Sunday, May 6, 2018

Europe After Rain. And hail. And wind. But mainly snow.

Eighteen months ago Gill and I set off from sunny Buxton to cycle to supposedly sunny Cadiz. Bearing in mind that we get a bit giddy when we have to take a layer off in Whaley Bridge, it's fair to say that we were quite excited. Except that when we actually threw a leg over the crossbar and turned the pedals for the first of the 12,345,678 revolutions (approximately) we had to stop at the end of our road to put our rain jackets on. Derbyshire was not being kind to us in late September 2016.

We needn't have worried though, as our plan worked perfectly. The plan being to follow the sun down through France and Spain as the autumn progressed into winter, then maybe even migrate back north via the Portuguese coast as winter turned to spring, across northern Spain as our money ran out then... well, we didn't want to ruin the trip with too much detail so we thought we'd just wing it from there.
Seven miles out of Buxton we got on the White Peak Loop and headed south - now that's an idea PCL, why don't we extend it all the way to the Mediterranean? Madrid? OK, maybe just Matlock.
By Tissington it was pissington down. I met an old man coming out of the toilets who made the mistake of enquiring where we were heading with all that clobber (I was towing a trailer as well as porting two rear panniers, a tent on the back rack and a big bulky sleeping bag on the front rack, plus handlebar bag. Gill was grinning and bearing a grudge.
I looked off into the middle distance, adopted a world-weary expression and, with a knowingly irritating high rising terminal, question/replied: "Cadiz?"
I so wish he'd replied: "Well you're going the wrong way you twat." and pointed me towards Reykjavik. But he was too polite and just zipped up his pants without even looking, which made me wince but he seemed to know what he was doing.

I lied to that old man. We never got to Cadiz. We made it as far as Mallorca for Christmas, when the rest of the family flew out to join us. But whilst we were all grumping about the hotel dodging the four solid days of rain (the most by far we'd seen in our entire 2000 mile journey since leaving England) Gill got word (well, email) that she'd secured her cycle training work contract and had to be back in the saddle (but the metaphorical one) in the new year.

And so that was that - our intended 5 month epic was abridged to only 3 months. It had been such a wonderfully liberating experience though that we vowed to do it again as soon as our respective employers would allow us the time. Mine were almost unseemly in their haste to see me gone again. Irreplaceable Gill didn't know what she would do until I reminded her that the graveyard was full of irreplaceable men. We agreed that that probably applied to women too and so she got a replacement in.

Being summer we plan to head north and have booked the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam. We intend to go as far as we can before having to come back - what could go wrong? Tune in again to find out.

Everything was clean and tidy at this point and the big sleeping bag hadn't found its way out of Gill's panniers and onto my front rack. But give it five minutes and I'd be clarted in grey sludge from the wet Tissington Trail and various items would cross an invisible boundary, as if by osmosis, from one bike to another.

Six o’clock in the morning. The morning!

Wednesday 4 July 2018 6:21a.m. Why was up I so early? The short answer is that I’m mad! The previous day, I had ridden the five miles d...