Jo to the rescue!
My friend Jo was going to cycle to Cornwall with her friend Catherine. They must have felt my cycling energy (or just read my blog) and invited me to come along. I'd like to think because I'm good company but it's probably because I knew a good route.
So on Wednesday last week I left my mums sofa and headed to London to meet them. It was a short 110 miler but still managed to get two spoke breaks. Thats two more than I got going round the world. Luckily I had 4 spare ones (I surprise myself sometimes) It was great to get back on Maid Marian II. It was like old times. Things just worked and felt right. They say you never forget to ride a bike. You also never forget how cycle touring makes you feel. Knowing that I had everything on me to survive anywhere. I could literally have carried on to China with my setup. I liked that.
On Thursday the three of us left Richmond and headed for Salisbury. A simple 95 miles. I was nervous to be touring with other people. I've always toured alone and didn't know how it would go. My anxiety was soon put at ease when I realised Jo and Catherine are complete legends. On many occasions we had to stop cycling because laughing took up too much oxygen.
Friday was meant to be flat but turned out to be quite hilly. I'm pretty much sure we found the steepest hill in the world. I just about managed it up but the girls were laughing way to much to even try. See video below.
Saturday was the big one. The day started well but as soon as we hit Dartmoor the heavens opened up. It was incredible. Even I thought it was a little tough. Fair play to Jo and Catherine though. Their spirits were still high as we swam our way through the moor and onto Wadebridge. Journey almost complete. For them anyway. I still had another 200 miles to go. We said our goodbyes and as they went off to their friends house for a warm bath, I headed just outside Wadebridge and shared the night with a few slugs. One even found its way into my sleeping bag. Must learn to close tent door properly.
The original plan was to split the last leg over two days but couldn't help the little voice saying "Come on Sean, you can do it in one day" I was umming and arring until I saw a weather report that said Sunday was good weather and Monday, surprise, surprise, rain, rain, rain. Thats all the motivation I needed. I was going to do it.
I left Wadebride at 7.30 and started the ride back to Cheltenham. I tried a bit of the A38 duel carriageway and although fast, really fast, was mind numbingly dull. I still wanted to have a fun ride so decided to do ALL the back roads. I set various towns into my Bryton and it totally pulled through for me. There must be a setting that says 'avoid A roads' because it sent me down every farm road possible (including some dirt tracks) It certainly was an adventurous route but it did mean hitting pretty much every hill possible. I found a few +25% hills. Granny gear all the way. That is when the Rohloff comes into its own. Being able to change gear without pedalling certainly helps. The pace was pretty slow but I figured getting back at 10pm or 1am didn't really make a difference.
I slowly headed north and reached Bath at around 9pm. I stopped in at my friend Helen for a quick coffee and bowl of porridge before the final 50 miles to Cheltenham. This was the hardest bit. My legs were knackered. I was knackered and to be honest all I wanted now was a duel carriageway. I was over the hills now. Not literally, mentally! I still had many more hills to come.
Eventually at 1am and 200miles later I rolled back to Cheltenham, so tired that I actually forgot where I lived and went 2 miles the wrong way down my road.
My little 5 day, 600mile tour of the South West was incredible. If you enjoy cycling then you have to cycle around Britain. You really don't need to go to France. It's all here!
Now go and cycle!