Having established that if we have mechanical issues, I lack the manly mechanical qualities to resolve them, we now turn to the thorny question of navigation.
Many a marriage has been broken over navigation despite the innovation of Sat Navs. He says 'trust the machine', she says 'she is not to be trusted', jaws set, lawyers are consulted. Navigation on a bike, therefore, particularly over 800 undulating miles, could be an issue and must be resolved successfully; no pressure on The Navigator.
So, the Christmas present was a Garmin which apparently can act as a Sat Nav, bleeping helpfully at every turn to guide one stresslessly to the destination, that's the theory. After several hours of trying to find some sort of Guide to Garmin in the box I reverted to the internet and found pages of forums complaining or explaining the mysteries of Garmin. I eventually managed to program a route and uploaded it, confident that I could now cross continents with ease.
Setting off on Linda's H4H fund raising Cycles and Sausages 55 miles around Hampshire was the first real test for us both with panniers and for Garmin with the pre programmed route. It did not bode well for either. Panniers are undoubtedly heavy and sap the resolve but it was Garmin that cast doubts on our whole adventure.
At every junction, Garmin suggested 'go left' and then if ignored, squawked annoyingly. I could see from the map (best and braces) that we had to go straight on but Garmin kept wanting to go left. Clearly it has a sort of homing instinct and just wanted to return to the start point by the quickest route rather than slog out the full 55 miles. This is not the right attitude at all, so after 25 miles of whinging, I turned Garmin off.
Many hours of conversations with helpful but irritating Garmin Geeks followed and I set off on the Big Battlefield Bike Ride confident that Garmin would behave. This time I could rely on following a route marked with orange arrows and confirm it with Garmin. Of course that would have been easy and, as we left the start point in Brussels and came to the first junction, it bleated that I was off course and should have gone right, back to the start in fact. Deep breath, sigh and turn it off.
By day three, so many people had helped by pressing buttons that Garmin had finally learnt that we were actually going to follow the day's route rather than return to the start. That trouble was that, while they had shown me what to do, they had done it with such speed and confidence that I had not absorbed the information and felt such a fool that I couldn't keep asking them to repeat themselves.
So, many hours have been spent designing our route on the computer, more hours have been spent refining and correcting the route. More hours have been spent with a pink highlighter and both Collins and Michelin map books of France. I have highlighted the route, linking page 24 to page 47 and then to 120 and so on, creating a pink snail trail through the pages. Then I have measured the little plastic wallet that sits on my bar box and chopped up the books into little rectangles to fit. Then I realised that I don't know how each rectangle fits with the next one, so I asked Emma to go to Salisbury and buy two more books and lots of little yellow stickers so I can mark each one sequentially before I chop up the books. Next, each rectangle is laminated to keep it waterproof. It's looking great and I'm filled with confidence.
This morning I was awake at dawn, heart pounding, does the pink snail trail conform to the Garmin route? Oh no, I need another back up plan. So, another Michelin book, this time whole pages are ripped out and Pink Snailed. Ah, now I can see that I can improve my original route, should I alter it? Is a white D road as good as a yellow D road and what about the red D roads why do the the French seem to have all roads apart from the A and E roads called D?
So more pink highlighter and then back to the computer to alter the route on Garmin. Which routes have I altered and which I haven't? I can't remember so I have to delete them all and start again with the Michelin guide... And then what about the little Collins laminated rectangles, do I need to start again there as well?
Arrr, keep calm man, brace up, this isn't exactly discovering the North West passage, there will be signs....surely?
So it's simple, deep breath....
I've got the Garmin with each days route programmed in, albeit I can't remember how to prevent it becoming a homing pigeon, I've got a whole load of little laminated route rectangles from Collins, I've got some bigger pages from Michelin and finally I've got a folding Michelin map of France. The I've just looked at the internet and see that I can plan a Google Maps Cycle route on my iPad. So now I need to think about how to fit the iPad to my handle bars along with the flapping bits of all the various maps and Garmin and then how do I ensure that I have enough power to keep it connected? Do I buy another charger, a juice pack or invest in solar power and if I do how will that affect the weight?
Of course the route planned on each set is subtly different; What could possibly go wrong?