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travel thoughts.

Occupy Boston.

One of my favorite, and perhaps slightly overused quotes is ” it takes the life’s work of 5 bees to produce a teaspoon of honey”. I try not to use it, and I stop myself when possible from constantly quoting from the Simpsons. But there are times, such as this when you need to pluck a quote from somewhere and run with it.

Boston, looking very much like home.

Boston business district

9,600 miles on the clock and we were deeply fatigued. The bikes stood in the garage and we could not gather the energy to even clean them. We were staying just outside of Boston Ma., with Lisa, Esther’s work colleague from Adobe days. Two weeks ahead of schedule for our flights, we had several days when we did not even raise the energy to leave the house. Fatigue yes, but there was more to it. We had been so focused on the task of riding towards point B from point A that now, without a goal we had fallen apart.

If you ever do a big physical project make sure you put some thought into what happens at the end. We were, at least for a while, no longer travellers. We had lost our status and were just ‘ of no fixed abode ‘. This is a horrible feeling and we had not expected it at all. Fellow travellers you have been warned, have a plan for when you stop.

Lisa, with RUBY the DOG. Our hosts in Boston MA.

We gave a well received ‘show and tell’ to Adobe in Boston. We broke the ‘one image every 30 second’ rule of presentation, by a factor of 4 but somehow got away with it, ad-libbing our way through an hour. It was nice to see the US ride as a whole for the first time. We could stand back for the first time, see it all and go ‘OOOhh’ and ‘AAhh’. It really is a stunning place to ride.

We had the luxury of ‘a day a piece’, to dismantle and pack the bikes for the flight. Thanks to the wonderful cycle policy of Sir Richard, the bikes flew for free and we maxed-out the weight allowance with padding. Which was good. But not as good as replacements received from SIDI shoes and ASSOS, who both went above and well beyond customer satisfaction requirements. Two pairs of Assos bib shorts were replaced as they suffered from UV fade on the crossing. Then I wrote to SIDI USA to ask if “there was a way to grind off the sole and bond a new one on’. “I think you should have a new pair”, came the surprising response. Satisfied, you bet.

Bikes, packing and weighing for their Virgin travels.

We got back to Edinburgh and fell into the arms and spare beds of wonderful friends. We had at least two unquantifiable things to do. Number one went well. Teeth checked and polished and ready for the road again without needing work. This was great news as it could have been a big time and resource drain. Number two was getting my bike re-engineered to take wider tyres.

If you plan to do a world ride consider the worst roads that you will encounter then consider your body weight. These are two things that you can do nothing about. Esther is 28Kg lighter than me and has much less impact on her bikes drive train, wheels  and contact points. By comparison, I destroy stuff.

I had booked my bike in with Dave Yates, the artisan frame builder of our bikes. Just to make sure things were perfect I fitted the 38mm Schwalbe rubber to my wheels. “You will need a new fork”, which was bad, “You can keep the paint scheme, I can work around the banded bits”, which was good. When it all came back from Dave’s looking perfect I knew it had been the right thing to do. There were consequences of the change. New brakes that took the bike back to using Cantilever brakes and a change of front mech because of a tight space.

Edinburgh, Princes Street gardens and bumper sticker.

Northern Europe is very hard on bikes. You have these wonderful roads, but you are banned from using them. The bike paths are wonderfully plentiful, but poorly signed and surfaced. Stray onto the roads and you will be honked at by even the mildest of drivers. Prepare as if entered in one of cycling’s  Spring Classics and you will not go far wrong in Germany, Holland, Norway, Belgium and Denmark. There then, you have been warned.

Edinburgh Castle.

Navigation is also an issue with these bike paths. If you were not born in the area or have a very detailed map, then a multi day cross country trip is route finding hell. We decided to go GPS. Garmin, despite it’s Mac unfriendliness is the way to go and storage and battery life are the key points. This is where the ETrex Vista HCx, with its 25 hour battery life wins, particularly after a recent price tumble. We got one and then went about grabbing free maps for it off the good old WWW.

The tyres look huge. Dave Yates artisan frame builder.

We were off the road for just four weeks. It felt like an eternity. Customer service in the UK is not what it might be. We ordered replacement parts on the web and waited. Time and again the bits were there to be put in your virtual basket and paid for with real money. But they did not actually have the things did they. No, they did not.

The Scottish Highlands near Avimore.

Shed at the sled dog centre.

We sat out the waiting with a visit to our friends, The Cairngorm Sled Dog Centre. Fiona and 35 dogs were at home and the Highlands were as beautiful as anywhere we had seen on our travels. As soon as we went North the frame was ready. We trusted it to the mercy of Parcel Force to deliver it to The Bicycle Repair Man in Edinburgh for the rebuild. They are exceptional and have looked after our bikes for the last eight years. True perfectionists, this time they were up against a tight deadline. Of course they managed, that is why we think they are the best.

Cairngorm Tree. Scottish Highlands.

Esther with Fiona our friend and owner of the Sled Dog Centre.

We had decided that we needed a trip to test the GPS system and the reborn bike. With temperatures on their way towards freezing we headed for the ferry terminal at Newcastle to take the overnight crossing to Amsterdam. We were going to ride to Hamburg to bring up the 10,000 miles on the touring bikes. It was shockingly cold, but we were back in the saddle; in my case thanks to Neil at Ronde Cycles in Edinburgh who used his influence over BROOKS of ENGLAND to repair my worn out perch for free. Thanks to our great friend Jimmy Noon, Esther is also now on a BROOKS Pro as well. We have never looked better.

East Lothian, Scottish Borders our home area.

Off we went to mainland Europe, but with a great debt to our many friends that looked after us. We had learned that travel is hard but at least you have a goal, a destination and an identity and you are self contained. If you take your eye off what happens when you complete a project you run into problems and you have little or no control of important things. Phone and make sure the supplier actually has the thing and tell them to ‘go look’. Never trust a courier to pick up or deliver anything and certainly the words 48 hours as used in the phrase “48 hour delivery” are more of a guideline than a contract. Again, you have been warned, the 4 weeks had made bees look productive by comparison.

Our new mascot - on the ferry to Amsterdam, thanks Neil at Ronde.