The last one

This has been a long time coming and I apologise for that. Scout and I have been adjusting to London life and working out how to finish this journey here on the blog and not just on the road. So here it is – the final 130km of Bulgaria to London and the few days that followed:

After immediately abandoning the British ‘cycle’ paths in Harwich and taking to the tarmac I enjoyed country roads, beautiful open fields, views of the sea and the sun on my face. The morning was fresh and cold and my knee ached a little from my fall – thanks British climate and ageing joints. I’d wrapped up against what I had assumed would be a blustery and rainy English day but to my delight the sun persevered and I had to stop to change into my shorts. There was no opportunity for Scout to run beside the bike but we found some Rugby playing fields to have her first English walk.

IMG_5501Matt, whose home I was staying at, had managed to move some meetings and cycle to meet me at Tiptree (of the Jam fame) on his fancy road bike and together we enjoyed the hills of Essex until the massive one he lives at the top of which rivalled anything in the Schwäbische Alps in Germany and had my heart rate pumping for a good ten minutes of climbing. It felt like acceptable hardship to make up for the gorgeous comfort, love and curry that I received at home with Matt, Moira, their kids and their dog.

Matt and I also sat down and plotted a good route to London using our local knowledge of each end and paying closer attention to the ‘suggested’ roads and so I set off with a mere 64km to the finish line. It was cold but clear and I couldn’t quite contemplate that it was our final day on the road. I didn’t know if I was happy or sad. The last week had been so easy compared to the big weeks previously that I felt like I could just keep on going…what would it mean when we stopped? What awaited us in London? Would Scout even like it there? Would I?

Despite Matt’s and my best efforts my journey into London was the worst day of cycling I’ve had. The cycle paths aren’t big enough. People park on them. They run out. People drive in them. They are full of potholes. They mean nothing. They don’t exist….I hated it. GOPR2003I was constantly on my guard and had to pay attention to everything around me. It’s every man for himself on London roads and cyclists are not just ignored they are, in some cases, actively resented which is a pretty dangerous state of affairs. It was incredibly unpleasant towing a dog and everything else and being passed too closely and cut up by big, fast, solid cars. Nope. No thanks. Not doing that again any time soon. I had felt like getting a lift or a train into London would not sit right with the whole Bulgaria- London adventure but I was seriously questioning my decision.

Of course, I did what I’ve done every time it’s been kind of tough; I kept going. And eventually I got to familiar territory and even stopped by the Chainstore Parkour Gym for a bathroom break before rolling on to the North entrance of the Greenwich foot tunnel, on the other side of which I had friends and family waiting to greet me. The sun peaked out and Scout and I had a little leg stretch while looking out across the river at the finish line, home, family. The end of this journey was five minutes away and I was so very ready to get there. I took off my helmet, tried to smooth out my helmet hair and pushed the bike around to cycle, for the first time, underneath a river. Only, when I got there it turned out the lift wasn’t working. Ha. Ha, ha ha.

FullSizeRender

I had timed everything perfectly. I was due at 2.30pm and at 2.24pm my descent below the Thames was thwarted by a scrolling NOT IN SERVICE sign. I nearly cried. And then I decided to laugh. I thought about cycling to the Woolwich Ferry and couldn’t quite face the roads and the 40 minutes it would probably take. Then I realised that for the first time…I had help. I wasn’t on my own anymore. I called my brother and he, Emma and a pair of my (many) surrogate parents, Bill and Gaynor, arrived to strip Jeeves of his bits and help carry the entire set up down into the tunnel where it could be reassembled for my under-river journey. It was hilarious and wonderful to have them come and give us a leg up over this final hurdle but while I was waiting for them two cyclists who realised they would also need to carry their (unladen) bikes down the stairs made perfectly sure that I had help on the way and shook my hand and congratulated me on my achievement. I’m pretty certain the kindness of strangers would once again have got me out of trouble, but for some reason relying on the kindness and strength of my big brother at that moment was much more meaningful for me.

The sun rolled out as I emerged at the Cutty Sark, tourists and Saturday fun-havers pointing delightedly at Scout’s peeking face and my heart singing to be on home turf. My brother and I made certain of the final route to the park entrance and I took a few deep breaths and set off again, for the last time. I rolled gently through the gates to cheers and huge banners and for once there was nothing I could do about the tears.

My mother had put my face on cupcakes, my friends had brought flowers and champagne, my flatmate had brought me my trainers (bliss) and people I’ve never met had brought me gifts, congratulations and “welcome home”s. There were three huge K8 and K9 banners (provided out of pure generosity by HelloPrint*). It was glorious. Everybody got a chance to meet Scout and she was on top form. I was so proud of my happy, relaxed girl and, when I thought about it, I was quite proud of myself too…which is a fairly rare occurrence. For the final few kilometres home my family insisted on taking my panniers and for once I accepted the help – my stubbornness finally giving way to the acknowledgement that I’d done what I said I’d do and it wasn’t cheating now. It’s possible I hold myself to slightly too high standards…

And now it’s been almost two weeks since our return and I’ve been struggling to make sense of what I’ve achieved and why. It’s safe to say I wanted to sleep for a week but puppies don’t really understand that, and that there has been an element of ‘coming down’ from the high of finishing and raising so much money for Street Hearts. I think I’ve already forgotten the heady feelings of pride and accomplishment. Individual encounters are blurring into part of the ‘I once cycled from Bulgaria to London’ whole. Scout’s not very good at reminiscing.

So, before I forget: it was approximately 2,549km, 44 days, 5 nights in a hotel, 8 nights in a house, 4 punctures, 5 jars of peanut butter, 30 bags of Orijen Tundra dog food, innumerable coffees and pretzels, five thunderstorms, 36 river crossings, 8 countries, about 55 kilos of stuff, and 44 mornings of waking up with a purpose, a goal, a job to do.

I am proud of what I’ve done. But I think it’s a little like childbirth in that I have to think really hard to remember how difficult it was…the thought of getting back on a touring bike doesn’t fill me with dread. I know I’m a stubborn old thing sometimes and just put my head down and get on with things, and being on my own for so long has meant that there was no-one who was significantly absent from my days, or my arms. Plus, I had Scout. I’m under no illusion that without her it would have been physically much easier, (approx 30 kilos easier) but mentally far harder and lonelier and I don’t think I’d be much interested in being any lonelier. I do a lot of travelling on my own, but it’s not really through choice. It’s simply because I won’t let anything keep me from adventures and new experiences. If you want to go out there and do something but you’re waiting for someone to join you, you might miss out on some really awesome stuff. Phones will keep you in touch with family and friends and you’ll see them soon enough, you’ll probably make some new ones too.

Start slowly. You don’t have to cycle tour on your own with a dog unsupported for six weeks in foreign countries for your first adventure. It’s probably not a recommended entry level trip. Start with a week, a weekend. Join an organised trip with support and guides and new friends. Book guest houses along the way. Do what you need to feel safe and strong but if you’ve ever thought ‘that’s something I’d like to do’, about anything, then you really owe it to yourself to do it.

To everyone who has supported me, financially or just by reading this blog and commenting or sending messages of goodwill, you were as much a part of this journey as Scout and I were. There are so many four-legged lives that will be changed by this money, and undoubtedly a few two-legged lives as well. Dogs can do that, you know. I’m pretty sure this one is going to change mine. I’m already planning our next adventure. I think it’s going to involve a Canoe so Scout better get practicing the doggy paddle and I better get used to the idea of wet dog in the tent again….

Thank you everyone, now go be awesome.

K8 and K9

 

*Please go to Hello Print for all your banner and printing needs – they are ace.

18 thoughts on “The last one”

  1. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a tear in my eye now …

    It was actually a blessing that the lift wasn’t working, because we were rushing to hang said banners and were risking still being busy on your arrival !

    Thank you for letting us share in your journey in some small way.
    You will, and have, changed lives of four and two legged friends.
    You can also be certain of similar support with whatever you do next.
    We are never alone when we have each other – in whatever form that means.
    Well done, thank you and good luck !

  2. Well Kate, that last blog has certainly brought tears to my eyes, think you need to think about being a writer amongst your many talents, oops battery is dying on my tablet, spent to long reading and re-reading your blog, really hope to see you soon and give you a hug J & D xxxxxxx

  3. Thank you for letting us join you on your journey. It’s been amazing,You’re amazing! Your blogs have been so informative and amusing. Love the way you write. Good luck with all you do next. Fantastic achievement xx

  4. Thank you for sharing your journey with us – what an amazing feat to cycle all the way across Europe! The German word for experience is Erfahrung, which literally translates into something akin to “becoming driven / travelled”, so there is a connotation of learning new things and gaining new perspectives being a very physical experience. So what an experience, travelling Europe by physically taking yourself across it!
    I really enjoyed reading about your adventures, thanks to some serious writing skills you displayed.
    You seem like such a lovely person, your friends and family, and Scout, are very lucky to have you in their lives. Keep adventuring, and keep making the world a better place! xx

  5. Your herculean efforts in raising so much money for this well deserving cause have been recognised and commented on by many. You should be so proud of yourself. The impact on dogs lives in Bulgaria at StreetHearts BG HQ has been immediate and positive. Reading your fantastic blog over the summer has revealed that many people helped you at various times when you needed it most and this was truly heart warming to learn. I hope you can both settle down now and enjoy a great, happy and healthy life together on home soil. I think my favourite bits of your journey were learning about the imposing Transfagarasan Highway to Hell and Scout’s reaction to your discovery of her having decushioned your cycle helmet. You should seriously consider writing a book about your journey. Canoe? Wet feet? I promise to provide a new pair of crocs in the colour of your choice for this endeavour.

  6. Bravo to an adventure that you will always remember. Yes, feel proud– we are of what you raised for Street Hearts of BG and for all the dogs that will benefit from the contributions. Enjoy being back home and training Scout, You’ve got a great life Kate Lamb continue to enjoy it all. Now, we all await your next adventure……..

  7. Didn’t want to finish your last episode of an amazing journey because I know there is not another one to look forward to. You are a pleasure to read and I hope that you continue to write. A fantastic journey and a fantastic achievement from one amazing Lady and her dog. Hilary Waterhouse.

  8. I felt a tear too knowing this amazing blog has ended.
    But, happy in the thought there are new adventures ahead for all of us. You’ve taught us so much. Bringing the blight of Streethearts to us. Showing what compassion. pure grit, selflessness, goal setting, determination is. Making us aware and remember we are the authors of our lives, and to stop and go outside and breath and truely live.
    Little lamb and. little Scout we love you.

  9. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to cycle with Kate and Scout on the last leg of their epic journey in Holland. Thank you Kate!

    The whole day turned out to be quite an adventure for me (not a week adventure, not a weekend adventure: a day adventure🙂). The weather forecast was terrible and the wise thing to do would have been to take my bike on the train to The Hague. But no, how could I tell someone who had come cycling all the way from Bulgaria that I took the train from Rotterdam….
    I did not have any waterproof trousers (although it rains quite often in Holland), could not get any (sold out for some strange reason), so I was soaked before I got to Delft. Other “highlights” of the day: finding the M&S café in The Hague permanently closed (no cake!), failing to get past deserted country roads before it got completely dark, getting lost in the dark TWICE and when I decided to take the train in Schiedam on my way home my ticket refused to open the entry gate and a kind lady had to help me and ran with me+bike through the gate.
    Despite everything I really enjoyed the whole day and it makes me happy when I think about it.

    Let me finish by saying that I cycled about 80 km in total, but this was just one day for me. There were no hills, we have amazing cycle paths, I could speak my own language and I knew that I would be home again by the end of the day. I admire Kate for having been on the road for 6 weeks, under various circumstances, with much bigger setbacks, tweeting, blogging, making videos etc., raising awareness and funds for the street dogs in Bulgaria. I am so pleased that she has raised more money than she could ever have imagined and that Emma & Anthony will be able to give so many dogs a better life. I have seen with my own eyes what a wonderful dog Scout is and how happy she is now. So if you can spare a few pounds now and then, please donate and many more dogs will be able to live the life they deserve!

  10. Felt a tinge of sadness reading the title…. it’s been an honour to follow your amazing story and very brave adventure. Have obviously never met you, but that didn’t stop me willing you on every step (well pedal) of the way. You’ve been so honest from start to finish and we all thank you for that, and for your grit, determination and never give up attitude. The doggies at Streethearts are in such good, loving hands and what you did, the money you raised will make such a difference. Scout is just gorgeous, a special girl for sure. Look after each other – I wish you all the very best for your future adventures.

    PS – I still chuckle often about the Romanian car engine story… was too funny.

  11. Fantastic achievement Kate…you are awesome! I’m sure that every dog lover in BG appreciates the wonderful thing you did for the street dogs here. Well done!

  12. Well, congratulations Kate on getting to the end of your amazing journey! It seems like a lifetime ago I was chasing you around Hungary, Slovakia and Austria and shoving a camera in your face at every turn.

    I know it was a challenge for both of us trying to navigate how to make it work; me hurtling around in that Citroen driving on the opposite side of the road, reading foreign sounding road and village names on the GPS and trying to track your next move and set up in time for you to zoom past and you dealing with a demanding Australian who would appear from nowhere, ask you to perform repeat ride-pasts, conduct on-road interviews in the rain, set up her tent in the wrong place, get lost for hours, get emotional, hold you up, cause your blood sugar to plunge and I imagine be quite f#&@% irritating at times. I’m hoping at least the footage gathered in that week was of some entertainment to your followers and that we can do something further with what’s left in the vault at some stage.

    You are a strong, gutsy and tenacious woman and I’m glad to have had a chance to meet you and your gorgeous, sweet Scout and contribute to this wonderful cause. You’ve certainly given Emma and Anthony and Street Hearts BG an incredible contribution to their wonderful cause.
    KDxx

    PS Apparently my cycling cousin was at the finish line!?!?!?!

  13. Well Kate, I am in total thrall of what you have done and achieved with Scout. I have been waiting for this last blog and it was very moving and I am not going to lie and say I am not moist of eye!!

    I can’t wait to see you sometime soon and to meet your lovely canine companion. You are a stubborn young woman – I always knew that at LAMDA – but it has helped carry you through this amazing and scary (at times) adventure. I take my hat off to your courage, your determination, your strength of purpose. Bravo a thousand times!

  14. I’ve been putting off commenting on this last blog. I totally enjoyed being a small part of your amazing journey across Europe with Scout and I have felt some letdown since you returned. I think all of us following you feel the same way, except maybe your mom, she’s probably quite happy this past adventure is over. I know that when my daughter went on adventures to Africa and South America I didn’t sleep well until her feet hit US soil again.

    I am incredibly proud of you for what you have accomplished! Your blog has been delightful and insightful and your writing style is full of humor. A book incorporating this journey would be snapped up in a heartbeat by your fans.

    I would like to give you a little perspective of how I came to follow you. About 7 months ago I reached a point where I needed a diversion, an alternative universe if you will. Season 6 of CTM had just ended in the US and I decided to join Twitter and follow you along with a few others.

    The statements below are a small example of how following you has impacted me:

    Because I decided to follow you, I met Emma, who is making a difference in her corner of the world.
    Because I decided to follow you, I chose to support Street Hearts BG, not just during your fundraising ride, but monthly into the future.
    Because I decided to follow you, I bought and read Blairs book, WTTGDIC, and started following her.
    Because I decided to follow you, Blair and Q are new friends and as you know there are some incredible threads to follow with some wonderful people.
    Because I decided to follow you, I now support Bravermountain.
    Because I decided to follow you, I have made a few close friends that are more than just passing acquaintances, we talk and make plans and my horizons have expanded.
    Because I decided to follow you, I feel I have become a better person.

    Thank you for being you and for making a difference in my life without even knowing what you have done.

    djmom53

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