Saturday, 1 September 2012

Pride and Joy

Friday 31st August: Day five of the Pyrenean beasting!

Today brought the final climb of the nigh-on two week adventure. Andy took great delight in basically smashing the whatsits out of the Col de Chioula: he salvaged a bit of pride as I had had the better of this second week, which is something that no one in their right mind saw coming, hah-hah-hah!

The Tractor disappears into the clag: he did wait for me so that we could reach the summit in the same time zone. Gracias amigo!
I reckoned that my legs had already checked-out and were in Barcelona- I could barely climb out of bed let alone climb another bleedin' col!

The last one...done!


Anyway we did it, shook hands, took photos and then descended back to our welcoming hotel in Ax-Les-Thermes where we set about packing away our bikes and all the other nonsense that we brought.

One item that wouldn't require packing was my ten-year old pair of cycling shoes: you can only wonder and guess at how fragrant they were- they still had some sand in them from last year's U.S.A. trip, hah-hah!

The next thing was to get the hire car back to Alamo in one piece: sounds easy, right? Well we decided to increase the fun-factor by going via my hotel on the Placa Catalunya just for a laugh...the trip back out to the airport included a very nervous navigation of La Rambla.

Anyway, with Andy's help we did drop the C4 off and then he checked his bags in, which meant we had only one more "job of work" to do: get stuck in to a couple of cold ones! Terminal 2 at Barcelona airport isn't the most bijou of locations but needs must and the price was right at under three Euros for an Estrella!

Cue the 'Laurel & Hardy' theme again!

So what have I discovered over the last two weeks?

1) French customer service has cemented it's place at the bottom of the league table! "Non".

2) Even when you really feel like there is nothing left to give, you can surprise yourself and keep going.

3) French cu...oh, we've done that one.

4) I cannot count: there were 12 days cycling all told. D'oh!

So what did I enjoy about the last two weeks?

1) The  most amazing scenery and roads of which no amount of my shoddy photos and videos can ever hope to do justice. "You really must go" if at all possible. Just jaw-dropping at times!

2) The company of some decent, funny and likeable folk, as well as being proper cyclists!
An honourable mention goes to my room-mate Andy "The Tractor": anyone who can put up with me for a fortnight deserves a medal, and a free pass for six months psychiatric counselling. Cheers pal- you made a difficult task an awful lot easier. By the way, are you sure that we are all-square for the toll roads?

3) The support and encouragement from you blog readers and FB sorts: you'll never realise the lift that your daft comments gave me, so thank you.

4) Although they may not give deux figs about le customer, I was genuinely astounded by the unconditional support from the French. They would line their town and village streets (sorry, rues) when we breezed/wheezed through and clap and cheer us, or bang the sides of their car doors and shout "allez, allez" or "bon courage mon ami" as we struggled upwards. They always got an acknowledgement from me and if possible, hands off the bars and a reciprocated round of applause. I loved them for all that!

5) It's probably fair to say that the top-brass of the organisers may have disappointed me with his attitude to my bike going walkabout, but a very big thank-you is due to his team: they faced a logistical nightmare e.g. transporting our bags to different hotels, but far more important was the completely efficient and safe manner in which they handled the road traffic situation for us, as far as was possible. And thanks too for all the genuine enouragement: it really meant a lot...mind you, so did the secret stash of Mars Bars!

Not sure if this was me struggling with reversed-brake levers or trying to decapitate the smudger!

So here I sit on La Rambla watching the skimpily-dressed world sashay on by, nursing a large cold one. I have the same empty feeling that I had in Boston at the finale of the America trip: before you all get the world's smallest violin out for me, I should say that if you had to choose a place to be deflated then surely Barcelona has to be right up there, hah-hah-hah!

A massive thank you too to the people who sponsored me and donated to the two great charities: I just pray that none of us ever need them.

Right, it is time to put away "the suitcase of courage" for a little while...although it was the last thing on my mind when I awoke this morning, I just couldn't help myself, could I?

Giving it some 'Nerys Hughes district nurse' at Barceloneta

                                                  Rubbish final climb stats!


**Update on Wednesday 5th September**

Two bits of good news today...

1) Thanks to an insanely generous donation from m'boss, Young Katie, both fundraising targets have been reached. Good on you all!

2) I had a message from the Haute Route organisers to let me know that the French police have recovered my bike in the town of Bourg D'Oisans, which lies at the foot of L'Alpe d'Huez. Apparently it is in "ok" condition but we have to somehow ship it back to sunny Lancashire...still, that is a totally unexpected bonus!

Please check back on the blog as there are still more dodgy photos (some pro shots) to be uploaded. Fair warning and all that!

'Nuff said.