4th July 2020 – The Third World as seen from the Saddle.
The eleventh hour and Plans A through to Z. I went to Allan Wilson Technical High School only because my mom wanted me to make her a Welsh Dresser in woodwork classes. My mom was so excited she was getting a Dresser she bought a set of fish knives to put in it. My dad was an engineer and helped with the design, while I watched. By the time he finished, my Welsh Dresser would be slightly bigger than the dining room. It would have secret cubby holes for stuff we never wanted to see again, and even a separate cupboard for my dad’s collection of Nana Mouskouri records, thankfully a small cupboard because he only had two.
Construction began in the first term of Form One and had to be completed by the third term of Form Two. With two whole years to make the thing, I was slow out of the blocks to get started on the project, because I was born with opposable thumbs but only just, and an entirely rational fear of the extreme blood loss that happened whenever I picked up a tool with a sharp bit. But mostly I was slow to start because of the eleventh hour. The eleventh hour is a wonderful institution in which prevaricators get to do all the stuff they were supposed to have done in the first term, second, term, etcetera, etcetera. Long story short and because the eleventh hour also only has sixty minutes, my mom’s Welsh Dresser got downsized to a TV cabinet but without legs, and without doors in the front for unrestricted viewing and without a back for ease of fiddling with TV cables and wires. Apart from being sqwonk and too small for the television, it turned out very well.
Fast forward a lifetime and I’m still an eleventh-hour person, trying to cram months of final preparations for a month-long bike Tour into the last week. And after our last training ride this Sunday, I rather think I’ve been able to infect the other Old Legs. Carl planned an 82 km ride with 1000 m of climb starting at seven in the morning from Denda Store, a thirty minute drive out of Harare on the Shamva Rd. Carl invited Angus Wakefield to join us so that he could see how a well-oiled machine like the Old Legs Tour runs without oil. Angus is going to join us for a few Legs of the Lockdown Tour. I think he spent all day wondering if Old Legs team would make it out the Mt Nyangani car park, let alone all the way around Zimbabwe.
Adam really struggled in the first 20km because he ate too much for Christmas. He recovered but then broke his bike almost in half after some very spectacular back wheel wobbling on a downhill section. Adam’s left swing arm, a technical term for one of the bits between the back wheel and pedals, sheared completely. Mark Wilson and Carl Wilson impressively made a plan to fix the bike almost as good as new, but not quite with a splint fashioned out of duct tape and a length of sugar cane. Having attended Allan Wilson, I know sugar cane to have the tensile strength of sugar cane, and suggested they rather make the splint out of an Allen key and a tyre lever instead. Please be impressed the duct tape, the Allen Key and tyre lever all came out of my kitbag. My kitbag is full of useful tools in case I bump into someone who knows how to use them if ever I suffer an equipment malfunction.
Surprisingly the splint worked, and we were able to carry on, albeit slowly, not that we were going fast before. I took advantage of our reduced speed and gave Adam a lengthy lecture on the importance of preventative maintenance. Normally he accelerates away when I start talking crap.
We were 45 km into our ride and at the speed we were riding, would only reach the cars well after dark. Enter Plan B. Rather than follow our circular route back to Denda Store with the others, Adam and I would head towards Harare on the Domboshawa Rd. Mark would then come and pick us up on the road in Adam’s car, too easy. When Adam and I eventually reached Ngomakurira Mountain, we shifted to Plan C when we bumped into Rob Ferguson and he offered struggling Adam a lift into town. Rob would deliver Adam to my car which I’d left in town which he would then use to come back out to find me on the road. It was a wonderful plan, apart from the fact that my car keys were in Adam’s car. Drat. We decided to revert to Plan B. I’d carry on riding until Mark picked me up in Adam’s car and then he’d take me to my car where Adam would be waiting for his car, too easy. Alas. Plan B developed a snag because Adam got bored waiting next to my locked car. Enter Plan D. Adam phoned Linda at home and asked her to pick him up in her car, then they’d come find me on the road, then we’d all go look for Mark in Adam’s car, so I could get my car keys and fetch my car and then go home, too easy. Plan D went swimmingly well, up until we phoned Carl to find out where they were. Along with Adam’s car keys, Carl and others were still three hours away from Denda Store. Enter Plan E in which Adam, Linda, Jenny and I lunched and drank beer until Carl and company were back in town Plan E was a splendid plan. And we still managed to get some badly needed training under belts. I logged 72 km on my Garmin, Carl, Mark, Dave and Angus logged an even 100 km, while Adam registered 135 km with a very impressive top end speed of 106 k.p.h., despite a broken bike. Because I am a doubting Thomas, I accused Adam of leaving his Strava on in Rob’s car, but he says not.
My eleventh hour for the Lockdown Tour is very crammed, even by my lofty standards. Because I wobbled with dizzy spells on the Denda Store ride, I decided to have my left ear syringed. I had my right ear done two blogs ago. I like to keep one ear blocked for when Dave starts telling me a joke on a ride. Small wonder I was dizzy, because half of Kilimanjaro came out my head. It was gross and the nurse who syringed it wishes she’d gone on strike with the other nurses in Zimbabwe. I also found the time to replace my prescription sunglasses lost ten years ago in White River and am now able to clearly see the rocks, lumps and bumps in my road. Because my hand eye coordination continues crap, being able to see them doesn’t stop me from hitting them, but at least I now know what I have hit. And I’m also thinking about going back to Tanzania to look at the herds of wildebeests and zebras I rode past blindly last year.
Cailyn my 6 year old hairdresser also found the time to give me a number one nothing haircut, to improve my aerodynamics, and to free up badly needed trailer space on Tour that would otherwise be clogged up by hair care products. We also took delivery of our superbly branded ride jerseys and support vehicles, big thanks to Dave Whitehead and Matt at Crystal Signs, Panda Sports in Johannesburg, and Isuzu and Autoworld Harare, and we will be styling in every sense of the word. And Lovemore also delivered our beaded coronavirus bike guy mementos that we give to people who help us on Tour. They are very cool.
Unfortunately, I’ve also had to redo my jelly baby calculations after both Adam and Dave have had to pull out of the Tour because of the four-letter word work, leaving just me, Carl Wilson, and Mark Wilson in the peloton.. Because Carl doesn’t eat jelly babies, I’ve allocated Adam’s packet of jelly babies to Mark, leaving me with 198 packets to deal with.
Alas. I am seriously bummed at not riding alongside Adam and Dave. We have shared many adventures together on our Tours to Cape Town and Kilimanjaro and I was so looking forward to sharing this one too. Adam has pushed me and pulled me up a thousand mountains, literally and figuratively, and I was looking forward to his help on the mountains in front of me on this one as well. Alas.
The other hugely important eleventh hour detail that needed attending to was collecting our permits to ride through the National Parks, which didn’t happen. Parks told us on Monday that because the coronavirus ban on intercity travel was still in place, they could not issue our permits. During the course of the week National Parks were reopened countrywide, and our permit is back on track, subject to security vetting, but not in time for our Sunday the 5th start. For the umpteenth time, we are having to rejuggle and our Tour will now start either in the Zambezi Valley, Kariba or Bulawayo, depending on what Monday delivers. I fully expect Stu Chapman to be bald like me soon, as he is in charge of our 7 food and fuel resupply points. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank National Parks and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority for their professionalism and for their help and guidance in facilitating the Old Legs 2020 Lockdown Tour. We look forward to showcasing the very best that Zimbabwe has to offer in terms of adventure tourism, generating some badly needed positive publicity for our beautiful country.
The South African Lockdown Tour has likewise been delayed. Bruce, CJ, Dave, Deidre and Ryan will start pedalling their 2400 Tour from Durban to Lambert’s Bay in November. Borders permitting, Adam hopes to ride with them
Excitement within both Teams remains high despite the setbacks and we remain determine to ride our Lockdown Tours come hell or coronavirus. In Zim, if I were asked to choose the most excited, it would be neck and neck between Stu Chapman and Vicky Bowen, with the edge going to Vicky. Her kit bag has been packed ready to go for 6 weeks.
The Old Legs mantra is Have Fun, Do Good and Do Epic and we look forward on all of those in spades. Before we have even started pedalling, we have raised the equivalent of US$ 109,000 for Zimbabwe’s pensioners, leaving us with no option but to double our fundraising target to US$200,000.
Courtesy of Ezytrack, Zimbabwe’s leading online GPS tracking company, the Where is Chicken Legs? Page is up and running on www.oldlegstour.co.zw and you can follow our progress live, but be warned, we ride slow like paint dries.
And while you are on the webpage, please follow the donate prompts and help us help Zimbabwe’s pensioners.
In closing, well done to Liverpool for winning the Premiership, and to the New Zealand teams currently dominating live Super rugby. And please raise a glass to Nigel Lowe, good friend and neighbour. Rest in peace, Nigel. Strength Claire, Ian and Karen going forward,
Hopefully my next blog will come to you either from the Lower Zambezi Valley, Kariba or Bulawayo. Until then, survive, enjoy and pedal if you can
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong
Photos below – my hairstylist in action, beaded coronavirus bike guys, the Zimbabwe and the South African Old Legs Lockdown teams.