A free adventure bike waiting for you in Scotland

– Update 31/10/2016: Wesley has been given away to Danish traveler Lukas! – 

About six weeks ago I started my journey from Land’s End to John ‘O Groats in search of myths and legends. The plan was to do it on rollerblades, but soon I found out the downhills where too much for me. With my limited braking techniques, it’s safe to say I was not safe. Falling down into the thorney hedegs became my braking technique and I was afraid I would injure myself or find myself under the rolling wheels of a passing car. But then it happened. I got invited by Mel and her family from Coad’s Green, Cornwall to stay over for the night. It was there where they offered me Wesley, the adventure bike.

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I was struggeling and not making many miles so the offer of the bike looked like the Flow helping me. I took the bike and currently Wesley and me are in Scotland on our way up to John ‘O Groats. But what will happen to Wesley the adventure bike when I get there? That’s where you come in.

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Since this bike is given to me, I’d like to pass it on to another adventurer. You might go to Africa with it, China or maybe to Land’s End. I will leave the bike in John ‘O Groats, locked. If you want to have it and make an incredible journey on it, get in touch with me, and I tell you where the key is or we meet up the 9th of October. Are you planning to go on a journey a couple of months later? I can send you the key by mail. Thats what mail is for, right?

Wesley had some great adventures, but he wants more. Mountains, backroads and downhills; Wesley loves them. But also on flat land Wesley does his trick.

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For the person who gets the bike I leave some space on my website for a guestpost with some pictures of your journey. Doesn’t matter how big or small. As long as his weels are rolling in search of adventure and he is not standing still or gets stolen or being sold. Did you finish your journey? Give Wesley away to the next adventurer like I do. This way Wesley might see more of the world then your nextdoor neighbour.

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Please share, tweet, repost this blog anywhere you think is appropriate. Tag people you know who would like to make a journey but don’t have a bike. Send a letter to that old friend or shout it out loud in an outdoorstore. Help Wesley in the search for more adventure!

To get in touch, send me a message on my Facebook page.

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Letter to my grandpa

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Dear grandpa,

How are you doing? I’m doing well. At the moment of writing I find myself in the same hostel as four years ago, when I also sent you a postcard from Scotland. Funny, isn’t it?

The hostel is ok, but I feel better in my tent somewhere in the hills. Fresh air instead of the smell of five people sleeping in one room, city noise all around and I even have to pay for all this! But I have to be honest, a shower is nice and the perspective of dry belongings in the morning is quite comferting. Nonetheless I’m looking forward to go out in the nature.

In Wales and England I sometimes felt as a tramp. I’ve wondered if these people still exist, but when I climbed another fence to roam over the lands of a farmer and search a place for the night, I knew there were still tramps. One morning I was really lucky; just a couple of minutes after I packed up and jumped the fence, a tracktor pulled in to fertilize the land! I don’t think the farmer would be really happy to see me and my tent on his precious land. But I recon it’s different in Scotland, I can camp everywhere so no angry farmers.

Last month I started off on rollerblades. That was really hard! I think my blades where too small; I still feel my ankle when I press on it. Very bad preparation from my side, but I guess things go like they go. After six days of walking an blading a woman came up to me while I was sitting next to the road, catching my breath. She invited me to her house to spend the night in the guesthouse and in the end they even offered me a bicycle!

During this journey I’ve met so many good people who gave me water, fed me and even gave me books. Even people who gave their phonenumber, so in a bad situation I could text them and they would prey for me. A real nice gesture.

In a couple of hours Henk will be here and tomorrow we will continue the journey together. I’m really looking forward to this.

In October I’ll be back home and I’ll share my stories of adventure in real life with you.

Greetings and all the best,
Erwin

Wheels, sheep and Wales

It was getting late and I was already feeling the day in my legs. But I was really up for cycling some dirthpaths. That afternoon I ordered some food in a tiny village somewhere in the hills of Wales. An old man was sitting next to me, his hair combed neatly, beady eyed enjoying the sun and his coffee. His name was Gary. He was looking for a conversation and in me he found a victim. His wife died a few months earlier and he was still processing. The conversation quickly revolved around loosing someone close to you. But we also talked about the other side; he recently met a Thai lady who also happened to be a masseuse! He was so happy with her and couldn’t stop talking about her. After a friendly conversation he thought it was more than normal to pay for my lunch. Another person who is friendly to me. That night I camped in a natural park. After biking for quite some kilometers I had enough and walked up a hill. It might have seemed like a hill but judging the wetness of my shoes I was clearly walking through a swamp. I need to get out of here! Nearby I found a beautiful spot for my tent, right next to a waterfall. And suddenly I heard the sound.Meeeh! MEEEH!!! It came from somewhere around the waterfall.

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I couldn’t see it at first, but it was a lamb that got himself into trouble and got stuck. Because it was getting dark I decided to do nothing. The next morning the little lamb was still walking about at the same spot. I had to do something. I thought of Gary and of a way to earn my lunch back, by helping the lamb. I climbed down and made an improvised lasso of some parachute string that I got from someone earlier. But the closer I got to the lamb, the more it was trying to escape. Eventually I stood eye to eye with the lamb and it was so scared, that it jumped away. Right into the river! It landed with its head on a stone and when it got up it was limping. After following it for more than 20 minutes I decided it was leading nowhere. I couldn’t help the little lamb…

Meanwhile Wesley brought me to Wales, the land of hills, sheep and unpronounceable place names. The black asphalt of the roads zigzags like a snake through the sheep-filled hills. It’s heavy climbing these by bike, but racing 50 kilometers per hour downhill through this beautiful setting, leaves a big smile on my face. It’s a weird experience. 200% concentration is needed to keep an eye out for all the obstacles and this kind of concentration makes you forget everything. It is when you are at the bottom of the hill you realize there is also a world out there. The last bit of adrenaline leaves the body, but the smile stays on.

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It takes a lot of energy, so I need to eat a lot. I had difficulties doing this, and it often happened I only had a snack during the day, It resulted in the fact that I was completely exhausted in the evening and didn’t feel up to doing anything. Let’s not even start about my state of mind. Something needed to change. I needed to eat more during the day to get my motor going. An average day looks like this:

– 9:00 A big bowl of oatmeal porride with casews and sugarsyrup.

– 11:00 snickers, banana and a muesli bar

– 13:00/14:00 full English breakfast; 2 sausages, 2 eggs, 2 slices of bacon, mushrooms, 1 tomato, black pudding, 2 slices of toast with butter and a big heap of white beans and tomato sauce

– 17:00 snickers, 2 muesli bars, a piece of almondpaste cake and a banana

– 19:00 muesli bar, chocolate

– 21:00 pasta with onions, fish and vegetables

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The hedges are different from the ones in Cornwall, but they are still aplenty. The land is divided in patches, each owned by a farmer and of course sheep are walking everywhere. But as soon as it gets dark, special things can happen, things you rather wouldn’t want to see. Locals told me, during the night the dead come to live and jump across the hedges. The dead have fire-lighted eyes and you could actually see them jump, like little lights flying. If you see these lights, death will get you or someone close to you…… The man who told me this, told it casually. Like he rather didn’t want to talk about it. Who knows, maybe he experienced it firsthand.

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All fun and games playing around the Welsh hills, running after sheep, but I have to get a move on. Adventure Henk is going to Edinburgh soon to accompany me on his longboard. So I need to be on time in Scotland. But not before I have checked out ‘The Lake District’. A very wet place (sometimes up to 3000 mm of rain per year, in comparison to 750 mm in The Netherlands) with loads of mountaintops above the 900 meters and beautiful nature. A rough place that I’m really looking forward to. And of course I’m looking forward to meeting knew people and hearing their stories.

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Cycling with Wesley the Kraken

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No journey is compleet without a cowfie

“Ehhhh…” I take a deep breath while Googlemaps is doing everything it shouldn’t do. A raindrop falls from my helmet on top of my phone creating even more chaos. Outside it’s raining heavy but the crappy old phone booth is keeping me dry for know. I’m looking at some old ads and the spider webs spun around the instructions. “How in God’s name are they going to catch a fly here?” goes through my mind. For almost two hours I’ve been trying to find a way out of Bridgewater and follow bike trail 42. It turns out this trail is very hard to find. Tonight I will arrive in Bristol, but I haven’t found a sleeping place yet. I’m looking outside the dirty phone booth window and boldly decide to bike north. “Fuck you all!” and while I say that I’m thinking of a scene of a movie in which the main character smashes the window of a phone booth. 

Four hours later I can almost scream out loud from enjoyment and adrenaline; going around 45 kilometers per hour I’m thundering into Bristol meeting up with friends of friends. Cars are passing me by, 90s gabber house by Buzz Fuzz is pumping through my earphones and I’m 200% focused on the bumps in the road. I feel great! An adventurous travel can be filled to the max with emotions. From -100 to +100 in only 4 hours. And this with 160bpm! 

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“Evolution of a bike”.
Look at me going on my new rusty steed. I’ve called him Wesley the Kraken, after the house he came from. “Wesley, what am I going to do with you? First I shall have to prepare you for the long trail that lies ahead of us”. That meant a trip to the local bike repair man to see if I can score a carrier. The local bike repair man shop was closed. It seems he also is in need of a holiday. The next shop’s in Okehampton some 30 kilometers further. It closes at 17:00 hours and it was 14:00 hours at the moment. This can be done! To get some extra energy I ate some melted Snickers, buckled some 20 kilos of home on my back and grasped Wesley’s steering wheel firmly with both hands. I didn’t know it was going to be 30 kilometers uphill and as soon as I arrived one hour after closing time I immediately looked for a spot to set up my tent. 

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It was already lying there waiting for me in a little storeroom. Damaged, a bit bend and the black paint was flaking. Of course this couldn’t be sold to anyone, so it was perfect for my awesome bike adventure. This bike shop only sold high quality stuff, so for a fiver I could have it. Thinking about it later on I maybe could have swapped it for my rear fender. It had to go anyway. Just out of town the my McGyver instincts took control. With the laces of my skates, the extra guy-line of my tent and my walking sticks I created a beautiful construction, that didn’t only relieve my back, but also made sure I could sit pain free for the coming future. I love it when a plan comes together. 

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It didn’t take long before I found me some cycle bags and traded the laces in for some tie rips. Wesley swiftly changed dramatically, just like I did. After camping a night at Edward’s place, who lived in a caravan in the woods, I was all set for a new adventure. I noticed I was a lot more relaxed than a week before and I saw possibilities instead of obstacles. The entire country was lying at my feet and I could go everywhere I wanted. But first to Bristol to have a lazy day and to make a new schedule. After arriving at the place of Facebook-friends of Facebook-friends it was time for English tea, stew, reflection, goofing around and making plans. So awesome that Sadie and Brechje opened their house for a stranger. Even worse, someone that was carrying a heavy odour of adventure. This was the new beginning of my adventure. A new beginning of a different way of travelling. An easier way, but still adventurous. I feel good on my bike and while I’m biking I notice my thoughts are wondering off. That’s a good sign and one of the reasons I’m making these kinds of trips. In the ‘normal’ life I’m always busy working, social gatherings, entertainment and going out. It is sometimes difficult to find time for myself, and when I finally find time, I fill it with watching series, Facebooking, watching movies and reading. Time to stare out of the window or letting my thoughts wonder off, I just don’t do often enough. I think many people know what I’m talking about. By going on this kind of journeys I give myself the space to think about things I normally don’t take the time to think about. I let my thoughts go out into the wild, giving me new and very valuable insights. 

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From Bristol I can see the new adventure lying straight in front of me. Wales. Just have to cross a bridge and I’m entering a new country. A country with beautiful national parks, a new language and loads of myths and legends. – foto brug- Like the ‘Druid stones of Gaerllwyd’. An old burial site of druids. I didn’t know what to expect; no one knew where it exactly was and how to get there. It was surrounded by mystery. After searching for an hour I finally found them…a bunch of stones. Ok. Fun. A big bunch of stones.

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The new adventure is lying right in front of me; Wales. The hills are surrounded with dark clouds and half grown with thick pinewoods. Little zigzagging roads are passing through area’s with names like The Black Mountains, Snowdonia and Mynydd Eppynt while tiny towns like Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mocgnant and Pontrhydfendigiad can only expand your scope of fantasy. For a week me and Wesley are going to search for stories and sleep in the oldest fashion there is; outdoors where the birds and sun function as an alarm clock.

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From eight wheels to two

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Left and right of me cars were racing by, going 80 kilometers per hour across the grey asfalt. I clearly picked the wrong road. Sitting in the grass in the hot afternoon sun, I took out my roadmap. Damn. Did I really take the wrong road again? The road leading up to this t-junction was pretty dangerous and it wasn’t going to look any better. What to do? I was musing, thinking about what would be my next step. Go back? This wouldn’t help at all and would bring me back to Mitchell. Or should I just say, Fuck it, and go down this road. It is not that far. The tractor that raced past me, was going at the speed of burned potatoes and I knew for sure he wasn’t planning on burning them any further. In these kind of situations a boy on his skates, carrying a backpack of 20 kilo’s shouldn’t be in such a place in the first place. I decided to walk down the roadside. It didn’t take long before I had to find my way through a thick bush of nettles and prickly thorns, so this plan also backfired. There I was, standing in the midst of those nettles alongside this hazardous and far too busy road…. In the end I got a ride to the next village, but this was a nice example of the risk of travelling through England on skates. I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t know it was going to be this straining.

 

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After I left Land’s End, I was slowly fumbling my way eastwards. It really felt like this, I was fumbling. But I kept going. It was then when I met my first downhill experience. The roads in Cornwall have a very specific kind of roadside. They are called “Cornish Hedges” and are stone walls, overgrown with blackberries and nettles. While I was going downhill, cars were passing me by at high-speed and I was going faster and faster. I tried to slow down, but it didn’t really seem to work. The only option I had was to drop myself and take a good close-up look at those famous hedges. From this moment on I decided to walk downhill. 

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16 Kilometers was the max and it seemed a good idea to go to Penzance Backpackers hostel and enjoy one of their comfortable beds. Most of the time the next morning you start all fresh again, but I just lost all spirit. Being confronted with those steep downhill roads I got scared. I really got scared. Fear to get hurt. Going downhill was very difficult and while I definitely tried, each time I ended up at the side of the road. Whether there was grass or not, when I was going too fast, a controlled drop was the best way to go. And there I was, lying at the roadside again, when a car stopped. The window rolled down and a young man with a scruffy hat asked if I was ok. And if I wanted a glass of water. What? A glass of water? Do they always have a glass of water at hand? Do they drive around the country offering people glasses of water? I laid down for a while and suddenly realized I took the wrong road. I ended up walking back.

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It isn’t easy. Almost half the day I spend walking, solely because I just don’t want to end up in a hedge again going downhill. But also because I can’t manage to skate uphill. When I walk I notice I’m enjoying myself. No ankle-pains (which makes me instable on my skates), and going downhill isn’t something to be scared of. The quality of the roads don’t matter anymore, so I don’t have to focus 200% only to go forward and not hit any traffic.

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Each day I notice I spend more and more time walking. When I’m on my skates my posture changes.No more music. Protection on. Corners of the mouth automatically go downwards and a big frown takes form on my forehead. And the fun time is over. Ignore the ankle pains. Trying to make mileage and be safe. Most of the time I can go on for about 2 or 3 hours after which I’m happy again to walk on my two trustworthy feet. This isn’t going to work. I’m going too slow and I’m not enjoying myself. I have to think of a new plan.  I’m going to walk and skate where I can. The midst of England is reasonably flat and the roads are better. But for now I have to make up for the loss of the last couple of days. Otherwise I won’t reach Scotland within 4 weeks. Should I get a bike to get some speed? Or should I walk 50 kilometers a day on my rundown sneakers? At night, when I’m lying in my tent staring at the meadows, this is what I’m thinking about. And about maintaining my integrity. Will I stick to the plan at all cost, or will I adjust and reach my goal in an alternate way? Sometimes you don’t have to choose and things just happen. 

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After skating uphill for a while, I sat down in the shade of a wall. Across the street there was a restaurant with a little pub, where a too fat and loud Englishman in a mobility scooter was chattering constantly. After I caught my breath I stood up, when suddenly a lady approached me and said: “He, didn’t I see you in Penzance? We saw you working your way up a hill!”. After a short talk she asked me where I was going to sleep. I told her I was going to sleep in my tent, somewhere in a meadow. Before I knew it, I was invited to spend the night at her place and after having seven leagues in my boots, I was welcomed with a kings meal of salmon, potatoes and salade. Soon we got talking about my adventure and that I was thinking about getting me a bike. “Hey Marc, we have a bike for him, right? The orange one just standing there. Lets have a look!”

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And there I was, the next morning, tinkering on “Wesley the Kraken”. Did I really just get a bike? Totally out of the blue? I was in total disbelieve. These people who I didn’t know, take me into their house, feed me and even give me a bike! Is there a choice to be made or do I follow the two-wheeled flow. I’m really convinced I should follow the flow. I accept the bike and gonna make sure I’ll be in Edinburgh within 4 weeks, just in time to meet up with Adventure Henk to travel through Scotland together. He will go on his longboard and I will probably go on my skates. No more Cornish Hedges, less traffic and good roads. Travelling downhill will still be exciting but is something to worry about later on.

Meanwhile I found the time and space to go on with my journey in a relaxed way. A way where I’m not constantly scared to end up underneath a car or to break something while going downhill. I can focus on the stories now, the myths and the legends. I don’t know for how long ‘Wesley the Kraken’ will accompany me during my journey, but despite the rain I still have the feeling this is going to be one awesome adventure through some rough lands.

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