Thursday, 15 October 2009

Some plugs, some pictures, and a date of return.






Good evening people... a kindly Californian cyclist happened across me on the road this evening, invited me home for dinner with the family, and a couple of glasses of really brilliant local red wine later, I'm sleeping in the cottage in the garden, which even has a bottle of Guiness in the fridge.

This is not actually a blog entry in the sense that I'm going to write much of what has been going on, I'm aiming to do that later in the week, and am vaguely planning to write something more akin to the writing that I do as I ride, rather than the functional tone required of this particular post.

So I might as well start by mentioning the photos... we have a diner in the forest, flags of the confederacy and the northwest all about the place, it's the sort of haunt in which I've been taking my meals, and that particular one was run by an Indian fellow who had been adopted by hillbilly folk from Tennesse.. said that he was raised on biscuits and gravy and believes that many of the Indians are snobs who think that the world owes them something... he was also a fan of our monarchy... there's a photo of me up above the redwood forest of northern california... a dope capital of the US.. I've never been anywhere so chilled... Two photos of the Oregon coast... the most beautiful place in the world... don't go there... it'll ruin the rest of your life by making everything else seem bland, stale and ugly. We also have me in conversations with a giant redwood... he said he was 1300 years old and over 100 metres tall, with a life expectancy of another millenium... I said that I was 24 years old and trying to cycle 18000 miles as fast as possible... He said he couldn't understand why, but wished me well regardless.

And so the practicalities... I've had this in mind for some time, but someone asked me what I thought of my Tout Terrain bike, and so this has prompted me to mentioning some of the stuff that I'm riding with (some of which was sponsored, some of which wasn't).

Starting with the ToutTerrain frame... simply... it's sensational. If you ever want to ride a Rohloff hub then the frame is already designed with components that will accommodate the hub without need of a bundle of additional components. The steel frame is bombproof, and weight isn't an issue... once you load up a touring bike with 25kg of luggage then it's never going to be light, so you might as well get the added strength... The inbuilt rear-rack is a masterpiece... Americans call it 'bitchin'', and will think you very cool.. To be honest, they're right.. I've never known anyone to remove their pannier rack from their bike, so building it in makes perfect sense, improves the comfort of riding with the load, and strengthens the frame too. The masterpiece, in my mind, is a tiny collar that stops the handlebars swinging 360degrees and tearing at all of your cables if the bike falls over... As well as being really practical, this just sums up the way in which the bike was designed by people who know about riding and the many eventualities that can arise on the road... If all that still leaves you in doubt, there is also the fact that the bike is produced by a small firm, with manufacturing in Europe, and close contact with their pretty select band of dealers... In the UK, none other than Bikefix.

So what else then... my GPS tracker, from Donald at Adventure Trading Post, the UK distributor. It's called Spot, and, to be honest, it's brilliant... there's no pointless, high-definition screen to drain batteries (I've only had to change them once), the thing is indestructible and waterproof, it continues to work even when the Chinese sever your mobile phone, and for a modicum of communication it's absolutely everything you need, and no tedium over and above that.

Tyres.... Schwalbe... Jesus... I've had about 10 punctures... however... five of them, in the space of one morning, were due to a Chinese puncture repair kit that must have been using PVA glue, a further two were caused, I believe, by a burr of metal on my rim that snagged the tube as I was putting it in. This means that in 12000 miles, loaded with weight, one set of Schwalbe Marathon Pluses were only breached on three occassions by punctures, and one of those was a nail that would have punctured anything. 12000 miles! 3 punctures! That's a puncture every 4thousand miles! They're brilliant, and will save much roadside anguish. Together with the Schwalbes are my Mavic rims... Mavic make wheels for 500quid, or for around 70, and they're always brilliant.. Baker Street in Brighton built mine for me, as they have done all my wheels, be they for couriering or touring... I once had an articulated truck roll backwards onto my front wheel, and it punctured immediately, but the rim didn't buckle... With wheels you have the option of either spending 25quid a time for shit quality, or forking out more money for a wheel that will still be good after five crap ones have started flapping about like kippers out of water.

Ok... think that's that.... My return... is set... yes... I am coming home...My flight from Boston to Lisbon has been rescheduled for November 22nd, which means that I should stop drinking this bottle of Guiness, stop talking to attractive young women in bars, stop talking to cycling hobos at the roadside, and stop doing just about everything that makes travelling enjoyable... I suppose it's not all that bad... I'm looking forward to mixing it up with the deserts again, and there will, naturally, be fewer distractions that way, and the requisite of a different headspace that I expect to enjoy just as much, albeit differently. Reaching Boston on the 22nd should knock a further 8days off my ride time, putting me in Rouen, outside the Cathedral, at around noon on Friday December 4th....a total of around 165days for my troubles. Record breaking aside, I'm as bankrupt as the UK economy right now, and there's nowt like financial necessity to hurry me back to Europe and the wonders of 50quid a day as a London courier.

As my motley crew of followers is comprised largely of retirees, self-employed, unemployed and good-for-nothing students, I expect a good turnout, and if we could have a choir singing La Marseillaise then I would be most cheered and grateful to you all. Let it be noted that Rouen is a very beautiful city, an ideal venue for annual acquisitons of low-cost wines, and also home to a number of grand churches that look a little like Cathedrals... THE cathedral is opposite the (I believe, only) tourist information office, but just check with google maps beforehand perhaps.

Should you be interested in coming along... A few folk are riding there... Brighton to Newhaven is 10miles, it's 20quid for the crossing, and the ride from Dieppe to Rouen is about 25miles and very flat and easy... my brother undertook the task with a fractured forearm and a shit bike, and will testify to its ease. Alternatively, that same ferry crossing of course accommodates cars, there is the option of a Eurostar to Paris and a train to Rouen... Eurostar tickets can be purchased in advance for around 50quid return, and if you should fancy a combination of transport modes, they takes bicycles, with a very efficient service, for a price of 20quid. I am, as yet, unsure about a celebratory shindig in honour of my return, there's only so much centre-of-attention stuff that I can handle in one six month period... and I'm not very used to crowds these days, that said, if people think that it's a good idea, and it probably is, then leave comments in the blog or on facebook noting as much.

So yeah... I now feel a touch drowsy from this here alcohol and that there wine... but, to recapitulate, Friday 4th December, Rouen Cathedral, around noon ... There's a good bakery and cafe just across the way....

Perdition catch my soul but I will be there, and if I am there not, then chaos has come again.

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