Tales of people

I am writing this from Air BnB number two in Italy. Currently we are enjoying week two of rest, soaking up the benefits of being indoors, cooking sumptuous food and charging our batteries in a comfortable bed. I have so much to write about but first some tales of the interesting characters we have come across over the past month.

Eduardo – a cycle tour through Iraq. 

We met Eduardo through Warmshowers, a website that is a bit like couchsurfing but for cycle tourers. We stayed with him and his parents for two nights in the foothills of the Italian alps- of course his house was located up a mosquito infested 150m of 20% gradient ascent at the end of a hard day. We earnt our time with him! Our meeting with Eduardo and his family will always stay with us; it is not often you get to meet a person so extraordinary.

Eduardo had just returned from a solo cycle tour from Mongolia back to his home town in Italy. He was therefore very understanding of our filth, hunger, exhaustion and Liam’s need for beer. He was hosting cycle tourers at his parents home, keen to pay back his hospitality debt, we were the lucky benefactors of the kindness he had received on his travels. 

Whilst staying with him, in addition to being fed, housed and showered, he treated us to a personal delivery of a presentation about his trip that he usually delivers in public. Liam and I were blown away by his adventure; Eduardo had not shied away from difficulties but instead was motivated by the opposite. He had deliberately chosen a route which would test his ability to survive and change his view of the world forever. He cycled through the recent war zones of Iraq and Syria. He braved physically challenging countries such as Mongolia, facing risks of becoming lost, starving or being dehydrated, completely alone. Despite nearly being killed and obviously traumatised in a hit and run road accident in Iran which destroyed his bike and most of his possessions, he found the mental strength to continue his cycle tour. 

Eduardo’s stories were brought to life by a carefully selected array of visually impressive, rich and moving photographs. Portraits of the diverse range of people he encountered, snapshots of terrifying but beautiful barren landscapes framed to reveal his emotions, and snapshots of war, suffering and the challenge of existence. The journey had changed Eduardo’s life forever, his business degree left in the ashes as he prepared for a new career working in active war zones.

Eduardo was kind, humble, a talented photographer, offered intelligent, insightful conversation, and helped us clean our bikes. We won’t forget him. 

A man in the “secret” beauty spot  

After leaving Eduardo’s we cycled back to Switzerland towards our next mountain pass. We had, we thought, the bright idea to go and camp for night at a secret waterfall we had found during Shankra music festival back in July. The incredible valley of Bellinzona and Lostallo before the San Bernadino pass in Switzerland is home to plentiful spectacular waterfalls; we had enjoyed this particular one on the festival ground. However, during the festival, the beauty spot was was very busy with bathing festival goers, tripping swimmers and the loud rumble of Psytrance music. We bookmarked the stunning waterfall for a quieter visit post festival.

A month later we were back in the valley; not a trace of the festival remained. Eager for a rest, a long awaited decontamination swim in the waterfall, and some tranquility, we cycled up to the “secret spot” after a hard couple of days on the bikes. Immediately, we realised our mistake. Of course we were not the only people to “discover” this secret beauty spot during Shankra festival. As we pushed our objecting bikes up the last bit of slippery steep gravel, the pleasant cascade of water tumbling into the crystal clear mountain pool was not the only sight to behold. Our eyes locked onto a camper van draped in psychedelic looking throws, and a man with dreadlocks, playing with a kitten, enjoying an afternoon smoke amongst a bench carefully and artistically constructed from driftwood. His Shankra wristband confirmed our suspicions.

Now, sharing the spot would not have been an issue. We quite like having company. However, this man revealed his intention to set up a sound system and DJ Psytrance music later on in the evening. The man, incorrectly deducing from our having attended a Psytrance festival that Liam and I actually like Psytrance, assumed not only that we wouldn’t mind this, but actively enjoy it. We watched in despair as the man crafted a DJ booth from the driftwood before assembling incense sticks, crystals and other miscellaneous chi inspiring objects. Then came the diesel generator and an enormous sound system. Followed by the trip to the petrol station to buy fuel for the generator. The man was obviously set in for the night. So it came to pass that we were kept up until midnight at the tranquil secret beauty spot listening to terrible Psytrance music. We had to laugh, even though I felt like crying when he kept turning the volume up despite their being no audience!

Chris and Keith

Our second warm showers host of this part of our trip was Chris, his home was also nestling up a 100m climb but this time the gradient was manageable! Chris was not at home when we arrived, but, typical of Switzerland, he had left his house open for us with an invitation to treat it as our own. Which we quickly did. Chris’s house was absolutely beautiful, and he treated us to food so organic and so local that one minute we could hear the bell of the cow in the next door neighbours garden, and the next minute we were drinking coffee with the still warm milk that had been freshly squeezed for us!

We stayed two days with Chris despite initially only asking to stay for one. He had cycled around Patagonia with his then girlfriend, now wife, and also understood our need for rest. Whilst there, we also met his English friend Keith, who Chris had met during his cycle trip. Keith had completed a solo cycle trip and then taken up a job offer from Chris. We discovered with joy that Keith hailed from our part of England, Filey, and had lived just 50 miles away! We shared some amazing adventure stories and talked of home, the North and Yorkshire. 

Liam and I had by this point ruminated on the excessive weight of the luggage on our bikes. Amazingly, Keith explained that his parents were visiting and due to drive back to Filey in a couple of days, and do we need anything taking back? Needing no encouragement, Liam and I quickly offloaded our slackline, plenty of unneeded clothes and unnecessary bike parts onto Keith’s unsuspecting parents. We thanked them, and look forward to driving to Filey in December to collect our abandoned belongings, last seen in a sleepy Swiss village.

Shelter in the chalet

We left Chris’s comfortable home to cycle in the rain up the Albula Pass to head back towards Italy. This concludes my tale of amazing people, for now. That evening, the weather came in pretty bad, with ominous swirling white mists foreboding heavy downpours. The construction of another railway line up the mountain had temporarily decimated most of the picnic sites that we would ordinarily have bivvied in, turning them instead into muddy rest spots for dumper trucks or housing portaloos for construction workers. We had nowhere to sleep or shelter.

Cycling up the mountain, I spotted a beautiful chalet with a large back garden, and decided to ask if we could pitch our tent in the garden. I knocked on the door but no one answered, but motivated by the ominous skies and the smell of a wood fire, two elderly ladies eventually appeared at the window. Despite speaking little English, we established it would fine for us to pitch our tent in their garden! We were saved.

Later on the ladies even gestured that we could shelter in the basement of their chalet. Then, they brought us an enormous pot of tea and two slices of cake. The next day, we rolled out of our tent, having stayed dry and warm despite an overnight onslaught of ear splitting thunder, lightening and rain. I had slept for an incredible ten hours!

The kindness of strangers continues to amaze me.

Personal limits and gender

Since cycling over Mont Cenis pass and into Italy, Liam and I have completely overhauled our preconceived definitions of personal limits for this trip. The past three weeks we have spent cycling through the Italian and Swiss Alps, and it is has been one incredible challenge. Whereas a month ago I would have vehemently argued that I could not cycle a loaded touring bike up a gradient steeper than 10%, I can now confirm (supported by Garmin data!) that I can manage a gradient of 25%. Some days, 10% has been a welcome relief. The Italian Alps do not mess around.

Immediately after descending Col de Mont Cenis, we tackled Col de Lis, which felt harder and with steeper sections than both Cenis and Forclaz. Then, after Lis, we ended up climbing a small pass to a village called Monti, which was the hardest things I have done in my life. I was in tears at the top from the sheer exertion required to push down my pedals. I told myself I could not do it. Repeatedly. I told Liam that I could not do it. Repeatedly. My bike kept falling over sideways because I could not pedal it. I could not get back on as my bike was trying to roll backwards down the hill. I cycled 8m sections at a time. And I got there.

And then, there was the supposed “easy day.” Which turned out to be the hardest day yet. This time I had proper tears, not just from physical exertion, but from the emotional labour required to cycle up steeper and steeper hills, which just when you thought it was all over, constantly gave you surprises of even more severe gradients. I met self doubt with exhaustion repeatedly, and I pushed them aside. I had to take a time out to cry very loudly, whilst eating a tin of mackerel. It drained me.

We’ve both found it really hard, but Liam has found it less hard than me. We think the reason for this lies somewhere between him having better gears and well, him being a man who is six years my junior! I’ve found it very difficult to admit to myself, and also to Liam, that I’m reaching my physical limit. I have pride, so it turns out, in my mental and physical toughness. I don’t want to be weaker than Liam, and I want to carry as much as him and be as fast as him. I am learning that I can’t. Despite challenging gender inequality in every day life, I am learning there are undeniable biological differences between Liam and I that I have to acknowledge.

Initially, I think my experience of cycling meant that we were about equal. He carried a little more weight on his bike than I did, but really not that much. Now the tide is turning! It’s fine most of the time, but on the steeper hills (over 9%), I just don’t have the physical strength to push down that pedal for very long. My legs fail me and I need rests all the time. I feel weak and frustrated with myself. I wander into emotional and physical difficulty and I berate myself.

After an emotional day of struggling, Liam and I had a big chat and he helped me see reason. It’s logical that he should carry more stuff than me, and it’s also logical that my physical limit is different to his. Try telling my pride that! But, I’m really trying to overcome it. It is a hard thing for me to accept I have physical limits, and ask Liam for help.

I’ve discussed this issue with a few fellow cycle tourer warm showers hosts. Eduardo (more on him later!) simply commented that of course Liam should carry more, he is the man. Another couple, Chris and Keith, reassured me that I am strong, and it is a good thing to learn and acknowledge your physical limits. Keith said he learnt from his trip that he needs to be aware of his physical limits and respect them.

Although in my heart I know that I am strong, and that it is OK to have limits and ask for support, the experience of meeting my limits and feeling so deflated had left me lacking in confidence. Self-doubt and frustration were ruling my head when we set off from the Warm Showers host to climb two more mountain passes, San Bernadino (2018m) and Albula (2300m). There were tears before 11am, and I kept telling myself I could not cycle up the mountain. I had to fight back tears because I felt so deflated.

Well, I made it. We got over the two passes and actually it felt a lot easier than some of the ones we had done before. Partly this was due to us leaving some of our gear behind, having a rest day and inflating my tyres (doh). Interestingly, the Albula pass was actually even harder than Forclaz, but we are stronger now. I am stronger now, even though I don’t feel it.

I am absolutely loving everything about this trip and what we are doing, but that does not mean it is always easy. I am loathed to discuss difficult topics because I know I have chosen this path, and I fear sounding like a whinger/moaner. Yet, incredible adventures are not always just about having fun. They are about finding your limits, meeting the worst parts of yourself, pushing through anxiety and batting away those self critical voices. I have spent some parts of every day over the last few weeks either in tears, or close to them. But, I am happy.

I am also extremely happy to now be resting in an Air Bnb with Liam’s parents! I need some rest, my muscles and bones ache. It is nice to have dry feet, a roof over my head, a shower, a fridge and nowhere to be. We’ve covered 2400km with 27,500 of ascent, and it is time to have a break!

Is this a wilderness adventure or not?!

Since leaving our workaway host in Switzerland, we’ve cycled across the French Alps into Italy. A question we’ve been reflecting on a lot apres-cycle, is whether or not our tour can be considered truly adventurous as we are cycling across the more developed parts of Europe. Many other cycle tourists move quickly through Europe to get to the “adventurous” countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, China, India or even Slovenia, Hungary, Turkey. So, can what we are doing really be counted up there with that sort of adventure!?? What defines an adventure?

It certainly feels like a wilderness adventure to us! Whilst being surrounded by luxurious ski chalets, mostly well paved roads, and being never too far away from a hotel, restaurant or bar, we have existed for the last two weeks in a self imposed wilderness, our minds, goals and wallets being the only true barrier to accessing all the comforts the world could possibly have to offer. It’s an interesting situation to place yourself in; we theoretically could sleep in a campsite, or even hotel, and we could eat at restaurants, but instead we choose to bivvy every single night and cook all our own meals. Even if we had enough money to have luxury every day (which we don’t, most people spend more than we have on a weeks holiday!), we would still choose to travel in this way, because this is where the adventure happens for us. Surviving in the wilderness, even if that wilderness exists only through the parameters we have chosen to live by.

We also certainly could have avoided cycling through the Alps themselves, sticking to well trodden (mostly) trusty Eurovelo routes which carve cycle friendly routes through countries avoiding unforgiving gradients. There was definitely no need for us two choose to cycle two Tour de France Mountain passes, including one which has been used four times for the ‘King of the Mountain’ part of the competition and includes 9% gradients that are utterly brutal for our heavy touring bikes.

We could also have travelled lighter, like the four other cycle tourers we have seen in these enormous mountains. There really (we are discovering) was no need to bring a slackline, a laptop, two 38 litre rucksacks, walking boots and loads of different clothes for doing workaways! The frame creaking weight of our bikes multiplies the difficulty, and adventurousness, of ascending 2087m mountain passes.

Our musings have led us also to recognise the ways in which the adventurousness of our cycle trip is more limited! Whilst braving the elements on a rainy evening, we *know* we could just book into a hotel. Whilst fearing dehydration in the baking sun, we realise we could just stick out a thumb and ask for help from a passing car. But we don’t. However, it provides a buffer of comfort knowing that we could immediately escape our situation from the simple act of sticking out our thumbs, or waving down a passer by, or reaching for a credit card… or phoning our parents. And yet… even in less developed countries the same is true! Sometimes more luxury is possible outside Europe as it is more affordable. Credit cards, or cash, work everywhere to bail you out. To some extent.

My thoughts are that whether our trip can be counted as adventurous or not, will remain an unresolved and interesting debate. Adventure is relative, and deeply personal. I will let the reader decide!

Theadventure

We left our amazing Swiss workaway hosts, who dropped us just outside of Lausanne in the midst of another 35 degree heatwave. After three weeks off the bikes, including one week at a festival drinking way more than we should have, we did not feel at our fittest. Oh, and Liam had a horrible cold. Our mission: cycle across the Alps to Italy, via a stop in Morillon to meet some workaway hosts for a potential job opportunity. Climb two Tour de France passes and wild camp the whole way.

The first days cycling was extremely hot, but despite setting off at 2pm, we managed about 50km as it was mostly flat. High point was having a lovely swim in Lake Geneva just past Lausanne. We found a quiet place over a stone wall so I felt comfy to swim wearing my amazing pants bought in Nepal. Unfortunately they are flesh coloured and completely see-through. Doubly unfortunate then that we were joined by a couple of guys smoking an afternoon spliff, an older couple having a swim and a young guy sunbathing. Oh well, I lost my dignity where nudity was concerned somewhere back in week one.

Low point was having to push our bikes through a seemingly never ending snake of street stalls set up for an enormous festival. Battling a tsunami of pedestrians not looking at all where they were going is not fun with a fully loaded bike.

That evening we found ourselves accidentally back on the Via Rhôna cycle track Eurovelo 17, the track we had followed for 500km to Geneva! We found a seemingly amazing camp spot tucked beneath the cycle track next to the river. All was going so well until the plague of mosquitos began. We were hit by hundreds of the things and bailed to set up a mosquito net and peg it down. Hot dinner plans cancelled, we sat gloomily in the mosquito net eating peanuts and cold chorizo, and watched the sun go down. We were treated to spectacular stars that evening, and we got by with minimal bites, even if our bellies were left wanting for more.

This was the first of nine bivvies – all perfectly adequate. Our worst one was the next night, sleeping in a lay by half way up Col de Forclaz. Liam was feeling really poorly and after ascending nearly 850m in a day with our dwindled level of fitness, we were both worn out. I had not so cleverly (as it turned out) treated us to some pricey marinated meat to cook, but unfortunately Liam in his exhausted delirious state couldn’t get the stove to work consistently with a new fuel we were foolishly experimenting with. In the dark, we couldn’t tell whether the meat disguised by sauce was cooked or not. I sat there, alone with a man down, in a dark layby 800m up a mountain, holding a bag of expensive, query cooked, Swiss meat in a zip locked bag, ready to throw in a bin lest it attract unwanted animal visitations in the night, ravenously hungry and seriously questioning my life choices. The tale has a happy ending. Motivated by both hunger and the repulsion boiling within at throwing away perfectly good and expensive meat, I managed to work with Liam to get the stove to work for just long enough to cook the meat to a crisp. Cremated- definitely. Going to give us food poisoning? Absolutely no chance. Winning.

The next day, after a restless night peppered with passing high beams of cars racing up the mountain, we slogged over two Cols at 1500 and 1400 metres, in a blistering heatwave. At the top of the first one, I pretty much climbed into the drinking water fountain to cool down! It took us an eternity to cycle up, pausing every 25-50m of ascent to dive into any shade, lay-by or non switch back we could find, catch our breath, rest our jelly legs and attempt to cool down. I prevented Liam from pushing the last 12metres of ascent, sniffing through his cold, and we got there and could claim some sort of victory. We had laid siege to the mountain. We had got there. After an expensive Swiss ice cream and beer to celebrate (both the ascent and leaving pricey Switzerland), we used our last Swiss Francs and cycled down to Chamomix to bivvy at the foot of Mont Blanc (highest mountain in Europe) in a spot recommended to us by a warm showers host that I had messaged to ask for advice about where to sleep for free in the bustling and pricey ski resort. Along the way, we whizzed through Argentiere, stopping to fill our panniers full of delicious French supermarket wares, to the sound of an outdoor Orchestra playing part of a Star Wars score!

As we pulled into the recommended wooded area on the outskirts of Chamonix, we passed loads of vans parked up for the night, and saw a woman doing yoga underneath a tall canopy of gorgeous pines twinkling in the evening sun. We tiptoed past her as quietly as we could manage with the unruly bikes, and later, after she finished her practice, she joined us for an hour to share her incredible story of cycling around the world with her two year old son! Now working as a mountain guide in Chamonix, she left us rich with some useful tips about local hikes, her phone number in case of any problems, and an invitation to stay in her flat down the road over the weekend as she was away!

The following day we left Chamonix and cycled through the valley drinking up the glacial scenery before sleeping next to a beautiful fishing lake, hidden from the public and the rain (but not the ducks) by yet more beautiful pine trees. We were kept awake some of the night by an incredible thunder and lightening storm projected over the snow capped mountains, and winds that kept changing direction blowing excitedly through our tarp.

By now, it was my turn to be poorly. Dosed up on cold and flu medication, we had another hard day slogging up hill again to Morillon, a skiing resort, to meet a workaway host and take some rest in their chalet. The heat wave was markedly over, replaced by unceasing torrential rain only the product of towering mountains. Our unfit and abused legs groaned and complained as we cycled on, and on, devouring an entire rotisserie chicken with mayonnaise on the roadside, navigating endless switchbacks and drinking litres of water. As we approached the chalet, we got lost in the middle of an exceptional part of deluge when google tried to direct us to cycle up a gravel walking track with a no entry sign on an impossible gradient. No thanks Google! Instead, we had to push our bikes briefly up a road with an impossible gradient. We became a spectator sport for people having a spot of luncheon on their covered chalet balconies.

At one point, white fork lightening struck the road very close in front of us, causing us to flee to shelter desperately under someone’s car port. Thunder boomed menacing around the valley crackling like artillery fire as we waited for the storm to roll over. The car port owners peered curiously out their window at us, and a very damp Liam and I mused at the unlikeliness of them venturing out to ask us what on earth we were doing cycling touring bikes up a massive hill in a dangerous storm. We barely knew ourselves.

Finally, we reached the chalet as the storm echoed in the distance, and soaking wet through we met Jean and John the workaway hosts. God knows what they thought of the two bedraggled red in the face creatures asking where they could store their life’s possessions in filthy panniers. Bless them for not complaining at us dripping mud and water in puddles through their lovely chalet. At least we knew how to use a mop!

We passed a restful couple of days recovering and waiting for the bad weather to pass before embarking on the epic journey to Italy.

The morning we set off for Italy was a glorious descent with beautiful weather- not too hot and not raining! We cycled down hill until we re-entered the foothills of the Alps and the gradients started gently changing. We wanted to find somewhere to sleep before doing any climbs, but everywhere was decorated with the friendly Private No Entry signs and electric fences typical in agricultural areas. Fortunately we found a walking track marked on google maps, and after pushing our bikes along a gravel track, managed to find a slice of quiet scrubland tucked innocuously behind a row of trees on the trail. Liam cooked up a feast as always, and we slept extremely well and remained dry under a tarp despite the evening rain.

The following days cycling to the base of Mont Cenis were a mixture of cycling up and down, but mostly up. We passed through some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip, through gorgeous Alpine villages and amazing panoramic views of valleys below. We swam in Lake Annecy, slept next to a river, cycled through gorges and over hills and through alpine meadows. We visited a market and tried some local goats cheese, being sure to choose the fresh stuff and not the mature variety! We both agreed it was the best scenery of the trip so far.

A low point was caused by road works. We were loving life, cruising along amazing quiet roads to our next destination, when suddenly it turned out that our road was blocked and we had to take a diversion. We ended up climbing a big ascent on a baking hot dual carriage way with very fast traffic zipping past us. Morale was sinking as there was no shade for refuge, and seemingly no places to sleep. However, that evening, we found a turn in the road that led to a slag heap, and a hydropower river section. The place was hidden from view from the main road, and whilst not being very attractive, it was actually a perfect place to spend the night. As I sat on the gravel facing a slag heap and a railway line, ants crawling all over me, to the sound of the motorway in the distance, I reflected that this was not what I came cycle touring for. However, it is the nature of cycle tour life- sometimes you have to take the horrible road to get to the good road. Some days you have to sleep in the lay by on the way to the beautiful spot.

On the day of Mont Cenis pass itself, we woke up only a tiny bit daunted about what awaited us. Yet another Tour de France Col, with sections of a gradient average of 9%. We’d cycled for 6 days in a row over some mountainous roads, and our legs were exhausted. As we crawled up the hill, painstakingly slow, 25m-50m sections at a time, there were times both of us didn’t think we would make it. However, as with most things with cycle tour life, you just have to do it! Pretty soon we were at the top, with incredible 360 degree panoramic mountain views all around us, and an exhilarating steep switch back descent to look forward to. We sat at the top with a beer and an ice cream, feeling thoroughly satisfied with ourselves, taking great amusement at watching people passing by stare in bewilderment at our bikes. Their faces said: how did those get up here?! Which nutters would cycle a loaded touring bike up Mont Cenis?!

That evening we passed into Italy and after one more painful ascent, we found a spot to sleep which makes you really appreciate cycle touring. It’s much easier to wild camp when you are hiking as you can wander into woods, get away from roads, and reach places far away from human activity! On the bikes, especially with cumbersome loaded bikes, we have to always stay near a road. Consequently, we don’t often get wilderness spots. So, the spot we ended up in was a real treat. On a very quiet road to a small village, we found a small turn around spot for cars, which led to a maze of mountain oak trees and rocky platforms with a spectacular view over Italy. It was warm, there were no mosquitos, barely any cars, no people and we really felt in the wilderness as we could push our bikes away from the road. That evening we sat out late, enjoying the sunset and the stars coming out, and felt we had really achieved something! We were in Italy, and over two mountain passes!

The only problems we had now were, we hadn’t bathed in several days, we had dirty clothes, no food and limited water. But they were tomorrow’s problems!

Overcoming internal mountains

Not written the blog in a while, but I will get caught up! I’ve got loads to write, its just hard on the road on the iPhone, and when we are staying with other people and I could use the laptop, we like to make the most of the time with them. However, when I woke up this morning, all I could think about was writing. I have taken myself to sit on a rock bathed in morning sun overlooking the sun rising on the mountains. The sun is the only thing I’ve been bathed in for a while, but I am happy. Cycle touring is certainly not all idyllic mountain passes and waking up in quiet beauty spots, it’s often navigating busy roads, road works, and sleeping in laybys. However, through all of it, I am grateful and happy. This post is going to be a personal one.

When I was younger, my parents split up. The details are unnecessary, but I know as a family we all agree that the separation and subsequent aftermath were handled in a less than ideal manner. The result for my six year old self was growing up in an environment that did not fill with me trust in the world, and especially not confidence in myself. I had my brains, and I threw myself into academic work, becoming a perfectionist with little time for anything other than homework. I had no hobbies and I absolutely hated sport and exercise. So I thought.

My school reports stated that I didn’t attend P.E lessons, and I would have told you that the only sport I enjoyed was avoiding sport. The truth, as it always is, was a little more complicated. First, I had no confidence, and I couldn’t enjoy sport because the school cultivated an environment where sport was about competition and enormous praise was heaped on those getting into the teams, as well as criticism for those not performing well. Furthermore, I believed I was not very good at sport, and this caused mayhem with my perfectionism. Perfectionism is damaging as it prohibits your capacity to enjoy anything that you don’t naturally excel at. Which is, for most people, most things to be enjoyed in life. I wrote sport off as something I wasn’t good at, and honestly, I have yet to find out if I am good at team sports because I never tried to be. Over the past few years I’ve reflected a lot and realised that the version I have always narrated to people is “I’m not good at team sports”. However, the truth is, I just don’t know as I never had the confidence to make mistakes, learn and grow, and sabotaged all my encounters by not trying at all, thus protecting myself from failure by failing.

I remember being sat on the edge of Lake Ullswater on a family holiday watching my family on kayaks having fun. I had declined the opportunity to kayak because I said I hated sport. In reality, I was desperate to try and paddle on the amazing lake. However, the terror of not being able to kayak outweighed the desire to try it. Unfortunately not trying begets more self doubt as I didn’t allow myself to have any experiences to challenge the narrative of my being useless.

The third reason I didn’t enjoy sport was the clothes they made you wear; tiny shorts and skirts. Maybe OK for primary school children but for some teenage girls going through puberty, it was a nightmare. My perfectionism had already noticed my body didn’t look like the other girls, and especially not the ones people said were attractive, or so I thought. My thighs rubbed together, I had fat. I hated my curvaceous and naturally muscular legs. And above all else, I hated these tiny shorts I was expected to fit into to play sport. So I didn’t play sport.

There was a time where I would have wanted to give every detail about what happened next. But I am over it. In a nutshell, in my late teens I developed an eating disorder which lasted until my late twenties. It was a product of my lack of confidence, my perfectionism and my inability to emotionally mature or express emotions in a healthy way. I survived; it wasn’t easy. But I’m here now. And that’s all that matters.

Something happened during my twenties in that difficult time that set me off on this path that I am on now. The path of overcoming perfectionism and falling in love with all aspects of life, especially those that I’d written off because “I wasn’t good at them”. I discovered exercise. At first, it was incredibly unhealthy for me as I was unwell and used exercise primarily as a way to control my body size and shape. However, my love of the outdoors, moving the body and appreciating what my body can do rather than focusing on what it looks like, has helped me heal.

I remember the first time I went for a run, ironically the perfectionist eating disorder “lose weight” side winning over the “I can’t do it” side, I was amazed that I could run. Within a few months I was entering half marathons. Here was something I had told myself all my life that I hated, and I had been wrong! Yes, I wasn’t the fastest and that was OK.

Then, I discovered hiking, climbing and mountain biking. Climbing was a tough one was it involved learning complex rope work, and I had already written off in my mind that I was good at practical things. Climbing helped me challenge my internal narrative that I couldn’t tie knots, or learn practical tasks. It was really difficult because I had this story in my head that I was the last person in my class to tie my shoelaces and I couldn’t do things like ropework. In reality, I forgot to focus on the part of the story that mattered. I learned to tie my shoelaces. It took a bit longer than other people, and that was Ok. That was allowed.

Mountain-biking and hiking, and eventually cycle touring, made me feel like finally I had found the meaning behind life. Ruth that hated sport was now spending every weekend and most evenings being active. I felt energised in the mountains and surrounded only by nature and the company of people I loved and trusted, the voices of perfectionism and eating disorder altogether disappeared. Until I stopped the activity.

Yoga was an important milestone for me. I had always wanted to try yoga, but was terrified of attending a class and getting the poses wrong, or being too inflexible to even try. When I walked into my first yoga class, I had to fight memories of step aerobics at school where I was the only one unable to follow the teachers instructions. And yes, even now, after years of yoga, I struggle with copying poses off the teacher. However, now I have the confidence to be OK with that. And I tell myself, you will get there in the end. I am even able to laugh at myself, and my teachers learn how to show me poses in a way that works for me. After I learn the pose, I can do it just as well as anyone else.

Honestly, I will never know whether I really did have a problem with coordination and left and right as a child, or whether I just told myself I did and never tried to overcome it. I’m trying to overcome it now as an adult! You don’t have to tell yourself the same stories your whole life. Change is possible.

After overcoming the eating disorder, and continuing to work on the perfectionism, I was left with one further problem that needed to be overcome. I had damaged my stomach and oesophagus and needed surgery to repair it. This surgery left me unable to do any sport, running or cycling for 6 weeks and 6 months for any climbing or carrying a back pack. In reality it was nearly a year and lots of hic ups in recovery before I felt strong enough to engage in physical activity again. There were times in that year I felt I would never get there. I thought maybe I would never be able to carry a heavy back pack up a mountain, or cycle a loaded touring bike. Maybe I would never be able to run a half marathon or climb on rock face. It was an uncertain time, waiting to see if my surgery was strong enough for the activities I wanted to do. I made peace with my situation, and worked hard to suppress negative feelings about the chain of events that led to me having the damaged stomach in the first place.

As this blog shows you, I got there. I ran a half marathon in December. In March-April I carried my own rucksack over the worlds highest navigable pass and walked for 40 days. And I am cycle touring with the heaviest bike I have ever ridden, up the biggest mountains I have ridden!

The reason for this mini life history, and I feel a little ashamed at the self indulgence and self disclosure, was because I wanted to explain my emotions over the past few weeks cycling in the Alps. A week ago we cycled over Col de Forclaz (1517m), something I did on my own as a 23 year old. It was a huge turning point for me back then as my first moment of solo travel. I realised that despite the self critical narrative I had been beating myself with my whole life, I could read maps! I could cycle up a massive hill! It didn’t matter what I thought of my legs, they were incredible power houses to get me up hills! I was capable and strong!

Returning to Forclaz 10 years later, I was amazed by my body all over again. And, unlike 23 year old Ruth, I felt the enormous weight off myself because that critical voice is so much quieter than it used to be. I don’t live with the eating disorder to the same extent, I can manage the perfectionism, I can be happy. Happy was not always something I thought I could be.

Yesterday we cycled over Mont Cenis Pass, 2087m, and as I cameover the hill after an epic four hour struggle, greeted by amazing mountain lake scenery and people cheering and saying congratulations, I felt truly like I have survived. I’m really ready to leave behind the years of self torment and their memories. I’m opening myself to all new experiences, challenging myself to try new things, or things I’ve previously written off as ‘I can’t do that’.

I feel utterly privileged and grateful for my good mental and physical health, and all the luck in the world that has allowed me to be born into a life to have these experiences when so many other people cannot.

People are amazing!

It. Is. Sweltering. We’ve been cycling through through the French heat wave and have paid the price. Man down, man down! Liam is experiencing heat exhaustion, we think. On reflection, there is no wonder. With regular highs of 42 degrees Celsius, and it not getting cooler than 21-25 on a night, cycle touring through the heatwave has been an inhospitable environment. However, we’ve still managed to have a lot of fun along the way.

The rain.

We departed from our rest spot 11 days ago and had two days of rain and storms. In our little green nylon fortress, we could hear the rumbling of thunder for an hour before the lightening struck overhead. Then the rain arrived, wailing, merciless, startling rain, nearly collapsing our tent onto us. It felt like we were in the eye of a hurricane! And then, as fast as it arrived, it passed. Just enough water to guarantee that our tent was soaking for when we had to pack it away in the morning!

The following evening, we once more had rain. This time we had constructed a bivvy spot next to a large bush in some wildlife reserve land next to a major road into Montpellier. The campsites were too expensive to stay in and we decided to brave the elements and trust our gear. As the sun set, I flicked ticks off my camping mat, batted mosquitos away, crawled under a nylon ground sheet tarp, into my hot sticky bivvy bag, and cried. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, but it was so hard. As it goes, I slept extremely well, and our system worked perfectly because we both woke up dry despite the rain all night. Of course, all of our gear was damp from the condensation! For added amusement, the busy road had turned into stand still traffic in morning rush hour, and commuters looked at us in bemusement and bewilderment as we stood on the scrubland brushing our teeth as the traffic crawled slowly by. I felt like I was an animal in the zoo!

Finally, the last night of rain… we splashed out on a campsite because we were depleted by being splashed on. The rain spat down on us all night in our tent, and the mosquitos circled menacingly. We, and most of our posessions, were damp. However, the sun was on its way! We rejoiced.

The heatwave.

Oh, just how much we would miss the feeling of cold air on our face, we did not quite appreciate. A new kind of dampness was in the post. A heatwave bringing 40 degree heat to most of France hit us in the face, and soon we would be battling with stifling, relentless heat. A blanket of exhausting warmth that did not fade even with the evening sun. Being constantly covered in a layer of salty sweat, turning us into desperate shade seekers, with a mortal fear of running out of water.

Our tent, definitely dry now, became uninhabitable. We abandoned it in favour of stringing a mosquito net underneath trees and sleeping outside looking at the stars, with no need even for a sleeping bag.

Litres of water, teaspoon after teaspoon of salt, we struggled on. Getting up early to cycle until 1pm because by 4pm, you could not cycle. By the late afternoon, the heat became totally unmanageable and fatigued.

We struggled on, I had more tears sheltering under a walnut tree at lunch time. The heatwave warning said a danger to human life. How could we carry on? Oh, but we did. Maybe a little foolishly, we bashed out 80km days, 1000m altitude climb days, long days, hard days… and we were only 150km away from our target when Liam became unwell from suspected heat exhaustion. Which brings me to my overwhelming memory of the past 11 days.

The kindness of fellow humans

It started with a stranger giving us a bottle of fresh mineral water along the Meditteranean Sea near Sete. It continued with two couples making us a coffee at a campsite in Saint Gilles, seeing us struggling with our stove in the rain. A Danish couple also gave us chocolate! Chats about the Lake District with an English couple replenished our spirits. Playing with some Spanish Children in the town square. And then, there was the free glass of wine the Wine Bar owner bestowed upon us, after seeing the Gendarmarie move us on from sitting on the steps of the Church in the town centre. So many cheers from French people and road cyclists – ’Bonne Voyage!’ ‘Bonne Route’ and my favourite – ‘Bonne Courage!’. So many offers of help with directions, or just general cheerful and heart warming interest in our adventure. We’ve been powered by human kindness.

The kindness overflowed when we stayed with three Warmshowers hosts in Valence, Chateauneuf-sur-Isere and Voreppe. Warmshowers is a network of cycle tourers who host other cycle tourers – and we were lucky enough to meet three amazing sets of people. In Valence, we met a woman who regularly cycles 200km days and is entering a 1200km race! She let us pitch our tent in her garden, fed us, washed our clothes and we swam in her swimming pool! Our next host fed us raspberries from the garden, and we listened to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack from our comfy bed. Our last host let us stay very last minute and arranged it from London… and also washed our clothes! We had such an amazing time with each host, learnt a lot about French culture, had really interesting conversations, incredible food, lots of laughs, and shared stories of travel and cycle touring. These hosts saved us from the heat! We realise now, just two days of camping in the heat and Liam fell ill. Those nights of shelter allowed us to keep going.

On the last day of cycling, a French woman flagged us down to offer to fill our water bottles. And then, when Liam got sick, an amazing woman accepted our Couchsurfing request. I cannot imagine how she felt when she received a message saying ‘my partner has vomitting and diarrhoea, can we stay with you?’… but she accepted and even came to pick Liam and his bike up from our campsite. She also took most of my things, and I just had to cycle a light bike 10km to reach shelter. We’ve been resting in her home today and she said we can stay as long as we need for Liam to get better. Even though she has family staying from England right now, our ex-pat Mancunian hero Angie, offered us a place in her home. People, are just amazing.

That brings me to the next bit of amazing. Our Workaway hosts that we’ve been racing to get to, have been so understanding of Liam’s sickness. They said as long as we can make it to Geneva (40km away), they can pick us and the bikes up. I am just blown away!

The cycling…

When I think of everything we have achieved over the past 11 days, it makes my eyebrows raise a little. We’ve cycled nearly 1300km now, and the last 7 days have been particularly amazing. Up impeccable cycle tracks, along beautiful rivers, past castles, Chateaux, Nuclear power stations, wetlands, parklands, sunflower fields, apricot trees, vineyards, apple trees, cherry trees, walnut trees, beaches, historical market towns, churches and through forests. We’ve swam in rivers and picnicked anywhere with shade. We’ve mostly been on the Via Rhona, the track along the Rhone River to Switzerland. However, we’ve taken a few detours to make the route quicker.

The route is getting hillier and hillier, and we’ve had to push up a few of the hills due to the gradient! This is no easy feat – my legs are much stronger than my arms! Most of the hills we’ve managed though, in low gears, grinding on, with regular gasp breaks.

The treats!

We’ve also gotten a little better at treating ourselves. We realised that our adventure had become a Cycle Tour of Suffering! So, we’ve managed to relax our budget a little, and stay in a few more campsites and have a few more bottles of wine. A particular favourite during the heatwave was buying a 2 Euro for 4 box of magnums and eating two each! We also love having strawberries and cream. We’ve absolutely needed to treat ourselves a bit in this weather!

What next?

So, we are due to start with our Workaway Host on the 2 July. However, we have to see how Liam recovers. We are a bit gutted not to finish our cycle adventure into Ogens – visions of triumphantly cycling over the Swiss border and arriving at our workaway host on bikes, have been shattered. However, problems are all part of the adventure. We remain upbeat, and feel blessed to be staying with the lovely Couchsurf host. We turned the disaster into part of the adventure. We will wait until Liam is well enough, then get a train to Geneva and be collected by our Workaway hosts, or get a train directly to them.

The verdict? What a bloody adventure we’ve had!! Cannot wait for the next few weeks… looking forward to being indoors and our Workaway Opportunity, but we will miss our bikes! So far our adventure has been everything we wanted it to be. The warmshowers, couchsurf and workaway experiences are making it for us a very exciting cultural cycle tour experience of human kindness, learning and exchange.

Reflections on cycle tour life after two weeks

Home

It is amazing how quickly somewhere can feel like home. It depends how you define home. For some people, it means bricks and mortar, belongings, memories, and a period of elapsed time. To others, it is a geographical location, sense of community, history or belonging. Home is not a noun, it is a feeling. As I walked down the Canal du Midi tow path this evening, back to a wild camp spot we first stayed in 9 days ago with my Dad, I felt like I was walking home. Home, now, apparently, is a clearing in a wooded area on a tow path where the French people tolerate wild camping. There is even a bin, and the refuse collection people politely asked me if my solar charger lying in the woods was rubbish or should they leave it. Other people camp here too, and it feels safe and comfortable. There are trees for shade; birds, snakes and rabbits for company.

The green nylon shell of our tent, also feels like home to me. It doesn’t matter where it is pitched, it looks the same inside. The comforting ritual of threading the poles through the outer sheet, watching home bounce alive as you peg out the material. Perfecting the finish tightening the guys. Attaching the bedroom, the groundsheet goes down, and then finally the unfurling of the roll matts and sleeping bags. I have created home and can create it anywhere I can pitch a tent.

Conversely, I don’t feel at home when I bivvy (sleep outside in a waterproof bag) in a wooded clearing next to a main road. The random odd cars whizzing by at 3am startle me awake. And worse, the shrill cries of an unknown animal punctuate the dark night with fear. My dreams are full of terror, and being awake is worse. In the morning youtube confirms my fears, wild boar were nearby! And I also discover the Pyrenees has bear and wolves! Sleeping outside in the Pyrenees does not feel like home!

And then there was the bivvy in a bush next to a road, very close to a cow field and a hunting dog kennels and miscellaneous industrial aqua feature. When you weren’t being woken up by the hungry cries of dogs with a scent, the sound of machines pumping water was always there to keep you company.

There is always of course, the perfect bivvy. In the middle of a gigantic coastal wetland, tucked away on the edge of a canal and along a bank of inland coastal lake. Perfect sunset and sunrise, 360 panoramic views and only the odd friendly cyclist or runner to wave hello to. No boar, cars, dogs or aquatic industry. We won’t talk about the mosquito problem, I don’t want to ruin the illusion!

The cycling

We’ve now cycled 400miles on our fully loaded touring bikes, and are currently having a rest day at the end of our great circuit! Unintentionally, we have ended up cycling in a great big loop from Sete in the South of France, up the Canal Du Midi, into the Pyrenees and Ariege, back down to the Meditteranean sea and back into to the Canal du Midi! Hence, we are staying at a wild camp spot we first slept in 9 days ago. From tomorrow we begin the great trek to Switzerland!

Our longest day so far has been 80km, but most of our days are between 40km-60km. We’ve surprised ourselves with how many miles we can cover when we push it, but also learnt the speed limiting power of hills and general progress halting demoralising misery of the headwind. The first hill we approached in the Pyrenees we both charged full of hope and self belief… only to fall off side ways, the gradient pissing on our bonfire, and we end up pushing. Fortunately, we got better, 2000m of climbing later! Hills go, and downhills are glorious. Despite it all, the wild, the hills, the rain, the sun, the gradient, the ache in your legs, the body objecting to the latent suffering… you just have to keep pedalling. Just like anything in life, if you keep pedalling, you get there, in the end.

The weather

We both thought the South of France would mean sunshine and more sunshine. Oh how wrong we were. Eight days into our cycling, we’d had more cloud than sun, and a series of wet nights had propelled us into misery. Everything. Was. Wet. I had a feeling of being cold that I could not shake. 9am, and I was wearing five coats including a Down Jacket. I looked longingly into the windows of cottages and houses, wondering what warmth felt like. Whats worse is that I knew I had done this to myself. I only had myself to blame for the suffering. I could easily just pay for a warm bed. But, I won’t, because that is not what this adventure is about. So, I pull on more layers and frantically check weather apps and skies for signs of change.

And change it does. Suddenly its 33 degrees Celsius and its burning hot, the tarmac is melting on the roads and there is no shade. Just miles of straight road stretching out like an optical illusion. The heat wraps you in a cocoon of fatigue, your body is screaming for rest and shade. But, you just have to keep pedalling.

The people

We were very lucky to stay with some of Liam’s friends he met through Helpx a few years ago, John and Debs and their lovely children. Even though we had to cycle up a gigantic hill to get there, their home provided laughs, familiarity, amazing food and company. Oh, and a washing machine, shower, and a cosy tent already erected in the garden! We stayed with them half way through our circular cycle and will try to return on our way home.

We’ve also met various characters who stop and ask us what we are doing. One lady in particular, approached us when we were sat on the edge of a hot road after a hard day, when we were asking ourselves just that question. What are we doing?! “I used to love travelling!!” Sparkled Janine. “I went to South America on my own back in the 70s!”. And suddenly, her smile and infectious enthusiasm remind us again of how lucky we are. The hot road will end. This is what we signed up for.

The Lay-by.

My final reflection is of our trusty comrade the lay-by. It provides us sanctuary and shelter from cars, rain, and road, at all times. In the lay by we can make tea, have chats, cook meals, dry tents, dry pants and fix bikes. All hail the lay by.

Post Script: the resting.

This is something Liam and I are both guilty of forgetting to do when we get mission orientated. The other day, we admitted to each other that we need to do some of it, and not embark on a cycle tour of suffering. So today we chilled all day, at home, slacklining, cooking, reading, drawing, talking, napping and drinking lemon tea. We concluded that cycle touring, especially on a budget, is really really hard. But. We love it. So, here is to the next part of our emotional rollercoaster cycle tour adventure.

Cycling the Canal Du Midi

Writing this blog entry from our tent fortress in Toulouse! We have been resting at a campsite and sheltering from the rain; living in a tiny flat in Hull has prepared us well for managing in this confined space. We finished the Canal du Midi cycle route from Sete to Toulouse, the first leg of our travel by bike adventure… this blog entry will try to relay some of our experiences, so many come to mind that it will fail to do the excitement and intensity any justice! We were also joined by my amazing Dad for the first three days of cycling, and Liam and I did the last two on our own.

We chose the route of the Canal du Midi as it made logistical sense having attended a festival near to Sete, the route being flat for ease, and with good train links so my Dad could join us for a section. Wanting it to work out, I did kind of ignore a lot of the warnings online that the route was very badly maintained and difficult/impossible to ride in places. My usual experience dictates that when people whine about routes being hard, it is never as bad as they make out. I did some more research, and there was even a Cicerone Official guidebook. How bad could it be? We decided to give it a go.

Well, I was wrong. The people online were completely correct with their assessment- the track was very difficult to ride for the most part! Liam and I set off on our fully loaded touring bikes with road tyres, and were greeted with easy to medium rated mountain bike routes, including slithers of single track with dicy drop offs into a canal, tree routes, gravel, sand, subsidence where parts of the canal were missing, huge grasses providing resistance to the panniers, no paving on most of the track causing rattles and jerks. Having no suspension and little control over our tanks of bikes, this made things, well, very challenging! My Dad had his mountain bike with proper tyres and suspension and less load, so he fared a little better!

Our bikes, arms, legs and tempers were put through their paces as we experienced a good beating and rattling as we made our way on the route. Liam’s front rack and mud guard broke, his bike stand broke, everything got shaken loose, all the nuts and bolts needed tightening.

All that being said, we had an absolutely fantastic time! We found great humour when faced with these adversities. We saw the positives of the experiences as we were able to really test our bikes and my amazing mechanic Dad helped us fix the issues. We will be facing unpaved roads and tracks in many countries we intend to visit… so it provided a great opportunity to see what would happen!

The route itself, was really beautiful and I would highly recommended it for bikepacking on a mountain bike. We travelled through beautiful rural French villages and towns along the waterways, spotting heron and water birds, cycled along the meditterean sea and had a swim, bought local cheese, cherries and strawberries, had coffees in lovely local cafes, explored French towns, saw lots of fascinating locks and shared greetings with holidaymakers on canal boats. The sun mostly shone down, and was glorious. The grasses were long, the smells of spring and summer floating in the air, and the enormous plane trees planted along the banks were glorious and provided some shade.

We worked really well as a team, and had some amazing wild camp spots. The best one, my Dad found, was underneath an aqueduct which supported the Canal! So, not only did we ride along the canal but we slept under it. We found it after the only evening it rained, we were cold and wet, and in need of shelter. The universe provided! In the morning we had a much needed wash by swimming in the river with the fish. Then shared our breakfast with the ants whilst drying out in the sun.

Another fun bivvy was after Liam and I’s first solo day… we had put in some hard miles and could not find anywhere to bed down. We cycled and cycled until we had nothing left in our legs, and the light faded, so we were forced to just put up camp on the side of the track in full view of anyone passing. However, we counted on no one passing that far our in the rural area whilst it was dark! We eventually managed to get to sleep about 11pm after Liam cooked up a feast! Then, about 1am, I was startled awake by 4 bright lights in my face. A group of four night cyclists whizzed by at high speed, and shouted Bonne Nuit!

We had a lovely time in Carcassonne exploring the medieval city, where a nice French cycle tourer helped my Dad fix Liam’s bike. My dad didn’t ask for help, but Bernard was extremely excited by the technical challenge and jumped up when he saw my Dad working on the bike. I was very amused watching them work together with limited shared language – but they functioned in harmony. Bernard offered us some comments on our gear, not all good! Ha ha!

Finally we arrived in Toulouse after a day of cycling on amazing paved track. It was hot, and it took us a while to find the campsite. We learned we do not like cycling in cities even when they have amazing cycle paths. We have enjoyed the city, its beautiful rivers and architecture. However, we also enjoyed the comforts it offers… namely Starbucks…. Where we passed an afternoon charging our electronics and learning how to use the Garmin, which will help us navigate.

Liam and I are sometimes a bit haphazard, and owned this amazing piece of kit with no idea how to use it or even what it does. We were absolutely amazed by it, and now have downloaded our onward routes for the next few weeks. Fingers crossed it makes navigation a bit easier. Stay tuned for updates.

Toulouse also provided us with an opportunity to catch up with some of Liam’s friends he made whilst couchsurfing in 2016. We went out expecting to be home (tent) by 11pm and away cycling by 7am. How foolish of us. So here we are, nursing hangovers safely back in the tent at 10pm the next day. We’ve spent the day resting and sheltering from the rain because it has not stopped raining really for two days. Unexpected in the South of France!! So, it kind of worked out. We also learnt some more lessons about not riding bikes whilst drunk, not navigating whilst drunk, and not planning epic cycles the day after going out for a beer!

We are making slow progress as we try and get fitter on the bikes and adjust to sleeping wild, cooking every meal outdoors, and living cheap. I have to say, we are in our element. I love sleeping outside, being on the move, shopping for cheap food, having so few possessions and living simply. All you worry about each day is where to sleep, what to eat, and where to go. Every day is full of new experiences and rich with learning, struggle, joy and suffering in equal measure. A coffee in Starbucks or a warm shower is like the ultimate luxury! You appreciate everything that you have. Emotions are felt with intensity. I love this life!

So… tomorrow we move on. We are aiming to cycle to Switzerland via Foix, Perpignan, Montpelier and Eurovelo route 17 in the next three weeks. It is about 1000km and lots of ascent! So, we will have to see how that goes. Honestly, we have no idea how we will fare. Our bikes are very very heavy and we have a lot of muscle to build! Whilst googling stupid things like can you cycle 1000km in 3 weeks, all I found were posts on forums of people asking if they could do it in 2 days. So… we will give it a punt. To be continued.

Just wanted to give a massive shoutout to my amazing Dad, who we miss as our third musketeer! Despite being more than both our ages combined he was faster than us, had more energy, more skills and more positivity! He really is an inspiring individual! Thanks so much for coming and all of the laughs we shared. Thanks for fixing our bikes, buying us cherries and coffees, keeping us motivated and cheerful. Thanks for doing the washing up and letting us rest after we were too exhausted to move and you were full of beans 😂