Europe is behind me now. I've been on a whistle-stop tour of France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey! Phew. My impression of each country has been coloured somewhat by cycling conditions and by my day-to-day mental state. So if I say I didn't really enjoy Romania it's not because it's not a lovely country full of beautiful landscapes and interesting people. It's because I had a headwind that cut my speed by more than half – for two whole days – and nearly had me weeping into my sleeve.
I've mostly been stealth-camping, which involves either camping in the woods where no one can see you or next to a road so late at night, and leaving so early in morning, that no one notices or cares. My tiny little GoLite tent has served me well; I'm now a dab hand at getting it up in the dark.
A balanced diet has been difficult to source at times, partly due to my limited language skills. There's been little on the trip to match the joy I felt on finding a mobile purveyor of roast chicken by a roadside in Ukraine. When I do find a restaurant on the road (which is not that often) I have sometimes had to play menu lottery. The shortest straw was drawn in Germany (some kind of schnitzel with an awful lot of nasty sauce). The longest was in Bulgaria (chicken and chips!).
Because the first three weeks are really part of the training, I've had to do very long days to get the mileage done, sometimes spending up to 14 hours a day in the saddle. I had a few teething problems with my knees (to mix my metaphors), and tendonitis in my heels, but it all seems to have calmed down now. Someone asked me before I left whether I considered myself an athlete. I was a bit confused at the time and had to look up what the word meant exactly. I learned that "athletes" compete against each other for prizes.
I am going for a world record but if I break it I'll only ever keep my time; that is a prize you always keep. I'm doing this to raise money for, and awareness of, a Parkinson's Disease research charity. Breaking the record is important to me because a challenge like this in some small way, reflects the challenge of undertaking ground-breaking medical research on a shoe-string budget. It's thoughts like these that keep me going.
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