Trafalgar.

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Tomorrow is Canada Day, and I’m catching a train down to London to spend the day as an honorary Canadian in Trafalgar Square, in the absence of my good friend Susie. She’s stuck in Ontario, celebrating Canada Day in Canada, of all places! I’ve got her permission to be Canadian, and spend the whole day saying all of the following;

Eh? (What did you say?)

Eh? (What do you think?)

Eh? (To end any sentence)

Hoser (Loser, or good friend. Not confusing at all…)

Take off! (You’re kidding, no way!)

Skates (What all Canadians wear as their first shoes)

Lumberjack (See Monty Python)

To mark tomorrow’s festivities, I’ve baked a loaf of bread. But not just any loaf of bread. This is a Canada Day loaf, made with Canadian maple syrup. The following recipe belongs to Dan Lepard, a fantastic baker who writes regularly for the Guardian.

Simple milk loaf (or ‘Canada Day loaf Eh?’)

1 tsp fast action yeast

350g whole milk at 20C

20g Canadian maple syrup

250g plain white flour

250g strong white flour

1 tsp fine sea salt

25g warm melted unsalted butter

In a jug, mix the milk and syrup. In a large bowl, mix the flours and the yeast, then the salt. Add the liquid to the flour, combine, then add the melted butter. Knead the dough energetically for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Put the dough back into the bowl, and cover with cling film, leaving the dough to rise for around an hour, until doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough, then divide into two equal pieces. Shape these into balls. Oil and flour a 2lb loaf tin, then place both balls of dough into the tin. Cover the tin loosely with cling film.  Preheat the oven to 210C.

When the dough has risen above the top of the loaf tin, and the oven has reached temperature, brush the top of the dough with milk, and place the tin in the oven. Cook at 210C for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180C and cook for a further 25 minutes.

This bread is particularly good for your morning toast, due to the fact that it contains syrup, so it will produce lovely golden, crispy slices of toast. It also makes great sandwiches and is quite strong and sturdy, so will tolerate a battering in a lunchbox.

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Miscalculation.

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In my previous post I said I thought the Devon coast to coast would be a relatively flat route, due to the fact that allegedly the majority of it follows disused railway lines. I was wrong. The elevation profile above indicates I may encounter one or two hills… The profile above is the return leg, with Ilfracombe on the left and Plymouth on the right.

Day 3 of the London to Paris trip (‘The Day Of Storms And Hills’) was very hilly, and I climbed a total of 635m. According to Map My Ride, the coast to coast route involves a total climb of 1042m.

Oh dear. This is going to be tough.

Sustrans.

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It’s no good. I’m suffering withdrawal symptoms and need to be back on the bike again. The Devon coast to coast has been on The List for a while, so I’m going to take the opportunity to use some leave I’ve got at the start of July to drive down to stay with my younger sister Rosie and get it done.

The route connects Plymouth on the south coast, with Ilfracombe on the north coast of Devon, on the Bristol Channel. Rosie lives just outside Plymouth, so the plan is to do the route twice, and end up where I started. It’s 100 miles each way, and as yet I haven’t done 100 in a day. I’m going to be ambitious, and aim to get there and back in two days. I managed 91 miles on day 1 of London to Paris, so I think the 100 mile barrier is more a mental than a physical thing. I hope.

70 miles of the route are traffic free, following former railway lines, so it’ll be another lovely rural trip. Also, I’m assuming that because of this, the majority of it should be pretty flat. Trains aren’t good at going up hills, right? This should make it easier than the first day of London to Paris, which involved a lot of hills, so this should make hitting 100 miles easier.

I’ll probably be driving down to Plymouth on Saturday 6th July, and set off on the ride early on the morning of Monday 8th. It’ll have to be another very early start if I’m going to get 100 miles done, and probably around a 12 hour day.

You can check out the coast to coast route at http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/devon-coast-to-coast, as well as loads of other great cycling stuff. Sustrans is a British charity which promotes sustainable transport, and it has had a big influence on the creation of the National Cycle Network. I used two parts of this network on my way out of London (see the blog entry for day 1 of London to Paris), and their website has some great mapping tools which cyclists can use to plan traffic-free rides.

In other news, the tourer is still at the shop (F&J Cycles – a top quality independent business in Lincoln) having the rear wheel replaced, and probably won’t be ready this week as they’re having to order the new rim and then build a new wheel. I’ve been riding to work on my racing bike, which feels light as a feather and very fast after having spent a week lugging the fully loaded tourer round.

Band.

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(Copyright for this photo belongs to Simon Bray, who has given his permission to use it on the blog)

It’s definitely about time I devoted a blog entry to a rather superb band called Story Books. They’re a Kent based fivesome, making moody, loud music, and this year saw the release of their EP Too Much A Hunter, along with a crazy UK tour supporting King Charles at some sizeable venues.

The band didn’t disappoint. I was lucky enough to go and see the boys play at three of the gigs on the tour, and the progress made my the band between the first and third shows I saw was astonishing. Armed with the Jedi-like skills of Rob and Kris in the studio, they’ve never had a problem recording and mixing music that sounds awesome. But this year they’ve really started to find their groove live, and the tour was a massive part of that transition.

The band could have been accused of lacking live energy and togetherness in the early days, and a lack of consistent, regular gigs was probably the cause of this. They were starting to get there when I saw them a few days into the UK tour, at the Leicester O2 Academy. But at the next gig I saw, in Oxford, they absolutely nailed it. Everything they’d lacked was there. Energy. Togetherness. Spot on backing vocals. And Joe, of all people, came out and really went for it from the start.

Great things are round the corner for Story Books. They’ve been noticed by some very big, very influential people. Amazingly they’ve secured a slot at the Rolling Stones gig in Hyde Park in July, which is pretty big news!

I strongly recommend you go and see the boys play if you get the chance, before too many people hear about them… And at the very least, download a couple of songs and have a listen. You might like what you hear. Or it might not be your kind of thing. What have you got to lose?

Spam.

Maps backwards is spam. This amused us on the ferry, and for the rest of the trip maps were spam. Here is some spam for each day of the trip, to give you a better idea of the distances involved. I’m trying to sort out the elevation profiles too, but it’s proving a bit problematic at the moment.

Day 1: Central London to Newhaven

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Day 2: Dieppe to Neufchatel en Bray 

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Day 3: Neufchatel en Bray – campsite near Marines

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Day 4: Campsite near Marines to central Paris

(Before anyone points out how wiggly the route is, that’s the point. It could have been a lot more direct, but this was the beautiful, traffic free approach into Paris through the forests.)

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Broken.

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I’m finally home, and pleased to be back. Though I have no milk, and have yet to make a cup of tea. That needs to change. 

I’ve just come inside from cleaning the bike, as it was upsetting me greatly seeing it in such a dirty, oily, muddy state. It’s now back to its shiny, gleaming self, but I’ve found out why the back wheel wasn’t running true… There’s one spoke which has snapped, and a really serious crack in the rim, on both sides of the wheel. I think the hub is fine, but I’ll need a new rim and spokes. I’ll take it to see the doctor tomorrow and ask them to fix the battle scars. Apart from the ruined rear wheel, everything else seems fine, other than all four brake pads, which due to the weight on the bike, and The Mud Incident, have all worn down almost completely and will need replacing. I’ve stripped all the oil off the chain and rear cassette, and will re-oil it when it’s had a chance to dry off. 

The final stats for the trip were as follows…

Distance: 484.7km

Cycling time: 25:16:02

Maximum speed: 54km/h

Also, as mentioned in a previous blog entry before I left, one of my uncles was interested to see the difference between the weight of the bike, luggage and rider before and after the trip. Well, the only difference in the weight of the luggage is a bit of food and three bottles of water, the bike obviously stayed the same, and the rider gained a very small amount. I was 73.9kg before I set off, and according to the scales I’m now 74.1kg. Too much cheese, clearly…

I’ll upload some maps and elevation profiles later tonight. They’re quite interesting to look at. Well, I think they are.

And finally, I must mention the instant effect my participation in Luke’s English Podcast has had on the numbers of people looking at the blog. And they’re all over the world! So I’ll take this opportunity to say hello to the people from Poland, Russia, USA, Cambodia, Brazil, Germany, Vietnam, Canada, Uruguay, South Korea, Morocco, and Italy who have all clicked on the link on Luke’s website and visited my blog. I hope you’ve found it interesting! Who would have thought that my own little London to Paris adventure would come to the attention of all those people around the world?