Joris De Fraeye
When I checked the balance of Reach Out’s bank account last month, I noticed we had received a donation of 104€. A weird figure, since most online donations involve rounded off amounts. The story behind this donation, however, is special enough to share with Reach Out followers…
I came to know Joris De Fraeye last February during a photo presentation about my bicycle ride to the North Cape at the Ehipassiko Buddhist Centre in Antwerp. Joris told me that he had cycled from Antwerp to Santiago de Compostela in 2018 and that he planned a long eastbound trip in 2019. Last summer he did indeed traverse West Germany, cycled across the former Iron Curtain into the Czech Republic and Hungary and back into Austria.
Nothing special for an experienced long-distance cyclist, one would think, were it not for the fact that Joris has an autism spectrum disorder. This was the second year that he jumped into the ‘big unknown’ of a long solo-cycling tour with all the uncertainties that such an endeavour inevitably involves. This is not evident for someone with ASS. While he was on his way, I received a few WhatsApp messages in which he vented sadness, discomfort, anxiety or sometimes outright panic he had experienced in certain unexpected situations. He even changed the trajectory that he had prepared so well at home. This is quite something!
Back to the story behind the donation. On 31 July, while I was still in Scotland, Joris WhatsApped me a spoken selfie film announcing that he would contribute 5 cents to Cipriano’s studies for every kilometre he would cycle. He amassed 2,078 kilometres (and 15,000 altitude metres) in fewer than five weeks, which cost him quite a lot of money, since 104 euros is a major donation! But with this second cycling trip, he pedalled himself much richer in experiences and self-confidence. Chapeau, Joris, and many thanks for your donation, your friendship and solidarity.
Joris thinks he could inspire and encourage other people in his situation. Therefore, he intends to go public with his 5,000 kilometres of solo-cycling in Europe, either online with texts or films, or with a photo presentation, or a combination of both.
Whoever is interested in his story may contact Joris De Fraeye via a personal message.
You may also find Joris on the Facebook page of the Dutch-language ‘De Wereldfietser/Vakantiefietser’ magazine, the FB page to be for all Dutch-speaking cyclists, as a matter of fact.
Thanks on behalf of Cipriano for your donation, Joris, and also for your inspiring example.
Monday August 26th : Trimdon – Kildale (43 km)
I spent the night at a really ‘old-style’ campsite: One large meadow, no electricity hook-ups and very basic sanitary installations. Visitors were all car/tent campers, but not of the quiet type: Due to the bank holiday on Monday, many empty beer and wine bottles were lying around some of the tents, and decibels rose in line with the number of empty bottles. Fortunately, peace and quiet returned after 22 hrs, everybody respected the campsite’s regulations.
The noise that went on until well after midnight was that of harvesting tractors. The fairly stable good weather makes farmers work triple shifts.
The initial 10 km today ran along a good former railtrack cycle path. The former station is now being used as a tavern for hikers and cyclists. Then followed a very bad and narrow single track path were I slipped in a muddy patch and came a cropper. Fortunately, I landed in a soft bed of nettles, but I had to continue my ride with itching legs and arms. After all, this is no so bad, a bath of nettles is said to prevent rheumatism. Only my right thumb hurts a bit when I shift gears.
Then followed Middlebrough bridge and many twists and turns along busy roads to cross the city, but then I saw the hills of North York Moors National Park that I will have to cross tomorrow.
On the stony road leading to the campsite I came a second cropper, fortunately without physical damage apart from a few bruises. Two falls on a single day: these horrible British cycling routes make me yearn for the smooth Dutch cycling routes during my two final cycling days.
Tomorrow I hope to take some more nice scenic pictures of the Moors. The sunset as viewed from my tent looks very promising…
Tuesday August 27th : North York Moors – Thirsk (46 km)
A little round in the North York Moors and via A-roads to Thirsk.
I did not have much luck today. So as to be sure that the GoogleMaps cycling navigator would not send me via uncyclable roads, I asked the camp owner’s advice regarding the suggested route. He said it included a few non-asphalted roads that would be cyclable. Reality was somewhat different…
The steep ascent during the first few kilometers was via a nice asphalted road, after which followed a nosedive descent to a few farms in a valley, where the asphalt stopped. I had to continue via rough, steeply undulating dust roads with many potholes and stones.
At a given moment, GoogleMaps directed me to turn left into a hardly visible uphill path through a vast plane with heather plants. It would be impossible to push a heavy bike through this dense vegetation, so I decided to continue on the dust road until I reached a T-formed crossroads. I knew I had to turn left, but all navigator apps at my disposal indicated that this would be a dead-ending path.
The dustroad to the right descended into a deep valley from where an asphalted road climbed to the next mountain range. I decided to take this road and see how it continued after that mountain range. When a was about to embark on the ascent via the asphalted road, I met the Dutch family that had camped next to me at Kildale campsite. They were hiking, which meant I was very close to my starting point. When I had reached the top of the asphalted road and looked back, I recognized this was the place of the earlier nosedive descent into the valley…
In the meantime, it was already 13:30, the hottest time of the day, and I didn’t venture a second try crossing the Moors via another road because tomorrow afternoon I absolutely have to be in Hull for the ferry to Rotterdam. I decided it was safer to stay close to a railway line, and there are none at the other side of the Moors.
Some locals advised me to cycle to York (80 km) and take a train to Hull from there. This is what I did. I did not want to follow the Sustrans cycling route to York because it included very steep dustroads. The only alternative was following busy A-roads for about 30 km until Thirsk. Fortunately, I could cycle on a 50-cm-wide strip alongside the highway-like A19 so that I was not too much in the way of speeding cars and trucks.
After Thirsk I could follow quieter B-roads for the final 50 km to York. I intended to cycle another 30 km, when around 18 hrs the sky suddenly turned dark-gray. There was indeed a weather alert for thunder storms in the evening, so I stopped at the first campsite beyond Thirsk. Getting caught in a thunder storm was the last thing I wanted after such a tiring day.
So tomorrow I will have to get up early to cycle the final 50 km to York, where there is a direct train to Hull every hour. This should be doable.
And next year I will buy a good cycling GPS. No more surprises with GoogleMaps, no more Osmand maps that do not want to load when you most need them…
Wednesday August 28th : Thirsk – York (48 km)
After all, the threatening thunderstorm that made me hide in a campsite earlier than intended broke out around 10 pm, with lots of rain and a few thunder bolts. The showers stopped around 6 am, allowing me to stay dry during breakfast.
Around 8:30 I left for the final 50 kilometres on English soil. When I was cycling my final kilometres in Ireland, the Outer Hebrides and Scotland, I felt some sort of ‘tristesse’ because I felt really attracted by these regions and their inhabitants. This was hardly the case in England. I would not recommend the routes I followed here to long-distance cyclists. Of course there are pretty villages, beautifull towns and magnificent beaches, but also many urbanized areas where you have to cycle many kilometers alongside very busy roads. And cycling routes are not always worthy of their name. In this regard,’we do it better alone’ Brexit country can learn something from its continental EU neighbours. The Sustrans cycling route network is maintained by volunteers who make a major effort to find quiet and traffic-free routes, but I wonder whether they receive any government support at all, taking into consideration the often difficult stony and muddy sections of some routes.
To round off my last cycling day in British style, I rode another 1,5 hrs in the rain. This year’s British summer was very short….
I arrived in York by 12 o’clock and had plenty of time to get on the 12:50 train to Hull.
The last 5 km to the ferry teriminal it rained again, but this evening and I will be treated on a luxurious dinner buffet and I will sleep in a private cabin with bathroom. This is most welcome after three months of tenting and simple one-pan dinners.
Thursday 29th of August : Europoort ferry terminal – Schijf (80 km)
At 9:30 am I had passed border control and embarked on my ride via the fantastic Dutch cycle routes. How relaxing it is to cycle here, without roaring traffic! The only possible party poopers for cyclists here are rain and wind. Today, only the wind was not really cooperative, but it could be worse.
Totally unexpectedly, however, I had a final bike-pushing exercise in the Netherlands crossing a steep pedestrian bridge over a highway with a few steps to begin with.
The 80 km to Schijf, where my friend Els is to meet me with our dog Biko, went smoothly and I arrived at campsite De Schijvenaar around 4 pm.
Tomorrow my final ride to Antwerp. Time flies….
Friday August 30th: Schijf – St.-Antonius Zoersel – Antwerp (50km)
Like last year, I found my front door nicely decorated and received a very warm
welcome-back by my three lovely neighbours.