June 2016
  • Day1

    Burton on Trent - contemplating......

    June 5, 2016 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Sat on a hilltop camp in rural Masaka Uganda, the event I had looked forward to and prepared hard for over 6 months was tangiably close... just 24 hours away. I was prepared, excited and ready for the challenge..... yet I woud have been equally happy to have been able to stop time and retain the expectation and motivation it had given me to tick off the bleak english winter days in a job I had lost passion for. I knew that when it was over there would be a huge feeling of elation and satisfaction at completing the event, but there would also be a void to be filled which inevitably meant another 9+ months working in a office and riding out another grey British winter until I could concoct the next adventure. This time I knew it had to be longer. Working an intense job for a WHOLE year for 25 days holiday is a bad trade off, right? ;)

    I met some very inspirational people in our wonderful little camp, a group of 150 or so Brits who had flown to Uganda to take part in a hilly off-road marathon all had to have something uniquely magical flowing in their blood to bring them together. The day before the marathon during our "Un-conference Day", having listened to stories about solo women cycling to New Zealand and people stepping out to change their careers, I made 2 promises to myself. One was to change my job into a role I didnt continually want to escape from, the other was to go on a long journey - and somehow cycling to Russia popped into mind.

    Going back a couple of years or so, I recall having an odd day off at the end of summer, I decided to take my car up to Middleton in the Peak District and the high peak trail to Hurdlow. Being in my late 20s I remarked how all the people I encountered on the trail that day must have been retirees. Some couples, some solo, but all enjoying nature, being in the open air and getting from A to B under their own steam. I caught myself thinking "I can't wait to retire until I can do this all day...". WHAAAAT!! I was 29 and already wishing to be 65 (or older by the time the retirement age rises..!) Despite the bewildered looks I get from friends or colleagues when I tell them of my plans to do a long-distance bike trip I am more and more convinced that sometimes you have to step out of the socially-expected, safe, trajectory of "life" to actually experience "life". We shall see...

    Vive la reVELOcion!
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  • Day210

    Elsterberg, Germany

    December 31, 2016 in Germany ⋅ 🌙 -1 °C

    Happy New Year !

    At 7pm on New Year's Eve, most people are having dinner, doing their hair, getting dressed up ready for a night out. Team PS, decided it was a good a time as any to test out a tour tent. Thankfully not outside in the Minus 10 conditions, but in P's living room....

    Aside from the bikes, the tent has the possibility of becoming the most expensive bit of trip kit. In the interests of keeping costs down we are going to work with what we have regarding tents. Its a snug 2 man, without a porch, but with the addition of a tarp, should more than compensate and allow for the option of sleeping "outside" should the conditions be favourable.

    Verdict - a very cosy place for eating Pretzels at 2am. ;)


    EDIT - its April and we've decided to buy a tent with a porch!
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  • Day239

    Oxford Weekend

    January 29, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    This weekend was a surprise trip to Oxford, where we stepped briefly into the world of Harry Potter, enjoyed some old pubs, and stumbled into the most amazing bookshop....

    The frontage was two small buildings wide, which gave way to a 3 storey world of books like never seen before. It was pretty magical!

    Of course they had an awesome cartography section which lent itself well to buying a detailled Europe map in. Let the preparations commence!
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  • Day243


    February 2, 2017 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    You know when you have a good cycle buddy when they cycle in weather that most people wouldnt even drive in, and is able to gather his own food :)

  • Day279

    London, UK

    March 10, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 10 °C

    Luckily we're still in the EU and the Schengen agreement still applies so the only country we need to obtain a visa for is Russia.

    After many days of researching, reading forums, and trying to call the Visa people we've both decieded to use a agency in our respective countries to aid the application process. £25 in addition to the consular fees seems like a fair price for by-passing the myriad of conflicting and confusing information out there on getthing the visa.

    As a tourist you can get a 30 day single double entry visa for £175 if you are a UK resident and for around EUR 35 if you are German!!

    I decided to use the attractively named "Stress-Free Visas" agency in London where they arranged my invitation voucher and met me on the day to go and do the biometric data collection in London. After some interesting exchanges with the guy behind the counter and a need to nip outside to my "fixer" (!) I left my passport with them and hoped that I would get it back within the promised 6 day window!
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  • Day281


    March 12, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    I’m pleased to announce the latest arrival to my bike family!

    Specification –
    Strength – able to carry 20-40 kilos of kit
    Reparability – using fairly standard / universally used components which can be easily maintained or replaced on the road.
    Longevity – must be able to do the distance for 4 months
    Size – as a 5ft 2 woman it’s not always easy to find sports equipment that’s not just for “Joe Average”.
    Cost – should be a good price – performance ratio. (Budget circa £1000)

    It was going to be fairly tricky to find something pre-existing, either new or used to meet that spec as well as having it in Germany ready for the trip so it was decided that Peter would use his existing Surly Karate Monkey and up-spec various components to make it touring-suitable and for me to have a new build.

    We have a downhill frame – In-bred OnOne
    29 inch Marathon Tyres by Schwalbe
    Forks - Surly Ogre
    Rims and Spokes - DT Swiss
    Casette - Shimano
    Disc Brakes - AVID

    To be added -baggage racks, low-rider racks and a bar bag.
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  • Day315

    Grants Yard, Burton on Trent

    April 15, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 9 °C

    I had forgotten how stressful it is to move house. Even when you aren't moving "House" as a house -share room renter its stll very easy to amass a lot of "stuff" ...doubly compounded when you aren't moving to a new address but are temporarily suspending life in the UK and only storing things or getting rid of them. As a result of moving madness I decided to push my flight to germany back a few days from Monday silly o'clock to Wednesday afternoon. I didn't want to admit defeat of not meeting my 9 day prep target, but feeling like a frazzled worker ant I had to let it slide!

    I decided to sell all of my furniture after looking into storage costs - it was looking like circa 50GBP per month for a cotainer of sorts and most of my furniture was IKEA, so replaceable and meaningless so it had to go!

    Thanks to gumtree and facebook I managed to sell 2 x bedside tables, 1 bed, 1 bookcase, 2 x chests of drawers, a laundry basket and a desk and chair within 2 weeks. It was tight, it led to sleepless nights but its done!

    A VW Golf is like a tardis - a guy came to collect an IKEA double width dresser with 8 drawers in a 3 door mark 5... with his girlfriend in the passenger seat. AND A DOG! My housemate was peering out of the window and was also absolutely positive that the dresser wouldn't fit into his car. Well, it did. the boot shut and his girlfriend and dog were still sat happily upfront.

    The other extreme was the lady who came from Lichfield to buy my 2 meter tall bookcase. She had a VW UP.... with 4 doors, so i was a little more hopeful. Unhelpfully the rear seats all fold down in one, leaving her son with nowhere to realllly safely sit. She declined offers of disassembling the bookcase as well as my offer to try and wrap the legs of the unit in the blanket she had in the car to prevent it touching the glass of the rear window. Thankfully she did take me up on the offer of tying the boot lid down with string... As I didn't hear of any traffic incidents involving a bookcase and a boy flying down the A38 I assume all got home safely! Not something I wanted on my conscience!

    I found a 20 Zlotych note in the desk drawers -. I've been reliably informed that that's sufficient for a good night out a a 4 zlotych bar... let's see!
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  • Day319

    BHX Birmingahm Airport, UK

    April 19, 2017 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Aaaaaaaaaand breathe! It's been an absolutely manic week and a half consisting of; selling furniture, disassembling said furniture, carrying furniture mainly single handedly down 2 floors of stairs...sorting and culling lots of clothes and possessions, 2 x charity shop runs with armfuls of bags, admin to change my address, getting my hair cut, visiting my nearest and dearest (still not managing to see many I had promised to check in with prior to heading off), slight matter of PACKING....buying insurance (last minute or just efficiently timed? ;) )

    The final hurdles were;

    A)Being ready on time for my lift to the airport. DONE with the obligatory "run round every room like a headless chicken check". Making sure every last thing I had touched in my dad's house was in alignment. He is somewhat particuar ;)

    B)Quick paint job repair on my car for damage sustained last April. Sliiiiightly poor timing on that on my part! After 9 months of trying to divert family members's attention away from the damage zone for fear of poor-driving judgement was getting a little hard to sustain!

    C)Finding out whether the entire "clip" of batteris I packed could be taken in hold luggage. The internet said yes, Mrs Flybe said no. Cue last minute repack of my big holdall whilst in check-in, OF COURSE the batteries were at the bottom and my underwear was on the top.....thankfully I was exactly 2 hours early for my flight and check-in was pretty quiet.

    D)Armed with my ISIC student card, I tentatively tried to take advantage of the "one extra hold bag for free" offer that flybe have for students. I wasn't sure if i would get away with it as my course had taken place through distance learning. With my newly purpled hair and wearing my "well-loved" (aka ripped and i'm now between jobs so can't justify buying a new one) skirt and shoes (again "well-loved" and re-glued the day before) I don't think there was much doubt as to my social status. The sales staff in the duty free concourse reassured me I looked studenty enough on my route through to departures, as not one of them attempted to spray me with their wares in an attempt to meet thier perfume sales quota that day! feeling rejected but mission complete!

    Time for a Veggie full english at Giraffe and a ginger-blast smoothie. Hopefully it will be enough to see me through the rest of the day and give me enough energy to talk Peter to death during the three hour car journey from Berlin to Saxony the other side..

    Apparently its snowing in Germany......
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  • Day319

    Feeling thankful flying over the sea...

    April 19, 2017 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    I find being on an aeroplane is a great time for contemplation..

    These european hops are full of solo travellers and business suits so no one is talking, its child-free and there is white noise aplenty. Thankfully this flight has no WiFi so I'm alone with my thoughts during what feels like my first real bit of pre-trip pressure free down time.

    In Uganda last year I had the privilege of visiting a Queen Elizabeth National Park on a safari where we stayed in tents on an area of land where hippos roamed freely at night. We ate delicious food, ans spent nights chatting and singing Toto round the campfire under a star-encrusted sky. We visited Victoria Falls where the mighty River Nile reduces to 6 meters wide. It was an amazing force of nature that was profound to hear, see, smell and feel. One of the guys from my group broke our awed silence and announced "We're the luckiest people in the world right now".

    Never was a truer word spoken. We just hadn't realised it.

    I'm so lucky to have been born in a stable country relatively full of opportunity compared to many...to have had an education and various jobs which mean I can take time out and enjoy life without a fight for daily survival. This itself instills a feeling of responsibility in me towards my fellow earthlings, to not take too much (or indeed take too much for granted), to be mindful of what I buy, who is making it and under what conditions.
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  • Day324

    Mountains and valleys

    April 24, 2017 in Germany ⋅ 🌙 9 °C

    A few days into being able to actually fully unwind after the stress of moving out I feel more alive than I have done in ages. My highly-treasured couple of exotic weeks that working 9-5 has afforded me over the years have been amazing but it really was a case of work-stress melding straight into "holiday stress", so I don't think I've had this true sense of "down time" for years.....!

    When you have so few days holiday to offset the year's drudgery of being sat in an office many people feel compelled to achieve the highest state of escapism possible during their permitted 23 or so days of vacation. For me, this was always the pursuit of a guaranteed warm temperature, a stimulating adventure, culture and something very far removed from my monotonous day-to-day. This is sometimes in itself a recipe for not being able to relax as you rush to hand over your workload in a comprehensive way, only to rush to the airport and due to the company-imposed limits of only 2 weeks holiday being allowed at any one time, you rush town to town to maximise the therapeutic or hedonistic return on the outlay you've spent on expensive long haul flights.

    How to fill a quiet day on the bike project number 1- I need to find a way of working for myself or for fewer hours!

    All in all the last few days in Germany have been an absolute joy.

    -Running a half marathon distance for fun through trails and forests alongside water tumbling down the River Elster.

    -Cooking healthy food from scratch and sitting down to enjoy it without the pressure of needing to use my freetime to rebalance myself after the confines of a day in an office.

    -Feeling creative and full of ideas, from a mind that is healthy and not under "stress". Being able to have the mental power to solve problems and feeling resiliant to obstacles.

    With this level of invigoration, I feel absolutley no regret about leaving my last job. Its especially clear to me now, that for the last few years I had sold out to an environment and culture that absolutely didn't meet any of my needs as a human, aside from earning money. I was merely trapped in my own fear to conform to and asire to certain societal expectations befitting someone my age. Whilst I'm now in a bit of a fortunate utopia of a longer than average break from work, I know this isn't a sustainable state of life any longer than the period I've currently allowed myself...it would of course lose its shine if this time were to be an open-ended period of nothingness. I'm going to savour the renewed energy and life lessons that will come my way.
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