Time is marching on, the moon is waxing and waning and doing its cycles to tell us that we’re on count down. (And what an amazing looking moon we’ve had of late)! As of today we’re on the four week count down to T-Day, “Tour Day” when we begin our next epic (for us) cycling adventure.
The plan this time is to pedal our way from Croatia to Ireland, via a few countries and, apparently, the odd Alp or two. Oh yes, our dastardly opponent, the hills, or in this case not so much hills, as genuine fair dinkum mountains. Knowing that we’ve got some mega climbs to slog up on this trip, are we in full training for such demands on our legs and lungs? Are we clocking up the km’s on the wheels, climbing hills day after day to build muscle and stamina. Are we? Are we? Nope, we are not. We’re tootling about on the bikes a bit. I’m going out for walks and runs as I usually do, but we have not done any training for this trip. No siree, we’re going with the strategy we used last time which is to just rock up, point the bikes in the general direction of where we want to go, start pedalling and see what comes. Yes, that means we’ll be unprepared for mountains, but hey, what’s life without a surprise or thirty-seven! Do we have a specific timetable and route planned and mapped out, knowing where we’ll be each day or week? Do we? Do we? Nope, we do not. We’ll just ride and take in the sites and stop when and where we want and see what we manage to soak up over the 6 months we’ll be pedalling. Will we get lost? Bound to! Will we take wrong turns and pedal further than we need to? Of course! This is us! Will Dodgy Dave the GPS take us on the most bizarre and senseless routes along the way? Oh, he’s bound to be true to form I’m sure! It will be another flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants tour which will no doubt give us some moments of frustration that will simultaneously provide moments of mirth for others. We may be clueless but we’ll be entertaining!
I admit, we have been doing some preparations, which for Steve has involved trying to bring on Christmas every day with a new parcel arriving in the mail with predictable regularity, as he hits the online shopping aisles and purchases many, many, many “essential items” for the trip, such as a camera, another camera, bike shorts and a side order of shirts and on it goes. His excitement manifests itself in regular visits from Australia Post.
He has also been busy getting the bikes in tip top shape, wearing his mechanic’s hat, installing new gears and brakes. I have zero capacity to assist with such mechanical and bike-savvy operations so I have done the extremely technical and high-level task of…putting new grip tape on the handle bars. We’re talking the skills of a surgeon here! Well…every little thing contributes I tell myself.
We’ve also been doing the Maths on our baggage limit to actually be able to fly to our starting destination. We have painstakingly picked up each item and weighed it, noting each gram and calculating the ongoing total weight of our necessary bits and pieces to see just what sort of excess baggage charge we may be up for. Because we take our bikes with us, they use up most of our baggage weight allowance, add to that the tent and camping gear and the absolute essentials account for almost all of our limit, before we start adding superfluous items like clothes. So far we’re sitting pretty close to the limit, so we’ll be spending some time packing, unpacking, trimming and getting things down to the bare essentials (without being so bare in the essentials as to actually bare anything that the world at large would find either offensive or amusing to the point of causing a laugh-induced cardiac arrest! Some clothes will make the cut!)
I have been enjoying my early morning outings either on feet or wheels as I plod or tootle about the village, taking in the peace and tranquillity of this little part of the world and swapping “Good morning” and “G’day” to all manner of walkers, both two and four legged. This morning I wheeled along beside the river, looking out at the sun across the water and felt very lucky to be amongst the wonders of nature that surround us.
Speaking of wonders of nature, our local wallabies have become very used to us now living in their patch, which we took over when we built the house and they’re almost knocking on the door to come in for a cup of tea. We’re happy to be living amongst Frank and Shirl, Howard and Daphne and their dear little Chuck and Lulu. We noticed a new joey last night, still in the pouch, so we welcomed little Daisy to our wallaby family. Now come on, who couldn’t give them names! It’s much nicer to say “Mornin’ Shirl. G’day Frank” than it is to say “Hi wallaby.” So name them I have! We’ll miss them while we’re away.
I’ll also miss the village and the friendly locals I see each morning on my walks, runs and rides. I know we’ll see many more lovely, friendly places on our travels, but we have a lovely little spot here too. This morning as I pedalled along a street, I saw an older man waiting to cross the road. He had a clipped, grey, sergeant-major style moustache and was with a little girl who looked about 3 years old and a baby strapped to his front in a sling. At his feet were a pair of West Highland White terriers looking eager for the off, with the beach just across the road.
“Good morning,” I greeted as I pedalled past.
“Good morning,” he smiled in return. Then, before any more could be done or said, I heard, “Wait, wait Hugo. WAIT! STAY HUGO!” and turned to see the Westie park its tail on the ground, accept its orders and hold fire on launching itself at either the beach or my wheels. Well done Hugo, very obedient! The man was doing a marvellous job as a grandpa taking two little tackers, one in hand and one strapped on front, along with two chipper little terriers on a morning beachward stroll. I pedalled on with a contented smile.
As I headed towards home, I pedalled through a bush track and up a rocky little incline so I dropped down a gear or two. Suddenly… GRIIIIIIIINNNNNDDD….CLUNK…KERCHUNK….GRAAAAAATTE came a noise from my very unhappy sounding gears. The pedals began to spin and clunk and I flicked the gear lever back and forth and the gears just wouldn’t engage. Nothing would catch and the gears slipped and grated and clunked. I got to the top of the incline and had to flick the gear lever back and forth over and over before it would eventually catch and I could ride on. Hmmmm, that wasn’t supposed to happen. On I went and then another little slope required a lower gear, so down I flicked the lever and…KERCHUNK…CLUNK…GRAAAAATTE…the same thing happened and the wheels spun and the gears clunked and grated and wouldn’t work until eventually they caught again and things went back to normal. What a glitch. I don’t want that happening as I slog my way up a Slovenian Alp thank you very much. Don’t fail me now little bike! So part of the preparations are getting all the glitches to show themselves now, so they can be sorted out ahead of time. Fingers crossed! Steve will don his mechanics hat again and fiddle with something of which I know nothing and no doubt all will be well again. We have enough dodginess on tour with us in the form of a GPS with a mind of its own, without adding disobedient bike parts. On a positive note though, the brakes worked just fine!
So we will continue our preparations over the next four weeks which will involve very little actual preparation at all and we’ll see what happens when we set foot in Zagreb and point the wheels towards the green shores of Ireland and see what happens in between. As we learnt the last time around, there’s a surprise around every corner…just roll with it. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the blog so you can come along for the ride with us…if you don’t mind getting lost occasionally!