The big day was final here. My final preparations are unlikely to have been followed by the professionals; Sunday lunch at Zizzi washed down by a couple of glasses of Sauv followed by an afternoon at the 2020 (Worcester Rapids vs Durham). You can’t watch cricket without a beer – so I had 3. I got home and we’d arranged farewell drinks with Julia and the Captain. The captain doesn’t drink in the singular so we had a few.
On Monday morning we took the boys to school – Lou is on a D of E expedition and Seb had a big transition day to his new class in year 7 and the senior school.
H had arranged for many friends and family to join me for “the grand depart”. I was still repacking bags at 7 am that morning just to make sure that I had enough – without having too much. One of the last things that I ditched was a UK plug/electrical cables. I wouldn’t be needing those.
We finally left at about 10.15 – Me, Nick, Dave and John who joined me for various stages of day 1. It was a great send off – thanks to all those who came around to ensure that I definitely left. It was good to be on the bike and starting the adventure – but I was also nervous about what lay ahead.
After about 10 miles the heavens opened. Thankfully in repacking my bag i’d decided to put my rain coat on the top. Rain coat on we pushed on to Broadway – it rained for 21 miles and as we jumped off to dive into the café the rain stopped. 3 latte’s later we were revitalised. Dave headed off leaving just the 3 of us. We went to the Broadway deli and grabbed a sandwich. I must apologise to the lady on the till in the deli. “Have you got far to go” she enquired politely……”about 1900 miles” I said feeling a bit of an arse for dropping that one in.
We pushed on and in typical fashion after Broadway the route out was a tough one – Snows Hill. If you don’t know it, its a real drag of a climb. Tough enough on a bike – let alone one with panniers on the back. All the way up it felt like Seb was sitting on the back. From the top of their the next area that that I remember is Northleach. Great little Cotswold village with an excellent hotel and wine bar. We visited the wine bar……..for about 3 cups of tea before pushing on up another hill, through some other great villages such as Barnsley and on to Cirencester. JB looked like a man who needed food. We’d been pushing it and it was already his longest ride yet. We dived into a local shop and 5 minutes later – thanks to a Branstons sausage roll JB was back on form. We pushed on following the Garmin Cycle routing. The software picks out quiet lanes and cycle tracks based on the defaults set by the user (me). The lanes were great to be fair, but there were just too many of them,
I started coming across villages that I remembered from the time that I worked in Swindon. Again there are some great places down there. As we approached Brinkworth (I think) we cam across a road closed sign. We thought that we’d be able to get down it as we were on 2 wheels so we carried on. Half a mile down the road we came across a very important looking little man in a orange coat. Lets call him Peter Rick for the sake of this story. You will have come across his type in life. Typically about 5ft tall, wearing the cleanest fluorescent jack (for health a safety reasons), rule bound and accompanied by a young female apprentice.
He’d been waiting for us to come along all day and now he had his chance to impress. “Hi mate” we called out – “we are cycling to Portugal – any chance of letting us through”. We tried to reason with Peter – but he was having none of it. “Its full of machinery and holes down there so you ai’nt coming through” he scowled (arms crossed – looking at the apprentice for approval. “You’ll have to do a 5 mile detour – which wont be bad if you are cycling all that way”. Peter turned and walked off and over the very dangerous bridge that we couldn’t cross. “Prick” was about all we could muster. We turned around and cycled off, round the diversion and onto a cycle route to Marlborough. This was a killer – 2 monster hills after about 88/90 miles. One led up to the Ridgeway – nightmare. From there we cycled down to Marlborough and our hotel for the evening.
Our stats were 95 miles travelled, 5167 ft climbed (about 1575 meters). I didn’t keep the calories and annoyingly the full ride didn’t save.
[more to come – along with Day 2]