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.

Days of Blunder: 3 & 4

Day 3 – Port St Lucie => Pompano Beach

Jupiter – Macdonalds

I keep passing the same strange looking dude.  He’s wearing floods, carrying a bible in one hand and a jerrycan in the other, and i’ve seen him three different times at intervals of ten miles or more. He’s always walking slowly on the same side of the road, at least half a foot of bare leg sticking out below his jeans, lurching along, impervious to the roar and stink of the traffic.   How does he keep overtaking me? It’s either hitchhiking or armageddon. If it’s the former, i have to ask:  who the hell would pick up someone looking as crazy as that?

Now I’m eavesdropping on a hilarious conversation between a bunch of old people having their usual MacDonalds chinwag.

One old codger, dyed hair, and insistent voice – identified by several around the table as a lawyer, and fairly obviously so – keeps saying to one them ‘You’re interrupting. You’re interrupting. You’re interrupting.’ Until the poor guy he was browbeating (a reverend, from what I can gather) finally subsides into silence.

‘Now let that be the last time you interrupt. Because I’m trying to help you here. I’m trying to help you not make a fool of yourself. Get possession of the facts before you open your mouth. Then you won’t make a fool of yourself. And no one wants to see that, because we all love you Reverend.”

Talk about sweetening the poisonous barb!

The same asshole has just walked out making a fist and urging everyone to ‘seize the moment.’
Thankfully, nobody seems as perturbed by this display of Sheenishness as me. In fact, they seem kind of inspired by it, since they’ve now moved on to Charlie himself.

‘One of those girls looks like a porno star!’  ‘She can’t be older than eighteen’. ‘He’s a confirmed dope addict.’  In the absence of the law, they seem pleasantly scandalised.



Miami subs – Briny Breezes/West Palm Beach

It would seem the rich have no use for 7-11s. Or Publix, or any of those other institutions I have come to depend on. Instead, they spend inordinate amounts at places called The Ice Cream Club, or Thaiku sushi bar.

I rolled through ten miles of west palm beach, and all I saw were mansions, flash boats, and unsmiling dog walkers. Originally intending to take the Ocean Road (A1A) all the way to South Beach Miami, I only lasted half an hour before crossing the bridge back to US1. As roads go, I think we’re much better suited to each other (though early signs are that the Old Dixie Highway could be making a bid).

Throughout the trip down, I have been exchanging at least some form of acknowledgement with other cyclists. In South Palm Beach? Nah-unh. I passed several mini-pelotons of lycra-clad rich folk, straining away atop their expensive carbon bikes, impassive behind their Oakleys. Not one of them cracked the slightest smile, let alone ventured a response to my wave. I never thought courtesy was soluble in money.
Otherwise, today’s ride has been a tough one. It doesn’t help waking up freezing in grove of dead trees just off the highway, your last shower 24 hours behind you. It feels like I might be curing myself slowly of this cycling habit. My arse has started pleading with me to stop, and my lower back is none too happy either. The fingers in my left hand are numb, and my right wrist feels like I’ve wronged it in some mysterious way. Worse yet, the rear hub has started clicking in fairly ominous fashion.


better fix up the guest house

Day 4 – Pompano Beach => Homestead

Anu, the manager of this hotel hails from Bombay, and despite the intervening pane of bullet-proof glass, we got to talking. I asked her if there was anywhere in town to get Indian food, since I am truly, deeply missing it. She smiled but said nothing, just adjusted her headscarf and gave me my key. Then, fifteen minutes after i checked into my room, the phone rings. It’s Anu. She’s cooked me a fish thali, complete with curd, okra and gulab jamun. And it’s positively delicious. I find I’m at a loss to convey the depth of my gratitude. When i try to thank her, she points heavenward. “He provides.”

Today is definitely a day for feeling grateful. Here are a few people and reasons.

  • The Missus. She goes at the top of any list and for obvious reasons.  Miss you baby.
  • Uncle Cory. for pointing out the obvious flaw in my plan to get an Ipad for navigational purposes. Something along the lines of “I can see an ipad being a fairly awkward fit on the handlebars.” As a result of opting for something handlebar mounted, I positively skipped through Miami, taking a road to the west of the city (only saw two polic busts) and was then routed through a lovely part of town to the south on the Old Cutler Rd. (This was another neighborhood  dripping with wealth, but much more understated and classy than what was on display in West Palm Beach). so thanks to Uncle Cory.
  • Anu – the lovely lady from Bombay who was happy to talk about India while checking me in, and hearing I was missing the food, cooked me up a thali on the spot!
  • Enzio – the mechanic at P&J bicycles who tried that little bit harder to find the obscure campagnolo tool that would allow him to get my rear freewheel off to overhaul the hub. And, after a fairly involved tussel, got a new set of bearings in there, and only charged me twenty bucks.
  • And Me, for finally bothering  to look at the elastication in my cycling shorts (Steve, you’ll be glad to know that, although they are lycra, I keep them well concealed). A bit of pre-emptive snipping round some of the foam and a healthy slathering of suncream around the (ladies, look away now) nether regions, et voila! No nappy rash!

It’s been a good day.


IMG_0956.JPGBeyond the call of curry.

Day 2- Siwash at Port St. Lucie

After spending a grey and wet day trying to put some miles on without getting soaked, a sizeable nail through the back tire put an end to my 100-mile ambitions at around six pm. it was getting dark, and i hadn’t passed a seedy motel in ages. Best Westerns and Holiday Inns there were aplenty, but sadly it looked like I was about to venture beyond the land of the thirty dollar special, with only Albert and Brigette to show for it. After patching my the tire and getting back on the Publix-IHOP-Walgreens-Burger King-Marathon-7/11-CVS conveyor belt, i started to wonder just where i would spend the night. i was loathe to part with 100 bucks to sleep in a sterile box with cable.

i did have another option. despite coming under fire from various parties, i’ve been toting a hammock under the vaguely delusional notion that i might be able to do some camping, save some readies, etc (after all, I am unemployed and with few prospects). ever since a rather soggy conversation in India with Uncle Howard about the merits of a Hennessey Hammock, getting one has felt a little bit like destiny. i mean, the thing weighs 1.1 kilos and you don’t need any tent pegs. how cool is that?

sadly, it’s been looking rather like i wasn’t going to get the chance to use it. Most of the trees in Florida seem to have been cut down to make room for RV parks, and most of the RV parks don’t seem to have anything else you can tie a hammock to. it’s strictly back in, and hook up, open a Busch and say hello to the neighbors. This has been double disappointing, since i vowed to recoup the cost of the damn thing through savings on h/motel rooms. using campgrounds, that would take eighteen nights assuming a cost of $20 per night. with the but only 4 nights of Siwashing. so you can see the attraction of some bush whackin’.

So anyway, i thought i would warm myself up to this. coming off the road after 80-odd miles is a pretty smelly business. showers tend to be uppermost in your mind at the end of the day. and that is where i was heading. the legs hurt, and i was in need of a good dousing. but then i saw it. the perfect road. paved but turning quickly to gravel. leading to nowhere. on an impulse, i turned and followed it down to where it ended at a small power substation (if indeed that’s what they’re called). behind that was rather promising and abandoned stand of trees (i had noticed that the 2 acre lot was for sale as i rolled in). a quick three minute bushwhack into the forest, and there was a grove of conifers, largely hidden in the bushes. perfect. i charged in, and got busy making fool of myself setting up the hammock for the first time. thank god i didn’t attempt it in an RV park. they would have sold tickets and hot dogs. I managed to tie the last knot just as it got proper dark, then i bush whacked my way back out of there, hopped on the bike, and cycled over to the mall for my usual evening shop of fruit, a single tin of beer, some muffins, and a bottle of this mysterious (but delicious) liquid called muscle milk*.

Then, looking for somewhere i could plug in the laptop, i wandered into an unassuming Pizza shop, and was greeted by Carlos, a Portuguese ex-pat who had moved to Port St. Lucie via Mozambique and New York. he had one hell of a life story to tell, and wasted no time in telling it – plying me with various freebies (‘garlic knots’ anyone?) to keep me in my seat talking about english football. i was there until eleven. he liked the idea of the trans-florida bike ride, and when he asked where i was staying i mumbled something about the Best Western up the road. “that’s a shame. you could have come round to mine. met the kids.”

i smiled and thanked him gratefully, then excused myself for a date with the bush…

next morning: i.e. after a sleepless interval

you would never guess that it would get so bloody cold overnight here in florida. or maybe you would. it is the beginning of march, after all. i spent the night trying to wrap myself in every last bit of clothing within reach, then tossiing fitfully as i dreamed of helicopters pounding the air overhead, scanning the forest with heat sensing cameras. i’m not sure if i managed much sleep proper, but eventually the sky did start to get brighter. i did some extra strength shivering in an attempt to get up enough heat to exit the cocoon, then hauled myself and my several loads worth of gear back out to the road. there were a few quizzical glances from the morning’s first shoppers, but i just smiled and waved, trying to keep my hand low and my nose averted….


* Muscle Milk: contains no milk


a perfect night’s accommodation. email me direct if you want GPS co-ordinates.

interim tallies

Greetings from the Siwash*

prevalent conditions:  sun, wind, brush fires

prevalent conditions:  wet, no wind, bad drivers


*more on this later