The last week has provided quite a change from the previous few. My low-energy state has remained but I’ve had the most enjoyable time despite it. On Wednesday evening of last week, I answered the doorbell to find a couple of round the world cyclist’s standing there with big grins, looking lean and hungry. Trish and Darren Whittaker originate from Yorkshire, live in Australia in the Northern Territories, and are getting close to the end of a one-and-a-half- year cycle journey around various parts of the globe.
To make their funds stretch a good deal further they had discovered Warmshowers.org while riding in America. This brilliant organisation is run by cyclist’s, for cyclist’s, and its aim is for people to aide travelling cyclists by giving them a place to stay in the form of: floor space, a bedroom, or somewhere to pitch their tent. Many hosts, me included, offer to provide a meal and/or use of the kitchen to help those staying and to help keep their costs to a minimum. By hosting people, you can then use the service when you are travelling. All in all, it’s a brilliant idea that’s made possible through the internet and made easy by using a specialist app that is available for various devices.
I had prepared us a meal, so after they had refreshed themselves with a cup of tea and a shower we sat around eating food and talking. They even produced a box of apple pies and a carton of custard for pudding, something that made the meal complete. This was my first time hosting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Prior to saying yes, I had gone online and checked out Trish and Darren’s profile, just to satisfy my own need to feel secure prior to letting others into my house.
They are travelling on Folding bikes from Bike Friday. The New World Tourist is a beautifully crafted and immensely strong folding bike, onto which they had each hung the ubiquitous front and rear roller panniers from Ortlieb. Front handlebar bags completed the look and waterproof bags with camping gear in were strapped on top.
Now in their tenth year of ownership, they have travelled far and wide on these little bikes and never been let down. Naturally, they have changed and upgraded things as they have gone along. If I wanted a single do-it-all upright bike for all my travelling needs, these, or another Bike Friday models would be my choice. I came close to buying one back in 2009/10 when I started and still love the idea of a bike that is so easily transportable, making multi-model travel much easier. If you take regular plane, bus, or train journeys, you just fold it and place it in a bag. Perfect.
Next morning, Trish and Darren set off early, claiming that the large volume of spaghetti Bolognaise they had eaten would take them many miles. After they left I felt a tinge of sadness that it wasn’t me going off on my bike, so I did a few jobs around the house and then got Kermit out for a ride. By cutting across the lanes for around twelve miles I managed to get to a point on the Granite Way Trail that I thought they might not have passed yet. I was counting on their loaded cycles slowing them down and hoped I hadn’t already miss them as I set off on my not-so-easy ride over hill and dale.
Reaching Sourton, on the edge of Dartmoor, I popped into Devon Cycle Hire and bagged a new flag to replace the one stolen from my trike last week. A quick chat with Al, who runs the business with his wife, and off I went. I had only just arrived on the trail when I saw two loaded tourists approaching. The look on Trish and Darren’s faces when they saw me sitting there was priceless. Lots more talking, along with some test rides of Kermit, happened before I left them to go their own way, grinning inanely as all those new to recumbent trikes seem to do. They were heading down to Plymouth and over the sea to France. If only.
Arriving home, I realised just how much I had enjoyed hosting my first guests. I had been fairly anxious prior to doing it but now I felt good about having done it and equally good having met new people into the bargain. It felt like I hardly had any time at all to catch my breath before I was packing my things in readiness for the wedding of two of our friends on Saturday.
In many ways this provided a bigger challenge than having guests in my house. I have always struggled in more formal social settings, feeling awkward and outside of everything going on. I try to make myself enjoy the occasion but there is always a backdrop of strong anxiety. It probably sounds utterly stupid to those who know me, but my extrovert façade hides the uncomfortable introvert that lurks beneath. I smile and act all jolly in the hope that other won’t notice. Real extroverts seem unable to fathom what goes on for us introverts. To keep it simple we like quiet things and are happy to spend time alone. This doesn’t make us odd, as we are often labelled. It makes us different.
Anyway, it was a lovely do at the startlingly beautiful Halsannery, with lots of people and free flowing alcohol which saw yours-truly a little worse for wear by late evening. The bride looked lovely, as brides should. The weather shone, the groom was funny and everybody had a ball. It was just as a good wedding should be.
Sunday proved to be the ideal day for a lazy start and a slow saunter around Killerton house and its extensive gardens. A bicycle outside caught our attention and after enquiring about it, with the man on the door, we found ourselves engaged in conversation with an octogenarian who misses being able to ride his bike as he once did. It transpired that at the young age of eighty-one years, his wife booked him a session on the London Olympic Cycle Track, something he had always wanted to try. He was quite a character and we listened enthralled as he regaled us with stories of times long since past, days when he rode daily in London and travelled by cycle to the coast at weekends to be with his friends.
Monday was spent heading out to meet a friend for a ride. l thought it was Sunday, but it was actually Monday (bank holiday). That was where the confusion over the weather report occurred. In my still tired state I had mistaken the days when looking at the BBC weather app. I should have known instantly that it was the wrong day because the forecast was quite good unlike the actual weather. My mix-up led me to arrange to meet our friend at the very moment the heavens opened, just like they do on any given bank holiday Monday.
A quick rethink saw us heading for Orchard café at Yarde. We still planned a ride, but with the rain forecast to only last a couple of hours we decided to do coffee and lunch first. It was no discomfort to sit drinking coffee, eating good food and talking about cycling. It took me back to heady days of my youth when we would have to entertain ourselves for many hours in the face of Snowdonia’s, often quite horrendous, weather. ‘The art of festering,’ as it was then known, stood us in good stead today and I felt particularly pleased to have instigated such a pleasant morning.
The weather behaved almost exactly as the phone app predicted, something I find quite scary, and in what seemed like no time at all we set off for a gentle pootle along the Tarka Trail to Bideford, where more tea was taken in the park tea rooms. As we sat outside drinking our beverages, a group of people exited, all of whom were friends of Michele’s. Trikes were tried and tested by various people. This is the usual way of things and just as predictable were the wide grins on the faces of those testing them. All that left for the day was to cycle back to Orchard café, pack away, and head for home. When the staff began removing seats and tables the moment we stood up, we took the hint that they wished to close the café. Only in England.
I didn’t ride again until Thursday. The effort involved in having guests to stay and attending weddings had stripped my energy cupboard to the bare bones. The final nail in the coffin was driving to Budleigh Salterton to attend my usual therapy session, which unusually was on a Tuesday. By the time I made it home all I wanted to do was sleep, and that was just what I did. All of Wednesday floated by in a slow shower of chores and sleep. There was nothing left to give and I felt happy to be at home in the peace and quiet while my washing dried slowly outside on the washing line. I’m always heartened when the time comes to use the washing line. It’s a sure sign that summer is on the way.
I considered going away for a couple of nights from Thursday, but I was still in recovery mode and a trip to Okehampton, using Kermit and the trailer, would see my cupboards full again for another week. It was pleasantly warm, as it has been all week long. I donned a thin summer shirt and a lightweight jacket and headed off without a thought of taking my coat. Horses passed nervously, buzzards flew away in fright and the pony and trap I meet most weeks had just enough room to squeeze past. At the deer farm, the large group of does had escaped the confines of the barn and hidden away while stags just stood stared, as they always seem to. I met the post person in a convenient place and nobody stole my flag while I shopped. I noticed everything around and it felt like an almost perfect morning out as I worked hard to overcome the hill up to Abbeyford Woods with a trailer full of goodies. But overcome it I did and all morning it felt good to be pedalling.
Until next time…………………