Wentnor to Acton Bridge
This will have to be short because I only just finished yesterday’s blog, because dinner calls, and because I have some work stuff to do tonight. So I’ll save my discussion of cycling shorts for another time, and instead describe my daily routine for this two weeks of cycling.
The day begins early. I wake up at about 6:30, think about going for a run, decide not to, and look at BBC news or read the paper on-line before having a shower. I have already packed and laid out my cycling kit of choice (see below), so there’s no panic.
Breakfast is usually at 07:30 or 08:00. This is when we load up for the day, and although I am not usually a big breakfaster, I do try to get some calories in. So do my fellow cyclists, although Father Paul was frustrated this morning when the kitchen misinterpreted his request. The hotel had given us a list of breakfast options the night before, asking us to tick the boxes alongside our choices. Father Paul made it clear how he wanted his eggs done (poached) and, so as to experience as wide a cuisine as possible, made his mark in all the other boxes as well (hash browns, sausages, black pudding, tomatoes, bacon…you name it). Unfortunately, the hotel interpreted his Xs as ‘no thanks’ rather than ‘yes please’, and he was served just three rather lonely eggs rather than the hoped-for very full English breakfast. The chef did eventually return to the kitchen to cook everything else, and, replete, Father Paul was able to set off for his ride.
During breakfast Rob describes the route, after which we give him our bags, blow up our tyres, give our bikes an anxious once-over, and set off. We all go at different speeds (obviously). The three whippets (known to us all as ‘The Whippets’) set an impressive pace that the rest of us cannot hope to match. Rather, we sort of pootle along, like Fotherington-Thomas out of the Molesworth books, saying hello clouds, hello sky…
We variously stop for coffee, for elevenses, for lunch, for coffee, for cakes, for tea, and for much-needed snacks—in case we get famished before dinner. We labour up the hills or coast down them, we grit our teeth as we cycle into the wind, and we keep looking at our cycle computers. Why won’t it switch from 40.4 to 40.5 miles?
And eventually we get there. Today’s ride (see below) was 69.2 miles with 3205 feet of climbing—what Rob called an ‘easier’ day. He met us at the pub where we have rooms, took our bikes, gave us our keys, and pointed us towards our rooms, where he had already taken our bags—what a saint.
I enter my room, and immediately demolish any biscuits the hotel may have provided. Then, after ten minutes of lying on the bed in the recovery position, I have a shower. Now this is important, because the evening shower is also the evening clothes-washing session. One’s cycling kit, and any dirty non-cycling stuff, is thrown into the shower basin, and the shower switched on. I step in, admiring my cyclists’ tan lines, and as I wash myself I march on the spot as if I were treading grapes. It may not match the sophistication or delicate action of Hotpoint’s finest washing machines, but it gets the job done.
The great thing then is to dry your clothes, and there are various techniques:
- Roll them in a towel and stand on it for a while. This gets rid of most of the water pretty quickly
- Let it drip into the bath overnight. This is hopeless
- Hang it out the window. This is surprisingly effective when the weather is OK, but there is the risk of (i) ridicule and (especially if you are on the ground floor) (ii) theft
- Play a fan on the damp clothes. Slow but effective
- Use the heated towel rail in the bathroom. Less effective than you’d think
- Use the room’s electric heater if it has one. Works well with the first of these
This is also the opportunity to charge your Garmin/Wahoo, laptop computer, phone, watch, iPad, bicycle light and camera. I also rinse out my water bottles, and generally make ready for the next day: which cycle shirt and shorts should I wear, have I got the right maps in the map-holder, have I scraped the dead insects off my sunglasses, and so on.
Then, and finally, I do some writing (this blog) and emailing, and have dinner. Dinner is when one hears our companions’ tales of the road—the triumphs (such as getting up a hill without walking), the mishaps (punctures), and the tragedies (falling off). It’s good fun, unless someone does get hurt, and we are forming quite a tight-knit group.
And after dinner, more writing and reading, and then bed.
So that’s the routine. What of today? I left alone, following The Whippets but not making any serious attempt to catch them. I looked at the scenery, and I looked out for anything else of note. The fact that there is a village called Thresholds might appeal to Lewis Wolpert, James Briscoe or Jeremy Green:
And I found this tree rather attractive:
Lunch was fun because we all managed to congregate at the same place, at the Old Fire Station in Malpas.
At one point after lunch it got slightly colder, and I put on my arm-warmers for a bit. I felt like a real cyclist then!
This photo captures a typical road on our trip. Narrow with little traffic—great for cycling.
It’s almost pointless posting a photo of a church whose name you don’t know, but this was quite attractive.
As was this castle hewn into the rock
And finally, Rob warned us of a bridge with a really steep gradient leading up to it. He didn’t add that it was a weak bridge, and one doesn’t need the sign to deduce that. The gradient is so steep that it can be hard to change down quickly enough to get across it, and it’s easy to take a tumble.
Here are the data as usual. I was disappointed to discover on Strava that cycling uses fewer calories than I thought—just 515 today—so I am definitely over-doing the eating!
And this is what we did today…
And this puts it into the context of the whole ride.