Velodyssey and beyond. Only 1500km to go

So that’s it, the boys’ Moor to Med adventure is underway after a couple of years of chatting about it, a good 6 months of planning it & more money spent on bikes & equipment than I even want to think about!

Today is the day when their journey starts, taking one of those rare moments in time for Andy to do something special with the boys, and make memories that will last a lifetime. We are keenly aware that it won’t be long before the pace of life shifts again, and the moment when all 3 have the time to be able to do something together will have gone. And if I’m honest the older I get, the more I realise that these opportunities have to be taken, as once the moment is gone, it is gone forever.

Of course I would have loved to be doing it with them, but having just bought our little place here, it seems better for me to be here. It means that I will be on hand to deal with any problems that may come up, and in a position to be able to deal with logistics for the ride, as they are cycling without any support, so who knows what may happen over the next couple of weeks.

Mid afternoon Andy, George & Tom finally clipped their shoes in & started turning the pedals on a trip that will see them head from the rugged landscape of North Dartmoor, in Devon, down through France to end (in what we hope will be) a couple of weeks time, on the path that runs behind the pretty, sandy beaches & warm sea of Sete, a lovely, bustling port on the Mediterranean coast.

Hopefully by the time they arrive there the sun will be shining, and the memories of their training rides in the cold and rain will be a distant memory. En route, they will, between them, turn the pedals about 750,000 times as they follow the Velodyssey, the Eurovelo Route that runs down through the West of France, before they turn left at Toulouse and start heading along the Canal Du Midi towards their final destination.

Tom, George & Andy just before the ‘Grand Départ’ – love the Devon cycling caps !

It all started (like so many things do in our family) as a conversation and an almost throw away suggestion one evening over supper, but it was one of those suggestions that quickly developed a life of its own. It soon became something that was going to be done, rather than might be done, even though many things almost got in the way of it happening (perhaps Tom’s recent dislocated shoulder being the most worrying)

But then everything came together, with Tom having had a great lead-in to the ride spending the last week doing his work-experience in our excellent local bike shop, The Bike Shed at Crediton.

It couldn’t have been better, as from the start the team there really helped make sure that the boys had got the right kit for the ride, offering advice and guidance over all the options they had for carriers, bags etc. In fact it was even more perfect, as during his work-experience, Tom spent time with their mechanic, servicing the bikes they will be using, to make sure they are fully up together for the start. Not only was this reassuring, but I think it also means that Tom will be designated as Chief-Mechanic for the next couple of weeks! Let’s hope he’s not needed.

Needless to say there were a few last-minute worries, and if I’m honest, I had always expected there would be, but it’s understandable, as it is the first time they’ve done anything like this, so everything is new. The main concerns over the last 24hrs, were about whether the weight of their loads would be too much for the racks they’d had fitted, but after several checks with the luggage scales it all seemed to be fine. 

It’s just amazing how quickly the weight of the kit adds up, even when you have bought the most lightweight products available. I suppose though that they will be carrying everything they need for their trip, from tent to clothes, and maps to an emergency toolkit, as well as everything else that is considered to be essential, especially as they have no support on the way.

A few things though that had been packed, got unpacked again, like the teabags & sugar – even though they weren’t heavy. After discussion it was decided that it would be much nicer just to have a good excuse to pop into a café each morning, so they got left behind, although I’m not sure (in the great scheme of things) that they will notice having to carry a couple of ounces less.

One of the biggest worries (inevitable when travelling with teenagers) was making sure they had all the charging cables that would be needed to keep the Garmin, 3 phones & kindles going en route, together with the necessary power packs. You can’t help but wonder how different it must have been doing a similar trip before the appearance of mobile phones etc.

So at 2.30 ish today they left Belstone & headed out along the lane that runs from the village to the old Railway Station in Okehampton, where they joined the Granite Way, an excellent off-road route that runs from the town, along the northern flank of Dartmoor towards Tavistock. Andy and Tom used it for some of their training rides, and as such they have got to know every lump, bump and landmark along the way, so it was a perfect way to start the ride, helping them to relax a little as it was such familiar territory

Tom modelling the great little ‘Devon ‘ cycling cap that they’ll be wearing en route

They followed this trail, skirting the lower flanks of Dartmoor, to the pretty village of  Lydford before heading on again to Tavistock, where they picked up the Drake’s Trail, another off road route, that continues on towards Plymouth 

Already they have noticed how things have changed now that they are riding fully laden bikes, and one of the first things they have to master is actually getting smoothly through the cycle trail gates without clipping their panniers, or bed rolls – so far the ‘scores on the doors’ are Andy 5, Tom 3 & George 1 – happily there’s been no damage or falls though. I have a feeling that they will have this aspect of the cycling off to a fine art within no time at all, as without doubt they will be passing through lots of these obstructions on their way down.

Once through Tavistock, there was a particularly happy moment when they arrived in Yelverton & saw the first sign for the Velodyssey – the EuroVelo route they will now follow to Plymouth, and again for the first few hundred kilometres in France.

The Eurovelo routes are a superb (and growing) selection of cycle routes that criss-cross Europe, taking riders through beautiful areas on well-marked paths.

The Velodyssey is Eurovelo 1 and covers 1200km in total from Brittany to the Basque country, taking cyclists along canal paths and other green lanes through beautiful un-spoilt countryside on the way. The signs are always good to see, as knowing you’re on the right track certainly tends to help!

After 40 miles & about 3 1/2 hrs in the saddle the path took them along the estuary, through the lovely parkland below Saltram House on their final run into Plymouth, eventually arriving in the bustling Barbican, the pretty old port area of the city where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail in their ship The Mayflower in 1620. I know that this trip won’t be anywhere near as epic as that, but in some ways it does seem like a great, and appropriate place for them to start from.

Today has already been a bit of a learning curve, and it continued here, when they discovered just how difficult it is to park fully-laden bikes – apparently the answer is that it’s not easy at all & it’s a skill that they will have to master over the coming days!

But having managed to finally get the bikes into a position where they were upright, unlikely to fall over and most importantly secure, they were able to relax a little, settling down to kill an hour or so with a fish & chip supper, before they got back on the bikes to cycle the last 3 miles across the city to the Ferry Terminal to catch the night ferry to Roscoff.

The first stage was always going to be a bit of a worry, as even with the best planning and preparation, there will inevitably be concerns ranging from punctures to total bike failure, but all in all it seems to have gone well & the bikes (and I think boys) certainly seemed to be happy with the loads they were carrying. 

So that’s it – all bar the last 3 miles across the Hoe the first day is done and we can now start looking forward to tomorrow’s early start in France. 

For so many years, we’ve watched bleary-eyed cyclists pushing their bikes off the Ferry onto French soil & have always thought it looks like the start of a great adventure, although  perhaps a little less exciting when they have been wearing full waterproofs with rain dripping off their noses! 

This time though it will be Andy & the boys at the start of their own little adventure through France, and I am looking forward to following their progress over the next couple of weeks and I hope you will follow it with us too.

I will be posting an update each day on their adventures, as I have a feeling there will be a few. I expect there will be some highs and inevitably some lows too, but all being well things will go as planned, and in a couple of weeks, after they have cycled nearly 1500km, I’ll be picking them, their bikes and their memories up at Sete.

But for tonight, all I can do now is hope that they get a decent night’s sleep on the ferry and I will be awake early tomorrow to check-in with them at the start of what will be, what they consider to be the first proper day of their adventure from Moor to Med.


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