Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Dropping in

February 16th, 2012

"A travel moon gives your life an exciting international flavour" – today’s horoscope

I’d been a bright but utterly bitter start to the final day on the road. Sharp rather than merely crisp. Buried deep inside heavy winter gloves, the tips of my fingers had throbbed. The rear brake cable had frozen solid, forcing me to have to disconnect it. Moisture ingress from yesterday. Even the higher hub gears felt sluggish.

I’d stopped short in Bridgwater the previous night. Fading light and a busy road. It’d left me about thirteen miles or so to reach BBC Somerset’s Taunton studio the next morning, but I was confident I could manage that without too much drama. Much safer in daylight.

Winding through the still quiet streets of Taunton, I’d stumbled on my local MP. He’d come to wave me off when I’d set out from Fitzhead. But now a Minister of State, I knew he’d business to attend to out of the constituency and wouldn’t be able to welcome me back. Hopeful we’d catch up later.

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9.20am. Outside the studio. I’d just over an hour before joining Emma Britton on air for her Saturday morning Somerset Live show. Intern Rob let me in. We chatted for a while. He’d cycled in as well. Then greeted with a big hug from presenter Emma before she dashed off to make a few last minute adjustments to the running order.

Getting my fully-laden trusty steed into the small studio had been tricky. But worth it. Nice to know these sort of things weren’t staged, mere artistic license. And I’d remembered to switch off my phone moments before wheeling her in. Close call.

Facts from my travels replaced the usual quirky questions for the show’s guests. I felt at ease. Pleased I’d the chance to recount my favourite anecdote. Trials and tribulations of partaking of kumus – fermented mare’s milk – in Kazakhstan. Adding I’d simply no idea you could even milk a horse. Emma almost choking with laughter.

The parting question had been about regrets. Had there been any? No. I’d said. Quite robustly. Although entirely correct, I’d kicked myself a little later. Far wittier response would have been along the lines of …just one… never quite managed to explain pantomime to foreigners… Never mind.

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Thoughtful

February 16th, 2012

I couldn’t recall being explicit about it, but, Tim explained, he’d realised from the blog just how protective of my trusty steed I was. Always careful to leave it in view, where no-one could bump into it. No exceptions. I was quietly impressed, and meant to say so. But we’d much to chat about, and less than twenty minutes before I’d need to return to the road. My travelling companion leaning patiently against the wall below the pub’s bay window.

Tim had caught up with me south of Clevedon and a few short-lived but ominous snow flurries. Dashing on ahead to find a warm cafe or pub to grab a warming coffee. I really appreciated this, both for respite from the elements, and a chance for an, albeit brief, catch-up with a great friend and stalwart supporter. Did I have time? Yes. Of course I did.

South of Thornbury, the previous night’s stop, I soon picked up a familiar cycle route around Bristol and over the Avonmouth bridge. I’d used it a few times and always got wet. Today had been no exception. A steady, penetrating drizzle. Easing for a brief period whilst I’d stopped to do a live interview with my local community radio station. Then quickly onwards towards Clevedon and tonight’s target of Taunton.

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Sickening feeling

February 16th, 2012

Pete was perched astride his own steed, a much sleeker affair than mine. I hoped he’d not been waiting too long. Not as bitter as the last few days, but chill nevertheless. We’d met a little south of Gloucester, just enough afternoon light remaining to reach his flat in Thornbury by sunset. Home-cooked food and a beer or two promised. And lots to chat about. Not seen him since a farewell drink on Dartmoor the night before I’d sailed for France.

It’d been a short day, no more than forty miles at the most. But I’d been very glad of this. My ribs had ached furiously and I’d resorted to stronger medication. Discovering that a cumulative dose was effective in subduing the pain, but the nausea I was experiencing was much more debilitating. Knew that I could at least ride with the former, but definitely not the latter. I’d anti-nausea drugs, but didn’t want to risk an interaction making the situation even worse.

So, confident I’d be able to cover the ground in about four hours of actual riding, I’d decided to – quite literally – sleep off the sickness. Reckoning on the last dose of strong painkiller wearing off around midday. I’d little alternative. But at least I’d been able to draw some comfort from a conversation with Bill at the bunkhouse. He’d been a nurse and reassured me that there was little that could be done for cracked or broken ribs. And if there’d been complications, I’d have known by now.

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On air… penultimate day on the road

February 15th, 2012

radio

Courtesy of friends at his local community radio station in Somerset, England – www.10radio.org – you can catch up with Ken’s live chat with presenter Anton on the penultimate day on the road. Click on the link below to download the interview.

Download MP3

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Milking horses

February 15th, 2012

Ken and his trusty two-wheeled steed drop into BBC Somerset’s Taunton studio for a final chat with presenter Emma Britton on her Saturday morning Somerset Live show. En route home to Fitzhead later the same day – just ten miles remaining. You can listen in – until Fri 17 February – courtesy of the BBC iPlayer – click here.

Ken gets a brief mention at the end of the 10 am news that opens up the show, with the interview proper starting around seventeen minutes in. Shrewd listeners may notice the programme opens with Starship’s "Nothing’s going to stop us now"… Yep.

Such was the nature of the venture, the usual randomly chosen quirky questions have been replaced by a canter through strange facts and figures from around the world. And there’s Abba’s "Knowing me knowing you" in the middle – wondering if the lyric "…breaking up is never easy…" hints towards the future for Ken and his trusty steed. But then there’s Billy Joel’s "Uptown Girl" track a little later…

Ken shares various anecdotes. Stories of visiting a bottling plant in a police car, the horrors of drinking fermented mares milk. The latter almost reducing presenter Emma to tears. The main piece ends with Ken and his trusty steed getting their own traffic report for the final journey to Fitzhead. And yes, the bike really was in the studio…

[With especial thanks to presenter Emma Britton – who, incidentally, also writes and produces her Saturday morning show – great friend and supporter over the last couple of years]

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Heading for Thornbury

February 11th, 2012

Lunchtime and Ken’s back on the road. Having slept off a bout of nausea. Heading for Thornbury, a little way north of Bristol. Somerset getting ever closer…

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Outside the hostel

February 11th, 2012

Ken finally emerges into the bitter cold outside Stratford-upon-Avon’s Youth Hostel. Ribs aching..

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Early morning in the hostel

February 11th, 2012

Early morning in Stratford-upon-Avon Youth Hostel. Dry. And warm. Unlike outside….

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Warwick Services

February 11th, 2012

Warwick Services on the M40. Hardly inspiring stuff. Which is why Ken’s off to Stratford-upon-Avon for some inspiration from the Bard. For the blog of course. Bit of a long shot…But at least the fog has lifted…

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Daventry

February 11th, 2012

After an unexpected stop overnight in Daventry, Ken’s back on the road, bound for Stratford-upon-Avon. A short day – around thirty miles – but he’s being very cautious about arriving safely in Somerset at the weekend… And there’s still the fog to contend with…

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