As I picked up the keys for the car I realised with horror that I’d not thought this through…Six weeks supporting my Significant Other (S.O.) to cross the Pyrenees from West to East, and I’d never driven on that side of the road before! I say ‘that side’, as despite my generally competent map reading skills, I struggle knowing left from right. Luckily, I remember my son’s explanation that as long as I drive a car designed for the country, I just need the steering wheel to be in the middle of the road. Correct side of road to drive on sorted.
Next was getting to terms with changing the gears. First gear was a pig and I stalled repeatedly. The stress levels were mounting before we even got to our first night of accommodation some 15 miles away. I never made it to 5th gear never mind 6th gear on my first few days.
Then, I look at the road map properly for the first time. The roads were just a succession of squiggles in different colours with arrows indicating degrees of steepness. And I’ve committed to driving around on these roads in an unfamiliar car on the other side. Madness!
Maybe a sat nav will help….so it’s off to Decathlon on an unfettered spending spree. Several pounds lighter – unfortunately shed from my pocket rather than my body – and I have a hybrid bike, a table, two chairs, thermos flask, small tent, picnic blanket and a Sat Nav system. Of course I forgot to check before purchasing these things that they would fit in the car. By yanking the passenger seat and driver seat to the tightest positions all fits in just – though I still have to pick up the main luggage from the Air B&B.
Florence, my bike becomes my right hand woman. When I finally spit the dummy and decide I can no longer do the squiggly roads I take Florence to meet my S.O. along with Wendy (House) the very small tent. Mist, rain, electrical storms, wild boar, snakes, campervans and the Tour de France. Florence sticks with me and sometimes Wendy too. Wendy means we can camp if need be without hauling the big comfy tent about. And the sat nav? Well that never made it out of the box. I realised once I had bought it that I needed a computer to connect to and download the software before it would work. My kindle was unable to help….
I discover that cycling up steep roads –even with a load on my back is enjoyable. About 3 days from the end of this epic journey, where we have struck camp each day and moved on, with my S.O. running up and down the mountains, whilst I twist and wind my way to the next destination gripping the steering wheel with mounting tension, I have a light bulb moment: I could have supported the trip by cycling the whole way from the start! My mind races back over the roads and reflects on how much more enjoyable the trip would have been. I had repeatedly cursed the Romans for failing to make an impact in this part of the world but actually, if you are cycling, the place is perfect. So, next time, I will try and pay more attention to detail and consider all the options before committing to such an adventure.