aspect, in Spanish, so pleaded for mercy instead.

So the bikes are now in Bordeaux, reformed into their complete state!

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No bike riding today. Need a day to recover from jet lag for safety reasons. I also have a less serious form of epilepsy that is triggered by extreme tiredness so seems like a sensible idea.

We have one week in Bordeaux, 6 nights in an Air BNB apartment opposite the Aquitaine Museum.

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But as I stand on the apartments little Juliet balcony and look right, just over there on Rue de Victor Hugo is that little cafe now open? I smell an espresso!! Priorities!

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Are you the energetic one?

“To ride a bicycle properly is very much like a love affair, chiefly it is a matter of faith – believe you can do it, and the thing is done; doubt it, for the life of you, you cannot” .

H.G. Wells, Wheels of Change, 1896

I was at a family function recently, celebrating the 80th birthday of my father in law Geoffrey.  There were a plethora of family members present that I had not previously met.  As I sat there, I could see these “older ladies” looking at me.  I guess they figured out who I was, but I was not able to match names with faces.

One by one they ventured up to meet and greet me.  One asked “Are you the energetic one?”  I laughed, and said “Yes!

I have had many a laugh to myself since then, but truth be known, I like it!  I mean, let’s face it, there are heaps of worse things I could have been labelled!

I guess, at 55, I am energetic.  I am a lot of other things too.

I am an exceedingly resilient person with a very soft heart. I have faced and survived difficult times.  I don’t have the love and support of my birth family but I survive despite! Is that easy? Heck no!

I hide behind a façade – I am tall for a woman, with a  strong, fast speaking voice complemented with a quick thinking mind.  I also have the ability to do a lot in little time due to being well organised (mostly!) and often cannot understand why people can’t keep at my pace.

Cycling is how I cope with life.  My day starts early, often around 5.20 am and ends around 10.30 pm.  I have a very busy job requiring considerable juggling, conjuring and prioritising.

I ride to keep my mind free and calm as that ensures I can take on all the day will throw at me.

Since I met Tony in 2009 and he started cycling we have had numerous cycling adventures together, having now cycled in England (3 times), Wales, Scotland, France (twice), Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Italy and Singapore.

In the next 12 months we will add France (again), Spain, New Zealand and the USA.

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By any measure, I train hard – having averaged 600 km per week for quite a while now.  The last two months have seen me train solely on my wind trainer thanks to the cold and wet Tasmanian winter, and a bushwalking accident that resulted in tearing a tendon in my foot (making it very painful to de-cleat out of cycling shoes).

Cycling on my windtrainer is also very social and global, as I ride with others on a wonderful platform known as Zwift where you can talk to others, ride with them casually or in events. Because my windtrainer is what is referred to as “smart”, when I ride up the hills, it gets harder, and downhill, just like in real life, gets easier.

I have made virtual friends with cyclists  from all over the world, with wonderful names such as Baron Evil Von Braid (Edinburgh, Scotland)  Getoff Mylawn (New York)  Ed ‘Cleatless’ Ray (East Sussex, England), The Badger (Sydney),  MacDeer (Tumut)  and so on – and me, well I am “The Mink”.  Tony is “Old Man Mink” and my daughter Hannah is “Mink Junior”.

In just over five weeks time, the next touring odyssey commences.  Not as long and arduous, but there are some challenges en route.  We will fly to Bordeaux, France, via everywhere (Devonport, Melbourne, Singapore, Dubai, Madrid, Bordeaux).

We will have 6 days in Bordeaux to de jetlag, reassemble the bikes hoping that our babies have arrived 100% intact, and then we hope to do a number of rides in and around Bordeaux – or what I refer to as “The Prologues”.

I have already mapped out a number of day rides to take in the Arachon Basin, St Emilion and other spots along the Garonne.

We will then meet with the Bike Adventures crew to undertake our touring ride to Barcelona.  Technically an easier trip than any of our previous touring trips with shorter days.  Of course there is the little issue of the hilly spot between France and Spain, otherwise known as the Pyrenees.

I will blog the trip, day by day, subject to internet accessibility.

But folks, there is more.   Christmas will be spent in New Zealand riding from Mt Cook to the Ocean.

This all leads up to the mother of them all, Trans USA – an 11 week journey travelling across the USA, starting in Florence (Oregon) finishing in Yorktown (Virginia).  A mere 7500 km!  We will be doing this under the helm and guidance of Bike Adventure’s Steve Wesson (LeJog 2013, L2V 2016) and Kim (France 2015). There will be 10 other riders in our group including Colin (LeJog 2013).  This time next year we will be nearly a fortnight into the trip.

So my motivation at the moment is to build up my fitness and endurance for Trans USA – the fitter and healthier you are, the less chance there is of injury.  You also enjoy it heaps more if you are not stiff and sore!  As most know, I have my physical challenges with 4 x knee surgery and exercise induced asthma being higher level issues that I strive to not let get in my way.

Per H.G.Well’s quote, I have that faith!  I believe in me and my ability to work through the challenges ahead.  I am confident because I know I have put the work in. I cannot control car drivers, the greatest risk of all – I have to keep my fingers crossed on that one!

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PS: Day 1 Autumn in Tuscany (Florence to San Gimignano – 74 km, 1133m).

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We have now ridden over 2000 km since leaving Australia and most people might think that is enough. Bike riding is such a great way to see a country. You get to see, smell and hear so much more than you possibly could in a car or bus. So after having two days off the bike and travelling from Venice to Florence by fast speed train ( up to 250 k /hr), we prepared for our final fling before heading home.

Arriving in Florence we were ‘greeted’ at our hotel by a female with an unfortunate disposition who proceeded to make life as difficult as possible there for a while but we were able to get through the situation although our bikes needed to be housed elsewhere in Florence and we needed to pay 16 euro for that. So we scootered our bikes around to the commercial garage and got a bit of a feel for Florence.

A pretty awesome city. This is the view from our bedroom window.

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The duomo

 

 

 

 

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More of the duomo

Very well guarded too.

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Note how relaxed they seem – in particularly the civilian brushing past the well armed soldier.

Inside the duomo it is massive. The dome is particularly beautiful.

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Very high!

This morning after breakfast we carried our bike gear around to the commercial garage to collect our bikes. We need to cart all our clothes, toiletries etc for 3 days on our bike. The bike will be significantly heavier, altering the balance and making hills slower and harder.

We headed down to Ponte Veccio which is where our route started. We had walked along the bridge last night amazed by how many jewellery shops lined both sides of the bridge.

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It was a very slow few kilometres getting out of Florence in the early morning crazy Italian traffic but we eventually hit quieter roads where we could relax more.

The morning was quite cool and overcast but the forecast did not mention rain. By the 30 km mark it was spitting and we stopped for a coffee to see if it would blow over but it looked like it was going to hang around so we pootled on.

The hills were certainly more difficult with the extra weight on the bike so we just chugged up. Some photos from the ride:

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We were so pleased to arrive in San Gimignano as it was only 7 degrees Celsius and we were a bit damp and certainly cold! We were met by the nicest lady. Total opposite of last night. The hotel building was constructed in the 1500’s and has an awesome cellar area that has been excavated.

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One of the hotel underground excavated areas.

San Gimignano is apparently one of Italy’s best preserved medieval towns, standing on a hill overlooking the Val d’Elsa. The town has ancient Etruscan origins fro  3BC and is named after the Bishop of Modena who saved it from barbarian hordes in 370 AD. After becoming a free commune in 1000 the village flourished. Within its newly built city walls noble families vied with each other in the construction of magnificent towers as residences. By the end of the 13th century there were 72 towers. 13 remain.

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One of the towers
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And another.
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The art work is early 1500’s
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Quite typical of the village buildings.

We also met friends for each in this most unlikely of locations for a catch up. We met James and Kirsten on Qamea Island, Fiji over Christmas-New Year. They live in Sydney and have been travelling predominantly so James can play photographer having just completed a photographic tour including Dubrovnik, Slovakia etc. Just wondering where our next exotic location catch up should be??

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Finito. Done and dusted and time to celebrate (Vincenza to Mestre- 68 km, 50 m)

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The final day arrived far too soon. I felt somewhat melancholic and had mixed emotions. Pleased that the goal was now within my reach and I was basically intact with the exception of some very painful bruises on my knees. However I was a bit sad too as I don’t do farewells very well. I hate saying goodbye to friends from far flung places.

By necessity it was going to be a busy traffic day. That cannot be avoided when travelling from one big city to another. Italian drivers are a bit crazy too, particularly on roundabouts. You need to be brave and own the lane in the hope they will not try and squeeze you out or cut you off. Notwithstanding that, numerous did cut in front so you need to have your wits about you and be very alert.

Rain threatened at the half way mark so we stopped and had a cappuccino at a little cafe in a little village. We were made very welcome there and became somewhat of a fascination to other patrons who asked about our trip.

Steve and Neil shot past us shortly thereafter and we sat behind them until the hotel in Mestre ( saved us navigating)!

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Bevis, Steve, Neil and myself just after finishing our epic trip

There were congratulatory hugs all around and we waited for each rider to turn up and took their photo. Then it was upstairs to the mezzanine level to share in champagne and croissants courtesy of Bike Adventures.

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Some of the bikes waiting to be packed up to go to their respective homes

Then it was necessary to strip down the bikes and pack them for their next journey to Florence on Monday morning where we will have a three day ” post script” ride, self supported.

In the evening we travelled with Bevis, Willemijn, Il Papa Gibson, Hoss and ‘Efty onto Venice Island for a celebratory dinner. First view of Venice as we departed St Lucia station.

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Great food and company topped off by the waiter plying us with FOC home made liquor ( x 2 each). OMG it was very strong!!

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Tony and ‘Efty

Feeling a bit “heady” we then had fun and games getting back to St Lucia station for the trip back to Mestre.

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Il Papa making new friends on the train.

So folks, that is it for a few days. We head to Florence on Monday by train and on Tuesday start a three day ride, this time on our own, carrying our own gear around  the Tuscan hills.