|Is this a sign of panic? Should I be worried?|
“No not yet Matt. I’ll tell you when.”
“Good. Right. Now then PANIC!”
At some point in every trip; usually roughly half way, we panic that we aren’t going to make it; either in time or at all. Often this happens at a low point, when we are tired, or having an off day. Sometimes it occurs when we remember to consult our fag packet schedule to see where we should be, and find out we are miles off. I clearly remember a day of unbridled panic on both the Land’s End to John O’ Groats and the Santiago trips.
A couple of nights ago we went out for a beer, and congratulated ourselves on being half way in distance at the half way point in the trip; on schedule for the first time in many expeditions. In fact we appeared to have a day in hand. And we had also moved into a part of the country where the English speaking guidebooks came into play and could tell us about the landscape and history of the area, allowing us to enjoy more of the towns and villages along the route.
|We’re making good progress aren’t we??|
Stuart is a guidebook man. Where I’m happy stumbling into an unfamiliar town and making for the nearest coffee shop to people watch, he loves nothing better than digging around in a book to find the single most important sightseeing event or monument that the location has to offer, and then finding out every last fact about it, and translating it to the children in a child friendly way.
So there he was, in a campsite bar, with a cold German beer and a handful of guidebooks, happily devouring information. But before he’d drained the froth at the bottom of the glass his face became as long as his pint. He’d suddenly realised several things. That while we had done 900 kilometres and neatly had a matching 900 to go, the first 900 were all done on the flat and now the road would be continually uphill. And we’d miscalculated the distance. Our estimates of mileage were based on our earlier plan of cycling from Calais. The way we were now going involved more miles. And now we had boxed ourselves in with ferries, trains and hotel reservations in three weeks time so there was no extra days cycling to fall back on if we got behind. And it was raining; never the best weather for planning as it just reminds you what little control you have over the universe.
“Ok, Kirstie we need to PANIC.”
“Because we’re behind.”
“But I thought we were a day ahead?”
“Not any more.”
“I hate you.”
In fact I hate panic. I loath cycling deadlines and get angry and stressed when I have to go uphill against the clock. I’m a slow and steady cyclist, happy to put in extra hours, but at my own pace. So I refused to panic. Instead, I planned. If we could catch up a few kilometres every day, by getting up earlier or riding later, then we’d soon catch up the extra distance. I began by trying to rouse everyone early so we got an earlier start. Cameron refused to get out of his sleeping bag and Hannah grumped all day. So we rode on into the evening instead, turning up at a campsite in the dark, putting up the tent in pitch black and trying to order food from a camp kitchen that had long closed.
|OK so some things slow us down but we can make it up, can’t we?|
This morning we all awoke tired after my efforts, and only managed twelve kilometres overall today. Kids don’t do panic, and trying to make them keep up with our pace, or increase that pace further, at our will, just invites rebellion or fatigue. We need their buy in, their input and their full energy. We know this from experience, but sometimes we forget.
We get tired by all the panicking and decamp to an apartment in Weikersheim to catch up on some sleep and rest our legs. Meanwhile we spend the afternoon at the castle in the town, admiring the stone gnomes standing on parade in the garden. Stuart has his nose in a guidebook, and the kids have a lovely afternoon bombing a pretend palace they’ve drawn into the gravel with an orange bouncy ball. I relax, and watch the world go by. Panic, for now, is on the back burner. It may yet have its time.
|In the grounds of the castle at Weikersheim|