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.
The sun’s back out in Devon. As I write this, the sky through my front bedroom window is cobalt with orange highlights as the sun begins to sink towards the horizon. Wisps of cloud still linger but are diminishing and the wind that has torn around all day is quietening for the evening, its merry dance complete for today. Daffodils are lifting their beautiful heads towards the sun again, the sentinels of springtime, and crocuses lie like rainbows in the ground.
Spending time contemplating what you might do during the coming summer months is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s often done at a time of the year when even the faintest hope of a day outside spent cycling seems a long way from reality. Pawing over maps as well as exploring routes on App’s, laptops and GPS units is great fun. You can sit in comfort and plot where your wheels might lead you under the warm glow (we hope) of the summer sun without putting a foot outside in the winter rain.
I’ll start with an apology. WordPress won’t currently upload my pictures so I’ve had to use old ones for this post. It’s been quite a few weeks since I last posted on here. In that time we’ve seen a new year begin and an old one recede into the realms of history. I’ve written several articles that I intended to post and then deleted them, unhappy with the content. There just hasn’t been anything going on that I’ve really wanted to talk about.
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.