The Bare Necessities!

Yesterday, a female friend and I were discussing the subject of wild camping/cycling/hiking over multiple days, and how we typically avoid becoming overloaded, with unnecessary weight or stuff!

It seemed a great idea for a short blog piece.

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The topic of how to manage basic necessities using the minimum gear, is perhaps commonsense to most seasoned walkers or cyclists. However, to a newly fledged wild camper, advice and experience can count for a lot.

None of us want to, ‘take everything but the kitchen sink’ as the saying goes! Although, Josie Dew who has written several books about her long distance cycling journeys, includes a collapsing sink bowl in the gear list!

I shall start with eating and drinking. An absolute necessity of course for everyone.

It’s surprising how useful the humble spoon is…….and a confession here…….clean fingers make up for a fork and sometimes a knife! A favourite Leatherman multi-tool knife is on hand, to tackle food that needs a sharp blade. Plates and dishes are dispensed with, eating food straight out of the saucepan is somewhat satisfying. A tiny, lightweight kettle is handy to quickly boil water for hot drinks, drunk from a precious MSR thermal mug, which has a useful lid for keeping my green tea hot. That’s the sum total of my culinary implements, apart from the obvious…..an MSR multi-fuel stove. It never fails whatever the weather, either gales, snow or rain.

 

Looking and feeling, squeaky clean and spotless while wild camping, is a debatable and personal subject.

Keeping a civilised level of personal hygiene, is in my opinion, only crucial if I am going to enter a town or village. If that sounds a little primitive, it probably is to a certain degree. However, after only a few days of wild camping, comes a feeling of becoming part of ones natural surroundings. Released, from the constraints of societal pressure to constantly appear well-groomed and pristine clean. Our chemical, perfume laden society, is obsessed with appearances. As a woman, it is a fantastic feeling to get back to nature, therefore letting go of the burden to look good, and smell like the cosmetic floor of Boots the Chemist!

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On to practicalities;

A micro-towel of any size is perfect……lightweight, efficient and will dry extremely quickly. Carrying an organic biodegradable liquid soap for body/hair, is also useful to wash clothing with, whilst in the shower. Washing a few items in the shower, is an old trick learnt whilst travelling in Asia…..free and efficient! As for a moisturiser, a little tub of coconut oil is perfect, it can be used for cooking too.

While out in the wilds, there is often a stream or water available to gather water, for a quick dip or a wash. If not, I wait for the next body of water to come along and if necessary use any spare drinking water for hands/face. Another tip I’ve picked up, is to layer up with merino wool and as little synthetic clothing as possible. Merino doesn’t hold any stink and can be worn for days on end, keeping a fresh odour and clothes to the minimum amount needed. Woollen outdoor items, are at present having a revival thankfully…..I’m not a big synthetic fan.

My hair goes under a hat of some sorts, especially if it looks more scruffy and unkempt than usual. It’s amazing how not washing your hair for a week or more, gives it a new lease of life! I have a vivid memory, from a trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary in early February 1981. There I washed my long hair, in an ice-blue glacial fed stream. It was like being gripped around the skull by an ice vice……..not to be repeated!

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Every so often whilst cycling or hiking, one will eventually reach civilisation of sorts, before too many days or weeks have passed…..

It is best when dropping into, even a small village……which has the minimum……a loo and running water…..to make the most of thoroughly scrubbing body, hair and skin……..it’s a fab feeling. A bigger town is more likely to have facilities such as showers and a launderette. The Norwegians have made fantastic provision for travellers, heated floors power showers, washing machines and dryers located in the Harbour Master buildings. Some of them have free showers.

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So there you have it, the very basics of low impact, natural wild camping with a little advice on how to survive without the proverbial kitchen sink!

I doubt if I need to remind any of you to take a supply of biodegradable toilet roll………..and dispose of everything carefully. Burial is probably the best option, causing the least environmental impact.

Let go of a few standards, be spontaneous, manage with just the minimum, enjoy, revel in the freedom and release that comes from letting go………..

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Here’s one basic and simple list of my equipment etc;

Liquid soap, micro towel, Comb, decanted toothpaste, travel toothbrush, coconut oil.

Spoon, cooking pan, stove, cup, tiny kettle, Leatherman multi tool knife or similar, fuel bottle, matches.

Tent, Sleeping bag, insulation mat, silk liner, a stuff bag for a pillow.

Clothes etc, are a personal choice depending on country, climate and the length of your journey. I pack mine into colour coded dry bags. So I can remember,’what is where!’

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On looking at the photo above, you are probably wondering what else I have filled the panniers with?!

Food and water are extras. Along with first aid kit, bike tools, pump and two spare inner tubes, line pegs and cord.

Maps, diary, a small book, valuables, pen, snacks, spare matches and a camera all fill up the bar bag!!

Wishing you all many happy, free, unladen days and nights in the wild, or even the back garden!

 

 

 

 

 

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Here I Go Again!

On Friday I arrived home from a day of tiring work. Feeling jaded and ready to pounce on the nearest thing that irritated me, which turned out to be the unsuspecting parrot. No one else was available to fend off my horrible mood!

On opening up my email box, suddenly that awful mood dissipated into thin air, as a huge grin along with a shout of Eureka emerged instead.

The star email was from the AlpKit Foundation, who have granted me an award for my journey, along part of the Iron Curtain Trail! They are kindly paying for the flight to Kirkenes, and the return flight from Helsinki.

Wow!

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It is a fantastic feeling, when an organisation believes in you enough, to invest either help/money/time towards a venture.

My solo journey starts in late April from Kirkenes in the Arctic Circle, close to the Norwegian/Finnish/Russian borders. There will be snow on the ground, but I’m heading south so it’s going to warm up eventually! The plan is to cycle along the east side of Finland towards Helsinki. A total distance of around a 1000 km. This particular section of the trail is very quiet and close to the Russian border, there will be War museums and memorials to visit and learn about, which is the main intention of the ride. Remote Sami villages, woods, moorland, lakes and endless forests to enjoy, with hopefully no little brown bears or large wolverines to be seen!

Of course I will be wild camping as much as possible, and hope to do some swimming in the numerous lakes, as I progress further south. Each night at the start and finish, will be spent staying with local hosts from the Warmshowers website.

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When I arrive back home, there will be a talk about the journey during the Ambleside Festival of the Fells. As well as at the local Rotary Club, as long as they invite me back again!

I’m hoping for an interesting, exciting and fulfilling bike ride…….and looking forwards to sharing the story with you all!

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The Best of Times…..

Hands up, if you dislike being slowed down by the common cold, influenza or whatever form of illness, the winter brings. To me it feels like an inconvenient waste of days, perhaps even weeks for some poor souls. I just keep reminding myself, that the naturopathic viewpoint is that having an occasional cold or flu is, an important detox. Which when translated means, being ill is actually sometimes good for you!

Hmmm!

Some clouds though do have a silver lining. In an attempt to cheer myself up, a little bit of escapism crept in, with dreams of my sunny, warm and crazy biking adventures in New Zealand. I’ve just written a short article, about a section of a South Island bike ride for Intrepid Magazine, a new outdoor publication particularly aimed at women. This has encouraged me to have more films digitally scanned, therefore dredging up long forgotten, fantastic memories.

Here it is…….the wild, warmth and beauty of my first love……

 

scan13The Coromandel Coast, North Island

 

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The Rainbow Trail, South Island.

 

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The Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu or the Bay of Spirits, near Queenstown, South Island.

 

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The Mavora Lakes Trail/Rainbow Trail, South Island.

 

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The Old Dunstan Gold Trail, South Island.

 

I hope you have enjoyed all the photos. If you are interested in reading about another New Zealand, solo biking shenanigan………. go to; https://intrepid-magazine.com

The copies are in print and available by pre-order only………less than fourteen days to go!!!

Some of you reading this blog may have a winter illness, so sending you lots of good wishes and get well soon!

Meeting Possibilities.

Yesterday I was at work going through the usual routines and demands. Somewhere though at the back of my mind were colourful dreams, of cycling on an open road.

Imaginings of endless, wooded mountains, gentle babbling streams, heathers, mosses, ferns and peace, entangled around the other thoughts that naturally need acknowledgement, in the world of work.

During my working day at the moment, I meet, greet and help people make choices. Which inevitably means lots of strangers pass through my life, occasionally old acquaintances or friends pop by.

That particular day a local, older lady I vaguely recognised, reintroduced herself to me. She was looking surprisingly well. I knew she had fairly recently been bereaved and such an experience can take its toll. We began to talk in a hurried way, as after all I was at work, and she was accompanied by relatives. As our conversation extended, the subject of cycling popped up.

It transpired that this year she has taken up solo cycling on an electric bike……..in a big way. Bearing in mind she is 70 years old next year and cycle touring is a new pursuit. My mouth dropped open in amazement, I was totally taken by surprise.

Her most recent route was from the Isle of Barra to the Butt of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides. It’s an extensive bike ride, which includes a very challenging steep and lengthy hill between Harris and Lewis. Her long-term plan is to cycle around all the Scottish islands.

This particular lady has my full admiration, I think it takes an exceptional amout of bravery and determination at 69 years old, to start solo cycling anywhere and over any distance.

Needless to say I have been inspired by our meeting, it is good to have exchanges with cycling women, particular the more mature ones who are going solo……..we are a significantly increasing minority!

The most well-known older lady, who started solo cycling when 55 years old as a complete novice, was an ex headmistress named Anne Mustoe. Her first book, written in 1991, A Bike Ride; 12.000 Miles Around the World, is a gem. A beauty to read if you are in any way feeling, ‘over the hill’ or not fit enough to cycle! During my 40’s I came across this particular book in a New Zealand library and thought to myself…….’If Anne Mustoe at age 55 years old can cycle long distances without any experience, so can I!

Those of you who read this blog now and again, will be well acquainted with my own personal motivations for cycling!

There are of course a multitude of different reasons, for any woman to take up solo cycling………

If you are a woman who has done any cycling on her own, it would be great to hear about what inspired you to jump on a bike, and pedal away into your journey, short or long…….

Blogging to ‘Pass the Parcel!’

 

My blog has very kindly been nominated for a Liebster Award!

What is that…….you may well ask?!

Well, it could be described as ‘passing on the blog’ a bit like the party game ‘pass the parcel’ ( for new bloggers or those with under 200 followers).

Hopefully being nominated for this award, will help spread the word, bringing some new visitors. It is heartening to know your blog is being read, enjoyed and perhaps providing information and knowledge.

I have been nominated, and therefore I am going on to nominate five other blogs. Hence the parcel travels!

Livingthislifeoutloud has been nominated by,   aaronandnickytravels.wordpress.com

Thank you very much to Aaron and Nicky. I hope lots of you will go and visit their site and follow their travels around Europe in their camper van. They were actually in Norway at the same time as myself in June………perhaps they passed me as I was trundling along through the Lofoten Isles!!

They have some helpful posts on their blog about the costs of financing their journey in the camper van and also posts about their workaway experiences in Norway.

Read about their fantastic Greenland camping and kayaking trip, they really have had some memorable times and I am definitely envious of the freedom and time they have to spare. I think their blog is also a great resource for anyone else out there who has a camper van, and planning extensive travelling. If you need any encouragement or advice just click!

It’s a well thought out, informative and unique blog…….impressive!

 

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In turn I need to nominate 5 other blogs with less than 200 followers……..so extending the hand of Liebster to;

alakelandsummer.blogspot.co.uk

Kirsten has a wonderful blog about living at a YHA and working in the Lakes, Cumbria. She is an avid runner and a keen all year round cold water swimmer…………

farnotfast.blogspot.co.uk

Geoff has a great blog about travels by foot, bicycle or motor home. His posts are numerous and his images stunning…….he has a great sense of humour too……have a click!

chrissiedixie.wordpress.com

Chrissie writes about backpacking, wild-camping trips here in the UK and overseas. Also featuring Islay the adventure dog, who incidentally has his own blog! Awwwww!

outdoor-girl.com/category/blog

Jacquies blog covers mountain biking races and crashes, lots of gear reviews and she has won the Webtogs best climbing blog award 2015 ……..take a peek you won’t be disappointed!

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Matthew Kettlewell has a  beautifully visual blog that covers adventures, hikes and gear. He is currently having a go at ultra running in a bid to raise money for charity…….go and visit him!

 

Here are ten random facts about myself, as per the Liebster rules;

  1. My height is five feet and no inches
  2. I love eating rice cakes.
  3. Solo cycling is the best…….sorry to my friends……nothing personal!
  4. My house once nearly burned down.
  5. Swimming in cold water, even in winter is good for me!

 

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6. I have a pet African Grey parrot.

7. My heroine is Mary Wollstonecraft, aka mother of Mary Shelley.

8. Most favourite writer is Robert MacFarlane.

9. Alcohol free……don’t like the smell or taste!

10. I once spent two nights solo, on a tiny patch of land in the middle of the Malborough Sounds, New Zealand………..scary!

 

 

Next I need to answer eleven questions put to me by;

aaronandnickytravels.wordpress.com 

  1. Which country, city or continent would you most like to visit and why?

Bhutan is the country to visit for me……….still unspoilt, remote, mysterious and very beautiful.

2. What was the most inspirational time in your life so far?

Probably when I retrained from State Education to become a Steiner Waldorf Kindergarten teacher. It was a time of true learning about the young child, my own character and the discovery of my creativity and public speaking voice.

3. What are you passionate about?

My two sons. Helping others in everyday life. Nature and the outdoors, whatever the weather. Keeping fit and healthy and respecting my body. The rights of animals.

 

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4. What is your favourite book and why?

A very hard choice. Definitely one of Robert MacFarlane’s he writes so sensitively, poetically, and yet also in a down to earth factual manner.

It has got to be, The Wild Places. Each time I read a section, it rekindles the fire in me to be outside, soaking up the mountains, air, sun, clouds, lakes and silence.

5. Your favourite time of year?

Oh dear…..difficult but possibly Spring. Full of promise, vibrancy and freshness as the trees burst into bud becoming newly dressed. So much sparkling clarity, bird song and bustling around the hedgerows here in Cumbria.

 

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6. What do you do besides blogging?

Work to earn money!!…………Slow runs in the fells, cold water swimming, wild camping/cycling. Reading lots, to help towards my one day eventual e-book!! Listening to Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, U2, Joan Baez. Chatting with friends…….enjoying local music events.

7. Do you prefer the Beach or the Mountains.

Actually both, as the beach or coastline is intrinsically joined to the mountains, especially in my favourite country New Zealand……….one becomes the other and vice versa! How can one possibly separate the two!

8. Where did you go for your most memorable holiday?

This would have to be in my younger days…..age 26 to be precise. The infamous Yosemite Valley, U.S.A. to rock climb, and complete a two-day overnight route on the Leaning Tower. The second half of this holiday was spent following my kayaking partner, down the Colorado River through mammoth rapids at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I was paddling a raft at the time………….exhilarating and terrifying………..just like the Yosemite rock route!

 

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9. Do you prefer a sunny or rainy day?

It entirely depends on which country I am in, and what I am doing at the time! A sunny day  is always preferable in the UK as we don’t get enough sun, and a rainy day is best when I’m in a sun parched area on my bike!

10. If you had a day all to yourself where would you spend it?

This is easy! Outside getting some exercise and doing what ever activity/journey fits in best with the weather or circumstances at the time……..wild camping too ideally.

 

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11. What would you say has been the biggest challenge of your current lifestyle?

Feeling constrained by working inside and limited holiday time……….and dare I say it living too close to tourism…………but it is about to change!

 

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Now here are my eleven questions for the owners of the five blogs I have nominated……..hopefully you will enjoy answering them!

  1. What is your favourite most meaningful travel quote?
  2. Where is the place you would most like to visit?
  3. What is the most exciting or scary challenge you have ever experienced?
  4. What advice in three sentences, would you give to a new blogger?
  5. Which book has inspired you the most and why?
  6. What drives you forwards in life?
  7. Any unusual hobbies or interests?
  8. What is your best tip for saving money while travelling?
  9. Where have you had the best holiday of your life so far?
  10.  Who from fiction would you most like to take on a journey with you?
  11. Which post of yours is your favourite and why?

 

Here is a link to a site with the Liebster Rules for those who are nominated……..theglobalaussie.com

Navigate to the blog section and click on The Liebster Award graphic.

 

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Thank you so very much for reading………..here is one of my favourite photos of Xmas at Grizedale, Cumbria looking down the valley towards Satterthwaite………..

 

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Scary Nights of Stealth Camping!!

It has occurred to me that any wild or stealth camper, can become frightened during a night alone at their chosen spot, and it is not often spoken about.

However it is important to be honest, because there is much to be gained from a tough experience. Wild camping/sleeping can be the absolute best and most wonderful tonic for every conceivable malaise. The morning after a challenge, reminds one of how wonderful the daylight is and how good it is to be alive!

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Over many years I have spent numerous nights as a lone wild camper, and only experienced around four or five memorably terrifying nights. These have mostly been due to making the mistake of not choosing a site well. Being under pressure from tiredness and hunger along with fading light, is often not a good time to be looking for the best spot to lay ones head down.

My first never to be forgotten ‘night out’ though not alone, was as a naive 21-year-old. Hitch hiking around America with a friend, we literally slept anywhere to save money, including Greyhound bus station loos. It became a trip never to be forgotten!

One night, we decided to camp behind the hotel of the time at Crater Lake, Oregon…….this was absolutely not allowed…..so we giggled in nervous excitement, whilst putting up our very flimsy tent in a hollow, not far from the garbage bins at the back of the complex. Those giggles fast disappeared a few hours later, as we realised our obvious mistake.

Bears like rubbish bins, they mean tasty food…..and even better for Mr Brown Bear……here was a sagging nylon tent with two rucksacks full of aromatic provisions, and I suppose we were another form of a food source too. Apparently these particular brown bears are quite small, someone told me later……in an attempt to soothe our shattered nerves.

Well they sounded ‘HUGE’ to me, whilst snuffling and sniffing at our tent flaps and crashing around in the nearby bins. My friend descended into absolute terror, I almost had to use a gag to stop her screams, and tie her down to keep her from bursting out of the tent! It was a horrible, horrible night the bears were around for hours.

Luckily we survived, intact, exhausted and a little embarrassed.

The very best thing I learnt from that experience, apart from making a bad decision, was that I could be a strong person in a crisis. At the time it was incredibly frightening, but I felt good that we had survived and I’d managed to keep my fear under control.

The second night never to be repeated, was while cycling in the off-season, across the Isle of Arran on my way to Islay.

I wanted to get the early ferry from Lochranza over to Claonaig on Islay, there is a campsite at Lochranza which I decided not to use…….to save money.

At dusk I tucked my little dark green Acto tent into the straggly undergrowth, under a rock face, off the main road close to a gravel path. I knew it was a little dodgy, but decided the hours of darkness would hide me and the road had been deserted for ages. After scoffing some food, I snuggled down into my sleeping bag, switched off the torch and fell fast asleep. Only to be woken about three hours later by the loud roaring of car engines and squealing of numerous tyres.

I sat bolt upright….boy racers! It sounded like all the young men of Arran were outside, racing their cars in circles and skidding on the gravel close to my tent. My first thought was, I am going to be flattened along with the tent. Then came the dilemma of whether to get my torch, reveal the tent and myself, or whether to stay put. I felt very vulnerable and petrified. The ear-splitting noise of engines, smell of fumes and raucous shouting seemingly went on for hours. At one point I thought, this is becoming deliberate they know I’m here, as their cars came closer and closer to my tent.

Finally, I couldn’t cope with any more torture, just as I got to the point of emerging from my tent it went quiet and the tuned up engine noise faded away into the distance. I nearly cried with relief.

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My one other haunting night in the north-west, was on my very favourite Hebridean Isle of Mull.

Circumstances and a lower level of fitness found me scrabbling around for a place to pitch, close to the village of Bunessan on my way to Iona. The light was leaving and each hill beginning to feel like an Everest.

Spotting a little track on the right hand side at the top of a hill I made a spontaneous quick detour, it was the side road to a small walled graveyard! However there was a nice flat grassy spot close to the surrounding wall well off the main road. It was sure to be a quiet safe night!

The well-kept graveyard was special with some very ancient gravestones, which were interesting to read. I like to find the most long-lived persons grave, but it’s always sad to find the graves of young children, especially more than one child from the same family.

I went through my usual routine of securely pitching the tent, making hot food and then retiring to my cosy sleeping bag as darkness fell. Sleeping next to a graveyard was fine, any ghosts are going to be friendly I decided while drifting into a deep sleep.

Suddenly I was jerked awake by a loud thud, the far end of the tent momentarily flattened, guy ropes twanged and then all was silent.

Crikey, what an earth was that?

Immediately thoughts of unworldly beings flooded into my mind. I mentally shook myself. Ghosts do not exist!

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Plucking up courage I unzipped the tent doors, and shone my torch around…….nothing but black dense mist and drizzle. The silence that comes with low mist and drizzle now seemed rather ominous…….was there someone close by wandering around, had they tripped over my tent guy ropes? A tramp? To a rational mind in the broad daylight this may seem a little farcical, especially when one is miles away from the nearest dwellings or public services

However in the middle of the night anything goes…….as monkey mind takes over! Clutching my Leatherman knife tightly in one hand I dozed in and out of sleep, until the early grey light seeped into the tent.

Venturing outside in the light was a relief and almost immediately I realised what had happened. Obvious prints in the muddy grass, two bent tent pegs along with several stones displaced from the wall.

A deer had leapt from the graveyard over the wall, taken evasive action, dislodged the stones and fortunately landed on the very end of my tent, becoming temporarily tangled in the guy ropes.

A lucky escape…….it could have been the middle of the tent. Amazingly my invincible Acto wasn’t damaged……..and neither was I!

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The above tales of scary wild camping are not usual.

An odd tough night can however serve a larger purpose, imbibing extra confidence, self-control and self-reliance, along with an enormous sense of satisfaction at overcoming and coping with fear.

Also it is important to remember that it is rare to have such experiences. For most people stealth or wild camping in the british hills or countryside is well away from people, cars and bears.

My solo nights out in the natural world, have in general been some of the best times in my life so far………….explore the archives of this blog, and read all about the other fantastic wild cycling sleeps!

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