Stormy Shetland skies

It’s 2013 and another year has been assigned to history. Christmas and New Year have come and gone, along with another birthday, and we are all facing another year, wondering what it will bring. 2012 went out with bang, certainly here in Devon. Flooding returned to many areas, and some had to face the festive season whilst bailing out their homes. Nobody could have guessed just how wet 2012 was going to be. Many of us thought that 2011 was quite poor. Little did we know?

Having finished the draft of my second book in November, I revisited it, for the sake of editing. It was great to plough its pages. They are full of memories of beautiful places, adverse weather, my personal struggle, and the many people I met on my last journey. I’ve been learning to draw again since I last posted. I want to include some schematic map diagrams in this book, so it was quite literally back to the drawing board. I’ve never been any kind of artist, so I’ve been trying to find a style that suits me. Don’t get too excited though, I’m no Wainright.

After a soaking wet days riding: Barley Cove, Near MIzen Head, Ireland.

This time last year I announced my intentions for 2012 through this blog. I had a plan, and the funds to back it up. I knew where I was going and how to get there, working feverishly to get everything done before I left in May. This year I don’t have a plan. Well I do, but it isn’t a firm plan until I know what on earth I’m going to do about money.  In fact I actually have two plans,  and both could be incredible experiences if I can make any one of them happen.  I’m living in the realms of what I would like to do, rather than being able to say “this is what I’m going to do.”

How do you plan for an event that might not happen? To be honest I don’t know. I can maintain my fitness, do a budget for each idea, collect some gear, and drop lots of hints to people. How do you say that this is your intention, but it may not materialise? These are the questions that have been buzzing around in my head for the last few weeks. This is the real world, and also where most people live. Most don’t have the time, or money, to make one big journey, and I’m trying to find a way to make a third.

I put my sensible head on (if you remember Worzel Gummage you will understand) and thought “what do I want to do most?” and “what is a logical next step that wont have me reeling because I can’t cope?” You see I’ve had enough of the UK for the time being. I want to spread my wings further and explore somewhere different, and preferably warmer. I need sunshine like most people need food. Switch the sun off and my solar battery runs down. I’m not alone in this by far and most of my friends are feeling the lack of sun we all experienced this year. Many others, myself included, suffer Seasonal Adjustment Disorder, but given that there haven’t been any seasons, there shouldn’t be a problem, should there? Well I’m sorry, but unlike the Mogwai in Gremlins, I need bright light, and lots of it.

That’s more like it: Sango Sands campsite, Durness, NW Scotland

The second plan is grander. Trans America (4,200 miles) is a must for all cyclists with long distance tendencies. The notion of riding across a continent is a huge pull for many, including me. There’s no language barrier, as long as you avoid saying ‘fags’ (cigarettes), path (sidewalk) and rubber (eraser), along with about a million others words that I don’t know yet. The problem with this route is the cost, and distance from home. There’s the cost of getting there, the visa ( I’d need a six month version), hotels to start and finish the ride, flying the bike and trailer, transfers from airports. Perhaps these are just the barriers that have to be kicked down, because generally speaking this could be an easier trip to undertake than Europe. I don’t need to plan a route, the American Adventure cycling Association have done it. I have  friend that’s done it, so I can speak to him about the experience. It is a long way from home though, and involves long flights that I’m not quite sure I want to undergo yet. Then again, I wasn’t sure I wanted to catch ferries and planes at all this year, and that panned out just dandy.

The major problem isn’t which to choose, or the money, but the philosophy of the project. I began to ride in order to talk openly, and listen to the stories of others. Obviously I love to ride as well. That goes without saying. Does this philosophy translate to Europe and America? If so, which would be the best bet? Perhaps it doesn’t need to. Perhaps Trevor would work his magic wherever I go, bringing people over to talk and share their experiences. It isn’t ‘All about the bike,’ it’s all about people, mental health issues, and reducing stigma. The riding is secondary to that, a tool to use that makes me both open and accessible whilst out in the world.

So you can see the quandary. I can’t decide until I know the budget, and until I know what I think I can manage, and …….It would appear to be time to fall back on faith. By that I mean self belief in what I’m doing and the fact it’s worth supporting. I spoke to a Devon charity late on in 2012, and they think they may be able to raise the sort of money I would need to make one of these trips. we had a long conversation about my intentions that ended up with me leaving it all to them. This isn’t something I’m comfortable with. Not because I think that they wont, or that they are not capable, but because it involves huge dollops of trust in others, as well as a big dollop of self belief, something I have always lacked.

Malin Head. Irelands most northerly point

I do have a fall back plan though. I have put together a pitch for Crowdfunder, and that will be launched when all else looks helpless. I also have a range of things I can sell in order to raise some of what I need. The rest can be filled in with some events and fundraisers hopefully, but I’m not going down that road until I have to.

On the health front, I’ve suffered a real dip in my physical energy for the couple of months leading up to Christmas. This isn’t an unusual occurrence at this time of the year for the reasons I outlined earlier. At times like this I just have to accept that I’m doing everything I can and that it will improve with time. I’m certainly feeling better since the start of 2013 and that’s a good sign given how awful the whole of last winter was. Part of that was the interminable rainfall that we’ve all experienced. It felt at the time like it would never stop.

Since the new year began it’s certainly brightened up in Devon. Yesterday was like springtime and I decided to spend all of it riding. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to consider a longer ride and being out for more than a couple of hours was both refreshing and enjoyable. I chose to ride to Bude on the Cornish coast using a series of small lanes that make up National Cycle Network route three. It’s hard work all the way there and back and the road that leads from Hatherleigh in order to join it has three large hills each way. That’s six major hills in ten miles! from there the ride rolls along, often climbing steeply up onto ridges before plunging down one more. It’s one of my favourite rides in Devon, even when the road surface has been decimated in places and shallow floodsing still cover some sections.

It was a joy to be out and I returned after 57.5 miles and a whole day of sunshine. Although the sun is weak at this time of the year, my skin felt sunned and my legs knackered. Today I can feel the benefit of this single day outside, bathing in the mild warmth. It confirmed how deficient we all must be and in particluar how little sun we have seen. One way or another I’m heading for warmer climes this summer, even if I have to live on porridge.