The day has arrived. It’s now past midnight and we are into Sunday 30th June 2013. My flight leaves Heathrow Terminal 5 in under seven hours. And yes, I’m nervous. Not that I have had a great deal of time to think about such trivialities as nerves today as I have been trying to get done all the jobs that quite frankly I should have done days, weeks even months ago. It perhaps wasn’t the best idea to leave all the clothes washing and flat cleaning until the day before my departure but I do have a lodger who I suppose through his rent is part financing this trip so I couldn’t leave the place in a state. The cleaning and washing spread throughout the day as I completed the more specific pre-trip tasks from dawn until dusk and beyond. Packing was obviously the main thing on the list and when you are travelling with a bicycle this isn’t a very straightforward task. Removing the pedals from the bike proved to be the biggest challenge. Firstly I realised that I didn’t have a 15mm spanner to do the job – a dash down to the nearby Homebase sorted that – but then the nuts just wouldn’t budge so another sprint to the professionals at A.W. Cycles and a hefty torque-laden weapon was used to finally get the nut turning. So the pedals removed and the handlebars repositioned, I could start to wrap Reggie in no less than 25 metres of bubble wrap. He will probably have a more comfortable flight than me (although I was allocated a seat next to the window looking westward across my direction of travel through Europe without having to make any changes which pleased me). The CTC-branded bike bag was the final piece of the operation to ensure that my bike arrives in Greece in the same state of repair that he left Heathrow. Adorned with stickers stating that he is ‘fragile’ – he looks more like a Christmas present than a means of transport awaiting his piggyback ride to the south-eastern corner of Europe. I completed packing all my other items into a large holdall which weighs in at a rather convenient 22kgs. This is significant as anything over 23 I have to pay an excess charge for so I am praying that my bathroom scales are as accurate as the ones at the airport check-in desk. Once that task was finished and the cleaning and washing done I sat down at the computer to finish the jobs that could easily have been done many, many days ago; last-minute contacting of the people I will be meeting (and in some cases staying with) en route, finding a route from the airport to the campsite just south of Lavrio (I did the same Google Maps direction finding for the cycles to and from Athens and was somewhat alarmed by the distances they suggest I will have to cycle – ignore for the moment!) & booking a hotel room in the Greek capital (I’ll be staying at what sounds like a great place called the Tempi Hotel just north of the Acropolis). They are all now done. All that is left to do tonight is catch a little sleep before my colleague Stephane arrives to pick me up. He texted earlier saying he would make sure that he had returned from the nightclub by 3:30am. Gallic humour, I hope.
All that is left to do in the next two months is cycle 5,000km across the continent. At one point today I did stumble upon an old message that had been sent by another hopeful Eurovelo 8 cyclist in which he stated that the route was 6,000km. I stored that nugget of information in the ‘ignore’ section of my brain as well. Earlier in the week I was very upbeat about the trip but as the last few days of school dripped away the emotions of anxiety and to a certain extent fear have taken over. But there is no turning back now. Well, actually, I could but have no intention of doing so. Someone once commented that it’s important to do something that scares you at least once a day as it’s apparently good for the heart (although I bet that whoever said it wasn’t a heart surgeon); if that is the case then as I type this post at getting on for 1am on a Sunday morning, I must be one of the healthiest people around…
Don’t forget that you can follow the cycle here on the website but also via a hold host of other social network all of which are linked to on the homepage. There is no escape! Please do contact me over the course of the nine weeks with your comments, observations, suggestions, stories, warnings etc… I guarantee they will all be read and thought about and hopefully responded to if the time allows.
My final thoughts tonight are not so much about the known elements of the trip but more the unknown elements and, as I have mentioned before on these pages, the famous Rumsfeld unknown unknowns. I wonder what they will be… Wish me luck!