Europe North/South: Nordkapp, Norway to Tarifa, Spain

Europe North/South: Nordkapp, Norway to Tarifa, Spain

June 2013

Europe North/South: Nordkapp, Norway to Tarifa, Spain

June 2013

  • 22 Days, 11 hours, 28 min
    4100 miles
    Hallucinated that a vampire was chasing me
    Broke my aerobar armrest
    Cracked my bike frame

The decision to try break this record started when I heard my world record for the fastest cycle across the USA had been broken. The fellow that broke it, Glen Burmeister, held the record for the fastest cycle across Europe from North Cape Norway to Tarifa Spain, so I decided I would go and attempt to break his record.  Learning from my first record (N/S/E/W across USA) I brought more help. We hired a campervan in England and my friends Dean and Chad drove support for me. We drove across England, and got a ferry from there to The Netherlands, and then we drove from there to Nordkapp which was 3,000 km. We went out for dinner drinks, and since we were in the Arctic Circle, there was no night time, which was so strange.  Because of the lack of darkness, we just weren’t that tired. We stayed up until 2 am the night before we left with a bunch of students who showed us the town.

Over and Under the Water

We started at the Nordkapp monument on the very northern point of Norway. It’s got a big cliff looking down over the ocean. There was snow on the ground and it was very chilly so I had on pants, gloves and a hat. I wanted to start at the furthest northern point as possible. I thought I could start at the water, but since we were on a cliffside, I pushed my wheel as far back on the fence that lined the cliff as I could, and our witness (a random woman from the restaurant) started the clock.

I think I pedaled too hard just trying to keep warm, but I was on my way. It  was a strange day because the road goes underneath the ocean multiple times for big tunnels. Because of that,  you don’t stay in Norway for very  long before you cross the border into Finland. When the day finished I did more miles than I should have, my plan was only to do 160 miles, but I did 180.  I was excited to be going and trying to keep warm, so I overshot my goal a bit.  Finland is a beautiful place; not many cars and beautiful scenery. It’s a great place to ride; lots of water, so you’re always crossing over marshes and lakes. We had a quick important stop while up north: Father Christmases Workshop where Dean and Chad met Santa.

We slowly started to get used to the lack of night, but by that time we eventually got more of it because we were going south. When we reach the end of Finland my support team and I split up for a day I went into Russia.

St Petersburg to Estonia

The guys in the RV we’re going to get the fairy from Finland over to Estonia because Russian visas were very expensive, so I was the only one who got one.  I started my ride to enter Russia early, riding past parking lots full of military trucks. It was a very nice road to St Petersburg with plenty of petrol stations and food. Saint Petersburg was the usual hustle of the city, very hectic but incredible architecture. After leaving St Petersburg I assumed it would be a similar road to Estonia, but I was mistaken. Instead of a busy road it was an old country lane. I didn’t have local money and I thought I could use my credit card or the Finland cash, but I couldn’t. I started panicking as I had 50 miles to go and was completely out of food and water. At one store, a kind woman saw my desperation and bought me a Coke. Eventually I saw a Visa sign in the distance, which was connected to a store that accepted my credit card and I was able to resupply. Arriving at the border after a good 207 mile day, I was relieved to see my support truck and ready for bed.

New Goal

My goal was to ride about a hundred and sixty miles a day and finished the ride in about 28 days, breaking Glenn’s record by about 10 days. It was about this time of the ride that I heard about somebody else that was going to attempt to break this record a couple of weeks after I finished, so we had to change tactics. I didn’t want to make it easy…I didn’t want to hold my record for two weeks before somebody else broke it. Instead of the 160 a day I decided to go for as many miles as possible. My support team was on board, so we went for it! Because of that,  the countries flew by went by quickly; Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland.  Riding over 200 a day, I still wanted to cover more. Of course, this started taking a toll on my body as I was riding more mileage every day. We had scheduled a day off in Warsaw, Poland, and the day before I had covered 246 miles. My legs were sore and heavy, but we were making such great time. I had to replace my chain, so we left the bike for a while, and  we went explored. I was eating constantly in the city; walking into restaurants, pointing at something and then eating whatever was delivered.

I think I pedaled too hard just trying to keep warm, but I was on my way.... When the day finished I did more miles than I should have, my plan was only to do 160 miles, but I did 180.

The weather started to change on a little bit everyday, coming from the freezing arctic to hot and sticky in in the south. Strangely, it started to get cold and rainy and I had to battle high winds and constant rain in Austria. I wasn’t sure where the boys were, but I entered a small town and saw a bakery. I stopped there, devouring every pastry in the shop.  I didn’t feel like going back out into the weather so after I found the guys, we found a hotel room and spend the night. My parents joined and help support for a few days so it was nice to have a change of company. It brought me some laughs to see them suddenly appear alongside of me on the road, snapping pictures and saying hello. We also changed the support crew, Chad went home and Jesse joined.

Into Hallucination Land

Back on the road heading towards Switzerland, I was extremely tired and I started to lose track of simple things. The boys said I would jump into the RV and tell them the same story over and over and then leave. I still felt in control on the road though, aware of my surroundings, seeing flashes of people and places around me, I was truly enjoying it all.   I was constantly pushing the distance is every day, so the amount of time I was on my bike was growing, and the stops were shorter.  I was also losing my temper,  I wanted the boys to follow me in a different way, and they didn’t. I wanted to see them every 20 miles, then wait for me about 30 minutes. In theory, they should have only ever been 10 miles away from me, but they weren’t appearing when I was out of water or food. We had started to drive each other a little crazy, and I realize now I was being a bit unreasonable. Originally I promised them a trip across Europe with me riding for 12 hours a day. I had told them they would have time to see the towns we were passing through, but with the change in the goal I was riding 16, 18 even 20 hours a day. I was expecting a lot from my friends.

Pushing into France the weather started to improve again, and then it got hot. Upon arrival into Spain, we had a decision to make. It  was going to be really warm if we went through the country but it was shorter, or if we hit the coast we’d hit more small towns and it might be a bit cooler.  We chose the coast road which was the right decision. I really enjoyed riding near the water, and seeing people playing on the beach was refreshing. I also loved stopping to eat in little restaurants with great views of the ocean.

I rode into Barcelona late one night, slept for a couple hours and then I was back up ready to go again. I rode for the whole day and realized I was within 450 miles from the finish. I decided to ride all night. The boys were going to go to sleep in, so I packed a sandwich and headed off.  The roads seem to sneak off,  with no option to stay on the coastline so I followed the path. It was super dark and I entered into the dream-like state of riding at night.  I didn’t see any cars, but there were a lot of derelict abandoned houses with graffiti on the sides. It was really erie. I don’t know why but I got into my head it was a kind of place that Dracula would live, so in my crazy stateI decided that Dracula was chasing me. I had ridden 500 miles on 4 hours sleep in the past two days, sleeping less and less and riding more and more, so nothing was making sense. I kept expecting to see the vampire flying above me and jumping out the side of the road. I was totally convinced that he would come and get me. My biggest concern at that point was wondering what Dracula would do if he got me, would he take my body somewhere? What would happen to my bike? What would the guys do if they found my bike and no body? It was maddening.

I finally crested the top of the hill and I could see daylight in the distance. The sun was rising and I had a great downhill all the way back to the coast. My vampire delusion left me as I ate my sandwich on a bench looking over the ocean in the small town. I was wondering why the boys were and if they had even gotten up yet. I called them but heard nothing.  I kept calculating in my head and pushing myself to the limit, thinking,’if I don’t stop I’ll be there tomorrow morning…if I don’t stop I’ll get there in 20 days.’ I was trying to figure out how many miles I had left and how fast I could do it, so I rode all day. The boys were exhausted at this point and had had  enough. I didn’t really consider them at the time, but now I see my error. They were supposed to be on holiday and I wasn’t allowing for it.  They were really tired and I was too, but I wanted to push myself and they shouldn’t have had to do the same.

I was planning my second night on the bike with 100 miles to go, ready to finish in the morning and Jesse sat me down. He pulled out the map of Spain and asked, ‘where did you start today?’ He pointed to the map and then unfolded it, showing me that I was actually already halfway across Spain. He pleaded with me to stop.

“We need sleep! Let’s ride to the next town, get some food and a good night sleep. One more day riding and you can finish tomorrow.” It was then I realized how hard I’d been pushing my crew, and felt totally bad for them. I agreed to the plan, so we stopped in the next town and I chilled out.  I remember eating the best spaghetti bolognese I’ve ever had. Then heading to bed while I left the guys at a bar to relax and have fun without me while I went to bed.

The last day was a lot of fun,. even if it did have a few little adventures. We were downtown and had an incredible breakfast. Then I cruised easily along the coast until I found a nice-looking lunch spot. It was a fairly easy ride until after lunch when it started to become pretty hilly on the way up. On one of the hills my gears suddenly stopped working. Turns out  my battery had ran out on my electronic gear so I frantically called the boys, who quickly turned. We found the charger, pulled off on the side of the road to borrow some electricity from a small cafe and charged the battery.  After an hour I carried on riding, and I could see that I only had 20 miles to the finish, but the mountains ahead of me seems to go on forever. I was expecting to see the end the coast but I kept going. I realized then that those mountains were actually in Morocco! They were over the ocean on another continent. This gave me the energy to power through. I was so excited to get there over the top of the hill and finally into Tarifa.  The ride downhill was super windy, pushing me all over the place. I finally pulled into this old, awesome little town through through a big metal gate at the most southern point, guarded by a military base. I was still a bit delusional, and seeing that gate at the end upset me as I knew I couldn’t get all the way to the end of the land to go from coast to coast, but it was the official end of the record at that point. I was relieved to be finished.

The End

Our reward for finishing 10 days ahead of schedule was a ton of relaxation at the beach in Tarifa. My parents and family also arrived for a few more days and we rented a villa to hang out in. It was hard to wind down after going so hard. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep and rest my aching legs, but my mind was somewhere else. It took some time to get back to reality, realizing I have totally crushed to record from 39 to 21 days.