If you’re thinking I’ve been quiet on the blog front recently, that’s because I have. Other things have had to take priority as I finalise everything I need for the ride, which starts in two weeks time. Where has the time gone? I’ve shifted my focus around to get all those niggly things done that we all leave until the last minute.

At home by the sea locks in Bude, cornwall

I can now say that I have everything I need, I’m ready to rumble, which is a fair description of what my stomach is doing! The Teepee has arrived, the Santos is set up, I bought all the bits and bobs that get left to the last minute. I’ve asked a friend to run the last event, a  Coffee and cake Morning/Raffle,  so I don’t have to think about it! (Old Schools, Hatherleigh, West Devon, 0930 Sat 23/4/11) Another friend has baked and decorated a cake to raffle at the event. Her decorating skill is amazing, a true talent, so thank you Caroline for doing that for me.

So, what am I thinking about? Well, that’s quite complex. Obviously I’m thinking about the leaving day. With just two weeks to go, it looms bigger and bigger in my mind. We need anxiety to function and make good decisions. It kind of keeps us level, allowing us to feel things eg: our state of readiness and preparedness in particular. The trick is to keep all this positive as once we let negative anxiety into the equation, it can destroy our performance.

With big events, those that are important to us, we start to feel butterflies etc some time before the event (Somatic anxiety). As we get closer, we tend to shift towards things were worried about and negative feelings (cognitive anxiety) which build as the big day approaches. I personally suffer from quite extreme anxiety, which means I’ve had to learn to cope with that through various realxation techniques.

Riding wise, I’ve had to back off to get everything else done, so it was good to get out this weekend and complete a 56 mile round trip to the sea, a tough route with at least 12 major climbs!! The ride was done in a really relaxed state, and I felt very good about it.

Mentally, I’m finding it hard to contemplate being away from my home for over four months. It’s my ‘safe place’ where I go to hide when I feel rough. I know from experience that I can use the tent in the same way if I need to, but as with anybody, friends will be a long way away once I leave for the trip. I’ve spoken to the doctor and the therapist about this, and they are both willing to be to hand, should I need to contact them. The psychotherapist and I will try to keep regular phone calls to help give me less of  a sense of  isolation and seperation, something that has plagued my life. From now until when I leave, I shall enjoy being around the house, putting things in order and simply relaxing. Generally though, I view camping and being outdoors as a really positive thing, so I don’t anticipate problems there.

Power Monkey solar chargers and lithium battery

Here are a couple of shots of the box complete with sponsor info and my log. It seems to tow well, but I reckon it will take a few days to get used to this as it is very different from using panniers. You only notice the weight when you get to your first hill when it suddenly reminds you that you have lots of kit with you!!!

I’ve really noticed the difference when using the Sanots Travelmaster. Basically it doesnt flex at all but still manages to be amazingly comfortable. This means that I can back off uphill and ride really efficently, a real bonus when you’re contemplating big miles.

Finally, my house arrived this week. Here’s a couple of  pictures of it:

The Teepee itself is a mile apart from the prototype I’ve been helping develop over the last  year.  Everything has changed and been redesigned and this is a really amazing piece of kit now. Weighing just over 2.5Kgs including the floor, it’s made of siliconised nylon and for the most part, bonded together.

This makes for a strong, light structure that doesnt absorb water like PU nylon and is extremely UV resistent. It has covered, diagonal two-way zippers (ykk of course) and a buckle at the foot of each to relieve stress when closed.

It use ten stakes to pitch each of which attach to a tension line made of dyneema. This allows the Teepee to be set up and tensioned meaning less flapping in strong winds whilst retaining it’s unique ability to shed wind around itself.  whilst this may seem a lot of pegs, rocks can be substituted if needs must. It only takes a few minutes to set up (only one pole to put in) and about a minute to take down, leaving you with a 6ft x 12ft shelter (the 4 man version).

Home from home

One of the things I really like about this, is the fact I can keep the bike and trailer inside, and still have half the teepee to live in. by flicking the floor back, I can cook inside and everything can be packed up prior to taking the outer down, which is a real bonus when it’s really wet. It isnt a geodesic dome, so I take care to find shelter if I can when pitching, but I have used it in strong winds and it copes extremely well.

The finish quality is second to none with bar stitching in all the stress areas and venting is had through four large vents with no-see-um mosquito netting to stop bugs getting in. I personally use a mosquito net inside in areas where these are a problem and whilst it adds a little weight it gives flexibility. Most bugs seem to fly up to the nose cone and stay there anyway, and I’ve had no problems with condensation at all. Combining the vents and the two-way zippers allows a cool flow of air through the whole thing, feeling like sleeping unde the stars. Do them up, and it’s toasty warm.  Have a look at the manufacturers website at www.arapahoeoutdoors.com for much more info and some mugshots of your truly!!!!

So, that’s that. I’m ready to go. I’m really pleased with what I have achieved up until now. My doctor asked me last week whether I ever thought I would get this far, she was really happy on my behalf. I had a think and replied that ” I  had  blind faith from the first day that this was the right thing to do” and we laughed. Many other people have been instumental in getting me to the start of this journey. Too many to mention in fact. Some are friends, some are sponsors and some of them have become friends on the journey. So many people are supporting the ride with their products that I feel humbled by it. Thank you to each and every one of you whether it’s been supportive words of encouragement, equipement or a shoulder to cry on, you have all helped get me to the start of the real journey.

A scene I hope to repeat may times this summer

Managing mental health problems is a tough road. I’m learning to deal with it slowly, by taking one step at a time, whether they are forwards or backwards. My own life will never be the same as it was and I think that is a good thing. I still have a lot of work to do on my return. Traumas need revisiting and laying to rest.Trust is not easily won for me.  The world keeps turning whatever we do and this is my first tentaive step to a new life. Please do keep in touch through this blog and my facebook page at www.facebook.com/Ride2Recovery or Twitter @graemewillgress.

I’ll send entries from my iphone as and when I can. Roll on May 2nd and I hope you all have a great summer whatever you choose to do.