Sunday, 17 March 2013

69 days...

Oh shit...

Just over 2 months to go.

Bike training has failed so far. I've been out twice, both times along Brighton seafront. Once I went west to Worthing for eat-all-you-can Chinese with my daughter, Jess and grandtwins. Second time was the next day when I went east to Saltdean for tapas lunch with pal, Karen. Neither journey involved hills, any substantial mileage or major effort (although there was a rotten headwind) and both involved stuffing my face. Not good.

Other excuses include moving house in 12 days time (not just moving house, but moving in with bloke of 9 years standing after living 56 miles apart for all that time - major), working away for most of each week living in a Travelodge and weather. None of these are particularly valid excuses. I'm starting to get a bit scared of my current physical state and the swift passing of the days towards May 27th.

On the plus side, I've lost about 4kgs. Part of this success is purely due to changing my measure from stones and pounds to kilos. I don't know what kilos mean so I am not getting fixated on certain weights that I am used to being and getting a mental block about crossing the line from one stone to another (is this just me?). Kilos mean nothing apart from the fact that I weight less of them than I used to, so I presume that to be progress.

Other contributor to diet success has been due to not eating as much food. That's the secret.

Today, on a rainy Sunday, I am planning my route. This has entailed getting a map of France, getting a pencil, drawing a straight line from Caen (ferry port) to Toulouse, a straight line from Toulouse to the sea and a wiggly line around the coast to Barcelona (which annoyingly doesn't feature on a map of France). Drawing a straight line from Caen to Barcelona would mean cycling over the top of the Pyrenees. Nuff said.

Next stage of planning involves avoiding motorways and locating campsites. I have learned that large parts of France have no campsites, probably because no one wants to stay there. On my pitifully slow bicycle, sorry, legs, I'll be spending days and days in these 'undiscovered' corners of rural France. Goody. Perhaps I will ride down the motorway after all.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

10 Reasons Why

I feel I should explain some context around this madventure, which whilst potentially appearing somewhat lightweight to the seasoned gap year traveller of today, is actually an enormous challenge to a personage of my calibre and vintage:

10 Reasons Why

1) I have been a Mum for 26 years. This type of thing has not been possible for my whole adult life. Children are funny about being made to cycle 800 miles. It wears their stabilisers out.

2) My youngest off-spring has reached an age where he can be left unattended, although the last time I did this he got arrested, so maybe scrap that as a reason.

3) I am too old to know what a gap year is. We just left school and signed on for forever and no one made us do a 'Back to Work' course. Ha! I didn't go on a plane until I was 16. We didn't have a phone in our house until I was 14. New music was only available by going to the phone box, queuing up (there was always a queue) and dialling 160 for Dial-A-Disc to hear one song a day. If you rang again in the same day, you got the same song. For the whole day. We only had to hope that Disco 45 (magazine) had the words of the chosen song that week, or we were fucked for singing along. In the phone box. Several kids with ears glued to one receiver. I have gone too far with the 'In my day...' thing...

4) I have always wanted to be an elite athlete. I am delusionally convinced that I will return from this trip as an Olympic hopeful. Many things have prevented this ambition from coming to fruition, including dodgy Achilles tendons and a general lack of long-term commitment to pretty much anything that involves physical effort. My daughter used to tell her teacher that her Mum had been in the Olympics. I'm not sure the teacher ever bought that one. Shot putt would have been my best hope.

5) I am a weed. I still check under my bed. And behind the shower curtain. And sometimes in my shoes.

6) 12 years ago something happened in Barcelona that made me an even bigger weed. I came home with not just a silhouette of a bull sticker, but a fairly debilitating anxiety disorder. That's why I'm going to Barcelona. To take it back; I've still got the receipt.

7) I went to a Henry Rollins gig (twice) last year. He said: 'Every morning I say to myself: 'What can I do that will scare the shit out of myself today?'' I thought: 'Fucking hell, yeah', then had a panic attack about the queue at the bar. Henry also said the word 'intense' 17 times.

8) I went to The Adventure Travel Film Festival (go, its a cracking weekend full of testosterone and slightly damaged, but very friendly, people) and saw a film about a man who canoed solo 3000 miles down the Congo. When asked why he had done it, he said 'Because I was scared'. I thought: 'Fucking hell, yeah', then made Keith check the inside of my sleeping bag for spiders.

9) I have never been anywhere on my own (see 2) apart from 2 days in Paris where I went a bit strange. I've certainly never camped by myself, not even indoors.

10) I needed an idea for an Edinburgh show.

11) I want Henry Rollins to think I am cool.

There's probably more reasons, but they'll do for now...

Bike update: Bike shop man says bike gears cannot be sorted without special 1980s French bike spanner/tool/thing. Lesson from this: there's a reason why old bikes are cheap on ebay.

Bike dilemma remains unsolved. Anyone out there with a spanner suitable for a Maillard freewheel: I love you. Please can I borrow it?

Friday, 1 March 2013

The Bike

The bike came from ebay. It has 10 gears with a tight span at a high gear ratio. This means the chance of me managing to cycle up a hill is even less than usual.

I hate hills. If I can't get somewhere without cycling along Brighton seafront and then walking when the road starts to tilt; I drive. I hate hills. More evidence to support that statement? My original plan was to cycle from Bilbao to Barcelona - a distance of around 500 miles, but then on perusing the map I spied not merely a hill, but a mountain range. Big Spanish fuckers. So, now I am cycling from the Channel to Barcelona which is around 800 miles. 300 more miles of cycling to avoid hills. I hate hills.

Keith (my beloved and a life-long cyclist) told me what to say to the person at the bike shop to get him to replace my gears for hill-friendly ones (that's an engine, right?). I rang the bike shop and said some words the like and meaning of which I know not. I don't know what's worse; having to admit you're an idiot or demonstrating that you are one whilst attempting not to be. I think that dropping into the conversation that I would be cycling 800 miles alone on this 30 year old virtually gearless bike with this 45 year old virtually stranger-to-exercise body either convinced him that a) I did in fact, despite what was coming out of my gob, know what I was talking about and was a seasoned cyclist, or b) I was not very well and should not be alarmed.

Apparently, I've got 24 and I'm getting 28, which will make it easier 'but not as easy as I'm sure you'd like it'. How dare he. 'Nah, I love hills', I enthused, 'more of a challenge'. I didn't say that. That would make me look like an idiot.