Beautiful Butterfly sculpture!

HAPPY NEW YEAR to everybody.

2011 was a special year. Two years of commitment, blood ,sweat and tears,(plenty of those)  went into Ride2Recovery and it was brilliant.  Life smiled at me and I smiled back. It will live in my memory forever, as will the people, places and events who made it special.  For a while I hadn’t a clue about 2012 beacause 2011 overshadowed it and everything else. Now my book is nearly done, ready to publish, (it’s lost weight to the tune of 50,000 words!!) 2011 is taking its rightful place in the past. I’ll think about it everyday still, but plans have  hatched.

Thinking only about where I might ride I considered several projects. The obvious North Sea Cycle Route was the first. I checked out the guides and the route profiles. They looked like a dead man’s heart, flat-lined, with no beats of upland riding. The expense would be enormous as the route travels through Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, amongst other countries. It also leaves Norway just as it starts to get interesting, something that felt like a crime! I just couldn’t, I’d have to carry on north, especially having ridden the huge section in the UK already (which is also flat!!)

I then thought briefly about Trans America, the classic cycle route across the USA. Again, expensive and a long way from home. My head said ‘no, not yet’, so I listened. It’s a long way away and the winter is reminding me of how far I have to travel still before I’m fully well. The same goes for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. I really want to do this one, but its a route for sharing and I’m definitely not ready yet.

Then I went flat, I couldn’t think of anything I could afford to do that would give me the challenge I need. Being in a foreign country, alone, probably wouldn’t be much fun. I know from 2011 just how much I yearned social contact, seeking out campsites for that purpose alone. No, being in mainland Europe would have to wait, especially as I have half an idea for 2013!!!!!

Free breakfast and smiles 🙂

Changing my outlook I took a glance over my shoulder. What  I need to do in order to grow and gain in confidence is something that would allow me to travel anywhere I felt like. It struck me that all my rides, preparation included, started from home and ended there. I hadn’t used other modes of transport at all, shying away, quite deliberately. Why? Fear is why, I needed to just ride and rest, without the hassle that planes, trains and automobiles bring with them. I need to use public transport in lots of guises to enable me to travel further afield in the future.

So now I was getting somewhere. On top of those considerations, I have to look at funding. I don’t have a lot of money, but I do have a Harley Sporster, well, until the spring when I will say ‘adios’ to it, hopefully swapping it for some adventure vouchers! I’m also getting busier. It’s taken a commitment as big as Ride2Recovery to get my manuscript to where it is. In the next month or so it will be ready to publish as an e-book, after which I’ll try to find a publisher. I may also release it as a paper book myself, but I need to look into that further.

To begin to  see a return from my efforts, I need to publicise the book and future rides,.I’ll be setting up a new Facebook page and a full-blown website, with considerable help from one of my supporters. It all takes time and I began to realise that I probably couldn’t ride for another four months this year as I really need to start earning some money. Each step is vital, a link to a possible new life and a future that has me at the helm and not the authorities. The blog will become part of the website which could include video, photo’s and all manner of things as I try to establish myself in the world again.

I’ve also begun to do some public speaking. Being an ex-teacher I’m finding this really enjoyable. It enables me to share last years ride (and future ones) with any group that wants to hear and see more. Without publicising this I already have a handful of these talks in my diary.  Each takes preparation time and effort and I haven’t really begun the planning, organising and fundraising for this year yet.

Fundraising? Yes, I’ll be riding for charity again. This year I’ll be supporting  ‘Mind’. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why I’m supporting them. Last year showed me that people want to  open up and talk about mental health issues. I want to take that further and support the work that Mind does, the research, the political lobbying and the support they give as well as being able to let others know that they are there to help. I’ve already contacted them and the wheels are in motion once more.

Arriving on Scotlands NW coast 2011
 As for the ride itself, I looked at what’s closer to home and realised there are huge chunks of the UK I haven’t visited. For that reason and those above, Ride2Recovery2-UK Extremes will explore these regions. The plan is to ride from Lands End to Northern Shetland but not on the mainland, well not more than neccasary. I’ll be using the mainland to link Ireland, the Outer Hebrides, NW Scotland, Orkneys and Shetlands.

The route will ride to Bristol and use a train to Swansea before heading for Cork ( if the ferries running again !!!). Taking the wild, and at times desolate, coast of southern, western and northern Ireland, another ferry will place me in Troon, Scotland. Riding to Oban,  I’ll again use a ferry to The Outer Hebrides, riding the whole legth before returning, via ferry, to Ullapool. From there, I’ll ride the reverse part of last years route, the toughest section, to John O Groats before more ferries will take me out, via the Orkneys to the Shetland Isles. Getting home will involve flying to Edinburgh and then Exeter.

It’s a ride of Celts and Vikings, archaeology and history, mountain and bog. There are huge sections where I’ll be exposed to the full force of the Atlantic weather systems and vast areas that are hardly inhabited and mountainous, especially in Ireland and Scotland. At something like 2000 miles (plus) it’s an tough challenge with far more difficult riding, overall,  than last years ride. The use of so much public transport is a big step for me, especially as I sit here remembering the panic attacks of last years ferry crossings!!!

So now I’ve put it out to you, a major step in  my commitment to doing it. I’ll still ride day to day though, and always with an open mind.  I’m excited about it and that’s what really matters. Of all the things I mentioned, it’s this one that grabs me, this one that makes me feel passionate and that’s the reason I’m doing it. I have to feel that way to be motivated. It will still mean around two and a half months on the road and I’m hoping it will lead to more writing and another book.

For continuity, I’ll be starting  my ride by helping Sustrans on their  Devon ‘Coast to Coast’  fundraiser. Asked to be a  ride leader,  I’ll also give a talk to them at Orchard cafe, Yarde as  we’re stopping there overnight during  late May. ( see: www.sustrans.org.uk) From the end, in Plymouth, I’ll make my way to Lands End to begin my own ride. It felt so nice to be asked and will provide a relaxed start. For now I have a so much  to get on with, something that really helps me through these winter months, as does my bike which I rode this morning, just to say hi to 2012.