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A cycling-mad couple quit their jobs and cashed in their pensions so they could pedal around the world on a tandem.
Sean and Kay O’Toole, both 56, used their £17,000 retirement pot to fund the epic 11,500 mile journey.
Using joint pedal-power, the couple cycled through nine countries across four continents over nine months.
The super-fit pair began their middle-aged ‘gap year’ last August and arrived back in the UK earlier this month.
They battled gruelling desert heat, sub-zero temperatures and language and security fears on their journey.
HGV driver Sean, who sold his lorry to help pay for the trip, said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
He said: “It was such a big decision to go, it’s hard to leave your children for such a long time
“We have no grandchildren yet so we thought while we could still do it, we would.”
Sean and Kay, of Colwall, Herefordshire, have no regrets despite blowing their entire pension on the trip.
“If we waited until we retired, the chance of physically doing it in ten years’ time is slim,” said Sean. “We thought it’s now or never.”
The pair packed 40kg of luggage, including three sets of cycling clothes each and one pair of shorts, jeans and shoes.
They began their mammoth cycle by getting a ferry to Holland and then pedalling across Germany, Denmark and Sweden.
Then the couple caught a ferry to Estonia and rode to St Petersburg before getting the train to Moscow.
Their journey took them through Mongolia and China before flying to New Zealand and Los Angeles.
Finally they cycled across the US and Canada and then caught a flight from Toronto back to Birmingham on May 4.
Recalling the trip, Sean said: “Even before we got to the end of our road we thought, ‘what have we done, what are we doing, are we mad?’
“But each country we went to, the level of hospitality of people just kept stepping up another level.
“We didn’t have a single unpleasant experience, we didn’t have any hostility and at no time felt threatened.
“In Mongolia we were having nights as low as -12 degrees and we were camping nearly all the way.
“We had two silly low-speed fall-offs, one when I clipped a gate and we got blown over in terrific winds near Wellington, in New Zealand.
“Our fastest speed was 96km an hour (60mph) down a hill.
“We have no regrets about what we’ve done whatsoever. I don’t think I’d change anything.”
Kay, who has now returned to her job milking cows, added: “We will have to work until we drop now, but it was worth it.
“I was a bit anxious about going to Russia, but people everywhere were so nice.
“I think the tandem made us a bit of a novelty, and people found us amusing.
“Spending 24/7 together was quite hard as it was a long, long time. In some countries where we couldn't speak the language, so it was just us.”
Incredibly after flying back to the UK their journey was still not complete - they decided to cycle home to Herefordshire.
“Our daughter wanted to pick us up from the airport but it’s only 50 miles home,” said Sean.
“We said that we’d left on a bike, we want to return on a bike.”
Holland Germany Denmark Sweden (Ferry to) Estonia Russia - cycle to St Petersburg, then train to Moscow.
Mongolia China (Flight to) New Zealand - cycle three weeks throughout NZ (Flight to) Los Angeles - cycle from San Diego to Detroit.
Canada - cycle to Toronto (Flight to) Birmingham