Date: Saturday 18th April, 2015
Distance: 59.4km | Elevation: 473m
Destinations: Jersey (St. Ouen – St. Catherines – St. Aubin – St. Ouen)
Start kms: 2,305.6km | Finish kms: 2,365km | % complete: 23.7%
Whenever I’m lucky enough to go home to Jersey and go out for a cycle, I’m always reminded of a now over-used Hemingway quote taken from a letter to his family:
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them…you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through”
It’s true — and not just of cycling versus driving. I’ve walked, skateboarded, run and driven what feels like all of Jerseys roads countless times whilst growing up, but nothing makes me appreciate their ups and downs, their smooth or uneven surfaces like a bike.
8 months ago, my Dad hit his head whilst bording a plane from London back to Jersey. Mid-flight, he began to feel odd – tired, agitated, removed from the situation. Moments later, he was in the midst of a fit and wouldn’t come-to until safely in the back of an ambulance, on the way to Jerseys hospital.
Thankfully, he was ultimately fine, but to get to that point has meant a lot of rest and patience – not an easy ask of an active, excitable guy with a love of being outside and making things happen.
Sometimes proactively and sometimes enforced, it’s been a case of slow, incremental steps.
This weekend saw him take a big one: the first time back on his road bike, cleats and all.
Having completed a number of short rides on his sturdier and, to him, more trustworthy, mountain bike with my Mum, he wasn’t just ready, but raring to go.
He was reserved though, at least to begin with, forcing me himself to hold back and renew his acquaintance with the feel of the saddle, the reactiveness of the handlebars, the lightness of the frame, the abruptness of the brakes.
Before long, though, I saw him visibly relax, as he began taking one hand away from his handlebars, placing it on his knee and turning around to chat to me. It’s true what they say about riding a bike – you don’t forget, it taking little time for muscle memory to kick-in and make 8 months dissipate away to nothing.
For me, my lungs and legs would be more than happy to remind me of the time off, but if Dad was experiencing it, he didn’t let it show, taking on his first hills for months and chipping away at them until he reached the top.
This was Mums first long ride for almost a year, too, and one of her longest to-date. As we reached the half-way mark – 30km with no sign of stopping – she’d really found her stride and was happy to tell us as much: “I’m really enjoying this!”.
It was great to hear and even better to watch as we followed the islands coast and stopped for the obligatory cake and coffee such rides dictate.
Weighed down, we had the choice of cutting back in from the coast and heading home in a more direct manner. With 45km in the bank and another 15km on the shorter route, I wouldn’t have blamed them for choosing that option. We’d already far-exceeded my expectations for the first time out.
But they were insistent that we continue to trace the coast, taking on its 2 climbs in the process.
We broke no records, we shattered no PBs and we certainly didn’t give everything we had.
What we did do was enjoy each other’s company, make the most of a beautiful afternoon and re-establish a level of confidence not only in my dad, but in my mum as well.
It’s good to have them back.