Lost in Norway
In the summer of 2017 I had been cycling to Bergen in Norway on my first European cycling adventure. It felt as if it had been raining since I had cycled across the German border into Denmark and now that I was in Norway, cycling the Viking Coast, Thor had decided to turn the rain up to eleven. There hadn’t been a rain free day for seven days and I mean torrential soakings. Wet through, crouched in a bus shelter, I fumbled Facebook with shivering fingers looking for another cyclist in Norway with whom I could share my misery. There was, but his bike was on the open water, madness!
Reading Dave Cornthwaite’s Facebook feed I realised that he was pretty done in and with the eyes of the adventuring world on him he took a break, he announced that he was going to have a week off. To me, this was the bravest moment of his trip and it brought relief to mine as I checked into the next town’s hotel and became an official member of the YesTribe.
Three Months Later, Yestival 2017
I met Dan at Yestival, by the campfire just to the right of a large 7-foot high ‘YES’ lit by two spotlights. If you were there you would have heard a softly spoken man whose words were as thoughtful and deep as the eyes that looked on the flames escaping the wind. He stood tall to my right and we both looked at the warmth as we chatted. Two strangers free with our thoughts knowing that our words would be trusted to the night and the fire’s flying embers. I liked Dan instantly; there was no bullshit, no bravado, no ego. He had a young family and with those pressures was catching his breath at Yestival. I guess we all had our reasons for being there.
“Dan, I’m going to cycle the UK coast, starting next week. I need to be back for a party on the 9th December but I think I can do it. At 85 miles a day I should be able to do it in 45 days and still give me some contingency time.” The words spilled from my mouth, leaving a sick void inside me where they had once poised.
“That’s impressive, 3825 miles.” Dan was a science teacher and clearly good at mental arithmetic.
I had done a quick estimation of my own using google maps. This involved me entering some town names to create a short leg along the south coast. This gave me a mileage to a length. Then using a ruler held flat against the computer screen I was able to measure out the total distance for rest of the UK. It took about fifteen minutes to calculate.
“Yes Dan, give or take. To help me navigate I will need to use way points, there isn’t a road that runs around the coast!” I joked.
Realising that 3825 miles was a long way and that with just two days to go and winter storms becoming a dead certainty, I did whatever anyone in my position would do: I decided to stretch the bravado muscle further.
“I will use the country’s extremes; Land’s End, St David’s etcetera and Victorian pleasure piers as way points to stay in contact with the coast. You have to dip in and out, you see”. I made semi-circular motions with my finger in the air to add credibility to my adventure plans. “I’m going to call it ‘Piers and Points’” I announced to Dan.
“Piers and Points, good title” Dan said.
I’m not too certain if Dan was genuinely blown away with my plans or whether the secondary school teacher in him surfaced, hell bent on forcing me into a corner. Because what he did for the rest of the weekend was to turn my campfire boast into my personal calling card. Whenever we met new tribers Dan would say something like, “Hi there, athletic fell runner. My name’s Dan and this is John, he’s cycling the UK before Christmas. It takes in all the Piers of the UK and the furthest points like John O’Groats, you know.”
By the fifth introduction I had become a natural at embroiling myself further, casually throwing in facts about the country’s 56 pleasure piers and name dropping coastal towns as if they were distant celebrity friends.
If you were there, I apologise now - the cocktail of Awesome Men (a fitness training group) waking me from my sleep and truly heroic speakers stirring my desire for adventure is my only defence.
I had told Dan that I would leave either Monday or Tuesday as I was at the end of a cold and I didn’t want it interfering with the trip with a revival. This was Bumble speak for “I could go Monday but I’ll probably catch up on Dr Who and find a problem with the bike that I’ll need to sort out.” Which is exactly what happened. I had a Monday of pre-expedition faff.
Dan sent me this text Monday night 21:32: ‘Best of luck John. I hope you’re off to a good start!’
I left at 7am sharp the following morning.
With a little help from Dan and Yestival, I realised I’d said “Yes”.
I did not achieve entirely what I set out to do because I was a little too ambitious. Big mile days can be done in the summer, but when its dark at 5 o’clock, its a little trickier to keep going. I had to scale back to a forgivable 2,000 mile journey instead.
However, that initial Yes is birthing more Yeses: Yes to sharing the story you read now, and Yes to telling you the whole story in a book. Bicylebumbles tells the story of how ‘Piers and Points’ was renamed ‘The Bumbling Middle Aged Man who Cycled the Pleasure Piers of England and Wales except St Anne’s, Lytham’.
Drop your details here if you'd like to be updated on the date of the book launch.
It will be a riveting read!