Monday, 7 September 2015

On the road again!

It’s funny how differently time works when you’re getting up like clockwork at a set time and following a routine. You go onto autopilot and days run into weeks, weeks into months. When I first came back to the UK I struggled to get my head around the idea of falling back into that. I didn’t think I’d be able to. Then it happened and suddenly nine months have passed. I really have no idea where that time has gone. I bump into people while I’m out and about and they ask what I’ve been up to since I got back and my honest answer is ‘not much’. Because it’s true. I’ve worked, I’ve eaten, I’ve slept…work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep. Rinse, repeat. Occasionally I’ve punctuated the routine with throwing a few things on ebay or doing battle with a new section of the garden. I even went to a wedding once, but for the most part work has dominated.

It has been interesting working for money again. Having got Christmas out of the way I realised that having to actually find a paying job was a necessity if I was to save enough for the next chapter. A quick visit to an agency I’ve worked for before and I had some work lined up. In typical agency style it involved being given an address and a time to be there and no more detail than that. It turned out that it was an admin post working for a company that provides work based training for adults with learning disabilities. I can’t say it was ever an area I’d considered working in, but for the most part I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve had the privilege of working with some wonderful people, both colleagues and customers, and whilst I can’t say I’ll miss the routine and recurring process of ‘work’, I will miss the people immensely and that, after all, is what the very best things in life are about; whether working or travelling, it’s the people you meet who make it a good or bad experience and this has been no different.

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I did do one big thing while I’ve been back though - I got my motorcycle licence. My two main reasons for coming back to the UK (apart of course from being able to spend some time with my parents and catch up with friends) were to replenish my less than healthy bank balance and to get my motorcycle licence. The first was simple enough thanks to my wonderful parents, who although not pretending to like the idea of my next adventure, have been unwavering in their support, allowing me to stay and feed me and even to welcome into their home the various people that I’ve met along the way when they’ve come to visit. The second proved a little more complicated than I first anticipated.

In January I took the first step towards getting my bike licence – my CBT. And it scared the life out of me. Ok, maybe that’s a little overdramatic, but it certainly opened my eyes to just how vulnerable you are on the road without a protective metal shell surrounding you. I figured that although our plan was always a budget trip on a small, cheap bike, I might just as well get my full, unrestricted licence. I can't say I particularly enjoyed my CBT on a little 50cc twist and go, but it did the job and the next stop was my Theory Test. After standing in line with a group of what appeared to be a dozen high school kids (who probably thought I was there to retake my licence after losing it for some misdemenour) we were asked to roll up our sleeves to prove we didn’t have the answers written on our arms (seriously!) and we were let in. It was simple enough, only one question wrong about urban clearway restriction times and I was done. I’m really not sure about the purpose of the Theory Test. I know it’s necessary to test knowledge of the rules of the road, but one of my questions was ‘Why are trams environmentally friendly?’ I'm really not sure how knowing the amswer to that makes me a safe motorcyclist.

Then it was on to Mod 1 - I'd read plenty of horror stories about it and indeed I failed it the first time round after scuffing the cone with my boot on the avoidance, much to my frustration, but passed on the second attempt.  I did a little better with the Mod 2 test – a pass first time with zero minors. I had a good feeling about it on the day of my test. That morning I'd been greeted by a timehop post on my Facebook wall with a photo of a racoon on a man's shoulder in a bar asking me if I realised it was exactly a year ago that I was in Hopkins and thus exactly a year to the day that we first rented that little motorbike in Belize that first gave birth to the idea of the trip.

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I should pause here and say a HUGE thank you to Stephen Cook at All Bikes Motorcycle Training in Colchester. I found him quite by chance but as soon as he answered the phone on my initial enquiry I knew I’d found the right instructor. I told him that I’d never ridden a bike but that I needed to get my licence because I was going to buy a bike and ride it to South America and he didn’t bat an eyelid. He didn’t say it was a crazy idea or suggest that I focus on something a little bit less ambitious, he just said 'yep, ok, let’s do it'. And we did. We went out a few times and he focussed on building my confidence  gradually rather than having to work towards a looming test date and then when I was ready for each test I just went and did it. I can’t imagine there is a better instructor in Colchester. If you’re thinking about getting your motorcycle licence then he’s your guy. www.allbikesmotorcycletraining.co.uk.

It’s funny, as soon as I passed my second test it was like a huge weight had been lifted. It suddenly made the trip very real and that feeling I had when I set off with a one way ticket last time came back. Kind of a cross between ‘small child waiting for xmas’ and ‘small child on the way to the dentist’. Bit of fear, bit of anticipation and more than a bit of excitement.

My last few weeks of work dragged. Every day seemed like at least a week and then suddenly my last day came and went and reality hit. It was really happening. My flight to Toronto was tortuous in terms of the speed at which each hour passed, but was ultimately uneventful. A last minute change of plan meant I didn't stop in the city as I had intended but headed straight up to meet my bike.

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And that really is where we're at. The last few days have been a combination of visiting, shopping and bike fixing-up. We're on the final straight now though and our aim is to hit the road probably on Thursday. But then if we don't, you know what? It doesn't matter, because time no longer matters, nor do schedules. It's been a long nine months getting to this stage but I'm excited now it's here. Photos and more adventures coming soon!

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