How quickly I slip into a routine, of waking, packing, travelling light, no jocks no socks. I almost got it right, could have survived without the extra tee shirt(but would probably have ended up knocking someone out on the flight home with the whiff off me). Could have done with lighter runners or even sandals, and no jeans, a track suit bottom, or light flannel trousers much more suitable. And pannier bags instead of the rucksack. I found that at day’s end it was the rucksack pinching on my nerve and not my legs that made me call it a day. The carbon bike was brilliant, light and familiar, but not practical without panniers..
So this is it, after all my planning, all my blogging, all my bullshitting to death my Saturday 795 cycling buddies it comes down to this, my last day. Like the last day of the Tour de France. The slow laid back ride into Paris. Nothing at stake…just finish safe.
With time now to reflect. In my head when planning this trip, I imagined sunny days, blue sky’s the wind pulling in behind me. Drifting over country roads small villages coffee shops, and hail fellow well met (the English don’t wave at you from cars or tractors). And yes in many ways it was exactly as I imagined. Scotland was beautiful, but not long enough. And yes when I got of the busy roads and the beaten track, the country roads were as I imagined .Their village Inns, The Duck and Drake, The Bulkl and Cow, the Ride and A rasher. And people were kind and helpful and never intrusive. And yes England is beautiful (I don’t know why we fell out with them in the first place!!! Well apart from the famine…)
But with each day passing I slipped into a routine and it was all about covering ground, getting there, reaching the next town, and now the ultimate goal London.
In the evening I was to tired to do anything, just time for a shower, a feed and a pint. Check the next days route, and in bed by 9. Reflect on the day, on the week, and loving the freedom of it all.
2013, stumbled to a broken hearted start. The loss of Pat Connaughton, left me lost, a man who awakened in me a creativity that may otherwise have remained dormant. The loss of Martin, tripped me up, knocked me of life’s stride, and if it did that to me, what did it do to his close friends and colleagues in Racing 795. Not a cycling day has passed that I haven’t thought of him or Siobhan since.
Edinburgh-London in the greater scheme of challenges is really very small. But to me it was more then a cycle. It was the doing. The stepping out off my wonderful ordinary life. And just having the get up and go to just do it.
I met a man running to London. I met a couple who bought a barge and gave two fingers to an ordinary lie. I got an email address for Orla to interview a girl who cycled the length of Africa.
There are a million people out there who have done extra ordinary things, lived amazing lives. But how many let life drift passively by. That’s why I love Racing 795, even the little things like meeting on the square in Bunclody early Sunday morning s when the rest of the world sleeps, just to escape of down country roads, climb over the Nine Stones…..knowing that at the same time there is a group of the clubs mountain bikers hauling them selves over fire roads and down dirt tracks…loving every minute of it all.
Life is just to dam short, and now packing my rucksack, stepping out onto the A40 to London, 50miles down the road. I have this small wonderful adventure to look back on and in years to come bore the bejaysus out of everyone with tales of “Did I ever tell you the time I cycled from Edinburgh to London……on a bike with no saddle”
Rucksack packed silently with a light heart I take off down Oxfords bike lanes on to the A40, in its day the main artery out off London, Now made redundant by the roaring M40 which shadows it all the way to London. For the last time I slip through tired little towns, their best days behind them, thanks to the loss of passing trade since the motorway sucked them dry. On I cycle Kites majestically drift high calling to one another, through woodlands and villages with painted roundabouts at quiet junctions.
My daughter Orla told me that endurance athletes that she interviewed for her blog, do very little training prior to their event, but build up their endurance throughout the event. And it makes sense, I am cycling stronger today, then I was on my first day.
Either way, today is an easy day, because today is the last day, taking it all in, loving the moment, glad to be almost finished…and yet, and yet, wouldn’t this be the life, living out of a bag, not a worry in the world…..And all the time in the background the low rumble of the motorway drawing closer and closer, as we both ebb nearer and nearer the outskirts of London’s suburbs…getting to a point where ther is no escaping it as both the A40 and the M40 merge like a mountain stream running into the amazon. My heart stops, (I think I even leaked a bit) The merging traffic a roaring blur of speed. (Jaysue, a valium wouldn’t go astray right now) I check and recheck my map, realising I have no choice, and like a rabbit with a gammy leg, dropped into the middle of a greyhound track in the backarse of Tipperary. I freeze. Next exit ¼ of a mile. and so. I take a deep breath, hug the barrier on the hard shoulder and go like the clappers, legs spinning like a lunatic…Mark Cavindish is nothing compared to me at that moment…panting, wrecked and pale as a corpse I exit, haul my sweating ass of the road, and sit there, take a drink, amazed that I could recite eleven decade’s of the rosary in thirty seconds…and then tenderly lift my self back up and start to pick my way gently down through London’s suburbs…Hillington, Ealing, Hammersmith, Shepards bush, Wesminister, Central London aided by the city’s post Olympic bike lanes, in search of the Thames. Its migrant suburbs where Britain’s Empires children settle, living here, but never part of here, in closed communities where they retain the culture and language of their forefathers.
Forgetting to feed, and reluctant to leave the bike outside on the busy streets, lock or no lock (everywhere looks like Sherriff Street in the 70’s) I cause havoc at a McDonalds drive thru. “The poor sap at the hatch was nearly crying “would the gentleman on the bicycle please come into the restaurant. pleas” “No, I just want a ¼ pounder and a coke”
No Please sir, would the gentleman on the bicycle please come into the restaurant, the manager insists…”
“Jaysus, I have no lock, and I just want a burger..”
Please sir, please sir, please the manager insists….
And so reluctantly I strap up the bike and purchase me luke warm burger and coke in the restaurant, much to the relief of the young fella at the hatch and the 12 cars piled up behind me at the drive thru.
As I picked my way through the city heading for Pimlico, I remember Orla telling me about the empty feeling of running a 10k in the 795 vest in Edinburgh and the anti climax off crossing the line with no one there to cheer, to hug, to say well done, to walk home with after, to talk to about the race…just an empty feeling crossing the line, picking up your gear and walking home with an empty medal dangling from her neck.
So there I was, trying to work out, when would I know, how to I finish this at what point have I crossed my invisible finish line , my grand adventure. Edinburgh-London done and dusted.
Franks Satnav coordinates, brought me down through Central London, the Borough of Westminister, across the Thames and The Vauxhall Bridge and onto St Georges newly regenerated wharf. And it was here I stopped on the edge of the Thames, the London Eye in the distance, The iconic business district towering on the right bank, and London Bridge a dot on the horizon. This was it, my finish line, , here I stopped, and sat and smiled. And sent three texts, one to Ger, one to Ciara, Orla and Caoilfhionn, and one group text to Racing 795. And in an instant 20 texts came back, and that was it the moment shared, I was so not alone..
Racing 795, yes I could have done it without you, . But it was so much nicer doing it with you. Knowing that you were there keeping a watchful eye. Not a day passed that someone didn’t check in with me.
It was a great great trip to take. To wake every morning, with not a worry in the world, and just cycle. Great to meet new people, Great to ride a bike from Edinburgh to London, Great to see England…But most of all great to come home.
My very last cycle on the trip was on the Thursday evening, a 20k spin from Pimlico to Dave’s house (another , now good friend after years drinking pints with his brother in on Wednesday nights in Redmonds) in Wanstead, East London. As I set off into London’s 5pm rush hour traffic I caught the rim of my padding in the saddle, ripping the hole out of my shorts (Frank is right, their not worth a shite) I felt a draft, but thought nothing of it, till a fellow cyclist crossing London Bridge came up along side me and said “Mate you realise theres a big hole in your shorts” I laughed and said “Ah give us a break me arse isn’t that big” It wasn’t till he passed and I realised my barer arse was on display to the entire population of London’s tired rush hour commuters…..I’ve been checking YouTube ever since.
Conscious of Orlas tale of crossing a finishing line with no one there to cheer or hug…on arrival in Dublin there to meet me were my sisters, Grainne and Una, my niece Aoife and Caoilfhionn who made the banner and Balloons’ in the Black, Red and Yellow of Racing 795…..what a feeling xxx