Under Starters Orders

Well, it’s the eve of the Police Unity Tour  (PUT)2012 and the it’s nearly time to set the peloton off.

After yesterday’s blog post, we had fun at Newark Airport as there was no one there to meet us. A taxi was going to cost $135 to the hotel before Paul managed to sweet talk the girl on the travel desk to offer us a lift to the hotel when she finished work. However, that proved unnecessary as we managed to phone the PUT offices and arranged for transport in the form of Stu from Essex county sheriff’s department in New Jersey. The problem was caused by my sending the email with flight details to the wrong address – d’oh.

Still better late than never to the hotel, and still in time for a couple of beers with Paul (my colleague from Essex Police in England &Lisa from Canada – part of Team HRH ( Her Royal Highness) – the three of us representing the Commonwealth in this year’s event.

Tuesday breakfast brought more meetings with old friends from across the USA, including Colorado, more from Ohio, California and elsewhere. It’s always good to speak to old friends and compared to me many are old! Sorry guys and girls!

Then it was time to reassemble our bikes. Fortunately they all went together apparently well. We beat the rush to this and so had plenty of space in the bike store to work. There are some very nice bike here, mine excluded

After this, Paul and I went for a walk along the main street in East Hanover looking at various retail establishments – especially the bike shops! Unlike in the UK, there are no pavements (sidewalks) and so, it was rather risky walking down the street. Something apparently not done in the USA. Crossing the road meant a walk of up to 1/2 mile to find a break in the concrete central reservation! Still, it passed a few hours and enabled us to get out of the hotel.

Returning to the hotel at lunchtime, we registered for the ride and got our pack with details of the hotels  we are to stay in, our luggage tags ( they take our luggage to the hotels for us each day). I knew in advance that I was rooming with Mike Rae of the US Postal Service like last year. We also got our Road ID bracelets with details of our emergency contact details etc. – Michelle, I hope you do not get a phone call!

After lunch we spent the rest of the day at the meet and greet session, meeting other riders, new and not so new. Selling/ swapping merchandise and having a buffet full of carbs to prepare us for tomorrow. Also, it was a chance for a beer or two, or was it three?

Oh, I forgot to mention we had a visit from the Morristown Pipes Band – aka men in skirts!

One of the PUT virgins was a lady originally from the Isle of Man, she is the same age as my mother and apparently knows my mother’s cousin! Small world!

There is not much more to say before I turn in for the night.

Men in Skirts

Peter Paul & Mary

Peter Paul and Mary – think we’d be good folk singers? (Mary is from the Californian Highway Patrol)

Team HRH

Team HRH – your Diamond Jubilee Team ma’am

My Fastest Ever Blog -Flying High

Well, the months of planning are over & today is the start of my Police Unity Tour trip.

The last 24 hours have been rather stressful to say the least.

Firstly & most stressful was having to leave Michelle in Blackpool @ the football tournament & head back to our London pad alone. I keep telling Michelle it would make a great home for the dogs to live (and wouldn’t be bad for her & Josh either). Sadly common sense prevails!

So, I head back south planning to get to Lymm Services where there is a McDonalds so I can use their wifi to check in for my flight. It was all arranged that I would be online @ the same time as my colleague Paul so we could find seats together. Sadly Virgin refused to allow me to check in online but did allow Paul – go figure!

I spoke to Virgin’s online help who told me I had been randomly selected for security checks & that I would have to check in @ the airport on the day! Given I had sat @ Lymm Services waiting over an hour, to say I was not jumping for joy is an understatement.

So having wasted all that time, I set off south. When I stopped @ Rothersthorpe services for a “splash & dash” (well its better than going to Milton Keynes on a Sunday) I saw an email from Virgin inviting me to check in online. Great – they must have checked this & are now allowing me to check in online. So, I tried again & get the message telling me I have to check in @ the airport. Grrrrrrrr. Why send me the email & then not allow me to check in online? Its that Branson chap’s revenge for my hostile posts re Virgin Media (see posts past)

So, home & start to pack. Get so far & decide I’d far rather chat to Michelle. So its time to leave the packing & do something far more useful & far more fun.

So, today, I was up early, finished my methodical packing of all three bags (bike bag, hold bag & hand luggage (I know you thought I was going to say hand bag!). Out the house ahead of schedule, visit Tescos for some duracel batteries (no, not for a rabbit) & fuel for the car & then its off to Heathrow.

First issue of the day is that the A12 is shut owing to a serious crash in Ilford, so a quick diversion & on towards the North Circular.

A last minute call to t-mobile to ensure my phone is set up for internet, email & blackberry messenger use whilst in the USA! Those interminable menus are frustrating- press 1 if you want to scream & throw the handset out of the window etc. Press 2 to get your hopes up & then realise you’re getting another recorded list of options etc)

A quick call (using the hands free headset) to Michelle. Great timing – she’s just out of the shower & wants moisturiser rubbing in – apparently that is not what hands free was invented for! I can’t think of a better thing to do with free hands!

Next a call to mummy & daddy. Just checking in to make sure I’ve not been cut out of the will yet!

Now, I’ll just call Michelle back, but the bluetooth is stopping me hearing her. Frustrated after 20 attempts, so I pop into Tescos near Heathrow to use their toilets (sorry – its bathroom over here) & buy the sudocrem I forgot to take with me. Then I realised the reason I’d not worn these jeans for a while was the zip doesn’t work at all! Would be just my luck to get arrested on entry to USA for their equivalent of Indecent Exposure! So, a quick pick up of some new trousers & a rapid change.

Ring car parking people & then head to Heathrow- drop off car & then time to check in. All sorted & seats on relatively empty upper deck – top result. Thanks Simon for your help!

Time for another chat to the Horsley belle & then meeting up with Paul & his partner Daphne. Checked him in & then its lunch time. A pleasant lunch in a surprisingly quiet Heathrow & then its time to face security. Amazingly its empty & I would have been through in less than 3 minutes IF I had not forgotten to take the aerosol can out of my bag! There are so many pockets that I didn’t realise it was left there. Quickly rectified though!

Duty free shopping next – ok drooling over the IT porn in Dixons whilst telling myself I do not need a new camera, an ipad, an ipod or a new laptop or helmet cam.

Only time for a quick chat with a very special lady before heading to the gate for the plane.

On board the plane we were invited into the exit row seats – the same ones they sell at check in for £30 or £50 each. Legroom? About 5′ :d

So after being fed & watered & watching a film (with the complimentary skinny cow choc ice [1st class get tubs of Hagen Das], its time to type this blog @ 12186 metres high (39987 ft) whilst travelling @ km/h (549mph) over Canada.

Got to say a big thank you to Debi & Jay for their ever attentive services (food & drink you perverts, what did you think I meant)

BTW its not too late to sponsor me! Follow the links on my blog http://www.spen666.wordpress.com to my first giving page & donate a few dollars – please!

Can someone text/ bbm me the football news this weekend – especially the FA Vase result.

Blackpool: Going up? Falling Down

Well after the debacle that was allegedly the Happy Mondays Gig in the Toon last night, today is Backpool!

The Happy Mondays were p*ss poor (& that is unfair on p*ss). No rapport with the crowd, Bez vanished from the stage & no real musical ability. Personally I blame the difference between the early 90’s and now on the drugs! The lack of them for me & too many for them!

Still it was great to see Stu & Kev friends who have known Michelle as long as me!

Today brought a trip to Blackpool with Prudhoe U13 football team for an end of season tournament. The day started off … well erm slowly… …Michelle got up & sent Josh off to school & then came back to bed & we eventually surfaced after another 4 hours recovery time. If Josh didn’t have to be picked up from school @ lunchtime, I’m not sure we would have surfaced @ all. That Michelle is bad for my liver!

We eventually arrived in Blackpool via Hexham, Alston, Forton Services (a favourite haunt of mine! – see posts passim). Checked into the hotel, feeding time then after a walk onto the South Pier it was time for the bar to be hit. A few bottles of Pear Cider were followed by the bottle of vodka smuggled in from the off licence & lots of diet coke – tight? You bet! 😀

So Blackpool Going Up? Well tonight Blackpool were playing @ home to Birmingham City in the 1st leg of the Championship Play Off. The ground is only a couple of hundred yards from the hotel we are in. Sadly no tickets were left so we couldn’t go to the game. The good news is Blackpool won 1-0. The amazing thing was that despite being so close to the ground, there was no sign of the game & few fans on the streets on the sea front.

Blackpool Falling Down? Well the seafront is looking great now the council have spent money doing it up. It really looks good now. Sadly, apart from the bars & clubs, the rest of the town centre is looking decidedly derelict with empty shops or charity shops everywhere. The local populace give chavs a bad name. It looks a sad state & action is needed. What is the solution? I don’t know but hopefully someone @ the local council does!

Still, it will be good for the town if Blackpool get promotion again. Not sure my liver would like it after last time

Blackpool: Going up? Falling Down

Well after the debacle that was allegedly the Happy Mondays Gig in the Toon last night, today is Backpool!

The Happy Mondays were p*ss poor (& that is unfair on p*ss). No rapport with the crowd, Bez vanished from the stage & no real musical ability. Personally I blame the difference between the early 90’s and now on the drugs! The lack of them for me & too many for them!

Still it was great to see Stu & Kev friends who have known Michelle as long as me!

Today brought a trip to Blackpool with Prudhoe U13 football team for an end of season tournament. The day started off … well erm slowly… …Michelle got up & sent Josh off to school & then came back to bed & we eventually surfaced after another 4 hours recovery time. If Josh didn’t have to be picked up from school @ lunchtime, I’m not sure we would have surfaced @ all. That Michelle is bad for my liver!

We eventually arrived in Blackpool via Hexham, Alston, Forton Services (a favourite haunt of mine! – see posts passim). Checked into the hotel, feeding time then after a walk onto the South Pier it was time for the bar to be hit. A few bottles of Pear Cider were followed by the bottle of vodka smuggled in from the off licence & lots of diet coke – tight? You bet! 😀

So Blackpool Going Up? Well tonight Blackpool were playing @ home to Birmingham City in the 1st leg of the Championship Play Off. The ground is only a couple of hundred yards from the hotel we are in. Sadly no tickets were left so we couldn’t go to the game. The good news is Blackpool won 1-0. The amazing thing was that despite being so close to the ground, there was no sign of the game & few fans on the streets on the sea front.

Blackpool Falling Down? Well the seafront is looking great now the council have spent money doing it up. It really looks good now. Sadly, apart from the bars & clubs, the rest of the town centre is looking decidedly derelict with empty shops or charity shops everywhere. The local populace give chavs a bad name. It looks a sad state & action is needed. What is the solution? I don’t know but hopefully someone @ the local council does!

Still, it will be good for the town if Blackpool get promotion again. Not sure my liver would like it after last time

The Final Countdown

Well, in less than a week’s time, I will be in New Jersey ready to start the Police Unity Tour 2012. So, I’m delighted to tell you that I have completed my packing:

The bike is boxed up ready for the flight

All my cycle kit is washed ironed and packed ready to go

I’ve got all the car parking at Heathrow sorted

I’ve finalised all my sponsorship arrangements

I’ve sorted out my passport and ESTA

Spending $$$$s are sorted and collected

I am however sure that you realise the truth, i.e. I’ve done none of the above.

Still plenty of time before I fly you say. Well not quite, I am heading off to Newcastle later this week to see Michelle, go to see the Happy Mondays in concert and then head to Blackpool with Michelle, Josh and Prudhoe U13 football team. I have 2 more nights at home before I fly to the USA and that is all.

So, what have I managed? Well, I set myself a target of riding 1000 miles between 19th Mach and going to the USA. I knew that I would have something like 14 days when I could not ride my bike in this period. I have managed to achieve this target. Often riding in excess of 40 miles a day as well as doing a days work. I would often do 25 miles per morning before work. To ride directly to work from my home is only 11.5 miles, so you will see that I have managed to double my normal commute to work.

I am quite pleased with myself for achieving that target. Especially so when you realise the number of visits I’ve had from the p*nct*re fairy. After getting a couple of visits, I fitted a brand new tyre on the rear of my touring bike. The tyre is one of the most p*nct*re resistant – a continental ultra gatorskin hardshell. You’d expect this to fix the problem? Well in the space of the next 6 days of riding, I got another six visits all in the new tyre. Amazingly, all were different p*nct*res and not the result of my failing to remove the debris from the tyre. The tyres had no other marks apart from the holes causing the p*nct*res. The heavy rain causes lots of debris to be in the road and also causes it to stick to the tyres.

I have since changed the tyres again but only because I got given a brand new pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. These are heavy and not the fastest, but they are said to be the most p*nct*re resistant tyres going. The previous tyres are kept for use in the future.

I’ve only got Wednesday to ride before the USA, and as I have a busy day at work, I will not be doing anything other than the quick route to/ from work. Sad smile

This year I’m planning on taking my best bike to the USA rather than my touring bike. I have fitted new tyres, new chain, new cassette etc. to it and am hopeful its all ship shape. I’ve even bought extra cleats for my shoes as last year I wore out one of the cleats and had to ride the last day with one foot not clipped in.

The ride itself is some 300 miles or so over 4 days. It is a challenge, but an enjoyable one and I’m looking forward to doing the ride once again. Meeting old friends and meeting new ones. The Americans couldn’t be more friendly and welcoming.

One feature of the ride is that we get to hear the US national anthem – the Star Spangled Banner – on numerous occasions. I have to say it has grown on me.

 

So despite all this to look forward to, there is something even better to look forward to first. Going to see the Happy Monday’s with Michelle on Thursday and meeting friends there. Then on Friday going to spend a weekend in Blackpool with Michelle and a team of 13 year old footballers. I have to say that despite it being tacky Blackpool is a great place to go to. I went twice last year with Michelle and had a great time each trip, once for football and once to go cycling. Michelle still remembers the Midland Hotel, but says the counselling is helping her whilst Tom says if I ever take him within 500 yards of the place he will be calling Childline.

 

The Police Unity Tour is to raise money for those police officers killed in the USA. It is a great charity and brings not only money, but a lot of moral support to those who have lost loved ones. I know times are hard this year, but if you can even spare £5 then please make a donation to my ride at my first giving page which can be found by clicking here

Thank you