A Brief Summary. Well I did it, and in my Marmite cycle jersey. Watford to Badminton (near Bath)and back. The short version of this email is – 216 miles, 15hrs in the saddle, 134 average heart rate, 12,000 calories, 14.5mph average outward and 13.5mph home, no punctures, fell off twice, night under canvas, air bed deflated, rained all night, tent flooded, internal organs collapsed, rained from just after Hungerford on the way down and just to Hungerford on the way back. All good practice for Land’s End to John O’Groats.
The Pedals. Friday night was spent preparing, packing and repacking my saddle bag, cycle shirt pockets and my Marmite jersey and fitting my new pedals to my new bike and the clips to my shoes. I’d tried a friends bike once but never really ridden with clip on shoes. I poopoo’d the idea of falling off when stopping – how stupid would you have to be to do that!
The Mirror. I went to the bike shop in Ruislip on Saturday morning to pick up my helmet mirror. They fitted it and after a brief chat I was off. I was so excited I cycled went the wrong way. I was struggling to use the mirror and it took a while to aim it at the traffic behind me. I got to the roundabout expecting to see a sign for Uxbridge or Slough but nothing. I pulled to the right hand side of the road to enter the roundabout and slowed and slowed. And then I remembered – I remembered something very important – my shoes were clipped to the pedals and all of a sudden I’m lying by the side of the road like a cowboy who’s had his horse shot from under him – very embarrassing but no damage done. I stop to get my bearings – 8 miles from home and I’m lost!! I climb over the dual carriageway barriers and head back to and down the A40. I look in the mirror but I can’t see it so I reach up to adjust it and – it’s gone. Well that didn’t last long!
Hungerford – the John O’Gaunt On arriving at Hungerford I happened across a gentleman parking his car and asked him if he knew of a suitable hostelry and he pointed me to the John O’Gaunt, some 200 yards off the A4. A splendid pub, with 2 landlords and a range of locals from across the social spectrum and a fabulous bar steward, good food and great beer. I had been there for 10 minutes when in walked the gentleman who directed me to the pub. We spoke for a while and then unusually for me I listened to his conversation. For some reason I struggled to eat. I think all the energy gels might be upsetting me. Anyway, I leave Hungerford behind me and see an amazing array of 2 dimensional wildlife on the road and one not so cunning fox with its head stuck down a storm drain. What a humiliating way to go.
Badminton. The rain set in as I left Hungerford and continued for about an hour. My new wafer thin waterproof went on and was brilliant though your butt still gets wet. I arrived at 7.30 pm and Lesley had to pick me up as the field had turned to mud. I changed and we went for dinner at the pub, me, Lesley, Lisa, Claire, Neil and his children Harvey & Sacha,. Boy was I hungry. French onion soup and steak and chips, but once again, no appetite. We put my wet stuff in the drier at the pub. The kids and I were dozing off so Neil took us back to the campsite and I went to bed – no shower, no nothing just bed and the continual noise of the rain and some dreadful Catherine Tate soundalike on full volume in the next tent. Eventually sleep got the better of me. The next thing I remember is Lesley getting up and the air bed being deflated and the tent being flooded and needing the toilet really badly. I mean really badly. Could it get any worse I thought as I trudged through the quagmire in the pouring rain to the Tardis like toilets – small on the outside and smaller on the inside. I’ll not mention the shart.
The Departure. We survived the night with the only other casualty being the gazebo that blew away. We got up at 7.30 and by 9.00 it had stopped raining. I was almost ready to go and decided on a quick visit to the Tardis. Heavens to murgatroyd. I need to take off my ski gloves and cycle gloves, my wet proof top, my Marmite top and my 2 tee shirts so that I can slip out of my cycle leotard which is over a second pair of cycle shorts. I slipped my wet top back on and went to the toilet. I cussed when I got in as I still had forgotten to slip out of the leotard and had to take the waterproof top off before I could get my trousers down. After a lot of fiddling I was there, I’d done what I needed to do and was dealing with the paperwork when surprise surprise, the door opens and this vision of beauty is staring at me. Good morning I said politely but she just looked shocked and said nothing. I think she was shy!! Always lock the door!
It was starting to rain again so I put a bin liner on to keep my butt dry and plastic bags on my feet to walk across the sodden fields to the road. Could it get worse? I don’t think so. I got on my bike and started to weave through the stationary traffic until I got to the end and had to stop and then I remembered – unclick your pedals. Over we go again, but this time it’s in the mud. Oh the humiliation. Fortunately its pouring and the mud is washing off.
Homeward Bound. I cycle past Castle Combe racing circuit and through a village called Tiddlywinks and on to Chippenham. A welcome visit to Lloyds the chemist and the purchase of a pack of Imodium. What do they put in those things, they’re wonderful and saw me safely home. I cycled to Hungerford through the cold and rain and arrived once again at the John O’Gaunt pub for a late lunch. Who should I find there but my new found acquaintance Nigel Thornton and the same bunch of guys from the previous day – Groundhog Day? Who knows. Nigel was most hospitable and got me a pint of fuel which together with the beef, tomato and chilli soup was a perfect top up for the 65 miles that lay ahead. If you get to read this Nigel, thank you for your hospitality. and good luck with your building project.
I had thought that the ride had been fairly flat on the outward journey but the ride to Hungerford had left me thinking it was either uphill or the ride was taking its toll with an average speed of 12.2 mph, 15% slower than yesterday.
The Election. I couldn’t help noticing as I cycled down the A4 all the Tory and Lib Dem billboards but no sign of Labour. The nearest I could find was a road called Labour In Vain Hill in Wiltshire. So on the way back I kept my eye out for Labour and nothing – 2 UKIPs loads of Conservative and Lib Dem but not one Labour board from Wiltshire to Watford. It’s almost as if there has been a conspiracy, as if the Labour grass roots don’t want another 5 years of the Brown stuff. Keep an eye out and tell me I’m wrong.
And Home. Speed picked up for the last 65 miles and I was home by 8.00 and into a hot bath and a rest before golf the next day.
A good practise run for my Land’s End – John O’Groats ride for young Mark and now I have done 1,000 miles practice, only it’s taken me 4 months and I need to get it down to 10 days.
I’m doing 50 miles on Saturday afternoon if anyone is free. Next plan is for 3 days local back to back 100 mile a day riding on the next Bank Holiday if anyone wants to join me – Colin on your new Boardman perhaps? You know you want it. Paul, Max, Henry, John?? I might do a day down the canal riding from Watford to the Thames Barrier and back which is about 100 miles