EyeCycled the Via Francigena competition - Preliminary result

OK folks… the suspense is over. The “mileage” on my cycling computer as I reached Saint Peter’s Square was…

2,048.2 Km

Mileage at arrival in Saint Peter's Square
Mileage at arrival in Saint Peter’s Square

I’ve also updated the table of guesses with all guesses I could find in Facebook and elsewhere. Not that many, but the post has been shared and re-shared many times, so I am finding it difficult to get all guesses. There have been 12 guesses I could find.  If you did take a guess and your name doesn’t appear in the list (to see the last 2 click next) please get in touch.

EyeCycled the Via Francigena Competition

NAMEGUESS (in Km)SOURCE (Facebook, Blog, etc)
Fernando Zambon2008.1Facebook
Ema Satchel2020Facebook
Gyula Mester2022.22Facebook
Luiz Motta2025Facebook
Vinicius Seth2053Facebook
Sandra Laranjeira2060Facebook
Marlene Samson2067Facebook Messenger
Romualdo Ricardo Acquesta Neto2085.8Facebook
Sandra Mara Santos2346Facebook
Marcia Teles2380Facebook
Aparecida Climaco Schaefer2462Facebook
Elenita Seth2827Facebook

I will have a better look later, but the preliminary result indicate that the winner is…. err… my son! 🙂 … with a difference of just 4.8 Km in 2048, or just 0.23%.

I know what this will look like… Foul play, but believe me, there was none!

I did ask him to take a guess and he did so on the 26th of August. At that time not even I knew how many kilometres I would still have to cycle and to increase the unpredictability of the competition I also got lost on my way to Sutri and cycled 8 Km more than I should have, but on the other hand, in my last day I had the advantage of following my pilgrimage friend Roberto, a local Roman, on the last 72 Km from Sutri to Saint Peter’s Square, which was a big help as I would undoubtedly get lost again if I didn’t.

So for now… Well done son! I won’t need to put the T-Shirt in the post afterall 🙂

I will confirm the result once I am back in the UK and rectify any mistakes that might have been made.

Thank you all for participating in this simple competition and for your support during the journey.

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EyeCycled the Via Francigena Competition / Prize Giveaway

EyeCycled the Via Francigena Competition / T-Shirt giveaway

OK, this is a first for the blog, let’s see how this works.

When I get back home I am going to print a few “Via Francigena” (and Camino de Santiago) T-Shirts to sell through the blog, so I thought, why not get this started with giving one away to a lucky winner?

I took the 2 pictures below today at the exact same location. This isn’t a straight to Rome bike ride, so I am pretty certain this will be a 2,000+ Km bike ride. Also there is a degree of unpredictability given my undeniably dubious navigation skills.

Odometer in San Quirico d'Orcia
Odometer in San Quirico d’Orcia
184 Km to Rome according to the sign.
184 Km to Rome according to the sign.

So, here it goes… The person who guesses the closest number of how much will be in my Odometer when I get to the Saint Peter’s square in the Vatican City in a few days will be the lucky winner of a Via Francigena T-Shirt, which I will dispatch to anywhere in the world.

To participate, this is what you have to do:

  1. “Like” the EyeCycled Facebook Page (if you have not done so yet) and “Like” + “Share” this post in Facebook.
  2. Subscribe with your preferred email to the EyeCycled Blog (on the right)
  3. Write your guess (the number in Km, for example, 2,002.8 Km) as a comment in Facebook or in this Blog post (on the bottom of the post)

I am not a big Tweeter user, but you can also Re-Tweet this post and write your guess as a Tweet if you want (need to check if I can see it, though).

That’s it! All you have to do to win a Via Francigena T-Shirt (or Camino T-Shirt, if you prefer) is to follow the 3 steps above.

Competition ends when I publish the picture of the final distance (mileage) in the Saint Peter’s square in a few days (likely to be in the EyeCycled Facebook page). Any entries after the picture is posted will not be valid, as per the time stamp of the picture.

Good Luck!

Now, this may help a little… These are the places I still need to go through and I use (mostly) Google Maps as a guide.

  1. Stage 89: San-Quirico-d’Orcia to Radicofani
  2. Stage 90: Radicofani – Acquapendente
  3. Stage 91: Acquapendente – Bolsena
  4. Stage 92: Bolsena – Montefiascone
  5. Stage 93: Montefiascone – Viterbo
  6. Stage 94: Viterbo – Vetralla
  7. Stage 95: Vetralla – Capranica
  8. Stage 96: Capranica – Campagnano-di-Roma
  9. Stage 97: Campagnano-di-Roma – La-Storta
  10. Stage 98: La-Storta – Saint-Peter’s-Square

I will try to keep the table below as up-to-date as I possibly can, but a stable internet connection is not always present in a pilgrim’s life.

EyeCycled the Via Francigena Competition

NAMEGUESS (in Km)SOURCE (Facebook, Blog, etc)
Fernando Zambon2008.1Facebook
Ema Satchel2020Facebook
Gyula Mester2022.22Facebook
Luiz Motta2025Facebook
Vinicius Seth2053Facebook
Sandra Laranjeira2060Facebook
Marlene Samson2067Facebook Messenger
Romualdo Ricardo Acquesta Neto2085.8Facebook
Sandra Mara Santos2346Facebook
Marcia Teles2380Facebook
Aparecida Climaco Schaefer2462Facebook
Elenita Seth2827Facebook

As with everything there are terms and conditions that apply. Please read the boring stuff below:

  • Only ONE entry per person. If you change your mind, change the comment, but let me know you changed it. If you guess more than once, the last guess I can find will be the valid one.
  • The T-Shirts DON’T exist yet! It may take a while until I have the design done and the T-Shirt printed. Your patience will be appreciated (thinking more like a month or two, rather than a few weeks)
  • I will not know who the winner is immediately. I will need to some time to go through all the posts, comments, whatever. May take a few days after I post the picture of my arrival in St Peter’s square.
  • If you win, I will notify you through your preferred social media app or through email (if I have it). Make sure I have the means to contact you. I’ll keep trying to contact the winner for 1 week. If I don’t succeed, I will try the next best guess.
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Acts of kindness on the Via Francigena

The unexpected sometimes can also be good…

Event #1:

If you have been following my pilgrimage, you’ll know I used to have an orange flag on the back of the bike, to improve visibility while riding on busy roads.
The strong winds on the way to Tergnier last week pulled the upper part of the pole with the flag straight out of the lower pole, so I ended up with 1/2 flag pole and no flag. People were even asking me what the thing coming out of the back of the bike was for and I had to explain how I lost the flag.

On Monday, the 15th of August, I was cycling towards Ivrea I when I stopped at a little makeshift road side kiosk, the type local producers put up to sell their produce. There was some really nice fruit there and I bought a few nectarines (the sweetest and juiciest).

This couple gave me an Italian Flag
This couple gave me an Italian Flag

They had a lot of little flags from EU countries lying around (No British flag anymore though) and even a few “just married” flags (don’t ask me why).
I asked if I could buy one and they gave me an Italian flag. He even fitted it so that it won’t fly out again.

Grazie Mille!

Event #2:

As I left Pontremoli on Saurday, the 20th of August, some 6. – 7 Km later I stopped at a little place that sells fruit and veg, chose a few bananas, an apple and a nectarine. The owner thought I spoke Italian because of the flag in my bike in as I explained I was from England and was doing the Via Francigena from Canterbury, he would not accept my money anymore. The fruits were a gift from him.

Grazie Mille!!!

Event #3:

The kind people who stopped to offer me a Gatorade and water
The kind people who stopped to offer me a Gatorade and water

I was riding my bicycle between Altopascio and San Miniato today and suddenly a car stopped in front of me and out came a gentleman and a child.

P1030347

They offered me a cold bottle of Gatorade and water.
There are so many good people in this world.
Whoever you are, thank you very much. You made my day!

Grazie Mille!!!!

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Via Francigena, days 6 and 7: From Reims to Chalons-en-Champagne and Brienne-le-Chateau

It hasn’t been easy to keep up with Blog posts. It is so much easier to share small insights and pictures on the EyeCycled Facebook page, but I’ll try to reduce the lag by being more to the point and less detailed on the posts. I do intend to write about each day in more detail upon my return anyway.

Day 6, 4/Aug (Thursday): From Reims to Chalons-en-Champagne

I left the hotel around 8:15am to get a McDonalds breakfast (closest thing open) and walk to the tourist information Office to get my pilgrim credentials stamped. As I was walking I saw 2 typical touring cyclists stop at a nearby café. I wanted to go talk to them, but decided not to as I wanted to be at the tourist Information Office as soon as it opened at 9:00am. After leaving the office I saw they were still at the café and couldn’t resist. As I suspected, they were also Via Francigena pilgrims or bicigrinos, the 1stI had met since leaving Canterbury. We had a little talk took their picture, but when we left I thought that would be the last time I’d have seen them as they were following a different guide and not all routes are the same (the major stops are though).

En-route to Chalons I passed through Verzenay (stage 21 of the Lightfoot guide) and Condé-sur-Marne (Stage 22 with Chalons being stage 23) . The route Google Maps traced had a little of everything. I rode alongside canals, on paved roads and on forest and canal dirt tracks. There was also quite substantial rain this day. Some of the canal towpaths were quite muddy and in places very narrow and slippery. It almost caused me to fall a few times. On the other hand quite peaceful and beautiful as well.

Eventually the muddy canal towpaths became a smooth concrete paved cycle lane, like only the French know how to do (well, not really, but much better than the British ones).

As I arrived in Chalons and was taking some pictures I saw a small cycle-touring family arrive. The Slovenian man was cycling in France with his 2 children, the girl aged 6 and the boy aged 13. He said he wanted to show his children that there are more good people in this world than bad ones and that cycle-touring was ideal for that. Can’t argue with it, totally agree.

Continued riding around Chalons, looking for the tourist information centre and when I found, guess who I met there? The 2 bicigrinos from the Café in Reims. If we had agreed on a time and place it probably wouldn’t have worked.

The 3 of us decided to stay in the same hostel that night and in the hostel we met Fabio and David. Fabio was cycling from the Netherlands, were he lives to his home town of Brindisi in Italy. David was walking from his home town in Belgium all the way to Santiago de Compostela. Fabio cooked a fantastic pasta for the 5 of us and then we went out into town for beer. A truly enjoyable day and night.

Day 7, 5/Aug (Friday): From Chalons-en-Champagne to Brienne-le-Chateau

The cycling day started pretty much where it ended the day before, at the nice and paved canal towpath, but at some points the towpaths degraded to narrow dirt tracks as well. Giuseppe and his wife had left early that morning and this far I didn’t see them again. They were also under a very tight timetable as they had to arrive in Rome by the 24th of August. I did get a chance to say goodbye to Fabio and David though.

On my way to Brienne I passed through La-Chaussée-sur-Marne (Stage 24), Vitry-le-François (Stage 25), Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont (Stage 26),  Lentilles (Stage 27) and finally Brienne (Stage 28).

The same type route from the days before (bit of dirt tracks, road, etc), but with one added surprise. On my way to Lentilles Google Maps thought it was a good idea to ride alongside train tracks. Yes, there was a hint that a dirt track existed besides the track, but it was barely visible. Mostly covered by the stones used alongside train tracks. Not avery enjoyable ride at all and the stones made me lose my balance quite a few times. Thankfully I always managed to recover.

Most of the villages I rode through had nothing really special, but In Lentilles I visited a 16th Century church build of wood and clay, the Church of St Jacques et St Philippe. Looking at the simplicity of this church, in comparison with the ostentation of cathedrals passed made me think that if Jesus was re-born it would be in a simple place like that he would probably chose to worship God.

As I arrived in Brienne I went straight to the tourist Information office. Collected my stamp and the lady asked me if I was going to stay in town or travel further. She said they had a municipal pilgrims’ hostel in town and that made me decide to stay. I paid her the €10 for the night, she gave me the keys, a map and explained how to get to the hostel. Then she told me “you can’t miss it! There are 2 deer heads in the front wall of the building.”. I then remembered I had read about this place when researching the route. Some pilgrims had reported the place to be haunted.

As I got there, I had the entire 3 floor house just for me… No one else to share it with. There gave me shivers as the house was indeed a bit spooky.

Thankfully, I had a good night sleep and calling Ghostbusters was not needed.

Before I close this blog post, let me remind you that this is also a charity bike ride. If you enjoy reading these posts and following my progress in Facebook, why not contribute with a little to a good cause? My charity of choice for this ride is Mind UK, one of the UK’s leading mental health charities.

Hope you are enjoying the posts in the blog and Facebook. It takes quite a bt of effort to get them done (especially the Blog posts) and they are responsible for late nights, despite having to cycle all day next day.

Thank you for your time and your support to my cause.

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Via Francigena, Day 4 and 5 (2 and 3/Aug): From Peronne to Tergnier (Auberge de Villequier) and to Reims

In this post…

  1. Day 4, 2nd of August 2016, ride between Péronne and Tergnier (Auberge de Villequier)
  2. Day 5, 3rd of August 2016, ride between Tergnier (Auberge de Villequier) and Reims

Day 4, Tuesday, 2nd of August 2016: From Peronne to Tergnier (Auberge de Villequier)

The night in the tent was not good. It rained all night and I am not used to that kind of “rain on tent” noise. The morning wasn’t different. When I woke up is wasn’t raining, but by the time I was finished with my breakfast it slowly started to come down again. I managed to pack everything just in time when the rain started to thicken.

Google Maps guided me out of town through some very muddy dirt tracks, which wasn’t nice. That is one of the problems with the “beta” cycling navigation of Google Maps. There is no option, as far as I know, to tell it not to trace a route using dirt tracks (off-road). I did manage to get through the mud without an incident (barely) and few kilometres down the track re-joined a “D” road.

The destination was Trefcon and I was expecting it to be small, but not that small. It is really only a few houses together and as expected there wasn’t anything open, nor anyone around.

So, took a few pictures and continued to Tergnier.

The rain is always an annoyance when riding a bicycle, but the big enemy of his day was the wind. You may have notice I had a little orange flag in the back of the bike to improve visibility. Well, the wind was so strong it managed to rip the flag and flag pole from the base without me noticing it. Since then I am riding Flagless 🙁

The 2nd victim of the day was my “side-open” GoPRO case, which I used to be able to charge the GoPRO while recording. He locking lever broke, but the case seems to be holding close well with an elastic band.

I arrived in Tergnier soaked, tired and with a bad mood. As I got there I asked a few locals for a hotel, but I couldn’t understand the directions they were giving me. So I turned to Google and the 1st option Google gave me was an Auberge in the “nearby” village of Villequier). In the Google Maps description, it said it was 4.2 Km from Tergnier, but it turned to be 7 Km, as measured by the Garmin… and in the wrong direction. Can’t really blame Google for that (except for the distance) as I should have looked more. Tergnier is small, but there are apparently a few hotels there.

Anyway, I was settled for the night and manage to hand wash some of my clothes as well as dry a bit more the tent. Didn’t really take any pictures this day as it was raining most of the time and I didn’t feel there was anything picture worthy along the way.

Day 5, Wednesday, 3rd of August 2016: From Tergnier (Auberge de Villequier) to Reims.

I had just finished packing and started to rain. It rained for about 1 or 1.5h, but at least the wind wasn’t as strong as the day before and that enabled me to ride almost 90 Km this day. I started by taking the exact same way back to Tergnier as I did the day before. I wanted a Tergnier stamp on my pilgrim’s passport and I had a remote hope to find my flag again (which I obviously didn’t… just wishful thinking).

After receiving the Tergnier stamp from the Hotel de Ville on the credentials, I headed to the next stage in the Via Francigena Lightfoot guide which is Laon.

Laon was probably the high point of the day, but to get up there wasn’t easy. Had to dismount and push the heavy bike most of the way up. You get rewarded by the beautiful cathedral and the views, once you get up there. Managed to get my pilgrim credential stamped in the Tourist Information Office and when I looked for a place to rest and eat something I was told it was closed (I don’t understand the French economy… it was barely 4 pm I think).

While I was taking pictures a group of Dutch cycle-tourists came to talk to me. They were curious about my gear and my pilgrimage. One of them was kind enough to take a few pictures of me with my camera.

The next stage after Laon is Corbeny and, as expected on these little villages, everything was closed, even their hotel. Jeanne D’Arc apparently had stayed in Corberny on he 22nd of July 1429, so she was luckier than me to find anything open that day. Took a few pictures and continued, but feeling a bit disappointed by all these small French villages I decided to skip he next town in the guide, which was Hemonville and head straight to Reims, which is a much bigger city and a place I wanted to visit anyway. So, if there was something worth seeing in Hermonville you’ll have to find out by yourselves.

It was on my way to Reims that met Fabio, the 1st Via Francigena pilgrim I have seem. Fabio lives in Rome, so he travelled to Canterbury and is walking back home… home to Rome. I gave him one of my cards and I hope he gets in touch to share his experiences, eventually.

Reims has a most impressive cathedral as well, so bug, in fact that it was hard to frame it all too close. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enter it, as it was already late and I had to find a place to sleep still. As I got to Reims, around 7:30pm the tourist information office was already closed, but they have an interactive, touch sensitive display in front of the office which was very helpful. It allowed me to search for accommodation by a number of criteria, such as price, location, etc. I manage to get the address of a cheap hotel just 2 blocks away and by luck they still had rooms available.

I had a walk around the town centre in the evening before dinner and was most impressive by how lively it is. I loved the colour changing buildings (the light shining on them obviously changes colour), such as the opera house and a few other buildings I could see. I wish I had more time to spend there.

Hope the pictures talk for themselves, but if they don’t and you are curious, just get in touch through the contact form on the menu (it may take me a few days to answers, though)

And, if you got to this point, 1st I hope you enjoyed the account and 2nd as usual, before I close this post, how about you donate to my charity of choice, Mind UK, one of the UK’s leading mental health charities? Anything you can donate will be a big help.

Thank you!

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Via Francigena, day 3 (1/Aug): From Bruay-la-Bussiere to Peronne

Left the Ibis hotel in Bruay after a great breakfast. The first destination of the day was Ablain-Saint-Nazaire and it took me just over 1h and a half to cover the about 20 Km of this stage.

As usual in these small villages, I couldn’t find any place that could provide a stamp onto my pilgrim’s credential. I don’t let that stop me from riding to these tiny villages as the goal is to follow the same 80 stages Sigeric did 700 years ago (not the route he took though, as many parts are only suitable to those walking). I always spend a few minutes in the villages, taking pictures, having a little rest and taking up some water.

After Ablain-Saint-Nazaire I rode to Arras, which is a big town in comparison to the previous villages. As I got there what stroke me most was the distinctive architecture and the “beach party” place they had built in one of the empty spaces, complete with sand, Caribbean music, palms trees and everything.

Few hundred meters more and I was in the town centre looking at their impressive cathedral. Took a few pictures and headed to the nearby Tourism Information Office to collect my stamp.

After getting my stamp, I left to Bapaume, another small town (not a village though) village along the way. I managed to get a stamp in the Hotel de Ville, or town hall. On my way from Arras to Bapaume I passed by a curious “Route 66” American style dinner, with a big statue of Elvis in front.

Left Bapaume a bit unsure as to how many more kilometres I should ride before to stop. Decided to just check the next stop in Sigeric’s route and decide when I got there. Next stop was Péronne and as I arrived in the outskirts of the small town it was already 7:00pm, so I decided to stay there. I had seen a sign pointing to the municipal camping site and decided to stay there, but then, for some unexpected reason my phone lost GPS connections, which meant Google Maps didn’t work. I tried the navigation on the Garmin, but it didn’t have the camping site on its database and I didn’t know the address. So I rode around for about 30 min and stopped a few times asking for directions. It is not easy to ask for directions in France when you don’t speak French, but a very nice gentleman took the time and drew me a little map on a piece of paper and with that I managed to find the camping site. Must confess I was looking at the navigation, when I should have been looking at the road signs as there were clear indications on the streets to the camping site.

Thankfully as I arrived the camping manager was still there and told me to just go and setup camp and pay me the next day. The charge was €8.00 for the night. After a shower I went out to see if I could buy something to eat, but the only thing I found open at 8:30pm was a kebab trailer in the town centre. So I got myself some Kebab take-away (and something for breakfast next morning) and had a tent feast.

It rained heavily all night and that prevented me from sleeping well. I had never used this tent under rain before, but it performed well and no water came inside.

Before closing this blog post, I have to ask: Have you already donated to my cause? Please, do so. One of the reasons I am writing these posts, even though very tired after riding all day is so that I am able to give you something in return for your contribution.

Now let’s write the next day as I am already behind of these posts.

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Via Francigena, Day 2 (31 Jul), From Alembon to Bruay-la-Buissière

Expect the unexpected!

As suggested by my host in Alembon the day before, 8:00am I was downstairs for breakfast. Got to taste all the home made compote she does and home baked cake as well.

After breakfast I started packing. I confess, this is one of my weak points and something I definitely need to get better at. The Camino de Santiago has taught me a few lessons last year, which I seemed to have forgotten, but the Via Francigena is being quick at reminding me of them.

Before I left home I packed everything according to item type, e.g. clothes and footwear all in one pannier, electronics in another, 1st aid kit and items of personal hygiene in another and so on…

The thing is, when you are on the move and need something you don’t want to be opening several different panniers to get items you may need. The lesson I learned on the Camino was to pack a pannier with the most likely things you are going to need during the day (in the case of the Camino I packed it in a rucksack, as I had only 2 panniers then, where I now have 4), so you’ll only need to open one bag during the day, unless something out of the ordinary happens, which is not uncommon. I am, therefore, attempting to change the packing accordingly and moved several items around the panniers.

When I finished packing everything (took me about 25 min… yes, I am slow) brought everything downstairs, where the bike was, and started to load them in the bike. About 15 min later, when all panniers and the camping bag were loaded and fastened, I realised I was missing my Cateye cycling computer, which I thought I had placed in the handlebar bag together with the Garmin Edge 810. It wasn’t there. Went back to the room and searched everywhere as I knew I had it the day before… couldn’t find it. There was only one option left: Search in the panniers, which, as I mentioned before, were already loaded in the bike. I’ll give you one chance to guess if it was in the 1st pannier or in the last. Did you guess? Of course it was in the last. It must have fallen in the pannier as I was rearranging the packing. Altogether, I literally spend 1h looking for the damn thing. That meant I left the B&B only around 11:30am. For a pilgrim this is almost time of arrival, not time of departure. Anyway… need to give no excuses to anyone as I am alone, but it was a bit stressful. My own fault.

From Alembon I rode to Licques, where I managed to get a stamp from a water park there, as everything else was closed. Then to Tournehem-sur-la-Hem, where there was also nothing open. Not to say nothing, the church was open, but there was no one in it. From Tournehem my next destination was Thérouanne, where, according to my host the day before, there was a pilgrim’s hostel, but… everything was closed. I wasn’t planning to stay there anyway, as I wanted to ride more, so I rode further to Amettes where there is another hostel with special rates for pilgrims (€13/night). Guess what? Closed!

In all the villages I rode through everything was closed. Even the petrol stations were closed. if I wanted to setup camp somewhere I would have to go hungry as I couldn’t find anything open to buy food. I also couldn’t get any stamps on my Pilgrim’s credential which, upon arrival in Rome, is the document you have to show.

So I decided to continue riding to Bruay-la-Buissière as I knew it was a bigger town and there was bound to be something open. As I got there I asked several people about “auberges” or hotels but I couldn’t find any near, so I turned to Google which offered me a few, with one of the cheapest being the Ibis Style in the outskirts of town. Had to ride another 4 or 5 Km to get there and the daily rate wasn’t the €53 Google suggested, but €69 with Breakfast. By that point it was late and I was too tired to go searching for something cheaper, so that is where I stayed. The room was great and the hotel was near several restaurants. Had a really good meal at the 3 Les 3 Brasseurs.

When I left Alembon in the morning, the day was a bit unsettled and that made me forget to pass on the sunscreen on my skin. I live in the UK, so this is something we use very little there 🙂

The sunscreen was on the bottom of one of my panniers, which I really didn’t want to take off the bike again. The result was a really bad sun burn and fever at night which made for an uncomfortable night. I should have stopped to get the sunscreen… lesson number… ? (who’s counting anyway).

Well, that was it. I’m attaching a few pictures to this “post by email” which I hope will be self-explanatory. If you have any questions, just drop me a comment.

Before I close the post, have you made your donation to Mind UK, which is the charity I am sponsoring during this ride? Common, 20 quid will not be much at the end of the month and it’s all for a good cause.

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