The fire crackled and spat, shining a flickering light across my lounge. Outside the rain fell in buckets, discouraging any thoughts of forays onto the flanks of Dartmoor. My tiny rented cottage sat in a dip surrounded by a tall beech hedge which made it impossible for me to see anything of the world beyond my small garden. Unless that is I were to go upstairs which placed me slightly higher than the road I then looked down upon. It was a cosy house and one that suited my needs in the immediate aftermath of a major breakdown.
It’s been five years since I bought a cycle and began to pedal again. In that time I’ve had previously unimaginable adventures both in the UK and further afield. On that sunny day in Scotland 2009, when a young couple rolled into the campsite and took their time to speak to me, I could not have imagined how it would change my life. We exchanged stories after I offered them strawberries from a large punit I had purchased earlier on that day. It was a simple, friendly gesture to two tired looking cyclists and one I’ve had reciprocated many times since on my travels.
When does an adventure begin? Is when you when you leave home? When you have the original idea? Or are you like me? For me, the real beginning is when I take out my maps and begin to see a pictorial view of what I hope to ride the next summer. I may have already looked online and gleaned information from other sources, but once the UK Cycle Route Planner gets laid-out on my cosy lounge floor the adventure really starts. Getting up close and personal with this particular map is the point at which I start to see exactly what I’m intending to do. This is the moment when the places and areas I want to visit can be seen in juxtaposition for the very first time. I stare in earnest at this large-scale map hoping to see tenuous links between them, searching for a route that will become my path.
The warm days of late summer are dropping away, replaced by cooler mornings and nights. Trees are showing leaves that vary in colour from citrus lemon to fiery orange as they ready themselves to fall. This annual process that we all know so well has been slowed by the September sunshine that we have basked in of late. Venturing out early or late now requires a little more thought as we feel the changes of our ever shortening days and we begin to prepare ourselves for another winter. As this process takes hold we sit and hope that this winter will be a proper season and not just the never-ending wind and rain of the last few years that caused so much havoc across the UK.
It’s a rare occurrence that I get nervous about going cycling. I’ve ridden so many miles over the last five years that it’s become an integrated part of my life and recovery. I try to maintain a status quo that sees me riding a few times a week when I feel able to do so. Although this hasn’t proven possible for most of 2014 the recent good weather has seen more consistency in my day-to-day energy, allowing me to venture out a little more frequently again. My rides have naturally become longer and my confidence to complete them has improved, especially since the advent of the surprise wasp sting allergy that halted me in my tracks for a short while.
It’s been fine in Devon now for over two weeks. This late summer warmth has been aiding my efforts to get my cycling back on track after a difficult year. I’ve begun to explore again rather than take the obvious routes between the places I tend to travel to. It’s reminded me of how much I love being out on my cycle and helped my health inordinately by giving me a much-needed double-boost of exercise and sunshine.
At those times when my mind plays games with me, as it has for most of this year, I sometimes sit and wonder if it will ever open up again into that free-flowing state that is so creative and rewarding. I knew from early on this year that I needed to rest for a while and replenish my energy. It wasn’t something I chose but a situation I had respond as positively as I felt able. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the a long, month after month, fight with depressive symptoms that has transpired. A gentle and wonderful trip through Brittany with Michele is the sum total of my touring in 2014 to date, although I still have a few desires to fulfill before winter settles on us once more.