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The World's Cycling City

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My present home here in The Netherlands is Groningen, known as the World’s Cycling City. After living and cycling here since just before last Christmas, I’ve made a conscious effort to determine if indeed Groningen deserves this title. I think I’m in a reasonable position to judge, having cycled two thirds of the way around the world, some 37,000 km’s, through 38 countries!
But first, let’s have a bit of background to why Groningen is considered the best, amongst many other great cycling cities, such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Portland, Oregon.

Cycle path, Groningen

The cycle path on my regular 5 km commute into Groningen

The figures certainly back up it’s claim, as the city has the highest percentage of mode share cycle users in the world, an amazing 60% in the city centre and 50% of all journeys in Groningen are made by bike. With a population of just over 192,000 people owning 75,000 cars, bicycles rule – there are an estimated 300,000.

It wasn’t always like this. Back in the 1960’s cycle paths were removed to make more room for cars and motorways were built to bring traffic right into the centre itself. However in 1972 a new ‘left wing’ government made plans to drastically change the transport policy and make Groningen centre a car free zone.

Cycling in the city centre, Groningen

Cycling in the ‘car free’ city centre, Groningen

By 1977 Groningen centre had been divided into four zone quarters, with traffic prevented from travelling from one quarter to another, instead having to use the outer ring road which now encircled the city centre. Buses, cyclists and pedestrians were of course allowed to do so and along with pedestrianising the centre, a comprehensive cycle path network criss-crossed the now car free city. Car parking was moved to the outskirts and park and ride schemes introduced.
Despite shop keepers threatening to leave due to cars not being allowed to park outside their stores, the radical transport policy worked and became a model for other cities to follow.


No cars parked, so plenty of room for bicycles

In truth, you can get around in Groningen (and it’s outskirts) much quicker by bicycle than by car. To traverse the city centre from one side to another would take at least 30 minutes in a car on the ring road, whereas on a bicycle it’s no more than 12 minutes. But it’s not about how quickly you can go by bike, it’s about how safely. Entire families use bicycles as their only mode of transport and it’s not unusual to see very young children sat on the front of their parents bikes. The cycle paths are well maintained and I’ve yet to see any evidence of a ‘pothole’. I for one have never felt so safe cycling in a city and it’s because bicycles are seen as the primary source of transport that the infrastructure exists.


Smooth cycle paths, whether racing or leisure cycling

Take roundabouts as an example. As a cyclist of very many years, I’ve learned to be exceptionally wary of them, because they are a major cause of injuries to us cyclists. But here in Groningen cyclists have right of way on the majority of them – the cycle paths encircle the roundabouts and cars must stop and give way. It took a little getting used to, but now I don’t even check to see if a car is approaching and in the (very) unlikely event you have a coming together with a vehicle, the driver is at fault. No fancy lawyer arguments, you are the victim. Always.


Roundabouts. The cycle path is the right of way here…

Bicycle parking is also taken very seriously here in The Netherlands. There are custom bike parks everywhere, mostly free, like the picture below of the multi-storey bike park just outside the railway station. The neon sign (on the right) informs you of which zones have spaces left!


There is space for 5,000 bicycles in this bike park!

Or if you want that extra level of protection, their are 24 hour security monitored parks. It’s a dream come true and you begin to understand just how much the cyclist is catered for here.


The impressive Fietsflat outside Groningen station

And if you don’t have your own bicycle, Groningen, like many other cities here in The Netherlands, has a comprehensive bike share scheme where you can hire one and return it to any of the other participating cities.


Cycle parking in the Fietsflat

Bridges are built with cyclists in mind and it’s unlikely you’d have to wait (alongside the cars) to cross one of the many canals when a barge comes along, as they have included pedestrian and cycle friendly bridges alongside to ensure your onward journey. It really is a transport policy designed first and foremost with cyclists in mind.


Cyclists crossing the canal using the cycle bridge

Most of the canals have cycle paths running alongside them with clear signposts, many being part of the national cycle route network (Landelijke Fietsroutes or LF-Routes) which criss-cross the country. Bike only bridges are a common sight here.


Crossing the canal on the cycle paths outside of the city

So does Groningen deserve the title of “the worlds cycling city”?  Yes, Unequivocally. Nowhere in my travels have I seen such a level of commitment to keeping us cyclists both safe and happy. While I have witnessed wonderful cycling infrastructure in places like Luxembourg (another fantastic cycling country) it doesn’t even come close. I love it here.

However in just a few short weeks I have to return to England to have major surgery. I’ll try keeping a little more up to date with the blog then…

More soon…


1 Comment
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Just imagine how clogged the city would be if there were more cars… 🙂

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Unexpected Time

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Walking the icy lanes on the moors above the beautiful town of Haworth, I reflected on the last six months of this incredible journey I’ve been on. I use the word “incredible” wisely, as events have taken a more than unusual twist since the accident in Rimouski, Canada, which was the catalyst for all that followed. It seems now there is more likelihood of me falling on the ice and breaking a leg, than there is me dying of lung cancer.

Walking the icy lanes above Oakworth

If you think that’s all a bit dramatic, then consider this: five months ago I was fortunate enough to be taken in by Mike in Toronto. I was not well at the time and remember the visit we took to the Royal Museum, where I struggled to climb the wooden stairs. When I say struggled, I’m talking not being able to breathe well enough to physically climb the stairs, without stopping numerous times. Then there was my trip to the Cabot Trail with Hilke and another friend, where I elected to stay in the car and sit out the trail walk, because I knew I could not complete it.
I genuinely believed I was reaching the end of not just my journey, but my life.

Looking down at the town of Oakworth

So what happened? The honest answer is I really don’t know, but felt it was time to tell the story anyway. My dislocated shoulder (the result of the accident in Rimouski) meant I was never going to be able to comfortably ride the bike again, having it fixed in Canada was way beyond my means, so I knew I was always likely to return to England. This seemed like an excellent opportunity to have myself checked out and actually find what the status of my illness was. So leaving Canada behind, I made my way to New York City and a flight home. That however is not the full story. Along the way I fell in love and my whole world (and life) was suddenly turned upside down.

Winter in Groningen, The Netherlands

My first indication that something was wrong (or right?) was when we stopped off at a friend of Mike’s on my way to New York. Judy is an ‘alternative’ therapist and told me I no longer had lung cancer! I was very sceptical, but kind enough not to express my doubts at this time, though I had seen an improvement in my breathing which did seem at odds with my expectations. On my return to England I had my first series of scans, before returning to The Netherlands shortly afterwards. I would have to wait for the results, but never expected to be asked to return again to the UK to have yet more tests, because the scans showed no sign of the tumours present in 2012, when I’d originally left the UK to begin my trip.

The beach at Sceveningen, The Netherlands

My second trip to England confirmed the initial results, but I also had biopsies of my prostate and x-rays/CT scans of my shoulder, so that an operation could possibly be scheduled for April/May this year. In truth, I would never have bothered with this as I thought the time left to me could be better spent. My motivation for going through with it now is because I want to spend time with my girlfriend; there has been a surprising improvement in my health and the hope is I can return to cycle touring after my operation.


So where does this leave me now?
Well I’m once again back in The Netherlands, where I will try and learn Dutch and find some work if possible. I will do some short tours, but nothing major until after the shoulder is fixed. I can’t explain why instead of deteriorating, I’m now actually getting fitter day by day. All I can say is I have never been this happy for many years, I’m very much in love and if I’m truly honest, I think this is the main reason why I’m doing so well – I actually have something to look forward to, a reason to want to be here and it looks like I’m going to be around longer than anybody expected.

When I do return to cycle touring, I will not be alone. 🙂

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 5:50 pm

And people say prayer doesn’t work!!!!! So pleased to hear your health is so good and that you have a new Lady! May the Lord shine on you both till you are called Heavenward!!!

    Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    Andrew, it gets even better! After struggling with my faith (seeing death first hand did not help) I have found a new church, a new life and I want to once again worship. That’s a pretty big deal for me! 🙂

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Love is good medicine. I’m a nurse, so I can say that with an evidence base. People sometimes ask, ‘well what if love doesn’t work’. The answer my friend is ‘increase the dose’. 🙂

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Derek, I’m so happy to hear about this wonderful turn of events! Love and faith will take you far, my friend. I’m thrilled for you!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 10:46 pm

Hi Derek! Well that’s great news! The cure: cycle around the World, crash and fall in love:) I’m so happy for you and wish all the best for both of you!

    Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Hansi, two out of three I’ll agree with! 🙂

Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 4:17 am

Amazing news. Really happy for you Derek. Like they say, all’s well that ends well.

Sunday, February 15, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Brilliant, so happy to hear your post. 🙂

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Den Haag

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I returned to The Hague to spend a few days before Christmas with my good friend Sam. I’d decided to take the train from Groningen as there was quite a storm blowing in from the South West, which made camping inadvisable and I hadn’t been able to arrange a midway stopover to break up the 250 km distance involved in the journey. Truth is I’m not even sure I could have done it cycling in two days given the weather, even if Holland is flat!  So borrowing Hilke’s small fold-able bike which would be free to take on the train, I cycled the 5 km to the station and boarded the bike specific carriage. I was mindful of the need to arrive early as these carriages fill up quickly not only with bicycles, but large pieces of luggage. It’s a first come, first served system so arriving early is the only way to ensure yourself a seat.

‘Speedie’ is Hilke’s pride and joy!

Sam met me at the station and we cycled into the city, where we made our way to a local coffee shop and a bowl of ‘snert’, the local delicacy. It’s a hot pea soup which really touched the spot, as Sam explained he had called a friend to meet us and give a guided tour of the city. I never realised just exactly what I was going to get, but when Jonathan arrived it really was a lovely surprise to find out he was a fellow Englishman working over here in The Hague as a full time guide.

Jonathan and myself during my tour of Den Haag

To say Jonathan is an ‘expert’ is not really telling the whole story. His style of delivery, light hearted but extreme knowledge of his subject has to be experienced to be believed. Having travelled the world for many years (even before my bike trip) I have never met a guide so able to describe the sights being shown to me, he truly is in a class of his own and I’d heartily recommend his tour if you’re visiting the area.


I hope you’ll have better weather than we did and although not the best for photography, here’s a few of my pictures from my Tour of The Hague:

The Binnenhof and Hofvijver lake, The Hague

The Binnenhof (Inner Court) is a complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, next to the Hofvijver lake. Built primarily in the 13th century, the Gothic castle originally functioned as residence of the counts of Holland and became the political centre of the Dutch Republic in 1584. It is counted among the Top 100 Dutch heritage sites. The Binnenhof is the oldest House of Parliament in the world still in use.

The Ridderzaal, or Hall of Knights in the Biinenhof

The Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights)  is the main building of the Binnenhof in The Hague. It is used for the state opening of Parliament on Prinsjesdag, when the Dutch monarch drives to Parliament in the Golden Carriage and delivers the speech from the throne.

The Mauritshuis (City Art Museum)

In 1822, the Mauritshuis was opened to the public and housed the Royal Cabinet of Paintings and the Royal Cabinet of Rarities. In 1875, the entire museum became available for paintings and was privatised in 1995. The foundation set up at that time took charge of both the building and the collection, which it was given on loan.

Sam and Jonathan stand alongside the statue of William of Orange

William I, born Willem Frederik Prins van Oranje-Nassau, was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands. In Germany, he was ruler of the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda from 1803 until 1806 and of the Principality of Orange-Nassau in the year 1806 and from 1813 until 1815. In 1813 he proclaimed himself ‘Sovereign Prince’ of the “United Netherlands.” He proclaimed himself King of the Netherlands and Duke of Luxembourg on 16 March 1815.

The Noordeinde Palace

Noordeinde Palace is one of the three official palaces of the Dutch royal family. It has been used as the “working palace” for King Willem-Alexander since 2013. The palace originated as a medieval farmhouse, which was converted into a spacious residence by the steward of the States of Holland, Willem van de Goudt in 1533. The original farmhouse’s cellars can still be seen in the palace basement.

Department of Justice, The Hague

The building of the former Ministry of Justice has been preserved in perfect condition. It is based on the early renaissance style that architect C.H. Cuypers, among others, propagated for government buildings. Built between 1876 and 1883, the special appeal of this building refers to the fact that the Council of Ministers assembled here each week.

The City Hall, also called The Ice Palace

The largest covered atrium in Europe, the City Hall (nicknamed The Ice Palace) is a truly stunning piece of architecture. It was designed in 1986 by American architect Richard Meier and completed in 1995. Located in the new city centre, it incorporates the council chamber, the main public library, as well as cafés and exhibition spaces. The public can take a glass lift upto the 11th floor, so as to view the atrium from above.

I took many more pictures and the next day with Sam explored the outskirts of The Hague and Scheveningen, I’ll post those pictures in my next update. What’s pretty amazing is all the above pictures were taken on my iPhone and all the information alongside them was provided by our excellent guide, Jonathan.


That’s it for this quick update, more in the next few days…

1 Comment
Niek en Hanneke Veeken
Friday, January 2, 2015 at 12:25 pm


Amazing how correct your information about the main Monuments in the Hague are. As a local resident I did not know that “Ice Palace Atrium” is the biggist in Europe!

We did met on the camping place in Meiringen and you had a Cheese fondue in our camper and a good conversation. Come and see usand tell about cycling and meeting people.

If you want we can lodge you a few days. We are in Voorschoten which is at 10 kilimeters from the Hague. My phone is: 0031 6 8193 7235

Niek and Hanneke Veeken – Stam

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Merry Christmas to all my followers

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It’s been quite a traumatic year, but I’m really happy to say it’s ending on a high!

Friends here in Holland (oops sorry again – The Netherlands) have rallied round and it’s already been my best Christmas for many years. Tomorrow (Christmas Day) will be a quiet affair, but I’ve already been treated to more kindness than I could have wished for. Add to that the news coming from my recent test results (I still have to be checked out and have further appointments on the 22nd and 27th January in England, hence why I’ve not written about them yet) and it looks like it could be a good New Year for me.

I’ll write a full account of what I’ve been up to over this Christmas break, but I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all my followers, without your help and support I could never have made it. Have a lovely Christmas celebration and keep sending me those messages.

Oh and here’s just three reasons why I’m so cheerful:

Me on a ‘fast’ road bike. Going fast!

My first time out on a road bike for many years, borrowed from my good friend Sam, who dragged me round a scenic cycle tour of The Dunes. Fantastic.

Where to next? Sam helped me to see a future…

I was taken on an official guided tour of the Hague (more about this in my next blog post) but one of the memorable the highlights of The Hague was the beautiful Wish Tree outside the Peace Palace. Yes, I did make a wish!

Sam beside the Wish Tree

So that’s it for this quick update. Have a glass for me and enjoy yourselves. More soon…

Wednesday, December 24, 2014 at 10:41 pm


Wednesday, December 24, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Great was http://www.tourthehague.Com indeed, Jon is an impressive guide of The Hague indeed! Great to have had you Here, my friend, love also from M!

Rachel Sugar
Wednesday, December 24, 2014 at 11:52 pm

So nice to read your cheerful note. Wishing you a Happy Christmas, and wonderful, healthy New Year

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 10:33 am

Merry Christmas Derek from Lisbon! It’s always a pleasure to read your blog and it’s something that I truly anticipate week in, week out. I wish you all the best for the year 2015. I hope our paths cross again the coming year. If not, at least there is this blog to read:) All the best for you Derek and thank you for the reading experience so far.

Sunday, December 28, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Just keep living the way you love, the way you do.
All the best from Barcelona !!

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Cold & Wet

Monday, December 15, 2014

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!

My new (six Euro) winter jacket.

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!

Holland (oops sorry – the Netherlands) has lot’s of canals!

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!

Groningen Diepenring

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.

Groningen, and the beautiful boats.

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!

My kind host here in Groningen, complete with ‘Bob’

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…

yvette smeets
Monday, December 15, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Hey Derek. Just send me a Facebook message if you are looking for a place to stay in The Hague! Enjoy your time in Holland!

    Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Hi Yvette, chances are I’ll be staying with my friend Sam, but I’d be happy to meet up for a coffee or something just to catch up! 🙂

Monday, December 15, 2014 at 6:41 pm

He he he…
Yes, my dear, there is a difference between Holland and The Netherlands. This little clip explains it all – unless it confuses you. 😉

    Monday, December 15, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Confused? Me? 😉

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Hi Yvette, let’s meet Derek also together, Maybe, in Den Haag? Groetjes, Sam, 0611334511

Berard Hinault
Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 1:08 pm

”as we British have quite a poor reputation here, due mainly to our idiotic (football?) fans and laddish behaviour. ”

Derek, all through your nice blog you always speak of England and not Britain – until you speak of hooligans, and then it’s Britain.

Is this honest? I think you’ll find it’s the English and not the British who have a bad name.

    Thursday, June 25, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    You make a good point!

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In waiting…

Thursday, December 4, 2014

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.

Holland, and I catch sight of my first windmill

Holland, and I catch sight of my first windmill

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.

Hi Derek

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.

“Dear Anita,

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.

Love Derek”

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…


M. Gaestel
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Have a great holiday and a HEALTHY 2015.

Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Derek, you are an inspiration to us all, happy christmas chap

Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Hi Derek! Here’s to good news for you, for your test results and for greatly improved health in 2015! God is good, even though it’s not always readily visible to us and his love for us is ALL encompassing. His love surpasses any human love we have ever experienced but maybe we will never fully experience that love until we meet him face to face! Now there’s an exciting prospect! I understand depression, Derek, having been visited by the black dog on many many occasions and I know how trite some people’s encouragement can be: for example, pull yourself out of it, you’ll be all-right, snap out of it and various other simplistic things. So I won’t come out with anything trite. I will send you my heartfelt encouragement to keep a grip on whatever part of your life journey you can keep a grip on. Maybe now is the time that you are being carried along the sand, if you think back to the words of “Footprints”. Lots of love to you and God bless you in this advent season and at Christmas!

    Friday, December 5, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. I’m getting there, slowly, in my own way. This is the way it should be, left to find your own path into the light. Many have tried to push me along and it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve visited many churches on this journey, worshipped with many different people and cultures, and what I know is I’m still ‘seeking’ – I haven’t yet found what I’m looking for. I will step into church again this weekend, who knows where that will lead?

    Thank you for being my friend.

Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 12:45 am

Hi Derek! Roll your bike down to Lisbon. You’re welcome anytime:)

    Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Hansi,

    I’ll get there, just not sure yet when! 😉

Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 3:12 am

Have a great holiday, Derek

I hope your shoulder is better


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Home to Yorkshire

Monday, November 17, 2014

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.

Looking out over Haworth in The Yorkshire Dales

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.

Sorry about the eyes, but he is a lovely dog!

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.

Leaving Graham’s in the rain

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.

More soon…

Ed Cox
Monday, November 17, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Derek, Ed here. If you venture south at all Im here. Keep it up.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Hi Ed,
    No plans to head south yet, but never say never!

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Back to England

Sunday, November 16, 2014

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 Bike Exchange, Newark, New Jersey

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 wet streets of New York

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.

View from plane over New York

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…

Coming into land at Chicago

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…

More soon…

Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Welcome back.

    Hans Côté
    Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    I will apreciate every single warmshower. Hope luck is with you by now. And why not a hot tub session with your favorite drink served with a little umbrela, you deserve it more than anyone on this globe.
    May the force be with ya!!

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Cabin in the woods

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

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.

The cabin in the woods

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…

The beautiful lake below the house

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. 🙂

The house in the woods

Just a quick update then, more soon…

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Good to hear you are looking forward to being on the move again.
The cabin and lake look beautiful.

Have a good time in New York, and a safe trip.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 6:40 pm

At last! Woo hop!

Hans Côté
Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 2:09 am

Back in business, good to hear. You know that you ‘ll meet the right persons wherever you are on this planet. We want more pics and story. You are the hero of your story.

    Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Yes, back in business – but only because of the kindness of you guys in Rimouski!! Hans. please give my very best to all the staff and I hope the season is going well for you all. Keep updating your FB pages as I do follow you guys! 🙂

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More Upbeat

Thursday, October 16, 2014

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 bike that gets me around

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.

The moonsaddle

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.

View down the gorge near Rosedale, Toronto

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.

The Brickwork’s, Toronto

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.

Graffiti in the Brickwork’s, 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!

More soon… 🙂

Martin Noring
Friday, October 17, 2014 at 7:26 am

Hi Derek!
I’m glad to hear about your better mood and you sober insights in what the morphine does to it. When back in Europe, you are very welcome to Sweden! (If you don’t mind the cold)


    Friday, October 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Hi Martin,

    Never say never mate, Scandinavia is definitely on my list!

John Hoffman
Friday, October 17, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Good day Derek. Sorry to read that you are leaving North America without realizing your goal. But curve balls happens in life! We hope and wish and pray that upon your return to Europe that you will finally find recovery and better days. Godspeed, my friend.

John and Teresa

    Friday, October 17, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Hi John & Teresa,

    I’ll be back, count on it. Truth is I need to know where I stand before I can make life-changing decisions. 🙂

Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Hi Derek! Like said before, welcome to Lisboa! The menu includes pasta and red wine. Upbeats!!!

    Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Hansi, nothing would please me more than coming around – consider it a given! LOL

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