Bernie Friend, nice (and happy) man

I’ve been having an email conversation with Bernie Friend, writer of the book Cycling Back to Happiness. He certainly got there if this picture was taken after he finished his trip (I am on page 79 by the way). Here are the interesting bits. He is in blue, I’m in green:

Hello Andrew,

Glad you picked up on the advice about how to use your fruit most effectively out in the field. Hope you don’t ever have to go “Pro” during your five weeks in the saddle. Sounds like a great trip…. Good luck with it all. You are going to have the time of your life.
Yours very envious,



Hi Bernie

It’s not everyday I receive an email from the person who has written the book that I am currently reading! ….It makes me wonder whether there is also a book in me. What made you write one?…. How did you manage to record all the details?…. Are you keeping up the cycling or was it back to the day job after your North Sea trek?….




Hi Andrew,

I find your website entertaining as it covers a lot of different topics, and has a good mix of humour, which you can’t get enough of in this life. I love some of the weird and wonderful pictures you have been digging out, and as for your own efforts in penning a book? I don’t see why you shouldn’t give it a crack, as you certainly come over as being very articulate on your website. I’d always wanted to write a book and I suppose doing what I did, and sharing it with everybody, was a sort of therapy in my case. I just kept a small notebook in the map-box I had clamped on to the front of my handlebars. I would pull up and stop every time I saw something of interest. Otherwise, I would rely on my memory and jot down copious notes once I had pulled up for a bite or drink, all kept in a diary format.

I set off with the intention of writing a book, but couldn’t be sure, as you never know if you are going to find enough stories on the way. Luckily, the strangers I met and the places I visited made it all much easier.

I would like to write another book. But I recently took a trip to the States (drove a whole lap, 15,000 miles in an old VW Camper), so I am busy getting some more money in the coffers at the moment.

The fact I managed to go to the States was testament to the healing power of cycling I picked up on the North Sea Cycle Route. I would never have been able to do it before.

I still cycle every day. I hate driving now. My missus has the car and I jump on the train with the bike if the weather is too bad (i.e. the recent Arctic conditions), or I cycle the 26-mile round-trip every day.

Thanks for giving me a mention on your website. All plugs are very welcome.

Good luck with it all and stay in touch!




Hi Bernie

Thanks for the email and your kind comments!!….

Your explanation as to how you remember the details is useful. I asked the same question to an author / cyclist who travelled almost round the World and who lives locally to me in Berkshire (Mary Bryant – Four Cheeks to the Wind) when I met her a while back and her method of remembering was to use a Dictaphone. She’d whip it out whenever there was a risk of missing some important detail. If I ever were to write a book along the same lines I think a lot of the journey would be embellished a bit. I’m going to be cycling most of my trip by myself so anything could happen  en route and in the book, it probably would!!!

Driving around the USA in a camper van has “book” written all over it. Thinking about your experiences of flying in the past, the first and last chapters would be a highlight, unless that is if you took a cruise ship (I am suspecting not). There are few, if any undiscovered corners of the World nowadays so I suppose finding an original take for a travel book is getting trickier and trickier. If people have to resort to things like escorting mules along pilgrimage routes and carting fridges around Ireland it does make you wonder what will come next. Cycling to Italy would need an angle to it that it currently doesn’t have. I’ll put my thinking cap on. On a Penney Farthing perhaps?

I’m with you on cycling. I sold my car a few years ago and really haven’t looked back although some people do look at me a bit bemused when I explain what life can be like without a car.

A quick question to finish with: did you use any kind of electronic mapping when you cycled around the North Sea? Sanoodi mapping is my current obsession – see the blog – and I have spent most of today fiddling with the software and my mobile phone.

Thanks for the time taken to show an interest in my little journey!

Keep following the blog

Cheers to you too


PS: Essex is clearly a hotbed of frustrated long-distance cyclists – I’m hopefully going to be joined for the second week of my trip by someone from your neck of the woods. I’m actually meeting him for the first time on Wednesday. Is it in the water?


Hey Andrew,

To answer your question. I did not use an gadgets on the NSCR [North Sea Cycle Route]. Just my legs, eyes and a selection of maps, tucked away snuggly in weather-resistant plastic wallets. If all else failed I grabbed a friendly local!

The America trip isn’t going to become a book, for the very reasons you have just stated. The fact I drove a complete lap of the States in a VW Camper wouldn’t be quirky enough to attract a publisher. 

If I had completed my lap in, say, a milk float, it might have been a different story…..

As for Essex cyclists. Yes, there are a lot of frustrated two-wheelers out here, especially in the south of the county, where there is little or no designated cycling space.

Be lucky!


P.S. … I did catch a boat to New York from Southampton at the start of my journey. I managed, with great pride, to blag free passage on the Queen Mary 2 for my wife and I as a press-trip. It took six days and really was an amazing once in a lifetime experience. I flew back, yes FLEW, from JFK to Heathrow, mainly because I had little choice. It was the first time I had been on a big plane (British Airways) and journey was very smooth, but I still had my fair share of anxious moments. It’s not something I plan on doing again!

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