Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Things we have learned from our Ardeche drama

French Village Diaries things we have learned from our Ardeche drama
Adrian's Dujarrier support

Whatever happens in life it is useful to learn from our experiences to hopefully be better prepared next time. Following on from our Ardeche drama, see part one here and part two here, there are a few things we have learned:

We certainly won’t be heading out on the bikes again without carrying emergency information, including name, date of birth, Carte Vitale number and top-up insurance details, plus name and mobile number of someone to contact in the event of an accident. Adrian even considered having a tattoo done, until he realised a change in phone number could become a painful correction.

Most cycle jerseys have a small zip pocket, which although too small for a mobile phone could hold the above emergency information. Thankfully Adrian had safely stored his car key in this pocket on the day of his accident. If he had lost the keys as well as his phone and contents of his pockets (some bits were scattered over two metres down a steep ravine) it would have been so much more difficult to stay in touch and get him home.

Wearing a Dujarrier, with it’s thick padded straps passing under both armpits, when it’s hot, is not pleasant. Thankfully he has plenty of wet-wipes and the tender loving fingers of his wife to wipe him down and keep him as comfortable as possible.

Never underestimate Girl Power; when a Mother and a wife get together to plan a rescue mission they are a force to be reckoned with.

It has also confirmed what great friends and neighbours we have; from the many well wishes to the assurances of help should we need it. Our neighbour Pierrette, who is so often a source of inspiration, had a similar experience that has given us hope. In her seventies, she regularly cycles and a few years ago fell off her bike, finding herself alone, with no mobile and a very sore shoulder. In 35º heat she pushed her bike the 4km back to her house and the following morning got herself checked out at the hospital. Her shoulder was broken. She too had a Dujarrier to wear, day and night for a month, then days only for another month. She didn’t have an operation or any physiotherapy and assures us she now has full movement, no pain at all and is back on her bike too. Adrian is seeing the orthopaedic surgeon next Monday, so fingers crossed.

French Village Diaries things we have learned from our Ardeche drama
Google streetview D236 Ardeche - Back towards the bend.

There are also a few things we will never know for sure:

Exactly what did happen around 09.30am on the D236, just after Adrian cycled around this left-hand corner in the road at 45km/hour. The crash left his saddle bent and badly torn, possibly from a somersaulting bike? The wheels are bent, but he managed to get back on the bike immediately afterwards, carrying on downhill for two and half kilometres, occasionally popping his shoulder back into place, before realising his phone wasn’t in his pocket. Leaving the bike at a food station, he walked back uphill to search for his possessions. It was while wandering back downhill, the Gendarmes picked him up and terminated his cycling for the day. With no scratches or damage to his helmet, he can’t have banged his head, despite his behaviour.

French Village Diaries things we have learned from our Ardeche drama Garmin
Garmin damage, thanks Mini

Why Adrian’s Garmin satnav/computer, which survived the crash sadly didn’t survive Mini’s moment of madness. Our generally well-behaved, nine and a half year old Labrador cross, took it from his cycle bag a week after the accident and ate it! Carefully managing to break the screen at the top and destroy the data card held in the bottom. Thanks Mini.

Why he obviously wasn’t supposed to cycle up Mont Ventoux – again. Adrian’s plan had been to head home from the Ardeche via Mont Ventoux and treat his legs to another gruelling climb. The first time he planned to ride up Provence’s famed mountain, Gizmo the Mini Cooper broke down (see here) so we never made it there. I’m yet to decide whether I let him plan another attempt at the climb.

Life can be funny at times, but I’m convinced everything happens for a reason.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rescue mission Ardeche

French Village Diaries cycling injuries Ardechoise rescue plan
Adrian sporting his Dujarrier shoulder support
Before I continue with our Ardéche drama I’d just like to say THANK YOU! Following my first post we have received so many lovely messages wishing Adrian a speedy recovery, here on the blog, on Facebook and in person, it really has cheered us up, thank you all.

I don’t know about you, but we both rely on our mobile phones to be our phone books, which we have now discovered can be a problem. Following the dramatic fall at 45km/h that saw him, his bike and everything in his pockets scattered down an Ardéche hillside, Adrian was without his mobile. The only phone numbers he could remember were our landline and his Mum’s landline – in the UK. Knowing Ed and I were out, his only option of getting a message to me was to beg/borrow the use of a phone to call his Mum, Sandra and hope she was home.

Ed and I returned home once we had spoken to Sandra and there began the telephone vigil, alongside regular texting between Sandra and I, and the wonderings of what happens next. A couple of times Adrian managed to use a phone at the hospital and let me have a brief update, but the day was long and the hours ticked slowly by.

French Village Diaries cycling injuries Ardechoise rescue plan
His x-rays
His first call reassured me he was basically OK, although with some damage to his left shoulder that meant it was refusing to stay in place. X-rays show a large gap between his arm and shoulder, but the doctor was happy that there was no break. This was the good news, however by mid afternoon he still had no idea when they would let him go and more importantly how he would get from Valence back to St Félicien, about an hours drive up into the Ardéche hills.

His journey there had been a dramatic blue-light ambulance ride, strapped to a bed with heart monitors too and although he was by no means the only cyclist taken there, most people had friends or family arrive to take them home. That was my big problem. How did I get myself 600kms to his bedside without driving, as having two cars but potentially only one driver wasn’t very practical. My only option was to sit and wait some more, but during the afternoon thoughts like will he need an operation?, how long will they keep him?, how will he get back to St Félicien?, how will he cope camping alone?, how will he get back home to us?, went around and around in my head. Adrian says that all that was going through his head was how was the bike and what would the wife say!

Mid afternoon and his missing phone rang me! A French lady called Natalie advised me the phone had been found and handed into the Ardéchoise officials; proving there are still good and honest people in the world! I told her his entry number, name and what I knew about his current whereabouts. By this point his car and tent were in one location in St Félicien, his bike elsewhere in St Félicien, his phone was being held in a neighbouring village, he was in Valence and I was at home. It was a real logistical nightmare.
We needed a Rescue Mission Plan, but I wasn’t sure anyone would be willing to hop in my 13 year old, manual gear box car, that currently has no air con and drive across France with me in temperatures over 35º, then return alone in it while I chauffeured Adrian home in his automatic car, which has air con, cruise control and speed limiter. However, I was wrong. Sandra couldn’t book her plane ticket fast enough and even once we had our plan in place our very good neighbours were slightly offended I hadn’t called them to action earlier in the day.

Once strapped up in a padded brace that tightly holds both shoulders back and together, his arm is relatively stable and once they were happy the hospital released him with a medical report, lots of prescriptions for pain killers and his x-ray pictures. At each step of his ‘adventure’ he was asked for his Ardéchoise entry number, so someone somewhere in their control centre was keeping an administrative eye on him. I can’t thank them enough, especially as they kept his bike safe, returned his phone and organised and paid for a taxi to get him back to the campsite, at a cost of 186€. They even phoned on Friday to see how he was doing.

His last meal had been the saucisson and cheese at 9.00am, so it was a tired, weary and hungry husband who returned to his empty tent at 20.45. Thankfully his car key hadn’t been lost and in the car was his UK mobile, giving us direct communication for the first time all day. It was so much more reassuring for me once we could talk and message, despite him sounding so fed up. His main concern initially was how he was going to get his bike back!

Meanwhile Sandra and I had been busy hatching our rescue plan and my five-year-old nephew seemed to think Grandma and Auntie Jacqui were just like the real-life Paw Patrol off to rescue Uncle Ade. If she flew to us, we could share the drive to him and then have two drivers to get the cars home. Needless to say he wasn’t keen! He still has some movement in his arms and he was sure he could manage to drive a left hand drive automatic. He was also determined to start making his way home as soon as possible, rather than spend another night with an achy shoulder, camping out on an airbed and with no shower.

Having made two short drives to collect his bike and phone, with the help of some friendly fellow cyclist/campers he packed the tent and car and carefully made his way to a hotel in St Etienne. However he did reluctantly agree to our rescue mission, so a flight was booked for Sandra and a route plotted to get us to his hotel in St Etienne. He then figured if he was OK following the drive to St Etienne on Sunday, it should be possible for him to make his way a little closer on Monday morning, thus reducing our journey time to him.

Just before midday on Monday we all met up in a coffee shop in Montluçon. It had been a hectic few days, we’d all been driving since early morning and still had to return home, but all that really mattered was that he wasn’t alone anymore.

French Village Diaries cycling injuries Ardechoise rescue plan
Taking things easy

It’s certainly been a long week, but Adrian is taking things easy, receiving lots of TLC, feeling a bit better and a little less bruised, although it will be a while before he is out on the bike again.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ardour in the Ardeche, the call I didn't want to receive

French Village Diaries Ardour in the Ardeche
Camping at the Ardechoise
There comes a time when we have to accept those around us need to step away and gain some independence. This letting go is often outside our comfort zone, but has to be done. This was how I was feeling letting Adrian head off to the Ardeche last week, with his bike and camping equipment, but without me. Having really enjoyed himself on the Ardechoise last year, when we were there together, it seemed mean to refuse to let him go this year, despite one of us needing to be at home to support Ed (and taxi him back and forth) through his first Baccalaureate exams.

French Village Diaries Ardour in the Ardeche
Ardechoise sportive
It’s not often Adrian immerses himself into an all French environment without Ed or I for (language) support and I thought it would be a good experience for him. I was also a tiny bit jealous that he was off to the Ardeche and I was stuck at home. A 130km sportive, taking in the hills and villages of the Ardeche, fully supported with food stops in villages decked out with bunting and an air of ‘fête’, what could possibly go wrong?

French Village Diaries Ardour in the Ardeche Ardechoise
Ardechoise cycle themed decorations 

Quite a bit as it happens!

French Village Diaries Ardour in the Ardeche Ardechoise
Food stop at the Ardechoise

My Saturday began with an early start to collect Ed from an over night party and take him to a pretty garden where the music school were putting on a small outdoor concert. Adrian phoned me at 8.00am to say he was off and then at 9.00am he texted me to show me his first re-fuel of saucisson and St Felicien cheese – yummy. I was then driving for about an hour and a half and then occupied with a slightly jaded teen, who was certainly tired and dehydrated, but putting on a brace face setting up his guitar and amp while the trumpets performed a sound test.

French Village Diaries Ecole de Musique Pays Mellois
Ed performing at the pigeonnier

It briefly crossed my mind about 11.00am that it was rather quiet from the Ardeche, but I wasn’t overly concerned. Halfway through Ed’s brilliant (I’m his Mum so would say that) performance of Apache my mobile rang, a UK mobile number that would have cost me a fortune to accept, so I declined it. Once Ed was done, my brain remembered the mobile number was quite possibly Adrian’s Mum’s number. A quick text, ‘did you just ring?’ was immediately answered with a ‘Yes, ring me NOW!’

This is how I found out that Adrian had fallen off his bike, injured his shoulder, was on his way to an unknown hospital and had lost his phone in the fall. All this 600km from home, alone with no back up and very little French.

It’s certainly been a busy few days, with multiple logistical problems and plenty of stress, but I’ll tell you more about that later. The important thing is that he is home, damaged and fed up, but home.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

La Vie en Rose, Champagne-Mouton

La Vie en Rose B&B, Champagne-Mouton French Village Diaries cycling Charente
La Vie en Rose, Champagne-Mouton

In my opinion there are many benefits to cycling inclucing:

Time spent outdoors, silently gliding past fields and creeping up on deer that do no more than raise their heads and watch us cycle past.

Feeling the sun on my back, the breeze on my face and listening to birdsong.

Watching my body re-shape itself from it's curvier winter swaddling, back into a slightly more sculptured form; with muscles on my legs, reduced spare tyre around my middle and more toned upper arms.

The sense of adventure; packing the bikes for a night away, setting off from home and knowing it's just my legs (with Adrian's navigation) that will power me somewhere new. This was how I found myself at La Vie en Rose B&B last week, fifty kilometres from home in Champagne-Mouton, just over the border in the Charente department. You can read my full review for FreewheelingFrance here.

La Vie en Rose B&B, Champagne-Mouton French Village Diaries cycling Charente
Chickens at La Vie en Rose

When we first started cycling, the Charente was our ‘go-to’ destination as they have a network of over 35 signed cycle routes, each route having 3 circuits of varying lengths, covering most of the department. Before Adrian invested in his Garmin and began planning our own routes, we would pick a Charente ‘boucle’, drive to the start point, park up and follow the signs for an afternoon ride. They are all well signed and well thought out, ensuring you avoid main roads, cycle through the prettiest villages and know where to find bars and restaurants along the way.

La Vie en Rose B&B, Champagne-Mouton French Village Diaries cycling Charente
Champagne-Mouton, Charente

Our route to La Vie en Rose in Champagne-Mouton took us on some familiar roads as we picked up sections of routes 31, 32 and 48 as well as places I recognised from the Flandres Charentaises Classic events we have taken part in. It really is a beautiful area to explore by bike; quiet roads, fern-floored chestnut forests offering cool shade, fields of sunflowers (not in flower just yet) and wheat that was starting to turn gold, plus villages with Romanesque churches and river valleys offering muscle stretching climbs and fast descents.

La Vie en Rose B&B, Champagne-Mouton French Village Diaries cycling Charente
Mia, La Vie en Rose

We arrived feeling tired but exhilarated and instantly fell in love with La Vie en Rose, a beautifully renovated stone cottage in a quiet hamlet where Sue and Gordon welcomed us like friends. Their dogs, Dora and Bella also seemed very pleased to have us to stay and I can't thank Taz the cat enough for curling up on my lap and purring happily, while Mia slept on the sofa by my shoulder. It's been almost two years since we lost our cat Poppy and I do miss my cat cuddles.

La Vie en Rose B&B, Champagne-Mouton French Village Diaries cycling Charente
Terrace La Vie en Rose

Sue and Gordon are keen to encourage cyclists to come and stay as, like us, they know how great the cycling in this area is, and their home was the perfect place to relax after a day on the bikes. Their large garden offers sunny or shaded seating, guests have full access to their lounge and we joined them for a delicious fish dinner. There are a few restaurants nearby, but not near enough for tired cyclists!

La Vie en Rose B&B, Champagne-Mouton French Village Diaries cycling Charente
Bedroom La Vie en Rose

I slept very well in a bedroom fit for a princess and their generous breakfast fuelled me all the way home.

La Vie en Rose is just off the Tour de Charente, a 390km route taking in most of the Charente department and I would certainly recommend using it as an overnight stop. Having toured La Sarthe by bike last year and currently busy planning a tour of the Deux-Sèvres (Tour de Rêves) for later this year, I'm convinced it's the perfect way to spend a week exploring an area of France. The 100kms we clocked up cycling to and from La Vie en Rose was also great training for our Tour de Rêves charity bike ride.

Tour de Rêves charity bike tour Deux-Sèvres French Village Diaries
Tour de Rêves

La Vie en Rose
15 Chez Pouvaraud
16350 Champagne-Mouton

33 (0)5 45 30 73 77

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tour de Rêves - your name here

Tour de Rêves French Village Diaries Deux-Sèvres Monthly
The Tour de Rêves Four at the Marais Poitevin
At the beginning of what has been a busy week, we met up once more with Sarah and Rob to do a gentle training run for the Tour de Rêves, as well as some serious planning.

We are all beginners when it comes to organising a charity bike ride and I can’t quite believe how much there is to do, as well as getting our legs and bodies fit enough to cycle up to 80kms a day for six days in a row. On a cycling note, I’m rather proud of myself for clocking up 130kms in three days this week, but that is still quite a bit short of our target for the September ride.

Tour de Rêves French Village Diaries Deux-Sèvres Monthly
Tour de Rêves route

From the 4th to the 9th September we will be cycling a figure of eight route around the Deux-Sèvres, the department in France where we live, covering over 400kms with no rest days. Our target is to raise 2,000€ for Rêves, a charity that helps to make dreams come true for sick children. We would be very grateful for any donation no matter how small. Donations can be made securely, direct to Rêves, in our name via this link here.

Tour de Rêves French Village Diaries Deux-Sèvres Monthly
Bike check

One of the places we will be cycling through on the Tour is Coulon in the Marais Poitevin and where we met for a planning picnic last Monday. The Marais Poitevin is an area of reclaimed marshland between La Rochelle and Niort that is now a calm nature reserve of narrow canals around the Sevre Niortais River, with kilometres of safe and flat cycle paths. Whether you are walking, cycling or paddling a flat-bottomed barque on the waterways, the Marais Poitevin is perfect for a relaxing day out. Our ride from Coulon to Arcais to Damvix and back to Coulon gave our legs an easygoing 29kms, meandering past pretty stone cottages with roses, honeysuckle and hollyhocks in full bloom. It will always be one of my favourite places for a day out.

Tour de Rêves French Village Diaries Deux-Sèvres Monthly
Your name here!

To maximise the impact of our charity ride we think it is important to look like a team in September, so are currently working on our team jerseys. If you would like to see your business name emblazoned on our backs or fronts and paraded around the Deux-Sèvres, now is the time to speak up! The sooner we get the jerseys ordered, the sooner we will be wearing them on our training rides and I’m certainly planning on getting good use out of mine, before, during and after the Tour. For a one-off payment (prices start from less than 100€) your business will get quite a bit of exposure and lots of social media shout-outs, as well as our gratitude. Please contact Sarah Berry via email for more information.

We are also still looking for accommodation in Coulon or Niort on 5th September and Parthenay on 6th September. Maybe you have two spare double beds for four weary heads? If so, please contact Sarah Berry.

You can find out more about the charity Rêves via this link here, click direct to our donation page here and read my other posts about the Tour here and here.

Tour de Rêves French Village Diaries Deux-Sèvres Monthly