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Craig's Musings

Benidorm 24 Day One

Leaving the ship and castle in Portsmouth

“This is a sixty-mile-an-hour road. You shouldn’t be on it on a pushbike!”.

That was the logic of the Jaguar driver, stopped, sitting in the middle of a country lane as I nestled against the hedgerow trying to stay on my bike. For once I was restrained. It was almost too ludicrous to argue against. Only 15 miles aways from my boat and a ferry ride onto the continent, I thought.

It had been a good day. A nice casual start to my day, feeling like I had plenty of time, only for it to slide away quicker than Arsenal’s European ambitions earlier in the week. Some last-minute changes to the bike setup, including two new pannier bags and a loading regime which consisted of me repeating the phrase, “Have I packed that yet?” approximately 5,000 times.

I finally left my house in Old Basing at 11 am. This would give me an hour to get to my partner Lorraine’s house, around 10 miles away, for a quick stop. As I cycled out of the village, I couldn’t seem to come to terms with the fact that I would now be cycling all the way to Eastern Spain. It certainly didn’t help when the first few miles of cycling were, as usual, a bit stiff. Doubt is always a great emotion to have less than 15 minutes into a 21-day ride.

Some more tweaking at Lorraine’s, along with a big fat baguette, the first of hundreds I’d no doubt eat over the next three weeks. We were on our way. I’d removed the case bag on the back of the bike when I stopped, spreading it’s contents around the pannier bags. As a result, the tent felt much more secure, laid across the rear of the bike. Terence now had more balance than a yogi. Good lad.

According to the weather map, we would have the wind behind us and a cloudy and sunny afternoon ahead. Wind, however, very rarely seems to be behind you on a bike, and when it is, you don’t really notice, just putting the extra speed you gain down to your own amazing stamina. As for the sunny afternoon, the gentle spitting soon turned into a downpour and we were, quite literally, cycling upstream at some points.

We got to Portsmouth at around 4.30. It turns out there are two pubs called The Ship & Castle in the city. Luckily, we stopped for a quick chat on the bikes before I started cycling the extra 2.5km to the wrong one. We’d made it. A nice little ‘workers’ pub right by the docks, made all the more working class by the crates of racing pigeons stacked out the front, being readied for transport ‘up north’ so that they could fly back down again. We do have some strange pastimes.

A couple of friends had driven down to wave me off and take Lorraine back home and we sat, chatting a lot about Bordeaux, my first stop, as I munched on a pie and a pint (of Coke). Then it was time for goodbyes. Both myself and Lorraine were trying to stay strong for each other, realising the enormity of what was coming, but there were definitely a couple of trembling words in there.

Getting on the boat was much easier than expected. All the uncertainties of the procedure faded. I’d obviously overlooked the fact that these people deal with cyclists every single day. I was pointed in the right direction and got chatting with four guys heading out for a three-day cycle around Brittany and Normandy. Not a bad way to spend a weekend and it was good to know I wasn’t the only idiot on a bike.

Finding my cabin was fun, as I lugged my heavy pannier bags upon the steep stairs and a warm shower was very welcome. I wandered to the bar for a quick pint and immediately thought I’d already made it to Benidorm. There were large groups of lads and couples taking advantage of the drinking time. I sat wondering if anyone ever drives off this boat in the morning and straight into the sea, thinking, it’s okay, I’ve had a couple of hours kip.

Sleep took a couple of hours to arrive after hitting the sack, not helped by the text message I received around 1am wishing me luck on my travels. At least people back home were thinking of me. It was after that I nodded off.

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