23 June 2021. The Third World as seen from the saddle.

With just three weeks until we ride the Silverback Tour, we’ve had to change the team roster yet again. We’ve lost a Semper to make room for another Watermeyer. Laurie and Fiona tied the knot in Marondera last week. We are hugely thrilled for them and will be joining the newlyweds on their 4-week camping honeymoon to Uganda. Please be invited to come throw confetti on them when we ride out from Harare Auto World next to the Chispite Circle on July 15th at 08.00 a.m. Laurie and Fi will ride the first 123 km leg to Guruve with ‘Just Married’ signs and tin cans tied to the back of their bicycles.

Never let it be said that the Old Legs is not a competitive event. Al used Laurie and Fi’s nuptials to stake his claim to the prestigious OLT Dick of the Day award. As the wedding’s official witness, Al was given clear and concise instructions to report to the Marondera Court wearing his jacket, his tie, with his I.D. Because Al focused hard, he was able to remember 2 out of 3, and remembered to forget his I.D. But all’s well that ends well. Laurie and Fi pressganged a member of the pubic to step in as witness. Consequently, Al will ride out of Harare proudly wearing the Dick of the Day necklace and pink tutu. And my money is on Al still wearing them when we reach the Impenetrable Forest on August 15. But I will play no part in that, because Al and I have a strong alliance. He gives me his black jelly babies on Tour, and I won’t vote for him come Dick of the Day voting.

Our international contingent start arriving in the next 2 weeks, Billy Prentice from the United States, CarolJoy from Germany, Russ Dawson from North Macedonia (above Greece, population 2.077 million) and Gary de Jong from Bulawayo. But in anticipation of traffic congestion around KweKwe, Ryan Moss will man the Gary’s cameras as far as Kanyemba. Mark Wilson is also due back from Egypt where’s been training on beaches, and on a barge on the Nile. I expect Mark t have the best tan on Tour.

I’ve been stranded off the bike for the last two weeks under eye surgeon’s orders but have kept busy trying to get organized.

Reluctantly, I’ve practiced packing and unpacking my kit bag, looking for stuff that isn’t in it, like my still missing DSTV remote. Reluctant is a word most often used to describe my interaction with my kit bag. It might be yellow on the outside, but on the inside the thing is black like Putin. On every Tour, half my kit goes missing, flogged off by my kitbag for beer money, or worse. And by the end of Tour, my kitbag is full to overflowing with kit belonging to all the poor buggers it’s mugged along the way. If my kitbag was human, he’d be in prison, covered in tattoos, lifting weights.

In a pathetic attempt to delay the inevitable chaos, I’ve bought a sixpack of pack pods, little mini bags with zippers, to fit inside my kit bag but have no doubt they’ll also end up subversive.

With only 3 rest days planned in 3000 kilometres, I’m also resolved to doing laundry and accordingly, have allocated only 1 pack pod for underwear and socks. I’ve allocated the other pack pods to ride shorts, ride shirts, pyjamas, 1 for my Indiana Jones kit to wear when looking at the gorillas, and 1 for my smart going out clothes, just in case we find somewhere to go out to between Harare and the Impenetrable Forest. Because I am restricted to just 120 litres, I’ve had to jettison my hair care products. Alas.

To go on Tour, you need a million recharge cables, for my phone, for my Garmin, for my watch, for the earphones, for my speaker, for my battery packs. As I type, I realize a million could be a slight exaggeration. Because I worry that Adam has been hanging out with kitbag, I’ve labelled all my cables with tags that read ‘Eric’s not Adam’s’.

I’ve also been busy trying to open my new tin of Zam-Buk lip balm. My lips take most flak on Tour and end up looking like they’ve been stuck in a microwave on high. You’d think the very clever people at Bayer would have worked out by now they would sell more Zam-Buk if people could open the bloody tins in the first place.

In closing, please wish me luck with the outcome of my eye surgery today. This will be the fifth time that I’ve been able to cut and paste this sentence from previous blogs. I am becoming adept at cutting and pasting.

Alas. My retina fell off again on Saturday, after being stuck on again just two weeks ago, leaving me completely in the dark on my left side. Fell off again sounds more in keeping with the general theme of this blog than re-detached. And I am sure that re-reattached isn’t a proper word. I fully expect a Christmas Card from the eye-hospital this year and frequent flyer discounts.

I was so super bummed when the retina fell off. I’d just had a check-up and the eye surgeon was well pleased with progress and had given me the thumbs up to get back on bike. Then wham, all the lights went out, entirely without provocation I might add. Kerry Whelburg, I promise with hand on heart that I never cheated on my bike curfew.

The surgeon was also bummed. And scheduled an emergency op yesterday to laser the retina back in place, and fill me back up with oil again, bugger my carbon footprint. This time around, he said he’ll leave the oil in place for a year. The bandages come off at lunchtime today, fingers crossed my clumsy bastard retina still works.

I’ve been in a panic stressing about what happens if it doesn’t, and what happens if ever I have an accident with my good eye, God forbid. But then I got a letter from a friend’s eleven-year-old granddaughter telling me to hang tough and to not sweat it, because she’s got my back. Tough is easy when you have friends like that rooting for you. She also promised me that I could eat her grandfather’s black jelly babies on Tour, and also his red, yellow, orange and green ones. Very generously, I said he could keep the brown jelly babies, and also his grey ones.

Zimbabwe remains a dark place for pensioners. Please help us turn on lights for them. With your help the Old Legs Medical Fund helped pay for three operations last week, with knee replacements pending. Please help us turn on more lights by supporting us on our ride to Uganda and following us on www.oldlegstour.co.zw And please follow the donate prompts.

Until my next blog, stay safe, enjoy, and pedal if you can. And also eat all your carrots. – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

Photos below -,The tailor hard at work on my ‘Eric’s, not Adam’s’ tags, the last of dinners in the bag, eye contact in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and Mark training in Egypt,

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