Farewell, valiant steed

A birthday present from my family in my early teenage years, you were my pride and joy. I dutifully took care of you and in return you carried me to and from my friend's houses both before and after I got my driving license. We rode through the pouring Yorkshire rain round the Bradford suburbs, down snickets and through the parks and the woods. We trekked further afield out into the Yorkshire dales. We visited the highest pub in England (more than once) and crashed after too many ciders up there on Tan Hill. Down in London you gave me freedom to roam outside the tyranny of the bus, train and tube schedules. Remember when we went to the local supermarket after hours to buy booze and the owner would only sell me a case from the storeroom as the shelves were all shuttered up?  You carried that case on your handlebars with perfect balance and poise. Then Mikey drank most of them in one session, alone in the dark with no music or TV after the electric meter ran out in the middle of the night and he couldn't sleep. Ah, those were the days. When I worked in central London you saved me from the soul destroying journey that is the daily commute.  Rather than rattle along with all too often tired and miserable folk on the train into London Bridge, or fight our way on to get home at the end of another grinding day we braved the bitter, driving wind and rain to get to work (occasionally) on time. We dodged buses on the way home at full pelt round the Elephant & Castle roundabout.  We knew every pothole on the Old Kent Road on that short stretch as far as Peckham. We knew every back road and shortcut From Westminster Bridge to King Arthur Close. We never did stop at East Street market in the morning, though every time we sped through we said we'd set off earlier next time and pick up a bit of veg for dinner.  We never did though. Nevermind.

London took it's toll, but I fixed you, cleaned you, replaced your worn and battered parts and kept you in as good a shape as those roads would allow. I even forgave you when the bolt holding your saddle on snapped off and you left me sitting on my arse in the middle of the road while you careered off wildly down Clifton Way. Luckily you waited till we were off the A2 otherwise I would not be telling this story now.  I could nip down to Lewisham or bust it down to Camberwell in no time at all.  A short hop on the train took us down to Streatham in a jiffy. Friends in Brockley, Forest Hill, Greenwich, Blackheath, Brixton all were in striking distance and many times you'd take me across to the East End for a pint in one of them trendy pubs, or one of them old pubs, or one of them new pubs, or one of them not too trendy, or too old, or too new, but just right pubs. And every time I left you at home and rode on the nightbus I wished I had you with me. (Except that time when we crashed into the roadworks round that blind corner in Wandsworth and I'm sure that swollen knuckle the next day meant I'd broke my thumb...).  I took you to Wales that night I had work late on the Friday when no one would cover my shift.  We rode at midnight the 10 miles out from Swansea train station to that fantastic campsite in the Gower and couldn't find the bloody turn-off in the pitch black until god knows what hour. Thankfully my good mates had pitched my tent for me and had a fire and a cold beer waiting.  You absolute geniuses. Respect for that.  Hell, we even rode the 60 miles to the seaside one year and raised a bit of cash for charity (though the rain nearly did me in that day I can tell you).

It was the move to the U.S. that finally did you in. You languished in my Hoboken apartment, whose stairs were too narrow and steep to comfortably carry you in and out. With everything either in walking distance, or a car ride away, I didn't need the two wheels. NYC public transport wasn't bike friendly and the GW Bridge was (a bridge) too far from where I usually needed to be. A move to the suburbs brought you out of retirement, gave me the opportunity to let you feel the wind through your spokes once again.  But the trips to the bakery and the post office, while fun and frequent, where but shadows of your former glories. I neglected your maintenance. The elements pounded you, the winters aged you and rusted you and each time I took you out you creaked and groaned a little more until one day I felt like I'd put things off too long and now I needed to try and save you.  But it was too late.  Your components were too far gone. The repairmen all looked at you and shook their heads. Too much work needed doing. It would cost too much. You're frame was too small for me and anyway, once I'd replaced all the rusted, worn components I'd be easily pushing the price of a brand new bike. I hung on, tried again and again, but no one even had the replacement parts you needed - a complete overhaul would have to be done they said, and again the price of a new bike was floated alongside the cost of the repair.  A quick fix might might be tried to keep you going a little longer, just some new cables, tires & brakes would get me to the shops and back a few more times perhaps but you were past your prime. It was time to retire for good.  So, after one last ride when your gears finally clanked, jammed and refused to shift, I decided it was time.  A new bike was bought. A wonderful machine, a worthy successor, but not a replacement.  Nothing will ever truly replace you.  It's only a bike, says the rational part of my brain, why are you wasting your time on it, on this eulogy? But if you've ever swerved past a Routemaster at Picadilly Circus, bounced over a South London pothole, viewed the top of the Yorkshire dales on a summers day after a long ride from the city, ridden through the woods at breakneck speed sliding all over the wet leaves and bumping over the hidden rocks or even just avoided the crush of the Victoria Line at 8am by taking to the pedals, then you'll know why I have to say the long good bye. Finally, today, I removed your wheels, separated you from your tires and took you to the scrap metal yard. You looked out of place on top of that skip, like you weren't quite ready. But I had to let you go.  You'd done your duty and it was time to rest.  So long. I'm sorry I let you waste away but try not to judge me too harshly.  I just hope they don't turn you into a waffle iron.  You deserve more than that at least.

Singapore Security

Don't worry suspicious persons, by the time they get the film developed, you'll be long gone...

Tower block kids

Korean couples in Daejeon

Mushroom Mountain

Ok, so we didn't find any wild ginseng, but we did find a decent amount of mushrooms, climbed to the top of a small mountain (or large hill, depending on your point of view - in any case it was damn steep) and were periodically engulfed by clouds of mosquitos.  And all of this before lunch time. I took my Bronica, so more pics when the film's developed and scanned but for now here's my wife and my father-in-law resting on a spur near the peak before the downhill slog.