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Do you speak ‘Estonglish’?

Many countries have a word to describe the impact of English on their language, such as Spanglish, Franglais, Finglish and Denglish (German)…. I asked the campsite warden in Tallinn if Estonians had a similar word, and she thought not. So let me stake a claim to creating a brand new word on behalf of 1.3 million Estonians: ‘Estonglish’. What do you reckon its chances of making it into the Oxford English dictionary?

This has been my last full day in Estonia. I’m just 10km north of the border with Latvia, in another RMK rustic site, right beside the sea, nestling amongst pine trees. As romantic as it sounds, you have to accept that pine cones will periodically fall on your tent during the night…..but not as bad as the coconuts that fell on my cabin roof on a remote Belize island once. They frightened the living daylights out of me….

And when I thought I was far removed from native English-speaking civilisation, I bumped into a bunch of Aussie cyclists, all from Perth, and all on a fully supported ride through the three Baltic countries. They teased me, I teased them….but the banter got very serious when I mentioned the recent nail-biting victory of England in the Ashes.

“Ah, they’re still a bunch of Sheilas”, said one of the men. “Just wait till we get them on the rugger field….”.

It’s good to know that traditional enmity between the two nations is alive and well….

And before I go here’s yet another boring photo of a sunset from just outside my tent:

The Ti takes a camping trip..

Will the Ti take to carrying a bit of kit…? Let’s see.

Off to a major cycling festival in Staffordshire…..celebrating the 140th birthday of Cycling UK (formerly CTC)….hoping for lots of thrills….and no spills….

Bury St Edmunds-Framingham 60km

After an excellent overnight in Bury St Edmunds, kindly hosted by long distance cyclists Steve and Debs, the miles were restored to tired leg muscles, and primed to fight against a constant headwind from the NE. We dined on a superb paella, and ‘wined’ on a cheeky Chilean red called ‘La Bicicleta’….nothing like a themed meal to complement the occasion. Steve & Debs, if you are reading this, thanks for your kind hospitality.


I pitched my tent in the manicured grounds of Framingham College, and this was the view from my little porch.


As the sun sets, Framlingham Castle was framed by its dramatic setting.

CTC Birthday Rides 2016

About to head off to Framlingham College, Suffolk, to join some 500 other cyclists for a week of cycling, sightseeing and entertainment………and looking forward to getting back to some simple camping in my little Vaude Hogan.

Back to a few basics…… here is my transport, shelter and wardrobe. The simple life.IMAG2472

Losing grammes…..

Grammes are being shaved off every which way……..

This is my total luggage for 8 days of cycle-camping at the CTC Birthday Rides in York, a big annual cycling jamboree that celebrates the Cyclists Touring Club’s birthday.20140811_152531_Android

This is a bit like a cyclist’s Weight Watchers’ weigh-in…….and yes, we’re down to 9 kilos and counting…….. 20140811_152430_Android

And that does, of course, include camping kit…, how do we shave grammes off the camping stuff……….?


The final detail…

Today has been a day of analysing the minutiae….of making six weeks of personal needs fit into one 23 litre saddlebag and a small handlebar bag, with a small tent pack strapped on the back. I love this kind of challenge.

Every item, and the size and weight of every item, has been studied. There is no room for carelessly packed ‘just-in-case’ things. Everything must have a purpose, be known to be useful and, if possible, be multi-purpose. Some may feel deprived going without some habitual luxuries, or they can’t imagine life on the road without an iPod, a laptop, a soft pillow or a fluffy towel.

8.5 kilos

8.5 kilos

For me, not having these things is a form of liberation. A ‘disconnect’ takes place where I find life on the road becomes much simpler: carrying less weight up the hills, packing the bike and luggage for flights, the daily organisation of packing and unpacking when you are camping, fitting my luggage into my one-person tent at night……..and the list goes on and on.

1.5 kilos

1.5 kilos

But I have to confess that this strategy can carry some risks. I always feel that I am prepared for most emergencies, but not all, of course. Our level of risk-aversion will frequently dictate how comfortable we feel about leaving things behind. But when asked (as I frequently am) how I can manage for so long with under 10 kilos of luggage (including camping equipment), I usually answer with a quip: “It’s easy really…..I just leave things at home!”

Transport, house and wardrobe.....

Transport, house and wardrobe…..

And it is as easy as that……..but only if you take time out to study your actual needs in some detail, and learn through experience. When I come back from a trip, I make two short lists: the first, of the things I wished I had taken, and the second (yes, you’ve got it!) of the things I wished I had left behind. And through a process of adjustment and elimination, my packing goes through evolutionary development.

It will never be perfect, but then we all need something to live for…..


A tent amongst RVs

“It costs how much? $30 for a little tent?”. She pointed outside, and all I could see were serried ranks of humungous RVs,


most of them bigger than our house in the UK. I was amongst the ‘snowbirds’…..mostly rich retirees from the north, who migrate for the winter.


Seeing what they are currently getting further north, even in the neighbouring state of Georgia, I’m not surprised Florida’s average age profile rockets in the winter.


So I pitched my “little RV” and parked my ‘humungous bike’ next to it, and prepared for the sleepover. But there was a dire warning…….
Last night there was a dramatic drop in temperature, to 40 F (5c?), Florida’s whiplash from the weather in the north. Oh dear…….and my sleeping bag is only summer weight (guaranteed down to 15 degrees C). So now I’ve survived the night, this is what you do if you are similarly caught out: 1. Wear everything in your luggage (I put on 3 shorts, leg and arm warmers, 6 tops including my waterproof, 2 prs socks, and a buff used as a balaclava). 2. You must lie on an air mattress, great insulation. 3. Zip up your bag, mummifying yourself, leaving a small hole for ventilation. 4. And finally, adopt the foetal position.
Result?……..I was toasty warm throughout the night.
So now, you have no excuse for carrying that bulky 4 seasons sleeping bag and those just-in-case thick woolies.

Oh and by the way, today being Feb 14th, an 80 year old supermarket cashier wished me a ‘happy Valentine’….I was quite touched. So this prompted me to email this to my sweet Valentine back at home:


Whoever you are with, have a happy day….;o)

Florida loop…

“As of 2012, bicyclists are no longer required to keep at least one hand on the handlebars”.

Right, this is my chance to set a new world record…… the whole of the Florida Loop (850 miles) with no hands on the handlebars! I may lack a certain level of security regarding other traffic, but I will certainly bask in the secure knowledge that I won’t be fined by a traffic cop, or used as target practice by any bored law enforcement agents.

Florida Loop 850 miles

Florida Loop 850 miles

This will be my route. A total of 850 cycling miles, with a 3.5 hour ferry crossing from Fort Myers to Key West, where I will pay homage to the memory of Ernest Hemingwayhemingway_lg_0 by sampling his favourite drink, vermouth (not  mojito as many believe) in his favourite bar, Sloppy Joes.Sloppy Joes

The route will take me up the largely urbanized east coast of south Florida, to the old colonial city of St Augustine, then across the peninsula through national parks and swampland, to finish with a 120 mile stretch along the Florida Keys. In terms of terrain, there are no real hills to speak of, apart from gentle inclines, but there will be long stretches of remote countryside as I bid to cross the hinterland.

With only 36 hours before departure from Heathrow Airport, this is the sum total of the kit I will be taking CIMG9798

and this is the boxed bikeCIMG9799 which, the Virgin Atlantic website assures me, will travel free of charge in the hold. I will go armed with a copy of the airlines regulations, in case the check-in staff are a little unclear.

To a town called Geraldine

120km across the flat lands of Mackenzie country brought me to the foothills of the Southern Alps, with the mighty Mt Cook in the background.


South Island has fewer than a million inhabitants, so the roads are delightfully quieter.


This means the distances between feeding stations are ever greater, but this slab of hummingbird cake put a few miles back into the legs!


This roadside fruit stall waylaid me….couldn!t resist the apricots from Otago.


And when I checked in at the Kiwi Holiday Park in Geraldine, Lindsay (the warden) kindly donated the cost of my pitch. Yet another example of Kiwi kindness.
Significant donation today: a lady called Stacey approached me in a service station and contributed $20.
I am touched by people’s trust and their spontaneity.
Please donate to the Children of Syria:
Footnote: Steve Wesson has begun the chase from Cape Reinga. We hope to shake hands and have a beer or three at Bluff……..but he needs to get on his bike and pound the tarmac. I’m about 1500km ahead of him. See you in Antarctica, Steve!
Follow his irreverent blog here. You will be amused!