They say the start of any journey, expedition, move or change is the hardest, that's why Al Humphreys' advice is just to start. Simple. Start small, start big, but just start. As Charlie and I cycled away from home I was so excited, disbelieving and also quite scared...partly because my fully laden bike was wobbling and creaking under the weight and I was about to turn onto a main road, but also partly because I was scared about the unknown that lay ahead.
The first day we cycled from our home in Hartford to Didsbury. The Trans-Pennine Trail (TPT) runs from coast to coast, Liverpool to Hull and we would follow this for the next 5 days. In Didsbury we stayed with Charlie's old housemates who cooked a delicious veggie meal and let me roll around on their foam rollers to ease my achy legs. The next day was 25 miles to a campsite in the Pennines and Charlie the bike chose an idyllic place to breakdown so mum and dad drove over to fix it. The guy who ran the campsite gave us a good luck charm which is now hanging off my pannier! :) Day three involved crossing the beautiful, wild and peaky Peak District. After a steep incline and an accidental encounter with the lorries of the Woodhead pass we got back on the TPT and the countryside melted into rolling green hills and shady woodland! At the next campsite we met a lovely couple, I wish we could have stayed for their offer of coffee the next morning but we had to be off as that day we had to cycle 44 MILES!
That's right, 44 miles in one day, practically double the distance we had ever cycled before!!! (Not including that time we did the Manchester 100 mile bike ride for the Christie (Charlie will appreciate this name drop) when I actually only made it 85 miles before being picked up by the stragglers truck!). We set of and the first half was along the TPT (which I love and Charlie hates), we lunched in Doncaster and then essentially followed the A18 the rest of the way...this is not a nice road, it has insane head/cross winds and literally goes on forever! Sometimes I think I'm going to wake up and still be on that monotonous, dull stretch of road. Give me the TPT any day! We rocked up at the BnB in Scunthorpe and I stood with the bikes on the street while Charlie went to check-in. Those 10 minutes I was outside were more dodgy than my whole 18 months in South Sudan! Once inside we ordered chinese delivery and my fortune cookie said a romantic encounter was on its way...that's fine as long as they like smelly, makeup-less and so tired that each day I fall asleep by 9pm! It's like having curfew again!
So, we've begun. 5 days ago in Hartford we peddaled away and it was emotional and scary and exhilirating and it still doesn't feel real. We're now on the ferry heading for the Netherlands and this also feels like the beginning - our first new country. None of this would have been possible without mum and dad who have been wonderful every step of the way and brought us up so we can even attempt something like this <3 2 years of planning 140 miles down 1 ferry Hello Europe, it's me, I've been wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet?
Charlie's blog: On Monday 2nd May we set off on our adventure! After planning to leave our home in Hartford, Cheshire at midday we left promptly at ten to three with two fully loaded bikes and a rough idea of how to get to Manchester, the first stop on our trip.
5 hours later we rolled up to my old house for a night of shepards pie and Game of Thrones (happy coinsidence honest!) Thanks guys for a great first evening:)
Over the next 5 days we pedalled across England heading East along the Trans Pennine Trail over the Peak District. It was day 2 and 5 miles from our first Peak District campsite (which was gorgeous btw, I highly recommend the Crowden Camping and Caravanning site, and not only because it is the only one along the whole of the Trans Pennine Trail!) that my gears decided to spontaneously combust. After trying to fix them myself (making them worse in the process) and finding that there were no bike shops near by we decided to call Dad who then drove over to the Peak District with Mum to come to my rescue. Dad got it working againbut for you people in the know, the chain was still rubbing on the derailer and I didnt dare move into first gear in case it got stuck there again!
The next day I cycled a extra 10 miles :'( to the nearest Halfords for them to check it out only for the extremely unhelpful man to tell me it was broken. Cue another call home and a new plan. Mum and Dad would meet us in Hull before we got the ferry with a new derailer and the camping stove ordered and hadnt arrived before we left.
It is now Friday evening and we are sat on the ferry on our way to Rotterdam after spending a lovely afternoon with the fam while Dad installed the new/stolen-from-Dads-old-bike derailer. Hopefully that is all the repairs done and we'll have a smooth ride going forward... touch wood!
In other news, the Trans Pennine Trail sucks! It has an annoying habbit of pointing you in the wrong direction and then leaving you without any signs in the middle of nowhere, at an impassable gate or down a very steep set of stairs that yyou now have to go back up, wondering where it all went wrong.