Blog Entry Eighteen – D Day minus a paltry 4. Alas.
With the off almost upon us, it struck me like a frying pan to the face that driving to Bulawayo the week before you ride to Bulawayo was maybe not such a good idea. It’s like spending a morning in the dentist’s waiting room the week before root canal treatment, previewing the pain to come. Damn but Bulawayo is a long way on a bicycle, and positively mountainous in places. And then when we get there, we’ll ride even further.
I’m not the only one in the family upon whom this thing is weighing heavily. Son Gary who has volunteered to ride with us from Gweru to Bulawayo has that haunted look I know so well. The 156 kilometres he’s is riding is a 100 kilometres further than his furthest ride to date. But Jenny is the worst. She’s been walking around with a proper Chicken Licken ‘The Sky is going to fall on my Head’ look. Anxious to compare notes on the causes of angst, I asked her what was wrong. The Kalahari she told me. What about the Kalahari I asked? It’s a desert she told me. Which means no bushes. So where am I going to pooh?
To prepare for camping in the rigours of the Kalahari and the Karoo, we had a dry run over the Easter weekend, in our garden in Mt Hampden with granddaughters, friends, dogs, cats and bloody cockerels. Our new tent performed admirably, going up in a smidgeon of the time it took Dave Whitehead to erect his structure. He might be fast on his bike, but he is quick like a sloth when putting up a tent. It is actually quite relaxing watching him in action, sort of like counting sheep. Our new tent’s predator protection rating came under close scrutiny when our cat MF Jones leapt on to the tent roof from a nearby tree, not just once, but twice. Nerve wracking stuff in the dark of the night. But the tent’s perimeter defence held out steadfastly and in the end MF Jones had to come in through the door of the tent, like all the other animals, excluding thankfully Molly the Great Dane. It’s just a pity our new tent isn’t soundproof. We have 4 cockerels, each with a volume button stuck on maximum and zero clue as to when the sun is supposed to come up. The bloody things started cock a doodle doing from 2 a.m. onwards. It was way worse than the insomniac with the sound system in the mosque in Dubai. None of us slept a wink and it was such fun.
The logistics of our undertaking are big. Looming larger than the 3186 kilometres we will be riding is the fact that we will be gone for 33 sleeps. 33 sleeps is a massively huge number for a man who owns 8 and a half pairs of socks and 9 pairs of underpants. As I see it I have 3 options – the tried and tested Jeremy Clarkson back to front and then inside out method of underpants rotation; or invest in another 22 pairs of underpants; or do laundry as when we can on the trip. Jenny has persuaded me that option 3 would be best for my health.
I trained on skinny tyres for the first time this week. I only did 70 kilometres and the difference between slow and fast wasn’t nearly as big as I thought it would be. Alas. Dave did a massive 450 kilometres of training last week. Neal Leach did 381 kilometres and Bruce Fivaz was up there with over 300. All leaving me feeling inadequate.
Dave has obviously been spending time on dodgy internet sites and has seized upon the aggregation of marginal gains as espoused by Sir David Brailsford, who bosses up the Sky cycling team. On Dave’s bike this has translated into a pair of Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tyres with radically reduced rolling resistance and 25% less weight blah blah blah and a pair of aerobars that will allow the rider i.e. Dave to get into a more aerodynamic position by lowering his upper body and bringing his arms in-line with his torso, also significantly reducing pressure on wrists and hands blah blah blah. Dave came past me at speed on his aerobars, like he was lounging in front of the television. Bruce and I are annoyed and will watch carefully to make sure the aggregation of marginal gains does not allow for the legal sandpapering of one’s balls.
The donate button on www.oldlegstour.co.zw is getting busy and shout outs this week go across Zimbabwe and the world to Cheryl Elliott, Laura Brice, Nicola Fivaz, Vivienne Bell, Julie Retzlaff, Michael Whaley, Marco Richards, Gordon Kent, Aussie Dave Mead, Jamie Hunt, Alison Bowler, Rod Dawson, Graham Grant Gunn, Darryl Claasens, Winnie Kaye, Veronica Mauvis, Alice Stotter in Tavira and Noel Kent in Stamford. Thank you, thank you, thank you to you all for helping put smiles on elderly hearts. I also have to thank Debbie Bowker and Abby Royston for two pairs of padded bike shorts given as a bon voyage present.
There is lots to do in these last few days including the branding of our support vehicle and trailer with names and logos of our generous corporate sponsors. Having heard that I managed to not pack our tent on last year’s camping edition of the Blue Cross, Ryan Moss arrives in Harare early to charge of packing. I want to see how he’ll get a mountain of kit into a small trailer. But my best job this week by a country mile is on Thursday morning when I collect the 73 year old pensioner who was looking for a job in last week’s blog and take him for a job interview. It will be too cool. Please hold your collective thumbs for him.
If you have nothing better to do at 06.20 on Saturday the 7th of April please come to Cresta Lodge on Samora Machel Avenue to wave at us as we disappear oh so slowly into the distance. We are hoping Clement Henon and other riders from the Round Table will be joining us on the first leg to Kadoma. Team Kadoma are meeting us enroute and will ride with us to the Kadoma Golf Club for drinks, braai. We don’t have to put up tents as they said we can sleep in the squash courts. I have been assured that cockerels are not allowed on to the squash court so only have hippos to worry about.
My next blog will be from on the road to Cape Town. Until then, enjoy and peddle if you can.
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.