Friday, December 5, 2008

Route 70(days), not Route 66

When I was a lad, before the invention of rock'n'roll, some of the biggest names in popular records were Frankie Laine, Guy Mitchell, Nat King Cole and Johnny Ray. Frankie Laine had a big hit with "Rain, Rain, Rain" (behold the ark is made), while Johnny Ray used to cry (literally, he was a very emotional man with a hearing aid, collapsible legs and well-supplied tearducts) "Walking In The Rain" (just a-trying to forget).

Well, Johnny, I have been doing quite a lot of walking in the rain lately. And Frankie, if we could only get hold of a joiner round here (I have tried, this very day, to get one to come to do a small job for us, but he is booked up to the eyebrows), that ark would be taking shape in our courtyard.

We just do not remember having this sort of weather here in previous years. Normally we eat our lunch outside on most days, right up to the end of the year. Not last year, as it happens, because it was just so cold in November and December - again a departure from the norm. And certainly not this year.

Yesterday we read in the local paper that this November has been the wettest here for 50 years. Before you yawn and go to put the television on, I should say that this is not another rant about the weather. It is just by way of explaining how I have had time to do a bit more forward planning on the route, and even some preliminary searching for a mobile VBW HQ.

Given a certain amount of houseboundness, occasioned by the dreaded word beginning with "w", I have more or less finalised the broad outlines of my route for the big walk.

The French leg will take me from home in Puivert, more or less in a straight line to Cahors, then Sarlat le Canada (with its famous market), bypass Poitiers to the East, bypass Tours and Le Mans, both to the West, then to Caen and Ouistreham for the ferry to Portsmouth. I shall be walking in 30 kms stages, so for example the first night's stop will be in Mirepoix.

I have been immensely pleased to find that Multimap now gives a choice of walking route between two points, so I am using this to give me directions for the whole of the French section. Until quite recently Multimap would only give walking directions for up to 20 kms, which made the usage of it for a long walk rather difficult. It does seem to give mainly D-roads and to avoid the busy roads which are suggested for vehicles, so I have high hopes. Nevertheless, when we drive to Caen in a few weeks, on our way to a short round of visiting in UK before we head to New Zealand for the customary three months, we shall be driving the suggested walking route, to ensure that it is suitable.

For the UK bit of the walk, I shall be using Multimap again, but only for part of the trip. Walking in Britain, on roadsides, is a dangerous business. Pedestrians, like cyclists, seem to be invisible to the single-minded, must-not-lose-a-second drivers. France is much more user-friendly, especially to cyclists - not perfect with walkers, but much better than UK. There are other countries as bad, but they do not concern me as I shall not be walking there. In UK, to avoid roads wherever possible, I shall be walking on canal towpaths.

So Multimap will guide me from Portsmouth to Oxford. There I shall head north on the Oxford Canal, then the Coventry Canal, then the Trent and Mersey to Middlewich, a place where I lived at one time. The Trent and Mersey will have also taken me through Stone, another previous abode. From Middlewich I shall rely on Multimap again, although there are points where I may use the Liverpool Canal and also the Lancaster, before striking out for the sea, keeping Blackpool Tower in sight until I reach the house of my birth, ideally on my 70th birthday.

I had expected the planning of the route to take much longer. If the Multimap suggestions come up trumps it will have saved me a tremendous amount of trouble and I shall recommend them unreservedly. You will find them at:

This morning we went to Lavelanet, hoping against hope that the weather would improve so that I could walk home. Instead it became worse. I did not look forward to walking for three and a half hours in that volume of rain, with a temperature just above freezing. So that plan was abandoned and we drove instead to Pamiers. Pamiers is 50 kms from home and has a number of bigger stores where we can find things not available to us locally. We needed a few such things, so off we went.

While in Pamiers we called in at our nearest battlebuse - motorcaravan - RV - dealer and examined a few vehicles. One in particular we were very taken with. We are currently pondering. We shall use it for other trips, of course, but during the walk and also of course during our return home, it will be our home for at least 3 months. This one seemed about the right size for that purpose. Gay will be doing the driving during the walk so she has to be comfortable with the size as a vehicle. Watch this space.

The dealer would keep it for us until our return in May. We shall get some use out of it next year, and also familiarise ourselves with it. Because of the walk starting in May 2010, we shall not be going to New Zealand next winter but may feel inclined, especially if the winter is anything like this one, to head down to Spain or Portugal for a few weeks, for some warmth. Then in May 2010 it will come into its own and while I am doing VBW, Gay will be doing GBD - Gay's Big Drive.

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