Christmas 2009 007
Xmas 2009. The beginning

When I finished my first book, last February, I celebrated getting it out into the public domain. I always knew that I would have to return to it, in order to make it available to lots of other Ebook platforms. This week I’ve been taking my time to follow the Smashwords guidelines and turn the book into something that will be available through Barnes and Noble, Sony’s bookstore, Smashwords, Kobo, Kindle, iTunes, PDF, and more.

Formatting is the part of creating an e-book where you make the word file behave in a way that means it will display as you want it to, and the reader  needs it to, not as Windows thinks it should. It’s not as complex as it sounds, as long as the instructions are clearly laid out, and take into account that people like me are computer idiots, not geeks. To all intent and purpose, this is an enjoyable process, right up to the point where you submit the completed article.

Yesterday I compiled the electronic Table of Contents, step by step, following the instructions religiously. I’d been nervous about this, especially as I had to delete the carefully made electronic TOC that I had already created using windows. The previous version only works for Kindle and that is just too limiting if you want to get your book out there in the big, bad, world.

Ebooks don’t have pages, page numbers, or any of the normal parameters of a paper book. So you have to remember that when you begin to create, or in this case, recreate one. By the time I had finished I had a big grin on my face. Every aspect of the TOC worked, allowing the reader to move from the page they’re reading to the contents page, or from the contents page to any chapter they choose. It isn’t difficult to create these things, but for me and many others, it feels alien to be doing it.

3 miles from my house. Bliss!
On the lanes around my house

I’ve all but finished now and that means I have to hold my breath and upload the file in the hope that it will sail through what Smashwords joyfully call their Meatgrinder. If it does I’ll be out riding my bike and smiling. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to try to decipher lots of geeky error codes in order to correct it. So fingers crossed please and I’ll let you know the outcome as soon as I know myself. If it is successful I will probably use Smashwords as my only format for my up and coming book.

It’s almost December now, and I’m no nearer to knowing what I will be doing next year. It could be a big and exciting venture, or it could just as easily be a smaller version. I’m waiting on a few people to give me the nod, and then I’ll tell you all what I hope to do. Until then, you know as much as I do, so we will all have to wait and see, just like waiting for Santa.


Even though I haven’t a clue what I’ll be up to, I have to pretend that I do, and try to start to kick this old body back into shape. It’s impossible to maintain the levels of fitness that I attained throughout the last two summer rides, so I’ve had to let it all go loose for a while and then try to see what I need to develop. Winter is the worst time for me to do this. It’s cold and wet, my mind plays games at this time of the year, and if I’m honest, I’d rather stay in the warm.

I could do that if I chose, but then I wouldn’t be able to do the things I’m dreaming of doing. More importantly, my regular rides help to maintain my health. Without them, my mind deteriorates to a point where I struggle, so a balance has to be found between riding for fun, training, and not overdoing it. Everybody has these parameters, but for me, and others in the same boat, we need to take a little more care to get it right.

As the weather deteriorates the joy of riding is harder to find, along with the motivation to get out and perform. There are many who will turn to the turbo-trainers, remaining inside, and lowering the risk of injury due to cold or crashes. Sometimes I wish I could do that as well, but for me and many of my friends it’s all about getting outside and being outside.

I always hated gyms, even though I spent a lot of my younger days in them. I yearned to be outside climbing warm rock again, but in those days flying to Turkey, or even Spain, was all but unheard of. Given the money to do it I would definitely spend a few weeks in Spain next spring, honing my fitness and soaking up some rays. Sadly that is an unlikely option at the moment, so it’s best to not think about it and just get on with what’s available right here in Devon.

I personally like riding in the winter, as long as it isn’t all covered in ice. I’ll ride when it’s patchy, but I don’t go out until later, giving the ice time to melt a little. I ride the opposite way from the summer, avoiding clean-looking tarmac, suspicious of anything that looks clear and shiny. Even where the water is obviously running on the surface, there is a strong possibility of ice underneath. I head for the grubbiest parts of the lanes, those that offer the best chance of a little traction. Stones and grit can be a friend in the winter, as long as you aren’t in a hurry. They tend to sit proud of ice sheets, so getting your tyres on those can give a little reassurance. It’s similar to walking in the hills where you would look for anything sticking out of the ice to step on, rather than the bits in between where the ice lies in sheets, covering the rocks, waiting to catch you out.

Winter 2010, Hatherleigh
Winter 2010, Hatherleigh

Today was one of those days, cold and icy. I woke feeling that I shouldn’t ride. Not because of the ice, but for some unknown reason that my brain wouldn’t explain. I had hoped to go out and complete a long ride, but given how frosty it was I poured another coffee and then headed for the shower instead. By ten thirty I was getting twitchy. It had been a busy week and I felt I needed to get out for a couple of hours. Looking in the fridge and finding bugger all encouraged me to hitch up the trailer and head for Okehampton.

My mind said “you don’t really want to do this do you?” My head said “go and get changed you lazy sod.” Heading upstairs I donned the uniform, with a few differences. It was cold this morning so I dug out a thick thermal shirt and wore a light fleece over it. I placed my Endura Humvee shorts over the top of my winter tights and then went downstairs to try to do some stretching. Too many layers make warming up silly, but I endeavoured to stretch as best I could. Filling my water bottle and placing a Buff around my neck, as well as on my head, my mind tried a final “are you sure about this?” before giving up, resigned that I was going out whether it liked it or not. So it was on with the high vis’ jacket and out into the world.

Irene  just doesn’t care. She’s a ‘bring it on’ sort of a bike, and Trevor Junior ( my folding trailer) just shuffles along behind encouraging bad behaviour. On the other hand I was less sure. The initial cold air filling my lungs was quite shocking. I rode away from my house and almost immediately onto Park Road, the hill that leads up onto Hatherleigh moor. It’s always tough when a day starts with a climb, but all my days start with a climb, so I should be used to it. The cold air seemed to attack my lungs and chest as I rode to the top of this hill, taking it easy in order to avoid over-stressing my poor muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Sustrans crew from Ayr
I wonder who we will meet next year? This is the Sustrans crew in Ayrshire.

Riding down to Jacobstowe was like an obstacle course. The lanes were wet, frozen, covered in all manner of debris, and treacherous. the riding had to reflect all of this, so I worked hard where I could, and tip-toed through the tulips, or rather icy stretches, where I couldn’t. I could really stretch my aerobic ability in places, and then I would crawl along, every sensor in my brain working overload in order to avoid an off. The sun was screaming down, a real joy after the last few weeks of getting rather damp whilst riding. When I got to the 100m swimming pool, formerly know as National Cycle Network route 27, I was pleased to see that the water had receded enough that I wouldn’t be skating on thin ice (or thick ice). There was ice everywhere, and Irene sensibly picked a line up the centre of the road. Don’t try this on a road bike, fat tyres are the way forwards in these conditions. The views of Dartmoor just get better and better from here, bringing a big grin on every occasion I’m here.

Hammering up the lanes beyond this point, more ice slowed us down again. My ride had a strange rhythm, one minute hard and fast, and the next slow and quiet, tippy-toeing like a church mouse. Passing the deer farm, they didn’t blink an eye, although I’m sure one of them had a “stupid bugger” look on its face. Even the two small jack russells didn’t give chase. I usually have to tell them to go home in no uncertain terms, but they were more concerned with staying upright than chasing Irene, me, and Trevor Junior.

Chunky, my faithful travelling companion
Chunky, my faithful travelling companion

In this way I worked my way to the shops, arriving all sweaty with a happy glow. Millions of people were crowded in the shop, all buying unfeasibly large amounts of crap for Christmas. The joy of Trevor Junior is that I can push him around the shop, filling him up with shopping as I go. It’s good practise for when I’m too old to cycle and have one of those lovely trolleys that you see people with. Nobody has ever questioned this, and so I just mooch about until Trevor Junior is full to the gunnels and then leave.

There’s a smug satisfaction in standing outside with my shopping. I watch other people all struggling to park, or pack the vast amounts of crap they’ve bought into their people carrier. I simply hitch the trailer up, turn left across a small bridge and ride out of Okehampton as quickly as possible, all the time aware that Mr, or Mrs, people carrier are sat in a traffic jam waiting to eventually drive home.

My return journey was quite different from the outward one. I’d managed to pack a lot of varied work into the ride to Okehampton, and now I was pulling a huge load of fruit, veg’, tins, meat, fish, and other household stuff. I would have to work on the hills, so it makes sense to make that what I concentrate on. I rolled along for a couple of miles on empty roads with even brighter sunshine. Turning up the first hill, passing the Llama farm, I suddenly, and quite rudely, woke up. Trevor Junior was completely stuffed with goodies, and without a car it would take some effort to get back home. I worked hard on all the hills, and just trundled along in between, enjoying the scenery in reverse.

By the time I climb the short, steep, and completely unnecessary hill prior to dropping down to my house, I was feeling dog tired. The cold, the intense concentration, and the physical effort had  left me drained, but I pulled up outside the house feeling bright and alive. Inside I threw several layers off, ate, showered again, and changed, another days riding and training complete.

The next two hours were spent asleep, as my energy dipped low, and my metabolism slowed right down. Some days I just feel the buzz of the chemicals that exercise induces, whilst on others I just feel tired out. Today was of the later variety, and the rest of the day was spent quietly, taking the time to eat properly and relax. I’ve begun the work that I  hope will see me through next year. The effort that nobody sees has begun again. It’s an effort that many people are making in order that they can follow their dreams in 2013. Creating and recreating, writing and riding, whilst moving slowly forwards each year, is the goal I have set myself. Whatever goals and dreams you have set yourself for the next year, remember that you are not the only mad person whose out in the rain, wind and cold. There are thousands like us.RIDE 4a