Cancel last. Cancel everything. Momentous things are afoot.
Sod the bike-bus, the camper van and the transfer-to-Cornwall job, I have a new plan; Canada!
Home of the brave, land of the free. Or some such.
It happened like this; I was looking on Gmaps Pedometer to chart a bike route. Before I’d zoomed in it was showing the whole world. On a whim I measured how far it would be to ride across Russia. (Straight lines, East to West, via Moscow, then while you’re there anyway, a quick nip down to Odessa, then back up to Blighty, on to home. It’s something like 7,500 miles.) I was starting to speculate on that for a new challenge but was put off by the language barrier.
Then I looked next door, a few miles across the Bering Straight and you’ve got Canada. A mere 5,780 miles at it’s widest point. Legendarily flat and cycle friendly, like Holland with mooses. (sic) OK, technically there are the Rocky Mountains to contend with, but how hard can they be?
I was thinking a leisurely 100 miles a day, as I’d have to carry quite a bit of kit. I started looking into it. Masses of Canada is wilderness. They have a deadly snake, the wolverine, wolves, and three types of bear. The grizzly being the most lethal. The advice was “Try to avoid contact. If you get into a fight with a grizzly it’s probably not going to end well.”
Sage advice. You can tell they really researched that one.
So; wilderness, carrying however many days supplies, all the spares I may need, camping equipment and bear-repellent-bat-spray. Over a mountain range at some point.
How much fun does that sound?
The proper issues arise when you start costing it out, though. Flights, with bike and kit, two months supplies whilst not being paid for two months…, dear do. I still fancy it though.
This lead me to idly googling ‘Canadian truck driving jobs’. They are absolutely gagging for UK truckers. There is an ongoing shortage of drivers. Even with the recession. Apparently Canada’s manufacturing industry is doing very well for itself, thank you very much, and is shipping it all to America. They can’t keep up with the increased demand and the retirement of existing truckers. They are so keen they’ve brought in an immigration by-pass thing. Trucking doesn’t make it on the ‘top boffin and other asset people’ list, so they have introduced a special ‘people we need right NOW’ attachment to the list.
And therein lies my first hurdle. You are trucking to the US. ie, you have to be able to gain access to the country. People have been turned away at border control for tweeting criticisms of the US or ‘threatening’ jokes. As we all know, I am a flag-waving, all American cheerleader. As of three days ago.
So here’s the plan; next year we are going to Canada on holiday. (In itself a big event and thrilling! I’ve not been out of the country, except to kill people for Her Majesty, for the last 25 years.) To which end I’ve sent off to renew my passport and ordered one for Wendy. Whilst on holiday (after a year of posting “Yay America!” tweets) we’ll try a border crossing. If that goes OK, then I’ll get a job tramping around mainland Europe while I apply to Canada.
Tramping is where you live in your cab for five days at a time. Start in the UK, take a load to France, over to Germany, back to France and home, say. You drive for your maximum hours, find somewhere to pull over and sleep in your cab. Get up and start again.
Not ideal, but you get paid for your nights out. More importantly, the Canadians want you to have experience of distance driving, in mountains and through ice and snow.
Apparently you apply to the companies, when you get a job offer you can apply for a work visa then move over there. The UK HGV licences aren’t recognized in Canada (uppity Canadians. Call themselves subjects of Her Majesty? ONLY JOKING!) so you have to take the local test. Two lots of multiple choice theory questions, a practical on air brakes, and a “surprisingly easy” (huh! We’ll see.) practical driving test.
Then there’s the job itself. It seems they like to run the trucks with a team of two, each allowed to drive for 13 hours a day so they can keep the truck rolling 24 hours a day. They don’t believe in all the mamby-pamby EU working time directive either. Over here your maximum weekly driving time is an average of 45 hours per week, with your max overall working time being 60 hours per week. Hah! We Canadians laugh in the face of such health-and-safety-gone-mad, nanny-state, want-to-live-forever legislation. Try 84 hours driving a week! Hell yes! Man stuff. 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. And the ‘long-haul’ jobs advertise as ‘driving for 7+ days’ so it’s not just hypothetical.
Anyway, after six months of that, assuming you survive, you can apply for long term residency, or citizenship or a return ticket on the mothership. Something on those lines.
So; Canadian holiday, test whether the cousins (with whom I fought shoulder to shoulder in the Gulf War, let us not forget) will let me in, if so; back home, EU tramping, and apply to for jobs. Get job, visa, pass local test, do job, don’t die, get settled status (or local equivalent) bring Wendy over. Get better job, or better run, become minted (guy was saying he made $70,000 in a year -£44,400-) take time out to ride across Canada. Imagine having the Rockies as your training ground. Running up mountains, wrestling bears and swimming lakes.
With my new masterplan in mind all other plans are on the back burner. I would still like to do my Outlaw and marathon, (have to see how the money goes) but I expect the Lands End to John O’Groats is off the cards. The expense for one thing, the time off work for another. I’ll still train for it, you never know.
Things that I can be doing though include learning French and German (basics, at least. French would be handy for the EU and Quebec, German probably just for the former.) I mean, how hard can French be? It’s just English with a soupcon of je ne sais quoi. Quite a big dollop of I don’t know what, actually.
In other news, yesterday (Friday) was a landmark day; we finally paid off the credit card! That’s it now, no loans, overdraft or credit card. If it wasn’t for the fact the contract on which I work ends in two weeks, we would be looking pretty peachy now. There are plenty of jobs being advertised, I’m not overly worried, it’s just change is always a bit scary. I know exactly what I am doing on this job and, apart from parking in the yard at night (nightmare, every time!) it’s easy driving. Still, I need to be challenged and up my game for next year.
Other good news; I’ve entered the Warrington half marathon! It’s only two weeks away. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do anything this year. That injury put me out of the game for nearly six months, then when I finally got back to it I was shit. Cornwall sorted me out and I’ve not had a recurrence of the injury (touch wood) for a few months so I’m going for it. It’s only a half, nothing to write home about, but it’s something. I had more or less written this year off as a year of fail.
Also, due to fannying around trying to sort Wendy’s passport application, I set out for work at 10.45 the other day, (supposed to be 10.30) then had to pedal like a bastard. It was partially wind-assisted, but I did it in 31.20s! PB! My legs were screaming the whole time and the sweat was pouring off me, but what a time! Sub 30 mins is looking possible, but I’ve only got two weeks. I’m going to go for it. Rest up for a day or so then go at it hammer and tongues.
I have changed my strategy. As of Thursday night’s ride home. Instead of dropping a gear so you keep pumping your legs at the same cadence (ideally 90+ rpm) I’m leaving it in top gear and working harder. As I understand it from body builder sorts, if you do lots of light work you gain muscle definition, if you do less but harder you gain muscle bulk. I think. Anyway, I know as a kid I rode everywhere in top gear and I had calf muscles the size of a baby elephant. Which came first I don’t recall, that is the bitch.
Well, all this is newsworthy and, for me, terribly exciting, but it’s not getting my fitness built. I’m off to Frodsham to run a 13.1 mile course that includes Frodsham hill. If I can do that I can batter the Warrington half marathon. If not, then I’ve really dropped a bollock. Ho hum, I’ll wait until I’ve run it before I post this. I’ll do the Ironlap tomorrow.
Did it! A few hitches, such as me working out a course that was a mile too short, only realising when I was nearly dead approaching the top of Frodsham hill and having to run down the other side before turning around and running back up with legs totally wasted. And only taking one energy gel as I got it confused with a ten mile run, so I had to over-extend the period running on empty. Not ideal. Were it not for the fact that it was a there-and-back run, so I had to keep going to get to the car, I think I would have quit at about 8 miles. Frodsham hill is hard. And not the mile straight up I had in my head. That was the distance of the mile I had set out. Duh. If you are running in through Frodsham village it is actually nearer to 2 miles, just the last mile is the stupidly steep bit. Nice to have a mile of leg knackering uphill to warm you up for the big push, though.
Anyway, I did it in 1.53:13. Poor, but it was my first run over 10 miles this year, it was a bitch of a course, I didn’t take sufficient energy gels and I’m crap. That covers all the bases I think. Good workout though, really did put my legs through it.
The downside is that bloody Creamfields was on down Daresbury so it took ages to drive to the start. From what I saw it seems to be a gathering of chavs, scallies and skanks. Never has so much perma-tanned mahogany flesh been so ill advisedly forced into ‘hot’ pants. I think the gig is sponsored by Cuprinol.
Kenny Everett had a sketch where he said “stand them in a field and bomb the bastards!” These are already in a field and the government has all those roof top missiles left over from the Olympics… You do the maths.
Off to glow in my own body heat.