An update on my 2017 goals

Six months have passed since I set myself goals to achieve by the end of the year. A lot has happened in those months and it’s time for an update.

  • Learn European Portuguese

    I have been learning a lot of vocabulary and I am confident enough to handle basic conversations. I understand soap operas when I have Portuguese subtitles on and I can read learners’ books. But I have not practised the language with a tutor or Portuguese person. I want to use a website called iTalki to help me improve but my work hours have made it difficult to arrange any kind of schedule. So instead I have gone on with a pattern of fuelling my vocabulary with a side of listening and reading.

    Lately I have let this goal slide. Other commitments have taken priority over learning Portuguese and I find myself struggling to maintain my daily practice. I am aware that I have overgrown simple vocabulary learning but alternatives are more time-consuming – which doesn’t help me timetable them in a busy schedule.

    But, I have began a new job with more regular hours, and this I hope, will make it easier to make time for iTalki tutors and boost my language skills.

    One thing I have completely given up on are the videos. They took me too much time for not enough return. So only one video was ever produced.

  • Take a photo every day

    At the beginning of the year, I used Splodz very helpful monthly prompts to help me focus and remember to take a photo a day. But I soon gave it up as the habit became more ingrained in me. My eyes automatically catch details and I remember to stop to take them in and capture them. I have gone through days when no photos have been taken, but most days I do and I’m happy with that.

    Follow me on Instagram if you want to see all those (almost) daily shots.

  • Record a sound every day

    This goal has been dropped back in April.
    I started this exercise to push myself to listen and use my recording equipment more. And I do. But recording every day proved too much. Instead of pushing me creatively, the process began to hamper me. I would grudgingly record a sound which resulted into a bad recording. Then I would have to spend hours at my computer to edit what I had captured instead of devoting time to other sound exercises that I found more valuable. At first I pushed through, thinking it was a hump to go over. But the feeling of time lost and wasted never stopped. So I stopped.
    I did not put my recorder and microphones away. Instead I took the time to develop a new sound specific project, one that forces me to listen and record regularly, but also one that is more meaningful and encompassing. But more on in another blog post (coming soon…).

    Follow me on SoundCloud if you never want to miss one of my recordings.

  • Other goals included

    -Setting up a new blog: this is probably not going to happen but I’m fine with it.
    -Sharing the sounds and story from my journey through Spain and Portugal: coming in September and December.
    -Going on a longboard microadventure: this is probably not going to happen.
    -Walking the West Highland Way with Zoe and Jenni: due to work issues, this is not going to happen for me but other plans are afoot.
    -Exploring the areas around my new home: this is well underway.
    Reading a book by a Portuguese author every month: this is going well although my library is running out of Portuguese authors.

Overall I’m happy with how I’m doing with my goals. There is room for improvement but setting myself targets has provided a focus I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

Have you set up goals and resolutions for the new year? If yes, how are you doing with them? Are you on track?

The Cycle Touring Festival – 2017 edition

Two years I ago I attended the inaugural Cycle Touring Festival. It was an experience of wonder and excitement, a realisation that I was not alone. Someone put it much better than me and said it was like finding your tribe. And they were right.

If you look online, you know there are other cycle tourists around, whether round the world cyclists or week-end and holiday cyclists. But when you step out of your front door and start pedalling, you don’t often catch sight of them. More often than not, you meet fast bikes adorned with a lycra-clad person on top. You share a smile, a nod, both happy to be on the bike. But it is not the same thing, not quite. But there, at the festival, people understand. They don’t think you’re brave, they don’t assume you’re fit, and they don’t ask at what speed you’re going. Instead we talk about the other stories like the pure joy of seeing the world from the saddle, the hard times of dealing with your own mind, or the fun moments with strangers and their warmth. We don’t need to dig out for words we never feel are quite right because the other person understand.

And if you’re new to the scene, it’s not a problem. No question is deemed stupid, and there is an eagerness to share knowledge. We’re a small tribe, any new member is welcomed with an embrace and encouraged to find their own way. Because at the end of the day there is no right or wrong way to go cycle touring. The only prerequisite is to have a bicycle and an open mind. The rest is up to you and how you like to ride and see the world.

If you’ve missed this year’s festival, there is always next year. And in the meantime, find a cycle tourist online and ask questions. We’ll all be happy to give you a hand and assuage your fears.

An impromptu road trip to Exmoor National Park

The Easter bank holiday week-end was getting close. I was due to work most of it, but I had a couple of days off during the week. Spurred by the holiday mood and the longer brighter days, I decided to go on a microadventure. I would take my bicycle, head to Glastonbury and then the seaside. But something about this plan felt wrong. I would be on my own, leaving my partner behind for yet another excursion.

I had been away a lot recently, using my days off to meet up with friends, attend events, or simply do my own thing. Indulging in another solo trip felt selfish and uncaring. So I changed my plan.

‘How do you fancy going to Exmoor on Wednesday,’ I asked her as we got ready for bed at the beginning of the Easter week.
‘This Thursday?’
‘Yes. We could book a B&B and have a little road trip with Exmoor as a vague direction. What do you think?’
‘Okay.’

We opened our laptops and began the search for a place to sleep. On my own I wouldn’t have bothered. I would have packed the tent and headed off somewhere new. But camping, and especially wild camping, is not everybody’s cup of tea. We found a reasonably priced room, booked it, and went to sleep. We were set to go later that week.

We packed our bags hastily, threw them in the car, took our seat and began to negotiate the roads of Bristol before finding an escape into country lanes. We meandered happily to the music blasting off the radio. The hills of the Mendips flattening out as we reached Wells. We parked the car and began our exploration. We stumbled upon St Cuthbert’s Church, its grandeur reflected inside and out with its brightly painted roof and many sculptures.

We lingered a while before giving in to the call of our stomachs. We settled in a coffee shop, tucked in a small street away from the high street and sat at one of the tables.

‘What can I serve you,’ the owner asked.
‘A latte with your Columbian roast and a cappuccino with soya milk please.’
But soon our orders had been changed. The latte would be with another blend as the flavours would shine more, and the cappuccino would be with oat milk as their experimentation had proved more successful with such milk.

The drinks arrived, we ordered our food, and sipped tentatively at the coffees. The owner had been right to change our orders. We chatted lazily as the food arrived, handmade and flavoursome. More customers began to walk in, all known faces in the shop, chatting with the owners about the events in their lives and the news from town.

I would have liked to soak in this genteel atmosphere for a while longer but time was ticking on and we wanted to see the cathedral. We happily paid for the service and went out, this time towards the centre. We were stopped by a sweet shop, filling up on favourites and unknowns for the road, before we finally managed to reach the imposing building.

Set over a small park, the cathedral dominates everything around it. Big and bold, it declaims its importance, a centre of power more than a place of worship. I marvelled at the architecture, its features reminding me of religious French architecture. I would have like to go inside but the price of entry was too much for the little time we had left before our parking ticket expired. So we walked away, taking a route through residential streets, observing another part of the city.

We drove on, past Glastonbury and its Tor, and into the Somerset levels. We selected small roads passing between green pastures and yellow rapeseed fields rather than busier arteries filled with cars and lorries.

‘Can we turn back and have a look at that ruin,’ I asked my partner craning my neck to look behind us.

Alone on a hill, stood what looked like the remains of a church. It probably wasn’t much but I wanted to check it out. We weren’t driving for the sole purpose of reaching our destination. Stopping was an integral part of the trip. So we turned back and pulled into the small parking lot by the hill. A signed informed us that the hill was named Burrow Mump and the building on top was the remain of an 18th century church. We climbed the short walk up and were immediately taken aback. Whichever way we turned, we could see for miles, the countryside spreading in every direction, farmed and ploughed. In the far distance, the tower of Glastonbury Tor appeared a dot in the landscape.

‘It’s quite a view, isn’t it?’ A woman had appeared, surprising us by her presence. For a few minutes this mound had been ours, the stronghold of our kingdom.
‘Absolutely,’ we agreed.
Lillian, as she was called, had lived in the area for most of her life. She was actually from the Quantock Hills were we were heading. She gave us tips and told us of the best places to go, knowledge more valuable than the ones from guidebooks. We thanked her, chatted a while longer about legends and stories of the mound, before walking back to the car park together, each on our separate ways.

The land rose and our views become restricted by hills once more as we approached Wiveliscombe. We checked in our accommodation and relaxed for a while before setting on foot to explore the village. Out of the high street, the roads narrowed, gently ascending, while in the distance the hills filled our visions. It was Thursday night and there was barely a soul out. Lights were beginning to shine from house’s window. It was just another week night for most of the population. But not for us. We had been transported to another world, a place of hills and quiet where time slowed. Here, we had time for an evening stroll. Chores didn’t seem urgent and the only reason to walk back was the encroaching darkness and the call of food.

We settled in a corner of a busy family pub and ordered food and drink, scheming for the following day. Reluctant for the evening to end, we ordered another round of drinks and relaxed in our seats. It wasn’t until children high on sugar began to run all over the pub that we retreated to the shelter of our room. Tired from a long day on the road, we slid under the cover and fell asleep.

The next day as we were finishing our breakfasts, a group of men arrived, ordering beer with their food, the start of their Easter celebration. I wondered if their four days week-end was going to be fuelled by alcohol only. I shrugged. I guess we had different ways to celebrate days off from work.

We packed up, paid for our room, and went on our way. We headed for Dunster, taking as many small roads as we could find. Enclosed between high hedges our views were often limited but as soon as they disappeared we were greeted with wide valleys and big hills, the landscape managed but largely inhabited. We passed a sign welcoming us in Exmoor National Park, cars growing rarer until we approached our destination.

We parked and made straight for the tourism office. There we asked for direction to the Giant’s Chair. We had read the name in a leaflet the previous day and it sounded like a nice spot to hike to and we liked the name.

‘You get fantastic views up there. Let me show you on a map.’ She got the relevant one out and began tracing the paths with her fingers. ‘Don’t go this way, this is steep, really steep,’ she commented as she followed the direct line to the hill top. ‘Instead you can go via ducky path or goosey path. They’re more gentle.’ The two paths formed an oval around the hill, a nice loop for an afternoon stroll.

We purchased a small map of the area and set off through the town. In direct contrast with Wells and Wiveliscombe, the town felt devoid of locals, overtaken by tourists and shops to cater for them. Uncomfortable with an apparent falseness to the town, we headed out, following the green lines of the map. Soon we were by an old military churchyard overlooking the sea. We stopped and gazed at the calm waters for a minute, remembering that the sea is never far on the big island of Britain.

We entered the shelter of the woods and left the village behind. A family passed us by, heading for a different path, and we were left alone. We forgot the bustle of the town as we breathed in the freshness of new leaves and dried earth. We climbed gently for a few minutes, the hills beyond hinted at between the branches of the forest. We eventually emerged to find a bench overlooking Minehead and the sea beyond. A couple of horses grazed in a field directly in front of us, unaware of the human activity around them.

We sat down to take in the view. There was no rush to arrive at Giant’s Chair. The family we had encountered at the beginning of our hike passed us by. The father who was storming ahead suddenly came to a halt at the intersection of paths. The mother arrived, silent and unimpressed, while the children trailed behind, arms crossed over their chests and unhappy to be outdoors.

‘Do you need help,’ I asked the man.
He looked at me quizzically. I wanted to laugh at his hesitation. I had clearly just undermined what he considered his manliness.
‘Huh… yeah sure,’ he mumbled glancing briefly at his family.
‘We’re here,’ I pointed out on the map.
‘Yeah, right. It’s fine to go straight, it’ll loop back.’ His eyes were vaguely considering the map, not seeing that to loop back into Dunster you would have to walk quite a bit further away and prolong a walk nobody was enjoying. ‘Thanks,’ he added as if an afterthought and stormed away, his family grudgingly following him.

We lingered for a while, happy not to be part of this family, and sad at the idea that this man was not instilling a joy and curiosity of the outdoors to his children.

We walked on, soon finding our path to the Giant’s Chair. We weren’t even 200 metres above sea level but there was nothing to stop our view from north to south, east to west. The water of the Atlantic merged with the Bristol Channel calmly, the sea a promise of an idyllic summer. Far off, in a haze of blue lay Wales, another land and yet the same. We soon diverted our attention south, where a bench welcomed us and found us cuddling as we forgot the urban world we had come from, gazing at the hills of Exmoor. They rolled out for miles on end, houses, roads, and cars hard to stop in amongst their green.

In spite of our proximity to Dunster, we saw no one of top of that hill. It was only as we began our descent that we met a few dog walkers. Instead of going back through the town, we followed another footpath, losing our ways and finding an exit into a disused quarry turned woodlands by the main coastal road. We just had time for an ice-cream and a cold drink before the parking ticket expired. But it wasn’t time to go home just yet. Instead we crossed Exmoor once more, choosing roads we hadn’t seen, to arrive at Dulverton. Our hunt for a place to eat was unsuccessful but we settled in a pub anyway, sampling the local beer and playing a game of dominoes by the amber of a fire.

Eventually we had to leave, another parking ticket was expiring and it was time to go home. We avoided the motorways as much as possible, navigating a mixture of A roads and B roads, climbing over the Mendips and down again as we rode into Bristol. The roads were familiar but slightly different from having been gone from our sight for a couple of days.

An Outdoor Bloggers event with VARTA

‘Has someone arrived late,’ I asked distracted as I spotted a dark shape in the grass on the left of the path. I was walking back to my tent with Jason after leaving the pub but couldn’t spot it. It was night and my tent was smaller than a lot of the others, but I was certain I should have been able to see it from where we stood.

I directed my torch in the general direction of my tent on the other side of the path. Something caught the light. It was my longboard, dripping wet and standing still in the grass. I turned around, illuminating the unknown shape. ‘It’s my tent!’

Upside down, it was lying on a different field than the one I had pitched it in. I stared at it incredulous and laughed. My tent had flown away with everything in it.

We walked to it and turned it over. It looked fine, so we carried it back to where it was and I pitched it again over the longboard. We said our goodnight and I began to examine the content of my backpack. Everything was fine. I shook my head, not quite able to believe what had happened. My tent had flown away!

Woosh…

I ducked just as half the tent was folding over my face. ‘Okay… That’s how it flew away.’ I knew the wind was strong but I hadn’t thought it had such strength as to make my canvas home bend in half. I put my shoes back on and walked to Jason’s abode.

‘Are you awake?’
‘Yeah. You’re alright?’
‘Yes. I’m fine. It’s just… do you mind if I pitch my tent next to yours? To break the wind a bit.’
‘It’s fine. Do you need help?’
‘No, no. I’m fine. Thank you.’

With a sight of relief, I unpitched the tent one more time and carried it next to Jason’s bigger one. I made my bed, slid into the sleeping bag and laid wide awake waiting to see if the structure would fold on my face again. It didn’t, so I closed my eyes, rolled to my side and hoped the constant flapping of canvas would act as a lullaby.

Earlier that day, I’d arrived at the Royal Umpire Caravan Park to meet up with the Outdoor Bloggers and VARTA. VARTA and some of their friends at Spectrum Brands had invited us for the week-end to demonstrate their products, kindly paying for our upkeep.

It began with a dinner in the pub across the road from the campsite. A chef had been brought in to prepare a delicious meal for us, using Russell Hobbs equipment. I was glad for the food and the effort to cater to everyone. We saw the cookware in use but didn’t get to play with it ourselves. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the food and getting to know my fellow bloggers. Some of them I knew from previous events, while others I only knew as a blog name.

We chatted away, quickly bonding over our common love of the outdoors. Like previous Outdoor Bloggers event I had attended, we all had a different approach to the outdoors but it didn’t matter. There was something about it we all understood, and it didn’t matter if we were walkers, cyclists, mountaineers, or anything else. We were all kin of a kind, not the odd one out.

Our bellies full, we headed to the marquee erected on the pub’s ground. There, VARTA spent some time presenting their various lights and letting us play with them. I had come to the event, unsure what to expect. I wasn’t confident in my ability to get overly excited about batteries and lights but that quickly changed as I found out the extent of VARTA’s lanterns and torches. As is often the case with me, I make do with what I have, usually finding odd ways to use my equipment to fit my purpose. But VARTA exposed me to a range of solution that night that got me excited like a kid in a sweet shop. There was a small campsite lantern that would make camping while cycle touring a little easier, a heavy-duty torch with a rotating head that could light the road while I am on the longboard at night, and reflective straps with red lights to enhance the visibility of my body while walking/cycling/longboarding.

After a night of broken sleep, most of us emerged from our dwellings with heavy eyes and a desperate need for tea or coffee. But a bad night at camp was nothing new for us, so we carried on. We gathered by VARTA’s caravan for breakfast, our body slowly waking up as we were fed bacon and eggs (or veggie sausages) sandwiches cooked with a George Foreman grill under a rain free sky.

Fuelled up we headed to the marquee once more. This time it wasn’t about VARTA but about Armor All. Their products being aimed at cars, I found it difficult to get excited. I do not have a driving licence nor am I thinking of getting one. But I listened nonetheless, thinking of friends with cars. The products seemed great for deep cleans and quick cleans of the car and I definitely could see a use for outdoors people. It looked easy to take care of a vehicle during and after a trip.

The rain had picked up again by this stage so we left the marquee to retreat in the pub where Bowland and Pennine Mountain Rescue Trust was waiting for us. VARTA has been sponsoring Mountain Rescue England and Wales for a while now, providing them with batteries and cash donation to help them save lives.

Spending a lot of times outdoors, I had heard of Mountain Rescue but I knew very little about them. For instance, I didn’t know you had to ask for the police and then mountain rescue if you need them, nor was I aware that so much of their funding comes from public donations. They are an amazing organisation, made up of 48 rescue teams throughout England and Wales, all charities in their own rights depending on us to fund them so that the volunteers can get the material they need to keep us safe.

Amazed and with a new found respect for Mountain Rescue England and Wales, we relaxed around lunch before VARTA took centre stage again but this time to demonstrate their portable chargers. I am old fashion. When outdoors, I don’t bother with my smartphone. Instead I opt for a dinosaur phone I can trust. I get almost a week worth of battery life with it and there is no risk of it breaking if dropped. But I’m also a blogger and increasingly I’m using my smartphone to document some parts of my activities. So a portable charger is something I’m interested in but know nothing about and it was great to learn about their capabilities and specifications.

And that was it. VARTA who had arranged the whole week-end for us, and not cancelled in spite of the grime weather, handed over goodie bags and wished us all the best. Having demonstrated so many of their products, they now wanted us to try them in real life situation and were very generous to us. Here’s what we got:

For the details of Armor All goodie bag, The Urban Wanderer video is a good watch:

We all retreated to our tents to rest before the evening. But being at an Outdoor Bloggers event, a lot of us decided to go for a walk instead. We explored nearby Croston, silent and deserted on a damp Saturday.

Back at the campsite, most of us decided to skip cooking dinner in our tents and we found ourselves at the pub again, ordering mud-free food and enjoying a drink or two before gathering for an outdoor quiz that Zoe had concocted. I lost, but the quiz was a great idea and I hope it will become a feature of Outdoor Bloggers events.

Conversations eventually slowed as we began to feel the weight of the previous sleepless night. So back to our beds we went, hoping for a quieter night.

In the morning it was time to go. We packed our tents, lingered at the site for a while, a little reticent at the idea of rejoining regular life in spite of all the wind, rain, and mud we had endured. The Urban Wanderer gave me a lift to Manchester and I hoped on a train, home-bound.

I will make reviews of most of the products we received from VARTA but they will not be shared on this blog. If you are interested, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. Reviews and other outdoors videos are planned for the near future.

Thanks to VARTA, Spectrum Brands, Prova, Zoe and Jenni at Outdoor Bloggers for an excellent week-end.

Women & Bicycles

The alarm rang and I rolled out of bed still half-asleep. I had a train to catch to Oxford for the Women & Bicycles Festival organised by Broken Spoke Bike Co-op and The Adventure Syndicate. I went through the motion of my morning routine and still dozing hopped on my folding bike to the train station. The train whizzed away and I slowly awoke, wondering what the week-end would bring. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was already cycling and doing things people thought of as crazy, so I thought the week-end wouldn’t bring me too much. But I would meet new people, like-minded people and that was why I had booked a place.

Before I knew it I was in Oxford, following Google Maps to the events venue. I parked my bike and entered.

‘Hi,’ I waved tentatively to the first person in sight. ‘I’m Allysse, one of the workshare.’
The woman who I was talking to went in a frenzy of paper checking and looking around for the volunteer organiser who was not around yet. But just as we were trying to figure out what to do with me, she waltzed in the door, bike in hand.

We briefly introduced ourselves and she went away to tidy her bike. I was left standing there, a still figure in the constant flow of woman trying to get all the last minute details ready for launch. It was awkward being there, knowing no one and having nothing to do. But soon the one person I knew came back and my hands were put to work until there was nothing else I could do. So I went to the lounge for a much needed coffee. There were a few people on sofas and chair. I spotted another lonely figure and went to introduce myself.

And that was it. The conversation had began. Bikes were mentioned but soon we drifted to other topics. We didn’t have to explain to one another why we choose to commute by bike, even when it rained.

As the clock ticked, we made out way to the lower hall where the first panel was taking place. We settled in plastic chairs and I began to feel myself shaking slightly. All around me, I was spotting my cycle heroes, but most of all there were just women everywhere. I was overwhelmed by the sea of unknown faces that all owned a bike of some sort. I have spent a lot of my life in female dominated world but when it comes to bicycle, I have always been the only one. This was not the case here and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was thankful, I was afraid, I was outraged, I was angry, I was joyful, I was in heaven. But I didn’t have much time to think about it. The first panel was starting. Alex Feechan, Cheryl Reid, Jools Walker, and Sarah Connolly took to the stage for a discussion about making space for women in cycling. They talked about fear, anger, discrimination, sexism, racism, and their own stories of feeling stupid in bike shops, awkward in male cycling clothes, and how they decided to do something about it. And in that moment, I realised how much I had normalised being a lonely woman cyclist and suppressed a craving women cyclists friends near me.

By the end of the panel I was still shaking and wondered if I would be for the entirety of the week-end. That seemed ridiculous but I couldn’t figure out how to stop my limbs from vibrating. I walked back to the lounge for tea and cake and introduced myself to another woman. We began chatting about touring and well, bikes. We were soon called away. The second panel was about to begin. This time Lee Craigie, Kimberley Tew, Laura Moss, and Naomi Mahendran stepped up tell us about how the bicycle had brought them places. This was not about how far you can travel on two unmotorised wheels, but how this vehicle has widened their world socially, educationally, professionally and emotionally. It became evident that for all those women, cycling was a therapy of sorts. No one was able to articulate it simply, but we all understood that when things go wrong, a bike ride is always a piece of solace.

Lunch was consumed to the delight of all taste buds (food really was one of the most amazing part of the festival). Conversations flowed and were only brought to a close by the bike bell reminding us of the time. There were workshops to attend. I joined the Yoga class with Polly Clark. More than yoga exercises, she took the time to listen to what we expected from the class, what aches and pains we experienced and based on this discussion targetted the exercises so we could all benefit from them and know what would help us best.

This was followed by more tea and cake (yes a lot of cake was consumed that week-end) before we all regrouped in the Lower Hall to listen to Rickie Cotter. As we listened and laughed to her journeys of endurance, discovery, pain, and fun, cogs turned into my head bringing forward ideas that had been floating at the back of it for months.

Dinner was served, the bar opened, music was played, and I got chatting with more women. Bicycles were our links but we soon tired of the subject. We were more than racers, tourers, commuters, couriers, cyclists. We were human beings.

Tired and happy I eventually retreated to the quiet home of my host where we spent more time talking, sharing our stories, building friendships.

The following day I didn’t linger long in bed. I had to be back at the venue by 9am to help out in the kitchen. I had selected a work-share ticket which meant I was dedicating some of time to make sure everything would run smoothly. I arrived in the kitchen and following brief introductions, I was put to work. We had two hours to prepare brunch for more than a hundred people. So I cracked eggs, washed dirty trays, checked on bread, peeled a mountain of carrots, and chopped them off in batons. Meanwhile, the other women were enjoying workshops and bike rides. Finally the clock struck eleven and we were ready. I stood behind a huge pot of cabbage, standing on tip toes to drop an allocated portion per plate. Everybody was chatting and smiling, the ladies coming back from rides ready for an intake of food and the warmth of the venue.

The following panel focused on cycling as a family. Having little interest in the subject for myself I retreated to the lounge. A few people were relaxing on the sofa and around the tables. I sat on one of the chairs and relaxed. My gaze unfocused and I lost myself in thoughts. Why do you think we need a Women & Bicycles festival? This was one of the question on the wall of the lounge, a question I had asked myself a lot and hadn’t known the answer to before coming. People were talking of inspiration, of not enough women on the roads, of male dominated culture… but for me, it was about finding your tribe. Much like I had found a tribe when I attended the Cycle Touring Festival and the HearSay Festival, here was another one. I had become less lonely. The faces I had seen online and the occasional women I had passed on the roads now had names and voices. They were real.

The panel finished and a flow of people walked in to refuel and chat before the final hours of the week-end. We were to assist to the launch of the North Coast 500 film, shot back in May 2016 when the Adventure Syndicate rode 518 miles of Scotland’s North Coast 500 route in 36 hours. We followed those riders from preparation to completion, living their fears, sharing their laughs, and cheering them on as they reached the finish line. Faces merged, all female, all on bikes. It was not the story of a superhero, it was a community, a group much like the one in the room that had set out on a ride they weren’t sure they could achieve, but did.

The room slowly dispersed, everyone present riding a wave of elation and happiness. I found myself next to a woman I hadn’t spoken to before. So I introduced myself and soon I was telling her about my dreams of Audax (cycling long-distances within a set time limit) and long-distances. But there was a problem. I don’t have the right bike or kit for it. That had been the one excuse holding me back, the one sentence I had repeated to myself over and over again. But hearing it now seemed ridiculous. So I promised myself to stop moaning and get on my touring bike for an Audax soon. After all, I did start touring on a Brompton in Devon. That was not adequate but that was a lot of fun. The week-end could have ended there but the woman turned out to be Ellie from Bicycle Explorers who had raced several times on the Transcontinental. From Belgium to Turkey (now Greece), you ride to arrive there first. I had first heard of the race a couple of years ago and since I’ve had a strange obsession with it. Without trying, the name kept popping up in my feeds and I kept reading posts and stories of the race. And so with Ellie telling me she only had two weeks preparation the first time she entered the race, I began to think I could possibly ride it to. And just at that moment, one of the festival organisers arrived with a microphone for an interview for an upcoming e-zine. And I, stupidly, still elated from the North Coast 500 film, said, ‘I will sign-up for the Transcontinental.’ And ever since I have basked in a sea of fears and doubt. But I’ve said it now. The cat is out of the bag and I don’t know how to put it back there. 2018 might not happen. I do after all have plans for that year and probably won’t have enough leave from work for everything. But there is 2019 and with calendars on computer I can add a date that far in the future. So I have.