In just 4 weeks the Old Legs 2019 Tour kicks off- 2819 kms in 27 days -climbing 31786 meters in the process- which is the same as climbing Everest once a week for 4 weeks. And then when we get to Moshi at the base of the mountain, the hard yards start with a 4 day footslog up the world’s high free standing mountain, to Uhuru Peak.
To train for the 72 km arduous hike, Jenny and I took granddaughters Jos and Cailyn to Disneyland Paris. Talk about overkill. By my reckoning, I walked 960 kms in our 5 days in Paris, mostly humping 960 kgs on my back. I wore my Mt Kili boots to break them in and am now 4 inches shorter than when I started.
In the process, I had the best time ever. Ditto our grandkids. Talk about sensory overload. And that was just in the airports getting there. Escalators that went on forever, elevators that talked, self flushing loos and auto start taps. I heard Cailyn shout ‘Wow’ a dozen times in Joburg airport alone.
We had to hustle and bustle to catch our connecting flight to Amsterdam, we took the scenic route to Paris. Halfway to Terminal A, conveniently situated on the other side of Johannesburg, Cailyn asked me “Where we going Eric?”
“Are we walking there?”
Wearing winter coats older than themselves with hand-knitted beanies and keeping a watchful eye out for crocodiles in the Disneyland ponds and lakes, our grandkids were standout. My best was the Rock and Roller coaster with Jos, with Aerosmith playing at volume 10, drowning out her screams. For kids, Disneyland has to be the happiest place on earth.
Cailyn was impressed with the technology on display, especially the landline telephone in our hotel room. “Why don’t we have those in Zimbabwe, Eric?” I couldn’t answer her.
After Disney, we hit the Alps with friends Nicole and Sterre Pronk – so the kids could play in snow and so I could ride up the iconic Alpe d’Huez, a mountain that gives you a crick in the neck looking up and vertigo looking down. I’d never seen such a big steep hill. Neither had Jenny, so she decided better she follow me in the car, in case I didn’t make it up. While I was riding, Nicole and Sterre would take the kids to play in the snow up on top of the mountain. So that we could synchronize watches, I asked Oliver, the bike rent guy, how long he thought it would take me to ride up the hill. He told me fast guys do it in an hour, slow riders in 3. To play safe, Nicole and I arranged to meet up top in 4 hours. Cailyn decided watching me go purple in the face would be more fun than playing in the snow and rode shotgun with Jenny.
The road from the valley below up to the top of Alpe d’Huez has 21 switchbacks, with the first 6 being the steepest with gradients of 11%. Oliver told me to start off slow, which is like telling Donald Trump to pat himself on the back.
The switchbacks allow you to break the mountain down into segments, none of them worse than the Ugly Sisters we train on back home. I rode within myself and got to the top in 1 hour 20, feeling rather surprised. After a congratulatory beer, then we played in the snow. I now know that dragging grandkids around on sleighs is far more knackering than riding up mountains.
After the snow, we hit the beach with the Pronk family and a Belgium bottle store with 2000 different brands of beer. In my next life, I want to come back as a Belgian beer drinker.
The weather was perfect for both activities, although we got into the water only as far as our toes. I needed more than my new arctic sleeping bag to swim in that sea. We rode through the Belgium countryside on funny bikes with handlebars
that curled back and made you feel like you were riding an armchair. We rode on the TGV, the French bullet train. To mess with Dave Whitehead’s head, I switched my Strava on and blitzed a 20 km training ride in just 4 minutes, topping 278 kph. Nelson Chamisa dreamed about a bullet train for Zimbabwe in the run up to the last elections and was ridiculed by many. Coming from a country that currently has zero train service, a bullet train seems a marvelous idea. And if France can have bullet trains, why can’t we?
We also went shopping in a ginormous camping shop for the winter kit I’ll need to summit Mt Kilimanjaro. I bought thermal underwear enough and arctic sleeping bags that will allow me to get bloody hot in freezing conditions.
Whilst shopping in Europe, the Third World seems an especially dreary place. By comparison, prices are for free with a million brands of everything to choose from. From what I could see the only thing people queue for in Europe is to get onto rides at Disneyland and in traffic to get to the beach when the weather is perfect. And the biggest thing that Europeans worry about is a tsunami of Third Worlders in search of greener grass and the good life. Alas.
And small wonder.
In the 2 short weeks while we were away, prices in Zim have gone crazy. The price of bread has shot up from $2.00 a loaf to $3.50, toll fees have gone 400%, etc, etc. I’m too scared to look at the big stuff. Rumors abound that the Generals, alarmed by the winds of change blowing across the Sudan and Algeria and bleak with Ed’s inability to rig the economy, are set to pull the rug on him. And with the likes of Mengistu Haile Miriam as their advisor in chief, God help those of us who who have to carry on calling Zimbabwe home.
Moving on to matters more positive, Adam has just been sponsored a dollar a kilometer. The $2900 he’ll raise will pay for 29 cataract operations. Or 8.2 club foot correction programs. Or antibiotics for 600 pensioners for a week. That has to be the best value for money feel good out there. And with 10 of us in the peloton, with your help, the Old Legs Tour is in a position to do a whole bunch of good. To sponsor one of us, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/oldlegstour and follow the prompts. In Zimbabwe, transfer to Bulawayo Help Network via their CABS Platinum Account number 1124733450 or their Ecocash merchant number 139149. Monies donated help pensioners country wide.
And a big well done to Mary Latham who is walking the UK to raise money for ZANE. Mary walked a 25 miler in Windsor last weekend, bringing her total miles walked for the year to 400. All monies raised by Mary go to ZANE. Follow Mary on Facebook. Better still, support her on http://www.justgiving.com/Marylu220?utm_id=121
Training wise, things are happening. In Holland, Jaap endured 145 km of cobblestones on the Paris -Roubiax a.k.a. the Hell of North. The next week he rode the 150 km Amstel Gold Race with 2000m of climb with steepest gradient of 22%. I think Holland imports hills from France especially for the race. Hans our other Hollander is in hospital recovering from a hernia op.
Nik is back on his bike in Switzerland training hard after a recent illness. Adam and Mark’s internet coach is happy with where they are at fitness wise and has shifted them to minimum fatigue maintenance program through to June 01. Judging by Strava stats, Dave looks to be getting stronger, ditto Alan, ditto Carol Joy. Al Watermeyer’s training regime is slightly more laid back. He’s looking to the Harare to Mucumbura leg for final conditioning.
With regards me, to make up for 2000 Belgium beers, I’ve got to play catch up again and have planned another 2 weeks of High Intensity Interval Training but this time with a heart rate monitor. It is a very clever thing that tells me with a single glance of the wrist whether I’m alive or not. Watching your heart rate is mostly therapeutic, like watching fish in a tank. I say mostly. The other morning my watch told me my heart rate slowed to just 36 beats per minute in deep sleep. That sort of feedback first up in the morning is enough to get your heart racing. 36 bpm has to be close to dead. According to Google, I’m either suffering from something called Bradycardia or I’m fit.
In closing, some bad news. Last week, support team member Gayle Arnold took a tumble whilst on a family holiday, breaking an arm and fracturing her femur & pelvis.She’s stuck in bed in Athens. Hope you get well soon Gaylo.
In closing, a huge shout out to the Pronk family and friends for generous donation received.
This week’s Swahili 101.
Kupata bora hivi karibuni Gaylo!! Na Hans!!Get better soon Gaylo!! And Hans!!
Mamba wanapo wote maji, hata in Disneyland!!- Crocodiles are present in all water, even in Disneyland !!
Until next blog, survive and pedal if you can.
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong