Day 1: 31st August 2017 - London to Cambridge to Harwich

Finally I looked up at the evening sky above the ferry terminal and breathed a sigh of relief. After some weeks of feeling too anxious about this trip, with its ordinary anxiety piling on top of the problems with our building work, I realised that I had relaxed. I had stuff all over the place that I am used to being able to organise and gather and take on these trips. But at this particular moment my touring stuff is in store – somewhere - and the rest of it is spread between the garage in Cambridge, somewhere in our flat under a bed and deep within the tarpaulin construction in the back garden of our renovating house in Southwark, along with some of our furniture.

I was tempted, but resisted, splashing out on new, or rather duplicate, kit. Instead, for example, I searched out my old Heine Gerrike jacket, bought nearly ten years ago and treated it to some re-waterproofing in the washing machine. I gave my old tatty boots another coat of bees wax. I was also tempted to buy a snazzy GoPro and investigate some high quality recording of the trip. I'd been watching some motovloggers and many seemed to recommend this high end kit (but it just looks like a completely un-aerodynamic brick stuck on the side of people's helmet). In the end I improvised - see below. I didn't take a compressor (also in store) and left my bottles for spare fuel and oil at home, losing a lot of weight in the process.

Before setting off There is something charmed about my rides to Harwich. It has never rained on me and today again I was blessed with sunshine. I managed to pack everything including some last-minute decisions, a number of improvisations, wire up my helmet camera to the microphone adaptor I soldered onto it yesterday (second time, no, third time worked when there were barely any wires left after my terrible soldering) and head off with composure and a mic ductaped to the inside of the helmet somewhere approximately near my mouth. It seemed strange to ride down East Road in Cambridge knowing that my end point was going to be Helsinki.

In the queue here at Harwich as ever are unexpectedly interesting people on motorcycles. I remember on my first trip on this ferry with a bike (2008) I met a music teacher, also riding a bike with her partner, who encouraged me by saying I would return a veteran of European travel.

Waiting in Harwich

This evening a man with narrow mirror shades and grey pony tail, sitting on a Harley Davidson turned out to be an expert, from Norway, on European medieval cathedrals. He had just come back from a sponsored tour (Visit England) of parts of England and was going to spend two more weeks visiting medieval cathedrals in Germany. We seemed to be waiting for ever this evening getting colder under some inky clouds that threatened thunder but kindly left us alone.

Sky over Harwich

(Later) I've eaten another Morrisons dinner in my cabin with a pleasant Beaujolais Villages – why did I spend so much time in the public spaces on my first journeys out on this route, even visiting, I remember, the smoking room full of some dodgy characters?
On channel number 5 here on the TV in my cabin they are showing the bridge cam. I can see they are still loading trucks. In fact there was an announcement that I could hardly hear saying that our departure had been delayed due to something about the cargo.
So, at last I feel organised. Tomorrow is a big day – 300 miles on motorways in an Easterly direction to just this side of Hamburg. My Norwegian friend suggested I take a different route, heading north in Holland and avoiding as much German motorway as I can because of road works. I forgot to check about road works on the German A1. I think I will probably risk taking my planned route. The route planner says it will take 5 hours.

Here is the video of the first afternoon journey. The sound quality isn't great. Clearly the mic isn't in the best place yet.

On to the next day