Friday, May 31, 2013

Back on Track - Apart from Bad Wind...

So, some housekeeping: The previous 2 entries, including the day of horror, now have a photo or two in their midsts if you're interested in some visual relief. Also, apologies for the delay between posts. I've probably said it before, but its not so easy to find computer access as I expected!

Right, to business then. Having slept on the games room floor at Coddington, the morning pack up was easy.  I was bit short of breakfast but a muesli bar, some dried apricots and mango, and drink would see me right to the first cooked breakfast I could find en route, so I was on the road by half 7-ish.

It was to be a 57 mile day into the Peak District today, not (as planed) to Edale YHA as they were full up, or indeed to Castleton YHA because likewise. Instead, I was left with pretty much no option but a nice comfy B and B - a well deserved treat, I figured, after the nightmare of the day before. Not to be made a habit of, you understand, but just this once...

I found by breakfast easily enough, and the day progressed really smoothly. Despite being convinced I was destined for many steep climbs as I approached the Peaks, all I seemed to find was gently rolling countryside. Just my style! Needless to say, as Castleton drew ever closer, the hills did get more intense, but the biggest of all proved to be a down hill on the back of a long drawn-out climb (which, after a great deal of experimentation, is my preferred type of climb, it has to be said), which positively threw me at some terrifying warp speed down a narrow, high-sided gully into Castleton itself. It's actually a well known bit of road, especially locally, and I remembered driving through it a few years ago, but its name escapes me  for the moment.

The B and B was fantastic. Super friendly hosts who I found thanks to a different B and B, which was full when I phoned to book, doing the running around on my behalf, and finding me a vacant room and making the booking for me! The owners let me at their computer for route planning etc, and I managed to squeeze in
a blog entry (the one to Llanberis), so all was so much better than the day before. My positive attitude was being restored.

I knew the next day was likely to be a bit tough, as it was up through the middle of the Peaks, popping out at Hebden Bridge. the weather and winds were not too bad though, and I defy anyone to travel through the Peak District and remain grumpy. OK, I packed a bit of a sad on some of the hills, but basically, its such a beautiful place that you can't stay mad at it for long. I kept finding tiny villages plonked on the tops of hills, reached by old-style cobbled roads. Clearly, the current inhabitants were - quite rightly - proud of the originality of the road surface, but I was slightly put out that the road builders of the past had neglected to consider cyclists of the future! And, of course, a last ditch mountain to climb to get me to Hebden Bridge was my own fault - there was a perfectly serviceable low road, which I'd opted to avoid in the planning stages, so I have, once again, only myself to blame for the strenuous push to the top, followed by a road so steep down that, in the morning, I wheeled the bike to the bottom as I wasn't confident I could control a full scale, gravity assisted descent before even turing a pedal!
Hebden Bridge - a long way down some very steep roads!
At Hebden, I met my first fellow end to ender, a bloke called Kev Kelly, who was doing the route via mountain-bike tracks - so almost entirely off road. A considerable challenge and no mistake - probably tougher riding than I was facing - but still only 1200 miles, so at least I could feel on a par with him with regard my extra distance. Still, its not the size that counts, or something...

Day 14 Castleton to Hebden Bridge by SteveMcM at Garmin Connect - Details

I had been looking at the weather for the next couple of days. Out of Hebden, I was scheduled to ride 72 miles across the  middle and over the top of the Yorkshire Dales to Sedbergh, but with a shocker of a 72 miler still fresh in my mind, and strong northerly winds and rain forecast, I was forced to make a new plan. there was no realistic way I was going to cover that much distance in one day in those conditions, and the prospect of dying of hypothermia, even for a good cause such as Barnardo's, was not appealing. Therefore, I re-jigged the route to take me up the western side of the Dales in two 45-ish mile jumps to Low Wray in the Lake District, rather than the original 72 mile and 30 mile hops. A few miles shorter, but not significantly so. 

Leaving the Hebden hostel should have been easy, but just as I got set to carry the freshly loaded bike up the steps to the road, I realised the back wheel was flat. Somewhat non-plussed due to the thorough servicing and new tyre I'd got put on it the afternoon before at the local bike shop (Blazing Saddles - great name!), i unpacked and went through the familiar routine to change the tube. I'd chocked the door open with a rock so I could get in and out while I was doing this, despite the security code which I didn't know, and quickly had the tube swapped over (Torn at the valve. Not impressed). Everything went like clockwork this time - partial inflation by pump, finished with the new CO2 cylinder, wheel back to the bike, door swung shut behind me....bags left inside. No code. Doh and double Doh. And quite possibly a bit of blue language as well. It was half 8, beginning to rain, and no one was due at reception until 9. Arse.

Eventually, someone came and opened the door, allowing me to pack up and load the bike for the second time, and I really hoped that would be the last time that day I'd be fixing punctures (it was). After wheeling my bike down to the bottom of the hill in Hebden (too cold to risk riding it on a hill that steep), I was then faced with the ridiculous climb out of the town on to the B-road I wanted to follow. That meant more pushing up, which would have happened regardless of the incline, as there was yet another stretch of cobbles! I could hear the old Hovis advert playing in my head as I wearily (yes, wearily, even that early in the morning!) pushed my bike up the cobbled road. Once near the top I could finally mount my steep for the first time that day and crack on with the ride. It was a chilly day and,after spending the day battling strong, cold head winds, rain and hail so heavy I was forced to hide behind a wall like a sheep, I reached the conservation village of Clapham (a bit south of Kirkby Lonsdale) on the first hop, before struggling through less rain, but more wind and some sunshine the next day to get to Grasmere.

Ye Olde Clapham - not the flash-harry London one.
Clapham was a lovely little village just inside the Dales borders, so technically I was able to tick that National Park off my list. I'd also gone in some way during the day, so it was well and truly covered. With more time to spare, I'd have loved to stay longer and explore more thoroughly what the area had to offer. Yet another place to add to my list of must return to one day..."

The next day's ride to Low Wray was another battle with the wind, and in all honesty I kept checking my route to see if I could cheat and take a more direct line than the optimistic one I'd plotted in the secure environs of the kitchen table. At the time, my sense of adventure and lack of common sense had led me to choose exciting, remote looking roads, but the reality of extremely tired legs and bad weather was pushing me - reluctantly - towards modifications. I'd identified a fork in the road that would allow me to head up to an A-road for a faster run in to Windermere and the ferry across the lake to Low Wray, but somehow, with head down and more and more sun on my back, I suddenly found myself heading down to the ferry at Lake Windermere. I have no idea where the miles went to, but I wasn't complaining! Well, not about that, anyway. I was complaining about the ferry not running due to the wind (while at the same time feeling justified that the wind must have been strong enough to be complaining about earlier!), and began the detour round the top of the lake to approach the camp site from the other direction. It was then that I decided to phone tomorrow's hostel and see if they had space tonight, thinking I could go straight there. They did, and so I did, which added a few miles to my day's ride, but saved me a night of camping and opened up the opportunity to ride the big passes the next day without baggage. Straight to Grasmere and Thorney How Hostel it was, then, and just in time for the Bank Holiday weekend.
Lake district traffic jam at Grasmere
I'll pause then and post this, as I suspect it has rather got out of control, size wise, and will try and do the next bit in a another post. Well done for getting through to hear. I expect it was almost as tough as cycling it!

1 comment:

Matty said...

Keep at em Steve. You doing mighty fine, sun due soon and down hill!!
Well done matey