Monday, 14 July 2008

Long Way up

About four years ago, the boy and I settled down to watch something called The Long Way Round...which featured Ewan MacGregor and Charlie Boorman riding round the world on motorbikes...I think we were faintly confused with The Motorcycle Diaries which featured a young Ernesto Guevara metamophise into 'Che' whilst travelling across South America on a mtorobike. As it turns out both are worth watching...several times. The Long Way Round has had a profound impact on both of us...Fred has become desperately interested in motorbikes (boo, hiss - I hope it's a passing phase. I've told him several times that he's not alllowed one until he's thirty-five, his initial acceptance is now being negotiated downwards and I wonder when he'll realise that at some stage he'll be given the metaphorical key to the house and I'll have little say, though plenty of sagely advice), and I now long on a daily basis for the time when I'll be able to stop the daily grind and do my own Long Way Round. Target date is the day the boy leaves school and packs his bags for university.

The follow up to The Long Way Round was The Long Way Down..and this weekend we had our own version....dubbed The Long Way Up By mountain bike from the coast to forest...depending on how you measured the map, some 100-120km. We left sharply at 7.00 am on Saturday, having spent Friday on pre-expeditionary preparations. Finding a route had to say the least been challenging - so a note to Sustrans - please put detailed National Cycle Routes on your web site. An hour out of Brighton, and early fatigue had set in - we both needed a break, and vivid memories of an earlier failed solo trip came flooding back...I guess the land must be slightly inclined and it was an effort and a half. Overcoming this, we had many enjoyable sights on the way...being overtaken by six ice cream vans was a curious joy, and led to rousing cheers from the both of us...plenty of vintage vehicles on the way to the Ardingly vintage car, van, truck, bus rally...a steam-engine fair at Tandridge and not far off that a monstrous climb up to the North Downs with stunning views over Sussex and I guess Surrey.

Taking a novice 13 year old through the middle of central London on a cycle may have been brave or fooloish...there's always a fine line I think, but we made it without incident. Our pace was quickened as we went past key markers - Croydon Town Hall (?!!), the first congestion charge sign, forst site of the Gerkhin, Borough High St, Tower Bridge, the first green space after the smoke, school and then home. 10 hours door to door...not fast, but more than good enough. Our success was exhilarating beyond belief...for the boy a fantastic achievement and the high ensured that our aches and pains quickly passed.