Wednesday 6 August 2014


My welcome back home started at GB border control in Dunkerque where I mis-understood an instruction to go round a barrier and got a  severe telling off for what was considered a serious breach of border control. It was a startling contrast to crossing every other border in Europe without any checks.
I was the only bike on the ferry and the bike place was on the lorry deck, when it was time to get off I returned via the same doorway to be faced with a wall of lorries 3 deep, I tried weaving through them to find my bike but they were all starting their engines and it felt a bit intimidating. I retreated and on another deck found a crew member who took me by an easier crew only route. I had to wait until everything was off the ferry and find my way safely through the terminal, no easy matter. Finally emerged at the large roundabout that takes you onto the A2 or A20 neither of which seemed a good option. Eventually found my way to the town centre and a better route   to leave Dover. I really wondered what cyclists from Europe must think of their arrival here.
After staying with friends near Canterbury I went via an overnight stop to family in Dorking. The last day from Dorking to home looked like a promising weather day and I set off happily on a 70 km route. Using national cycling route 22 seemed a good plan but was pretty tough as a lot was off road on narrow steep rough paths, very overgrown with nettles and brambles. At one stage I got quite despondent when having done nearly 20 miles I saw a road sign that said Dorking 11 miles!  There was nothing to do but get on with it and I finally arrived home with rain to keep me company for the last hour.
The whole trip had been 3272 km, which is 2033 miles.

Thank you all for reading my blog and encouraging me along the way,  join me next year for a ride across Australia.

Photo below after Dover.

Wednesday 30 July 2014


I hadn't entirely appreciated how short the Belgian coadtline is, barely one days cycling. I knew I would be entering Belgium at some point in the afternoon and was happily battling through the North Sea wind along the smooth Dutch cycle paths when the concrete path turned to gravel. Even through the middle of fields all the cycle paths in the Netherlands had been paved so I checked the map and found I was in Belgium. The remaining 3 hours cycling didn't really get any better including a 3 km stretch on cobbles, seriously who thinks a cobbled cycle path is a good idea?
Last day today before crossing the channel tomorrow morning.

Sunday 27 July 2014


Well into The Netherlands now, just west of Amsterdam. As expected cycling here is easy as completely flat (though I miss the variations that a few hills give) and of course miles and miles of cycle lanes. It does mean of course that loads of people cycle so you have to maintain lane etiquette or get mown down.  The cycle signs are the best I have seen and could navigate through the countryside just with signs. My nemesis still remains large towns and cities where I still get lost.
I had a glorious day cycling along perfect smooth trails through fields and along canals without a car in sight.
Torrential thunderstorm yesterday had everyone running for shelter, I cut my losses and found a cheap hotel.
Be crossing the channel in about 4 or 5 days.

Monday 21 July 2014


Hopefully will cross into The Netherlands today though the weather has changed overnight from stifling hot to steady rain, reason being I bought another short sleeved t shirt. There is a clear connection developing between garment purchase and weather!
Will miss the German bakeries but not the difficulty with communication though it seems to have improved the last day or so. Trouble is using my few German words means people babble on enthusiastically and then I look blank and say I am English and they look vaguely disappointed. There is a short ferry from Bremerhaven to cross the Weser river and arrived as they put the barrier down followed by another couple on bikes. They commented in German how annoying to be 1 minute late and I repeated what they said in German and then much confusion when I couldn't take the conversation further. Luckily the ferry people took pity on us and let us on so I was able to share our mutual pleasure with the German couple regardless of language.
Now over 2,000km!

Thursday 17 July 2014


Quick update as no wifi for some days and have had to resort to McDs. Have been surprised how much less English is spoken in Germany than Scandinavia.  People are very willing but struggle, my tiny bit of German helps it along but still much more difficult to get information to plan routes and find campsites etc. However the cake shops compensate for it, I will make up all the weight I have lost!
3 more days and will bei Netherlands.

Sunday 13 July 2014


Although I have seen lots of other touring cyclists in passing it is only in Denmark that I have met them on campsites. Previously I was often the only tent on a campsite but certainly no more than a couple of others. The Scandinavians certainly like their campervans. In fact in the Swedish campsite brochure it says only 5% of campsite visits are in a tent. There are also a huge number of static caravans with all the trimmings - awnings, gardens, huge flat screen TVs visible in the awning area etc.
Anyway have had a couple of nice evenings chatting to other cyclists.  There was Manuel and Jan, 2 German guys who had met up a few days earlier and were travelling together for a while. Manuel had a recumbent bike which looked really comfortable and wasn't as low as some I have seen. He also had a device on the bike to charge his phone which looked very useful, will look into that when I get home.

Last evening I met Janine who is the first woman I have met who like me is cycling on her own. Coincidentally she also cycled the East Coast of  America the same year as me but earlier and in the opposite direction. It was great to share experiences and agree what a safe activity it is for women to cycle on their own compared to the popular idea that women are at risk on their own.

Saturday 12 July 2014


My plan from getting into Denmark onwards was to roughly follow the North Sea Cycleway. Theoretically that should be easy as it is well marked. However quite big sections are on off road tracks some of which have good surfaces and some very rough which is hard work with luggage. The parts I have done have been really lovely though you can't always see the sea as the dunes are in the way. I stayed at a campsite next to the beach, though it was so huge it took me 4 minutes to cycle from where I was to the beach end, and as the evening was so hot I was even tempted into the water! It may be the first and last time as it was pretty cold.
Earlier in the day I went to look at a display of sand sculptures based on a Viking theme. They were absolutely brilliant,  my favourite was Brunhilde.

But they were all superb and stay intact right through the holiday season.


Unbelievably I found the perfect latte in a surf shop. I was just passing and saw the sign not really expecting a proper latte. I went in and there was one of the surfing guys doing the barista thing. He said he enjoyed good coffee when he travelled and wanted to offer it to his customers in Denmark.

Wednesday 9 July 2014


The reasons I love Denmark:

1) Lots of cycle paths, all in good condition
2) Good road signs and cycle path signs
3) Picnic areas with tables and bins and often toilets and signs telling you when they are coming up. Very annoying to stop and stand at the side of the road eating lunch and find a picnic area round the next bend.
4) Excellent road surfaces
5) Gentle hills!
6) Extreme courtesy shown to cyclists, though sometimes have stopped on a cycle path halfway round a roundabout and looking at the map and look up to see several cars from both directions waiting for me to cross, then feel obliged to cross even if I didn't want to go that way!
7) Much cheaper campsites £5 to £12 a night compared to £20 to £30+ elsewhere in Scandinavia.
8) The weather is brilliant but I think that is more chance as was very wet when I was here last year.
9) The people are friendly but also throughout Scandinavia.
10) Good choice of food in convenience stores.

Monday 7 July 2014


I left the campsite in Norway at 5.30 am having packed in the rain to get the ferry to Denmark. The weather seemed gloomy all the way but arrival in Denmark was greeted by a warm dry day. Having been here last year I was reminded of how cycling focussed they are here. Just did about 35 km as was midday when I got there and found a lovely friendly campsite.
Shortly after my arrival another cyclist turned up with the same panniers etc as me. We chatted a bit about routes and route finding and he told me that the year before on a trip from Copenhagen to southern France he had become dehydrated and passed out while cycling and broke his collarbone. I then drank lots of water!
There was a terrific thunderstorm this morning and I was very pleased to have a decent tent as the rain and thunder crashed down around me I stayed nice and dry
The other cyclist was not so lucky and I found him in the camp kitchen this morning drying out his sleeping bag etc.

Onwards through Denmark now.


Having got the ferry across the Oslo fjord I set off for a 3 to 4 day ride to Kristiansand and then the ferry to Denmark. On the second day I was going through Larvik which looked like a small fishing port on the map and turned out to be a huge industrial port. I then remembered a long conversation I had with a guy in a cycle shop who said this area if coastline and the roads were very busy and be sure to wear my high vis vest as he had recently driven that way and had only missed hitting 2 cyclists because of their high vis vests. After enjoying the country lanes across Sweden I decided to cut it short and have a couple of days on a quiet part of the coast and get the ferry from Larvik. As it happened my day in Stavern coincided with a festival which included a battle reenactment,  like Sealed Knot but with ships.
So sorry Norway, I didn't really do you justice,  maybe another time.

Sunday 6 July 2014


Towards my last day in Sweden I was heading to a town about halfway for lunch and realised it was a couple of km off the route so turned back to a roadside cafe I had passed. While I was waiting for the the food a guy called Niclas asked me about my trip and then asked if I would mind being interviewed by a friend who was a journalist on the local paper. After a short wait she arrived and interviewed me and took some pictures. The resulting report can be seen on this link, in Swedish of course:

Niclas is a newly qualified English teacher and I am going to try and help him make contact with a school in England to create a link hetween the students.

Saturday 5 July 2014


Following my horrible day the weather took a change for the better and has been dryish since then. On my last day in Sweden I crossed through Norway. If you look at the map the 2 countries sort of overlap to the east of the Oslo fjord. The scenary there was stunning and suddenly much hillier. The smell of pine from the forests was lovely and the roads well surfaced but quiet.
I must have started high because I had a downhill for 2 or 3 km without a previous climb but then of course a climb out of the valley for 2 km but then another downhill. 2 for the orice of one can't be bad!
The sun shone all day and never saw another person in this valley. It felt like a secret place. Truly sublime!

Tuesday 1 July 2014


Had planned a hostel stay in Karlstad, it was about 80 km and made good progress in the morning. Stopped at a town halfway with lots of cafes but all closed as Sunday. Lost track of my original route and had problems finding the right way out of town, passed an elderly man on his way to the shops and passed him again nearly an hour later on his way back. He literally stopped and stared at me thinking what is that mad woman doing. Eventually escaped on the right road and a while later stopped at a cafe at a service station. At this point the route went on to the motorway, this is legal for bikes on some sections but not desirable. I asked one of the guys in the cafe if there was an alternative and he said, oh yes there is the cycleway,  just follow that. Great I thought, good surface at first then, gravel,then mud, then dead end in a field. Meanwhile had passed another man in his garden a little distance back who gave me my second 'where does that mad woman think she is going' look of the day. So in this field right next to motorway with 5 metre fence between.  Saw a large gate, not locked,  so open this huge gate, then have to cross motorway and need a gap from both directions,  which comes eventually not without a few more 'where does that mad woman etc' looks. Anyway after a scary but short motorway section and the rest on country toads I arrive in Karlstad. A bit more going round in circles looking for the hostel and I finally see it on a hill the other side of the motorway. Not possible to cross it and under is steps, tricky going down but impossible going up, so had to unload  and make 3 trips. Finally got to the hostel but was 10 minutes after check in closed so no bed. I could have screamed.
Ended up in an overpriced hotel but at least the breakfast was good.

Saturday 28 June 2014


OK, I know I previously said the weather changes every few minutes but today that was not true, I managed to get the tent packed about 1minute before it started raining and it didn't stop the whole day, and in fact it has rained the whole evening as well. Hopefully there won't be any left for tomorrow.  Days like this I really have to create mini goals to keep going. I like to get the first third of the journey done and then 10 km chunks as they pass quite quickly. Stopping is problematic as once wet you just get cold if you stop.
Got another cabin today as all very well being stoical while cycling but hard to maintain that when lying in tent surrounded by damp clothes that stay damp all night.

Hurrah, went over the 1000km mark today by about 50 kms which means tomorrow should be over a third of the way.

Friday 27 June 2014


I am trying to make my way more or less straight across Sweden to the coast just south of Norway. However there are some huge lakes in the way so it makes it somewhat longer. The terrain is marginally flatter than Finland but otherwise similar. 2 days ago I got drenched then got completely dry and ended the day drenched again. It was still raining heavily by the time I got to the campsite so I decided to treat myself to a hut so I could get everything dry. It was expensive but worth it!

Yesterday was the first day in 2 weeks with no rain and it was a glorious ride close to the lake for much of the day,  with the bonus of a nice cafe at just the right time:-)

This morning I am still sat in my tent all packed up waiting for the rain to stop. Getting wet later in the day is one thing but at the beginning of the day it is a bit demoralising.


Once I had got the laundry done I was finally able to get into Stockholm.  It is a lovely city partly because of the rivers and sea inlets and has retained quite a few original buildings. The 'Old Town' is particularly attractive with old buildings and narrow cobbled streets.  I looked round the royal palace and the Nobel museum which was interesting.

However one day in a city is enough for me and I set off for a shortish cycling day as route finding out of cities is always time consuming. Wanting to get on I left without hreakfast hoping to find a nice bakery/cafe on the way.  And indeed I got lucky! I found a bakery that actually made proper latte, the gest so far in Scandanavia. It was actually a muffin bakery where they did all the baking for their other outlets in Stockholm. The owner was Swedish and his wife Anna was Greek. Anna was working on her laptop at the counter and invited me to join her and we had a lovely conversation for over an hour.

Sunday 22 June 2014


Yikes, I'm in prison! Well not really just a youth hostel converted from a prison. I thought I would catch up with my laundry, they have an arrangement here where you have sole use of the laundry room. This meant I could wash all my clothes and just wear my swimming cossie.  I didn't have any washing powder so used my shower gel. Part way through the cycle a mass of foam escaped from the machine and it stopped. I cleaned up the evidence then had to go to reception in my cossie to report the problem. Miraculously within 10 minutes an engineer had come and gone. So still parading around in my cossie I started the cycle again only to have the same thing happen with even more foam. Too embarrassed to go to reception again I retrieved the clothes and rinsed them by hand, cleaned the foam out off the machine then switched it on and off to clear the fault (which I think is all the engineer must have done). Finally 3rd time lucky,  minimal foam and after a tumble dry I was able to get dressed. The moral of this tale is don't wash  all your clothes at the same time!

Friday 20 June 2014


Those of you that know me well know I have a bit of a latte addiction. Well it's not that serious but I do like one each day. Now Finland has been lovely,  great scenery and friendly welcoming people but the coffee is terrible!  In my desperation for a latte I paid 4 euros in a cafe in Helsinki, it was OK but tiny, about 2 euros per sip. In the interests of economy I thought I would try a regular coffee but several experiences later all I have had is lukewarm/stewed/burnt offerings. If this persists in Sweden I am going to have to go cold turkey on the lattes.
BTW and I can hardly believe I am writing this, the only decent coffee I have had was in McD******, yes you know who I mean. Good coffee for a couple of euros and free wifi.

It will stop raining in a minute

Reluctantly left the Friendship Inn and new friends with promises to return and definitely have that sauna next time. Thank you all for your warmth and welcome -missing you all already!  Have a great midsummer weekend.
75km ride to Turku today went really quickly.  In my brief experience of the weather here today was very typical. If you think you should stop to take a layer on or off don't bother because the weather will change again while you are doing it. Strong wind, hot sun and biting rain all in a 10 minute period! The rain was particularly exciting as it occurred on a hilly section and going downhill at 50km an hour in driving rain is pretty exciting and a bit scary. The thing to remember is when you are getting really cold and wet is that shortly the rain will stop and the sun and wind will come and dry you out.

Thursday 19 June 2014


The title of the post is the 'Friendship Inn'. I am staying here on recommendation of Tufaan. It literaly lives up to its' name with a whole range of people in and out, some family, some staff, some volunteers, some visitors but everyone joining in the work and the conversation. It is a really lovely atmoshere and lots of conversation.
Possibility of a Finnish sauna later. Meant to do some laundry today but much more interesting to talk to people.  Will have to be grungy for a bit longer.


I hear there is a bit of a heat wave at home but here we have had snow! OK it was only for 10 minutes but the rest of the day was freezing with strong icy winds. I was staying somewhere quite remote and there was a lot of hills on the way, shielded from the wind on the way uphill then blasted with cold air on the way down.  It was too cold to camp that night and so stayed in a chalet at a B&B. It was not  near anywhere to get food so the owner made a meal for me without charge. It took about an hour to get warm even with a heater on, so happy I wasn't camping!
Yesterday was warmer and had a lovely ride mainly off road,  disadvantage being not a single shop so only had a cube of cheese the whole 70km ride.
Really enjoyed the home cooked food on arrival.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Helsinki return

Returning to Helsinki was feeling a bit sorry for myself, the route was straight forward - down the 170 but because the cycle lane dropped below road level I missed a turn and cycled 10k in the wrong direction. Not only that it was really hilly which makes my back really painful but everything turns around and got back on route, took ibuprofen and the sun came out.

In the campsite in Helsinki I met Tufaan who is an American Sikh having converted 43 years ago. He kindly shared his food with me and some of his travellers tales. He travels with his mountain wolf/st bernard cross but sadly lost him a few days ago.

Friday 13 June 2014


I stayed 2 nights in Hamina with the intent of doing the 40 mile round trip to the Russian border. However I only got about halfway there and there was a terrific thunderstorm and decided it would be more sensible to turn back. I still got soaked but at least I got back before the worst of it settled in.

I returned today back towards Helsinki taking 2 hours less than coming out on this section. Have I suddenly become much fitter - no, I just worked out the route myself instead of googling it.


On my way into Lovisa I stopped at Lidl and while waiting for the rain to stop met 2 women who were sisters riding their bikes having just got them serviced. We had a lovely long talk and were happy to offer me a bed for the night but were sadly in the wrong direction.  One of them taught maths at the university in Finnish, Swedish and English! I was very impressed.

The campsites here have kitchens and it is a good way to meet people. At the campsite at Hamina I met a chap who at first thought I was Russian and greeted  me with "Dos vo danya" (no idea if that is the right spelling). When I said I was English he was a bit flummoxed as he had no English to match my no Finnish! However with some miming I found out he was an excavator driver and we had an amicable time pretending to understand each other.

Tuesday 10 June 2014


First day on the bike decided on a moderate 35 miles to ease into things and get used to the weight of the panniers again. However I forgot about the difficulties of navigating out of a large city not helped by my general numtyness at not knowing which way the map is oriented. With endless stopping and checking and retracing it took 3 hours to do about 8 miles, this was following a Google route which likes to make sure you use every cycle way between the 2 chosen points. I thought I would never make it at that pace but I met Karlo who bought me coffee and took the time to cycle with me to get me on a better route. He also taught me my first very useful Finnish phrase:
"Suomen kesa on lyhyt mutta vahal uminen" which roughly translated means - "The Finnish summer is short but at least there is only a little snow"!
So far no snow but 2 days of hot sun and one day of rain.
More Finnish folk tomorrow.


Hurrah, BA manged a faultless service at Heathrow with no fuss about the bike. Pity about the 3 hour flight delay! After reassembling the bike at the airport it was 11pm before I got to the hostel in the centre of Helsinki.  It didn't matter though as it was light until after midnight. I shared the room with Julianna from Sao Paulo (sorry if I have not remembered your name right). We chatted until 1.30 am about how our societies have much more in common than differences. Julianna then went out into the night life of Helsinki - the energy of the young!

Friday 6 June 2014

One Pedal at a Time.

When I retired I felt like a bit of a challenge to increase/maintain my physical and mental resilience. The method I chose was to cycle from Halifax Nova Scotia in Canada to Key West in Florida.

 It felt good having done it but now it doesn't seem enough. My aim now is to cycle round the world 'One Pedal at a Time'. Well not literally one pedal at a time but around 2,000 or 3,000 mile chunks at a time.

This chunk is from the Russian border near St Petersberg back through Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, France and up from Dover to home.