Its got to go sadly.

I’d like to take one final look back at 2011. I received an email from Sustrans last week saying that the total raised by Round Britain-Ride2Recovery was £3392.00. I was stunned and want to say thank you to everybody for supporting both me and the ride. You made it what it was. It’s given me a lot of motivation to carry on exploring, raising awareness of Mental Health issues and fundraising.

This year is starting to become exciting too and very busy with it. Cycling Plus put out a great article that outlined  last years ride and the philosophy behind it , so thank you to them. The book I’m preparing is out with a handfull people who are reading it. They vary from aquaintences and friends to my doctor! This is a nervous time for any author but I’m starting to get feedback and it’s been very positive so far, so fingers crossed. The book will launch at the end of February as an ebook of various formats and a paper book too. I’m hoping this will help me become more independant which will support future, (bigger ?) rides. I’ve still got  work to do on it  but ‘one step at a time’ has worked well up to now so why change that? Goodness knows how many hours I’ve put in so far but I think I’ll have spent the same amount of time on it as the ride itself, if not more. Basically it’s been my life  since September!

On top of the book launch, there’s the bare bones of my new Facebook page, GraemeWillgress.com. I have a secret weapon here and he, along with others are building me a new website that will eventually incorporate a new logo, this blog, video, photo’s, public speaking, links to the book and all manner of things. The first step is to get the Fb page looking right and that should happen very soon so please do keep an eye out.

As we move into February I’ve begun the real preparation for Ride2Recovery 2- UK Extremes and it’s this that I’d like to concentrate on here. I outlined the ride last time but want to fill in some details. The aim of the ride is the same as last year: to get people talking and sharing experiences of mental health to reduce stigma and increase awareness. Knowledge is power as they say and  as you know I will fundraise for Mind in the process. My own personal journey continues within it. I’m looking to gain confidence in travelling on other forms of transport, so the ride forces me to do that. This was something I found really tough last year and several ferries/situations promoted panic attacks that I thought had long since past. Bear in mind that after the breakdown panic attacks were a regular occurence, even in the local shops and I never travelled further than I had too or stayed away from home. Progress has been incredible and this just extends that. In my mind I feel that once I’ve done this, the world is literally my oyster.

I’m starting the ride with a preliminary event. This came about because Sustrans emailed me to ask if I would be interested in leading part of their own fundraiser, which happens to be the Devon ‘Coast to Coast’ this year. It runs from 19th-21st May and that’s when I was thinking about leaving anyway. I’ll meet them at Orchard Cafe, Yarde on 19th May, give a talk about last years ride in the evening, then spend two days riding with them to Plymouth. It feels like the perfect way to start this years ride and I’m thrilled to be asked to join in.  Take a look at www.sustrans.org.uk for more information.

From there I’ll get a lift or catch a train to Treen in Cornwall where I’ll take a days rest before beginning my own effort on 23rd May at Lands End. In the next week, I’ll make my way to Bristol  using the coast,Tarka Trail, Exmoor, Quantocks and Mendips before catching another train to Swansea.  The reason for that is that the ride from Bristol to Swansea is one I’ve done and not the best one to repeat. It’s just been announced this week that the Swansea to Cork ferry will run in 2012 and that was a sweet piece of news for me as it will place me perfectly for the Southern Irish and Atlantic coastal riding. I can’t tell you how excited I am about riding the Irish coast, it looks amazing on the maps I have. Lots of penninsulas and huge areas of wilderness where there are no facilities or campsites, it’ll take my mind to another level of coping and managing whilst soothing my soul.

This section is around 1500 miles and visits all the penninsulars in the S.W, Kerry and Dingle before working up through Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal. I’ll finally get the chance to visit ‘Giants Causeway’ as I cross the north coast and head to Larne where another ferry will take me to Troon in Scotland. I visited Ireland in the 1980’s and have always wanted to return. A bicycle seems the perfect way to do that, absorbing the scenery, archaeology and hopefully enjoying the famous hospitality of the local people at the same time. There’s a huge amount to see and experience and, as ever, I won’t be rushing through. I’ll be exposed to the full force of the Atalantic weather systems as I travel through here. I’ll have to pray for a better June than last year when this wild and mountainous coast was ravaged by monster storms. It should be around one and a half months of riding, depending on what time out I take, the weather and any side trips.

From Troon I’ll pedal a few miles up the coast and ‘hopsctoch’ over to Kintyre using the ferry to and from Arran. It’s an easy ride from there to Oban where yet another ferry will deliver me to Lochboisdale on the southern end of the Outer Hebrides. I’ve wanted to go to the O.Hebrides since I was a child. As part of this trip they’ll be amazing. The archaeology, geology and geography, make them unique in the UK and I’ll take my time to explore them unless the weather is atrocious and unlikely to change! There’s precious little to halt the wind there apart from the mountains of southern Harris. Last year I met a group of lads who planned their trip to use the prevailing  south westerly winds, only to find a strong northerly blowing heavy rain in their faces for three days.  They abandonned to Skye!

Cruising

From the ‘But of Harris’ in the north, it’s a short rideback to Stornaway and the ferry to Ullapool from where I can stretch my legs on the hills of the Assynt penninsular again, something they’ve just about recovered from! Perhaps this year the weather will be kind enough for me to visit Cape Wrath before crossing the roof of Scotland to JOG and taking the ferry to the Orkney Isles. I’ll take a few days here to look around, riding a loop before pushing out from Lerwick to the Shetalnds where National Cycle Network 1 will take me north to finish at Haroldswick. Again I want to explore these isles,  so timing needs to be flexible to allow for any surprises!! The plan is to fly home from Lerwick via Edinburgh, landing in Exeter sometime around the beginning to middle of August.

The planning for the Irish section has been made much easier by Tom Coopers brilliant ‘Cycle Touring in Ireland’ book which tells me everything I need to know as well as showing some some sections I may have overlooked without his knowledge. I’ve done the mapping and based it all on the kind of mileages and resting regimes I used last year. I’ve also got the 2012 Campsite guide and there are some big gaps where I’ll have to camp wild for several days or stop in towns and use B&B. For the most part I should be able to roll up and get on any ferry. Bicycles don’t take up a lot of room but I will check that out given last years chequered experience and various ferry disasters! I can’t book the flights yet but I have contacted the Airline to check out whether they carry cycles. I’ll be contacting them again to find out baggage allkowances, whether I can bag the bike or whether it needs boxing and all that kind of stuff.

I will be chasing some sponsorship again as equipment wears and my funds are limited, but for the most part I have everything I need apart from some new riding gear. I’m planning on using an Extrawheel trailer this year. I’ve read lots of good things about them and hope to gain one (and the  Ortlieb panniers)  through sponsorship that I’m currently discussing.  It’s lighter than a two wheel trailer and I find people take me more seriously because I’m towing which is still unusual. ‘Irene’ needs some attention. I’ve replaced nothing despite all the miles last year and since!!! I’ll be replacing all the usual moving parts (chain and sprockets, BB etc)  and hope to add a dynamo, CSS rims for long term wear, fixed position stem and a few bits and bobs. To pay for all this, the Harley is going (again!).

Fundraising will begin late march/Easter time and I have a few ideas there as well. I’ll plug the ride at the various talks I’m giving and may give a couple of specific talks to start the ball rolling. My ‘secret weapon’ is sending out a press release tomorrow to let the world know what I’m up to.  I may try to incorporate video into this ride if I can work out how to use a camera. I’ll also be taking a ‘netbook’ along to stay in touch, blog and write as I go, which will be nice (more weight, lol). Skype’s a wonderful thing!

The route is all about our ancestry. Vikings and Celts, Norsemen and invaders. It’s where the land battles the ocean and  I’ll ride the perimeter of these islands where everything is most extreme. It will be a massive physical  and mental challenge for me as well as a stunningly beautiful trip. History abounds, from ancient Celts to the more recent troubles in  Northern Ireland . As ever, I can’t wait to be amongst it, pedalling freely, with only food, cycling, places and people to think about.