The best laid plans….

It’s been quite a week here in sunny Hatherleigh. So much is going on but I’ve been feeling tired, flat and emotional too. It’s something that goes with the territory as we come to the end of another winter, and I know it all too well as do many of you. I also know that I need to listen as I said in the training article. I’ve had to take it easy on the work and bike and let things settle down. A tough therapy session left me exhausted as we once more began to explore my underlying trauma. Allowing my emotions to flow freely is an exhausting process and showing it to others is difficult. The resulting low energy has meant that I’ve needed to rest much more than I have been. I can happily sleep for two hours in the afternoons and still sleep as usual at night. I’m sure I’ll be fully recovered in time for next week’s session though.

That aside, I’m very happy with how things are progressing towards the next ride. I’m fit enough and mentally beginning to prepare for another grueling two and a bit months of pedaling and all the joy that comes with it. I’ve got to the stage where I want my book finished now. Last year’s ride needs to be underlined, apart from the talks I’m doing, in order that my mind can focus on what lies ahead.

I’ve also been supporting Jason Woodhouse in his attempt to ride around the world in as shorter time as possible as part of the World Bike Race. That will see me in Plymouth tonight delivering various things that he needs for the next stage of his epic ride. I’d like to wish him well and hope he and the other competitors have an amazing, and above all, safe journey. You can follow him at www.boyonhisbike.com and track his progress. He’s raising funds for Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation charity, and donations are via www.justgiving.com/boyonhisbike should you wish to contribute.

I finally got around to starting some proper planning this week. That’s mostly because my books gone to a proof reader, so I’m free for a while. I should have known before now that anything involving ferries would always be problematic. The few of you who’ve heard me talk about my ride last year will know exactly why that is and everybody else can simply imagine the fun I had attempting to use ferries as I circled this small island.

In December, it was announced that the Swansea to Cork ferry was resurrected. Hurrah, the ferry’s dead, long live the ferry. It’s February now and that announcement has been superseded by one stating that the company is in liquidation. Oh bugger. Doesn’t seem much does it? For me it means looking at ferries from elsewhere, which is what I did.

Irish Ferries website has one of those boxes where you put in your information and requirements and it coughs out a price. I pushed the button for ‘bicycle’ in the section that requested the type of vehicle I would use. Their response was that Irish Ferries don’t support that mode of transport. When I stopped laughing, I sent them an email asking if that was a joke as I found it hard to believe that they wouldn’t or couldn’t transport a bicycle across the pond.

An hour later I got a response saying I could book in as a foot passenger without admitting to having a bicycle, a sort of covert booking. The bike would cost £10 to hide during the crossing, which would be at night, so presumably nobody would see them take it on board. That wasn’t the only problem though. The ferry is much further away than Swansea (Pembroke) and would take me to Rosslare, adding 4/5 days riding to my journey. It would cost me far more money on the train and then I’d have the additional expenses of camping and food whilst I made my way back to Cork. The alternative ferry goes from even further away, Fishguard to be precise. Double bugger.

On top of the additional time and travelling expense, the cost of the train, ferry, bike and cabin etc. adds up to far more than I’d bargained for. I therefore did some more investigation. Flying is the obvious answer and before you ask, yes it is possible. It’s cheap (£29.99 inc. all taxes), and fast, but the bike is an extra £40.00. The baggage allowance is a mere 20kgs, which I’m praying doesn’t include the bike. If it does I’ll be famous for cycling around Ireland in my pants whilst slowly dying of hypothermia!

What a shame, I was so looking forward to cruising across to Ireland, slowly getting used to the idea before arriving. Flying from Bristol, I’ll manage about three breaths before we’re landing in Cork and I’ll be all kerfuffled by that quick change of countries. My mind needs more time to adjust, more time to trick it into thinking it was a good idea and the plane will scupper that completely. Still, it’s all good practice for the future.

It’s all miles away from what I envisaged just seven days ago when, in my mind, I’d cruise to Bristol, stay with friends and take a short train journey to the ferry. Another friend suggested it might be a warning for me to stay away from ferries. I’m not that superstitious myself but I don’t seem to gel with them. The thing that amazes me is that when I planned the last ride, this kind of stuff would have stopped me in my tracks and now I just laugh and look for another way. Such is progress. So now I need to decide whether I travel into Bristol to see friends and then cycle back the next day or whether I pedal straight to the airport and wave goodbye to blighty for a few weeks from there. More of that later.

Have you ever taken a bicycle on a plane? People get really uptight about how you should pack your precious bike. Some wrap everything in bubble wrap before boxing it and sealing it. Then they cover it with ‘this way up’ tape and watch in horror as the baggage handlers throw it on all the other boxes without a thought. I’ve only flown with a bike once, many years ago, and American Airlines simply had me place it in a plastic bag and that was that, luggage and all. It never even got scratched. Since then the CTC (Cyclists Touring Club) have come to the same conclusion and actually advise bags as being as effective as boxes. The big advantage of a bag is that you can carry it with you, unless you’re Jason, and then a mate has to drive it to Plymouth.

I do love the idea of riding to an airport and away again at the other end. Arriving at an airport with a bike is interesting. Before checking in you have to let the tyres down a bit, turn the handlebars parallel to the frame and lower them, remove/reverse the pedals and lower the saddle. After that, remove the front wheel and fix it to the frame, place a fork separator in the fork blades and ‘voila’, it’s ready to fly. You place it in the bag, tape it up with ‘this way up’ tape, everybody can see what it is and off you go. Well, that’s the plan this week!

The rest of the trip looks straight forward apart from booking a flight back, and trying to get to Shetland Isles in bad weather, or back from there or the Outer Hebrides or……………….. There are a lot of variables, is what a scientist would say, and a high chance of being let down somewhere along the way. That’s travelling and what makes it fun, as well as frustrating. Personally I’d rather wait for a ferry than be stuck in an airport but I feel that I’m being given new lessons that I need to learn already, before I even leave.

.

I’m telling you all this because, as I said earlier, I couldn’t have coped with this last year. Everything then was very contained. It feels so good to open the door a little further and see more of the world without feeling frightened. In fact I’m already considering some ideas for 2013. A joint venture with two charities whereby we run a campaign together. That will have to wait for now though as my mind needs some ‘down time’.

So I sort of know how I’m getting to and from the places I want to be and I have a route planned out. I’ve joined Warm Showers, a group who host travelling cyclists, providing meals and a bed for the night. Don’t get too excited, there appears to be only three or four hosts on the whole Irish and Scottish sections. I told you it was wild.

There’s also breaking news on the bike front. I’m having a major overhaul before I go and I’ll keep you up to date on that when I know more. Despite what I said at the beginning, I’m feeling bright and chirpy after a relatively lazy week. Tomorrow I’m going riding, and that will be a pleasure as it always is.

Finally, do you remember that article I wrote on keeping faith? As I sat here pondering flights last night, an email arrived. It was from a cycling group in Bristol I’d met briefly last year when I stopped to talk to a purple gorilla! They wanted to know if I might be interested in giving them a talk and slideshow. They’re having bookings up until the end of April but free in May. They meet on Tuesdays and said they could offer me a bed afterwards should I want to do it. It just happens that I will arrive in Bristol on Tuesday, 29th May and will have a CD with me as I’m talking to the Sustrans Group during their fundraising ride. Coincidence or fate, you decide?

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