When cycling is the easy bit
The cycling is the easy bit. If someone, let’s say four months ago, would have told me that I would have possibly thought about it, yet denied it. Now I am sitting here, back in New Mexico, enjoying the hospitality of Val and Bob and the company of two other round the world cyclists, and can honestly say: Yes, so far the cycling is the easy bit. I can say yes to the fact that whenever you are trying to cycle around the world, you can forget to worry about the cycling. It’s just that, cycling.
In the last weeks my perspective on life has changed. The day when I got the news from dad’s bike crash I took a picture, sat on the roadside barrier for five minutes and just stared. Stared into the great wide open. I didn’t know what will happen to him, but I knew that things will change.
Four weeks later all there is left are the flowers on dad’s grave, beautiful memories and his love. At times I struggle a lot, thinking that I will never get to see him again. To present is the weekend in August, when Sophie and me went over to say hello to my family. It was a last minute decision, in retrospect I am so happy we went. I can still hear his voice, see him laughing, see him sitting on his bike with a smile on a face. Sometimes it is easy for us to say we would like to see the people we love go while doing something they love. When it happens, it makes it all the harder. At least for the moment.
I can still pictures me grabbing a little book from Val and Bob’s collection of small books in the bathroom. Love, Quotations from the heart, was written on it. I enjoyed flicking through it the next morning as I woke up before Bob who was preparing breakfast. Coincidence or not, the moment when my dad was unlucky on the road, I was reading all those quotations about love, and truly enjoyed them, agreed with them. I texted a few of my favourites to Sophie, as we had gone through some troubled times while I was on the road.
It wasn’t an easy moment when I finally left again for the airport with my brother on Sunday, but I knew was doing the right thing. Dad was a simple man, different from me in many aspects. Yet he never tried to get in his children’s ways. Sometimes we had arguments. We had different views on life. Looking back I would think that’s normal. But in the end he, and my mum, supported me whenever they could. Sometimes it took a little while to understand. I can still remember when they gave me the glass bicycle to congratulate me for finishing my mad winter cycle trip from Edinburgh to Schwobfeld in 2010. My dad loved me, and so does my mum. So do I, and it’s more than normal that you worry when you love someone.
When I set off from Portobello Beach that Thursday George asked me how I was feeling. I had nothing to answer to him. When I sat in my tent that night, looking at the shining lights of Edinburgh in the background, I knew that I would look at those lights in a different way when I come back. When I look at them again, there’ll be one more star in that sky, the one of my dad watching me from above.
In many ways the trip has been an interesting learning experience, people might even say I have finally grown up. By being on a bike for days in a row, I had much time to think. Whenever I thought I had tackled one challenge, another one was already waiting. None of those challenges had anything to do with the bike.
I was originally trying to use this blog as a travelog, but with the recent events I more and more enjoy writing down my thoughts, my feelings. I am not afraid anymore expressing those feelings, as I have been in the past. Behind that mile-eating machine is nothing but a human being, with laughter, tears, fears, someone very human. The bike won’t talk, but I can.
I am not sure what the future will be like, but I have learned to understand what people thought about me. There were difficult times at work sometimes, where my ambition clashed with my colleagues’s realities. Sometimes I couldn’t understand that, right now I can. What this trip has taught me is to value all of those encounters with wonderful people along the way, and learn.
I will be getting back on the bike soon, as there have been many people that followed my journey, and I would like to ride again, for them. At times in the last few weeks I simply wanted to throw the towel, jump back on a plane to Edinburgh and wish nothing had happened.
This trip has been a huge learning experience. By staying with the many families along the way I could, for the first time, understand why Sophie wanted us to have a nice home. At past trips I had avoided all of those things, stayed in hostels, camped wild, slept on beaches. I did anything to justify my ambition to be as free as I could, always being able to pack my suitcase and leave. This time I really enjoyed what in the past I had seen as a nuisance.
We grow up, and we (hopefully) find our place in life. Some do that sooner, I always struggled to find mine. This trip has helped me in many ways to grow up. I hope the same for other people setting off on a similar journey. As cruel as dad’s loss is, it helped to find my space in life. He has left a real legacy. For me life is not just about cycling day in, day out. One day I would like to have a son or daughter, screaming daddy on the finish line. A home I share with the person I love most, a place to welcome others. To share stories.
For that I will continue riding, for the people that love me I will continue riding. I hope to share those stories from the trip in a book one day. For now I will finish with a note I wrote on Facebook to my dad on the day he died, may it inspire others who will find themselves in a similar situation one day.
‘Goodbye Dad. For now. I’m very sad to see you go. Sad as you left us way too early. Sad as I would loved to see you on the finish line. It wasn’t meant to be. As the sun set yesterday you decided you had enough. I can understand that. You passed away silently, peacefully, on a nice and calm December day. Enough of the struggle in an intensive care unit that wasn’t your home. You loved your home so much. Your couch, your garden, the breakfasts in the sun. The forest close to it. Your favourite place to get fresh wood for those old winter days. This is what you wanted. Enough of the uncertainty. I knew you never wanted help, and you made it easy for us and took a hard decision away. As always, you got your own will. This time I am happy for that.
You loved your family and always tried your best for us. Maybe sometimes we disagreed, but I knew you were very proud of me. I thank you for all you have done. It would have been nice to tell you that again, but it’s too late now. I’m glad you left the house in good spirits. I am sad you never came back from your last ride, but you left us with a smile. You loved your daily mail run on the bike, smelling the fresh air. I loved the same, the big adventures are my daily mail runs. We are both stubborn enough to ride in the most ferocious of weather, to sometimes ignore the danger that lies in cycling. But you were happy, and that is all that counts.
I am glad that I came back to see you a last time. I am sure you did your best to see me fulfilling my biggest ever dream. From now you will watch me from heaven and be my guardian angel. I really wish I could have been yours.
Tonight I’ll have a dram for you dad. To thank you. To say thanks for being you and for all you’ve done. Slàinte!’