Rome 2 Home 2013

Well, what a journey. Getting in the taxi this morning with everything packed up in some way or another was a strange feeling. One was that it was equally as frantic driving through the city and it made us realise how vulnerable we were on our bikes. Also, now we obviously know we have cycled to Rome, but not quite sure it has sunk in properly yet…….still feels very surreal.

On arrival at the airport and upon joining the queue to check in, we were starting to get a few looks from people no doubt due to our bike boxes (albeit a little homemade!). We are sure there were also whispers of ‘they will never get away with that’ and ‘can’t believe we are stuck behind them in the queue’.

On reaching the check-in desk we could almost see the look of despair on the member of staff when she realised she had us to deal with. So after a few questions and checks, it appeared that we were all set to go and after checking our panniers in all we had to do was take our bikes to the oversized baggage area. As it was now obvious we were allowed to go through with our brilliant bike boxes, we could almost see the disappointment on the other passengers faces when they realised there would be no drama to entertain them……..ha ha!

Annabelle and Dalmation managed to be smuggled through security safely and saw this as just another adventure. They also enjoyed their own seat on the plane. Not sure how they are going to cope with a more normal life once home, maybe they will start to plan their next adventure!

After a relaxing flight (what a great way to travel!), and looking down over land (in particular the Alps) that we had cycled over, we eventually arrived in Birmingham. We were so relieved not to have to cycle back home let alone put our bikes together.

And so our journey ends as we head back to Ashby, where we are sure it will all start to sink in fairly quickly once home.

Words and pictures will never truely describe what this challenge has been to us, what we have seen, what we have been through (the great and the tough times) and the feeling of completing it. We hope you have enjoyed following our journey, and feel you have travelled parts of it yourself, even if from the comfort of your own home. We are looking forward to reading the blog in the comfort of our own home too!!

Although a huge once in a life achievement, the biggest motivation for this challenge being born was to raise funds, and awareness for Wishes 4 Kids. A very special local charity who grant wishes for very sick children in Leicestershire. This challenge, as with everything else we do for this charity was totally self organised, self funded and self supported. Just us, our panniers and a huge amount of grit and determination. Therefore every penny donated will go directly towards granting a wish, and every penny really does make a difference.

Thanks to everyone for your support. The donations, the good luck messages and for following our story through the blog. It really has helped us to achieve this what we set out to do.

Richard and Angela

Krypton Factor meets Blue Peter!

After a very big cardboard bike box, was split into 2, we then dismantled and packaged our trusty steeds up ready for the long but easy journey home. Not sure will get out Blue Peter badge though!

It felt like we weren’t giving them the respect they deserve after looking after us so well. However at this point I think we are all (us, Dalmation and Annabelle, and bikes) at the point where we don’t care how we get home as long as it’s not cycling!

We have spare rolls of gaffer tape on hand and will no doubt be visiting Peter at Just Bikes in Ashby for some assistance once home depending on how the journey goes! It’s just one more step towards getting home.

Lets hope we pass airport packing conditions……

Richard and Angela

Holiday in Rome

Dalmationio and Annabella are really enjoying exploring Rome, and are starting to get a little bit over excited after all the ice cream they have eaten!

We are all going into the Colosseum tomorrow, and they will be able to spend their pocket money on souvenirs…….who will they be for we wonder.

We will be sending a final blog on Friday when we fly back home (yes we did say fly!) so watch this space.

Also for those of you who have been involved in previous conversations when we have said we will be cycling back from Birmingham Airport as it would be great to cycle back into Ashby……..well what a daft idea that was. We will be getting a taxi!!

Richard and Angela

Day 24 – Home 2 Rome!

1st Quote of the day:
WE DID IT! Home 2 Rome Cycle Challenge 2013 (‘Ange & Richard)

Well, at 4pm on Tuesday 10th September we arrived in Rome after cycling for 21 days from Ashby.

Taking you back to the morning, it definitely felt different to any other morning, we were a little disorganised compared to usual and between us emotions were varied to say the least.

But there was still 70 miles between then and Rome, so we really had to concentrate on putting all our energy into the pedals.

So, we found strength from two places today. One was knowing that whatever elements were thrown at us, we have been through them all before on this journey and survived. The second was Wishes 4 Kids, and the children who are suffering. we know that however tough the day is for us or what surprises are around the corner, at the end of the day we will be fine. Many of these children and their families have no end to their pain. This has been a huge motivation in getting us to this point.

Today threw a little bit of everything at us, especially a constant headwind. It was a little bit like a friendly handshake from the elements saying ‘well done, you survived’!

The cycle today was purely about head down and getting to the finish point. Which was a good job really as after leaving the beauty of Bolsena Lake there was not much worth looking up at. With 12 miles to go to the centre of Rome, we nearly got a little carried away with excitement, but we held it back as we weren’t there yet! The cycle from there to the Collusium was the worst encounter ever. Busy suburbs, roads with no rules whatsoever and cars everywhere. Getting busier the closer we got, and not knowing exactly where we were going was a recipe for disaster. Words can’t describe how stressful this was, it was by no means a romantic roll down the hill into Rome. We knew the Colosseum was very close now, but it sits on a very busy, large major road, and the island we had to tackle was huge! At least 5 lanes of traffic going wherever they wanted and lots motorbikes weaving in and out…….then there was us. It was very daunting but at this point it was about cycling with utter conviction in where you were heading, going as fast as you can, and praying to whoever is listening! Finally turning a corner we saw the Colosseum. Our emotions were a little different to what we expected as we were so stressed from the city cycling, however once we had our picture taken and a moment to ourselves, we looked at each other and said ‘We did it!’

It wasn’t until we got to our apartment that it started to sink in, and while enjoying a few drinks (more than usual!) in the surrounding bars we chatted about the day and reminisced about the whole trip, not quite believing what we have done.

2nd Quote of the day:
If you can dream it, you can do it (‘Walt Disney’)

It has taken a huge amount of organising and planning to achieve this goal, and all the time there was no guarantee we would do it as anything can happen. Yes, you have to be fairly fit to achieve a challenge like this, but we are not athletes, we are just ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing.

Today from Richard:
This has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. There were many ups and downs, in more ways than one. Crossing the French/Italian boarder at the top of the Alps was amazing, seeing the leaning tower of Pisa sent shivers through my spine and reaching the colosseum was the pinnacle of this unbelievable adventure.

Today from Ange:
As above, this has been an incredibly difficult challenge, but it has also come with a huge amount of unforgettable rewarding moments. Approaching Annecy with the first sight of the snow capped mountains of the Alps was very emotional, and then achieving the cycle through them…….tough but Wow! Too many moments and kindness from strangers to mention, maybe over time and a few beers you will get to hear more of the stories. One more thing, thanks to Rich for being an amazing navigator. I know at times in France and Italy that this has been very stressful, but he has had to cope with that alongside exhaustion and that on it’s own is tough enough. I would probably still be in Portsmouth if I was navigating!

Today from Dalmationio and Annabella:
Phew…….what a day, well done team! We didn’t dare leave the panniers as it was so windy! We both wanted to ride up front on the handle bars but Ange and Rich said it wasn’t safe. As we got into Rome it sounded very scary on the roads so we were glad to be tucked away safely. We have had an amazing trip and can’t wait to tell Natasha and Keeley all about it. We are really looking forward to our days in Rome, especially as we are getting more pocket money!

3rd Quote of the day:
It always seems impossible until it’s done (‘Nelson Mandela’)

PS – something we have never dared say out loud for the risk of tempting fate, but we can’t believe we have had no punctures since leaving home. And the fact our bikes are still in tact after the Italian roads is a miracle!

Richard and Angela

Day 23 – Siena to Bolsena

On our penultimate day of the cycle challenge, we were met with a glorious cloudy sky as we set off on an early start. It was sad to say goodbye to Siena, such a beautiful place but alas a new destination awaits us.

With a long day of 72 miles ahead there was no sit back and relax attitude, we knew it was going to test us, but we were ready to embrace it all as very soon it would all be just a memory. It was a nice steady downhill from Siena, and soon the scenery became typical of the Tuscan countryside, golden rolling hills and picturesque houses. The sun eventually came out and turned the heat up incredibly, but we constantly kept a look out for some passing clouds to give us some relief. The roads were undulating for most of the day, with a couple of steeper climbs which included some of our favourite switchback bends…..all easy stuff really!!

Throughout the morning we were cycling in the heart of the countryside with very few places to pass through. It was just big Tuscan farm houses in the middle of nowhere, and we were running out of water and desperate for food. Very isolated compared to previous days. After a couple if tunnels, we were starting to feel fatigued and were looking for anywhere for a stop off for lunch. We cycled for miles until we came across a busy little bar/cafe where we enjoyed a fine feast of pasta, ice cream and coffee which set us up for the final leg of 20 miles.

On our way again, there was a build up of clouds in the sky……..yipee! However as we got closer to Bolsena the clouds got heavier and darker. We picked up our speed (a little) but the roads in the afternoon were atrocious to say the least. For the most part we were cycling in the middle of our half of the road. No kidding that one false move could have been a disaster.

About 10 miles to go and we could hear rumbles and crackles of thunder nearby. We were now on a downhill but bumpy road to Bolsena Lake, when suddenly the rain leapt out of the sky in buckets. Sheltering under a tree until it passed, we then continued into Bolsena, not too wet considering.

Our hotel was on the lake front, and today’s picture was a view from our terrace.

So, tomorrow is our last day of cycling. Very mixed emotions; tiredness and ready to stop, elation, and hints of sadness that it will soon be over. We are sure that tomorrow will be filled with adrenaline to get us through the 70 miles in order to achieve our goal. Seeing lots of roads signs today for Roma, we were very strong in pushing them to one side, but are now more than ready to welcome the signs to our final destination, and for each revolution of the pedal to take us to Roma. The Colosseumin Rome will be our final point, so watch this space………

Quote of the day:
A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could, because someone else thought they could. (‘Zig Ziglar’)

Richard and Angela

Day 22 – Pisa to Siena

Well, glorious weather this morning as we set off about 6.45am for our 70 mile cycle to Siena……..cloudy, cloudy, cloudy! You have no idea what a difference this made to the day and how happy we were. Although still hot with temperatures up to 29c, it meant that we weren’t scorched!

Today’s ride was fairly dull really, but we were fine with that as it was mostly flat so meant we had a fairly good pace. However, today we both really noticed that we are tired now, think it is all catching up with us.

Although the scenery was nothing to write home about for most of the day, we did have a few events which will remain memorable.

Half way through the day we were met by a local cycle road race where traffic on our side was stopped by Police until all the cyclists went through. It was great to see, 50 or more ‘pro cyclists’ (they have a bit more than a cyclists tan goin on!) flying past at great speed. The sound of their wheels spinning round so fast…….the noise we could only dream of making! If you blinked you would have missed them………with us going by you could have a catnap and still not miss us! How they go that fast on the Italian roads remains a mystery to us. Dalmationio and Annabella were really tempted to jump ship and join the faster cyclists, but changed their minds when they realised they wouldn’t have as much fun. They were also worried about who would carry their souvenirs!

So back to our steady plod, and with the clouds still on our side we were about 20 miles from Siena. A quick supermarket stop saw Richard chatting to someone in the queue and the man being shocked about how far we had cycled. He wished us well, and with a quick wave in the carpark we were on our way. That was until a few hundred meters down the road, a car stopped and a woman came running up to us. It was the wife of the man from the supermarket. She introduced herself, gave us her number and said if you need anything in Italy then get in touch. This all came from a supermarket queue encounter…….human kindness really is amazing!

As we approached Siena, with about 18 miles to go, the scenery started to change and our first real glimpses of Tuscany started to appear. And as we all know by now, once scenery starts getting interesting, it means there is an uphill or two! Just a gentle climb up to Siena, but with tired legs it felt like a mountain.

Siena is such a stunning city, set quite high up it is an ancient walled city and the buildings are out of this world. Our accommodation was on the 4th floor of a building just a short walk from the Piazzo de Compo (the main square and today’s picture). Minutes after we had arrived, we heard the sound of drums, and quickly threw our heads out of the window to see what was happening on the street below. A parade with many drums and flags worked it’s way down to the small church in the street. It was amazing to see, and as we watched we realised this was yet another great memory at the end of a long day cycling. These parades were happening throughout all the narrow streets of Siena, where different church areas in the city come together to celebrate at the festival.

The evening ended as usual with a couple of beers, followed by a lovely meal at a restaurant tucked away from the main tourist areas, which was recommended by the owner of our accommodation – delicious!

On returning to our accommodation, it was obvious the festival celebrations were going to continue long into the night. With a street party laid out down the length of the street, the celebrations carried on for a few more hours. Another little gem we have stumbled upon.

Thoughts are obviously wandering to our destination on Tuesday, however we have two long days to go, and are feeling quite worn out now. It is getting harder to just focus on the day in hand, but the miles we still have to do brings us back down to earth. But one thing is for sure, no matter what happens, this road is leading to Rome!

Quote of the day:
To conquer frustration, one must remain intensely focused on the outcome, not the obstacles. (T.F.Hodgson)

Richard and Angela