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Stage 8 

Northern France, England, Wales, Ireland & Scotland 

3180 Kilometres 

7th June to 11th July 2000

  Odyssey 2000 arrived in Paris from Quebec early on 7th June for the start of stage 8 which will be on home territory for me. This was the stage that I had promised myself some time off to catch up with my family and a few other personal matters which do accumulate when you are away for such an extended period.

My proposed period off the tour would cover the 12 day period from Paris to London which meant that I had to officially sign off.  It was early evening the same day that I was reunited with one third of my family when I flew into Southampton.

However a complete rest from the bike for that period was not to be as there were 3 of my American Odyssey companions who were anxious to complete a UK Audax Randonneur ride.  So against my better judgement I was persuaded to join them, it was after all only a 200 Kms ride with a start and finish in Salisbury and not too far from one of my family. That was on the 18th June and 2 days later we re-joined the Odyssey party in London.

The UK route then took us to Winchester with the mid-day checkpoint at the CTC HQ at Godalming in Surrey.  I am reminded here of am amusing incident whilst I was riding through the leafy suburbs of Surrey with a group of around 24 companions.

I was (as  usual) bringing up the rear of the group as we approached a junction with a pedestrian crossing, and no pedestrian in sight. However before half the group had passed over the crossing a very smart Senior Gent appeared at the crossing and waited impatiently looking from one cyclist to another in awe as we sped by, as if we were aliens from outer space.  Shaking his head as I passed by the Senior Gent looked at me and said “ and you are b***** old enough to know better.”

The next stage took us from Winchester to Bath where we were due for another rest day and this took me into my own territory where all my companions were looking to me for advice on points of interest etc.    It had also been planned from the start of Odyssey that there would be for those interested the option of an organised ride and a pub lunch on the layover day in Bath.

Thanks to the efforts from Dave Amesbury and the Bristol CTC DA the ride was a great success with over 80 turning out which on a layover day would be unheard of.  Am not quite sure if it was the unofficial ride or the Pub lunch at Bradford-on-Avon was the main attraction.  

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ODYSSEY IN BATH WITH BRISTOL CTC

The arrival of Odyssey 2000 in England and Wales coincided with the Millennium Festival of Cycling  jointly organised by the CTC and Sustrans to celebrate the opening of 5000 miles of the National Cycle Network.   Having looked in advance at the proposed Odyssey route through England and Wales I decided to go off route and use as much of the network as possible over the next few days.

This plan was circulated  to my Odyssey companions and much to my surprise something like 80 of  them decided to join me. The route  from Bath to Cardiff was for me and my group along the Bath to Bristol cycleway and over the old Severn Bridge into Wales.

When I first registered for Odyssey back in 1996 I had no idea that there would be an overnight stop in Cardiff and just 15 miles from my home in the Vale of Glamorgan. The itinerary from Cardiff was north to Holyhead en route to Ireland.

However my plan was to continue to use the National Cycle Network along the Lon Las Cymru known in south Wales as the Taff Trail. This was fully supported again by at least 80 of my companions and luckily for all of us, but me in particular the weather all the way from Bath to North Wales was excellent there were overnight stops at Builth Wells and Barmouth.  This must have been the only period in the whole year that I did not need to refer to the official route sheet.   

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To Enter Chaplins Website at Merthyr Tydfil. Click Here

 

It was during the last few days in Wales that I began to think to myself, I can do Ireland and Scotland any time (like when I get older).  So when Odyssey left Barmouth for Holyhead and Ireland yours truly signed off and took the train back to Bristol to complete my three R(s) reading, writing and relaxation.

Then on 8th July I took the train with bike and baggage to the granite  City of Aberdeen where I would rendezvous with Odyssey on 11th July prior to the start of the next stage commencing in Scandanavia.

 Not many folk who venture into a World Cycle Tour have the chance to visit family and friends half way around, but this was my good fortune in recent weeks.

It also gave me the opportunity as we approached the point of no return, in other words we passed into the second half of our bike ride around the world to reflect upon the previous 6 months, and anticipate what may be in store for the rest of the year.

My personal thoughts at this stage of Odyssey were that it was indeed the experience of a lifetime, albeit a very demanding one. There have been a few dark moments when I have thought to myself “what the heck am I doing here ? or there must be easier ways to see the World ??

Having said that it would be impossible to cover this itinerary within one year if you were to undertake a solo or self organised trip. When you have a pre-planned itinerary, two meals a day, plus a bed or camp site organised for you it makes the daily ritual of getting on yer bike and riding for 6 to 9 hours more manageable and acceptable.

It has also made me appreciate the many things we take for granted at home, and how much we have on our own doorstep within the UK and Europe. There is so much natural beauty in Europe combined with the culture and history, compared to the New World.

The fact that we are burning up many calories every day, has also been an opportunity to indulge in gastronomic delicacies in many of the countries on our itinerary without putting weight on.

Which all brings me to :-