Sunday 14th March
We’re finally beginning to feel like the end is really approaching and i find myself thinking and reflecting on what’s been rather than what lays ahead. As we sat in one of the last little roadside shacks drinking sweet black tea on the owners threadbare little sofa, i had said to Danny that we’d miss these crazy little places and the complete lack of spoken English. Everyone was different and an individual experience. As we’d driven up into Europe and through Hungary and Austria, each stop was at a faceless service station, manned by robotic staff with less personality that Marvin the Paranoid Android. These service stations are like MacDonalds without the personality and we really did miss our tea shacks. In an odd way, i was even missing the crummy roads, potholes and loose gravel. They were challenging but brought variety and interest. When you’re on your 12th consecutive day of travelling for 15 hours, smooth roads might mean fast progress but the boredom is not your friend at 80mph. It’s too easy to become complacent and your mind drifts, losing concentration. I even found myself working out statistics today to keep my mind focussed: 16 days for 17 countries which included 23 hours of border crossings, 31 hours of ferry crossings, 15 hours of blogging, about 75 fuel stops and 1600 litres of fuel – hell! I must have been bored as I’m turning into Duane Dibley with brains!
Our continuing approach of talking to everyone who’ll listen continues to pay dividends. At one of the bland faceless service stations, we were still an object of some fascination, even to the sophisticated Europeans – one driver who’d just filled up with petrol almost walked into the edge of the car as he craned his neck for a better look. As he drove off, he wound down his passenger window and took a picture with his phone as he drove off. We twigged him and waved and he got all shy and put his foot down. All he had to do was say hi and we’d have had our picture taken with him. Still the Japanese tourists more than made up for it. You can always guarantee that Japanese tourists love a photo, no matter how inane or boring everyone else might think it was. So after I’d watched Japanese tourist #1 very carefully taking a picture of the grassy bank between us and the motorway, Danny started chatting to #2 another and within minutes we had sisters, mum, dad and i think several aunties and grandma all having their picture taken with us and the bikes. Priceless!
In terms of our riding, these last handful of days are really a means to an end. We’re spending long hours hunched over the tank bags, gripping the handlebars tightly as we try to minimise the areas of our bodies that are exposed to the icy blast of the sub-zero temperatures on the road. In my case, being a little bigger than the average bear, ;this hunching doesn’t really have much effect other than to make me look deformed giant Quasimodo. If it was summer time, we wouldn’t be worrying about ice on the rods, the horrendous cross winds or the driving sleet and we would be able to enjoy these last few days of riding a bit more.
Monday 15th March
As Ice Cube said, “Today was a good day”. We blasted off from Nurnberg and headed towards Holland. It was still cold and we had to look out for the mini avalanches falling off of the lorries as we roared past them. I was a mite cautious as I had turned the TV on in the morning (Like you do) and watched the news even though I couldn’t understand a word of German. But you didn’t have to be a Bio Chemist to work out that people had died in road accidents due to the harsh weather we had personally experienced the previous day. There was a possibility of a phone-in with Chris Moyles so we had to stop at 8.30am in case the phone rang... it didn’t so we cracked on. We have been somewhat invisible to the media during our trip even though all the luvvies have finished their Sport Relief duties and await their publicity ‘Shag-in’ on the live TV show, we are still out there ‘keeping it real’ and don’t mind if we are ignored because we have had a magnificently tough humbling experience, with no frills and no Pa’s wiping our a***s for us. What you see is what you get and we’ve seen the real world that is inhabited by real people who have welcomed us into their lives because they realised that we were simply performing an unselfish act that might just go towards helping someone have a better life, even if it’s only for one day.
Anyway! We got to Bavaria and as usual wherever there are mountains you will find Snow, winds, ice, treacherous roads and a seriously pissed off black man. We then reached Holland which was, well, Hollandy and then on to Belgium, who seem to be stuck in middle of being Dutch, German of French. Finally we were nearing our destination, Calais. The sun was shining brightly and we were hammering down the final stretch. We passed a convoy of military vehicles with blue lights flashing all over the place. They were surrounding a big lorry suspiciously placed in the middle. I think they were probably taking President Sarkosky and his Mrs for a dirty weekend at a secret location.