Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.) – on the road to discovery – Day 1

Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.), Travel

Tools, pedals, saddle, toothbrush, lights, helmet… I was starring into the darkness, my mind was rushing. It was 6:30am and a week before I had quit my current job to start a new one. I was still due to go to work that day, but my mind was racing, trying to grasp the sequence of events and the list of stuff I had to make sure I had packed for the trip ahead.

I had gone to a cycling shop the day before and taken a bike box, which I disassembled in front of the shop, wrapped with two straps and cycled with while holding in one hand like a sail back home.

At home I made sure the bike (freshly picked from the bike workshop too) could fit in.

I then folded the box neatly, wrapped in cut-in-half plastic bags (to protect from the rain) and made a shoulder strap for it so that I could cycle more easily while holding it.

This is the box packed (before wrapping it in plastic bags when I saw it was raining)

I was tired and it hadn’t even begun.

Before the day at work had finished I met with Andra and we walked to the hospital for her to have a small operation, to remove a questionable mole from her back. After we walked back home and I finished packing. I was worried about her, what a horrible time to leave… but this trip had been planned for almost a year…

It was 20h and she insisted on walking with me to the train station, while avoiding moving her arms too much not to rip the fresh stitches on her back. I was holding the bike box in one hand and pushing the loaded bike with the other, up and down Sheffield’s hills. It was raining, it had just started. Not heavy, but a fair amount of misty, drizzly rain. By the time we reached the station I looked like a wet cat (i.e. a rat).

It was happening, I was doing it.

The plan was to get the train from Sheffield to Loughborough, change there to Luton, and there change to Luton Airport Parkway, and after cycle to an AirBnb 7mins away to sleep for a few hours. Then in the morning I would cycle to the airport (15mins away) and start assembling the box and disassembling the bike.

Handlebar harness – inflatable sleeping mat, down quilt, bivvy bag and a backup bicycle wrapping plastic bag (for the airport) that doubled as an emergency rain shelter or a good ground sheet.
Frame bag – electronics, small bike lock, external batteries, cables, glasses, chamois cream, some food.
Fuel pod (on top of the frame) – snacks
Seat pack – Waterproof clothes (jacket, trousers, helmet cover, over shoes), spare set of cycling clothes (leg warmers, arm warmers, hat, gloves, buff), a set of clothes for off the bike. It could definitely be reduced a lot, but it was October and I preferred to be warmer rather than cold.

It was a constant stream of events, everything was planned with little time in-between. Just to keep moving like clockwork. But I was tired and really not in the mood, but nevertheless I moved on.

The AirBnb host was with his young toddler and his wife. He didn’t expect (it seemed) for me to have so much stuff on the bike, so instead of leaving it at the back of the house, he let me bring it in. He showed me the room, I washed, put the phone to charge and collapsed on the bed.

The AirBnb room

Alarm, toilet, clothes on, down the stars, stuff in the bags, bike out, door closed, bike box over the shoulder, helmet, lights, go!

I was alone on the road, following a nice cycling path and then getting on the main road (still on a bike path). It was foggy and misty. In fact it was so misty that I was starting to get wet. I pushed on and was soon at the airport. I found a trolley to put the bike box on once ready. Went to a quiet corner and spread out.

I unfolded the box, prepared the Swiss army knife, the multi-tool, tape, zip-ties and got to work.

First the bottom of the box had to be the strongest, so I put the best zip-ties there to hold it together. The taped the sides slightly and zip-tied the hell out of them too, making holes with the Swiss army knife and putting the ties through. Then I taped everything to make sure it holds.

Following was the bike. Bags off (left the frame one). Seat off, handlebars off, front wheel off, front mudguard off, pedals off, tires deflated. Then I put everything in the box, along with tools, helmet (maybe a mistake?), a few spare things. I taped the loose ones and closed the box, taping the hell out of the top as well. On to the trolley and check-in. The whole thing took me about an hour and a half.

The bike packed in the box
Ready to check-in

The worst was over, now just had to get on the flight and breathe.

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