Leg 1. London to Galway. 765 kms.

19 Aug

The start of this cycle has been fast and furious.

We left Shepherds Bush and my office ‘Fruit Towers’ on the morning of Monday 4th August. The plan was to head west across England and Wales reaching Holyhead in 4.5 days, ferry to Dublin and two days before our flight to NYC.

This was always a tight deadline but it was important to get off to a strong start and reach the USA quickly to kick off this adventure properly. The drawback was that we cycled hard for 7 days, often taking direct routes, using duel carriageways to move quicker and stopping infrequently to take in the surroundings. And if there was any conversation between puffs of two unfit men, it was to say how stunning our own island was, and that we should probably of discovered this one first.

This strategy was definitely an unfortunate sacrifice, but important mentally both to get miles under our belts and to reach America to start the first big challenge.

Leaving London with my closest friends was a lot of fun, making it to my home county of Rutland in 2 days to see my mum. A vital start to any adventure. The next morning Pete and i set off from the front door of the house i have always lived, into the unknown. We had an excellent throng of friends to wave us off as we peddled up the same lane i’d cycled since the day i got my first tricycle. I’m not sure i was any good at cycling then, and i’m no more certain now.

I’ve dreamed of doing this for 8 years. Its always been this magical thing I’m one day going to do. So for the week before we left London i never slept a night. Nerves. Worries. Even regret. So peddling up the lane from my family home, leaving the people who mean the most to me on this planet, was an extraordinary feeling.

My incredible mum, who has single-handedly raised this complicated boy from the age of 7, waved her youngest (and best) son off into the unknown.

The remarkable, relentlessly supportive, brave, utterly beautiful and quite simply the single reason to not do this trip was my girlfriend, Lucy. One last warm hug of comfort, one last kiss, one last goodbye for 3 months until she would visit in San Fransisco. I was the luckiest of men.

What kind of idiot does this? Leaves the love of his life on the doorstep as he peddles off into his egotistical pipe-dream? This was the most selfish move i had ever made – sacrificing everything i cherished to an aspiration, a shallow ego-filled journey. But i was committed. There was no turning back. Nothing left but to hope the stars would align, not punish, but forgive this very selfish act.

Only yards from my front door is some of the loneliest my belly has ever felt.

I don’t want to get too deep. But there was this really weird moment. After all these thoughts had rattled around my tired brain i started feeling this incredible sense of relief. Literally 10 miles from home i suddenly felt brilliant.

I’ve been dreaming, planning, committing, talking, worrying, promising, guessing, asking, begging for so long. It’s exhausting how much this silly thing has consumed my life. But now all i had to do was peddle. It was Pete and i, our lives strapped to each bike and nothing to do but cycle. No admin, emails, explanations. Just the road. And although leaving the most important people behind for such a long time, for the longest time i ever have. The quicker i now peddle the sooner i will see them again.

It was liberation. It was excitement. It was loads of things. You can’t (and shouldn’t) always find a name for a feeling, All i know is that It was the sensation i’d been searching for, and now i’d found.

Enough of this. A quick synopsis.

We peddled towards Stoke passing a pub which offered Fish and Chips for £3.50, unlimited chips and peas. Gutted we couldn’t go in. That is value beyond question.

We then cycled passed Alton Towers. Also gutted we couldn’t go in.

Through the Derbyshire dales was utterly beautiful whilst also the first real test of climb after climb. There are no flat roads. They need to sort that out.

Into Cheshire, we found busy roads to move quickly into Wales to a final sprint to Holyhead with couple of lovely campsites but terrible food outlets. Of all the targets in the world Holyhead is a pretty miserable one, but we made it an hour early for the ferry and fell asleep on benches leaving our boarding a little closer than would of been liked. We arrived into Dublin and stayed with my university buddy and Google employee, Louis.

The next morning we awoke early peddling 140 kms in the pouring rain to Athlone where we really got up a head of steam and enjoyed moving fast through the lush green Irish countryside. Although we were passing through central Ireland (not famous for its vibrancy) it was very apparent as we moved through large towns that everything was often closed. We struggled to find lunch and so often shops were boarded up, even on a Saturday.

Outside of the cities the recession impact is very obvious. This lively country that screams friendliness an hospitality from its DNA is having a tough old time. The final day to Galway was arduous for me with my scraggly unfit thighs. My body was knackered in its 7th day of exercise and as we cycled into a headwind 40kms from Galway the pain below my right knee cap started and grew. Pete (tall, strong… effectively Lance Armstrong but with ethics) was in the form of his life, whilst Peach was looking forward to putting stew and Guiness in his face and giving this knee a rest.

We made it to the vibrant town of Galway, sat with a pint of the black stuff and peered over the sea to America, discussing what lay ahead.

The first leg was done. Fast, furious, a first dip in the ocean of the adventure that lay ahead. It was time to really leave home and kick on with this silly bike ride.

For an intelligent and eloquent description i would head to Pete’s blog here: www.boyonbike.org

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