It's some years since I'd read Long Way Round; an account by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman of their ride around the world, west to east, on motorbikes. Apart from riding my sisters rusting 50cc Honda Vision when I was 13 years old, I'd never ridden a motorbike of any kind but whilst reading their book, I felt like I was on their journey. I felt like I'd been with them and experienced the things they'd experienced. It also lit something within me which had been burning since reading the last page of their journey and closing the book. I too wanted to live out an ad-venture like they had. I wanted to travel and to come home with success and stories to tell. However, without a film star's bank balance or a bike with an engine, a more modest adventure and pedal power would have to suffice. And suffice it did!
A congratulations banner had been strung across the single track lane which I’d not seen until the last moment. "You nearly killed me" I screamed as I rather ungracefully tried to control a front wheel skid across the moss covered tarmac, as I crossed the finish line of my biggest ride up to August 2008. A one day, 130 mile jaunt from Scarborough to Windermere in the Lake District. I'd ridden with Sam, my brother in law, into the unknown as far as fitness and stamina were concerned. We had been training but nothing like we should have done. We completed short weekend rides but the longest ride was only about 30 miles and these were nothing to prepare us for what was to come. Despite all of this, we somehow made it to Windermere in good time and not too broken! I remember standing by our bikes in the sun, drinking a celebratory can of lager saying we should do this every year. Six years and several failed plans would pass before I'd take on anything like this again.
Fast forward to July 2013 to a hot summer night at the Scalby Manor pub. A group of us were there for a friends birthday and to see the 'legendary' local singer, Danny Whilde. It was so hot in the pub that a few of us took our drinks outside which is when I was introduced to Nick who was there with some mutual friends. He was there on his bike so we started with bike talk and got on well for the rest of the evening. Had it not been for that chance meeting, Nick may have got away with a much less gruelling and a much more relaxing summer of 2014.
Around the same time of year I'd been speaking with Jonny about riding the 160 mile Coast to Coast that summer in 2013. We were each so busy and we were running out of time as to when we'd realistically be able to achieve it before the poorer weather began from September or October. We even discussed riding it over two days but we knew that the real sense of achievement was going to come through riding it in one go. I can't speak for Jonny but looking back at the training I did for Coast to Coast 2014, I would never have been fit enough to be able to enjoy, or even complete, the Coast to Coast in 2013. We just didn't have the time to work towards it and it would have been a rushed job. I didn't want to fail.
It was December 2013 that I'd seen the Yorkshire Wolds Way Challenge promoted on Facebook. This was an organised ride, over two days, taking in 150 miles of the Yorkshire Wolds. I'd done some reading on previous events and it looked like a fun weekend. I'd asked several friends on Facebook if they wanted to join me and it was at this point that Nick became involved with conversations after showing an interest. Nick admitted to only having mountain bikes but was keen on taking up road riding. I was keen for him to join us but I wasn't really sure if he would, so it was a nice surprise when he bought his road bike from Simon, another friend. Finally, Nick was on board and about to get swept along in to a whole lot more.
Several weeks after we'd each signed up to the Yorkshire Wolds Way Challenge, me, Jonny, Nick along with two other friends, Simon and 'Donkey' arranged to meet at the Commercial Pub to discuss our other riding challenges for the summer. After meeting Nick at Scalby Manor some six months earlier, this would be only the second time I'd met him and the first proper meeting I think between him and Jonny. We had already briefly discussed riding Coast to Coast in June and we would talk about this tonight, but this was an opportunity for me to pitch my big idea. Scarborough to Paris. When we first got sat down, Nick was adamant he would only ride the Wolds Way Challenge. But that was before he'd had several pints!
It’s hard to remember exactly how the idea originally came about although I do remember seeing a ride from London to Paris advertised on the internet. I'd spoken about this with Jonny and we both agreed it would be a good ride. But this was an organised ride and it didn't feel quite right. It was a shorter ride from a starting point that didn’t appeal. A few conversations later and it wasn't long before London to Paris had turned into a week long, four country, epic marathon. At this point though, the idea was purely a dream. I knew it wouldn't take much persuading to drum up interest from Jonny and Nick but convincing them it was achievable might be a different matter. I didn't even know if it was possible. Convincing Donkey and Simon to support us in a van for a week would prove even harder.
I'd done some research into the costings of the trip to Paris which would include the North Sea ferry crossing to Rotterdam and the Eurostar from Paris to London. Having a support vehicle proved costly and understandably, not a very attractive proposition for Donkey and Simon. They were honest enough to say from the off that they would not be interested in joining us. I knew it was a big ask from them to support us but I was now worried that this would jeopardise the entire trip. I tried to be positive about it and suggested that we'd have to support ourselves and carry everything on our bikes that we needed. I could see the attraction of this. The sense of achievement of riding to Paris unsupported would be incredible but I felt I was clutching at straws. I could see this adventure crumbling in its first planning meeting. I didn't really think we could do it but I kept talking. Incredibly, so did Jonny and Nick. We'd each had a couple of pints by this point and Nick, despite resisting earlier persuasions, had already agreed to join us on riding Coast to Coast in June and he was now throwing ideas into the ring for riding to Paris with panniers on our bikes. It was suddenly beginning to look like the summer of 2014 would hold three huge challenges for the three of us. They do say that all the best ideas begin in the pub.