Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Six Years

I dream of Cáceres on a warm summer night
The glint as the sea catches sunlight

I want to be in Agay, Rapallo or Digne
Not to recreate but to feel it again

Feel the warmth on my skin, take in the blue of the sky
The fear in my heart and the light in my eyes

Hot tarmac and sun, riding alone all day long
Looking for something that will bring me a song

I want it all back and I can’t find a way
To dispel this wanderlust that keeps eating away

Something will happen, one day, maybe soon
And then this ‘once in a lifetime’ will become one of two

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Three Years

I miss the soles of my feet clipping my pedals everyday,
Trying to read foreign road signs, losing my way.

I miss the sun on my face, the burn in my legs,
Arriving at a campsite, claiming my place.

I miss looking out at another beautiful new view,
Eating pizza in Italy, Hungarian stew.

I miss worrying about the state of my tyres,
Being thankful in Germany for a pub’s real fire.

I miss all of the times when I was amazed,
Surviving Greece in a heat wave, twice across Spain.

I miss the challenge of living out there on my own,
Riding country to country on my bicycle home.

I miss the sweat in my eyes, the dirt on my clothes,
The calluses on my hands, sitting in cafes writing prose.

I miss drinking Guinness with Norwegians in Nice,
Tapas in Spain, souvlaki in Greece.

I miss talking to my journal every single day,
Of always having something exciting to say.

I miss patting the frame of my bike, me and him against the world,
Holding on tightly as another mountain unfurls.

Most of all I miss the limitless freedom I had,
Sitting here thinking, trying not to look back.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Moving On

I've decided to leave Avoiding Europe here, at its natural conclusion as a journey. The physical journey, at least. It continues still for me, of course, as I try to put into words - entertaining words at that - my story of Europe. I think this is the most difficult part so far.

I'm not going completely though, just moving. Here, if you feel so inclined. Thanks for joining me on my bike.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Observations of an ex-cyclist

Opinion is divided on what is apparently the hot topic of debate following my return - have I lost a lot of weight or not. 'Skinny' say some, 'broader' say others, 'let's have a look at your legs' say perverts. I don't know, I haven't weighed myself, but I remain perplexed as to why my body shape and size is seen as 'fair game' for discussion and comment, when fatties get left well alone.

Upon return, I found myself immersed in retirement with my Dad. With Mum out at work we fill our days worrying about the time the postman comes, agonising over lunch choices, indulging in a good bit of curtain twitching and neighbourhood gossip and, in the evenings, working our way throug my Dad's stock of Claret. All good fun, as you can imagine, but after two weeks of that, and lots of sleep, I felt the need to get on with things.

I have started writing a book based on the trip. It's in the early stages still, in concept as well as content, as I search for the style I'm after. I don't want to write a 'normal' travel book. I'm aiming for something which reads like a novel but is, of course, true. A 'Trovel' a friend of mine suggested, which I quite like.

I'm fortunate enough to have not spent all my savings over the last nine months, so I don't have to get paid work yet. As I keep having to remind my Mum, I do have a job - I'm a writer - it's just not very well paid at the moment. I still struggle to answer the 'so what do you do?' question from people I meet though. 'I'm a writer' sounds very pretentious in the pub but it is true at the moment, I guess.

I will be renaming this blog and concentrating on things other than the bike ride - a move to Manchester becons in the new year so maybe the scallies up there will provide me with some inspiration.

I started riding my bike again this week, every day, after three weeks off. It's nice. Retirement and Claret haven't taken all my fitness from me.

Finally, a request. When (if) I see you, please don't ask me if I've seen Long Way Down/Round. Everybody - literally - asks me and it's very annoying. I still don't know why or what relation it has to what I did. Engines, support team and a camera crew? No, that's not it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day 254 - Chichester - Southern England

Monday of this week, 10pm, I'm sitting in bed in a small hotel in the French town of Abbeville, contemplating the next four days riding to Le Harve. Well, more the fact that they will be my last four days riding rather than the actual riding itself.

I phone home and speak to my parents, as has become routine on a Monday night. "I'll be on a ferry to Portsmouth this Friday," I tell my Dad. "What time?" he asks. "I don't know, whenever they go, I suppose." I can hear my Dad clicking on his computer, using our friend Google to find ferry times. "Oh." He says. What? "Oh," he says again. What?? "There are no ferries sailing from Le Harve between the 17th and 26th November. Additional services are running from Dieppe." "Ok," I say, "I'll just go from Dieppe then." I think about this for a second, then it hits me. "It's tomorrow," I say. "What's tomorrow?" "Dieppe," I reply, "I planned to be in Dieppe tomorrow. I can catch a boat tomorrow. This time tomorrow night I'll be in England. Tomorrow, this will be over." "There you go then."

There, indeed, I go. Or rather I did...err...go, hence the location of this post.

My last day of riding, yesterday, was 40 miles of constant rain, headwind and lorry spray slapping me in the face, up and down the gentle rolls of the French coast until I reached the outskirts of Dieppe at about 3pm. A sign sent me right to the ferry terminal and as I started rolling downhill a view opened out in front of me. Something I'd been waiting to see for a long time - the sea, the channel. I rose out of my saddle and took in the view, patted my bike on the frame. "We've done it," I told him.

500 metres further on there's a small ferry terminal at the base of a cliff. I go into the reception and am told there's a ferry sailing at 5pm, check in closes in about half an hour. Just enough time for me to take a cheesy victory photo of me and Hewy (the bike) at the channel, at the end of our journey:

p.s. This blog will continue - I'm not finished yet!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 248 - Charleville-Mezieres - North East France

I bought my last maps today, to take me across Picardie and Brittany to Le Harve, and the ferry. I also visited my final two 'new' countries in the last week - Luxembourg and Belgium.

Luxembourg was a funny one - a tiny country, really only consisting of a city and some countryside. I went into the city, couldn't find anywhere to stay in/near the centre and ended up in 'The Worst Hotel in the World' (re-named by me), about a mile or so from anywhere . Not that that made much difference anyway - nothing happens in the centre, from what I could tell. Few restaurants, few bars, little life. It's nice - pretty, you know, cobbled streets, nice buildings and crap like that, but there wasn't really any life, any bite to it. Not that I saw, anyway.

Back in TWHITW, I sat on the bed looking at the dirty, thredbare carpet and the stained walls, my nostrils full of stale smoke and damp, the bed creaking and sagging underneath me, and I thought 'I'm getting sick of this shit'. The 65 euro price tag on the room didn't help. I've stayed in the centre if Vienna, in a nice place, for little more than that. And countless other places. If you want to go to a little country in Europe, go to Andorra, that's what I say. Or if you have to go to Luxembourg, don't stay in the Hotel Bristol.

So, after my 'I'm getting sick of this shit' moment, I changed my plan. I was going to head North into Belgium and touch Holland, but instead I decided to go West, through Belgium, back into France and head for the channel. Which is what I did. I was in Belgium for one night and am now looking at six days or so back to the channel.

The weather has been getting increasingly worse - I was riding in sleet the other day, snow yesterday, and temperatures rarely go over three degrees. Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn't really bother me that much. I've got clothes on, you know, and gloves, and dry clothes to wear afterwards in waterproof bags on the back of my bike, so it's just like another day at the office, so to speak.

Anyway, I'm off to enjoy my last days on the road in France, before my return to England makes this all seem so far away.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Day 242 - Metz - North East France

Last few weeks of the trip, a gentle wind-down through quiet, peaceful France, a chance for reflection and some space in which to prepare my mind for all that will be involved in returning. All of the big adventures, nights out and strange random happenings are behind me. Or so I thought - it seems this trip is determined to keep it up right 'til the end.

Last night involved making new friends in a kebab shop and proceeding on to a hot, sweaty underground cavern of a club where French punk bands were making lots of noise, drinking industrial quantities of pression, being offered non-legal things to smoke at the bar, hanging around with ageing French punks and just generally making it impossible for me to cycle anywhere today.

I like Metz.