‘A bicycle does get you there and more…. And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun’
Bill Emerson On Bicycling, Saturday Evening Post, 1967
When I said I would try to be as creative and spontaneous as possible with the blog I didn’t quite envisage it would be over a month before my next entry … no matter … ‘Everything has its time!’ Besides, it’s not as if I have been sitting on my arse!
I now find myself at a campsite in Punta de la Pena a stone throw from Tarifa, my departure point from Europe to Northern Africa! It is a haven for wind surfers and kite flyers being the convergence point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Med. Last night a wind storm tried to convert my tent to a magic carpet. I could have reversed the tourist trade and sold it back to the Moroccans and saved on the ferry ride!
As I am waiting for my creative bent to kick in I shall furnish you with a few facts from the last month or so!
29 consecutive cycling days since Kilwinning in Scotland.
61 miles average each day
4 ferry rides … Plymouth to Santander
Lisbon to Almada in Portugal
Setubal to Sol Troia in Portugal
Vila Real de Santo Antonio to Avamonte (Portugal to Spain)
1 change of clothes
140 miles … furthest cycled in one day and night … to catch weekly ferry from Plymouth to Santander in Spain
21 miles … least cycled in one day … spent most of it catching up on sleep under a palm tree.
1964 miles cycled since leaving Aberdeen
13 hours spent on saddle in one day.
1 soft bed, excluding hard floor on ferry as seat too uncomfortable!
3 times I have pitched my tent
1 change of bike computer battery
1 broken chain
0 air required in tyres
20 minutes of daily air for me … pranayama exercises!
1 broken spoke
200 euros spent since Santander
1 pulled groin muscle
1 aching left knee … my good one!
1 burnt set of lips … despite using factor 50!
Numerous number of boils on bum
Innumerable moments of joy!
Breakfast: Porridge with banana and honey washed down with large strong black coffee.
Lunch: Banana sandwiches with honey.
Supper: Boiled pasta or cous cous in veg stock cube with 2 or 3 eggs added at end.
Sporadic local roadside vegetables and fruit. Cheap biscuits from Lidl or Aldi to munch as and when.
Multi vitamin and garlic capsule every second day.
Occasional glass of local wine … cheap carton from supermarket or a better quality grape from a cafe whilst people watching.
This lovely fellow would never hurt a fly. I am a dog lover and will acquire one when I stop travelling. However, as the quote above says, when you are on a bike ‘Dogs become dogs again’. They snap, snarl, salivate, bark and growl. Dogs have raced the length of two fields in an effort to harass and hound me. On one occasion I was saved only by oncoming traffic preventing the howling beasts from bolting across the road. Cycling through industrial estates late at night, there is peace and calm, I have broken the back of the day and nurturing my need for nocturnal cycling. When suddenly, all hell breaks loose as vicious guard dogs go berserk almost gnawing their way through steel bars as their shining eyes roll uncontrollably. A couple times I have almost fallen off my bike as I have been dragged back to my cycling senses! Another time a pooch came pounding towards me … I screamed out loud, ‘Bugger off!’ It was hilarious as its front legs went straight into brake mode and plumes of smoke dust puffed up from its paws as its head dropped and it sloped off!
My love affair with bus stops started in Gretna, the last staging post before leaving Scotland. It was my first day away from my friends in Kilwinning and I was rested and eager to put some miles on the clock. Ninety five miles had me arriving late in the town and I checked out a truck stop but was advised by a security guard that police came and patrolled the area. I didn’t think it was an issue but moved on anyway. I spotted two massive bus shelters opposite each other right in the centre of town. Big brick constructions with long wooden benches … perfect! If you can’t be inconspicuous, then be bold. I blew up the therma rest, climbed fully clothed into my sleeping bag and settled down. After an hour a police van drove up and rolled down its window. I popped up my head and said, ‘Hello’. They were just checking I was okay! Secure in the fact that I was being watched over I let out a contended sigh and fell fast asleep. There have been wooden shelters, cement, steel, glass and even fibreglass. Locations have been inner city, countryside, beachside but obviously always roadside! Some other notable pit stops around Britain, Spain and Portugal!
I eat, sleep and cycle whenever I feel like it. I see my daily cycling as my job but with the added bonus of flexi time. I love arriving late in cities as you generally get them to yourself and see a completely different nature. I have cycled into Jakarta, Indonesia at 1 am, Calcutta, India at 3 am and Istanbul, Turkey at 7am so thought nothing of arriving in Porto, Portugal at 4 am. However, as I approached a city centre park I was greeted my hoards of youngsters dressed in yellow t shirts, cavorting around shouting and screaming directed by ‘bosses’ in black cloaks. It is the ‘Praxe’ an initiation ritual for new students at the university. I watched for an hour as the students fought, danced, recited poetry,raced around and generally made a lot of noise. However, it started to drizzle and my eyelids were informing me it was five so I popped across the road and found a wee alcove at the entrance of an imposing looking structure and fell asleep. I woke up at ten to find I was sleeping outside the Supreme Court and saw people hugging and congratulating each other … they had obviously just won their case. No one seemed all that bothered about the boy sleeping next to the bike! The bike softens people and without it I would probably just be considered a middle aged hobo! At least if I had been apprehended then it would only have been a short walk.