Im currently sitting on my sofa... its 01:45... and it's also Day 0... D-day...
Ive been up now for around 18 hours having had next to no sleep the entire weekend and Im totally wired
Sentences form in my brain which dont make sense when I utter them aloud.... half thoughts that have fractured in my head floating round...
This day has been over two years in the making. With not much else to do but think as I peddalled from Chicago to L.A.. the seed was sown ... plans have been made.. and now is the time for action.
Dream... Plan... Do.
Events in my life have conspired in the last few months to feel lost... without direction or purpose.. everything shattered into pieces. A feeling with which I am not comfortable with and that unsettles me further... kinda like a snowball starting at the top of a mountain and gaining momentum as it rolls down the slopes... picking up more disquiet as it goes and hightening the lost feeling.
This is where it stops...
Cycling a challenge like this makes the mind and soul free. The necessity of focusing all energy and attention on the things important to mental and physical survival leaves very little room for anything else. All thinking effort is put into answering questions such as... 'will I get to where I want to be by the end of the day?' or shall I stop for food now or in 20 miles time? Have I got enough water to last me the day.? Will my legs last the day... or crumble under the pressure of the third 10 mile climb of the morning... and the big unanswered question.. Will I make it to the end? All important questions to answer. This means that all the other shitty life problems.. big or small just sit floating in the back of the mind... organising themselves... with little or no help ... until they are sorted in alphabetical order and put the right way up (Donna and Simon!!) to be viewed at leisure.
This is why I like cycling long distances in short spaces of time - bike therapy in action!
I also like having a focus in my life... something to work towards...
My friends who know me well would just say its because Im crazy !
Whatever the reason... it has led me here... my sofa.. now 02:18 ... nerves jangling (though that may have been the large amount of caffeine I have consumed this evening)... bike in the box... rest of kit packed (bar the electricals to charge my phone and ipod) and trying to sort out checking in.. photos from the weekend... and other small things .. on a computer that is sooo slow tonight of all nights... that I reckon I could cycle to New Zealand quicker than it is loading my email page.
The Gathering weekend... as always... was a crazy wonderful soul uplifting and emotional few days. And it is here that I want to thank Mike and Jules, James, Smiley, Mark and Craig for providing us with our yearly january blues beater ... all my Alarm friends for their support of the ride and for friendship formed from (not pure innocence this time) a shared love of life and the music of the Alarm ... and most of all thank the ones who have helped slow the snowball down.
The Gathering is hard to explain to those who have never been....
The conversation goes something like this...
So you are going away for a weekend in N Wales...?
To see just one band...?
At this point a somewhat incredulous look passes over their faces and there is a slight shake of the head.. and then as if to clarify...
N Wales in January?
As I reversed my car out of its parking slot... another Gathering done.. (roll on G25).. I put on my ipod, which has been prefilled with songs (have a guess as to which musician features highly) that I will be listening to as I sweat up the mountain passes... the song that came on first was not an Alarm or Mike Peters song... but Louis Armstrong... What a wonderful world. .. perfect song to describe at that moment how the Gathering had made me feel. Grateful to be part of The Alarm/LHS family and an overwhelming feeling of peace and tranquility.
It didnt last long... another 5 hours on the road ... followed by the sound of me revving up to 95 rpm.....
Enough of the waffle.. I have a plane to catch and a challenge to start!
The drive home was a long one... partly because I was crawling along at 60.. fearful of another bike rack road incident which my poor sleep deprived nerves could not have coped with. A short detour to hug my work mother... followed by a hug for my actual mum and dad... followed by a trip to work to hug my other work mother... oh and I forgot the detour to drop my brother off to pick up his van.
So we arrived outside my house faced with a long list of jobs... and it was already 22:30. I got mice out of the freezer to defrost for snake feeding whilst simultaneously starting to haul off my lycra .. worn for bike ride promotional purposes at the Gathering.. (quick question Mike/Jules... am I the only person to have turned up to the Gathering in lycra??).
Balancing on one foot... holding my bike in one hand and mice in the other clearly wasnt going to work and It dawned on me that a more organised approach may be necessary...
We unpacked the car in short order and then Paul made the fatal mistake of lying down on my sofa...
Meanwhile I sorted out repacking my bags with the kit I had been wearing ... exchanging them for my 'off the bike clothes'. Once that had been acomplished... it was time to cross my fingers... find a four leafed clover ...beg the gods of plane baggage to keep my kit safe.. and put my bike in the box.
Being slightly tired by now... I did this in a somewhat arse over tip manner... taking off the front wheel before the pedals (makes it a bit trickier) .. putting bubble wrap and foam protectors over the vulnerable parts of the bike before ensuring it would fit in the box first. Despite all this kerfuffle.. between us we dissembled the bike (or is it disassembled.. Im not sure) slid it into the box where it sat looking like it was the perfect fit.. and then proceeded to throw in (I mean place with careful precision) the rest of my kit that I was not carrying as handheld. I knew that my seat pack would have to go separately .. but with the bike went my helmet... my bike shoes... the bivvy pole... the frame bag the top tube bags and my shorts that I decided to wear over my cycling shorts (has pockets.. always good.).
Triple check that all the components that I had taken off the bike... and the tools that I had used to do so... were all in the box. Pedals.. seat post and saddle and front wheel skewer were bubble wrapped and taped into the box.. followed by my pedal wrench. Tape the box shut... with as much tape as possible.. write fragile on it enough times that the baggage handlers get that it is fragile and then cross fingers that the bike ends up in the same part of the world at the same time as me... I have no contingency plan!
Check in for the flight on the aforementioned slow as a tortoise computer.. which has very narrowly survived having something thrown at it! Only problem is .. due to my lack of patience (approaching 20 hours up) and my slow computer.. printing the boarding passes was One step farther from home than I could manage and so I gave up that idea and turned to putting up a few photos from the Gathering. ...
MANY expletives later.....
... It was approaching 0300 which meant it was time to wake Paul up (difficult) .. continue to try to be patient with my computer (impossible) and pack my handheld rucksack.
This was accomplished with the minimum of fuss and although I had to leave behind the water bladder... as it was a toss up between that and having a bit of space for food... (I figured I get several hundred separate slaps if I didnt leave room to carry a bit of food)...
Paul eventually dragged himself up and we proceeded to load the van.. with a few checks of passport and money.
It seemed no time at all that I was stepping out the door... suddenly a bag full of nerves... 2 years planning coming to fruition. Given all that had befallen my bike so far (fell off my car onto the M40 for anyone who hadnt read the blog entitled S$#&e.. F*$#.. B*$$#r) ... I think Im going to be a little more nervous until I am reunited with my bike.
Traffic free roads ensured a speedy passage to the airport and a last minute dodging of the height restricted parking meant Paul had to go to the Drop off area instead of short stay parking. So abandoned to negotiate the check in with a very unwieldy trolley after the parting words of "For F$@* sake EAT" (Love ya bro) I made my way through check in over to outsize baggage drop where I watched in horror as the baggage handler proceeded to KICK.... YES KICK my bike onto the conveyor belt! You should have seen the expression on my face!!
He certainly did.. because he told me that I had seen nothing. Protesting loudly that I had indeed seen something (with a smile and a dagger at the ready) , he said if I had any complaints to put them in his colleagues name😀 I think he was joking and it was actually all in good humour though I have visions of broken spokes and mech hanger issues. He wished me a nice day and we parted ways.
Next up... security! Damn Im good at this! Smugly having already removed everything from my pockets .. taken off watch... belt pouch.. money wallet and in short ensured I had everything covered... they asked me to dig out my tablet ... which of course meant practically emptying the entire contents of my rucksack... EPIC FAIL!
I then followed my brothers tip and headed to 'EAT' to locate some breakfast..although in reality this probably qualified as dinner as well due to fact that I had now been up an inordinate amount of hours.
How do I feel?
Well my sixth wind has kicked in so I still feel a bit wired...
Nervous... on two counts...
Hoping my bike makes it to Auckland in one piece and secondly about making it to the end...
This is what happened to me before though and as soon as I started turning the pedals.. all the nerves dissappeared.. leaving me free to concentrate on the task at hand.
Im looking forward to the mountains.. the lakes.. the warmer weather and blogging about it all to share it with anyone who is interested.
One Chai Latte and some kind of wrap later I have that annoying post food slumping feeling and the brain is fast shutting down (emergency power only)
And so begins the journey...
No doubt it will contain some crappy days and some mishaps along the way but thats what makes a journey into an adventure.
Share the journey with me... www.facebook.com/OneChallengeAtATime
Marvel in the scenery with me (instagram)
Suffer the hills with me (Action -cam footage and live updates via the Periscope App - @OneChallenge)
Fight Cancer with me (www.justgiving.com/GoWithTheCrazy)