For those of you you who have become justifiable fans of my ghost writer aka, Laura, my wife, I apologise for the return of normal service. I enjoyed reading her posts of my travails from the roadside as much as you did and I hope we will see a return to this successful formulae on future expeditions.
For now though I feel that I owe it to you all to try to give you a fuller account of the journey from home to Bosnia and the little bit beyond, not least because some of the hairier moments were missed out in our daily communications to save Laura any unnecessary anxt.
On the morning of the 23rd, unable to sleep properly, I had been up at 3. We were due to leave for Norwich station at 5 for a 6 o'clock departure. (I have always been in the habit of factoring in plenty of leeway. I am happiest waiting on a platform, than running for a train.)
I switched on the computer and checked and rechecked the route through Holland and Belgium and then spent some time google mapping the town of Geraardesbergen to get my bearings ahead of time. I would be arriving in the dark and should still need to find my B&B, located about 5 miles out of town. I noted also the forecast that looked ominously like it might shower us with rain from the start. A cobbled street in the rain at night suggested potential for early crashes and I didn't want to be amongst them.
Five o'clock duly arrived. I made the obvious mistake of looking in on the boys, asleep in their beds and wondered why I was leaving. The girls I said goodbye to and was ushered out the door with their
best wishes. These are exciting and disorientating moments. Months of preparation push you out the door.
Norwich station was quiet. Laura and I took some pictures just as we had done the year before. I cannot imagine what it is like to be in her shoes. I have prepared minutely and am confident in my abilities. She knows little of the detail. Only that I shall be cycling beside fast moving traffic for up to 16 days with little more than a blink of sleep and she is anxious. On top of that she has to carry on with all the normal routine of work and home, but with one less person to help. I tell her, may be unhelpfully, to be her best 'single-mum', as much a challenge as anything. I know she will be fine.
The train to Ipswich, is the first part of the intercity to Liverpool Street, so I start the journey by distributing the last 100 or so of my business cards amongst the passengers and empty seats. A few last minute followers can't go amiss. More than a few entrants to this years race will have come from chance encounters such as these.
At Ipswich I changed trains and met up with Paul. We have known each other since I was 5 and have shared more than a few adventures. At a time like this there is no-one whose company is more relaxing and we chew over a few ideas for the future. Paul has undertaken to ride his own bike every day that I am away. Given the forecast, he is likely to have to stiffen his resolve every bit as much as I will, since he is likely to be getting wet for the first few days at least.
I love this bit, the slow and unloaded act of travelling. I am excited by the sight of the ferry. Any chance to relive my time at sea with the Royal Navy. To stand on the quarter-deck and watch the ships wake as you steam toward the horizon. Dreamy times.