On and Off

Île de Ré and Back [Part 3]: Sunday 20 August 2017

23:09

Camping
On the coast
Sky is beautiful
Sounds are beautiful

Moods are tetchy.

We’ve noticed, accurately or not, that the wind on this coast veers between two extremes: complete calm and gusty-muthafuck. Tranquility in the morning. Gusty-muthafuck from about sundown (until we-don’t-know-when).

We’ve decided to camp here.

The tent’s swelling in and out like it’s on an overamped ventilator. The noises from outside are impudent thieves belligerently flicking off Finkel and Einhorn’s covers, secure in the knowledge they’re more than enough for our flagging wills.

And we’re tetchy.

Not being able to get a good night’s sleep should help.

In this game, you have to be understanding at all times – and we are fine – but sometimes: one of you will want to go on; one of you may want to stop; one of you will have overlooked something; one of you will absent-mindedly break something.

Sometimes, shit happens.

Which is great for sensitising yourself to the foibles of others while synergetically becoming sensitive to your own – and accepting them all as part and parcel of it all.

We had a couple of incidences today. We rolled over the first, as you do, as just a symptom of two souls who had not had coffee yet. And we were more than ready to acknowledge and apologise when we were the ones at fault at further incidences along the way.

Which is great.

And this evening’s sourness while putting up the tent was probably nothing, too, but coming on top of the further adjusting to the realities of keeping these wheels rolling, could we be approaching times when the shine starts coming off and the negatives speak more loudly?

Now we are doing this
and discovering how we feel within it.
We still speak, act, move in the same way.
We both speak, act, move in our own ways.
How long will they remain?

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Oh, I don’t know. It’s just been an on-and-off day today. Sadly, it seems like much of the off is going to continue through the night, powered by this coastal wind.

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Poseidon’s Caprice

Warlingham to Dieppe: Friday 04 August 2017

9:04. We sit outside a Co-Op, just inside Croydon, picking up some supplies to keep us going till we set rubber on French soil again. Dieppe is today’s destination, all being well. A long stretch: sounds like real bicycle touring, doesn’t it?

We’re cheating.

In order to be able to catch our ferry at 5:30pm from Newhaven, we have to train from East Croydon to Lewes, where we’ll then ride the remaining 12k-or-so. So we’ve got a double-decker sandwich of one train journey and a ferry ride between three slices of riding. Phew, metaphors are tiring; probably more tiring than today’s small skips.

Did well yesterday, though, after ten non-touring days. Around 60km in total, and six hours saddle-time. Navigating our way out of London was hella fun, but intricate and time-consuming to the max (four hours to get from St Pancras to Warlingham); exactly the same distance as our ride into Leicester in the morning – more than double the time. Would you Adam and Eve it? 🙃

But, a fun ride. Feels nice to have done a proper ride through the capital: making our way from its beating heart, through the districts, through the outskirts, until we exited Greater London into the beautifully green and rurally feeling setting of Warlingham. So many flavours in one afternoon. Really got to feel the place much much more than any of my other visits there.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the only way to experience the world is on a bicycle.

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Perfectly pleasant little bike-skip to East Croydon Station. Perfectly deflating train journey to Lewes – such tolerant, patient, understanding people amongst the passengers aboard 🤔 Hope the coffee I’m waiting for outside this café is able to reflate. Also hope it’s the last train for a while.

One more unavoidable encounter with public transport in a few hours: the ferry.

Newhaven’s a little under 60 minutes away. It’s 12:27 now. We’re supposed to check in at about 15:30, even though it isn’t due to leave until 17:30, so plenty of time. Of course, have been stung more often than once by last-minute hiccups announcing themselves at the worst possible moment – we all have – but, barring a pannier – the pannier – falling off … or a puncture … or getting lost, we should be fine.

And the chances of these things happening are slim slim slim.

“But there are chances.”

Shut up, brain!

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17:34. Sitting on board. Finkel and Einhorn sit below, sandwiched between a multitude of other people’s steeds. Not all tourers, but Ortleibs were conspicuous by their ubiquitous presence on the racks of those with racks. Other riders were clearly off to France for some road-riding; others for touring; others bike-packing. I heard Spanish and Italian amongst us – and it felt good to be part of the weirdo bike brigade boarding together in formation as bemused drivers gazed on.

Before we got on, I heard one rider say he’d done this crossing a number of times – and you just chuck the bikes in a place and leave them. Then I got distracted and missed the bit where he mentioned how they are secured and you leave them with great peace of mind.

That’s because he didn’t say it!

Yup, all leaning on each other – at the mercy of Poseidon. Einhorn is on some Spanish guy’s bike, Finkel’s on Einhorn, but a lesser known bike leans on him.

Solidarity two-wheeled wonders! Look after each other as we would look after you.

I hate leaving my bike unattended; and with the rear panniers and dry-bag attached, too. That’d be some stuff to lose. But we’re all (ahem) in the same boat, so hope this goodness of strangers prevails.

Four hours is a long time. Bagsy first one down when we near Dieppe!

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Ups and Downs

Těšetice to Mailberg: Wednesday 12 July 2017

10:20am. 28.1ºC. Sunny. Hot.

Away we go again!

12.5k, 1 hour 10 minutes.

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Znojmo is a surprisingly pretty town, given that it’s practically on the border, with numerous piazzas, narrow cobbled streets, interesting architecture. Very nice. But it’s too far and too long to travel for breakfast.

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13:30. New notebooks for handlebar bags bought. Next stop is likely to be in another country – Austria! Exciting. You experience so much of a place on a bicycle – sights, smells, sounds, tastes, terrains – that, despite enjoying being here (a lot), I think we are ready for a new vibe.

And Czechia really wants you to eat meat. Sad that it is cheaper to feed a vegetarian creature plants, kill it, prepare it, market it and sell it than it is to feed us predominantly plant-eating humans plants directly, thereby cutting out all that torture and bloodshed. Sad.

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Have turned life into an ordeal.

If Czechia made Hovis, this is where they’d film the adverts.

Given everything up to become a tramp.

An arduous trail out of Znojmo scattered with the shards of the shattered souls of cyclists come before.

“Vineyard city.”

I wish I cared. I don’t. All I want is … I don’t know what I want, but I don’t want this. I’ve had enough. The novelty’s worn thin. My nerves have worn thin. I’m feeling every minute of my 47 years 26 days on Earth in this form. I gave up trying to prove anything to others a while back, why should it be different with myself? Am I trying to prove something?

If so, I’m failing.

‘Enjoy’. ‘Have fun’. This is definitely not about that. It’s about, I guess, experiencing something unmediated, vividly. But why? I ask myself at the moment. Why?

It’s about pushing yourself forward when you really don’t think you can, and when you’re not even sure that you want to.

You can’t go back. You can never go back.

You can stop, but you don’t want to do that either.

So you go on.

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