I was stood on the very top of Exmoor. The rain that fell heavily seemed to be seeping into my mind and body. The wind tore at my Waterproof jacket and over trousers and summer seemed an eternity away. “How can it be this cold when it’s almost August,” I found myself thinking. I was soaked, wearing full battle dress and chilled to the bone. A short while later the sun broke through, the clouds dissipating as quickly as they had built. The warmth spread through me rapidly but something had already taken place in my mind.
I’ve just finished a short ride wearing a shirt and three quarter length leggings. A peregrine falcon battled with a flock of swallows that were determined to keep it out of their midst. A greater spotted woodpecker alighted on a branch just ahead of me as I trundled home in the peace of rural Devon. It felt a world away from a cold, wet and windy Scotland where I had spent most of the previous two weeks.
On Sunday this week Michele and I will set off for the Scottish highlands, a trip I’ve made every year since 2006 with the only break being last year when time and the need to rest were greater than the desire to ride in the mountains. Even then I made it to Edinburgh, one of my favourite cities, drawn by the imminent graduation of my lovely daughter Lydia.
“We were expecting you to be in a motor home,” said the man with no name. “We don’t take tents outside of August,” he added a little aggressively. “I was quite clear when I booked that I would be riding a bike and camping,” I replied calmly, adding that I had already paid and realising that I had been charged as a motorhome. I had agreed to this extortion as I had an appointment that I didn’t want to miss out on during Monday and nowhere else to go locally.
The time leading up to the start of any journey is always a special time. You prepare yourself and your equipment, mindful of your hopes and fears for the coming weeks, months, or in some cases years. You will almost certainly have mapped an outline route that you will use to guide you on your way and if you are experienced you will have memories of certain of moments that you hope will be replicated in some small way during this adventure. Most of all you want to start, to get out amongst the scenery you have visualised and researched to see if it meets your expectations. Most of all, if youre like me, you want to be free of the complexity o modern life for just a short period.
A couple of months back I wrote a piece about my love of maps. From the response I got it would seem that I’m not alone. This article on the BBC website made me laugh this morning over breakfast. Take a look at this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-32551090. The notion of not noticing Snowdonia as you drove through the mountains and out the other side combined with leaving the UK mainland via a large bridge across the Menai Straits because your sat nav told you to makes me giggle every single time I think about it.
I scurried away from home like a mouse leaving the nest after winter. Blurry eyed and still a little drugged I headed for the lanes that would lead me towards the north coast of Cornwall. Immediately after leaving the close where I live a short hill provides a jolt, reminding me that this particular ride would not be a cruise in the sunshine. Why I had chosen to head along these lanes I don’t know. It’s tough when you are fit and far harder when you feel you have hardly ridden at all.