After reaching Big Shakeout and enjoying the festivities, I move onwards and make it across to mainland Europe.
Day 3 -Alpkit Big Shakeout to Lincoln (60 miles)
My conversations with fellow adventurers at the festival followed the line of, 'Where are you heading to?' ‘Why?' 'Do you need a place to stay locally?’ and 'What route are you taking?' I only really fully committed to the next destination as I waited patiently on Sunday morning for the hangover to die down enough for to me to get on the bike. Leaving the festival was tough. I enjoyed my social visit and felt this impending gloom that I was about to be on my own. My mate Dom saw this. “You don't want to go, do you?” he asked. One thing I was sure of was that travelling further south of the country where traffic and people intensified didn’t thrill me. As soon as someone suggested the Hull to Rotterdam ferry crossing the lurking anxiety subsided, and I set off.
Ahh the flat lands, spinning the legs in the sunshine. It still seem to take longer than I imagined it would, or was I just being caught out by the encroaching nights of Autumn? As kids we used to play a car game, four of us crammed in the back, all trying to be the first to spot Lincoln cathedral!
Riding I couldn't help but play. Memories flooded back of being 8 years old and mischievous. Lincoln was my playground. I spent the night in night in a Premier Inn
Day 4 -Lincoln to Hull (48 miles)
It was something of a nostalgic afternoon in Hull, after a stunning day riding through the flatlands. I booked my ferry ticket. A short day lay ahead of me and with the ferry leaving in the evening I knew how much distance I could cover and how long I would need. I called Dave from Extreme Adventure Foods.Who not only gave me a destination other than the ferry just outside of Hull, but loaded me up with all manner of electrolyte and protein drinks and tablets. These turned out to be an absolute godsend.
I allowed myself one beer to bid farewell to the island. I walked about the ferry, which brought back memories of the times I had taken this trip as a way to commute when I worked as an industrial Abseiler. My Facebook update for the day was, “Excited and equally anxious about what may lay tomorrow but at least it's not work!” Not interested in the ship's entertainment, I headed to bunk. I cooked my food on my little gas stove, refuelled, showered and slept.
Day 5 -Rotterdam to the Grave (Henri Chapelle, Belgium) (163 miles)
Packing my bike to leave from the car deck, I was blinded by the morning light. I headed towards Rotterdam, stopping a few time to check on Google Maps as I headed towards Belgium. I followed a tow path for miles, with not one hill in hours of riding. I felt good. My adventure felt like it had started.
The freedom of not having a route or of any kind of bed waiting for me meant I could just carry on peddling. So I did. What would I do if I stopped? It wasn’t as if I could turn the tv on or read a book (I hadn't brought one). I decided it was better to ride until I wanted to eat and sleep. The roads were perfect for riding on: the Europeans do cycling so well. Autumn was well and truly reaching the Netherlands. I stopped for lunch on a bench overlooking the canal. I thought I would be sheltered from by the trees but the trees had ammunition! Every time the slightest breath of wind came by, the oak trees unleashed their armoury of acorns. It was beautiful really and held so much significance for me. A dragonfly joined me for my lunch of ration pack biscuits and a squeezy tube of chocolate spread (thanks Dave) and a banana. And after refueling I set off again.
I kept riding, and kept riding. I wasn't in Holland anymore, I’d reached Belgium and I was beginning to feel dizzy and exhausted. I checked the time: 2:30am.Chocolate wasn't tasting good nor making any difference to my energy levels. I needed sleep now to recharge me.
On top of the hill beside the road was a small hedge about hip height. There was no sign of life, no artificial lights, and all I could see was a tall stone column. I picked up the bike, forgetting how much heavier it had become, heaved it over the hedge and swiftly followed it, clumsily rolling over and on to the ground. I dug out my mat and sleeping bag. Once I filled the sleeping mat with my breath I had none left. I crawled fully clothed into the bag and lay on top of the mat, not bothering with a hot brew or even the bivvy bag. I was done and I was out cold.
I had cycled from 8:30am all the way through to the next day. I barely stopped only to shove food in my face and I had ridden the furthest I had ever ridden before. A whopping 163 miles.
By 7 am the increasing traffic noise meant no more sleep for me! Continue on...