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Random Acts Of Kindness 01

It was only the third day of our journey. We’d left Vancouver on Sunday and, so far, travelled the grand total of 116 miles.T10Can05Not really a big deal. Apart from the fact that we weren’t in a car but riding a tandem loaded with four panniers and a bar bag. Plus we were towing a big green plastic box on a bike trailer containing camping gear and other equipment.T10Can01

Still not really a big deal. Except that for us this was just the warm up. We’d flown from the UK with our tandem and the end point for this leg of the journey was Tampa, Florida.

I reckoned we had about 4,500 miles of cycling ahead of us and until just before Christmas to get to Tampa. All on our tandem. Now that was scary.

At this very early stage, we knew it was going to be an adventure but most of what lay ahead was a complete mystery.

However, getting to the end of day three was significant. We were camping at a small town called Hope. To get here, we’d ridden roughly east through fairly gentle terrain. Tomorrow, we turned north into the Fraser Canyon and some much tougher riding.

T10Can02Hope was also significant for another reason. It was where we experienced one of the first acts of random kindness that became such a feature of our journey.

We’d spent over a year planning this journey and tried to think of everything. But feeling pretty weary on getting to Hope, we didn’t think things through when we went shopping for our evening meal.

We were back at the campsite about to start cooking when we suddenly realised we’d bought tins without ring pull tops – and we didn’t have a tin-opener!

Not a major deal. I wandered around the campsite until we found some other campers who could lend us one.

After dinner, we turned in early, knowing we had a long day ahead of us. The next morning, we were the first up on the campsite and I started getting the bike ready for that day’s ride – which is when I found a brand-new tin-opener, still in its packaging sitting on top of our trailer!T10Can03

Now buying a pair of strangers a tin-opener might seem a pretty minor act of generosity to some but it made our day. We never got a chance to thank the people who’d given it to us – we wanted to get on the road and thought they might not appreciate being woken at the crack of dawn just so we could say thanks.

But we still remember that act of kindness regularly. This journey took place in 2010 – the first part of a year-long bike ride that also took us through New Zealand, Australia and a chunk of northern Europe – and it was the first of many such acts that we experienced, all of them helping to reaffirm our belief in human nature.

There are many good people out there, doing kind things that go generally unreported.The world needs such people. We should treasure them.

T10Can04

Can’t Lose The Radar

Oh, the wonders of the modern age! I got through four novels while on holiday and didn’t turn a page of paper. I also had a whole library of music in my pocket and took about 160 photographs without using any film.

Being a caring kind of chap, I also bought my wife a Kindle Fire a couple of weeks before we went away and this too proved extremely useful. It’s ability to access the web meant we could check weather forecasts on a daily basis and (mostly) follow the sun as we travelled around.

So what, you may ask. Well, it all depends on your age. Being a decade or three older than some of you young web-dwellers, I remember days when all this was… well, science fiction!

peonyI took my first ‘gap’ year in 1997 (at the tender age of 31) back when ideas like the world wide web were still techno-babble to 90% of the population and the word email hadn’t entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

Carolyn and I went backpacking through Australasia and Asia and I remember lugging battered paperbacks and a very select collection of cassette tapes (remember them?) for playing in my Walkman. Once read, books were swapped along the way or bought and sold at stalls in backpacker hangouts. Buying a new tape was a major event – although inevitably it meant an old favourite (albeit played to death) would have to be ditched.

Internet cafes didn’t exist and we would go into the post offices in major cities to check if any friends or families had sent anything post restante for us to collect.

orchid01Life is certainly easier now. In the past I wouldn’t have dreamt of taking four novels on a 12-day holiday but with a Kindle it’s not an issue. I re-read War Of The Worlds (4*) and three new books The Delphi Agenda (3*), The Moghul (4*) and Me Again by Keith Cronin, which gets 5*s and a top recommendation. (Note to self: must post review soon).

We’re also in the process of hunting for a new house and while in Slovenia were busy checking out RightMove for possible new homes.

So, yes, life’s easier in many ways: access to reading material and music, being able to stay in touch with back home and access to all kinds of information. Is it a good change? Truth is, I’m still not sure. There’s part of me that still misses the romance and uncertainty of being out of touch, off the radar and forced to try things new and uncertain.

Anyway, that’s it for today. All observations and comments welcome. I need to get back to my White Rabbits – they’ve been a bit neglected lately.

PS. The flowers have no real relevance other than being ‘holiday snaps’ – I just like them.

Alentejo Dreams

It’s grey, cold and damp here – so I’ve been torturing myself by looking back at pictures from the Alentejo, one of my favourite parts of Portugal.

Elvas - old hilltop city and castle on the frontier with Spain.

Elvas – old hilltop city and castle on the frontier with Spain.

The Alentejo is one of the largest regions of Portugal – straddling the southern part of the country from the Atlantic coast to the border with Spain. It’s known for its rolling agricultural landscape, cork forests and whitewashed towns.

One of the other things I remember from the Alentejo is the beautiful blue skies, sadly lacking in England at this time of year.

Fountain in the centre of the World Heritage city of Evora.

Fountain in the centre of the World Heritage city of Evora.

Doorway in the old town of Castelo de Vide.

Doorway in the old town of Castelo de Vide.

I miss Portugal. For the time being though I’ll have to make do with pictures and memories. For more photos see this page.

Too Many Projects

I need another 12 hours in the day. Alternatively I’d settle for an unexpected inheritance or a win on the lottery.

There are just too many things to do in life. I simply don’t have time to go out and work for a living. Take today for example: I need to work on my new book, play my saxophone, put up a curtain pole in the lounge, sort out some insurance, get dinner ready, register with the tax office…

Now that’s what I call a bicycle.

Instead, here I am adding another page of photographs to my blog and writing a post to tell you about it.

You see, I’m very lucky. My life has had dull moments but my wife and I have also managed to get out there and have a few adventures. One of which involved a 10,000-mile cycle ride!

Which brings me back to my starting point. That ride took up a year of our lives (not including the planning) and involved all kinds of memorable experiences. Dramatic ones like fires, floods, earthquakes. It also reaffirmed my belief in the fundamental decency of the great majority of people.

We were strangers in various strange lands but were the recipients of all manner of spontaneous acts of generosity and kindness along the way (and that’s apart from all the money we raised for the charity ShelterBox.)

Now, I really, really want to sit down and write a proper account of that incredible journey. But that’s yet another project. I’ve also got the new novel to write, I need to work on promoting the launch of Pagan’s Sphinx (coming out in December) and keep plugging my other books.

How and when do I fit in another project? There’s definitely no time for a 9-5 job. Maybe I’ll have to go and rob a bank. Or pray for a fairy godmother. Or… Any ideas?

Three Years, Three Views

Today: some more pictures.

October 2010: Gateway near Angel Fire, New Mexico, USA.

October 2011: Carolyn on beach near Ribamar, Portugal.

October 2012: Boats moored off Hurst Spit, Hampshire, England.

Three years, three very different places. Life is amazing.

For now just enjoy the pictures. I will explain their relevance in a later post.