“The West Surrey Cyclist” - April - June 2002
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|Inner||front cover - West Surrey CTC District Association Officers - same as in previous issue except that Peter Fennemore has joined the Committee|
ON my return from the CTC tour of South Island, New Zealand, in January and February someone asked me what was my highlight day. That was impossible to answer, as the tour was structured so as to provide unexpected, often awe-inspiring delights almost every day.
But musing on the question in a general sense, I determined that there were two highlights - the unexpected suddenness of the change of environment from the east to the west of the Southern Alps and the constant wonderment experienced as I rode through the temperate westland rain forest in the succeeding days. Then there was the general feeling of peace, contentment, and wellbeing, brought about by the ratio of people to land in this most magical of countries.
No vandalism, no graffiti, no litter - you have probably heard it all before. But this happy state of affairs does not happen just by chance. It stems, I am sure, from the inner contentment brought about by the fact that most human beings in NZ have sufficient personal space to allow the better side of their nature to blossom.
Not that this is always true of the local populace’s standard of driving away from the towns. Tour bus drivers, commercial and private motorists alike are not exactly blessed as a breed with courtesy to cyclists. Why this should be is a mystery to me but it must be something connected with the overall lack of traffic in the sticks. Most drivers seem not to think at all of adjusting their steering to give cyclists a decent bit of space when they pass.
But I must not carp. Being murdered by a juggernaut is not a bad way to go if it is sudden and provided you are fortunate enough to be already in seventh heaven on a New Zealand country road. The most important message I can give to readers is to get out to New Zealand without delay, preferably with bicycle in tow. It is truly Mecca for us cyclists for a tour or an extended stay.
IN my column last time I asked for recipes to deal with NZ’s west coast’s sandflies. Such is the power of the printed word in The West Surrey Cyclist that I had an excellent response.
A favourite was whisky to be applied to the outside of the skin rather than the inside. I preferred to experiment solely with the latter. A mixture of Dettol and baby oil was advocated by a Kiwi I met in London and endorsed by a rain forest guide I met out there. Then there were various creams and tablets - even Forest Glade, which is some sort of perfume I gather.
In the end I settled for a spray obtained in Christchurch “as supplied to the military”. This was OK I guess, but the best bit of advice came from a local who assured me the pests do not bite if you keep moving.
This proved to be true for me and I sustained only half a dozen nips. I did cause some amusement in my haste to get dressed after a lake or lagoon swim on more than one occasion but I did not care. My own version of the Maori war dance, practised constantly during waking hours off the bike, did indeed keep the little blighters at bay.
REGULAR Midweek Wayfarers rider John Widley died recently. Many of his DA friends attended the funeral. A donation was made to the CTC’s cyclists’ defence fund in his memory. It is hoped that an obituary will appear in the next issue.
Lying in hospital aged sixteen I was given a book “Tschiffely’s Ride”, an amazing account of how Tschiffely with two horses in 1925 travelled from Patagonia to Washington via the South American Andes. From this time on I had always wanted to see for myself “The Andes”.
Forty years later, looking through Cycle Touring, I saw Alan Baker’s tour to the Venezuelan Andes and thought, “Yes - this is for me.” The Venezuelan Andes run north-east from the Colombian border near San Cristobal to the coast just above Caracas.
January 28th 2001, Terminal 4 Heathrow Airport, 4.00am, we (my husband and myself) set off with fourteen people who were to be our companions for the next three weeks. Amsterdam, Caracas, Barquisimeto and then mini-bus to Sanare to the start of the tour.
The first few days followed the same pattern, breakfast consisting of coffee, black beans, shredded beef, rice and plantain, then out on the road. Inevitably up, winding our way in curves and hairpins through jungles of banana trees, eucalyptus and dense foliage with vivid red and crimson colours and wonderful butterflies fluttering around. Often streams flowed across the roads on bends leaving a slimy surface to be negotiated so we had to be careful as the tarmac was not good with many potholes in unsuspected places. Lunch was at little cafés and eventually arriving at a prearranged hotel. The hotels, all different, were generally good and clean, and evening meals very filling, usually pasta dishes and stews of meat and chicken, but best of all the Polar beer, something to look forward to all day.
The climax of the tour came on the eighth day when we rode the country’s highest pass - Pico El Aguila - The Eagle pass at 4007 metres. Setting off at 2000 metres at 6.00 am in the dark and extremely cold wearing tights, fleeces, hats and gloves we climbed 15 km for an arranged breakfast stop, this being served by a lovely Andean lady in her little hat and pinny. Here we tucked into arepas and coffee - arepas are pancakes made with maize, very heavy and difficult to digest but we were told by Alan that they were very good fuel. Now, our winter clothes discarded, we climbed for 41 km through 2007 metres with hairpins getting steeper and steeper and the countryside getting very rugged and barren and getting colder and colder and windier and windier. Luckily we found a little café and to their amazement drank four hot chocolates straight off. The altitude was beginning to take its toll and still to this day I’m not quite sure how I managed the last 3km, but three of us riding together arrived at the summit in swirling mist and a shivering temperature of 6°C. We were later told this is the way Simon Bolivar went when crossing the Andes to liberate Colombia from Spanish rule. After the photo-shoot we descended through zones of timber, grain and coffee then across the Sierra Nevada summit at 3550 metres then a descent of 22 km to our hotel. What a day! The next day - a day off - although some of the group were on their bikes, not for me, a stroll around the town was enough.
Another high point of the tour was our visit to Merida which has the highest cable car in the world - The Teleferico. This is renowned for not working but, what luck, it was running. After four different cable cars we reached the summit in the snow and cold air but what a beautiful clear day and a view I will never forget - a wonderful moment!
The remainder of the holiday was much the same, up, up, up but also some amazing descents, lovely sunny weather, not too hot or cold, with wispy clouds forming in the afternoons. The people everywhere were very friendly and welcoming. Music is very much part of everyday life and we were invited to a Valentine’s party with a wonderful Mariachi Band where the leader sang to me a love song; unfortunately my Spanish couldn’t quite translate everything.
After three weeks and 1000 km, we were back in Sanare.
Yes, this was a dream come true - I cannot wait to return to the mighty Andes.
PS. Thank you Alan for such a memorable tour.
ROS Banks is calling all club riders to make their contribution to the DA’s history. There is a club history, titled Sixty Years On, covering the years 1921 to 1981. The plan now is to update it in time for the CTC’s 125th anniversary in 2003.
Ros intends to work on it during the rest of this year and would welcome all anecdotes and memoirs, including photographs. Handwritten contributions are perfectly acceptable.
Please send your information to Ros Banks at her home address, 75 Sandy Lane, Woking GU22 8BG. If you want to discuss it first, phone Ros on 01483 751236. An email address for electronic contributions will be set up in due course.
Post-Christmas blues and perhaps a sense of duty compel me to script.
Having just returned from a skiing trip to the Alps and with my continuing commitments to the diving, photography and Welsh Society clubs to which I also belong, I’ve little chance of becoming a cycling anorak during my time in office.
It is six months since I took over from Ros as secretary of the DA. Judging from the enthusiasm with which she declined the offer to re-instate her at the AGM, following the birth of her twins, it now looks like I’ve got the job until the end of the year.
I now see the relevance of the advice I was given last July:
Sounded good as I drove away having loaded the “Secretary’s box” into the back of my car.
November came and went in a blur, AGM and returns to HQ to be dealt with by immovable deadlines. Fortunately Tom and Phil had disposed of most of it even before I saw it coming, so I played catch-up with bursts of emails at midnight. We are looking back on that now and I hope that everyone enjoyed the AGM and dinner and those that didn’t got their certificates and medals before Christmas.
Now looking forward, your committee has already developed a plan of events for the year and I still need to work out what to do with the queries and comments that I cannot immediately pass on.
It is interesting how many people seem to think that as secretary I have immediate recall of all things cycling-related within a 50-mile radius of Woking Post Office (I’ve learnt that’s where we meet on Sundays). I could already write a book entitled “Questions I have been asked about cycling”. In fact I could start a regular column if I thought the editor would allow.
Personally what I would like to achieve for the DA this year is:-
At the very least it will serve to swell my growing pile of files and folders and by the end of the year you may even have a perfect anorak as secretary in the DA.
ONCE again the time has come to think about the DA’s 50-mile Reliability Ride, to be held on 12 May 2002. As in previous years the, unchanged, routes will start at Pyrford Common Car Park and CTC HQ Godalming; with nominal start times of 0800, 0830 and 0900 for ride times of 5, 4 to 4.5, and 3.5 hours respectively. All entrants should therefore be gathered at the Holmbury St Mary finish by 1pm to enjoy a social luncheon, and a leisurely ride home.
Hopefully all our active members (not away on the Flanders holiday) will wish to support this event and it would be appreciated if those not wishing to ride could volunteer to assist with the marshalling duties. To assist, please call me, Phil Hamilton, on 01483 772008, and I will give you details.
Without entrants it isn’t worth organising an event, but without helpers one cannot run an event.
WE are a group of friendly cyclists of mixed abilities and interests. We meet at 9.30am at Farnham Maltings on the second Sunday of the month. Our rides are organized by a group member and usually consist of 30-40 miles at around 10mph, stopping for a pub lunch.
Twice a year we take over a youth hostel for a social and cycling weekend, past venues being in Somerset and Dorset. In the summer we have a BBQ and in the winter a Christmas bash.
If you want to know more about us or join us contact Simon and Barbara on 01252 324357.
THE following has been filched from the October 2001 issue of The Beech Leaf, the monthly magazine of South Bucks CTC, because it is a bit of a laugh even if politically incorrect on grounds of sexism. It is a bit like many US cycling clubs continuing to call themselves Wheelmen to the annoyance of the female membership.
Anyway, over now to the poem of Dr Walter G Kendall, a veteran of the Boston Cycling Club - the first in America. Happy reading!
We’re the healthy, happy heathen, the men who ride for fun,
The faithful friends of bicycling, the sport surpassed by none.
We’ve ridden through long seasons past; we’ll ride long seasons more;
And while we’ve gained both health and strength, we have had fun galore.
We start the season’s wheeling when the frost first leaves the
We know the roads in every town for fifty miles around.
Our minds are clear, our hearts are light, digestion Number One.
We’ve three big appetites a day, the men who ride for fun.
There are men who ride for exercise and men who ride for health.
There are men who ride for mileage and men who ride for speed**.
And once men rode for fashion, but they quickly petered out,
And are giving their attention now to nervousness and gout.
There are men who ride for mileage and men who ride for speed,
And in a few short seasons they get all the wheel they need.
While we keep on year after year, our wheeling’s never done,
We hearty, hungry vagabonds, the men who ride for fun.
We wear each other’s burdens and enjoy each other’s jokes;
Respect each other’s feelings and the rights of other folks.
Bring out your wheels and join us. You’ll be welcome, everyone,
To the Brothers of the Bicycle, the men who ride for fun.
** You may have noticed there are two usages of the line “There are men who ride for mileage and men who ride for speed”. This is how it appears in the South Bucks mag but perhaps there has been a slip somewhere on the poem’s journey across the Atlantic.
The first use of the line, the one highlighted by **, does not fit as the line should end with something rhyming with “health”. So can you come up with a better line to insert at this point? Let me know, and how about penning a poem in similar vein on why we do it here in West Surrey? If you can, do give women a mention at some point.
(Web editor’s note: see also http://team-bi-atch.blogspot.com/.)
AVID readers of he CTC magazine will have seen this year’s list of DATC events and the results from last year.
West Surrey once again featured on the leader board much due to the efforts of Chris Avery who after a close contest finished 2nd. Browsing through the full list of results recently received from HQ reveals that 6 riders from West Surrey registered for 49 events occupying positions on the leader board from 2nd to 334 (actually myself), putting West Surrey in 6th place for the year.
There are 6 categories of events in the DATC series being
The secret is, when you register, to make sure that you enter your CTC membership number and West Surrey DA as your club on the form. You then score 10 points for each event that you enter (with reduced scores for entering the same category more than once). Anyone entering 10 or more events in a year is eligible for a certificate and badge.
This year West Surrey has registered 6 events for the DATC series. Like any other DATC event that I have been on, all these events make a great day out. Anyone in the West Surrey DA can gain 56 points without traveling outside the area. A couple of away days easily boosts your score. I particularly favour the Wessex 100k Audaxes and the North Hants Rough Stuff. While it is preferred to pre-book, provided you don’t mind some hassle filling in the entry form before you start on the day, it’s not a problem. What is a problem for me is not getting a copy of the route before the start (it saves an awful lot of arguments on the way round).
So looking forward to seeing you on the rides.
As in previous issue except (changes in bold):-
APRIL 13th - Scorathon (treasure hunt) to be organised by committee member Keith Chesterton, phone 01483 563392.
SEPTEMBER 29th - Tricyclathon (hill climb, pace-judging of about five miles, freewheeling competition). Organiser: Tom Hargreaves, phone 01483 851930.
The weekend will be based at the Youth Hostel in St Briavel’s Castle in the heart of the Forest of Dean. The unique accommodation is in a Norman castle, once a royal hunting lodge, still containing original features, including moat, chapel and dungeon. It is an ideal place from which to explore the area including the Wye Valley, Symonds Yat, Forest of Dean, Monmouth, more castles at Chepstow and Goodrich, Tintern Abbey, Clearwater caves etc.
It is planned to arrive on the evening of Friday 3 May. Then to have two full day tours on the Saturday and Sunday and a half-day ride on Monday 6 May. The party may split into different groups to suit varying riding styles.
The costs will be £14.65 per night at the hostel for Bed & Breakfast. Evening meals are £5 at the hostel.
The DA has provisionally booked a number of places at the hostel. To reserve your place on the trip a 25% deposit will be required by the end of January.
For more details and booking contact:
Tom Hargreaves - Runs Secretary
Answer-phone: 01483 851930
THE first stage of my European End-to-End from southern Spain to northern Norway had taken me in a straight line across Spain from Tarifa, on the Straits of Gibraltar, to Bilbao, on the Bay of Biscay. That had been in 1997. For the second leg in early spring 1998 I flew back to Bilbao to resume the trip at exactly the same spot as I had finished the year before. The plan was to pedal east along the Basque coast to Biarritz in south-west France and then head north-east across France in the direction of northern Germany and Scandinavia and see how far I got in a couple of weeks.
It was three o’clock on a cool and sunny Saturday afternoon in March when I left Sondika airport, just east of Bilbao, and headed into a gentle north-easterly breeze along quiet roads towards the Basque coast and the French border. Biarritz was a hundred and fifteen miles away so I would need an overnight stop in Spain and after forty miles of almost traffic-free roads I stopped at the little seaside town of Lekeitio. It was full of weekend trippers and the only restaurant in town was fully booked for the evening so my dinner was bread and bananas in the hotel room.
On the following day I enjoyed a glorious ride under a cloudless blue sky through delightful fishing villages along the rugged and picturesque Basque coastline. Until San Sebastian the roads were again almost traffic-free except for several groups of fellow cyclists, who would shout a greeting that sounded like “Bé!” (with a short e) which I took to be the Basque word for “Hi!” - at least I hope that’s what it meant because I started using it myself. The Sunday traffic increased as I crossed the border into France and cycled the few miles up the coast for a night in the elegant resort of Biarritz.
My simple route-planning method now came into play and I drew a straight line across the map of France from Biarritz to Brussels. It would have taken me through Bordeaux and later Paris, which I wanted to avoid (I don’t like big cities when I am cycle touring) so I decided to go a little way inland to Mont-de-Marsan before adopting the straight line route.
The pavements of Biarritz showed evidence of overnight rain when I left next morning. It was the only evidence of rain that I would see during this stage of the trip;- yes, I cycled all the way from Bilbao to Brussels in March and didn’t encounter a single drop! In warm sunshine and armed with the appropriate Michelin maps I set off via Bayonne (the Basque city which gave its name to the bayonet) and Dax to Mont-de-Marsan.
The first day took me across the flat, straight roads of Les Landes where the pine forests hold the sandy soil together (familiar to those who have done Bordeaux-Barcelona). The next couple of days it was the more undulating roads towards the Dordogne via Bergerac to Perigueux, famous for truffles and foie gras. It is a delightful area of green valleys, woodland and picturesque towns and villages. Add to this the sunshine and one can easily understand why so many Brits choose to live there.
France provides excellent cycle touring. There is an extensive network of small roads superbly covered by the familiar yellow Michelin maps and one can plot a reasonably direct route between any two points avoiding the main roads. It is quite different from large stretches of inland Spain where there is just the one road between two points. It is a cycle-friendly country - the three week Tour de France is, after all, the premier cycling event of the year - and hoteliers and restaurateurs accord a high status to the cycling customer. The owner of the Hotel La Marine in Biarritz had told me to keep the bike in the room overnight (as had been the case in several hotels in Spain where there had been no secure alternative) and shook my hand and wished me “Bonne Route” when I set off next morning.
Whilst I can appreciate that there is a satisfaction in the self-sufficiency of cycling-camping, I prefer to travel light and find overnight accommodation as I go along. France is ideal for this. Almost every town has at least one family-run hotel where a comfortable room can be had for as little as a hundred francs (ten pounds) a night. On my second night after leaving Biarritz I stayed in one such hotel in the small village of Seyches, about twenty-five miles south of Bergerac. Not only did I have a double room for a hundred francs (it would be the same price if there were two sharing, thus making it even cheaper per head, since in France they usually charge by the room not the number of occupants) but I also had a five-course dinner with wine for fifty-five francs in the hotel restaurant. Excellent value! Why carry a tent, sleeping bag and all the paraphernalia when one can enjoy the good life at such reasonable cost?
Eating is one of the pleasures of cycling in France. The one drawback (as in Spain) is that the traditional breakfast of bread or croissant and coffee is rather insubstantial to set off on a day’s cycling. It just means that one has to stop earlier for lunch. Just north of La Bastide d’Armagnac (of brandy fame) I stopped at five minutes before midday at a Routier restaurant and enquired about the availability of lunch. The large mustachioed patron was leaning over a plate of croissants on the bar with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip and engaged in desultory conversation with a couple of old men. He summoned a formidable woman, whom I took to be his wife, who came out from the kitchen at the rear, said lunch would be at twelve noon and I could sit at the table near the window, because the other tables were for the regular customers. I did as I was told, the church bell gonged twelve times and people started coming in for lunch. One of the customers had a dog which took off through the plastic curtain into the kitchen to start a fight with the two dogs lying under the kitchen table where lunch was being prepared.
Sitting there in the less than sterile surroundings and wondering whether the Brussels directives on food hygiene had penetrated this quiet corner of south-west France, I enjoyed a superb four-course lunch, a couple of glasses of wine and coffee and suffered no ill effects other than a feeling of well-fed contentment and a disinclination to get back on the bike.
However, get back on the bike I did. The weather was cool and bright, I was feeling good and averaging between seventy and eighty miles a day. Cycle touring is a joy when everything is humming along so smoothly and I could see myself being on the outskirts of Paris within a week of leaving Biarritz. From the Dordogne I continued via Limoges in the Limousin, famous for the Limousin breed of cattle which graze the pasture between the wooded hills of the area.
North of the Limousin sits the rich agricultural area known as Berry. I bowled across it doing a hundred and four miles in the day before stopping at Vierzon, a motorway and railway junction on the River Cher (I believe the Bike Bus stops there on the route to south-west France and Spain). I couldn’t find a decent restaurant in town and had to resort to a burger bar. The patron of the Promenade Hotel, however, gave me an extremely warm welcome after my long day in the saddle and chatted to me whilst I had a beer at his bar.
Between Vierzon and the Loire lies a rather damp area of marshy, scrubby, sparsely wooded and even more sparsely populated moorland known as the Sologne. Its wildfowl, boar and deer attract armies of hunters during the season, when one is advised not to stray from the main paths! I cycled due north through this area with a following wind along the dead straight N20 towards Orléans before turning off eastwards to cross the Loire at Sully (there is a beautiful chateau alongside the bridge) and through the Forest of Orléans to Château Landon.
To compensate for my experience with the burger the previous evening I treated myself to the gourmet menu at the Logis de France hotel. Big mistake! - I was tossing and turning all night after the surfeit of rich food. At least after the burger and beer in Vierzon I had slept well.
The next day, on the road out of Fontainebleau, which had been heaving with Sunday visitors, I had the company of a cyclist from Melun for an hour or so until we shook hands and parted when he had to turn back home for Sunday lunch. I then skirted the south-eastern suburbs of Paris and after a night in another friendly little hotel at La Ferté, on the River Marne just east of Meaux (of Brie fame), I took an unexpectedly delightful route north-east along the river towards Reims. The spring sunshine bathed the newly pruned champagne vineyards on the slopes gently rising from the river and it was a good-to-be-alive day.
The night in Laon was spent in one of those bleakly functional industrial unit hotels on the edge of town just inside the ring road. I’m not sure why I chose it other than the fact that it was the first hotel I came to and it was before the steep switchback hill which winds up into the town. But Laon is worth a visit for its twelfth century cathedral, which was the gothic model for the cathedrals of Chartres, Reims and Notre Dame in Paris. It commands superb views over the plains of Champagne and Picardy.
The next day was a mainly flat and featureless slog along the N2 to the Belgian border and Brussels where I arrived early evening. It was decision time;- the Gare du Midi and Eurostar to London or do I continue for three or four more days up through Holland into Germany and find a way home from there. After all, it is only Tuesday. Eurostar won. Much as I enjoy cycle touring, the thought of my own bed being less than four hours away was too appealing. Besides, Eurostar back to Brussels would be the most convenient way to start the next leg of the trip which would take me up into Scandinavia the following year.
So eight hundred and thirty-eight miles and eleven days after leaving Bilbao I was on my way home after stage two of Trans-Europe.
RIDING with the Wayfarers has produced many surprises, usually very pleasant. But as I rode separate from the group towards Effingham British Legion, fighting a headwind along Downside Bridge Road, I was shocked when a Transit-type van came too close for comfort, forcing me into the kerb, whereupon the van’s passenger leaned out and pinched my bum.
The last thing I needed was a helping hand in order to amuse the driver and his passenger. It sounded as if they found their action amusing - and they had not finished.
As they raised their speed, a sliding door opened and a red plastic petrol can flew out and bounced in front of me, causing me to stop.
By the time I reached the Legion building a number of thoughts crossed my mind. Was I really being touched-up? With my blue woolly hat covering a bald head, might the assailant have thought I was female? Was my wallet the target, as he must have felt it in my offside pocket? Could all lone cyclists be subject to this sort of stupidity?
In my book it was dangerous driving with aggravation, assault, and possibly attempted theft. I was perhaps lucky not to have ended up in a hospital bed or even a wooden box.
It was a surprise I could have done without.
The writer has reported the incident to the police, giving more specific details of the van and its occupants’ actions. - Editor
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 7 October 2009.