Under two weeks now until departure and I’m finally beginning to piece things together in a serious way. The flight is purchased and the Spanish course booked but you already know that as you have read this, no? Yesterday I spent the day in Leeds in search of some of the ‘equipment’ I need to get hold of before I leave, notably the Mountain Equipment Firefox jacket that I mentioned a few weeks ago (now discounted in Cotswold Outdoor) along with an Icebreaker merino base layer, a nice beanie and a ‘buff‘ (all with those potentially chilly days in Spain in April and Norway in July in mind), a pair of Endura ‘8-panel Lycra mesh liner’ padded cycling undershorts to wear with a normal pair of shorts or trousers from Evans Cycles (if they are good I’ll probably buy another pair at some point) and a replacement Swiss Army knife from Blacks (the scissor function being problematic on the old one). Oh, and a book about the modern history of Spain from Waterstone’s called Ghosts of Spain. (And two pints of beer.) I should also be receiving at some point today* (yes, get ready to groan…) the black Ortlieb Classic Roller Plus panniers (with QL2.1!) that I mentioned a while back. Not the most essential of things in that I already have a perfectly serviceable set of Ortlieb Roller Plus panniers (without QL2.1), albeit with a slightly twisted support in the case of one of the rear bags.
Let’s move on to something that is essential: travel insurance. I already have worldwide bike insurance from Bikmo and I was expecting to use Harrison Beaumont for the travel insurance. I used them when I cycled along the Mediterranean in 2013 and the product was a good one (although thankfully I didn’t need to use it). I was expecting to use the same company for this year’s trip but the Harrison Beaumont insurance didn’t come cheap – about £250 I seem to remember – so I did a quick search and was surprised to find much cheaper options available. The length of the trip – in my case six months including the period in Cadiz – is always an issue, or rather I thought it was. Using Google comparison a whole string of travel insurers were listed and having looked through them I didn’t go with the cheapest (just £80) but with a company called ERV who sell a specialist touring cyclist insurance and who were able to sell me their product for the comparatively low cost of £144. Why did I not find them two years ago?
One thing that somebody might be able to offer me advice upon is how I can use my mobile phone cost effectively during those six months. I’ve been thinking a bit about this recently and I have concocted the following plan… Back in 2013 I abandoned Orange (now EE of course) in favour of Vodafone for two reasons. The first is this (I’ll just leave you to read the details via that link but needless to say it lead to me abandoning my Orange contract as soon as I was able to do so) and the second is this, the Vodafone Euro Traveller product. In 2013 whilst cycling ‘Along the Med‘ (not bought the book yet?!) I paid £3 every day to continue using my phone (calls, texts, data…) just as I would have done back in the UK. Perfect! (Apart from in Montenegro of course – more details on the post I wrote at the time.) I seem to remember that last summer, Vodafone actually reduced this charge to £2 a day in the summer months and I am hoping that they will do the same in 2015. Anyway for most of my trip – all seven countries are included in Vodafone’s ‘Eurozone’ – this time I’ve checked!) – I am happy to pay the extra £3 (or £2) which will add around £90 to my bill per month between May and July. However (and this is the complicated bit) when I’m in Spain, there is a cheaper option: buy a local SIM card. I could do this in France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway but quite frankly I can’t be bothered will all the hassle of constantly swapping over cards in the phone (and can you imagine looking for a micro SIM card when you drop it at a campsite?!). But in Spain I’ll be in Cadiz for a month learning some Spanish and then in April travelling north on the bike. For that period it does seem sensible to try and save myself £180 by buying a local SIM. So, I travel to Spain on the 25th February and probably pay £3 for the first couple of days by using the Euro Traveller, I then text REMOVE to 40506 (I’m writing this here so I can refer back to it later) which will stop me being charged £3 a day. I then buy a local SIM and use it in my iPhone (which belongs to me, not Vodafone so I’m free to do this). Brilliant! However, how will people from back home contact me? Well, I could tell them the new number (a bit of a faff) or I could put my UK SIM card into a cheap phone that I’ve bought back in the UK. By stopping the Euro Traveller service I won’t incur the £3 a day charge should I very occasionally use the phone but I will still have access to any calls or texts that are sent to me. At the end of my period in Spain towards the end of April I text ADD to 40506 and the Euro Traveller service starts again for the remainder of the cycle. Can anyone see a flaw in my cunning plan? If you can, please let me know.
So, what do I still need to do? Well, I require a new stand for Reggie (I’m tempted to get hold of one of these, the Pletscher double leg center kickstand. Anyone used one?) Then I need to start sorting through the packing boxes from the move north to fish out all the bits of kit I will be taking to Spain (or rather than Luggage Mule will be picking up on the 23rd). That’s going to be a long job. Even more pressing than that is a questionnaire for the BBC. I’m being interviewed on Monday at 2pm on Radio Leeds by Martin Kelner and I need to pick some music! It’s Yorkshire’s answer to Dessert Island Discs. I thought I’d put that in at the very end of the post just to see if anyone reads this far – well done if you did.
One very last thing; my sister-in-law has asked me to buy an Acme Thunderer whistle as a present for someone training to be a teacher at her school(!). On your marks, get set… GO!
(*So long is this post that they have now arrived!)