Preparations

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

With the winter weather in full swing (see picture below) we are continuing to train and plan our big tour.
I’m on the home trainer every day and also on a strict diet, Monique on the other hand doesn’t have a need for the home trainer she’s much more disciplined with her eating habits than me. There is enough time for her to train when the weather warms a bit which right now seems a long way away.
There has also been some decisions made for our Spanish section of the tour, we are now seriously looking into the Paul Benjaminse book cycling to Andalusia (in Dutch).
We (mostly) followed his book on our way to Barcelona in 2006 and it worked out great. The book points out places to stay, (B&B’s, Hotels and Camping’s) every few kms, try’s to avoid busy roads and takes a lot of guess work out of finding routes while visiting some of the most beautiful sights in the area. It also has small caption’s of the area’s with accurate maps and elevation profiles.
For camping, we have decided to take our Jack Wolfskin Worlds End RT tent again for this tour, because we haven’t found a suitable warm weather tunnel tent. I looked into the Helsport, Hilleberg and a couple other makers but the only thing they offer is light weight and most seem to be winter tents with minimal ventilation and jaw dropping price tags. There just isn’t anything out there that comes close to the space and ventilation that the Jack Wolfskin Worlds End RT provides. It’s a shame they have discontinued this tent.
We just can’t see paying 700/800 euros for a tent that really doesn’t fit our needs. There are a couple other makers that have tents selling around the 400 euro mark, but again minimal ventilation and space and they’re only about a kilo lighter, again that doesn’t suit us. So I will repair a couple of leaks and reinforce the tent floor were it’s worn a bit, just in case it springs a leak during our tour.
Maybe when this tent finally gives they will make something similar but a bit lighter in weight.
I just need to loose 2kgs more than planned :-))
We now have 111 days left till our tour, thanks to the countdown clock from yahoo widgets :-))

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Our back yard on January 10 2010

Monday, February 1st

88 days to go for our longest tour yet. We are beginning to get excited now and a bit nervous, there are a lot of things to take care for such a long tour. We have to find solutions for our house, cars, cats, repair the tent, just to name a few. One just doesn’t say I’m off to tour Europe, hop on a bike and leave.
Training on our bikes is still a long way off, as its still snowing outside. I think by mid March we should  getting out for some rides.
I will put off on working on our bikes until the beginning of March, then I’ll check all the bearings. I will be fitting new tires, new rear sprockets for me (from 11/30 to 11/32) and replace the middle sprockets on Monique’s bike (one or two that she uses most skip a bit with a new chain), about two weeks before we leave, that will give us time for a few rides to make sure everything works good.
That’s it for now will post again in March.

Monday, March 1st

60 days left and we’re slowly getting the things together. The excitement is slowly building and at least for me it’s finally beginning to sink in the actual length of this tour. It is by far the longest we
The weather has warmed a bit but not enough that we could go out cycling. We’ve seen the diehards out there but we’ve always said if we could not enjoy the ride it was no use going out, and that means the temperature has to be in double digits.
Anyway I think month we’ll get most things ready so we could spend April on the road getting in some 
kms

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Trying to get into shape on a day trip along the Albert canal March 18 2010

Friday March 26th

Its now 5 weeks to go and the preparations continue. It seems that the time is speeding up the closer we get to the start. The weather has finally broken and we did several rides, a couple little ones to get used to the bikes a gain and a nice 100kms ride to top it off.
I didn’t know the tent would take so long to repair, but I’m happy to say that it will be all set to go in a few days.
I’ll be doing a complete overhaul of the bikes this coming week so that will be out of the way. All in all were ahead of schedule.

Friday April 9th

Three weeks to go now and emotions are running high, we’re both experiencing anticipation, excitement and fear just to name a few.
Preparations are continuing ok I guess, I ran into a couple of problems with the bikes and tent, I wont go into details but it took a few days to sort out. I am hoping now that everything will be sorted out sometime this week which will leave two weeks to play with.
We’re planning an over night tour the following week to get the handle on the loaded bikes and to test out the equipment before we go. We like to leave at least a week to do this in case of problems and need to replace something.
Looking at our schedules we should be having a bit more time in the last two weeks to get some kms in and finish all the small details before our tour, and they are many.
Be back in a week 🙂

Friday April 16th

Two weeks now and we are slowly beginning to close/stop everything. Preparations continue, we got a few things that we needed (new battery charger, alarm clock, etc…) and found solutions for others.
I will be posting on the tips page soon.
We decided to change our route a bit, we are now going to be heading east to the Rhine, follow it south past Strasbourg to Mulhouse than west following the canal to Besancon before heading south again to Grenoble and finishing at Marseille for the first part of our tour.
Our main reason for this change is that for the last several tours we’ve cycled along the Maas or Orthe rivers and/or through the Ardennes. We haven’t cycled along the Rhine for a while now and we also like to visit one of our favorite city’s, Strasbourg.
We’re also checking out how many warmshowers.org hosts are along the route, we plan on using a few in case of bad weather, visiting city’s like Strasbourg, Grenoble, Marseille and others.
This tour is on our minds 24/7 now, none stop, it will be a relief to finally get on the road and relax.

Friday April 23rd

It was supposed to be one week left  but good news, we have only 4 days left. While checking the extended weather forecast we found out that after two whole weeks of dry sunny weather this front is coming in from the west and bringing wet weather starting on Friday the 30th so we moved up our starting date to Wednesday the 28th.
This way we could have at least one good day to begin this tour.
Needless to say we are now extremely nervous and in a bit of a dash to get the rest of the things done before the big day. Most things are ready just a few things to take care around the house.
We will try maybe on Sunday to do a small ride of +/- 50kms just to see how the bikes handle fully loaded.

Sunday April 25th

Today was a great day, the weather was perfect and we loaded up the bikes for our first proper test ride fully loaded. The ride was only 40kms but it went very good, the bikes handled good but we didn’t fair so well, we’re bit out of shape. We knew this already so no surprise there. I’m sure after a few hundred kms we will get into it again 🙂
It just felt good to be on the saddle again after so much time off.
The anticipation is killing us now, just a few more loose ends and we’re off.

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Having lunch in Belgian village during a test run fully loaded on April 25 2010

Tuesday April 27th

Finally the time has come, tomorrow morning as early as possible we will be starting on our longest adventure yet. The wait is finally over, this tour that has been in the planning for over 2 years is about to start and you couldn’t see two happier people on earth.
Everything is packed and hopefully we haven’t forgotten anything. This last couple of days have been hectic to say the least, but we have managed to finish all the things we needed to do before leaving.
The plan for tomorrow is about 100kms heading east with a few hills in between so most likely we will quite spent when we get to the campground.
So wish us luck and do visit regularly as we will be updating this site as often as we can.
Adios 😉

Part 1 Maastricht to Marseille