Holland is cold and wet. But nice, nonetheless. Taking time out to go looking around the local charity shops, hoping to find a cheap winter jacket and maybe an old fleece was a good idea. At least until the rain began to come down like stair rods! Before the accident in Rimouski I’d never imagined I would be back in a wintry environment for quite some time, so I’d off-loaded the majority of my winter kit. After all I wouldn’t need it in South America would I?
Oh well… how things can change!
At just 6 Euro, who cares if your winter cycling jacket is ‘breathable’, as long as it keeps out the rain and keeps you warm. This charity shop jacket does both. Job done. Two additional fleeces, picked up for a few more Euro completed a very good day out wandering around Groningen, in the northern Netherlands. Oh yes, that’s right – I’m in the Netherlands, not Holland. Something my kind host was at pains to point out to me!
Anyway, clothing now sorted, I even thought I might be able to turn up smart to church on Sunday. I’ve sort of been popping in and out of churches most weekends on my travels, the reason should be obvious to my regular followers, but to others lets just say I’m still searching for something I feel is missing… anyway this was my second Sunday and my second church here in Groningen. However this time it was different and for the first time since leaving England I felt something, but even more importantly, it was not the need to leave. So I stayed. ‘Till the end. Then had a great chat with the Revd Sam Van Leer, who is the Anglican Chaplain for Groningen.
Then it was time to wander across the town centre, to collect my host from her church (the one I’d visited a week before) where she was on kitchen duty. After doing my good turn for the day by drying all the coffee, tea cups and spoons, we cycled the 5 km’s back home in the sunshine. Oh bliss!
I’ve yet to explore Groningen, as the truth is it’s been just a little too cold and wet for me to be out and about without good winter clothing. Now that I’m getting sorted in that department, I’ll venture a little further afield in the coming weeks. I’m going to spend Christmas here, before returning to England for treatment in the New Year. I hope to return back to The Hague (where we basically rushed through) before then, calling in on my friend Sam again. But I’ll also be looking at getting away to the countryside for some quieter cycling. I’ll keep you updated with that as I make my plans.
A trip to Amsterdam will also be on the cards, along with a few other ‘tourist’ destinations. But what I’m really hoping for is a cycle tour of Scandinavia, including Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Might have to do a bit of checking on what is possible (cycling weather wise) in winter though!
I’ve signed up to a free on-line resource for learning Dutch, if only because I really would like to be able to greet and meet the locals in their own language. Something I feel is quite important as we British have quite a poor reputation here, due mainly to our idiotic (football?) fans and laddish behaviour. Ask any Dutch person what they think of us and they’ll say drunken idiots.
I’m also going to be trying to find a little work, either on-line or locally, to help replenish my fund pot. If anyone wants or needs any web (website) or general IT related work, or knows of resources, please message me. Thanks.
I’m being well looked after by a good friend I met in Canada. We’d hoped to see each other again, but in truth never really thought it might happen. So how happy am I that we had this amazing chance to meet up again, and if we are really lucky, actually go cycle touring together one day? I truly am happy – I never believed I would be here now… Christmas just around the corner and I’m so looking forward to it this year!
Tonight there’s a lecture and talk about human trafficking (in English) at the church, so we are both going to go along and show our support. Should be a good evening.
And that’s it for another quick update. More soon…
Two years ago I left my home in Yorkshire, England, to travel around the world by bicycle. I sold my home, my business (all my photography kit) and my car and left to see how long I could keep going, after being given ‘probably’ just twelve months to live. I spent my first Christmas Eve atop a mountain in Spain, looking down on a cold wet evening to the coast road far below and the village lights twinkling in the night. I remember I’d bought myself a large bar of chocolate to ‘open’ the next morning, on Christmas Day.
The following Christmas was spent in a hostel in Beijing, China, where they went overboard in giving us western guests a traditional Christmas Eve party. It was nice to socialise and be part of a group of travellers, but once more I spent Christmas Day alone.
If I’m lucky, this year I will not be alone. I have an invitation to join a friend for Christmas in Holland, and I hope to keep this appointment. For the first time in many years I’d like to make an effort and really celebrate this festive season.
Two years and I’m still travelling. There have been many times I’ve wanted to stop, because it was just too much, particularly after this latest accident and the serious injury to my shoulder. Yet I keep going, not really understanding why any more. I feel I have proved them wrong, done my trip justice and I’m ready to try living a ‘normal’ life for a while. But it’s hard, because I burned all my bridges. I didn’t expect to live this long and have no idea how much time I have left. Then I get a message like the one below, and suddenly, I know why I have to continue.
I’m just a little girl, 23 years old, living in Hanoi – Vietnam. I cried when reading your story. You inspired a lot. I’m also a cancer patient, blood cancer. I overcame the bone marrow transplant in March 2014. I’m going to take part in a trip for volunteer in the next January and a quite afraid of my health but you make me decide not to scare anymore. Thank you so much!
I feel so sorry cuz don’t know you earlier but it ‘s never too late, right?
Best wishes for you!
I answered Anita in the comments section (reproduced below). But it was a timely reminder of what this trip has meant to me, and why I wanted to do it in the first place.
I tell my story and keep this blog for this reason; to help and inspire others. I hope your health improves and you enjoy your trip, my thoughts and prayers will be with you. Be brave, but also do not worry about being scared – it is necessary sometimes to remind you of the challenges you are overcoming.
And yes Anita, it never is too late. Live each moment with joy and happiness.
I’ve now left England once again, after getting myself checked out. All the results are not yet returned, but there is good news. I have got an appointment on 27th January to see an orthopaedic surgeon for my shoulder, I’m awaiting confirmation of appointments with my oncologist and urologist (results of scans etc.) and the blood tests came back negative. Of course this will mean a return to the UK, but at this moment I’m feeling positive and trying hard not to let the depression take over my life again. Here’s hoping for further positive news.
That’s it for this quick update, more soon…
I’m sat in The Fleece Inn, in the beautiful village of Haworth, drinking coffee. There’s reason in my madness, because this particular public house has pretty good Wifi, so it’s worth the asking price for the small cup of coffee (£2.25). It’s most unusual for me to post blog updates back to back, but I think it’s important my friends and followers know exactly what my plans are and what is happening with me. So here goes.
After the accident in Rimouski, Canada, my dislocated shoulder has shown little improvement both in terms of movement in my left arm and the level of pain dropping. So it was a no-brainer that I would have to return home to seek proper medical treatment, as both Canada and America would have been well beyond my means. The good news is this: because I have to register with a new medical centre, it is a chance to have a FULL medical overhaul and find out about my cancer. So this morning I registered and started the whole process, which may take some time. OK here’s the deal then, I will get my shoulder fixed and make an informed decision about my cancer. This will almost certainly mean I will LEAVE the UK again and only return for the treatment, most likely after the Christmas period. I will cycle in Europe as going further afield would be silly and prohibitively expensive. But, and it’s a big but, I will eventually return to cycling the more remote parts of the world if my health allows me to do so.
I’m really fortunate in having a true friend here in Yorkshire who I have known for many years. Ian has never let me down, so it was no surprise when he told me to stay in his cottage while I get myself sorted. As he’s a long distance lorry driver, the place is deserted most of the time, so he’s pretty glad to have me hanging around. Just wish you had Wifi Ian! And Ian isn’t the only one helping me out. I landed at Manchester Airport and was picked up by Bob, a keen cyclist and Warmshowers host. It was wonderful spending time with Bob and his lovely wife Elaine, while unpacking and putting back together my bike and bags and getting some decent sleep – I can never sleep on air planes.
As once more the weather was pretty wet and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to cycle the 50 miles across the Pennines in one go, Bob kindly drove me across to Yorkshire and dropped me at the campsite atop of Baildon Moor. I wasn’t happy about camping out in the cold and rain, but a misunderstanding with another friend meant I had no other accommodation options at that time and so I spent 2 days camping out in pretty awful weather before being taken in at the last minute by another Warmshower host in Bradford. You’ll hear a lot about Warmshowers in my blog, and rightly so. It’s a fantastic network of cyclists looking out for other cyclists and without it, this trip certainly would not have been possible.
It was cold and very wet when I left Graham’s, not only fully loaded but carrying an extra rucksack with me. The reason being I had to call and pick up some very personal items on my way to Haworth and eventually I would have to jettison it, as not only was it excruciatingly painful on my shoulder, but it’s pretty dangerous to be riding with – the bike is difficult enough to handle when overloaded.
Cycling from eastern Bradford up to Haworth was challenging and saw me walking the bike for a good portion. While I do seem to be breathing easier lately, it was still too much for me. It’s strange, because it’s certainly not my legs which are the limiting factor in these steep (and trust me, these Yorkshire hills are as steep as anywhere I’ve been) lanes, I’ve more than enough leg strength available.
And that’s us now up to date. I find out in the morning when my appointments are and can then make better decisions. My feeling is I’ll be in Yorkshire maybe another week or two, then I’ll cycle out towards Hull, catch the ferry across to Rotterdam and call in on two separate friends living in Holland, spending Christmas with one or both (err yes Sam – I’m coming soon!). Then I’ll most likely have to return to England for further treatment before setting off again on my global travels by bicycle. The journey continues…
Oh and I’ve been procrastinating long enough about my photo books, well these WILL be ready for Christmas.
I had thought four days in New York would give me enough time to do the old tourist bit and in the process get some decent photographs, but things didn’t quite work out for me. Firstly I was unable to find a Warmshowers host and so had to resort to using a hostel. Not normally a big problem, but now it was. For some unfathomable reason New York hostel prices are truly extortionate (you can almost book a hotel room for the same price) and what you actually get is not even remotely decent compared to other hostels. So step forward Chelsea Hotel Hostel, by far and away the worst hostel I have stayed in, anywhere in the world. Why? well the bed was awful, Wifi (and poor Wifi at that) only in the shared reception area, no kitchen to cook food and a couldn’t care less attitude make it easily the worst I have stayed in.
However things should get better, as I’d arranged for a Warmshowers host on the final night in New York, closer to the airport to make getting the bike and luggage ready much easier. The idea behind this being to give me enough time to go out and explore New York, instead of worrying about getting everything to the airport easily and in good order. By now regular readers of my blog will know only too well how I tend to suffer from being ‘very unlucky’ at times. So when I learned that my very kind hosts brother had died and staying there would have meant being on my own (arranging transport myself to and from my accommodation and then to the airport) I was left frantically trying to find another solution. By the time I’d moved all my stuff across town, found yet another bike box, a large canvas bag for my luggage, I had no time for ‘sight seeing’ and ended up having to pay for a ‘cheap’ hotel room right next to the airport. ‘Cheap’ being a relative term, I was now using a credit card with no credit on it, so would need to address this problem before the next bill date. Like I say, ‘lucky’ I am not.
The (second) bike box was obtained from The Bike Exchange, the only bike shop within a taxi ride of the airport. Thankfully a few doors down I managed to find a shop which sold Police and Army uniforms and other related stuff, so got myself a huge canvas holdall to fit all my panniers in. While I managed to keep the bike box at the correct weight the bag ended up at 71 kgs, being 20 kgs overweight. So total cost of bike and baggage ended up being an extra $160.
It rained constantly while I was in New York, so my one and only wandering involved stretching my legs around the hostel on the night before I moved. No time (or to be honest, will) to go into the centre, I snapped the following picture with my iPhone.
The hotel were supposed to offer ‘free’ transport to the airport, only about 1 to 2 miles away. My bus driver asked me for $35 and when I told him to ‘bog off’ dropped me at a bus terminal. I’d allowed lots of extra time, just as well as I frantically tried to find out which airport terminal I needed to get to. Thankfully a kind minibus driver offered me a lift, asking only for a ‘donation’ of whatever I could afford. I gave him my last $9 in change and would just have to miss out on lunch. It did however get me there in plenty of time, again just as well, because they decided to completely unpack my bike box. Like I say, ‘lucky’ I am certainly not.
We left New York on time, even after I repacked my bike box! The flight would take a strange path, going via Chicago, which to me seems completely the wrong direction? No doubt there’s a very good reason for this…
From Chicago I would fly onto Manchester and hopefully a meet up with a Warmshower host at the airport. Would I at last find some good luck? You’ll have to wait for my next blog to find out, but I’m so glad to be returning to beautiful Yorkshire…
After too many weeks in recovery, I’m finally on the move again – the journey continues!
We (Mike and me) shared the driving down to Plattsburg, picked up the bike and bags, then drove onto Greenwich, Connecticut to stay with some old friends of Mike’s. I have used the phrase “the kindness of strangers” many times in my blog, but this was something entirely different. Glen and Judy have a lovely home in the woods and it wasn’t that they just accepted me warmly into their lives, it was the connection I felt, particularly with Judy. I feel I have made more than just another friend here, I think I have found a ‘kindrid spirit’ who may just be able to help me finally make sense of things.
As I wandered around the old wood cabin, empty and abandoned, I reflected on the last few weeks and the dark moods that had overtaken me. The light coming in through the window echoed perfectly with my present mood, that of being lit up and happy once again. Seeing the bike was like meeting up with family after a long absence, I’m truly looking forward to cycling once more…
So I’ve re-packed my panniers, re-packed my mind with more positive thoughts and I’m ready to begin. Woohooo…
Wandering around the lake was pretty special too, as it’s a very beautiful spot. Mikes car had drained the battery overnight (had we left the lights on?) so we ended up waiting for a new one or a charge to get us on our way. I took the time to quickly log on and update this blog and let you all know I’m back in business!
So other than that, not much to tell you. We’re only a short drive from New York, where after not being able to find help with accommodation I’ve booked into a hostel for two nights. It’s scandalous what they charge in New York, but I had no other option. Looking forward to getting back to camping, where I can start to get back close to my daily budget.
Just a quick update then, more soon…
Yes, after all the ‘doom and gloom’ of late, it’s time to be more upbeat! Big decisions have been made, which always help when it comes to having a plan. And it’s quite a plan which I’m happy to share, so here goes…
But first, despite the intense pain I decided to go for a long bike ride and enjoy the fall colours. Mike has loaned me one of his bikes (note the very unusual saddle!) and it’s been a real joy getting back out there.
The great thing about riding around on these older bikes is they don’t attract too much attention. You still need to take a U-lock, especially if going downtown, but it’s unlikely anyone will bother when they see it’s locked up.
I had heard about the moonsaddle way back in 2005 when I first had prostate cancer and even considered getting one, but this is the first time I’d seen (and used!) one. I did a +3 hour ride with no sore backside, so it does work.
Autumn leaves are stunning as I ride around the local parks here, and Toronto has more parks than anywhere else in Canada.
But back to my new plans…
The shoulder injury is such that I need to get it sorted, as it will not heal on it’s own. That’s pretty certain after two months and very little improvement (the accident happened on the 19th August) including no let-up in the pain. Taking the morphine to try and cope with the pain is partly responsible for my mood swings and subsequent bouts of depression. It’s pretty hard to deal with and stay happy all the time, although walking the local trails has kept me in good shape.
I visited the Brickwork’s, an area just outside Rosedale (where I’m staying) and walked around with a friend. It made for an interesting day out and made me realise that I really am enjoying my time in Toronto.
Where was I, oh yes my plans…
I have decided to return to Europe and not only have my shoulder checked out, but also see what is the status of my cancer. If necessary, I’ll have treatment for both. Whether I’ll return to England is unsure, as it all depends if I can get treatment in another part of Europe. What is sure is my travels in Canada and America are only being put on hold – lets call it ‘unfinished’ business, to which I will return.
Things are already in motion, the bike has been sent to Plattsburg, New York State, where I will pick it up on my way to New York City. I intend spending some time in the New York area and may even travel up the coast of Maine, before taking a flight to Europe. This will all happen in the next few weeks.
So, if anyone would like to help me with accommodation (and maybe show me around?) in and around New York I’d be really grateful. Contact me here through my blog or on my Facebook page: Derek’s Bike Trip
Oh and feel free to comment about ideas of where I should go next!
What do you do when you’re a round the world cyclist suffering from a serious injury and grounded in Toronto?
There is only so much ‘sight seeing’ I can do. Long walks have become the norm, more to try and keep a positive frame of mind than for the health benefits. The shoulder is not healing well. In fact there seems to be almost no improvement from when the accident happened six weeks ago. At an all time low and realising I wasn’t going anywhere, at least on the bike, I decided I’d try and find a girlfriend. Yes, online dating. Wow!
Only it’s hard. Very hard. After two dates, my poor confidence is in tatters. My first date was quite nice, except she’d decided even before meeting me I was way too much baggage. Why meet then? Oh, she was curious. So onto number two and this lady was seriously crazy, I mean crazy like when I told her I was not happy and wanted to leave, she tried to keep me a prisoner. I escaped.
There must be someone out there of reasonable sound mind who knowing my situation would like to spend time with me. I mean seriously, I have a lot of stories to tell, can hold intelligent conversations and have more than enough love to give. Truth is my feeling is I want to stop traveling for a while and ‘get a life’ other than as a RTWC. So if you fancy taking a chance with me, get in touch! No idea how it will work out, but we’d have a lot of fun.
OK so now I’ve finished with my request for a partner (which if you’re thinking I’m joking – I’ve never been more serious in my life) I’ll get on with the blog…
…oh wait, there’s nothing to write about. No cycling, nor will there be for some considerable time. Sugar. Guess I’ll just have to come up with something else. In the meantime, here’s a few images from my wander around Toronto.
I really do like Toronto. Guess it’s just as well. Mike has been so supportive of me and I have also had a great time with David and Pat in Ajax. They are kept up to date with my search for ‘the one’ and I’m sure find it all pretty amusing!
I should pick up my bike next week in Plattsburg, New York State, but I feel it’s not going to happen. What’s the point if I can’t ride it? I’m making things up as I go along, trying desperately not to get depressed about the whole situation, but I’m sinking…
Walking and more sightseeing will have to do and to be fair, the scenery is quite nice.
So that’s it for this quick update. If anyone would like to fix me up with a blind date, go right ahead. Or if you’ve fallen in love with me through my ramblings, let me know. I’ll travel anywhere to meet you!
Normal cycling service will not be resumed – for a while.
The mist is lifting slowly, I can see the way ahead
And I’ve left behind the emptiness that once defined my life…
It’s time for a more upbeat post. I’m sat here in Ajax, Ontario enjoying spending yet more time with my extended family. David and Pat feel like family, there’s a closeness and warmth here that makes me feel safe and secure. I’m happy, I really am happy. My guardian Angel left last week to continue her own journey, and while I found the parting extremely painful, I was so glad to see how she had grown in our week together. I have no doubt she will work out some of her own problems and my one wish is to see her reach full potential. You have a very special gift AJ, please make the most of it. I miss you.
My own recovery is a slow affair. The shoulder is taking a long time to heal and I’m still unable to use the arm (don’t let the picture below fool you). I do now have some painkillers that take the edge off, so I am getting relief, just not enough. So all this time is giving me a chance to catch up on jobs I’ve been putting off, like re-indexing my (over 6,000) photos after a hard drive failure. This was a disaster and I’m still recovering many of my early images, so I can put together the books I keep talking about. These will be completed while here in Toronto, so it’s something for my many followers to look forward to.
Speaking of my followers, I’d like to thank many of you. I have some really good friends and I have many others who regularly post on my Facebook page, wishing me well. After the trials I’ve been through, the friends I really value are those who listened to what was said and respected my need to sort myself out. You gave me time and space without intruding. This must have been incredibly difficult for many of you as I truly know how much you care, but it means so much to me that you respected my wishes and I know you were always there if I needed you. I love you all.
I returned to Toronto because it seemed wise to have friends and family around me and it is one of the cities I most enjoy here in Canada. It just feels right to be here, so I’ll be using this as a base to go further afield and explore. I don’t think I could ever give up my cycling, after all I truly believe it is keeping me alive, but I could easily settle here and use it as a base to continue touring. Food for thought as I try and change the future I had mapped out for myself.
So I’m in a much better frame of mind. I’m doing things I enjoy and I’m happy. Thank you all for supporting me, it has been by far one of the most difficult periods in my life and I’ve come through it, with your help and kindness. The journey continues…
As I watched the Bay of Fundy water back up under leaden skies in Saint John, I reflected on how perfectly it echoed my present situation. I’m struggling and have decided not to try and hide it. It’s a mixture of feelings, but being in constant pain and discomfort, not having slept for more than a few fleeting hours each night for over a month is taking it’s toll on an already depressed body and mind. The nausea is affecting my appetite, too. Maybe meeting up with my stuff again (bike and tent) will help, at least that’s my hope.
It’s going to be a while though as somehow I’ve ended up back in Montreal heading for Toronto. From there I’ll head down to New York where I’m due to pick up the bike. I somehow have to hang around until the middle of October to allow my injuries to get to a point I can (hopefully) use the arm and it’s also when I meet my bike again. I desperately need help with accommodation on this part of the trip as I cannot save money by camping until I get my bike and kit back, please message me if you can help.
No plan, I’m at an absolute rock bottom. So sorry for telling you this, but I’m tired of trying to pretend everything is OK.
Sometimes an event happens that changes the way you see the world. I’ve had a few on this trip; probably the most dramatic being holding a dying boy in my arms. Has it made me stronger? I’m not so sure. I know from my last accident in the Pamirs that I don’t handle time off the bike well, and now as then there is the dramatic decline in my health, both physical (fcuk you Jaques Anderson) and possibly more worryingly, the mental challenge I face. But amongst all this, at my very lowest ebb, I have been dragged back from the edge.
I have met a young lady who has put my own difficulties into a fresh perspective and made me once more question myself. Her name is Hilke.
These are her own words:
“Traveling alone, especially if you are doing it in an unusual way, puts one in a position where one meets many people. The ones who like a good story but who would dread to go on an expedition like yours; and those who are on an expedition of their own. Mine is to find myself. Usually I do look for myself by bike, but due to an injured muscle that was not an option. So I ended up going to Canada without it. Within a few days, maybe even before starting to go on the lookout, I have met a number of truly interesting people. Derek is one of them.
There are good days, and there are bad days. Everybody knows it. But what most people don’t know – luckily – is that there are days beyond that limited range of good and bad. Days when getting up is not just asking for too much, but even just inconceivable. Crawling back into your shell, or bed, or whatever, curling up and forgetting about the world sounds easy in comparison. Days when you reach not only the point of giving it up, but also the point where even giving it up is… whatever.
And after a while, you’ll find, that beyond the point of hanging on, trying not to give up or the realm of even caring about it, there is more to come. There actually is a point beyond it all and then you have to go on. The sun will go up and it will go down, whether you are in a state of mind to appreciate it or not. Sometimes it will get better, but sometimes it is pretty damn certain that it will not. And you never know what point you are really at, until you reach it.
Having a bad day, however, is only part of it. People are another part of it, especially the ones who don’t understand at all, or, maybe even worse, the ones who think they understand, and subsequently try to make you ‘feel better’. A bad day is a bad day. Period. If you don’t like it, get yourself a tampon and stuff it. Then there are those people who run when the shitty times really start. Those who cannot deal with the place or the situation you are in, with the decisions you make. A bad day, singular or plural, is a bad day, and you do what you have to, to not have to do it.
Derek is having a couple (or more) of bad days, and, unfortunately, “whatever” is not interesting enough to post for several days after another. But he’ll be back when he’s ready for it. Don’t panic, don’t run for the hills just yet, and most of all, don’t do anything crazy to make him feel ‘better’. Bear with him. That is, if you can. And do not be afraid.”
A fellow traveler.
I hope by the time I see my bike again I have worked up the will to ride it. It will not be for a while and my immediate concern is to stop losing weight, and with the courage displayed by Hilke to try to stop feeling sorry for myself.