Final Pedal - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

April 27, 2014

Final Pedal

An official at the ferry terminal looks at my bike, then spotting the fuel bottle in it's carrier cage, becomes suspicious and demands to inspect it. It is fuel-alcohol, I reassure her as she grips the bottle between index finger and thumb while rotating it around in the palm of the hand and studying the text on the side. Is it flammable, she asks, and when I confirm yes, says we might have to take that.

She walks off with my Trangia fuel bottle, disappearing through double doors. She did say she wasn't sure whether I could take it on board the ship and was going off to ask, but I anxiously await her return, assuming she would be back within ten minutes or so. But very soon ten minutes become half an hour. Meanwhile, passengers lounge around mesmerized by the TV-screen; at the crackling applause of some mindless Saturday night talent show. Opposite, a man sits upright engrossed in a paperback, undistracted.

Then the doors open again, but a different woman appears. She announces a bus will shortly take foot passengers to the ship. I dash over and explain about the bottle. She says yes, the fuel bottle is with the captain and you can reclaim it on arriving in Belfast.

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The ferry's café has fish & chips and pizza for those passengers coming on board hungry. While some eat, others amuse themselves as best they can. There's a handsome forty-something woman at a window seat doing a crossword. A very bohemian looking couple in their fifties at the next table together with their student aged son. Father and son sup glasses of beer, while wife has a bottle of wine open on the table. Then there are two young guys wearing football shirts seated in the middle. One with a baseball hat sits as stiff as a board, astonish even, as he listens to the mumbled monolog of the other turned in his seat facing him with hand nervously cupping his mouth in an attempt to keep others from listening in. He pauses now and again, lowers the hand from his face and picks up a pint of Guinness and takes a sup. Then returns the glass to the table and resumes mumbling sensations behind his hand.

Having had a couple of glasses of beer, I sleep soundly in the seat, then wake feeling a bit wobbly. The time is five thirty and the bar to buy coffee doesn't open until six, so I head out on deck. The door is hard to open against the outside draught and sea air rushing in feels shocking cold until I step out and let the door slam shut behind me. Then I paced the length of the deck and the morning air soon livens me up, as I pause a bit looking off to the grey line of approaching land, feeling good to be almost home.

I expected that someone at the terminal in Belfast would come along and give me back my Trangia fuel bottle, but there are no staff at any of the desks in the terminal building whom I can ask. I then return outside, thinking the man driving the truck towing the baggage trolley may have it. He has no idea what I'm talking about when I ask, so I explain and he drives off back to the ship to check. About ten minutes later I hear the whine of him returning. As he pulls up in front of the building, I see he has my fuel bottle in his hand.

At between seven and eight on Sunday morning, the road from the port through Belfast is deserted, as is the A24 southbound that climbs steadily away from the city ; eventually, continuing up and down for the next twenty-five miles home. It being Sunday there are cyclists out. They don't wave at their fellow cyclist here though, but this isn't to say cyclists here aren't as amicable as elsewhere I've been. One thing I've learned on this trip is, although people across Europe differ in ways, in Scandinavia for example, people come across as dourer and unfriendly, whereas most who visit Turkey, comment on how friendly and hospitable the people are. I'd like to say, in Turkey, people are more open towards strangers. In Northern European not; people there are just reserved and don't readily approach strangers. And throughout my close on eleven months on the road, I became impressed by the goodness of the human spirit that was alive in near enough everybody I met. In the whole time I met just one bad egg, at a roadside café in Turkey where the man charged me more than double for lunch than what the price should've been.

Its shortly after ten when I turn in through the gateway to the house where I grew up. There is no fan fair welcoming home, my mother who now lives alone is at mass and when she returns reproaches me for not sending any postcards, something I promise to do next time.

As I write, I've been back a few weeks and feel I have fulfilled a year move forward in life, which is documented here online and I'm extremely grateful to readers for following along. None met John Fairweather, neither did I, but he lives on in the spirit of the year that has past.

THE END.

Today's ride: 51 km (32 miles)
Total: 15,215 km (9,449 miles)

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