Sunday, 20 November 2011

3 Dec - South Bucks Winter Warmer 200

I will be entering this ride:

207km cycling event starting from Great Kingshill, High Wycombe. An event for experienced Randonneurs, taking in some delightful lanes in Bucks, Surrey and Hampshire. Refreshments and shelter is provided at the start and finish, but all other controls are commercial outlets where proof of passage has to be obtained by the entrant.

Thanks to my own blog I can recall how it went last time, 2009 it was.  That would have been post-LEL.  It took me 13 hours.  I'm not going to make any plans of which bike I'll take, or if I want to do it in a faster time.  All will be weather and company-on-the-day dependent.

Here is how it went last time:South Bucks Winter Warmer 2009

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Around Lake Zurich

I was looking high and low.  I was probably looking too high!  I was mesmerised by the crane's silhouette.

View from hotel room in the morning
Only the next day, the day after my wonderful bike ride around Lake Zurich, I looked down out of the hotel room window, and saw this!

Beehives on the rooftop (double click to enlarge)
Perfect!  This meant the bike rides qualified for a blog entry.  This is what was playing on my mind: how can I blog about a bike ride that is not an audax (or a FNRttC) and there isn't even anything about bees going on.  So the rule was conceived.  I thank myself for making my life that little bit harder.

Then I came across the 'Hive' poem by Carol Ann Duffy in the weekend's Financial Times.  The same edition with an article on Westvleteren.  I do like tenuous links.

I used the free bike hire scheme called ZuriRollt: no helmet, no puncture repair kit, not water bottle, no cleats, no cycling shorts, no time pressures, no map, no GPS, no brevet card .... and off I went all around the lake.

I was sooo excited that it all worked out.  It had happened before, where you follow an advert to hire a bike, only to find the scheme terminated, or they only have one bike and the tyres are flat.  Not here!  Loads of bikes in stock, the guy checked the bike over, I raised the seat, and off I went.

It didn't take long to see fantastic views over the lake.

There were other riders on the road.  Serious 'roadies' they looked like.  I wondered what Cancellara was up to.

My lunch stop at Rapperswil was great.  So much to look at: buildings, mountains, paintings, shops, trees, ....  I did miss out on the wooden bridge.  I just didn't know about it, hadn't come across it in the little research I did on Zurich and the lake.  Shame, but I will not complain. I had an excellent long weekend in the company of inspiring people.

The photos will tell you a fuller story: Rackstar Zurich

Other highlights during the weekend
  • Rackstar dinner
  • Seeing the amazing first ever showing of the Nahmad collection
  • Learning about Yves Tanguy
  • Permanent collection in the Kunsthaus also very impressive
  • Learning about Ferdinand Hodler
  • Service at Grossmunster
  • The sounds of the bells on Sunday morning
  • The price of a slice of bread!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Frank's Five Ferry Fietstocht

Or a pilgrimage to Westvleteren via Harwich and Hoek van Holland.

A trappist beer is a beer brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery - there are only six in Belgium.  Frank, Stu and TinyMyNewt agreed that the 8° was delicious, so we tried a 12° also.  We followed lunch with a mazarinetaart, a speciality from nearby Poperinge.  Lovely!

We had a few comedy moments on the way, usually involving Stuart!  The best was after our first pub lunch stop in Tolleshunt Major. He shouted out: 'My glasses!'.  We slowed down while Stuart turned back to the pub, but within seconds he was in sight again.  'No one told me they were on my head!'.

We were a great team, although I say so myself.  It seems we just looked out for each other, making sure nobody was left too far behind, not too hungry, comfortable enough.  To make the round trip in three days, you do need to keep going, and with the headwind it can feel like hard work.  The ferries provided for regular breathers.  And Stuart provided for regular mileage updates.
How many miles?
I loved the stop in Goedereede.  Mark (DelftsePost), who joined us at the ferry, stopped for a coffee and appeltaart with us before making his way home again.  'Goedereede' means safe haven, and the place has history because of that.  Next time we should take note of the 'Hotel de Gouden Leeuw' from 1480, the former home of pope Adrianus VI.

The ferry at Mersea was great.  Frank had said 'they're expecting us at 3PM'.  How nice!  How nice to be expected. It was the smallest of the ferries.  We all fitted on and hung on to our bikes.  Stuart knew of the existence of a hose at the other end, so we'd be able to wash off the sand picked up during our beach walk.

We had a grammar lesson from TinyMyNewt.  It is 'different from' and not 'different to'.  Think if divergence or dichotomy.  If something is going to split (di means two) then it is going to split from something, not to something.  Thank you Jenny!

The section between Sluis and Brugge is wonderful. It was perfect timing with dusk and a lovely sunset between the trees. There are many restaurants along the canal, and a stop in Damme is a must.  We admired the lit historic buildings and continued along as we were keen to get to Brugge.  From Bruggge I took a train to my parent's place and then joined the group again the following day, in Westvleteren.

I have lost the touch of ordering in Belgium.  My mum had ordered and was served coffee within seconds.  After she left and it was my turn, it took me while to re-find the look and gestures required to grab the attention of the waitress.  It was very busy in the cafe.  There were lots of families, couples, walkers and at least four cyclists.

The last leg from Westvleteren to Dunkirk was fun as it was semi-off road.  Once in France we saw hunters in the fields.  One was sitting down on a block of concrete with his gun lying next to him.  I didn't ask if I could take a picture, I didn't take a picture, I carried on following Frank.

I had raced the short journey between Roeselare train station and my parent's place, but I didn't race as fast as I did to catch the fast London train from Dover Priory.  Once Frank said 'just go Els!', I was off, heart rate sky high.

I sat on the train reflecting on what a wonderful weekend we'd had.

Thank you to Frank especially for organising and providing shelter against the headwind (pleased you were on fixed though!), to Stu and to Jenny for excellent company and a great weekend.

Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Frank' s Five Ferry Fietstocht

The CycleChat thread with viewpoints from the others at the end: October's ride for Beer