My phone vibrated in the distance, quickly followed by the ear-piercing screech of its alarm. It’s 4am and far too early for this, I can’t ignore the noise but somehow manage to pick out a rhythm and follow it in my head, this works… I even manage to loosely stick words from a Bob Dylan song onto the previously unbearable din, yes this works… I repeat the same string of words in my head, I’m not even sure if they make any sense but still, this works. My escape is dashed when the back up alarm opens up with competing tone and in the confusion I have a moment of clarity… I have got a ferry to catch in 4 hours! I’ve got to load my motorcycle, check my gear, secure the house and get to a ferry port in 4 hours to start my long journey to the Arctic Circle and back, now that is worth getting up for!
While running the Madrid marathon a few weeks back I thought I damaged my hamstring and subsequent training proved that to be right. A lot of physio later and I am not entirely convinced that I have fixed the problem but I reckon that I’ll be OK for a marathon, provided I observe my physios’ advice and stretch while travelling. I double checked my running gear, enough for 2 training runs and my race-day gear. I always plan for a few training runs when travelling but never seem to get the time, opportunity, or perhaps the inclination to get one in. There always seems to be something much more interesting to do.
Throwing my leg over a fully laden motorcycle that morning was something quite special, I would do it a hundred times over the next three weeks but that morning it was such an exciting feeling, knowing that I would see places I would never otherwise be able to see and meet people I would be unlikely to meet had I traveled any other way.
It’s a heavy machine unladen, but with all my gear secured on-board it’s extremely heavy and takes some getting used to. The first few miles that morning were a little shaky to say the least. My camping gear was strapped to my passenger seat directly behind me. Tent, ground sheet, sleeping bag, mosquito net and a range of miscellaneous items took up a significant amount of space but I felt it was worth it even if I only used them once to get out of a jam. Another essential, but unsure if I’ll actually need it, was wet weather gear in addition to the Goretex gear I was wearing. The forecast was good but experience has taught me to expect any weather at any time and having an extra layer of waterproofing could come in very useful if I experience consecutive days of wet weather.
I made it to Dublin Port and boarded the ferry almost immediately. I drew up alongside another motorcycle as its rider was lashing his machine to the deck. It was a cruiser with a couple of mall soft panniers straddling the rear seat. Once I dismounted we got talking, he proudly announced that he was taking the long way to Italy. I immediately announced I was taking the long way to Norway. I think I won round 1. I asked him if he was travelling with others, where was the rest of his luggage? He said he never travels with more than two days essentials… it was man, machine and the open road. We left it at a draw.
Arriving in Holyhead port was a little nostalgic for me. My old ship, the Stena Explorer, was moored alongside the inner harbour wall and I rode past the lynkspan that I knew so well from countless arrivals with passengers from Dún Laoghaire harbour in Ireland. Memories of working on that ship were crammed with happy thoughts and wonderful people, the days were long and the work demanding but there was something about the people who made it a remarkable place to be. Despite the low pay, hard work and bearable conditions I look back at the job as one of the best I have ever had.
I pushed on, around Holyhead and through Bangor, home to my Alma Mater and fond memories of student life. I had a long ride ahead but before I crossed the Welsh-English border I had just enough time to visit my friend Katie and her family. Her children enjoy speaking Welsh and as I only got as far as swear words while living in Wales I avoided showing off. After much coffee and catching up I hit the road again and headed straight for Harwich.
I got there early and had time to visit a supermarket to stock up on some non-essentials that I thought I’d miss while in Scandinavia. The ships’ car deck was a welcome sight and once my motorcycle was safely lashed to the deck I made a beeline for my cabin to get out of my heavy gear and then straight to the bar for a long-awaited, and well deserved, pint before foraging for food in one of the classy restaurants on-board. Back in my cabin I climbed into bed, giddy with excitement at what lay ahead… Arctic Circle here I come!!!