Up In The Air

I should be celebrating 250 consecutive stages, but instead my thoughts are dominated by the coronavirus and what it’s threatening to do to the holiday of a lifetime that Jane and I have planned for Australia and New Zealand.

Forgive me but my mind thinks data science and strategy. Our grand plan was to fly into Adelaide then use that as a hub to nip over to New Zealand for three weeks before flying back into Brisbane, picking up a motor then driving the Ride2Cure route back to Adelaide, partying, then flying home.

The whole gig’s been booked for weeks.

I first became aware of a potential issue when I checked the Air New Zealand website for travel advice at the start of the week. At that time, they were saying that anyone who has been a passenger on a flight where another passenger has tested positive for coronavirus shortly after, must themselves self-isolate for fourteen days. That got me nervous, because even if you feel well when you get off the plane, you’re effectively living on quarantine row. And we had a motorhome booked to go travelling about.

Roll the story forward a couple of days and now everyone who has been in China or Iran in the preceding 14 days must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. They then go on to say that anyone who has been in Northern Italy or Korea in the preceding 14 days may need to self-isolate.

So that triggered my data brain.

We are due to arrive in Christchurch in a month’s time, and my thinking goes that if Italy is on the endangered species list right now, and we are due to arrive in 30 days, then it’s worth looking back 30 days to see where Italy was back then. That at least allows for some kind of forward planning, with a view to a risk assessment on arrival.

30 days ago, Italy had 3 cases of CV. It now has close to 4500, most of which are in the north of the country.

Right now, the UK has 163 cases, some way ahead of where Italy was a month ago. So my projection is that the UK will have around 5000 cases by the time we are due to rock up to immigration. Would you want to risk spending the first 14 days of your dream holiday holed up in isolation?

That’s assuming, of course, that we get to New Zealand in the first place. Australia may impose similar drastic restrictions to greet us in Adelaide, which would screw the New Zealand leg entirely.

We have a decision to make.

I feel especially sad for Jane because not only did she miss Ride2Cure the first time around, but she also missed the fun of my return visit last year. Jane missed Wagga: twice. There are so many wee places I’d like her to visit, and so many people that I’d like her to meet, but the current logistical crisis looks like it has the power to scupper the whole lot.

There’s no upside to not going back to Australia in a few weeks’ time, but I had at least resigned myself to ending my hitherto unbroken run of stages in the name of going Down Under. It has always been a price worth paying. But if it does come to pass that we don’t board the plane, then 8000 miles in 8 months becoming 9000 miles in 9 months will not be the end of the road. 10000 miles in 10 months will become something really worth fighting for. It’s still a long way off of course, but the asking rate is only 31, and when you consider that the average of the first 250 stages has been 33, then there are clearly grounds for optimism.

It makes a change to get 600 words into the scribble without mentioning the weather, but that’s because this week has been kind. It’s so easy to forget how it can be at this time of the year, as winter morphs into spring: lighter winds, hardly any rain to speak of, and actual feeling in my fingers and toes: that hasn’t happened for a while.

The highlight of the R2CN PR this week has been meeting up with two chaps, purely by chance, on the A77 cycle path up by Newton Mearns. On Wednesday a guy shouted “Hi Steve” as I was busy plying my trade at speed in the other direction. “Who the hell was that?” I thought, as I went through the list of folk I could recall from Weirs who ride a bike. Nope, not one of them. So I turned around 400m down the road and went in warm pursuit. I used to do hot pursuit but I’m too old for that game now. Anyway, about three miles up the road, I caught sight of him, which lifted my spirits, and I reeled him in. It was none other that David Wood from HMP Shotts. David was there when I did my R2CN talks six months ago and here he was venturing out for the first time in a few weeks. Then I thought to myself “If I didn’t know that that was him, how the hell did he know that that was me?

The Australian Ride2Cure jersey. It turns heads and gets noticed…

All of which leads nicely into yesterday. I was on roughly the same route, albeit with one or two wee tweaks, when a chap came flying up behind me then eased off the power and asked if he could join me. Even though I upped my game, and he downed his, I still think I held him back. He was cycling from Glasgow to Ayr and when I checked his Strava gig when I got home, his average speed was fourteen something. I haven’t been above thirteen since I was behind the van in Australia eighteen months ago!

Anyway, we had a right good blether, but the nicest thing about it all was last night when he tweeted Cycling Weekly about this auld bloke on a push bike who’d done 249 consecutive stages right though the winter for neuroblastoma research. And he included a link to my fundraising page on the Neuroblastoma Australia website. “How the hell did he end up there?” I thought.

The Australian Ride2Cure jersey. It turns heads and gets noticed…

I often tell folk that the Rohloff Speedhub was the best choice I ever made on Ride2Cure, and mechanically, it probably is. But see strategically, the best thing has to be the Ride2Cure jerseys. In case you haven’t already got the message…

The Australian Ride2Cure jersey. It turns heads and gets noticed…

In Stewarton, the prison story’s about to hit the airways. I wrote a piece for the Stewarton Review back in November but it got pulled because they too much content for the winter edition: however I understand it’ll be dropping through folk’s letterboxes any day now. I work on the basis that if you sit on your arse and do nothing, then awareness won’t increase, and on the back on that, there will be zippo new funding for research. The opposite is to talk to people, write stories – like this one – and generally get in people’s faces: that way, people occasionally donate, either to Solving Kids Cancer or to Neuroblastoma Australia, and eventually, one day, someone will donate the pound or the dollar that cracks the genetic code of the disease. So what are you waiting for?

Irvine AFC, the football team that two of my boys play for, are supporters of Solving Kids Cancer. Since the start of the season, the club has matched my miles in pennies, and they have Solving Kids Cancer on the back of their shirts. And you know what? Here we are, heading for the middle of March and they’re still unbeaten in the league. I wonder why that is? Paying it forwards, perhaps….

And so to the numbers: tomorrow morning, a football day, so it’ll be a crack of dawn gig, R2C2 will post twenty 200 mile weeks on the spin. That’s a record in the whole of the Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma trilogy of events. Next week will bring up 700 hours on the bike in R2C2 and the calories burned out on the road will crash through 400,000 at an average of almost 1600 a day: I do love this ‘eat all you like and not put on a pound’ malarkey.

In summary, I look upon this journey as my job now. Ride2Cure Neuroblastoma is my life away from HQ. Three hours a day to go advertising neuroblastoma research, and occasionally, folk notice.

But back to where I started…

I don’t know what’s going to happen come the end of March. We’d love to be up in the air but right now the gig itself is up in the air.

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