Bordeaux was even more of a challenge. Once across the Dordogne River, all signs led to motorway-type roads and none to the minor streets I needed. At one point I found myself quite suddenly on a very narrow, and quite fast, stretch of road that the designers obviously intended would never carry milk floats, motorised wheel chairs - or bicycles. On each side were concrete parapets to prevent (I assume) cars crossing to the other equally fast lane going the other way. There was little room for a car and a bicycle side-by-side, let alone a truck. Thankfully this was July 14th, Bastille Day, a major national holiday, and there wasn’t a truck in sight. Nevertheless, I was clearly in the wrong place; a view reinforced when I spotted a newly tarmaced bike lane running along the other side of the concrete parapet. I had to press on regardless for a good mile before I could cross to the right lane. Then finally into Bordeaux; across the Garonne River on the Pont de Pierre, turn right down the Quai Richelieu, then left up the Rue Esprit de Lois, cut across the traffic into the Place de la Comédie, and there, by the elegant colonnades of the Grand Opera House, were my family and OHMI colleagues. Blake, my son in law, held out an inscribed silver tankard of cold beer. That was the end of my journey.
For this last blog, I had in mind that I might reflect on the purpose of this journey. But now I sit down to the task, it’s really not so simple. What started as a method to raise money and profile for the OHMI project became also a personal struggle. That initial motivation has brought a large measure of success. I still don’t know exactly how much I raised just with the bike ride, but something in the region of £2,000 is likely. The effect on the wider fund-raising effort has, though, been considerable, with a sum of something over £20,000 promised for the OHMI coffers. I am hopeful that more awards and much larger sums will also now be raised from trusts, foundations and others. From an idea eighteen months or so ago, to a plan drafted last autumn, the OHMI Project is now actively in progress. The B2B Cycle Challenge has unquestionably played a central role in getting this far.
Rather more difficult to assess is the affect on me and on my family. They have had to support me through the whole adventure. Over the last few months I’ve cycled-off into the wilds of the West Midlands for half or whole days, trying to cover something between 20 and 60 miles on every training ride. Fitting-in essential business work around this regime left very little time for anything else. Without the support and patience of Tanya, Amy and Kate this could not have been sustained. Then the ride itself has been quite a solitary experience, and sometimes quite a painful one. Staying focused on the task, yet separated from everyone involved in it, brought its own emotional, mental effects that I’m still dwelling on. For me, an office-chair jockey in his 60s, it was not easy physically or mentally. I may have more to say on this at some time in the future, but, for the moment, the whole experience is too close to be clearly seen and described.
I also want to give my sincere thanks my OHMI co-trustee, Martin Dyke of the solicitors Tyndallwoods, and Judy Dyke for her cheerful, indomitable, support; to Harriet and Amy for all their dedicated and professional organisational work on the OHMI project; to Kate for her fine photographs; to Nicola for her advice and work on the blog while I was on the road, and to Ken Guild for his GPS tracking wizardry. And, of course, for giving purpose to this whole venture, thank you all for your support and generosity.
Departing the CBSO Centre in Birmingham on July 4th:
The OHMI Team; Stephen Maddock (CBSO's CEO) and me; Martin Dyke, my Co-Trustee; a tribute to our American sponsors; Stephen Maddock, Michael Seal, the CBSO and me (two photos)