Tales from the road – part 4

18th July 2011 by

As many of you may have gathered, every day on tour is a little bit different. Writing tour journal entries is one of those tasks that seems quick and easy in theory, but when it actually comes down to doing it, well… easier said than done. Between cycling days, play performances, cob building, swimming in streams, cooking, workshops, crazy weather, bug bites, minor injuries (not always bicycle related), camping, hula hooping, bicycle mishaps and mountain passes, our days are jam packed and full of adventure! And I feel this is why the tour journal is so difficult; to try to sum up a week on tour is like trying to navigate through Manchester using only an OS landranger map (scale of 1:50 000). You have to stick to the main roads and it often lacks a lot of important details (we speak from experience!). As such, I feel it is worthwhile to give you all a more in-depth (city-sized, if you will) look at one of our cycle days.

Though in general we have been very fortunate weather-wise (I came prepared for rain all day, every day), our second cycling day in the Lake District brought some discouraging conditions: heavy rain and uphill towards a mountain. After an hour’s delay in feeble attempt to wait out the rain (forecasted all day), we set out only to discover about five minutes in that a set of brakes had come loose. After addressing this problem (still raining), we set off for the second time, now two hours later than our planned departure time, and only about 0.1/35 miles complete. Still recovering from taking the trailer up a mountain two days prior, my legs were not very happy on the steady incline up another, but with three of my lovely teammates supporting me with a push and a cheer here and there, we finished the climb on the winding, wet roads safe and sound. The only casualty: Meghan’s pump, which was run over by two coach busses. Ironically, once at the top of the climb we also realised her tyre was very low. And there we were, stopped again only a few miles into the day, cold, soaked, two of us trying to find a pump to rectify the tyre situation, one of us holding three bikes and the trailer. But fear not! It was downhill from there! Well, for another 10 miles or so.

After a lovely rendez-vous with the rest of the group at the Lakeland Pedlar wholefood bicycle cafe in Keswick, where we stocked up on chocolate tiffins, coffee, hi-vis vests and chain lube, we continued our journey to Cockermouth. After much debate between the high traffic A road, a hilly B road with a near vertical mountain pass, and the cycle route with a few miles of off-road trail, we decided that the cycle path would probably be our safest bet. Our first glimpse of this path was not encouraging: far too narrow for fully loaded panniers (let alone a trailer), way too many large rocks and gravel for our slicks, and a little too steep for our liking. But, we couldn’t go around it, couldn’t go under it, had to go over it (pushing our bikes). And that is how my first experience hiking with a bicycle began. Luckily the rain had stopped, and the path was indeed only a few miles long, and with everyone taking turns pushing the trailer, we arrived at the “meadow of heaven” as Erin dubbed it, and took a nice sunny break on the top of the small mountain, enjoying the lovely view that the steep climb had just afforded us. To our delight, we rolled on to a nicely paved windy country road (the BEST kind), with Holly yelling “HELLOOO LOOOVAAAA!” in her charming Aussie accent, and it was, literally, all downhill from there.

Peace and bicycle grease,

Susanna and the rest of the Northern Soul Cycle Tour team

Northern Soul's School Days – part 3

8th July 2011 by

Fun Facts:

Bicycle Punctures: 5 regular punctures to date (4 go to Erin, 1 goes to Heni, both have purchased new tyres). 2 inexplicaple inner tube explosions (both on Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres….uhoh!)

Trailer Punctures: 4… the thorns got us good.

Miles cycled: 420

Schools and youth clubs visited: 10

Bee attacks: 1  (but well compensated for by honey and mead)

Minor bicycle mishaps:~5

Kilos of peanut butter eaten: 8 (that’s 1 per person)

Baby hedgehog saves: 1

The real blog:

Last Tuesday morning the entire Northern Soul team wriggled out of a tiny two-man tent to find 100 primary school children sitting in neat rows (this may have been planned).  It was one of many great visits to schools over the past couple of weeks.  The performances and workshops always remind us why we’re on tour.  The children’s and teachers’ laughs make the performances so much fun, and their ideas and initiatives inspire fantastic conversations during workshops.

Although the funniest part of the play for the children is repeatedly a tree in the Amazon being cut down, interactions with the children after the play and during workshops assure us that they are really engaging with issues of sustainability.  The only thing children don’t like about our Fairtrade workshop is the reality that many people in the production chain of a non-fairtrade banana don’t get paid fairly!  Children have told us about significant changes they will make in their (and their families’) transport choices; they’ve also told us (half-way through a workshop) that they’ve just used less toilet paper!

It’s great to see so many projects going on in schools already, led by students and teachers alike.  From gardening projects to bike-ability classes, and keeping chickens to composting, the schools really impressed us with their knowledge, motivation, and desire to learn and share with us.

We’ve experienced such wonderful hospitality from schools: from donuts for breakfast, to moving meetings for us to use their staff room, to letting us camp in the school hall or field, and even gifts of Fairtrade chocolate, juice and oatmilk.  These school visits along with the hospitality from all our other wonderful hosts has given us new faith and hope in humanity.

Legendary tales from the Northern Soul cycle tour – part 2

27th June 2011 by

This past week has been eventful… to say the least. Like the winding hills of North Wales, we have seen many summits, a few tight corners, and some good steeps!

We bid farewell to our lovely friends at Felin Uchaf on a sunny morning and only an hour behind schedule (good, we are told). Successful journey to Busybees organic farm where we managed to spend an entire days budget (almost) on their incredible honey, eggs, and fresh strawberries! All of our dreams come true. That extra protein and sugar helped us power through our first performance and set of workshops — which were a total success!

Whoever would have thought that carrying a bicycle pump in our bike maintenance trailer would be SO hilarious to a bunch of primary school kids. After a few hours worth of workshops and one hour of playtime, we were delighted to hear the kids requesting more fair trade products in the canteen, and the banana song being sung in all corners of the playground. It was so nice to have such a positive response from the kids and teachers — it has given us lots of motivation for the weeks ahead!

And then… 3 exciting days of cycling. We won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say they included several modes of alternative  transportation (land rover + horsebox, train) resulting from a few bicycle mishaps.
Until next time…
Peace, love and Marzipan biscuit sandwiches to you all! :) x

Meghan, Pete, Erin, Susanna, Holly, Heni, Rachel & Iona
The Northern Soul cycle tour team


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