I bought some socks last week from M&S. I’m a bit particular about socks so I actually went to the store rather than buy on line. Having waded through a bewildering range of ‘cotton rich’ models I finally found what I was looking for. Wool. Wool for warmth even when wet. Important for cycle touring in the UK. I was then faced with a tricky decision. Three pairs of 59% wool for twelve pounds or four pairs of 56% wool for fifteen pounds. After struggling to calculate the relative sheepishness per pound of each choice I went with three for twelve. It’s been worrying me ever since that I might have made a bad economic decision, despite the prospect of 3% warmer feet. You will be relieved to know that socks aren’t actually the principal topic of this blog though. It’s just that buying them represents something that is. You see I have never gone out to buy socks specifically for a cycle tour before and it was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. It must be something to do with doing things for the first time.
As far as planning in general goes, things are starting to build up now. We both envisaged this trip as a life changing, one off adventure. Something bigger, more momentous and more exciting than anything either of us had done before. I don’t think we were wrong in our expectations because the build up is proving to be like nothing I have experienced in the past. I have never felt so continuously consumed by anything before. Yes I have been completely absorbed by something for an hour or maybe even a day at a time, but never for days or weeks on end. I’ve also never been consumed by buying socks before.
I’ve been pondering what exactly it is that is so enticing about the prospect of this journey and amongst other things I think it is simply that I’ve never done anything quite like it before. Which reminds me of a favourite adage; “when was the last time you did something for the first time?” That’s it I’m sure. It’s the thrill of the unknown. The exquisite, slightly frightening feeling of unclipping from the safety rope and taking the first few tentative steps along the tight rope. I’m loving the fact that I’m finding it difficult to think about anything but our plans and the first few days on the road.
We talked quite a bit this weekend about all the ‘firsts’ we will enjoy at the beginning of the tour. The initial departure on the Saturday, followed by saying goodbye to the friends that intend to ride the first twenty or so miles with us. Then there will be leaving my cousin’s on the third morning for an indefinite period travelling on our own. The fourth or fifth day should see us cross our first border from England to Scotland. On the eighteenth day we will enter new territory in terms of tour duration and at 750 miles we will do the same in terms of distance. There is something special about experiencing anything for the first time. A few years ago I ran my one and only half marathon and followed a strict training regime to prepare. The consequence of the training schedule was that as I passed the ten mile marker I entered a world I had never been in before. I had never run more than ten miles in my life and I said so to the runner alongside me. She gave me a huge grin and said it was the same for her. It was a massive boost and to be honest the last three miles drifted by in a haze of new sensations that made the running easy. The beauty of our journey around the coast is that these first time delights won’t stop.
I think this whole ‘first experience’ thing is at the core of why I like touring so much and why I am getting so much pleasure from the final countdown. It’s just an endless succession of firsts. Which is exactly what cycle touring is all about. First time on a new campsite, first glimpse of a mountain view, first meetings with strangers. A never ending list of new and different experiences. Even many of the challenges will probably turn out to be original and all the more stimulating for it. I feel a bit like a child must do the first time they ever see snow. It’s all new and exciting and maybe even a little bit scary but as we all know it turns out to be great fun.
Right, I’m off to wash my new socks. For the first time.