Thursday, 28 January 2010

You Can Help by Saving Money

Both Evans Cycles and Wiggle are offering great deals online right now, which means you can save money just by clicking either of their ads on this page.

Better still, you'll be helping the Make a Wish Foundation and /or Multiple Sclerosis Society at the same time.

That's because I get a small commission from every sale through those links and I'll donate 50% of that commission to either or both of those excellent and worthy charities for every purchase between now and September. In case you weren't aware, those are the charities I'm supporting with my Paris to Venice ride.

That's half of almost eight months' worth of commissions. I don't know how long the sales will last or what Wiggle's and Evans' plans are for the rest of the year, but I do know they're both offering some excellent deals at the moment.

It may be end of season for them but I still reckon it's worth getting some winter gear if the cold weather still has you trapped indoors. And if you're going to buy new kit, why not give to a great cause at the same time?

Anyway, have a look. The more you spend, the more you save and the more I, or we, donate!


PS. When you buy, just tell me which of the charities you'd like to support (or I can split it) and whether you want a mention here and/or on the Just Giving website(s).

And thank you!

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Paris to Venice is On!

This time there's no support vehicle so we'll be carrying all our kit

Preparations for Paris to Venice in September have begun in earnest, at least for John C, who's at week-long training camp in Lanzarote. I have a feeling that wasn't how he sold it to his other half, but that's between them!

Meanwhile, in dull and rainy England, we've realised we do actually have to book the time off work, or away from our families, or otherwise just unavailable for more mundain duties. To do that, we need to fix the dates for the trip, and it's looking like 5th to 20th September, or thereabouts.

I've added two Just Giving pages for the event and you'll see the widgets on the right that link to each of them. Naturally, I'll be delighted with any donations for either of my two charities: Multiple Sclerosis Society and Make a Wish Foundation.

I'll be supporting the MS Society again because my dad died after more than 30 years of increasing disability from MS. And I promised a friend I'd give half the proceeds from my next fund raiser to Make a Wish, the brilliant charity that makes children's dreams come true before it's too late.

My father's poor health makes me all the more grateful for my own good fortune, and anything I can do to help rid the planet of that horrible disease is worthwhile.

One more thing: we will need to get home from Venice to various parts of England at the end of the ride. One option is the sleeper train to Paris and then the Eurostar. So if you've any experience of the train services from Italy to Paris, I'd be very grateful for any advice or comments!

I don't think a slow ride home is an option...

Oh yeah. Better get training, too.


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Monday, 25 January 2010

Yes, We Are Lucky

Following on from the previous post, where I asked 'Aren't we lucky to be able to do this?' I have to say 'Yes, we are'.

I just enjoyed a brisk walk across town to collect a prescription for a family member and met a nice chap on the way out of the doctors' surgery. As we were both popping next door to collect the medicines, we had a brief chat that made me count my blessings.

Not that my new acquaintance was compaining; far from it. He's just had a new hip and has lost the limp he's had to put up with since he contracted polio as a small boy. So life is looking up for him.

Not only that, he's just had a cataract op and a new lens that means he can read a newspaper properly for the first time in years. He's seeing the optician about his other eye next week.

So, all good news for him so far, which was lovely to hear.

But he also remarked that he spends half his life in the dispensary, his old polio symptoms are starting to trouble him again and he's never really felt up to doing exercise. No fault of his - I know polio had horrible effects on a lot of people's health.

But I couldn't help thinking, as I stood there, feeling invigorated by the walk, pain-free, healthy and contemplating cycling from Paris to Venice this September, how amazingly, incredibly and almost unutterably lucky I am to be able to do any such thing.

I know I'm not as young as I feel, and that makes me feel fortunate, too.

One of my wife's friends told her today that he hopes to cycle around the coast of Britain next year, and he's more than ten years older than me. I'm sure he feels lucky as well.

So the next time I'm grumbling that I can't get out for a day or two or that not everything in the garden is rosy, please just remind me what I wrote today!


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Saturday, 23 January 2010

Back on the Road - Bliss!

It wasn't this sunny!

After what felt like an eternity of snow, rain and gales, Monday was the first passably good day when I could actually spare the time to jump on my bike.

So I took the chance and ignored the mud and puddles on my usual route. There were surprisingly few potholes out in the countryside from the recent icy weather - far fewer than there seem to be in town, in fact.

So after preserving my knees on the first little climb south of the town I was soon enjoying the reasonable temperatures, lightish wind and brightening sky on my way out to Hartest and Stanstead.

There was plenty of water on the road in the first mile or so and I could hear the snowmelt and recent rain pouring through the ditches and gulleys alongside.

Further out, there were still patches of snow in the shadier spots and remains of some deeper drifts but the roads were all damp, wet, muddy or puddled - reminding me I still don't have any mudguards on my bike!

But riding a gear lower than at my best I felt comfortable on all the hills and was pleased to make the top of Hartest hill in reasonable shape. It's the steepest hill in Suffolk, even if it's not very long. Just past the top is my ten-mile mark, and I was there inside 45 minutes, which is roughly five minutes slower than my best time.

I decided to carry on to Stanstead, to 'my' bench overlooking the lovely little valley there, which is my usual fuel stop.

Having taken it quite easy, I felt in a better mood than I have for ages and I was quite pleased with my condition. Under 55 minutes for around 12 miles on a heavy old mountain bike and fat tyres, and with hardly a minute on the bike in the last two months, was quite acceptable.

I was out on the bike anyway, which was about all that mattered. I savoured the air, the view and the Kendall mint cake for about 15 minutes.

The ride home was taken at about the same pace. Starting with a niggling little climb from Stanstead, then a more significant one after the fun of going down Hartest hill, I realised something was missing - knee pain. I felt no knee pain at all, even when I tested it. So the enforced rest might have been a good thing after all.

A few more undulations and one more biggish climb, taken in the usual gear, if a bit slower than normal, and I was racing along the gentle descent towards Bury at somewhere close to full speed.

Haring back through the floods and mud, spattered from head to toe and probably grinning like a lunatic, I got back to the house two hours after I set out, with my mood about 100 shades lighter.
In fact, I felt fantastic!

How lucky are we to be able to do these things?


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Saturday, 9 January 2010

I Can Take a Joke, But...

Maybe I should rename this blog 'Be Warmer Tomorrow', but I'm not too hopeful!

Several weeks of too wet, too icy and too much else to do means I can't help but feel wistful for those uncannily warm days just twelve weeks ago...

This was Hadrians Wall on 10 September:

And this was the start of our return journey, coast to coast, at Workington on 11th:

It was as warm at it looks.

Roll on spring!


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