Well it seems ages since my last blog and I’m a year older at 53, though I’m sure that I’ve been telling people all year that I’m 53. Thank you Lesley for arranging the get together last week and thank you for my Garmin bike sat-nav.
A big thank you to my neighbour “Hot Colin” as my wife and her friends call him – no idea why. It might be because he is so good at IT – yes that’s it. Colin is going to be my lifeline to you guys as I wend my way up the Country in July. Colin set up my Blog and my sat-nav and managed to switch my map download into another gpx format as there are 2 types – how do you find out about that type of thing? Good old Hot Colin. I was ready for day the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend.
And so the Bank Holiday begins and what a surprise, rain!
Day 1 Saturday – Watford to the Thames Barrier Along the Canal I ventured out onto the canal towpath again with my new cycle buddy Max. We got soaked but what a great ride. Not many pedestrians and the few dog walkers we saw had fighter or guard dogs – perhaps because they “is ‘ard”, what a strange world. It was hard to average more than 10 miles an hour with all the obstacles and path closures and as for cycling the Thames Walkway, well, half of it isn’t on the Thames and it takes you on to busy roads. We met a very angry man along the tow path (on a bit where you are apparently not meant to cycle –lots of shouting) just after Camden Lock – fascinating place. Max had 2 punctures.
We got to Greenwich which looked remarkably like Venice (if you squinted your eyes up) and we found a beach by the O2. If you look carefully you’ll see how cold I was. We ran out of time so had to cut back through London having got just 2.5 miles from the Thames Barrier eventually doing 80 miles but leaving a challenge for the future. If you fancy joining me in the rematch I reckon it’s a 12 hour day, especially if it’s good weather and the pedestrians are out (perhaps a 5.00 am start?). Anyway we left at 9am and got home for 7pm.
Day 2 Sunday – Watford to Hanslope (just North of Milton Keynes) I left Watford following my sat-nav thinking I knew where I was going. It wasn’t long before I’d wandered off the sat-nav route and had to double back. I had a great ride to Hemel Hempstead and all of a sudden I’m outside Buncefield, the site of the biggest peacetime explosion in Europe. Strangely it’s Sunday morning and the smell of petrol is drifting through the air. I love the smell of petrol in the morning, smells like…………victory. The road was still blocked off awaiting repair . After a short detour I entered a wonderful world of single track country lanes. I felt like Christopher Columbus discovering America. Fields of green and gold, the waft of rape seed in the air and for a brief moment, sunshine – on a cloudy day. I’d guess you’d say, what can make me feel this way – my bike talking ’bout my bike, my bike. This beauty goes all the way to Dunstable Downs.
I cycled up the Downs (does that count as an oxymoron) suffering the indignity of watching a much younger and fitter guy on a mountain bike breeze past me. He might be fitter but does he have the wisdom of age, I think not. Then it’s through Dunstable and onwards to Woburn.
The next thing I know is the sat-nav is taking me through some gates, over a cattle grid and into a deer park. The road is blocked at the end by gates and an 8 foot fence. The bike and I follow the sat-nav and go over the fence . I knew there was a reason for having a light bike! There are cars on a gravel road going one way . Hurrah I know where I am. I’m in Woburn Safari Park – oh dear. The sign says that I’m in the deer section phew! My next challenge is that the only road showing on my sat nav is one way – against me. I ignore protocol and cycle against the traffic eventually being stopped by the Woborn Safari wardens who give up trying to turn me round and tell me to carry on and get out the main entrance.
I got to Woburn Sands and then it happened. That vibrating feeling of road on butt, that moment when you know what has happened but you kid yourself for a second or two that it’s not happening. My first flat on my new bike, still in fairness I’d done 600 miles. I stopped in a guys driveway and was offered tea and a bowl of water to find the puncture – some people are just lovely (not the young guys with hot hatches and small penises and big car horns). After 20 mins I was on my way but 2 miles up the road – pop, the tyre blows off. I’m now at the side of the road changing the tyre and getting honked by the small penis brigade.
I put on the new inner tube and inflated the tyre. I notice a boil appearing on the tyre wall. There’s a split. I stop pumping but the boil gets bigger and bigger and then pop. So now I’m 3 miles short of Milton Keynes, it’s Sunday and it’s 4.00 but I’ve got dark glasses and I’m on a mission from god. I hobble to a pub in my cycling shoes and call a cab to take me to Watford. “Just 60 quid guv”. But then a ray of light – inspiration, God told me to go to Halfords. This was unusual for God as he generally shuns atheists, but on this occasion he spoke and I saw the light.
So despite my usual misgivings I went to Halfords arriving there at 4.30. They changed my tyre and I bought 2 inner tubes and a front light in case it was dark going home. The guys were great and we got on really well until I told them I’d be heading back along the A5. They sucked their teeth before telling me how many cyclists had recently been killed on it – deep joy. I left Halfords’ car park at 5.15 stopping an hour later for a Big Mac and shared my meal time with an interesting group of tattooed rockabilly guys and gals in their 60’s who were into 1930’s bikes and were cruising in their vintage US gold Ford pick-up truck. I don’t know how but I arrive home at 8.00 in daylight. Just the 80 miles again.
Day 3 Monday – Watford to Hanslope – Let’s Try Again It started to go wrong when I tried to detour round Buncefield and didn’t get back on to the sat-nav route until I got to Woburn where lost a spoke from the rear wheel. What is that about and what are you supposed to do? It snapped off near the nipple (language Timothy) which was left floating around inside the wheel. Fortunately the hub end just fell out. I can see that I’m going to need training on the removal and fitting of spokes – deep joy. I passed along a great single track road called “Friendless Lane”, which is often true for cyclists, it can be a lonely world. Still I did 110 miles!
Day 4 Tuesday – The Pain Boy oh boy oh boy was I sore on Tuesday and Wednesday. I was walking like a deep sea diver coming home from a Michael Barrymore pool party but without the benefit of Rohypnol to help me forget.
And now – back to the bike shop where I’m certain they will be hugely kind, supportive and make things right, especially as the bike is not yet 6 weeks old, albeit with 900 miles on the clock, not to mention it’s for charity.
Oh by the way – we might have to organise a mass Marmite boycott as Unilever are ignoring my pleas for sponsorship for Mark. The deprivation will be tough I know, but in unity there is strength.