Cycling Across The US & Europe
The blue hair was startling - more of that later! Sheila began her talk by explaining what prompted her to clock up more than 20,000 miles on a bicycle saddle! She was office bound in Scotland, but did some work related travelling around the UK. One day, on the M6 motorway, she noticed a man crossing a bridge. With a rucksack on his back and his head in the air, enjoying total freedom. Sheila realised how trapped she felt, and determined to do something about it. A touring bike proved to be the answer.
Now, living in Spain we often see groups of 'Vuelta' cyclists...in their extremely tight lycra padded shorts, on narrow plastic saddles. You may also notice, if you look closely, how they Often ‘adjust’ themselves when they dismount!!! Plastic saddles and lycra shorts are hot. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Touring bike saddles have to be comfortable, leather, or oher natural material, wide and very well sprung.
Sheila's first touring trip was "40 days into the wilderness" touring round Scotland and the Shetlands. She learned that if you load up the panniers with food - every shop you find will be stacked with goodies. If you leave home with barely an energy bar...you will find nothing but empty shelves. The tour then becomes an obsession to find food - ignoring all the wonderful sights on the way. She had a narrow escape near Lerwick when a van nearly knocked her flying...she later saw it parked up in the town, with a big banner on it saying "Jesus Saves"!
Her next trip was through Europe for 44 days; she avoided the hazards of a single tent, and had to rely on finding accommodation before the days of smart phones and instant wifi. In a hotel on the French/Swiss border she was given a rather luxurious top floor room, and having washed all her gear and draped it over the radiators, she lay on the bed - in her birthday suit - to be rudely interrupted by the business lady to whom the room was actually let! She was immediately and unceremoniously removed to a poky single room.
Her first tour in the USA was 3,000 miles through 'Twister' Alley, as part of a group. One of the chaps hated any woman ahead of him, and barrelled past yelling "Yahoo" only to be found under a tree, miles up the road waiting for the rest to catch up. Sheila decided a woman's touring group might be more appropriate and joined a tour travelling from Canada to Los Angeles - 22 days through spectacular scenery down Highway 101 and Big Sur.
Next up was 58 days from San Diego to Florida! She said it took three weeks to cycle through Texas, where they were stunned at the poverty in some areas. - particularly the Apache reservations where 'hovel' barely described the living conditions. After that...Mexico to Canada. Group touring is a relentless schedule, and Sheila decided her next tour would be solo, so she was free to choose her own timetable. This she did from Brittany to Calpe this summer, and thus to Murla to tell us all about it. People have told her "it can't be done"… she proved them wrong, and dyed her hair blue to show that if you want to do something - you can, and should.
All in all - awe inspiring, from a lady who is approaching her 70th birthday!