TL:DR – I spend a year planning a motorbike trip for my 50th, get Covid days before and can’t go. Boo-fucking-Hoo.
It all started with a simple comment from a friend when discussing that we would both soon be turning 50. His suggestion that we should do a trip on motorbikes setting my mind racing. I hadn’t thought about getting a bike for years, I didn’t have a licence, it was mad.
Very quickly he moved on from the idea and I knew I would have to find my own way to celebrate the 1/2 century milestone, but the motorbike idea stuck.
I remembered seeing a video on youtube about a guy called Nathan Millward who’d ridden an Australian postie bike back back to the UK from Sydney and had been running a week long group ride from from Lands End to John O’groats avoiding motorways called the “Garbage Run” every year.
A plan was formed.
Flash forward to a year later, I’d ridden my little YBR 125 around, slowly gaining confidence, spent hundreds on protective gear and had been gradually building up a camping kit. Deposit was paid to join the Garbage Run and 3 months before the start I was all set to go on the 125.
Then I got to thinking some more and realised how much more comfortable it would be on a bigger bike which had always ultimately been my goal anyway, so why not do my test now and do the run on something with a little more oommpph (and heated grips, a windscreen etc)
Another thousand pounds and a few weeks later a big boys bike licence was mine.
I couldn’t justify (or afford) anything flash but I’d always really liked the “adventure bike” style. Pretty much the cheapest and most reliable bike like that that fit my meagre remaining budget was an older Suzuki V-strom 650.
Within a week I’d picked up a 2004 model with 50K miles in great condition with loads of upgrades for just a tiny bit over what I knew I could sell the 125 for.
A different friend on hearing I’d got the V-strom did say “oh, on the 125 it was a proper adventure, on the V-strom you are just another late middle age wanker on an adventure bike”.
That hurt a bit, but the added level of comfort and ability to get a bit generous with my right wrist and eat the miles seemed worth being a bit of a wanker for, especially if the flagellation of sleeping in a tent for a week was going to be added to the mix.
Obsessive packing and getting used to the new bike took up the month preceding departure day. I’d planned several stops on the way down to Cornwall visiting old friends I hadn’t seen for years, it was going to be much more than just LEJOG for me.
I was nervous, it would be getting on for 3 weeks and over 2000 miles before I would be home again, riding 200 mile days for a lot of it.
My longest motorbike journey to that point had been 60 miles.
Departure day came, I kissed my wife goodbye and set off down to Sutton Courtenay to attend Documentally’s Orwell Symposium, a picnic come discussion group held at Eric Arthur Blairs grave every year on his birthday, 25th June.
The ride was a blast, my fully laden bike handling well and I could feel my confidence growing. I absolutely could do this and what’s more it was going to be amazing!
I’d planned to stay a couple of days with a very dear friend in nearby Abingdon before continuing South so headed there – beers were had, pizza was consumed and long, deep beautifully welcome talks ensued.
On the Sunday I’d felt a little tired, a little “off”, but assumed it was the journey down and an unfamiliar bed, but when I woke up in the middle of that night with a sore throat, I did think it was a bit weird.
Monday morning my friend headed off to work and I prepped the bike ready for my next quick leg down to Bath after lunch.
My phone buzzed. It was a message from my wife……
She’d tested positive for COVID.
I knew the second I read it, but donned my N95 and went to buy a confirmatory test to tell me what I already knew anyway.
Two years of being insanely careful (many, my wife included, saying I was TOO careful) and I’d got it now? Really? NOW?
Right at the start of a trip I’d been planning for a year?
All the time, energy and money I could barely justify I’d put into it, wasted?
I messaged the group chat for the Garbage Run with the news and to my surprise received loads of replies saying essentially “fuck it, come anyway”.
Twitter and Instagram replies were also overwhelmingly similar.
(A few trusted and ethically more robust friends however sounded a different note. I see and salute you.)
I could sort of see the logic, we’d be solo on motorbikes, then at campsites so I’d never really be inside with anyone, that could work right?
Well, no. Not really.
What about stopping for petrol? or buying lunch? or the pub dinners we would all be having every night?
The potential to infect others on the trip or unsuspecting staff and customers up the whole length of the country was too much.
Quite apart from the potential danger I’d be putting myself and other road users in if, as a very limited experience motorcycle rider, I attempted, feeling increasingly fatigued and achy, to ride 200 miles a day for 7 or 8 days in a row.
I clung to the possibility of a negative test as after 6 days of feeling a bit shit, but little more, I felt physically at least, as If I could do this.
Leaving the following Sunday morning was my last chance to catch the group before they got too far North and I was playing catch up just to get to them.
Within seconds of dropping the liquid onto the test the strong red line appeared confirming what I already knew full well.
STILL FUCKING POSITIVE.
Right, trip cancelled then.
That’s basically the story, very ‘first world problems’ I know. But give me a break, I can’t go outside or do anything (yep still testing positive, day 8) so I’m writing this.
I seem, on the surface at least, to have got off pretty lightly, my changing symptoms over the past 8 days ammounting to just fatigue and aches, runny nose, very slight cough, sore throat and a bit of a headache.
I think it’s worth mentioning a couple of things though:
I first tested positive at a very close old friends house, we’ve known each other for more than 20 years and travelled extensively in Asia together. It is only because of his kindness that I wasn’t left with the horrible option to ride home, feeling shit, to the house where I live with my 75 year old father, who I REALLY didn’t want to give Covid to.
I’m still at his now and despite spending over a week together in his house, he is still testing negative.
What a fucking legend, love you man.
(Don’t understand how you didn’t get it but so thankful you didn’t)
The second thing I want to say is about COVID.
I know, I know, you are bored of it, it’s over, you’ve had it and you were fine, it’s just a mild flu, the vaccinations mean you won’t die, you don’t like wearing a mask, your bullshit freedom etc etc…..
Really seriously, fucking NO.
IT. IS. NOT. FUCKING. OVER.
The variant that likely got me (BA.5) has caused the number of people infected in the UK to rise 30% in the week I’ve had it.
It’s still rising.
It’s summer now so we are all outside a lot more, reducing the spread.
Autumn and winter are looking likely to produce some pretty epic spikes with their associated hospitalisations and deaths.
As the infection progressed in me I could literally FEEL it attacking different systems in my body, causing my symptoms to change each day.
The evidence is overwhelming that this is NOT just a flu, it’s doing permanent damage to you and affecting every system in your body, even if you get it and have no symptoms.
I dare you to google other serious long term illnesses that present as a mild flu on first infection too.
You have no idea what the long term effects on your health are going to be, you might be one of the lucky ones and its over and forgotten about in a few days, just a minor inconvenience, but one thing is for sure – you are certainly MORE and not less (Herd fucking immunity lie) likely to get Covid again.
All but the most “but my friend on facebook said!” idiots now agree that Long Covid (a VERY broad church of issues) is affecting up to 30% of everyone who gets it, vaccination and initial symptoms or not.
And like mercury poisoning, the effect is cumulative, so the more times you get it, the worse the game of Russian roulette gets.
I personally know several people who have long lasting life altering Long Covid symptoms months after their initial infections.
You might think having no sense of taste doesn’t sound too bad when you just read the words, let’s see how you feel about it after 8 months of it.
I’m a very flawed human being, quick to anger and in many ways not that nice.
However, one thing I will not do is put others at risk because of my behaviour.
It’s fucking immoral.
So no, I won’t be trying to catch the tour, nor will I be leaving my friends house until I test negative and yes I will be wearing a properly fitted N95 mask in all inside spaces from now until….well, forever frankly.
Because despite your fucking entitled bleating it’s not that hard, you wear a seatbelt, a life jacket on a boat, steel toe-capped boots on building sites and sun cream in the sun.
I don’t give a fucking shit if you have “restriction fatigue”.
It’s not a restriction, it’s simple measures protecting your fellow humans. Don’t be a cunt.