How I fell in love with my bicycle!

I’m truly, madly, deeply in love with my bicycle and I’m pretty certain most other cyclists will completely understand my feelings.

A dictionary definition of love is; an intense feeling of deep affection or a great interest and pleasure in something……

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Once upon a time, my opinion of people out cycle touring was, I’m sorry to say not great. Passing them in the car, often struggling painfully up steep hills on their bicycles, usually loaded up to the hilt…looked like unenviable torture. ‘Why on earth would anyone want to do that?’ I would often say, whilst shaking my head in complete disbelief. At that point in life, serious rock climbing and long distance running were my pursuits, cycling was certainly not for me. Although I imagined in return, that some cyclists would look at rock climbers and echo my sentiments in reverse! In the end, I suppose the old cliché is true…. ‘It’s each to their own’.

So, I carried on being slightly obsessed with climbing and running. Then along came a baby and outdoor life experiences became rather diminished. Luckily baby backpacks were just emerging, very basic at that time but a useful tool for hiking with and doing the housework….unimpeded by a crawling child!

Then I had the idea of buying a bicycle and installing a child seat on the back! So the first cycle purchase since childhood, was a Dawes Ladies Galaxy. If only I could say, that this was the point I become hooked on cycling.

Sadly it was not.

The original intention was to combine childcare and exercising with shopping etc. However in North Wales it rains almost continuously, there are lots of enormous hills ( we lived up one of them! ) and in those days we also lived a 14 mile round trip, from the nearest decent sized shop! The faint hearted cycle-shop-cycle forays became minimal, and soon along came the second child….. meaning all cycling trips ground to a permanent halt.

I took up running again!

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Around fifteen years later during an extended break, an opportunity for a teenage-free three weeks suddenly arose. I mused, what could be done alone, with a very tiny budget, for that length of time, and also include many sights of the New Zealand South Island?

Of course….I could try a cycling and wild camping tour….the seemingly perfect solution that would encompass all my holiday needs!

I borrowed my sons bike, kitted it out with two old Karrimor panniers, bought a bar bag, fastened a rather flimsy tent to the rear rack and caught the ferry to Picton from Wellington. Very soon, on the road….to exhaustion! The distance from Picton to the Lake Rotoiti campsite, in the Nelson Lakes National Park, was 130 km or 80 miles….the cycling soon went from enjoyable bliss to total torture. It was a very tough start, but I quickly became used to the ups and downs of cycle touring life. During those three weeks I made two fantastic new friends, conquered two high passes, cycled down the bewitching west coast and fell passionately in love with the South Island.

The moment of reaching the summit of Arthurs Pass (3000 feet ), was an epiphany of realisation… cycling was changing my life for the better.

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After that initial South Isle solo cycling journey, I was well and truly hooked. The amazing feelings of exhilaration and total freedom, the opportunity to feel carefree and escape from the routines of day-to-day life, along with being able to commune so very deeply with nature and not another soul in sight…..suited me perfectly.

Eventually the money came together and I bought my one, and still only, touring bike. A lovely handmade Orbit, this time with a perfect petite-size frame fit! Adding four shiny blue Ortlieb waterproof panniers, a bar bag, a Hilleberg Acto lightweight tent and all was complete! Our first journey tackled together, was a solo wild camping adventure around the Hebridean Island of Mull…. you can read more about that and other escapades on two wheels, in the archives of this blog!

My Orbit and I have developed a special partnership of trust, steadiness and security. It has never let me down and is always there, waiting to be my sturdy, strong and reliable companion, on any journey at any moment. We make plans together, about the next tour or the next ride out.

Where will it be? ”Can you my Orbit, cope with extra rugged terrain and the pannier weight? Will you be happy to take me along those unknown tracks, in that strange foreign country? Will you be safe on the aeroplane”

When we roll forward in complete unison, I’m in ecstasy, my smile breaks out, as a feeling of peace with the world becomes all enveloping. Smiling and greeting passers-by comes naturally….whether they answer or not doesn’t matter, the world is a happier more beautiful one.

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Perhaps the most personal enlightening discovery about cycling has been, that from the seat of a push-bike, so much can be seen, smelt, felt and heard. Cycling on or off-road puts one in a unique relationship with the natural world. I like the feeling of moving faster than walking/running. Covering lots of distance, seeing many new sights, while at the same time being able to stop, take a photograph, pick up a special stone, race the cantering cows, sing with the birds or have lunch with friendly trees. It’s magical.

My Orbit and I make a great pair and it has become an integral part of me, in a way that nothing or no-one else can be.

So there you have it….the many reasons why I’ve fallen in love with my bicycle!

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Another Finnish Cycling Tale…

Soon I will be heading back to Finland…. to cycle the Finnish/Russian border while heading north, along the eastern section of the Iron Curtain Trail.

I’ve actually had almost a whole year filled with Finland. Holding public talks and writing about last years journey, has kept the memories as fresh as yesterday, and I’m truly captivated with everything Finnish. Their stunning flora and fauna, their never-ending forests, their inviting lakes, their lovely people, their twitter news, even their ‘tar sweets’ and bitter arctic weather!

So as a refresher, here is another Finland story that so far has only been divulged, to the lucky few who come along to my talks!

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The above photo is of a holiday camping park close to the city of Vaasa, on the west coast of middle Finland.

After many days of plunging into cold lakes and losing my soap, I was in dire need of a warm shower! Cycling over a long busy bridge down a hot dusty lane, I followed the Finnish signs to the campsite, or so I imagined. A wooden barrier appeared on the right. Ducking under the barrier, it lead me to a closed office and a small empty shop.

”Surely it can’t be closed?”…… ”Dammit, they blooming well are closed” was my next sentence muttered out loud, to no-one.

Wandering around the deserted site was somewhat surreal. Spread out over the acres, were close to one hundred empty cabins, many vacant designated camp spots, looming shower blocks, a large forsaken bar and a forlorn looking cafe. The whole place had a lurking ghostly feel. Pushing my bike along the narrow gravel paths around this confusing maze, I suddenly felt enormously relieved. In retrospect, I probably would have turned right around and cycled away, if this monster of a place had been full of people and noise!

Turning a bend, I spotted two smartly dressed women sitting on the right, casually chatting together as though the restaurant was open and they were waiting for their meal to arrive. As I approached, they looked rather surprised to see a dishevelled foreign cyclist, appearing out of the shadows. Fortunately the younger of the two spoke some English, explaining that the Park was shut for at least another two weeks, and they were just out for a walk. As my face fell, she suggested that I could probably put my tent up anyway.

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So, I wandered around the uninhabited cabins feeling slightly nervous, but resolute. There was no possibility of cycling onward to find a wilder camp the city was too close, it was several miles to a forest and I was exhausted. The tent was definitely going up here….somewhere.

It never ceases to amaze me how events can unfold, when travelling by bike. Scanning the buildings, revealed an open side door swinging in the breeze. On further exploration, the door led into a tiny bathroom with a proper toilet, a sink with running hot water and soap!!. Hallelujah! Hardly able to believe my luck. Here was an opportunity to have a decent wash in warm water and a chance to rinse through some filthy clothing.

The next surprise was almost as good. On closer inspection, Cabin number twenty-nine where my bike was parked, had an open door too. Someone had been working on the electrics and left, leaving the whole cabin and its contents…. bed, fridge, kettle and curtains all ”blowin’ in the wind”

This discovery presented me with a conundrum. Should I shut the door and ignore it? Or sit down and make myself a brew?

It felt rather out-of-bounds, yet at the same time being able to make a cuppa without cranking up the stove was very, very tempting. Rather too tempting I’m embarrassed to admit. Quietly I filled the kettle, and waited for it to boil….whilst sitting out on the deck, with my tired legs elevated and face upturned blissfully, basking in the warm evening sun.

Then…oh dear, a vehicle appeared about thirty metres away. A shadowy man wearing what looked like overalls, got out of the driver’s side and disappeared into a long low building.

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Oops, now what? After a short reflection on the merits or negative consequences, of declaring my presence to the workman, I decided honesty was best for my peace of mind.

So I sidled over, banged on the open door. A tall skinny Somalian man in his late thirties sporting a huge grin, emerged from the building. He kept on smiling, despite his obvious surprise at meeting a lone middle-age cyclist on his otherwise empty campsite, and my own obvious surprise at his black face and huge grin.

We had a lovely conversation in English. He was the caretaker, he’d lived in Finland for two years, was very happy here and especially enjoyed his work. Which he must have done, as at this point it was almost eight o’clock in the evening. It transpired that the establishment was expecting in about ten days time, an invasion of around five hundred merry campers and cabin dwellers. I glanced around finding it hard to imagine such an event, it was so peaceful! This friendly man then offered me the use of the facilities and kindly rang the Boss, for camping permission. The answer was an affirmative and no charge.

Once again Finnish hospitality had turned up trumps. Don’t believe anyone that describes the Finns as dour or unfriendly. In my experience they were always friendly, extremely helpful and welcoming. Clearly loving their country and pleased to help a foreigner. In fact Finland for the second year running, has topped the World Happiness Chart. Their refugees/immigrants are the happiest in the world too.

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/worlds-happiest-countries-united-nations-2019/index.html

Even the campsite hares, the size of small dogs, looked amazingly upbeat!

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Totally validated on the campground and with a clear conscience, I set about drinking green tea, eating rye bread and washing a few clothes. Hanging them out to dry in a colourful row, along the cabin rails!

Despite the rather eerie feeling of being on the empty film set of La La Land, a peaceful nights sleep came. I awoke the next morning, refreshed and ready to roll forwards to Kristenestad and beyond.

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Footnote; My next public talk, ‘Lapland to Helsinki’ is to be held at the Alpkit Shop in Keswick during late April/early May….. so if this little story has whetted your appetite, feel free to come along it would be wonderful to see you!

 

 

 

Sustenance!

March is upon us and soon, many cyclists including myself, will be dusting off our bikes and heading out on long spring rides. This means loads of exercise, lots of fun and hunger pangs galore!

My understanding is that many cyclists visit a cafe or two, whilst out for the day or longer. Which is great…. walking into a warm, aromatic cafe, flopping into a comfy chair and refueling with a meal, snack and drink, is a hugely pleasurable part of the cycling day. However regular tea shop/cafe stops can add up to lots of of spending. If you’re budgeting, even a snack and a cuppa, can add up to quite a few pounds over days and weeks. Then, there is the other scenario, that one might be hungry when there isn’t a cafe in sight and the only available alternative is junk food.

There was a lot of interest in one of my recent blog posts about foods consumed by myself whilst cycling. So I thought in this one, I’d include one a tried and tested delicous snack recipe. Perfect to take cycling, walking or even for a long distance run.

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The recipe is a twist, on that trusty, old-timer powerhouse…. porridge!

Blueberry Bites.

  • ⅔ cup (80 g) fine or ground oats.
  • ⅓ cup (35 g) ground flaxseed
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp or less of fine sea salt
  • 1 and ⅔ cups (375 ml) water
  • 1 cup (250 ml) mashed very ripe bananas
  • Optional: 1 to 2 tablespoons sweetener…I use warm molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup (150 g) blueberries
  • Optional: 2 to 3 tablespoons of seeds, dried dates or nuts.

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Line an oblong loaf tin or similar, with grease-proof paper, leaving the paper overhanging on both sides.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, ground flax seeds, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the water, bananas, sweetener, dried nuts/ fruit and vanilla essence until completely blended. Stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir the baking powder into the batter; spread evenly into the prepared tin. Scatter with blueberries, gently pressing into the batter and sprinkle with seeds.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes until deep golden brown and set at the centre. Leave to cool at least 20 minutes before lifting out of the pan (use the grease-proof paper overhang). Cut into even pieces.

Perfect for packing up to take outdoors, chewy, moist, filling and healthy. Keep for up to a five days inside an airtight container/bag, in a cool place.

Enjoy!

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Winter Snippets.

We are now into February, and thankfully Spring will soon be tip-toeing over the Lea! In fact, whilst strolling Under Loughrigg near Ambleside this morning, I saw a spotted woodpecker drumming loudly. Apparently a sign of Spring breaking….though at this present moment it’s snowing rather heavily outside.

We are definitely still in the throes of our British winter. The ground is currently frozen solid, making it difficult for the wildlife to find food. On that same stroll, I came across a local man standing hand held out, like a statue. Drawing closer, I could see that perched on his hand was a plump little red breasted robin, hungrily feasting from a cup of seed! Wonderful!

My bike is waiting patiently to be ridden again. Knowing when the slippery ice melts, the air warms a little and the birds start to twitter, her wheels will be singing too! I’m raring to get back on the saddle. Cycle training is going to take priority in the spring….. Finland is calling.

I fell in love with Finland last year on that epic ride and seem to have become somewhat bewitched by the experience!

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The  Iron Curtain Trail, Euro Velo 13 section starting near Helsinki, heading north towards Lapland, has burrowed under my skin. Most of you will know, that unfortunately I had to give the mid eastern section onwards, a miss in May last year. So the decision has been made, not without some trepidation, to cycle wildly northwards, as far as possible in my available time!

It’s definitely happening…. no turning back now the flights are booked.

However in the meantime, home is the Lake District and what a wonderful place to be whatever the season. Running (slowly!) has taken precedence over cycling for now, in an attempt to keep fitness, wellbeing and positivity through the dim winter months. Luckily at times, bright days, sparkling snows and heavy frosts have transformed the landscape beautifully. Lifting the spirits and giving some wonderful opportunities to capture photographic memories.

I’ve decided to post a few wintry photos, captured around the Fells near Ambleside and lower ground close to Sawrey near Hawkshead……in the hope you will enjoy them.

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“At some point in life the worlds beauty becomes enough”

Toni Morrisson.

 

 

Trust,Tips and Wild Camping.

Do you have an innate trust that the world is fundamentally a good place, where people are generally safe and kind to each other? Or are you of the mind that it’s mostly a dangerous, threatening world that we live in nowadays?

An interesting conversation began to take place after my recent cycling talk, ‘Lapland to Helsinki.’ The conversation, then developed into the somewhat popular subject, of how  daunting the thoughts of solo wild/stealth camping appear to be for most people, particularly women.

Very occasionally whilst sleeping out, I have been petrified. As some of you who regularly follow this blog may have read, in the November 2017 post, ‘Scary Nights of Stealth Camping’

My very first night out camping absolutely alone has remained unpublished until now! That very first immersion into companionless wild camping was at the age of twenty-one. It was spent under a flimsy tarpaulin upon a tiny island, in the beautiful Malborough Sounds. I was visiting Anakiwa, the New Zealand Outward Bound School. One of their student courses, included a very tough solo bivvy. The young students plus provisions and shelter, were taken at dusk by boat and dropped individually onto tiny islands, dotted around the turquoise-blue Sounds. There they stayed totally alone, for three days and three nights. Albeit, checked on by sea-borne Instructors every twenty-four hours, to make sure they weren’t in any difficulties.

When asked if I wanted to try a short solo bivvy, I rather naively agreed. After one night and one day of being well outside my comfort zone, I was extremely relieved to see the boat speeding towards my rocky beach!

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There was nothing on that little foreign island to do me any harm whatsoever… except my own mental/emotional thoughts and feelings. They ran crazily around my mind for hours, producing the most ridiculous, outlandish scenarios. The Outward Bound guys fed me a story about the Giant Moa. Which I took with a pinch of salt, but with each rustle and crackle in that strange bush undergrowth, I became more and more terrified of my own imagination. I was supposed to use the time there to write a diary of my thoughts…. but my only coherent thoughts were, ”I want to get off this island right now!!”

This example, provides an answer to many fears that can arise during wild camping….they are pretty much all in the mind and mostly fictional. It becomes surprisingly liberating, once this realisation is reached. Though I should add, to arrive at that point does take more than one night of solitary camping.

A strong conviction that most of the world is safe, is how I remind myself that no one is out to get me, find me, hunt me down. I’m almost one hundred percent likely to be out of harms way even close to civilisation, as long as my little tent is tucked away where it can’t be too easily discovered. Plus, the more lone camping nights I expose myself to, the more secure I feel and the more normal it becomes. It’s also occurred to me that any trust extended out into the world, can also be given to ones self. The ability to trust in ones own capabilities. To know that one can manage, cope, endure and recover from any challenges that may arise from a solo camp is liberating.

Perhaps camping expeditions over long periods create a connection within, back in time to when we humans were nomadic. For ninety-nine per cent of our human history we have been nomads…only in the last ten thousand years during the agricultural revolution have humans erected permanent homes. Could this history explain, why some people love the freedom of simply packing up home, placing it on a bike and pedaling away to the next camp…. wherever that may be!

Here are a few general simple tips for prospective wild camping women:

  1. Arrive late and leave early, especially if it’s a stealth camp close to a populated area.
  2. A bivvy bag is less conspicuous than a tent. If using a tent try to use green or brown so it will blend in.
  3. I never post my exact whereabouts on social media or use one of those tracker sites…. sadly that would be putting myself at risk.
  4. Go with a friend for a few trips before you branch out on your own.
  5. Make sure you have some self-help skills. Such as basic first aid knowledge.
  6. Always check the weather forecast.
  7. Let a close friend know where you are heading.
  8. Start at the beginning of your sliding scale….local and short, then when comfortable ….. extend your scale.

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Solo wild camping is nearly always wonderful and marvelously freeing particularly for us women! There is nothing quite like waking up alone to a dawn chorus orchestra, opening the tent flap to see a pink dawn breaking and breathing in the fresh moist air. Knowing that the day ahead holds the promise of a carefree, happy one……

Good luck…..

Cycling Thoughts and Real Food!

My next meal. What will it consist of? Where is it going to come from?

Images of creamy avocados, colourful simmering beans, chewy rye bread, sweet yellow honey, fresh crunchy greens….are all frantically whirling around in my head!

Thoughts of food are a constant companion during the never-ending miles of distance cycling. I’m sure most cyclists out on long rides, think along similar lines. Any type of exercise is going to increase the appetite but cycling seems to make one ravenous!

Which is great. Especially for people like me who love to scoff delicious snacks, whether cycling or not.

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Food is one of our basic survival needs. To put it bluntly, without it we are eventually going to die. Travelling self-sufficiently on a bike brings food, shelter and water to the forefront. If my food panniers are getting dangerously low and I don’t know where the next shop is, my world becomes a fragile one.

All of which brings me to the topic of what I eat during these journeys, particularly considering I’ve been a vegan for many years. This has brought some difficult challenges when in foreign countries, partly due to being on a low-budget. Depending on the country, the vast majority of shops and eateries, offer protein foods from animals, heavy bags of dried beans/lentils or processed alternatives to meat.

Up until recently, I’ve managed to scrape through by carrying heavy provisions. A lot of cyclists wouldn’t dream of considering the extra weight! Last year whilst cycling through remote northern Norway. Due to cost, weight and supply problems I gave up the fight and for the rest of the journey temporarily, became a flexi-vegan.

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Curious sorts often ask…’What do you actually eat?’

So I decided a blog post related to food and cycling, may be of interest…

One ‘food’ I don’t eat or consume, are energy gels and highly processed protein snack bars, or any of the other sugary products that profess to boost your energy. Which of course they do temporarily, but then a low blood sugar hit starts, so another sugary chemical product must be taken for an energy boost. All of which becomes a roller coaster of blood glucose lows and highs, which long-term is not good for the body.

For snacks; I prefer oat cakes, bananas, blueberries, unsalted nuts, dried dates/apricots/sunflower seeds or nut/fruit energy bars and very dark chocolate. Which gives a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates.

The adventurer Sean Conway whilst cycling around the world, set up a system of two plastic containers on his handlebars, full of nuts and fruit. As he cycled along he would cram large handfuls into his mouth,  giving a constant slow energy release!

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You’ve probably got the idea by now, that when on a cycling journey I eat fresh and real foods. Most people long distance cycling don’t self cater much. I very rarely eat out because of  prohibitive cost, cycling in remoter places and some minor food intolerance.

Here’s a sample menu from a typical day of long distance pedalling.

Breakfast…..tends to be a huge and I mean huge, saucepan of jumbo oats or sugar-free muesli, hemp powder, flax seeds, honey and plant milk,. Along with a much savoured mug or two of green tea.

Lunch….heavy duty local rye bread/crackers, tempeh or tofu or almond nut butter, avocado, tomato, red onion, pepper or similar fresh salad. Boiled eggs were included in Norway/Finland, where tofu/tempeh/nut butter availability was sometimes an issue. Fruit and if lucky, a dairy-free yogurt!!

Dinner…usually consists of brown rice or pasta or quinoa, sweet potatoes, green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, olives. Coconut oil. Nori seaweed flakes. Baked beans or another tinned pulse. (The pulses though have to be available in small tins).

Extra protein boost…. came from hemp powder.

Other supplements… which I took with me from the UK …. Dr Schulze Superfood, plus a good multi vitamin/mineral product.

I need around one gram of complete protein per kilogram of body weight, while cycling long distances. Which is about 45 grammes in total, it’s not a huge amount and easily achievable from snacks and plant products. Though I did have a ‘protein panic attack’…. when for a few days, nut butter, tofu, tempeh and soya milk weren’t available, hence resorting to eggs!

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One of the advantages of eating a high plant unprocessed diet whilst cycling, is a tendency to good quick recovery and a low inflammatory effect. This discovery came about through research. Eating vegan for such a long time, means I don’t actually have a pre-vegan comparison memory. It does seem though that my injury log is minuscule compared to many around my age. I can put that down to eating plant foods, or lounging on the sofa for too long, therefore avoiding any forms of pain!

Hopefully this post will have been of some interest/helpful to one or two of you, who are long distance cyclists/walkers, and before you ask, no I’m not eccentric.

Just older and need to eat well!

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Cycling, Women, Zen and Christmas!

 

Amongst my circle of friends and acquaintances, I personally know of very few older woman, who cycle long distances or hike and camp alone. Any others I come across appear to be sprinkled through social media sites, few and far between. In television, film and books, there also seems to be minimal representation of mature women who are out solo-adventuring.

According to on-line statistics, more and more women are venturing out alone. It does appear though, that most of these women, are from twenty to fifty years old. There is also a huge positive, that the numbers of women ‘adventuring’ in the outdoors are increasing yearly. Unfortunately it seems, that once women are over the age of fifty, their participation in any type of outdoor activity seems to drop dramatically. For which, there are undoubtedly numerous personal pressures and other reasons. Along with some narrow social expectations of  how an older woman ought to conduct herself in the 21st century, despite eons of feminist influences.

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To travel or not to travel alone by foot, bicycle or even by boat, is a tough question to think about or contemplate carrying out. It’s a scary prospect, but those who do will often become somewhat addicted to the experiences and adventures, that can only be had by being without a companion.

It’s the departing for unknown places alone…accompanied only by a bicycle and a tent, that to myself often feels like a small personal rebellion. An obstinate rebellion, against the perfect hair, the painted nails, the pressure to dress tidily, iron everything and go on an organised holiday…. and oh yes, it feels so wonderful to avoid those cultural expectations, even just for a short while!

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I can promise that heading out alone, becomes far easier, later in life!

Firstly, older women have plenty of hard-earned and well-practiced common sense….gained over many years!

Secondly, with age comes the tendency to have more of your ‘wits about you’ I have a three-second rule. Which is the time it takes to sum up, whether a person is of good character and unlikely to be a threat to me. Any strangers  particularly men, either pass or fail. If they fail, I make my excuses (or be rude)….and leave.

Thirdly, like it or not as we women become older, we become more invisible. Our society at the moment, is obsessed with youthful beauty and anti-aging, whatever the cost! Most men will choose to give their unwanted attention to a younger women. Which is actually a blessing in disguise, for us older women going anywhere alone.

Fourthly, I find much safety in travelling by bicycle in remote or quiet areas. As one often can by hiking through remote mountains or sailing on the sea. People populated places are usually the ones where most threats lie.

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Breaking the daily patterns and sometimes dulling routines that are habitually carried out, day in and day out, is truly life affirming. Cycling alone, one becomes a different creature. Shedding an old dingy skin-self and growing a sparkling, brightness that vibrates with vitality. Eyes become sharper, brighter, clearer…smiling becomes first habit….even wet, cold, snowy days are not off-putting. Quite simply the beautiful, the ordinary, the mundane become wonderful, when viewed from the seat of a bicycle.

In particular when cycling slowly, one becomes focused into the moment, seeing only what is around and in front….pink asphalt embedded with shiny quartz, a fat bumblebee with golden legs, a woodpecker hammering like the blacksmiths iron, the echoing sky-sirens of whooper swans….and so it goes on. Never-ending bicycling joy.

As Goethe put it, ‘The highest goal humans can achieve is amazement’

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Riding a bike one can also becme completely focused in another way, a mindful and sometimes meditative manner. The swish, swish of wheels and the quiet, rhythmical thump of pedals can lull one into a light trance, during which the miles disappear in a flash.

Meditation, mindfulness and cycling have a lot in common.

Here is a story I found on the internet. It’s rather tongue-in-cheek, but ends on a thought-provoking note…..

”A Zen teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the student, saying, “You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.” The teacher commended the student, “Your eyes are open and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student answered, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings.” The teacher was pleased and said, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, “I am your disciple.”

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Some of my greatest cycling pleasure is derived from coming home, with nothing in my mind but stories. Being able to share these tales through public talks, gives me a greater cycling purpose. Knowing that others are interested in hearing about the struggles, the good times and will take pleasure in the photos and videos.

I would be delighted to have any contact or hear comments, from any other women over 50+ who are out there, enjoying and discovering new places with just their own company!

My hope is perhaps in another decade it will have become more the norm, for women in their later years to make the freedom to go exploring, and find joy in solitude.

Here is a favourite quote from a famous woman explorer….

”Solitude, I reflected, is the one deep necessity of the human spirit to which adequate recognition is never given in our codes……..Modern education ignores the need for solitude…..a disease to be doing something always, as if one could never sit quietly and let the puppet show unravel itself before one: an inability to lose oneself in mystery and wonder while, like a wave lifting us into new seas, the history of the world develops around us.”

*The Valley of the Asssassins (1934). Freya Stark.

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Finally….I send thanks to all my readers and followers it’s heartening to know you like to read my eclectic thoughts!

Wishing you all a happy and wonderful Christmas with your family and friends. Along with lots of blessings and good tidings for a peaceful and fruitful 2019!