An update and a plan

Happy Sunday morning. I’m enjoying mine with a brew and smug-feeling inducing carrot, apple and cinnamon porridge in my parents’ kitchen in Leicestershire. If I’d had to predict 2 months ago where I would be on June 11th my answer would have been west of Stockholm, but east of Copenhagen. Not much has really gone to plan in the last 7 weeks and for that reason the blog is now the most behind it has ever been. Jo will be writing to explain more about all of that, and i’ll be trying to catch up on the so far ignored bits of Thailand and Laos.

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Sharing the road in Laos

It has been good to have the chance to see lots of family and friends during our return to the UK. Being car-less that has meant we have spent quite a bit of time doing the same as being on tour. Riding bikes with panniers, staying only one night at various friends/family then going somewhere else, navigating new routes to get there. There’s been some brilliant cycling in Leicestershire, as enjoyable as anywhere in the world, so if you’re local, get out and explore some of the lovely roads. The area between Measham and Hinckley is especially good, pick the smallest roads and you will pretty much only see other cyclists, and loads of them.

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Lovely Leicestershire roads, nr. Shenton

Despite the fun at home, we very much feel that we need to finish (Finnish) the trip off properly, or as close to ‘properly’ as we can. There was never a fixed route for the ride, but 18000 miles was always in mind as a minimum distance – it’s what Guinness count as an around the world ride. Although we have not succeeded in our aim to cross Asia overland (we were always going to have some train help), we were pretty clear on still reaching this total. To make life easier with visas (and Jo’s almost full passport) we decided to restrict this final leg of the journey to Europe. Unlike the UK government, this week we made a plan for how we would tackle it.

If the original route had worked out, we would have arrived in Helsinki by ferry and ridden home. So we could fly to Helsinki, but that seems a little dull/easy/annoying with bike boxes. Instead, here’s a rough outline. When I say rough outline, I mean, here’s all of our planning to date:

Ferry Harwich-Hook of Holland : Ride to The Hague : Eat Dutch apple cake : Train from the Hague-Hamburg : Ride to Travemunde : Ferry to Latvia (I know, definitely NOT in the original trip schedule) : Ride to Tallinn, Estonia via Riga : Ferry Tallinn-Helsinki : Ride home from Helsinki.

Seems reasonable to me, though the menus need more work. We don’t have to fly and get two Brucie Bonus capital cities to visit. There’s at least 3 overnight ferries for pretending to be in an Agatha Christie novel. It should take about 7-8 weeks, back in time for the incredibly early school term start in Leicestershire, and takes us comfortably over the magic 18,000. Route advice always welcome if you have knowledge of the area.

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But which way is Finland?

Once again we have only a few days to go, and virtually nothing ready. Seriously. We currently don’t have a tent –  somehow the poles got left in China. Yes, I agree, it is a wonder we got so far unsupervised. Friends should feel relieved at this point that for this trip we are not moving out of a house. You will not be required to install carbon monoxide detectors, search through piles of our disorganised paperwork, or felt the shed roof. This time we thank you instead for driving out of your way to see us, giving us places to stay, taking us to train stations, squeezing bikes in your cars and generally being kind and wonderful during the return we didn’t plan for.

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One of the many Leicestershire – N Yorks train trips. Some train bike racks are brill. This is one is rubbish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great British Send-Off

Not a soggy bottom in sight: Friday 25th – Weds 30th Sept

getting ready for the first ride
getting ready for the first ride

As we prepared to leave British shores the UK gave it’s all to show us what we were leaving behind. Thanks to so many of our friends, colleagues, students and family who made the effort to fit into our plans in those last few days. The weather was amazing, Leicestershire looked just lovely as we set off on the the first (short) ride from Measham to Hinckley on Sunday afternoon.

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The next morning was equal to it, with beautiful clear blue skies, rolling green hills, delightfully English villages and plenty of picnic spots to enjoy snacks. Northampton itself was a less fun meander along random cycle routes (“weren’t we just over there a minute ago?!”) – it was fortunate that Sarah our extra team member for the day had prepared additional sandwiches to counteract the challenge.

It was great to see friends for a final goodbye in Stewartby and the 110km day put Kelvedon (Debs’ Aunt and Uncle) in touching distance for Tuesday.

Make sure there are stiff peaks…

Who knew Hertfordshire was so hilly? We didn’t, and it really was. It was also our second day of headwind, and the loaded bikes felt pretty heavy. Thanks to Trax Cycles of Buntingford, who helped swapped Debs’ pedals and made the bags just a little bit lighter. Herts and Essex both had some great cycle routes, including the Flitch trail, named for the Flitch Trials of Dunmow, where the winning couple are awarded a side (flitch) of bacon if they can prove they have not argued for a year and a day. It can be assumed that none of the winners have tried to follow the Flitch trail through Dunmow itself, which was not the relaxed rail trail present either side.

Sadly, every week, someone has to say goodbye…

image(Bake-off spoiler alert) This week it was Flora and us (not that we found that out until later, see Belgium). Our Kelvedon family helped us carb-load for future pedalling and we hit Harwich for the overnight ferry. If you haven’t been on one, this is great fun, as you can pretend to be in an Agatha Christie novel and you get to sleep in a little cabin. Even better, you wake up in a new place with the whole day ahead of you. Welkom!