This is a blog post mixed with an update on proceedings.
If you’re pressed for time or can’t be arsed with a very rambly semi-philosophical post, then there’s basically three things that need announcing:
1: There is no longer a set route between Orleans and Lyon, I will probably be in Lyon by the date stated (or up to two days after) but there’s a high chance I won’t be in any of the places between, be it staying over or passing through. I’ll be god knows where – I won’t even know until I get there.
2: In Italy: Milan, Parma and Bergamo are almost definitely out of the picture, unless someone gets in touch with a plan for them, in which case something can (always, anywhere) be organised.
3: In general, between the 14th of April and the 18th of May, there’s going to be up to two days of leeway from the original plan, so take everything listed on those dates with a pinch of salt, or of-course just let me know any plans and then I can set something in stone.
I recently stayed with a (new) friend of mine, Francois, in Saint-Omer. It was lovely to meet him and chat about travelling, which we did for a long, long time. Francois is what I have started calling a ‘proper’ touring cyclist, which is probably best explained like this.
There are two main attractions to cycle touring – the speed is perfect, not too slow, not too fast. Walking would take me years on a trip like this. And cars are too quick, you miss too much, plus they’re expensive, dirty, and a bitch to park in cities. The bike is the perfect compromise, you cover good distances daily, you keep fit, you don’t kill the earth, and all the while you can put it in a whole host of places and beat the traffic in rush hour.
The other benefit of travelling with a bike is the freedom, to go anywhere and do anything. When paired up with a tent or a good network of friends/a couchsurfing account and some good fortune, you can wake up in the morning, cycle any direction you like, as far as you like, as fast as you like, see and do whatever you want, and then easily find a place to kip. Simples. This is what Francois did in the UK and countless other places, he wandered and roamed and when it was time to rest, he found somewhere.
This is where I fall a little short of this ‘freedom’. Being completely new to this way of life I thought it best to book my first month in advance, make sure I always had somewhere to stay, that takes that concern and worry out of the equation while I’m getting used to cycling 70km a day in places I’ve never been, speaking a language I don’t know. But if I didn’t feel it already, Francois definitely convinced me – I don’t feel totally free. I wake up and I have somewhere to be, somewhere to go, which is great, I love that, but it’s not spontaneous, and it’s still that little bit restrictive.
I was speaking with another new friend, also called Joe, in Paris yesterday, and we agreed that cycle tourists, and backpackers and hitchhikers alike, have a unique sort of view of the world, which after thinking for some time over our beers in a Bistrot by the Seine, we decided was best described as ‘faith’. Not in a God, I gave that my best shot in Ely but this omnipresent, omniscient, somewhat dickish (all things considered) character continued to elude me, as he/she/it has all my life. No, we meant, and mean, faith in the world, and in yourself. The eternal question should be “what’s really, really wrong right now?”, and I am fully aware of the fact I’ve spent two years preparing my circumstances in such a way that I can genuinely say “nothing is wrong” if I really want to. Unless I book something ahead or arrange to see someone somewhere, I have nothing resting on me at all, nowhere to be, nothing to say, do or organise, nothing to adhere to, zero restrictions (bar law and morals and science).
Basically, what I’m getting to is an announcement, which has a 0.0001% chance of being vital for anyone planning on seeing me between Orleans and Lyon on the route. The odds are I’ll take a very different path, because I’ll be waking up in Orleans on the 14, and just going wherever I want. Francois has inspired me I suppose, I’ll sort out a place to stay when I need one, and spend the rest of my time doing whatever takes me fancy. Odds are I won’t make it to Dijon, I’ll probably get lost, meander somewhere, and then check two days before I’m supposed to be in Lyon to see how horrifically far away I am. I love having a plan, and I have definitely witnessed firsthands the benefit of a plan, but I want to try the barebones stuff too, so I’m giving it a go.
Also, the route through Italy is changing. If you’re looking at Parma, Milan or Bergamo the odds are I won’t be there anymore. More details to follow, this is just to make sure nobody (the odds are slim but I’m being safe) has an idea and then it all goes wrong because I’ve buggered off somewhere else. This reshuffling also creates a couple of extra days, which I won’t be committing to anything as yet, just for opportunity’s sake.
That’s all I think, happy 5th of April! Two posts in one day, you are spoiled.