Dreams Postponed – the Bike Trip is Off

Farewell and Welcome World, and all too soon, Welcome Home balloons at Wychcroft

Ah well. It was worth the planning and the effort. But in the event, I’m not going to do the Great-2012-Bike-Trip-Of-A-Lifetime to Moscow and Hanoi.

So instead of images from the road to Moscow and then from Beijing to Hanoi, let me illustrate this blog entry first (left) with the lovely balloons from Meg and Jeff that first saw me off and then, rather too soon, welcomed me home, followed below (gallery at the end of the blog) by pictures from a most restorative 10 days just concluded on our lovely canal boat the Molly May.

Why the final decision not to go ahead, even with a bit of a delay?

I’ll spare you the boring health details, but as I had finally to acknowledge on a slow, slow potter with Sue around the canals north of Warwick, my arthritic neck and nerves are in no state to allow me to cycle 5000 miles – and sadly, for the moment anyway, probably not even 50 (although I might give a short ride a go in the coming weeks).

Molly May at dusk with the woodburner pumping out the smoke and the heat

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Pedalus Interruptus

Aboard the Stena ferry to Hook of Holland

Sadly, sadly, dear friends, followers and supporters,  the feared flare of neck and nerves happened in Holland, and I’m afraid to have to report that today Tuesday I am  back home in Cirencester, having been retrieved from the Harwich ferry this morning by my lovely Sue.

As you can see from the pictures, I did make it onto and off the boat and into Holland with, of course,  its  cliched windmills.

But by just a few miles beyond Hook of Holland on Easter Day, on just day five of the journey, it became clear that I’m not at the moment well enough to undertake a long ride so long-prepared and looked-forward-to. Continue reading

Farewell Blighty

Flatford MillIn the final couple of hours before I get on the Saturday night ferry into Easter Day from Harwich to Hook of Holland, I bid farewell to England for the next six months with images of the most beautiful Cambridgeshire and Suffolk countryside and villages, reminding me why I so love this country and living here.

Loving also the serendipity of long-distance cycling. You’re bowling gently along, musing about memory and family and how often to blog and how  (relatively) well the neck and the knees are doing, when – WHAM, BANG – there’s Flatford Mill just a mile off to the right.

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Day Two and Eating off a Plane

Eating of a crashed Cessna's wing.

I know I said I wouldn’t post every day, but tonight, sitting in a warm pub in Old Warden, Bedfordshire, home of the world-renowned Shuttleworth collection of vintage aeroplanes which I’ll visit tomorrow, I couldn’t resist this one, of dinner this evening on a wing and a perhaps even a prayer.

I’m preparing to camp tonight, in a car park opposite the entrance to said collection, where this afternoon I found this Cessna, rather than worse for wear. But an ideal and stable base for my first outing with my new Primus stove.

Instant noodles. Worked a treat, and perfect after a fabulous day’s riding from Judy and Julia and Jeremy near Banbury, a rich and warming 60 miles due East into much less of a headwind than I’d expected. Continue reading

Up and Away

And yes, Raven thanks to her Rohloff hub has VERY low gears

So, the journey begins.

Forty miles north-east from Cirencester to friends near Banbury, and neither wind nor rain, nor even hills proved as challenging as I persuaded myself to expect.

Averaging just eight miles an hour, progress across Europe will be slow – heading for Cambridge tomorrow, then Harwich, Hook of Holland, Munster, Bielefeld, Hanover, Magdeburg and Berlin, and on to Moscow via the Baltic (details anon).

But good news is that I have probably already negotiated the biggest hills between Cirencester and Russia, along the old Fosse Way Roman road out of the Cotswolds. Continue reading

Forecast of 45mph headwinds – why am I doing this?

Best first on three wheels

With departure set for the day after tomorrow, just 36 hours away, I was amused trawling old photos to find this first recorded evidence of my passion for spoked wheels.

Early experiments with wheels - ca 1951

I guess I’m under a year on the left, and about three on the trike on right. The photos will have been taken in the summers of 1951 and 1953 respectively in the garden of the tiny farmhouse at Duckshole (wonderful name) just outside Holt in North Norfolk from which we moved in 1953.

Not sure why I look so glum, as little brother Hugh, 18 months younger, tests his own smaller-wheeled hobby horse in the background.

But nearly 60 years ago, neither of us will have been bothered (elegant segue coming here into the purpose of today’s post) by the winds the Met Office is predicting for the rest of this week down here in the other agricultural end of England in the Cotswolds.

Today, Monday, was gorgeous – ridiculously and global warmingly so like the past fortnight – but just in time for my planned departure 40 miles up the Fosse Way North-East to old friend Judy in Banbury, we’re warned to expect viciously cold headwinds on Wednesday from that precise direction, gusting to a truly horrible 45mph.

I’m not trying to break any records with this bike trip, and need to nurse sore necks and knees anyway, so perhaps I should delay departure until the winds abate? Continue reading