13 July was mine and Kieron Ramsay’s final day riding together, to complete our London to La Rochelle return ride. After spending the evening on the overnight ferry from Caen to Portsmouth (and with a cabin to sleep in – bliss), we woke up feeling mentally refreshed but physically ruined after having cycled almost 1,500km on the trot.
I went to go and grab some pastries and coffee, god knows we needed some energy. It wasn’t long before we were grabbing our bikes and queueing to get off the ferry, chatting as we waited to a guy who’d cycled from Wales to Toulouse and back on his own, incredible!
Getting off the ferry and into Portsmouth was strange, it felt odd cycling on the left hand side of the road and being on UK soil. The weather was crisp and sunny, with endless blue skies which lifted our mood. We hadn’t quite figured out our route and decided to just cycle around the sea front for a bit, soaking up the sun and delaying the prospect of having to say goodbye at some point.
We cycled through a nature reserve with the giant Kale (yes giant Kale) and stopped to take some final snaps. One of which led us to set the Powered by Me balloon free after it had stayed on my bike from Caen to Portsmouth.
We stopped off at a café to chill for a bit and have some coffee and a bite to eat. Plus there was a giant deck chair positioned right in front of the sun that was too good to not sit on. It felt so good to just sit and soak things up, as well as mentally and physically prepare ourselves for the end in sight.
After a little while we got back on our bikes, knowing we both had fairly big rides ahead, mine to London and Kieron following the coast line East to Brighton. After riding along the beautiful coast line and in land onto busier roads, we reached the A27 bypass to say our farewell as I was going North and Kieron East and we had already added on 20km to our rides each by not wanting to say goodbye! It was an emotional one to say the least, and I cried a few happy tears. You really bond with someone when you’re riding hours on end, day after day, experiencing the good and bad times together. It was incredibly sad to not finish our rides together, but we agreed that this was just the start of our future of rides together!
For me, I continued my final day’s ride back to London and it wasn’t long before the roads were getting a bit hilly, which was challenging as only one of my cleats was clipped in properly. I passed through Alice Holt forest riding on some fantastic roads and then onto the Black Valley trail which was nice and quiet. The path become challenging with lots of rocky off road paths, so I decided to stop in Brookwood for a bite to eat.
After lunch, the route took me along the quiet canal tow path, over locks and bridges. I got to Thames lock which I instantly recognised for our ride to Portsmouth and past a tunnel with graffiti which Kieron and I had taken snaps at before. It was a pleasant reminder that I was getting closer to home – London.
Coincidentally, I reached my celebratory 100km mark by the skate park that Kieron had messed around at en route to Portsmouth at the very start of our ride to La Rochelle. For a minute, I thought about going on with my bike as Kieron had done and simply didn’t have the enthusiasm, nor the energy on my own, so I continued with my ride.
After another 20km, I arrive at the Thames ferry crossing! A sign that I was pretty close to home now and would soon be in central London, with the Shard in viewpoint. The ferry was a welcome break from my ride.
After crossing the river, I cycled through Bushy Park and into Kingston, stopping in the Beaver Town pub to recharge my phone and have a sugar hit with a cold coke. After leaving with enough phone juice to get me home, I pushed on, following the Thames path which was pretty rocky at times and was getting busier as it was approaching early evening.
The final stretch was incredibly hard, knowing I was so close, yet feeling so drained mentally and physically. I hit the West to East Cycle Superhighway during rush hour, which was difficult to adjust to after having cycled hundreds of kms seeing very few pedestrians let alone cyclists. I went slow and took my time, knowing I was frazzled!
Half an hour later I was home, what an incredible feeling it was! Words can describe my thoughts and emotions. Instead of rushing to have a shower, I sat by the riverside, sipping prosecco and processing what I could. My return La Rochelle journey, covering 1,600km by bike was complete! A journey I will never forget and I hope is the first of many long rides to come.
If you’re inspired by my human-powered year-long Powered by Me journey, why not donate to August’s charity, Dementia UK who help families cope with dementia through their Admiral Nurses, providing specialist assistance and support to carers and those with dementia themselves.
Donate to Dementia UK now via my Just Giving page here, or text PBME81 to 70070, followed by the amount you want to donate.