Sunday, June 28, 2015

Planet Sunday

Walking around central Amsterdam early on a Sunday morning, the world is a very gentle place. Bird song, trees swaying audibly in a gentle breeze, and one rickety bicycle are the only signs of life. Quite the opposite to the Saturday night buzz. I've often imagined what it would feel like to be the guy who wandered off from a stag party group, whose alcohol to blood ratio allowed him to fall comfortably asleep in a sheltered doorway, would feel waking up after such a separation. It would be quite easy to come to the conclusion the world had ended somehow. Or that i'd been left behind after a mass-emigration to a newly found planet, such is the 'calm-after-storm' feel of a Sunday morning in the vicinity of the world's most famous Red Light District. A disciplined bed time and consumption level allow me to observe and enjoy both the evening and the morning.

Life exists as a balancing act between striking contrasts; day and night, love and hate, hot and cold, AM and FM, rich and poor, cool and 'meh', winning and losing, the hunter and the hunted, summer and winter, or north and south. You get the picture.

Summer is a reluctant arrival here in northern Europe, and this seasonal and weather-based confusion has only added to the prolonging and procrastinating of holiday travel plans. Somewhere between the high of a winter cycling creak in Mallorca and the depressive low of a cold and lingering February in Nord-Holland, Em suggested a summer of cycling in the UK. The much driven, rode, and trodden Lands End to John O'Groats route, to be precise. Enthused by the pure pleasure of being on a bike, and the striking contrasts of long distance bicycle touring, I immediately lent my full agreement. What can I say, i'm a sucker for uphill and downhill, starving hungry and overly-full, throat-scrapingly thirsty and drunk, and finally, trance-like tiredness and that 5min spell in the morning where energy levels reflect what might happen if you have the average 4-year-old three espressos and a puppy.

Many people tackle the Jogle (John O'Groats to Lands End) or Lejog (Lands End to John O'Groats, obviously) route, for many different reasons, and on many different machines. While our machines are humble entry level road bikes, our reasons are all of them*. It's a genuine physical test and challenge, and for any discerning British cyclist it's an experience pretty near the top of the bucket list. It's a vacation aswell, and for the romantic wonderer in all of us, it's also a way to re-connect with home while seeing many parts of it's green nooks and crannies we'd otherwise never get to enjoy. Indeed, one of the main attractions of the route is that there is no particular route to follow. 874miles is the distance you'd fly if you were a crow, but two mild-mannered primary school teachers are loosely following the route of a Mr. A.Grant. It's more like 2000km, but the internet agrees that it's more scenic, and as close to 'traffic free' as one can get on a bike in the UK. And who are we to argue with keyboard tapping anoraks?

On the note of keyboard tapping anoraks, it's surprising just what you can accomplish in a single afternoon, fuelled by guilt and coffee. Having booked the transportation to John O'Groats months ago, and with just under two short weeks till the off, we thought it was high time to set in stone the first week or so on the pedals. Therefore spent the better part of Sunday afternoon plotting an approximate route, and places to sleep for the first 6 nights. That gives us an average of 120km for 5 consecutive days, which is quite frankly fucking scary. Our record 'longest day on the bikes' stands at a modest 85km, and 3 is the highest number of consecutive days.

Wish us luck, the countdown is on...


* Sadly except for charity. In quite a genuine fear that we might not make the length of our route, we thought it somewhat reckless to badger friends, family, and colleagues into sponsoring us with their hard-earned pennies or euros. However, we have agreed that if this trip goes well, we'll think of something slightly more epic for next summer.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Too Long To Tweet #1

Waking up without an alarm clock is one of life's simple pleasures. Gently stirring with a yawn and a murmur, and slowly registering time, date, and mild yet triumphant flatulence. Though the curtains remained open, natural light seemed scarce. Assumptions were that it must be somewhere between the middle of the night and the break of dawn. The clock illuminated 09.47. Nearly time for brunch. Luckily, vacation is in full flow, and Amsterdam even looks appealing under heavy grey skies, even mid-morning through the dusty glass window of a third storey apartment.

Hello, summer vacation. Where's summer?
- Glenn