Almost exactly 20 years ago, I rolled off on a shiny new mountain bike from my home near Bristol with a small daysack on my back. I was heading north – up most of the length of England to the Lake District, then across to the east and my Grandad’s place in the North Yorkshire Moors. It was a long way; four days up the country, a bit of mountain biking in the Lakes, and then another three days across the hills in the North. My first staging post was a friend of mine in Worcester, about 60 miles up the road.
Last Tuesday there was a whiff of deja-vu in the air (not especially pleasant up close). I was heading north again. I was rolling up to Worcester again to stay with the same friend for the first night again. But there were differences. Subtle differences, to be sure, but definitely differences. I was 20 years older. My ageing knees and ankles were protesting again after being dragged screaming out of semi-retirement a few weeks previously. I had significantly less hair on my head, and slightly more bulk around my middle. I was carrying 25 kilos of bags, making every incline feel like a brick wall. And I was heading to Yorkshire to watch the Tour de France. Which was brilliant, by the way.
But probably the biggest difference was that the 200-mile, three-day ride north with all those bags, and the punishing ride which followed last Friday along the hard part of Stage 2 of Le Tour were just a warm-up. This Sunday (appropriately enough, the 13th) I’m starting off to ride around the world.
Quite big, the world, isn’t it? And I wasn’t even (that) drunk when I decided to do it.
So here I am. A couple of days before lift-off on the trip of a lifetime. Hopefully. My entire cycle-touring experience (apart from a return trip to London a month ago) fits neatly into two paragraphs above. But it’s just a gentle 80ish miles from Greenwich to Portsmouth for the ferry to France. Can’t be that hard; I’ve got all day, I’ve had a rest, and there are no huge hills involved. And then it’s properly on. France, Spain, Portugal, Canada, USA, Mexico, etc, etc.
Maybe 30 to 40,000 miles. Maybe two years, maybe three-plus. Bit vague on that sort of thing.
Home sold, car sold. Furniture, electricals and books given away. Pretty much everything I own fits on a bicycle. That’s an interesting place to be.
Excited. Nervous. Stressed. Not even close to packed.
Sure it’ll all be fine. Won’t it?
Erm… Gulp, again. Here we go…