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A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do
– Bob Dylan

Mornings come peacefully on the road. I wake slowly with the daylight, turning in my sleeping bag, adjusting the bundle of clothes that act as my pillow and dozing once or twice until my head is clear and ready to begin the day.

I lie still and listen to the sounds outside my tent. Sometimes birdsong, sometimes whooshing vehicles, sometimes water, sometimes silence. I unzip the tent door and feel the fresh air on my face. I check the weather and particularly the wind: strong winds can seriously spoil my day.

I climb out of the tent, barefoot, and stretch and scratch and yawn. I wander a few paces from the tent to pee, and decide if I want coffee or not. I have no idea what time it is, but I slept so early that I feel fresh even though the sun has not yet risen. I pour water from one of my bottles into my pan and light my stove.

While the water heats I pack away the tent and sleeping bag, then clip my panniers back onto the bike. My packing is brisk and efficient, everything lives in its place. My movements are slick and precise. I am ready to move again.

The water boils and I sit cross-legged on the ground to make coffee. I stir in a mound of sugar, and spread jam on a few pieces of bread with my spoon. While I eat I study the maps and write my diary.

I pack up my stove, lick the spoon clean and shake the dregs out of the mug. I brush my teeth, pull on socks, shoes and shirt, then push the bike out onto the road from my concealed campsite. A square of crumpled grass is all I have left behind. I pull on riding mitts, reset the daily mileage total on my bike computer and pedal on my way.

I have been awake for about twenty minutes. The campsite is far behind me by the time the sun breaks above the horizon.

A new day has begun.

This is an extract from my book Moods of Future Joys.

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  1. Love this. “I have no idea what time it is, but I slept so early that I feel fresh even though the sun has not yet risen” The joy of being on the road with no rhythm to follow except your own.

  2. It’s interesting how we go away from our “at home” routine to set another one while on trips. Guess we are going for efficiency even in the most stress-free environment. You have all my admiration mate.

  3. Morning. This is sometimes a mixed experience. I don’t always sleep that well on the ground in a tent and sleeping bag. I tend to toss and turn a bit. I sleep, but not well. However—on my last sub 24 ON, I had ridden to a place I’d camped at quite a few years before, and set up my meager camping equipment just as the sun was going down (hoping, in that way, that if anyone else was around, that they would be heading back to their cars or campsites as it grew dark).

    Then I lit my stove and boiled water for supper. After that—well, I mainly sat in silence and watched as the sky grew darker and darker, and the stars began showing up.

    I didn’t have a camp fire that night (too windy near the tall dry grass). But that made the place I stayed at all the more private and stealthy! Then, after a while, tired from the ride in, I crawled into my one man tent and fell asleep with the sleeping bag acting as a quilt, instead of getting inside of it.

    At sometime around 5:30 in the morning, I woke to hear the faint sound of thunder. I could see faint flashes of lighting, too. When I got up and sleepily staggered out of the tent, I stood looking around, bleary-eyed and with a serious case of “bed-head” hair, the eastern sky, though still dark, was dominated by the planetary conjunction on Jupiter and Venus (with Mercury barely above the horizon)! The deep, deep cerulean blue, contrasting with those pin-pricks of intense white light began waking me up. The breeze, though neither cold, nor overly warm, also helped wake me up.

    I stood there outside the tent for some time just watching, just listening. The thunder I’d heard while still inside my tent was coming from a mass of huge thunderheads further north of where I was, and as the sun rose higher, those towering clouds were lit up like atomic bombs exploding, and that was when I was truly glad I’d tossed and turned more than slept—in order to have seen these sights that, had I been in my house, I would never have seen.

    But even with that, every time I think about going out again (which I do) there is still that strange inertia, that curious reluctance to face the discomforts, the sleeplessness, the staggering-away-from-the-tent-in-order-to-pee-in-the-pre-dawn-wobbliness. So, each excursion is therefore a defiance of that inertia! As we get older, that inertia becomes easier to submit to.

    And then, there is that comforting ritual of packing and repacking the minimal gear required—which I find enjoyable in seeing just how few items are really needed! As each item goes back into it’s particular spot, and then the next, and the next, I’m soon looking around myself at the tiny spot left where I’d slept, and realizing how spare my “comforts” had been, and yet how adequate they had been after all.

    I’d done it! I’d escaped from the mental ‘gravity well’ of my previous inertial state! Riding away, still slightly tired sure, I am glad I took the time to do something like that, and vowing I’d do so again, and again, and…



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