Friday, 2 November 2018

Cycling around Carcassonne

Late last year I sent my deposit off to a Breeze ride leader for a trip she was organising - the aim was to meet up with a small group and ride into the Pyrenees. Morning cycling of 30-35 miles a day on any old bike...

As summer approached and I'd had little chance to ride I grew increasingly apprehensive about my fitness but the lady who was then already in France assured me I'd be fine... So I left my friend's house in Bradford at 3am to cycle to the wrong side of Leeds for the coach pick-up. Phew. Made it. A few hours later joined by another lady I discovered our organiser wasnt venturing into the mountains! Which it turned out she had already decided before reassuring me to go.

When I landed in France I had the hiccup that although my bog standard non-smart phone switched to another network, my smart work phone did not. So I was without mapping. Although it seemed the online maps weren't much help as our leader struggled to find a good route to the campsite to meet the rest of the group. We ended up on something akin to the M65 and my steel tourer with 26 wheels was in the dust of carbon bikes. After 26 hours of travelling and the build up of my apprehension of the trip I had a panic attack on the roadside. I asked for directions saying I'd take it my own pace but the organiser refused to leave me on my own, which made me very stressed out.

Once we got to the campsite it turned out everyone else already there had had disagreements with the organiser and a very frosty atmosphere was apparent.

I had no idea what to do for the best. The other ladies were lovely, but all on road bikes. I didn't want to feel I was holding anyone up and I know that slogging yourself on a bike just a few miles an hour more than your comfort speed is never fun. So I decided not to join them on their route to the mountains.

I had some time being civil with our organiser for a couple of days before picking up a brochure of the region. I pulled out an A4 page which had the equivalent of motorways & A-roads and some towns and folded this up for my map. I'd seen somewhere lovely looking, Lagrasse and decided to head out that way.

The solo cycling was a mixed bag. I had no proper map, no idea where any campsites were and pigeon French would be an over-statement.
I literally winged it. Some bits ended up being fantastic. Some bits slogs. I felt I missed the best of the area - if I'd planned it myself it would have been much better.
Nearly 3 months have passed since the trip and I think about the highlights more than the negatives, but it left a bitter taste after I sacrificed a family holiday for something that was not as advertised at all.

Would I go back - yes at a cooler time of year and with personal planning rather than relying on someone else who it transpired didn't know the area well or have an idea of what to suggest when it went awry.

My solo trip boiled down to - Med coast, wine region and mountain foothills. I had a cracking time camping in thunder storms with the noise echoing around the mountains. Fantastic! I dont think I would have ever got sick of pain au raisin & cafe au lait every mid-morning for brekkie.
And I'd go back to Lagrasse in a heartbeat - most certainly the most beautiful campsite I've stopped in. 

Click to scroll through - they're best enlarged :-) 

Still Pedalling Pennines

Well it has been a long time since I last posted anything here. I guess that's what parenthood does. In between parent duty, keeping an eye on my ever aging mother, work and other things yes, I am still cycling but alas no where near as much as I used to.
The simple fact is that my short-wheel-base bike and small frame struggles to safely accommodate a seat for my little one (and I have tried a number of options). I live in the hills so my options are limited and quite frankly the extortionate nursery fees mean I'm not in the market for a cargo bike.

Three - four years ago I was evangelically planning how to continue to be a cycling mum. It worked for a short time with a trailer and a front bike seat until that was no longer practical. Then other factors also took hold like working compressed hours.

But the hills still call and occasionally I have opportunity to head out on wheels rather than feet (I mostly hike with my lad usually with a picnic and kite in tow or often to see steam trains).

The highlight this year was riding the Pennine Bridleway from home to Malham one sunny Friday on my way to morris dancing in Settle.
I also embarked on a trip to France and will post about that shortly.

Here are some photo highlights from some local rides from this year for your enjoyment. How many times can you spy Pendle Hill!!

Descending to Wycoller from the Pennine Bridleway Jan

On the lovely tracks above Clowbridge Res looking towards Pendle Hill - Feb

Leeds Liverpool Canal somewhere between Bingley & Saltaire

RSF ride up towards the Nic O Pendle - March

Track near Sabden Fold - I've managed to cycle here a few times this year

Looking to the Ribble Valley from Mearley

Climbing from Hardcastle Crags on a rare family ride

Lane between Walshaw & Walshaw Dean Reservoirs

That fab Bell Busk track

Add caption

RSF ride from Gt Hameldon down to Clowbridge

RSF ride from Grindleton Fell looking towards the NW side of Pendle Hill

Another view of Pendle from the Ribble Valley

Descending Weets Hill on the Pennine Bridleway - another shot of Pendle - Sept

Hay making was happening everywhere- that hard grass stubble is hard going when your cycling

Stockdale Lane between Settle & Malham

Malham Cove

A Halloween ride through my local woods near Rowley

Pennine Bridleway near Dynley

Pennine Bridleway heading towards Cant Clough Res

Gorple Track

The copy pit route at Towneleyside

November 1st riding past Pendle Hill and Black Moss Res upper