I wake from a lovely night’s sleep still exhausted. I sigh, resigned to the fact that the tiredness that’s developed over the last few weeks will take more than one night of good sleep to fix. Nonetheless, I’m getting frustrated with my body for not keeping up the way that I want it to. I don’t want something as mundane as tiredness to rob me of enjoyment of this experience.
Mickey points out that it’s been 2 weeks of intense change, plus a huge increase in physical activity, not to mention all the excitement and house clearing, a part-time working and gear shifting that came before. It’s more like 6 months of disruption, he says.
I think it’s because I take in every little detail. I can feel it when I write, each small new detail of each day has left its mark on me, affecting me in a way that I relive on writing. It’s why I can’t write when I’m tired, I don’t have the energy to re-live it all again. It’s good, it’s part of why and how I appreciate but it comes at a cost too. And when I’m tired and unable to appreciate fully I feel I’m letting myself down.
Despite the tired, foggy beginning though the day unfolds well, the sleep had done me more good than I’d reckoned on. Sometimes the tiredness is just my body’s way of saying ‘Enough. Just relax and let it all flow. If you can’t, I’ll make you’. And so I climbed onto the bike, too tired to worry but well slept enough to be alert. The perfect state to ride in.
The gasthaus we’d stayed in in Totdnau was by the road we’d been travelling on the day before and so a single turn and we were out en route again, climbing into the mountains on a main, well-surfaced road with wide, sweeping bends that swept us around the mountain in the sunshine of the day. The views were spectacular, almost dangerously so as the bends were tight and frequent - many of them unpredicted hairpins - as they had been yesterday but yesterday’s road had taken me by surprise on a fully loaded bike I wasn’t yet familiar with and I was too tired and tense to appreciate them fully. Today, by the time we hit a tight twisting road snaking up into the mountains I was fully eased in to the program. As Mickey would point out later we were making almost full use of our rubber, a good endorsement of our confidence in both the tyres and the bikes and neither disappointed. These little AJPs have risen to every challenge we’re thrown at them so far with no complaint at all.
We meandered up a mountain and back down to be confronted by several others, beckoning. Every few mountains were interspersed with a section of valley that we would ride for a time before burrowing through tunnels chewed through the mountainside rock. Riding next to rivers, then trains, then back into mountains again. Ride, lean, repeat. Zen.
My mind was free to wander whilst at the same time totally focused on the task in hand. Thoughts passed freely through it and back out again. I honestly don’t think I’ve attained that state of riding bliss since tragedy hit in the Isle of Man 18 months ago. None of it matters, no future, no past, just here and now. The next bend approaching fast. The biker you see, wave at and pass, salute returned – each swapping understanding and acknowledgement of the place you’re privileged to occupy at this moment in time, a brief, fleeting but spiritual connection.
Onward. Glorious views, glorious sunshine, lighting craggy mountains that fall sharply as if something has riven it in two, into lush green valley below, broken only by rushing brown river or rusty old railtrack. The stations along the track that we pass periodically would look more at home in a one horse town in a Wild Western movie. We stop to take pictures of a rusty old watertank and we’re the only ones on the road for as far as the eye can see for a while. All of this belongs to us just for this moment.
Even the crazy driving can’t disturb my focus. Rules here are followed to the letter but if there are no explicit rules posted then it seems it’s open season. Crazy overtakes, disregarded on straights then taken on blind corners as if overtaking on straights isn’t exciting enough. It seemed that drivers would actively hang back waiting for the risky overtake at the last possible minute.
Even that doesn't bother me - a sure sign of relaxed good-feeling. Their choice. I can see it all and I’m not worried. No-one is interfering with my safety, let them get on with it. This magnanimous feeling will change later down the line but for now the behaviour is easy to tolerate.
We pull into Sigmarengen and I see a sign for a campsite, almost immediately. Too good to pass up we follow it without hesitation and pull up outside. It’s only 14:30 – shall we stop? I need food if we’re to go on but I don’t mind if we stop now or later. We’ve made good ground today and fancy a rest and a wander.
We pitch and light up the BBQ for the first time after having visited the nearby supermarket. An English guy stops by to find out about us – Paul, he lives and works in Germany now and is on a team building exercise with his colleagues for the weekend but seems excited to see fellow Brits (or more accurately one fellow Brit and an Irishman!). Another of his colleagues comes over later.
People walking past look curiously at the bikes and a German couple come over to chat the following morning and offer some advice about recommended routes, which we take gladly.
It’s still so strange for me to think that people are interested in what we’re doing. I’m aware that I’m careful not to buy into the adjectives used by people, aware that I’m a little cautious of that look in their eye as we transition into an idea, an endeavour, a dream, and out of the realm of being individuals in our right. We embody something that is stronger than our personalities to these strangers. Ted Simon describes it as ‘a carrier of men’s dreams’ but it’s a little scarier than that for me. Take care not to buy into the myth of yourself that they’re unwittingly selling, it’s nothing more than fool’s gold and it’ll show itself for what it’s really worth in the cold hard light of day.
For the photos click here: