20/08/2018 Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward is nomadonanomad
Two weeks almost completed, ‘on the road’, and what have I learnt so far? Quite a lot I think. Some very obvious, some almost genius, even if I do say so myself. Firstly, I have to be aware of my abilities, or lack of, as the case may be, and realise that it’s not cheating to have a day off. I’ve got this principle off to a tee already and if I’m at a nice, affordable campsite it’s very easy to decide to stay an extra day, or even two.
I am, after all under no rush to get anywhere yet, probably never will be, and the main aim for me is to keep just one step ahead of the grim reaper! Right now, I’m a few days away from my next aftercare appointment regarding my eye after which I will be free to go where I like for 2 months before the last aftercare check and my eventual freedom!
The second thing I’ve learned is that I can get the tent pitched in under 15 minutes although, so far, this has always been done in very pleasant conditions. Wondering what will happen when the wind is blowing gale force? Just as importantly I’ve discovered that decamping takes only about an hour, and that’s without rushing. I’ve been convinced that it would take at least double that and had been dreading that part of the adventure a little.
The third thing I’ve learned is one of those that was obvious after I’d thought of it but it just didn’t occur to me to start with. Pack the front panniers with stuff I’m likely to need during the day’s journey. When I set off I was so grateful that everything I had actually fitted inside the bags that getting to stuff during the day wasn’t even a thought.
Indeed, the first day was going nicely and I needed a bit of a break and thought it would be a good idea while taking a few minutes off the bike to check the laptop for the next bit of the journey.
Of course, to get to the rear bag where the laptop was, I had to get the tent, sleeping bag and mat off the rear rack to get the rear pannier open. This went on for two more days before I sussed out the idea of everything going in the front bags that I might need while on the road. I did say some things might be obvious!
I mentioned in one of the previous posts about the Brooks saddle and the required ‘breaking in’ period. I wondered whether I may end up having a medical condition called ‘Wardy’s Arse’ named after me as the early indications were that the saddle might be winning this particular battle.
Well, the Brooks is still winning but by how much? Using tennis terminology, the Brooks Saddle v Wardy’s Arse contest, in a best of 5 sets match, would be going thus. Brooks Saddle is leading 6-0, 6-0 and two breaks of serve up in the third. It is one tough piece of leather! Whether I can eventually make a Lazarus style comeback and win 29-27 in the deciding set is a moot point. Maybe I just throw it away and fit a Lazy Boy? Updates will be provided in the future.
Those of you who know me will be familiar with the fact that I’m as ‘bald as a badger.’ (I’m on about the other end of me now) Where that expression comes from I have no idea as all the badgers I’ve seen have had a full head of hair, albeit in a sort of stripey way, but I am definitely ‘follically challenged’. No worries, a very happy ‘slaphead’ who doesn’t need to worry about that part of ‘styling’.
I’ve actually always had a laugh when checking into hotels that have hairdryers, knowing that they were definitely and exclusively thinking of me! Actually, I’ve not needed, or used, a hairdryer in about 25 years, however I now have a use for them and have been getting my money’s worth at the last campsite I stayed at.
Drying my microfibre towel principally, but also anything else that gets wet and needs to dry out. I had a small bottle of liquid soap break in my washbag earlier this week and had to wash and dry it. Without the hairdryer I would have probably still been there.
I checked into a new site yesterday and on my first visit to the shower block discovered there were no hairdryers. Had a real chuckle when thinking about going back to reception and having a good moan about this sorry state of affairs! Obviously had I done this I would have made sure to leave my cap off! The wardens would have probably thought something along the lines of, ‘what the hell’s up with this guy, must be a complete nut job’. (They do have hand dryers, but it just isn’t as funny)
During the 18 months I spent planning the adventure/disaster when I was still living in Laos I watched a load of stuff on bushcraft and survival. Principally because ‘you just never know’ and maybe, just maybe, something I watched might be of great help to me or someone else I encounter on my travels. In this respect I have decided that Ray Mears is ‘The Man’, and I watch anything of his that I can.
So, what’s the first thing I’ve been able to accomplish that I’d never done before? No, I’ve not built a house out of a box of matches or a boat out of a paperback book. Nothing that ambitious, but I was so happy with my latest achievement, and still am, that I have to let you all know. I sewed a button on! (Yes, you read that right)
Never done that in my life before, as I’ve always had someone to say, ‘give it here, let me do it’, and if you don’t do something you will never learn, and I never had. To prepare for this eventuality I had watched a couple of Youtube videos, but would I remember what to do? I have to stress this button sewing was going to be done at a friend’s place and I was under pressure to get the job done without admitting that it was beyond me.
It serves me right that the button came off in the first place. I had woken up in the middle of the night at one of the campsites I was at, needing to ‘take a leak’, and couldn’t be bothered to trudge to the toilet block. There was no one anywhere near my tent so I just peed against the nearest tree. It was only when I got back inside the tent that I realised the button had come off my trousers and as it was pitch black outside I would have to wait until morning to try and find it. Luckily, I did so and put it in a safe place wondering when I could get hold of a needle and thread and attempt the repair.
Not only did I make a brilliant job of getting the button sewn on, but it’s as solid as a rock to the point where it would now take an extremely determined woman to get my ‘strides’ (trousers) off! It’s now been on a week and I’m still proud of my latest achievement. I just need to get a basic traveller’s sewing kit and just wait for all the other buttons to fall off my clothes. Bring it on!
One other thing I’ve learned is that hills always look steeper when viewed from some distance. When you actually arrive at the foot of them they are not quite as daunting. Maybe this is just me getting a bit fitter, or my thought processes, as well as my body, getting used to cycling. Who knows, but I do seem to be getting up most hills far more easily than just a couple of weeks ago. Having said that I do realise that there’s a big difference between hills and mountains!
Something that has really, and very pleasantly, surprised me here in England is the, for the most part, great consideration I’ve experienced from motorists towards me, a cyclist. 99.9% of the time ‘passes’ are made wide and at appropriate times, not when traffic is coming from the opposite direction. Just occasionally someone does pass a little too close and a bit too fast, but so far it’s not been as bad as I was led to believe by some of the stuff I’d seen on Youtube.
It just so happens that the worst pass I’ve experienced so far, and it was very close, less than a foot, (30cm) was from a bloody driving instructor! It happened in Hednesford, Staffordshire and the pillock in question was male and in a red car. He had to be the instructor as there were no other occupants. I was so pissed off, and very determined to chase and catch him so I could point out his error. It was downhill so I had a chance, and if just one traffic light had turned red I would have got him, the lucky sod. In conclusion though, most drivers great, this one, however, was an absolute idiot.
I liken this sort of thing to my idea that wherever one goes most people are really nice and considerate towards others, it’s just the ‘few bad apples’. (Consider that to be over 7 billion people on planet earth who are at least ok, maybe better) I have been told so many times by all sorts of folks that as soon as I get to, pretty much anywhere that’s ‘foreign’, I will be mugged, kidnapped, raped, knifed, shot etc. etc., as soon as I get off the plane. I honestly believe that if you don’t do things ‘just in case’, you’ll end up doing nothing. If it’s going to happen there’s not a lot you can do about it.
One other important lesson I’ve learned whilst in the UK is that Wetherspoon’s pubs are excellent for a cycle tourist like me. As I type I’m sheltering in one of their hostelries, from the rain that the weather channel says is a figment of my imagination! They do a very good, and cheap, traditional breakfast, free refills on tea and, more importantly coffee (I normally have 3 or 4) Wi-Fi is free and reasonably speedy, plus the toilets are usually pretty clean.
Probably the most valuable lesson, so far, regarding the UK where there’s no possibility of wild camping, i.e. you pay for a campsite. Is that the price of campsites bears virtually no resemblance to the quality of the facilities offered. Ironically the most expensive place (£20 a night) I’ve camped at so far has been, by some distance, the worst. I now check in advance much more thoroughly than I used to.
Last, but not least, I’ve learned that Vegan cyclists must ride with their mouths closed. The reason I’ve come to this conclusion is not based on science just the fact that 2 or 3 days ago, when huffing and puffing my way along I swallowed 2 flies inside 15 minutes of each other. I’m sure the protein intake did nothing for my energy levels though!
Anyway, enough waffling from me for now. Next time I’ll do a review of some of the stuff I’ve chosen to go on the bike and why, with some early opinions as to what’s useful and what’s useless!
So, as always, thanks for reading this far, and may your God go with you.
Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward.