As usual, waking in the middle of Swaledale was a treat. Being able to sit out in the sun with a coffee in that environment is a pleasure I’ll never take for granted.
Furthermore, knowing that whichever way one heads out on a bike is going to be either gently challenging and scenic, or very relaxing… and scenic.
I had no fixed plan for today other than to rise late, leave when I wanted, and loop around some nice lanes, maybe stopping for a pint, until I hit the North Yorks Moors, my home, though I’m still pretty sure there’s a certain indeterminacy as to where exactly that is within those bounds.
The beauty of such a carefree approach to such a day is that it gives me time to think. The drawback of having such a rudderless day was that it gave me time to think.
Without dwelling too much upon the emotions experienced throughout the week, it’s been a hugely positive journey. I’ve met some wonderful people, the routes have been stunning, and there was no point at which I felt overwhelmed by the terrain or distances. I had just one moment when, bereft of food, energy, and favourable road, I willed away the metres, to be precise, the road from Garrigill to Nenthead. The slow progress and cold-shiver onset of hunger knock were exacerbated further by torrents of rain water rolling down the tarmac, seemingly pushing me back down the valley.
I only came close to breaking down once, twice if you include the impromptu visit to a bike shop to annoyingly put right a previous repair and to replace a rear light, last seen, unbeknownst to me, bouncing down a little road in north Lancashire/ south Cumbria.
The mechanical type of maintenance was routine, much like being diagnosed, and fixed by a physician. These are acceptable; a natural result of wear and tear upon the machine or body. The other type are still seen as, well, a little awkward. Harder to explain, slippery to grasp, and set some people on edge as to how to react, what to say or do. Some people, that is. My little wobble happened to be in front of lovely strangers I’d sat next to in a pub. After chatting for some time, about the usual stuff, work, life, love, family, it’s like they knew all the supportive, and really touching things to say. The floodgates weren’t opened, but the pressure behind them was definitely apparent. Let’s just say they were breached.
I suppose it’s all rather analogous to the trip as a whole. One gets the machinery fettled, but often at the expense of the flesh and blood. Remedies to that are often piecemeal: a beer here and there, a nice encounter, gazing at the scenery, but the long-term maintenance gets ignored.
This became palpable as I neared ‘home’. The vista of the North Yorkshire Moors allows one to see clearly hills I lived beneath for years. To all intents, the only place I’ve ever been able to call home, given that my childhood felt so fragmented. There was an enormous pull to that place. Nevertheless, I had to crack on to my temporary abode, conscious that it’d be cold, and empty. Cranking the fire and spinning some records isn’t a bad way to spend an evening recovering, but again, it’s piecemeal.
Long-term maintenance still needed. Working on that.