'As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning' is the title of Laurie Lee's memoir. Deciding one day to leave the comfort of his Cotswold village, Laurie walked to London and then spent a year walking around Spain.
Laurie is the inspiration behind newest Beeline ambassadors Will and Stef's summer of adventure as they set off from London by bike next week. Over the next four months, they'll be Beelining across Europe - crossing the Dolomites, the Alps and the Pyrenées and rolling wherever the wind blows them in between.
We're very excited to follow their journey, and to adventure vicariously through their beautiful photos (@AsIRodeOut). But first, we joined them at the pub to find out more about their trip.
Will and Stef love adventuring. Their best so far have been an RV trip through the southwest USA's canyon country for Stef and a week on the 'stunning, knock-out' island of Skye in Scotland for Will. They live in Hinchley Wood and are also big fans of the Surrey Hills - Will gets up at 4am some Saturdays to blast around while the roads are quiet and the Sun is still rising.
Cycling runs in their veins. In fact, the couple are two 24 year-olds - a prop-maker and a cycling copywriter - who met on a bike ride. Both spending an afternoon cycling down a Thames towpath, they independently stopped on the same bench and got chatting. Turns out, they both quite like cycling!
Since then, they've cycled up in Scotland, down on the South Coast and last year took a week or so to cycle across Germany's Black Forest. But they're young, work freelance, and have been dreaming of taking a few months off for some epic exploration. They got inspired to go big by a friend of theirs who spent a summer cycling around France.
Setting off from London on Tuesday 15th May, the pair will first head to the coast to get the ferry over to the continent. From there, the plan is fairly loose. And that's why they're riding by Beeline! They don't like step-by-step instructions (though this will very soon be a Beeline option) and love taking the turns they want to take to make their own adventure. Stef's philosophy is that 'even the smallest little market is more impressive is you stumble upon it'.
They both have key places that they'd like to visit: for Stef it's being in Munich for her grandmother's 80th birthday celebrations (her parents will bring her a change of clothes so that she doesn't have to celebrate in lycra), and for Will it's Cinque Terre. They're also excited about getting into Luxembourg and to tick off a good number of the tiny little countries scattered around Europe - we're looking at you Andorra and Monaco!
Along the way they'll be challenged by climbs across three mountain ranges which elicit mixed feelings. Will can't wait to get into the Dolomites; Stef can't either...but it's also the segment of the trip that she's dreading the most. For Will, it's the heat of the Pyrenées that induces the most anxiety.
So what will keep them going up those never-ending inclines? The thought 'of seeing the next beautiful thing. The vistas at the top. And the downhills!'. Stef will make sure that her saddle bag is well stocked with Skittles and Jelly babies for the moments that call for a little help from a sugar boost, but trying 'not to look like a wuss in front of Will' will provide a little extra energy too. They're also planning on stopping in each French town for a croissant which should provide some good motivation between each one.
Stef and Will are taking their tent and, with a budget of around £20 each per day, are hoping to spend nights camping, wild camping and with Warm Showerers.
They'll use a camp stove to prepare big plates of filled pasta for re-fuelling and also have a tinned tuna trick up their sleeve. If they ever find themselves without fuel, or craving tuna, or both, they will buy a tin of tuna in sunflower oil. They'll jab a hole in the top of the tin, put soak the oil up with a piece of paper towel, and then set the paper on fire. This will burn for 20-30 minutes and produces both enough heat to cook and a portion of deliciously smoked tuna to gobble up after.
If you live anywhere along their route and fancy giving them a roof for a night get in touch!
Stef's everyday bike is a 1930s BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Company). A relic of cycling times gone by, it has two gears, rod brakes and weighs as much as several small bicycles. Great for building fitness during her commute to work but not the perfect bike-packing mobile!
So she has a touring bike too. It's a 1980s Orbit bike which she picked up at a fantastic little shop in Surbiton. Recycles Bike Shop sells all kinds of refurbished bikes and matched Stef with her beloved Silvester.
Silvester's partner in crime is Will's 'Della'. Della is a Cinelli Gazzetta della Strada: an urban delivery style bike which has plenty of room for panniers and racks and runs relatively quickly. A good pair to take on Europe!
A few final questions...
As tradition dictates, the last thing to do is to ask Will and Stef for their Desert Island Discs picks.
Their eight tracks:
Along with Stef's dad - who has had so many adventures and inspired her to go on this one - Laurie Lee's memoir provides much of the motivation behind this trip.
(They'd also recommend Nicolas Bouvier's The Way of the World: another tale of adventure from Switzerland to Iran).
Their luxury item:
An endless supply of Golden Syrup for Stef to pour on her porridge.