SKELMERSDALE MARK LODGE No141
THE STORY OF A CYCLE TOUR FROM THE ENGISH CHANNEL PORT OF DUNKERQUE TO THE MEDITERRANEAN TO RAISE MONEY FOR THE 2021 MARK CHARITY FESTIVAL.
Almost 12 months ago George Scaife had a germ of an idea; to cycle from Dunkerque to the Mediterranean following the canals and rivers wherever possible. On paper this should have been 819 miles. In reality with diversions i.e. getting lost, it became much more than this. It was intended to be a comfortable cycle ride. The other cyclists may have a different view. A back up team was required and that is where members of Skelmersdale Mark Lodge came in with Alwyn Kay(driver), Martin Kay(cyclist), Alan Jones(driver) and a friend of Georges, Ged Varley(cyclist), were due to embark Sunday the 15th June 2014.
Unfortunately Alwyn was hospitalised shortly before this and the trip was undertaken and completed by the remaining four. On our return it was good to see that Alwyn was recovering very well.
Cycle touring with a back up vehicle can offer a brilliant way to achieve a goal, but it also needs to be carefully planned when considering what kit to take.
In order to enjoy yourself you need a vehicle, tent, sleeping bags, bicycle tools, cooking equipment, food, water, clothes, camera and a few handy extras like navigation equipment and maps; a French phrasebook, mobile phones and chargers etc.
The trip would not have happened without the incredible generosity of several people; at the top of that list is Matthew Morton who loaned his Mitsubishi Warrior to the team as the support vehicle for the duration, Thanks Matthew.
Sorting out the complexities of short term continental insuring of the vehicle were Martin Horan and Mark Davis, another show stopper for a while.
The planning of a successful cycle tour does require some careful consideration. George Scaife planned the daily route for the cyclists and identified the campsites necessary for the anticipated fourteen day trip
All the cyclists had done serious training, both on their bikes and in the gym – their fitness and ability was going to be a key factor in the trip’s success.
Owned, provided and erected (every day) by Alan Jones (what a superman!!).
FOOD & WATER
Gerald did the breakfast – porridge made with water (terrible stuff) with the occasional croissant or pain au chocolat, if you could get them before Gerald.
The cyclists prepared liquid meals which were high in energy and very lightweight. Lots of water was also a must.
Evening meals were generally whatever Alan bought in the various supermarkets and chose to cook.
Without the co-driver/navigator, Alan needed, bought and used a pair of Garmin SatNavs, pre loaded them with the cycle routes, campsites and road routes, backed up by his PC, Microsoft MapPoint and paper copies of all the routes, plus a new road atlas of France. (He still managed to scratch the truck whilst no doubt too busy playing with all the toys – sorry Matthew – never trust a SatNav!)
THE TRIP ITSELF
The routes that the canals and rivers took us through some magnificent scenery, with views of vine- covered hills, ancient towns and Cathedrals. Did we get a chance to stop at some winery to sample the fruit juice? NO. But we made up for it when we got to the camp site.
The route took us through the Somme area, the scenes of horrendous conflict in WW1. We visited the War Museum at Peronne which had some interesting exhibits. We also visited War cemeteries of the British, Commonwealth and French troops, a very moving experience to see the long rows of headstones. Martin had made some crosses with the Lodge name on which we left to mark our visit, as well as signing the visitor’s book.
We left to continue to our campsite and managed to get lost. Luckily we managed to get a “military escort” to the site (a world war 2 USA willys jeep driven by some eccentric actors in full WW2 USA uniforms!) and nearly died trying to keep up with them!
Imagine the sight of Americans being chased by cyclists! So much for John Wayne!
One of the most picturesque sights was Villeneuve les Avignon, a delightful and historic town .The ride progressed well. The cyclists thought that the second week was going to be harder than the first, but this turned out to be wrong – it actually got better as the days passed by. Our strength and resolve increased as the trip progressed.
It did not pass without incident, with George falling first and injuring the ribs on his left side and later in the ride, falling on his right side. (Just to even things up.)
Gerald must have felt left out, so he fell and had some cuts to his legs.
We were taken aback by the friendly manner of the French people we came in contact with, who went out of their way to show us the directions, and even guide us to our destinations. Even the motorists treated us with respect and gave us plenty of room when overtaking. Over all it was a unique, unforgettable experience for us all.
We travelled back over 2 days, a 13 hour drive for Alan and Martin from Montpellier to Dunkerque, and then the ferry back home the following day.
Two Thousand Three Hundred and Seventeen miles and it was all over – not bad for a team of mid / late sixty year old guys!
We would like to thank all those who sponsored us – all money collected will be going towards the East Lancs Mark 2021 Festival.
February 2015 Update
A cheque for Two Thousand and Twenty-One Pounds was presented by the Master and Brethren to The 2021 Mark Charity Festival at Skelmersdale 141 Mark lodge’s installation meeting and received by W Bro Tony Davis.