George: My Response

Hi George
Thanks for your email – your enthusiasm is infectious!
I’m glad to be in touch with another person who is interested in the Eurovelo 5. My initial enthusiasm was not the Eurovelo 5, simply an interest in cycling and a wish to do something a bit more exciting one summer. I have a friend who has a small house in Puglia, Italy and I visited him and his wife a couple of years ago when they were there for the summer so I put two and two together and came up with the idea of cycling to southern Italy. I then discovered the pilgrimage route – the Via Francigena (I’m not in the least bit religious but it does add an element of history to the whole thing) and via that discovered the European Cycle Network and the route number 5.
Although I cycle every day to work – a round journey of around 12 miles – I had never done ever longer distance cycling over a period of anything more than one day so that is why last summer I cycled from the northern most town of England, Berwick-upon-Tweed to the English midlands, a journey of around 300 miles. I survived and the next step is the big one to Italy in the summer and if you have read the blog, you are probably up to date with my plans.
The blog was initially simply a way of organising my thoughts and plans but then other people found it and it seems to have become one of the main sources of reference for details about the Eurovelo 5. I have been in touch with quite a few people around the World and will be meeting up with a few of them over the next few months to chat about things EV5. One person – Richard – is potentially going to join me for the portion of the trip from Strasbourg to Switzerland which should be interesting.
Your comments are interesting and I’ve had a good look at your own blog. It doesn’t surprise me that you had difficulties following the route. From the information I could find, I have come to the conclusion that the EV5 is not sign posted much and that it piggy-backs upon other national routes, for example down the Rhine or from Calais through to Belgium along the canals or through Italy following either the national routes number 1 or 3. That said, I’m not sure whether I will be able to afford the time to follow slavishly the routes as marked. I did this over the summer when I cycled in England, following the Pennine Cycleway, route number 68. It held me back as it, quite rightly, made a point of keeping me on very minor roads or more often than not on cyclable off road paths. But sometimes, I just needed to get a bit of distance under my belt. I think next summer, I will take a pragmatic approach to the route that I follow. First of all, I don’t want to do it in a shorter period of time as I possibly can. I have six weeks at my disposal so the 80 miles per day distance is an average that I need to hit to make it from one end to the other (with a few rest days built in). I read stories about people cycling the route in 10 days. This is not for me: I want a holiday as well as a physical challenge! Where the Eurovelo 5 route allows me to make good time – and I’m sure it often will – I will follow it. However, there will be times where I deviate and take a minor road to make up distance. I would never get to Brindisi in time if I were to do anything otherwise.
I haven’t yet decided how much of the route planning I will do prior to setting off. I will try work out which places to stay in along the way – I plan on camping so villages / towns with campsites are invaluable each day – and then have a rough route planned on the 1:200,000 maps that I talked about in one of my posts last week. If there are local routes to follow – as mentioned above – I will consider following them and I would imagine that more often than not, I will.
So that is my approach to route planning. You mention GPS. I’ve never used it simply because I’ve never needed it. I’ve seen others use it and have occasionally played with the GPS function on my mobile phone but nothing more than that. I hope this doesn’t make me sound like some kind of Luddite – I love the technology side of the trip (the blog, keeping it updated en route etc…) but I do love maps. I love to pour over them and see not just where I am going and where I have been but also to see what is in the next valley or discover that the train line that I have been following branches off to go through a tunnel in the distance only to reappear in somewhere completely off my route – that kind of thing. However, I would love to work out how I can log my route discretely so that others can see where I am and also so that at a later date I can see exactly where I have been. I think this might be possible via my mobile phone and Google – I’ll have to investigate. Clearly, as mentioned above, the technology to do that involves GPS.
All that said, I’m certainly up for assisting your work in any way I can. I think that the Eurovelo 5 does need someone to create a definitive route: I only wish I had the time to do it myself. If you know of anyone who is happy to pay me to do it, let me know !
Keep in touch and keep me updated with your plans – they sound very exciting!
Best wishes

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