26 July 2012

Tour de Fraud - 2011!!!!!!!!!


French Pyrenees apparently……..

I had been to the Pyrenees only twice before (for a Catalan wedding and to try canyoning) at opposite ends of the range and in different countries, both visits were interesting but seemed like a long time ago so when Rob said that there was a work trip/holiday to Gers I was quickly reaching for a map. Research finished. I was pleased to see the potentially interesting places surrounding Stu’s house where we were planning to work. Most importantly it was not too far from the mountains (visible, on a clear day, from Stu’s). Lourdes, the Basque country, coast and Biarritz were all close enough for a day trip.

As soon as we arrived we set to work.  Everyone quickly lifting pizza and beer after the journey despite Rob somehow managing to get free meals most of the way. The tour of Stu’s place revealed a long oak frame barn, half of which had been developed in to a house complete with a two story living room overlooked by a mezzanine. The other half?… was our objective for the next couple of weeks. After a few days of ordering materials and 6m of concrete the local merchant was saying Stu’s account?

The first floor of the newly betoned barn was in original, full character condition.  A slightly leaky roof and a couple of hundred years of hay storage had taken its toll on the thick oak floor boards turning them in to worm sponge, so they had to be removed. We took it in turns using a crow bar and pick axe to lift the boards up from beams while trying not to catapult ourselves through the gaps on to the new ground floor. Unfortunately the rotten oak still retained enough strength to be awkward to remove and as I was pulling the end of a stubborn plank I watched it flex to the point I thought: “better stop now or it’s going to spring up suddenly” Luckily my thumbs relocate themselves quite easily. Dragging the shattered boards outside we accumulated an impressive pile of wood. We obviously set the lot ablaze, despite a smattering of rain it burnt for three days.

As Le Tour was in town (half hour drive away to be accurate) we took a rest day to go and check it out. After we watched them spin past we were motivated for the next stage of our tour - the Col de Tourmalet (or the Tour du Bognour stage?). We had all acquired bikes from different locations, I had dragged my beater from below the bouldering mats, tents and Christmas trees in Matt's garage, Robs classic Roberts was found beneath a bulk bag in his garden and Paul and Stu had Stu’s kids bikes!!! The looks we received from the spectators parked up to the summit was amusing. To get back down relatively safely Paul borrowed an allen key to stop his handlebars falling off, descending flat out through cloud was a buzz especially when I heard Paul using the classic feet-on-the-ground braking close behind me.

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