I have now returned from my cycling trip… and “normality”.
In the end I cycled from Anglesey in North Wales to visit family in Sheffield – a 3-day ride and camp which was met with warm sunshine, and lots of hills. These first days were a shock to the system because they had suddenly become the warmest days of the year so far. A fellow cyclist I met on the way remarked that I had picked the perfect weather for my trip, but really it was too warm. All I could do was drink enough water and eat lots of fruit and salad, not the best fuel for a ride but I had to replace what I was sweating out and I would have chance to eat better later.
My first couple of nights camping were at familiar spots as I’d stayed at them during my Scotland trip a few years ago; much of my trip would reflect on that journey. By the end of the third day I’d made it as far as the reservoir and national park just 15 miles outside Sheffield, and I camped in the woods. It had been a tough few days up to this day, not only with the heat but it was Easter weekend and every tourist spot was packed; first in Snowdonia where multitudes of walkers had driven to the hills and clogged the roadsides and carparks, then in Betws-y-Coed, and pretty much all through those hills to Sheffield. It didn’t make for blissful bike riding and I grew bothered about thoughts of over-population.
The next few days were about relaxing, spending time with family, and seeing places I’d not visited since my childhood.
Then I set off again. In conclusion of my previous post about where I would go from here I decided on Option 3, the port at Cairnryan, Scotland. With renewed energy and a cooked breakfast in my belly, I made it from Sheffield to just outside Kendal in the Lake District in one day; my first 100 mile day on the trip so far. 50 miles a day is generally my target, and then I see how I feel after that, but since I had the energy and enthusiasm, and seeing the signs for Kendal counting down the miles as I passed them I found enjoyment in the prospect of getting so far and doing so many miles.
Kendal itself wasn’t so thrilling the next morning due to the traffic and I simply picked my way through. Beyond there my sights were set on Scotland where I’d meet that Welcome sign again.
From there I immediately headed west until I reached the port at Cairnryan, just north of Stranraer, the same port I travelled from on my previous trip, except on that occasion I had arrived at it from the north of Scotland, after which I arrived at Belfast and travelled south to Dublin. On this occasion I would arrive at Larne, north of Belfast and out of all the traffic there, and instead head north up and around the coast and down the west side of Ireland.
I had given myself the option of cycling all the way round Ireland until I reached Dublin once again, or get as far down as Galway and then head directly east to Dublin from there. The first option I estimated would take an additional 10 days. This was based on my 50 mile a day target and even though I was ahead of this, by the time I was heading down towards Galway I had grown bored of the cycling. There had been various sights I had seen and visited along the way. The scenery across the north coast had been spectacular, and I love to see mountains and trees, but even then my days became like I was binge watching some TV show of such landscapes and I realised I binge-cycling. This and the daily traffic droning passed me had left me somewhat weary. Why were there so many cars? Where were all these people going? Again thoughts of over-population played on my mind. Also, with vehicles behind me for every mile of my journey I noticed how persistent my thoughts are of “I’m holding this person up” or I’d end up with some imaginary scenario playing out in my head where a motorist beeps at me or shouts at me to get off the road.
In reality the traffic was kind to me. Cars, seeing all the bags strapped to my bike and perceiving that I was a wider vehicle (the reality is that my panniers don’t stick out that much further than my handlebars) would give me extra room. Truckers were always great; on most of the main roads I cycled on in Ireland there was a wide shoulder for me to use but even then truckers would still give me a wide berth; sometimes I’d wished they’d past me closer to give me a boost from their draft.
In addition to the monotony of pedalling, I also felt the lack of social interaction and intellectual stimulation – even though I live on my own and like my own space I recognise how much I need interactions with others, ideally quality ones; even writing on my blog provides some of this, I had my daily travel diary that I kept and occasionally I’d meet someone along the way to chat with (such as a few other cycle tourers) but I could go days with nothing more than the briefest of interactions involving the purchasing of food. There were some cheerful and memorable interactions though, like some I recall from my previous trip; chatting to a couple who were visiting a particular stone circle for the second time, the chatty barista running his coffee bar outside a castle, and the German couple on their bikes taking a similar route to me but on a much longer tour.
Prior to my trip I had worked my way through that book on Neuro Linguistic Programming. The final section of that book consists of a 21-day project much of which involves focusing on our interactions with others. This is something I find challenging even though I am far more comfortable interacting with strangers than I used to be – my work has helped with this – some of the project requires that you focus on how other people are expressing themselves, but for me I seem to have enough work finding an interaction to begin with and seeing that through, without considering such details, but I will persevere!
I found a few megalithic sites to visit again on this trip and they also give me further food for thought. I took with me one of my my previously purchased second-hand cameras – I’d actually ended up buying two since I threw a bid on a second one on ebay; thinking it too bulky for my use but worth reselling if I happen to win the bid. In the end I was happy with the camera I chose to take with me; not feeling weighed down by too much stuff. Of the few other cycle tourers I met they, while on longer tours, seemed to have with them more stuff than me; I felt like I pretty much had all that I needed and wanted.
Along with this I have had a couple of weeks thinking about how I want my life to be going forward. When I came back from my previous trip, as one aspect, I realised I could/would/should live without my car and I got rid of it and now I still have thoughts about the issues with cars and this is coupled with those thoughts about overpopulation. I visited one particular charming-looking Irish town where some building work was being undertaken in the centre (I should have taken a photograph of this) and in order to keep a nice appearance the building had been dressed with a mock-up of what it will look like when it is finished, rather than perhaps having the eye-sore of the building work on full display. The irony, I thought as I sat in a café opposite, eating my second morning breakfast, was all the traffic passing by, the ugliness and grotesqueness of modern vehicles especially in this place. We try and keep traditional buildings looking “in-keeping”, and strive to maintain the character of certain areas, yet we have these great hulks of shiny metal and plastic churning by, thumping over speed bumps, nose to tail. It is odd.
There is of course much more I could write about my trip but I expect to slip further insights into future posts. It’s good to be back – not to be disrespectful to anyone else but the number one thing I missed while I was away was my cat! The whole not being able to tell them you’re going away and them missing you in return, but he was catered for and happy to see me return.