A day in the life of..

Here is a description of a fairly typical day on tour. Just to give a flavour for those who have never done anything like this.

We are typically awake between five thirty and seven and begin the morning routines almost immediately. For me that means wriggling out of my sleeping bag and starting my morning Pilates exercises. This consists of taking off pants and sleeping shirt, putting on cycling shorts and shirt and other items for the day which, believe me, is as good as any Pilates class when done in a small tent. I’m then off to the loos because I’m a creature of habit while Gill dresses. Once back I put the kettle on and Gill begins her packing. I’ll pack some stuff while waiting for the kettle to boil and then after tea it’s breakfast of weetabix with added fruit and nuts or porridge if we are having a slower start. I’ll then pack up the stove and cooking equipment and Gill goes off to wash the dishes. It takes a while to get everything back where it belongs in the right bags before we can start on the tent.

Our tent is a Hilleberg Nallo GT2 and it is extremely strong and waterproof but it does suffer badly from condensation on the flysheet on all but the windiest of nights. Rather than carry all the excess weight Gill dries the inside off while I do the outside. It’s amazing how much water we can remove this way. Taking the tent down is very methodical. We tie up all the guylines to prevent them getting tangled and remove the pegs in a particular order. As we take out the poles we always ensure the tent is weighted down with a pannier or two whatever the weather. It’s just a good habit to stick to. As I roll and pack the tent Gill rolls and packs the thin foam mats we use under it for extra insulation.

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Just arrived

All the bags, mats and tent are attached to the bikes then it’s back to the shower block for teeth cleaning and water bottle filling. Finally, we are ready to ride. About two hours after waking.

We usually take the first opportunity to stock up on snacks and food for the day though we always have some stuff in reserve. Fresh fruit and veg is proving a challenge so bananas and tomatoes are more often than not on our snack menu.

We tend to ride for about two hours or twenty odd miles before stopping to brew up or at a cafe if we feel like a treat. (Usually when the weather is really bad). We’ll stop frequently for a few minutes to take pictures, add or remove clothing and sometimes just to stand and gawp at another stunning view. It’s suprising how easy it is to fill the day like this and depending on terrain, weather and how we feel we will be considering our night’s stop after anything between thirty and fifty miles. We have campsites marked on our map and this is supplemented by local knowledge and the Camping and Caravan Club listings and those of the tourist boards. We are usually tired at this point in the day and it’s the time to be careful not to let emotions take over from logic and practicalities. It is also the time that we are most likely to snap at each other over silly trivial things. As time goes by we are more aware of these things and we are getting better at dealing with them.

We’ll shop for the evening’s meal at the last place likely before we camp ensuring we have plenty of comfort treats for later in the evening. Chocolate and tea feature most nights.

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First brew is always the best

Once at the campsite the tent goes up first. This is a team effort and takes only five minutes. The kettle is usually on within about fifteen minutes and then it’s off for a shower after tea and biscuits/cake/chocolate etc. Our inflatable sleeping mattresses double up as very comfy chairs and I am usually sitting in mine cooking the tea by six or seven o’clock. We supplement pasta/rice and tins or jars of sauce with fresh veg where we can and to be honest it always tastes like heaven whatever we cook. Last night we went off at a bit of a tangent with pasta cooked with cuppa soup, black pudding and scrambled egg. Don’t judge till you’ve tried it. (Unless you are veggie of course) It was followed by honey and butterscotch cake with custard. More tea and more chocolate round off our consumption for the day. Calories are only an issue if we can’t get enough of them. The evenings pass incredibly quickly just going back over the day, writing notes and sorting out photographs and listening to some obscure local radio station.

With teeth cleaned and one last wee (you really don’t want to be getting out in the night if at all possible) we are usually settling down to sleep around nine. There is often quite a bit of pillow construction to refine as this seems to by the key to a good night’s sleep. The next nine hours or more are lost in deepest dreamland.

And repeat

Day one, we did it.

Wow, that was an emotional roller coaster of a day. I finally started to get excited in a can’t sleep kind of way at 2:30am and that’s when I put the last blog post together in my head. After a few hours more sleep I woke just after six and the anticipation kicked in big time. By the time we left the house I was buzzing. A small gathering of friends turned up in the rain to see us off and after lots of hugs and cries of ‘bon voyage’ we were off with three cycling buddies to escort us for the first twenty miles.

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Up to this point I had only felt excited and maybe a little emotional at saying goodbye for six months to such good friends. We settled into an easy pace along the front through Lytham with a lovely tail wind to push us along. I then found myself riding alone for a short spell and that’s when something really strange happened. I just thought about the whole journey ahead of us in terms of distance and time and I found myself welling up with tears. Of course I put the watery eyes down to the cold wind and shook off the feeling but five minutes later I tentatively tried the same thoughts with the same powerful result. It really was like nothing I have ever felt before and suddenly the enormity of the whole venture hit me like a sledge hammer. Not in a bad way I must stress. It was just like standing at the bottom of an enormous mountain and knowing that you are going to be climbing it. Daunting, but thrilling and irresistable all at once.
Later when I was riding alone with Gill I told her how I had felt and she said it had been exactly the same for her. The same moving emotions and the same teary outcome. It felt like we had tapped into something deep inside us with the final realisation of what the next six months of our lives would involve.
We left our three friends, Les, Peter and Pete after a short cafe stop at Fleetwood and hopped on the ferry for the five minute crossing of the river Wyre. Once alone the mood changed and it just felt like any first day of any tour, all that raw emotion subsided as did the rain and grey clouds to leave us with a lovely sunny first day. As we crossed the first bridge into Lancaster a young lad amongst a small group shouted at Gill as she passed, trying to scare her but he looked a bit surprised when she just told him he was pathetic and before she could be upset by the incident we were engaged by a chap called Steve who was keen to know what we were up to. I had been waiting all morning for the chance to remark casually that we were on the first day of a round Britain ride and I wasn’t dissapointed by the effect it had. We gave Steve a contact card and left him with big silly grins on our faces. It happened again in Morecambe when we met Carol as she locked up her bike next to ours. She was bubbling over with enthusiam for our adventure and I think we may have another follower of the blog there. By contrast, I chatted briefly with a couple as I queued in the supermarket and my suspicions that they hadn’t really grasped what I had told them were confirmed when they left me with the words, “well I hope you have a nice weekend”. Can’t win ’em all I guess.
We are now all cosy in the tent listening to the wind thrashing about outside and the rain is starting to rattle on the flysheet.
For anybody interested dinner was herby mackerel in tomato sauce with pasta followed by a strawberry fool and very nice it was too. Sorry for such a long post, I’m sure I’ll calm down eventually

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