Who We Are
We are Christine Armstrong & Stephen Smith and have been married for over 30 years. In November 2013 we made the big decision to retire in about 15 months time to explore the world on our bikes. (We may go back to work at some time in the future – but only if the money is running low!)
We are nearer 60 than 50 (!) but have been cycling together since before we were married. Initially, it was simply a cheap, healthy way of avoiding sitting on the beach for two weeks every year.
The arrival of children (we have three of them – all now young adults of whom we are immensely proud) did not cramp our style. When Alaric was two and a half and Conal was nine months we went on a cycling holiday with Headwater Holidays where they moved our luggage every other day (we filled the company’s large Peugeot estate with travel cot, nappies and a box of toys along with all the other paraphernalia) while we cycled with Alaric on a seat on Stephen’s crossbar and Conal sitting in a child seat behind Christine.
For the next few years, bikes almost always played a part in our family holidays with a milestone being reached (when the kids were 12, 10 and 8) when we took the bikes on the train to Passau in southern Germany. From there we cycled down the Danube to Vienna in a week. Eleri was on the trailer bike behind Stephen while the boys were on their own bikes. The luggage for two weeks (we had a further week pottering about Vienna and then cycling from Salzburg back to Passau) was all crammed into four panniers on the back of Christine’s and Alaric’s bikes!!
As the years passed, cycling came to play an increasingly important part in our lives but reached a new level when the Tour de France came to Britain in 2007. We signed up for the British Cyclosportive – a chance for everyday cyclists to try their legs on the first stage of Le Tour from Greenwich to Canterbury a week before the pros did it for real. Although the direct route is only about 60 miles, the organisers chose a route that was twice as far and took in three significant hills. For the “big boys”, it was considered a “flat” stage – these two amateurs considered it anything but! We were immensely proud of ourselves to complete the ride in 9 hours 15 mins (Stephen) and 11 hours (Christine) – and even more in awe of the pros when they did it in about 4.5 hours!
As our 25th wedding anniversary approached, Christine did what she enjoys most and entered “holiday planning mode”. Initially, the plan was to go back to Papua New Guinea (where we worked for 6 months straight after we were married). She and the travel agent devised a wonderful itinerary visiting a number of places we had enjoyed while we there and others that we didn’t have the chance to get to. Then the oil price rose, the Pound sank and the credit crunch hit. The trip looked increasingly out of touch with the new reality and became so expensive that we couldn’t justify it to ourselves. Inspired by stumbling on Margaret and Dave Creasy’s account of their ride from Land’s End to John o’Groats we decided to do the same. And the story of our trip can be found here at http://silverlejog.blogspot.co.uk/.
Over the years we have enjoyed cycling holidays in many countries, including Eire, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Canada, Cuba, and even a small part of Russia, and also many cycling breaks in the UK. Last summer we cycled across South Korea, where the photo at the top of the page was taken, and used the trip as preparation for this year. We are very much looking forward to exploring new countries.