Monday, 18 November 2013

Search for the real life....

So thought I would blog about returning to 'normality' - whatever that is.  I have now been home 2 weeks and am back to work and there have been several things that have struck me about this....

'Real life' for me is pretty much just as good as life on the road.  I came back to my family and friends and a job I love and it's almost as I've never been away... well it would be if it wasn't for every time I see a new person at work, I get a hug - normally it's a slap for something I've done! (Dropping chairs spring to mind!)

I was pretty concerned about my finger (you may recall I can't straighten it) and whether I would be able to do my job... so i went into work a day early in order to check it out.  the most fiddly thing i do on a regular basis is cannulate babies - that is put needles into veins and stick them in place.  i figured if I could do this, I could perform the other aspects of my job.  Result - can still do this - even if I do need several people hovering round me to help LOL.

My foot - on x-ray - does not appear to be broken... all very well and good.. but what is wrong with it then??

So that's injuries covered.

The first day back at work - I woke up ridiculously early, messed about on facebook, only to remember 10 minutes before I was due to leave, that the airline had destroyed my front brakes on the way home.  So I rushed to my shed to drag out my now obsolete and largely forgotten trusty Dawes (1990's model), which didn't have a saddle on and had a flat tyres.  In the hope that the flat tyres were not actual punctures I inflated them and held my breath for 10 minutes (no... not literally) to see if they would stay inflated.  1 job down , 1 to go.  fitting the saddle was a doddle and within the required amount of time I was ready to head to work.

Getting back on my bike gave me a leap of pure joy inside - I had missed feeling of tyres on tarmac and although this bike felt wierd and unstable (the tyres are slightly thinner) and I had forgotten that the gears were on the frame of the bike (told you it was old) so that took some getting used to, it was still pure joy that swept me along, through the darkness to my second home!  Going down the hill was interesting, purely because my brakes had not been used for a while and I think the resulting shrieking eminating from them would have woken everyone within a 10 mile radius...

That said, I got to work in one piece - it would have been frankly embarrassing to die in the 2 mile journey to work, having lived through the 2400 mile journey.

Work was as work always is - full of friendship and fun - in between the hard work of course.

And so the weekend continued - only with one slight problem.

I can't sleep.

Now I know what people say about jet lag and time zones and somewhat naively didn't think I would have that problem... how wrong could I be.

One night, I was wide awake STILL at 4 am.  I personally blame it on the three days of inactivity I had when i got back from the latest round of gigs (or concerts if you are over a certain age lol).  That said - it turned out to be useful as i have made a start on another project - details of which i hope to share with everyone soon.

One of the main comments I get since coming back (after the comment about how thin I am) is what are you going to do next??

As always I have plans and schemes up my sleeve but you may be relieved to know - nothing has taken hold YET.  I have vague ideas and as always dreams of big things but nothing in the planning stage yet.  I must first start my dissertation and channel as much energy into that (boring I know) before bigger things intervene..... but who knows what life has in store, or what may spark the initial glow of an adventure.

What I do know is, should opportunity present itself - I will grab it with both hands and ask questions later.  Meanwhile the search for my real life is not necessary - it's right back where I started from!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Homecoming to Love Hope and Strength

When I left off from the last blog.. I was at LAX waiting to get on the plane to come home.  Its difficult to describe the feelings I had at that point.  It all seemed a bit surreal really, and I felt wierd not being on the road. 
I was sad to say goodbye to my friends here but it was time to be at home.  I love having adventures but at the end of the day, home, Reading and my workplace is where I really belong.
I landed at Heathrow to a lovely (low key as ordered) arrival and lunch with my parents, my brother and emma.  Finally got rid of some of the presents that I had been hauling around for weeks lol, and caught up.
It was funny, id start to tell a story from the road, to find them quoting my blog back to me... well at least it saved me having to talk too much.
And then I went home, put my feet up in front of the tv, and took it easy... right? ?.... errr nope... I went to a gig!
One of the many things that helped keep the pedals turning on crap days, was the thought that if I missed my flight home, id miss the Big Country gig.  Whilst I was away, Big Country had been on tour and Love Hope Strength Foundation had been swabbing people for the bone marrow donor list... and I had been missing it... big time!  All the efforts of the volunteers had resulted in many people signed up on this tour,  and the word of LHS spread to many more, and it was high time I got my arse in gear and did some work.  So off to Southend we went. What a night! Loads of people signed up, met lots of new people, caught up with old friends and called up onstage by Mike Peters, the founder of the charity and all time legend. Luckily my wierd suntan lines on my face hid my embarrassment but thank you mike, I really appreciated it. The gig was brilliant, despite the fact that none of the band members felt well.. they all struggled through to give the audience a great night, certainly one I will never forget.  My brother is now trained to swab and it was good to see Fitz, an outstandingly dedicated volunteer and to catch up with Mr Warden and the rest of the crew. It's great to be home...
Even the walk back to the car deserves a mention, purely for the Route 66 sign on top of one of the buildings... wierd huh?
The drive home was pretty quiet, (fortunately Emma was driving as jet lag was starting to hit) as we were all knackered. We dropped Paul off and I was persuaded to go to A and E for my foot, which probably wasnt made better by jumping up and down at the gig but I cant help myself.  To cut a long story short, after 2 and a half hours of waiting I was very restless and impatient and gave up, instead climbing the 6 flights of stairs (parker take note) to work for coffee, toast and a bit of a catch up at 4am!
I eventually got home and faced the task of unloading kit, unlocked my door.... and stopped dead in my tracks. My house was not only decorated with balloons and banners but had been cleaned from top to bottom, complete with new bedspread (apparently there were big discussions as to whether the teenage mutant ninja turtle one or the pink princess one was more 'suitable') and a Route 66 sign hanging on my wall. I was literally speechless... so thank you very very much to Emma and Jill for such a kind thought!
The homecoming was made complete out at dinner last night... I am so very lucky to have people like you guys to come home to... thankyou xx
And so began the week... one which will be taking me to Ipswich, Nottingham, Doncaster and Grimsby,  swabbing people with other fantastic volunteers for the bone marrow donor list.  So if you have enjoyed my journey and are interested in GETTING ON THE LIST with LOVE HOPE STRENGTH FOUNDATION and DELETE BLOOOD CANCER, please go to, where you can get a home swabbing kit, and for details of the charity and other events coming up.  We always need volunteers to help with the swabbing, so if you would like to help other people save lives, drop me a message or go to The LHS website.

So to summarize the journey in a few words....tough, beautiful, emotional, raw and peaceful.  Over 2400 miles (roughly) in 24 days of cycling - 2 hours later than scheduled arrival to friends with a gig to celebrate. Total so far raised now over £6000 -

Thank you once again to everyone for the support and to Mike Peters for Music and Inspiration
This is not the end... I will continue to dream of adventure and put those dreams into reality as life is short and can only be lived once... please keep an eye out on my blog and facebook page for ideas and plans of future adventures and LHS.. 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Gig day - I'm made of life...

Today was the day... the celebration of the End of the ride at Rock and Roll Pizza in Moorpark.

It didnt get off to a great start... I went to have breakfast (must get back out of that habit) and discovered that there had been a shooting at the airport which is just down the road from where I am staying. Typical, I arrive safely after cycling across the country and there is a shooting nearby lol.  Obviously in no danger but all the roads were blocked by police, fire trucks and ambulances on a day when I had a gig to get too! Beki and randy were picking me up early afternoon and we werent sure whether they would be able to get near my hotel or whether I would have to walk out.

5 news choppers were hovering overhead and every few minutes a police car or firetruck would come racing down the road, sirens blaring. . It was like seeing a live action movie. I stayed outside, I guess kind of fascinated by the ongoings. Eventually I wandered back and switched the tv channel to CNN. Reports of gunmen, injuries and panic were ongoing. The situation was fluid though and It shows that there is no need to stress abput something until it actually happens and the roads opened just in time and beki and randy walked through the door of the lobby with plenty of time to make our way north for the gig in moorpark.

We checked into a hotel nearer the gig and the lack of effort in getting there meant I had ample time to appreciate the scenery. California is a lovely state, with mountains and permanent blue sky and sunshine... it is a shame that I havent had more time here.

On arrival at the Rock and Roll Pizza photos by the sign were a must and then we wandered in. The venue is filled with rock and roll including a drum skin that mike peters had signed - surely the best bit in the place I think.  The next hours were filled with meeting new people, greeting friends and a whirlwind of thoughts.  I will try and describe a few key moments in the evening.

Beki and Randy took to the stage and I hadnt heard a full set before... the original songs grasped me immediately, with lyrics that were at once intruiging and memorable... I have only spent bits of time with them before but both of them along with floyd and chrissie, kelly dc and mary provided a solid foundation for the feeling that here I was amongst friends. It made the homesickness lessen, as we caught up from the last time we met and this is what I love about The Alarm and LHS, the fact it has enabled me to meet people like this and feel as though I have known them forever. Thank you to all!

Amongst the crowds of people were lee marshall and his family, on holiday from the uk, who had come along to support, it was great meeting them and comparing notes on wierd things in the usa. Also don and kimberly, who I had met in victorville, took time out to come and support and amazingly rendered me speechless with a generous donation to the ride, so great to have you guys there.

Alan Robinson also stunned me with a gift of a coin made for everest rocks which he took part in. It meant a huge amount to me and it is safe in my pocket.. 

Joe Silva's set was full of my favourite songs of his and as usual he played from the heart. Joe was one of the first people to jump in and support this ride from the beginning and it was so great to see him play again. His album blue, is well worth downloading and has many songs you will find yourself singing along to..Check it out! Thanks also to joe, for saying something that made me stop and think about where I had started from and how this had all come together... it made the gig special.

my favourite part of the gig was the moment where me, joe and beki gave a rousing rendition of love, hope and strength, to an audience that joined in, when they didnt know the song... it was a special moment for me and the word is being spread!

Chevy metal, to be honest were not necessarily my cup of tea but I went down the front at the end, got some photos for people back home, who are big fans, and enjoyed the moment. It was also see great to see joe invited up to drum, whilst taylor sat at the side of the stage! Thats rock and roll for you!

More importantly perhaps, the Love Hope Strength team had been working tirelessly under the tent and signed up 23 people to the bone marrow donor list... a great result and one that put the icing on the cake for me.

When the end arrived, it had seemed such a short time as as I said goodbye to various friends, it all seemed a bit surreal.  Many I will see again soon though (Floyd,  about the gathering...) and for a short while Rock and Roll Pizza had become a part of home for me.

So fast forward (so I dont bore you)... oh but before I do, I must tell you that although I managed to get from Chicago to LA injury free, I tripped over in the parking lot and got bloody road rash down my right leg... lol

So fast forward to this morning.. I enjoyed a pile of pancakes with strawberries and bananas for breakfast and then beki and randy dropped me off at terminal 7 to find a box for my bike... passed around from place to place, where I met the most unhelpful people of this whole trip... the conversation went something like this..

Me :can I buy a box for my bike

Them: we dont have any

Me: well can I check it in without one

Them: no, we dont accept bikes without boxes

Me: well can you suggest what I should do

Them:most people bring a box

Me: well I just cycled from chicago so it would have been difficult

Them: you need a box

So mentally preparing myself to abandon my bike in the airport and quite possibly set off another major security alert I phoned a friend.. specifically beki.

To cut a long story shorter, beki was a legend, found a bike shop, specifically Performance Bicycle in Torrence, where they sorted out a box and some packaging, which beki then dropped off to me, and became a bike roadie, whilst I took off the saddle, handlebars and pedals and successfully shoved the bike in its box... result.. so once again, thank you to beki, for ensuring that the bike that got me safely here could come back with me!
Whilst I was waiting for Beki, I had a moment where I thought bloody hell, I did it. And mixed in there was a sadness to leave the road behind, if only for a while, and leave all my friends here behind, even if also only for a while..

But im lucky in my life that I have family and friends to return to, a job I love and a big country gig or 2, where I will be helping to swab people for the bone marrow donor list, and no doubt jumping up and down to The Journey!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me, together the rough total is around £5800 raised and im so grateful to all who have shared this with me.

What we do in life always echoes inside ( - Mike Peters )- so dream aloud, Fight back and Stay Alive!