Last summer my hubby (Andy) & our 2 boys took on a fantastic challenge, cycling nearly 1500km from our home on Dartmoor to Sete on the South Coast of France. Their #MoortoMed ride took them down the West Coast of France, before they headed inland and cross country along the Canal Du Midi to the finish line on the Mediterranean.
In the end they spent 12 days in the saddle and they certainly had some fun on the way, although I think it’s also not unreasonable to say that they had more than their fair share of challenges en route – from cycling for several days in 40 degrees & their bikes having major technical problems to finding themselves in the middle of the French ‘Glastonbury’ Festival!
For the first week or so after finishing there was never going to be another boys’ ride – the experience of finding somewhere comfortable (and more importantly quiet) to sleep and the daily repacking of the bikes had taken its toll and it was a good few weeks before I heard Andy say ‘Perhaps next time I’d……..’
However time has marched on and the tiredness, that came with the three of them sharing a tent, has passed and recently the conversations have started again about a future adventure.
They certainly learnt a lot from that first adventure and I almost think it’s a shame not to take the learning from their last experience into another ride, although I know it’s a very easy thing for me to say as I didn’t do it myself!
So over the last few weeks Andy & Tom (the youngest) have been chatting about doing another ride when he finishes his GCSEs this Summer – and I must admit personally I’m delighted he doesn’t fancy a couple of weeks of clubbing on the Costas and is actually happy to head off on the bike again with Andy.
One of the biggest learning points from #MoortoMed was that the focus on the goal (arrival in Sete) was overwhelming and the boys found they were just cycling as far as they could each day to get to the end point, rather than simply enjoying the ride – it wasn’t even as if they had to be there by a specific date. So this time Andy & Tom (sadly it doesn’t look as if George will be with them) don’t really want to set an end point. This isn’t the easiest thing to do, but they will end up somewhere (at some point) and hopefully it will mean that they’ll be able to enjoy the experience rather than just focus on getting to the end!
The question is – where to go this time?
There have been lots of thoughts about this – perhaps take a route along the Rhine and through Germany and Austria, possibly cycle across Spain – I think at one point I even heard America mentioned!
However Tom really enjoys History and is particularly fascinated by WW1 and the way the War developed together with the personal stories of the people who found themselves fighting in the trenches or taking part in the early dog-fights in relatively flimsy planes above the battlefields of North East France.
For some time now he has wanted to visit the area to look at some of the sites that he has read so much about and also importantly to pay his respects to those who died in such horrific surroundings.
It would be very easy just to hop in the car, pop across the Channel and drive around the area, but the conversation has quickly turned to finding a route that will allow them to do it by bike.
This won’t be a ride that covers the distance that they did last summer, but it will be a ride that they can plan and they will be able to take their time cycling through the area that witnessed so much violence 100 years ago, learning as they go.
The ride is in the very early planning stages at the moment and the towns I have heard mentioned so far include Lille and Strasbourg with battlegrounds of Verdun and Ypres together with Museums and Memorials that Tom has highlighted as places he wants to visit.
I know there are bike tours that take in the area, but the boys are keen to do it ‘their way’ and I know they will find a route that allows them to see what they want to see and visit the places that are so important to Tom.
They are also (understandably) keen to leave the camping equipment behind this time. Last Summer the camp sites they stayed on were busy and noisy and they found they couldn’t get a decent night’s sleep at all, which left them feeling drained – Andy described it as the tiredness he experienced as a new parent with a baby who didn’t sleep! So this time they will look to stay in bike-friendly accommodation en route – and I hope that this means they’ll be able to wash their clothes properly so that when I meet them there won’t be the distinct vegetable smell that filled the car when I met them last time!
As to where they finish……. we will have to wait and see! Like last time they have no particular end date – in fact the only self-imposed deadline is that we want to go to watch the Tour De France stage that passes near us in Provence in mid-July and also the Time Trial in Marseille the following day – apart from that they can cycle wherever they want and arrive somewhere whenever they want.
So the Summer’s #MoortoWar cycle is on – the planning is underway and Tom is enjoying researching what he wants to see – in fact WW1 memoirs are now a key part of his reading material (currently the Memoirs of The Red Baron) and I’ll share some of his regular ‘Did you know? facts when I write.
Fact 1: (Rather aptly)
During the War, cycle mounted infantry was extensively used by all the Armies. Italy and Germany used bikes in their Light Infantry (Bersaglieri and Jagers) with the Germans having 80 Bike Battallions by the end of the War and the British having 2 Divisions.
So good to see that ‘Bad Teeth’ are ‘No Bar’ to joining up!
Needless to say I’ll keep you updated with how the planning is going & hope you’ll enjoy it & be able to follow them again on the ride!