It’s been two weeks now since I arrived home after 4069 miles of incredible cycling, scenery and people. It still hasnt really sunk in yet, just what I’ve achieved. I arrived at the ‘end of the ride bash’ to balloons friends and banners and was in a state of complete shellshock. Two or three miles earlier, I passed the point where I had ‘closed the loop’ and I cried and ciried with a mixture of joy, at having done it, and sadness, that it was finished. “would lyou like a drink, some food etc etc”, bounced off me as I sought to gather myself. Hugs with people felt detattched from this sudden rupture in my lifestyle. By the time I left to cycle home, I was exhausted, and those last few miles seemed to go on forever. I rolled into the road I live in and stopped. All around me there was a huge peace. I was home.
For me, that day was another day in the saddle, one of many. The fact it was the last , wasn’t something I really wanted to think about. I now know why people love to be ‘on the road’. Life is simple, there’s no clutter. You pack up, ride your bike, shop, unpack and relax , and that’s it. If you want company, you seek it out. If you don’t, you shut the tent door or go out. I found a groundedness that I have never ever known before on this ride. A confidence to deal with whatever the day threw up and a joy at being outside. After a couple of months riding I had an ‘it’ll be alright’ sort of attitude whatever happened.
“What was the highlight of the ride” and “where was the best place” etc etc. I couldnt answer these because when I was stuck in Harwich, the best place was John and Terri’s 4×4 and in Scotland it was all of it ,and in Cardiff it was the bay and …………………………… Everywhere was the best bit. The freedom to ride was the best bit, the people was the best bit, get my drift?
So, back at home I opened four months post! A letter from ‘The Powers that Be’ was a rude awakening. Forms filled, and sent off with evidence, and I’m now considerably worse off than I was on a weekly basis. BUMP, was that me landing? It struck me that travelling is the only thing you do where you arrive before you land!!!!
Resting gently in my quiet little house, I miss the effort, the joy, the feeling of oneness with myself, and the constant packing up and unpacking. I hardly know what to do with myself. Talking about the ride doesnt do it, sorting out 1400 photo’s doesnt do it. I’ve been out for a couple of rides and whilst pleasant, I’m not going anywhere and miss the tug of Trevor, the trailer!
All of this is perfectly normal after a journey such as the one I just completed. People have told me of similar feelings after a two week holiday! I put two years of my life into this and now it’s history. I look at the map and my face forms a grin, it’s beginning to sink in slowly. I look at the map and see faces, places and wildlife, not a spot on a map that I dont know. Every inch of the route is plastered with memories, and that feels good.
I’ve written to sponsors, and talked with those who have supported me. I went to see the Doctor and restarted my therapy. None of it seemed real as I got hugged and told how well I’d done. It truly is the oddest place to be.
One thing that stayed the same is my love of the place I live and the people in it. How I came to live in this lovely little town is a mystery really, but it’s home and I could look forward to arriving back and seeing friends with a great deal of enthusiasm. For all the beauty I saw whilst away, this is my ‘Shire’, the place I belong, and that is of great comfort.
Whilst away, I kept two daily journals. They reflect the thoughts and feeling that I had after each days ride, and hold memories of places and people that I would have otherwise forgotten. People everywhere asked if I would write a bo and lots said I should. I couldn’t have agreed more, so on Monday morning I sat down to make a start on what feels like another mammoth task. As soon as I began, I knew it was the right thing to do. You see, previously I’d ordered my life around organising, planning and doing the ride. Now I needed to find some new priorities to maintain the equilibrium, and writing seems to be it. Each day I sit down for a couple of hours and write a few more pages. The section regarding the ride itself will be relatively easy as I have the journals. Writing about my illness in a way that is readable and involving, without making people want to shut the book before the ‘good bit’, is really challenging and therapeutic, as it makes me examine the past and talk openly about it, albeit in a rather compressed form.
I also began doing all those horrible things you do on return from a journey. The car had sat for four months and needed an MOT before taxing it. There was no food in the house and I really struggled to shop for more than one day at a time! I took the Harley out for a spin and it showed its digust at being left for a long while by spitting a big lump of paint off the rear fender. I’ll add that to the list of jobs then. Getting said bike out of the shed wasn’t easy as the hedge had gone bonkers, best cut it back. All of these things, chores though they are, are helping me land again and settle back into ‘normal life’.
“Wasn’t it lonely” people ask me. “It’s lonlier now I’m home”, I would think. Everyday, I was surrounded by people, often people on holiday with time to talk and share a brew. Messages grew in numbers as friends told friends and These really helped me stay focussed and motivted whilst riding. Back home, people have jobs and I don’t, so each day is very quiet as I learn to regroup. My body has recovered well with no aches and pains. The shin splints I talked about were my own fault. At some point I moved my saddle too far forward and then rode a long way. Once back where it should be, everything slowly settled again. Mentally, its much tougher. Who and what am I now? are questions that I’m still unravelling, although I have more confidence in myself than I had prior to the trip.
The future is a difficult place to think about whoever you are. I feel the need to try to regain some ground and income, but need to take it really slowly. Whilst away, it was easy to see when to rest. Tiredness would begin to bend my mind if I didn’t look after myself well enough. It felt like the scaffolding was buckling and then I knew for sure I needed to stop, right then. Back home, I have to return to the way I was. I always had ‘faith’ in what I was doing and felt that I would find a way to fund it and keep it going. It always worked and I need to maintain that belief in order to begin to believe in another ride and a new life, then I’ll find a way to make it happen.
There are a couple of rides that I thought about lots whilst on the road. I’m not going to say what they are, but I felt that if I hope to ride again, it was really important that I felt really passionate about the route and didnt fall into the trap of doing it for another reason, like earning some money. I learned an awful lot about my limitations on the journey as well. Those limitations may well govern where I go next. I really needed to be in contact with others on most evenings. It made me fell safe. Wild camping, something I love, seemed a bit too far ‘out there’ at the moment suggesting widerness rides may take a bit longer before I’m ready to try one.
Also, being able to speak freely in my own language, the only one I have, was equally important. I can use these to guide me to the places I might consider riding next year.
For now, it’s time to return to writing, reliving those halcyon moments that come with travelling for several months. I’m planning on doing some talks/slide shows over the winter and several sponsors have indicated that they will continue to support my riding into the future, which is really brilliant.
Things have changed, I have changed, and this transition period is really neccasary in order for me to understand the nature of that change and move on. Sometimes, in order to move forward, we have to stand still.