Etape du Tour – (cr)Act 2

Hullo faithful friends,

now that i’m able to lift a finger to the keyboard without fear of collapsing, i can convey some sincere thanks for your support and generosity over the last week.

we’ve managed to raise almost £1,000 for Plan and their work in Kwapa, Uganda, in a very short time.  i’ve been incredibly touched by your show of collective munificence, so thank you again.

the ride itself was epic: nearly ten hours in (or around) the saddle, four and half of those climbing, and almost the same amount of time under rain.  the descents were slick, exhilarating and, once the fingers began to fail from the cold, more than a little worrying.  but what an amazing feeling, plummteting out of the clouds alongside a select group of lycra-clad nut-cases (proving there’s still some truth in the old proverb about shit and hills).

i managed to place respectably (1476 out of 4696 starters) from a position fairly far back in the pack (i was a little too honest when answering the questions about previous experience).  When i commented to Tash that next time i would do whatever it took to start near the front, i was met with a gaze of such withering intensity that i quickly realized i’m not likely to be hitting anyone up for funds again, any time soon.

so, there’s some further evidence, if you can be arsed, in the shape of:



you’ll be pleased to know, none of these show me in a particularly flattering light.

with thanks and salutations.



p.s. tomorrow (Wednesday’s) stage of the Tour will follow our exact route — Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon.  it would be nice to see the views on telly that were hidden by clouds on the day, but, if i’m honest,  i’d probably rather the pro’s got served a heaping plate of rain and suffering.  is that so wrong?

On 8 Jul 2012, at 11:13, jay johnston wrote:

Dear All,


after turning over the question of the dreaded fund raising email in my mind for some time, i’ve decided that i’m going to make a nuisance of myself after all.


Next Saturday, I’m due to haul myself over four French mountains as part of the Etape du Tour.   if folly has a name, it’s 200 km’s of riding through the Pyrenees over the course of a single day, with going-on-for 5000 m’s of climbing.


It seems silly not to parlay that kind of suffering into something beneficial.   also, given the training, diets, early mornings and long stints of boozelessness, it has become clear that i’m unlikely to attempt something this brainless again any time soon.


Jake, Noah and I have been raising money for Elvin Etyang, his family and wider community in Kwapa district, Uganda.  Elvin is eight and lives in a mud and thatch house with his parents and sister.  He fetches water for the family from a borehole,  and attends primary school at another village 45 minutes away from home.  The nearest health centre is over two hours away.   through Plan your donation would help fund health and education facillities, livestock programmes and water projects in and around Elvin’s  village.  Although we haven’t set ourselves a fundraising target, we believe that every little bit helps.


So, if you can spare even a small donation, pls visit our Just Giving page:


otherwise, i will let you know if i manage to survive the Pyrenean adventure, and perhaps afterwards, a photo or two will manifest itself by way of proof.


thanks for listening.


jay, jake and noah.

some small news….

for those few of you out there who don’t read The Wife’s Blog, here’s a wee update:


due in February. Gender unknown. Siblings would have rather gone to Disney Land. And, as my Dad pointed out, there goes Freedom Fifty-five.

All that aside, the results of the scan show there’s a healthy little person in there who, we hope, will bring a nice triangulate effect to the current head-to-head action going on in my house.

And we’re over the moon. I’ve opened an account at the Bank of Sleep and plan on making some deposits. happy Wednesday all.

Sludgestonbury 2011

Hard to believe, but that most anticipated of weekends has come and gone quicker than a whiff of distant toilets.

It was a bit of an odd one for several reasons:

  • weather – all four seasons rolled into one weekend that seemed to just keep rolling
  • an all-media blackout come Sunday: worked the SLR, which died, and then the phone, which also died. but there was a lot of output from those first few days. namely:
    • 200-odd photos
    • some videos (some of which may get cut down any minute by the copyright bot on Utube)
  • we met an owl
  • mud in quantities not seen since the Somme
  • despite yelling his name repeatedly, we never found Dan (or Darragh, for that matter)
  • our neighbours packed up at daybreak on Sunday, citing a ‘Bad Glastonbury’ (we weren’t brave enough to ask if we contributed to the Badness, but, to our credit, we discussed how we could fix it for them for hours after they left).
  • [Team, you know who you are, and you know there are more: feel free to contribute your own bits of oddness in the comments…..]


highlights, to name a few:

  • Queens of the Stone Age – thanks to David, and his very generous back stage pass, i managed to sneak up alongside the Other stage and watch the entire gig from beside the smoke machines, about 20m to the right of the band. it was an up close display of some incredible guitar-based jousting, and probably the musical highlight of many a Glastonbury for me (a fact cemented by a chance run in with Josh as he came offstage, a quick shake of his massive, calloused, ginger hand and some effusive compliments from me)
  • Absynth: the twister of many a face, stomach and, i’m sad to say, morning
  • Fuck Off: it became the watchword(s) of the weekend, for which we discovered many interesting uses (including some that were actually kindly and pleasant). key phrase (Jamie): ‘I’ve got three words for you, choose two of them….and then leave…’
  • Elbow: if ever there was a born festival band, or even more so, a festival anthem, these guys are it.
  • the Sun: after three days of pissing rain, battlefield conditions, and an emergent case of trenchfoot, every last ray from that shiny motherfucker on sunday was like a taste of Life Everlasting.
  • Somali pirates: who knew they could be expert Faffists with a penchant for Cider?
  • here are a few other highlights:
Not what you’d typically expect to meet at Bristol Services
the sky should have been our first clue…
Absynth: it’s been known to cause facial abnormalities

Case in point…

woops…. another

Say hello to my little friend….
No one is taken in by the flowers….
some slippery faces reported on site
the spirit of creativity never sleeps….(ok, maybe it does if it’s been up all night)
Liam Gallagher takes a passing interest in Kenz

Not quites sure how this works…..
Our Neighbour Kim: she actually liked us before we discovered three very special words on Thursday night…
Searching for options

A big camera does funny things to perfect strangers
Overpowered by a surprise sunbeam
The Couple Odd
Another absynth casualty.
When food into face must go

Who be dis cheeky little fing? It’s Jamie, BF (before faff)

and AF
Me and Lovey: ‘oldin it down
Andy: sometimes even hearing difficulties can come in handy
other defensive techniques
Pimp my festival…..
the famed Child-Sized Gnome
Yorkie on maracas
Kenz gets a leg up for Elbow
nightime moodiness
Jules and Barry in the PP
How the mighty fall
Mick Jones: glasto royalty

there are, like, way more photos dudes. fill them boots.

Bike Trip – Tidying Up

despite being months behind in other happenings, the Tour de Florida has been playing on my mind a little. here’s the last few scraps.  next up, Panama!

10 Things:

1. A journey of 1000 miles really does start with that first step/stroke/revolution, although there are easier ways to prove it.

2. Americans, at least the ones that I met, were genuinely nice, courteous, friendly, fat and incredulous that someone would want to make such a journey. They also showed due respect to my two wheels, and, with the exception of two separate ladies driving Escalades, never even came close to running me off the road. Even when there wasn’t much of it.

3. Bike Fit! Don’t be tortured by various niggling elements brought about by second guessing the many parameters that need to be figured out in order to cycle pain free. Do your knees/back/arse a favour: pony up and get someone to measure it out.

4. Multiples: these mean what they say. Ten miles is a long way, one hundred is a hell of a lot further. No amount of dividing, adding and subtracting what it says on the computer is going to make you get there any faster. Especially if it’s windy.

5. I just assumed my brain would work loads of things out as i rode — characters, plot, the meaning of life. It didn’t. Mostly it was just sweating punctuated with the odd bit of groaning.

6. It is only just possible to live for two and a half weeks on American Roadfood. Much longer than that, and parts of your body will start to fall off.  Associated with this is my index of Evil Substances:  Gatorade -7, Redbull -8, 5-hour energy – off the Richter. drink at your peril.

7. Key West is multi-layered and expensive. If you want to get past the typical drunken Duval-street stumbling-and-Hemmingway experience, you will have to apply yourself to some persistent digging. Your reward will be freaks in surprising numbers (and frequently,  house coats).

8. Completing the trip doesn’t seem to have killed the desire to go further, longer, harder, dumber.

9. Journey’s end was surprisingly anti-climactic. I realise that I was operating at greater-than-average levels of excitement throughout and that, in itself, was the reward. As with most things, the journey really does trump the finish.

10. Tubes. You never have enough of them. (a sub-clause of my own particular mechanical law:  whatever tool you need, you’re almost certain not to have it.)


the whole trip becomes a little more coherent when viewed in order.


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over and out.

Photos: by the Left. March

an eventful month, by all accounts.  the first half of March was a torrent of cycle-induced sweatiness, while the second half, spent in Panamania,  also had something of a liquid theme.

here is the evidence as it currently stands.

if i had to pick a favourite, i think it might still have to be the portrait of a self-professed Conch lunatic.



A Sort of Homecoming – Days 18 -19

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Two Lessons: Avon Park – 12:23

Always trust the GPS (Although you should aggressively resist this advice if you find yourself being directed over the edge of a cliff). In my experience on this trip, the machine just seems to have a nose for the better roads — which is good, since my usual routine involves scratching my head for a while at the crossroads, then unerringly opting for the traffic-clogged straightaway. Current theories (what else am I supposed to think about for all those revolutions?) is that the software grades the busyness of each road, or it’s following the shortest non-highway distance between two points, or i’m just a bit of a doughnut when it comes to route selection. All three could fly.

Case in point, the SH64 pretty much wins the derby for the ideal Floridian cycling road (and i would have completely missed it if i had listened to GoogleMaps, which told me to continue north on the reliable but somewhat staid 17). By contrast, the SH64 has been showing off its gentle topography like a giddy pubescent, rolling through gentle farmland with cows that calmly mark your passing with a quizzical look and a few more chews on the proverbial. There is an almost total absence of cars, and the tractors make you feel genuinely quick for a change. The houses, where there are any, are set well back from the road among orchards, fragrant fields, rusting cars and peeling For Sale signs. It seems like quite a pleasant place to spend a few hours, though of course, that may have something to do with the fact that it will only be a few hours.

Also, bizarrely, at times this morning it has felt as though I have been slyly wetting myself. This is possibly because I started fiddling with my seat position again in Arcadia and now I seem to have hoisted it into a position where it has pinched a nerve leading from one dark and fusty place to another, thereby killing all feeling but for a slow, spreading tingle that feels remarkably like you’re wetting your down belows. This ongoing palaver with saddles, seat posts and the like has definitely decided me in favour of a professional bike fitting when I’ve got the chance (and £200 to spare). I’ve only heard good things about the results, and I have a feeling a very long queue of body parts would assemble to thank me.


Clermont – outside of Publix – 9:30 pm

Playing at Homeless.

I have been masquerading as a tourist with some measure of success, but anyone possessed of even modest powers of observation would notice the telltae signs: spending a little too long in the restroom, emerging with a wet face and pockets bulging with stolen toilet paper. Or changing out of my shoes and into my flip flops while waiting for dinner in a Chinese restaurant. Charging a whole range of devices in a publicly-accessible power outlet, or even now, scribbling in my book on a bench outside of Publix, sipping a large Corona wrapped in a paper bag. Because tonight is the last night of my bicycling epic and the fourth time I have chosen to go without legitimate sleeping arrangements. But for a small copse of trees two miles back down Highway 27, where my hammock is strung between two of them, I have no home.

And this much I do know: that no matter how enjoyable I find it trying to live by my wits at the margins of this affluent consumer society, tomorrow night I have a bed to sleep in and a credit card should anything truly untoward happen. I have medical insurance and a valium if I find it overly difficult to sleep. And now I also have a newfound appreciation for just how difficult it must be for anyone who has to do this night after night, worrying about where to sleep or getting moved on, or how to get clean, or where the next meal is coming from. In other words, for the truly homeless.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Make that four out of four horrible nights spent trying to sleep in a hammock. The takeaway lesson is to get yourself something a little more substantial than nylon between your rump steak and the fresh, dewy breezes of a Florida morning (it also helps if you don’t dream of being eaten by the local wildlife ). this morning proved to be a fairly surreal sequence: get up in the middle of nowhere, make yourself as presentable as you can via water splashed out of a bottle, descend to the road, locate the macdonalds (there is always a macdonalds), and find yourself plunged into a torrent of disney-bound tourists who take little notice of you once they have established that your funny outfit is in no way related to the Magic Kingdom.

at least the queues in macdonalds helped to limber them up for  more of the same. it did little to prepare me for my last 80 miles straight into the wind. i always had pictures of coming back from a thousand mile bike ride completely de-fatted, with incredible endurance and calves the size of…well, calves. today was categorical proof that most dreams tend stay that way (i.e. i’ve still got abdominal overhang and chicken legs). plus the ride was gruelling. and that has nothing to do with two guinness at lunchtime (since i’ve done that enough times) and a lot to do with a constant 15/20 mph easterly wind. thankfully, i discovered a biker bar on the outskirts of daytona that seemed to be frequented only by bikers over the age of sixty. unlike nearly anyone else i have met since Jackie MF Bowman, these guys seemed genuinely impressed that i had just cycled to key west and back, and even clubbed together two dollars to buy me a tin of Bud (although part of this may have been a sanity test. could i drink horsepiss from a can?). it turned into a mutual vehicle appreciation moment (one of the guys even confessed, unashamedly, to having an Indian Enfield stashed in his shed), and i left with a nice warm feeling that was definitely not drunkenness.
another 10 windy miles then I crossed the bridge over the halifax river and pulled into the same daytona beach shores from which i had departed 18 days ago. For whatever reason, it felt perfectly natural to press the buzzer and take a lift upstairs to see the family; who must have missed me, since they overcame a very natural horror of roadkill to give me a brief hug, before ushering me toward the shower….

there was a 2-for-1 sale on civic buildings
surprisingly, even managed to source a Guinness on St. Padraic’s day.
who knew? Florida can also do small/medium bodies of inland water.
(i.e. lake eustice)
Eustice, FLA, a town too small for both a convenience store AND a wig shop
’73 Panhead. think this might be the ticket if/when there is a next time

the final 100 meters….