I’m not a fan of acronyms, though I do like FOMO and JOMO and KISS. The latter is particularly apt and thankfully reflects my life these days, well mostly.
I’m writing this as I sit on an aircraft whose operator seems to make things unnecessarily complicated. You can now pay for the privilege of queuing to the board the plane before everyone else! I preferred not to pay and instead watched the elderly gentlemen get his money’s worth by standing at the front of his own queue 20 minutes prior to priority boarding. And we all left Malaga at the same time. Genius.
Fortunately this was the only part of the week away where JOMO once again trumped FOMO and KISS was the order of every day. From simple car hire to lighting fires, hot baths, going out for dinner and of course riding bikes on empty roads full of eye boggling vistas.
And this is what makes me chuckle as only a couple of months ago, I was cursing myself for not speaking up and going against my own policy of never ever taking a bike on a plane.
Why? I much prefer to hire a bike. It gives me the opportunity to broaden my knowledge and test out different brands. The Rose road bikes we hired from sierranevada.cc were exemplary and not even carbon! Much better than the Pinerello Rokh that I hired in Mallorca at the same time last year!
But back in January, I was accompanying my better half at a Vet conference in South Wales. Hels had taken the initiative to book my bike with the plane ticket. My heart sank when she told me this. I’d spent all winter riding a 14kg steel supertanker and after the Puffer exploits a couple of weeks prior in forever sub-zero temperatures I was looking forward to packing my hiking boots and heading for the Brecon Beacons instead.
I tried to body swerve the issue and raised the issue that it would be “easier” to hire a bike than take one on board (knowing fine I would struggle to hire one in Newport). Unfortunately, Helen was too quick, she’d decided to book her bike on too making the fair assumption that South Wales would be tropical compared to permafrost Aberdeenshire. I convinced myself that was a solid argument.
So better buy another bike box then!
Packing it was straight forward enough, if a tad time consuming. No it’s a bloody faff!
Then as we approached Aberdeen airport it made sense to drop me off at the terminal whilst Hels took the car to the offsite parking. More time faffing.
And then you have to check it in. And then it has to be weighed and then dragged to the oversize baggage check. I say dragged as the “bargain” bike box I’d bought had no pulling handle. No seriously!
At Bristol airport we then had to wait till the end of the baggage reclaim as oversized items seem to come out last. A few eyebrows were raised and I was already losing the will to live.
“What you got in there mate” asked some bloke who seems as amused for some reason as his blokey entourage.
“Dead body”, I replied dead pan. I wasn’t in the mood for being the butt of some laddish tomfoolery that I detected was brewing.
That killed the atmosphere and conversation once and for all. And it made me smile inwardly. Nice to have the last laugh for once.
And then I had to drag this stupid bike box out of Bristol airport, which like most small airports of yesteryear weren’t designed to accommodate more than eight passengers at a time and was undergoing a massive renovation with either Mad Max or Tank Girl winning the contract, judging by the fact there was more random carbuncle construction than actual airport!
Our mission was to collect our oversized hire car. Yes we had to change the booking in order to accommodate two bike boxes.
The bigger car was at the big car depot on the other side of the rabbit warren that is Bristol airport. So we dragged/wheeled the boxes to the other depot in the peeing rain and stinging cold going off-piste at one point (i.e. there was no path, Max hadn’t thought of that). At this point I had the Smiths song “This joke isn’t funny anymore” and wondered if the bike box had been designed by Jeremy Clarkson. Naturally I’m giving the petrolhead a disservice because if he took his talents to bike box design the first thing he would have given in to would be a bloody handle to drag the damn box. Wheels at the front would have been more than useful too.
Eventually we arrived at our destination, Celtic Manor, and there was no time left in the day to even consider cycling. Thank God.
The next day I had the task of building up both bikes, doing long shuttle runs and wheeling/dragging the bike boxes across a fancy golf course and up to some double digit floor to our room.
A bit of a chew, but job done.
Now to construct the bikes. Easy for platinum qualified bike mechanic and instructor?
Never in my life have I managed to jam an allen key in a bolt, but as the photo shows, I somehow spectacularly managed it. Thankfully the derailleur was the last component that needed the attention of the three-pronged allen key and so I decided that as long as it didn’t impede my pedal stroke, I was going to ride the bike regardless - particularly after all the time and effort just to get the bikes ride ready.
My partner in crime decided to cut short the afternoon lectures in order to get outside and make the most of the dwindling January light.
Eventually we managed to negotiate our way around the golf course and out on to the crowded narrow country road full of pot holes and gremlins.
I had a vague idea where to head and thankfully found a small trunk road which ran parallel to the dual carriageway and the constant rushing of cars and road buzz.
Having spent the past three months riding our iron supertankers the pace picked up and we were heading uphill into a slight headwind at well over 30kph - ah just like the good old days of last Autumn!
I was about to burst with relief and happiness at such a simple pleasure when Hels made a comment about the hedges being too high (and hence a feeling of apparent danger) and she didn’t feel any fitter or faster on her carbon steed (she doesn’t do technology in any way so didn’t have the benefit of my numbers).
For the second time my heart sank. I was expecting a fellow whoop of joy in joyless January.
I kept quiet, denying myself of any retort. Hoping it would dissipate as the ride continued.
But as dusk turned into darkness it started to manifest. Will this bloody woman EVER be happy on a bike I started to ask myself? What is wrong with her? We are blessed, lucky, we are fit, healthy and we are having the time of our (brief) lives.
Long time dead you know.
As darkness fell and temperatures dropped to Aberdeenshire standards, the roads started to clog up as they do in that part of the world that isn’t the ’Shire. My hands were getting cold as I was increasingly having to stop and contrive a route back to the golf course hotel complex.
We stopped in a pub car park. Helen having a very good sixth sense could read my mood and even worse my inner thoughts.
What is the problem, she asked? We’re brutally honest people, so I gave her the full works. You don’t bullshhhh Hels, she can sniff it before you even think about it.
And so we had a very diplomatic lover’s tiff. I got cross. Not with her, with myself and the situation we were in and only a mile from the hotel with a dinner dance increasingly looming. I felt bad for both of us and very frustrated at our situation.
As my blood boiled over I took it out on the stupid three-pronged allen key stuck in my rear mech and stupidly snapped the damn thing in the process.
Yep, I guess, but I’m cold and fed up. This was suppose to be a liberating ride but I felt nothing but imprisoned from the first moment I packed the bloody bike. It was all my doing and I literally held my hands up, apologising for being an industrial dip stick and felt oddly relieved that I could no longer ride my bike.
So, Hels to the rescue then!
Unfortunately, she has no sense of direction and the tech on the iPhone wasn’t helping, so I applied KISS once again and showed her how to get back to the hotel by raising an index finger up a steep, dark hill on a narrow road with high hedges and said, “Up there. One mile as the crow flies”. And off she went, gliding up the gradient as effortlessly and graceful as always.
I waited and waited in a dark dank car park, getting colder and colder.
Message from Helen - she couldn’t get into the complex via the gate we left so had to climb a fence instead but she’s back in the room having negotiated conference rush hour in crowded hotel lifts. Mission Impossible theme tune appeared on my inner Jukebox and made me smile.
And so I waited and waited in a dark dank car park, getting colder and colder.
Another message - eventually Hels had found an exit out of Celtic Manor but had forgotten to bring the parking ticket with her, so had to trape back to the room, get ticket, pay for ticket and now, finally, she can come and pick me up.
I was beginning to wonder which was less likely to result in death, walking up that steep hill with high hedges and no pavement at rush hour or freezing to my final conclusion in the car park?
I didn’t want to go into the pub either. I was turning into a right mardy bum. I decided I’d rather die a martyr in the car park and pay for my crimes in a noble manner. Who knows, maybe they will name the car park even after me? It did smell a bit of wee (admittedly my own, ahem), so it would be quite apt.
Message from Helen - on my way! I checked to see where she was via the app I have on my phone. Um, heading east in the opposite direction towards Bristol on the Motorway. She’s had enough. Don’t blame her. It will be a slow death.
After all I deserve to die in this car park (which will soon be named after me) - he died for his services to cycling…
Eventually after an hour of tap dancing and amusing early evening revellers in the car park with my story, Helen finally arrived and I told her about my virtual martyrdom and we just laughed and laughed and laughed all the way to the dinner dance and long into the night.
But we were far from done. Whilst cycling was definitely off the cards due to one very broken bike, but we now had to dissemble them in order to get them into the bike boxes. Not possible when the tool that you need is embedded in a broken rear derailleur that resembles a poor imitation of Boudica’s chariot!
Surely someone in the megalithic golfing complex would have a multi tool? The polite and well trained receptionists didn’t quite catch my drift.
“No I don’t need a number 4 and 5 iron. I need a 4 and 5 millimetre allen key”.
It felt more like 5 off the tee. I was trying and trying but getting increasingly nowhere and frustrated again. I was officially losing the will to live. It wasn’t their fault. I guess they are used to fat golfers (I use to be one) walking the corridors. Not fit cyclists.
They suggested the Spa club. I wasn’t quite planning on giving my CX bike a facial and massage but it was worth a pop.
I asked for the manager and lo and behold he had a Park Multitool. Breakthrough.
An hour later I was wheeling/dragging the bike boxes one by one across the path that splits the elevated green from the 18th tee.
Job done. For now…
We had an evening with friends looming and the prospect of going for a Sunday ride was as appealing as the south west mizzle which seemed to follow us all the way from South Wales to Bath. A day later and Hels this time had dropped me at she thought was the front door to the terminal at Bristol airport. Judging by all the other passengers, no one seemed sure where the terminal building was. The huge din of planes taking off into the mist gave the impression that we were actually at an airport, so I started dragging/wheeling again and followed the hordes. I was hoping a portal in the space-time continuum would open up and transport me, the boxes and Hels back to our sofa and put the fire on for us.
That daydream was burst when Helen messaged me again.
It was a 50:50 shout, the solid logic of taking the oversized car back to the depot she drove it out of on Thursday night was a good call. But no, it should have been returned to the MAIN depot. It took her another half hour to get out of one car park, realising she had to pay to get out at the barrier, but not having the correct coinage. Time was running out and we had to check our bags and bike boxes quick smart.
At the check-in we were informed that only one bike box was booked on the plane. That’s ok, I said in my head, I will leave mine in the middle of the terminal and happily watch security blow it up!
But it was my box that had been checked in. An argument was brewing with the airline staff about the other bike box. I started looking for that space-time continuum portal again. Surely Tank Girl has one planned for this airport? Probably, but “under construction”, obviously.
Eventually we arrived back at Aberdeen “International” airport which makes Bristol look like Schiphol. Whilst I waited with the bike boxes collected, Hels had to wait for the courtesy bus to take her to the off-site car park in order to come back for me and the boxes.
Tick, tock, freezing rain. I stared down at my hiking boots and grinned at the simple and beautiful irony.
Total ride time in the past four days…1 hour 34 minutes. Total amount of time and money just to ride the aforementioned 1 hour and 34 minutes?
Don’t get me started!