We looked around the flat, empty of all our belongings and realised there was no turning back. And we were so glad.
Leaving day had finally arrived and away we went to meet some of our friends and family at the Bike Station in Glasgow for a final goodbye and a send off. It still felt a bit surreal. Actually leaving. It had been in the planning for over a year but it still always felt like an idea, a non-tangible thing which was spoken about yet never felt like it was getting any closer.
Even the first three days down to Newcastle for the ferry felt like a short trip away from home, but there now was no home to go back to. Our home for the next 16 months is the marvellous green tent we are yet to nickname.
Whilst we've done trips away with the bikes and the added weight, cycling with it day after day is taking some getting used to. Day one was a route we've done a dozen times from Glasgow to Edinburgh and we were both a little frustrated at how much slower we are with the heavier bikes and the smaller wheels. But this is a marathon not a sprint, and we have to give ourselves some time to become accustomed to our new way of life. Day one of any trip usually has teething problems and ours appeared in the way of saddle looseness, small mechanical faults and managing eating patterns. It happens. Shouganai.
Day two started with a beautiful blue sky and a ride through Edinburgh with Bob, Mike's brother, and then further out of the city along the seafront. After lunch at Dunbar, we slowed a little and made it down to Berwick Upon Tweed later than planned so we didn't make it to our intended campsite that night. After one more potential mechanical (which turned out to be nothing at all) I had a mini tantrum and we found a new campsite one mile away.
Having looked at their website, they claimed they had tent pitches so we lived in hope we could contact a night porter, because by this point it was 7.30pm, to let us have a shower block key and we could bed down for the night. We rang Ken, a wonderful bumbly man, who was worried that he had heard that they weren't accepting tents any longer. However, when he arrived in his car and saw us in our dishevelled state he took pity, said he hadn't heard officially that they weren't taking tents, took a little money off us and pointed us to a bit of grass behind some static caravans.
Ken you are a wonder, a marvellous, marvellous man.
Day three, we pushed onwards to get as close to Newcastle as possible. We were to get the overnight ferry from North Shields to IJmuiden the next night and we wanted to stay with Mike's sister the night before. The way out of Berwick Upon Tweed took us along the National Cycle Route 1, and what a shameful state of play that route is. Sustrans really should be ashamed of themselves for accepting that route as a national cycle path. There wasn't even a path in places, just grass, and at some points ruts worn so deep by cars my front panniers got stuck.
The moral of the story is, don't trust British national cycle paths. Sometimes they're blooming brilliant, other times they're a disaster.
Nevertheless, we carried on but were inevitably slowed down. We got as far as Blyth by 7.30pm and Mike's sister came to collect us for a last farewell before we left the country for over a year. But don't worry, we didn't cheat. We were dropped back in the exact same place the next day for a final 15 miles down to the ferry.
Our final few days in the UK were difficult but they taught us a lot about what we should expect from the trip ahead. We know to eat more frequently because the bikes drain you so much more than a normal, unweighted road bike. Secondly, we learnt that we ideally need to stop no later than 6pm on a big day. We get far too tired and hungry and we start to get very short tempered. There's no point in getting that way so we should just avoid it when possible.
But onwards we go, to the continent and on to the real adventure, the unknown...
Posts by either Mike or Helen. Individual authors will be named.