Last weekend a group of friends celebrated David’s 50th birthday on Saturday, which had been planned for months. Sam, once again, had donned the mantle of party organiser, as rightly befits this party supremo: so what could possibly go wrong? Well, in truth, nothing where Sam was concerned, but almost everything at my end.
And it all came together so swiftly and smoothly one might suspect a higher hand’s involvement – “as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods” ‘n all that.
First, my usual Thursday photography commission was moved to Friday, at very short notice, to accommodate my youngest daughter’s travel arrangements – she needed a lift to Manchester Airport for a flight to Moscow. No problem.
Next, friends from Scotland called to see if I’d be about on Friday – oh, and could they stay over-night? Of course they could. Don’t get to see them often enough. Oh, and could they stay Saturday night, too? Ooh, er, OK. Just leave them a key, again no problem.
OK, so now I have to process the images from the Friday shoot that evening. And then there’s the remaining images to do for another client who is designing a website for a mutual client, OK… another few hours…
Oh, and it would be a good idea to fit the panniers and handlebar bag that evening before my friends turned up.
Said friends turn up Friday 10pm and suggest a pint in the local hostelry and a curry afterwards. At this point I go into overload and point out I still have hours of work to do before setting off to Stamford the next morning, on my cycle; a journey of some 80 miles. I’d agreed to a curry, after all I needed to eat, but the pub wasn’t going to happen – fortunately, they took my point.
Nevertheless, we didn’t get back from the curry house ’til 11.30pm, whereupon they went to bed and I resumed work.
At just gone 3am the light turned from black to grey. By 4am there was a beautiful pink glow in the sky, and by 5am I’d finished the processing.
Now my deadline was to be in Stamford for 2pm, so I’d already planned a 7am start to allow plenty of time. There was nothing for it but to skip bed and pack my panniers etc. At least, I had 2 hours before the off; this meant I could take my time and ensure I didn’t forget anything.
I loaded the bike and wheeled my mount through the back gate, down to the road and turned on my Garmin device, loading the course to Stamford on the unit’s display. Off I pedalled at 07:03.
My Garmin device is the cheapest of the “Edge” models and doesn’t come with a map facility, but at three times the price I decided that in this country it was a luxury I could live without. However, this meant that in terms of assistance in navigating my course all I get is a graphic line that shows a bend in the road and an assorted series of bleeps when I went off course and came back on course. It does also show me how I’m veering off course by use of a marker and a line of where I’m heading in relation to the point where I should be – very basic stuff. Mind you, I wasn’t too bothered as I had a rough idea of where I was going.
I noticed while in the back yard loading up the bike that despite the sunshine there was still a nip in the air, so I’d put on my arm warmers, but a few miles down the road, at Calow, I stopped to strip off.
It wasn’t long before I passed through Sutton Scarsdale before cycling alongside Hardwick Hall and on through quiet, peaceful lanes with barely a car’s width to negotiate, often with very high hedges, making an excellent job of shielding me from any wind.
Heading in the general direction of Sutton-in Ashfield, I took a left turn, deviating from the course route to take in Teversal and Pleasley en route to which I discovered how interesting it could be to get out of the saddle to negotiate hills – wobbly would be one way of putting it. It took a bit of getting used to, but as the ride wore on I took to compensating for the extra ballast.
The sensible thing would have been to stick to the route heading straight through Sutton-in-Ashfield, but “sensible” isn’t my middle name. However, again, the small country lanes around Teversal and Pleasley proved far more attractive than cycling through urban areas.
Mind you, instead, I ended up cycling through Mansfield and on to Rainworth before hitting more rural environs towards Blidworth. One thing that struck me (and not for the first time) is the number of vehicles that park in cycle lanes. If car drivers want us cyclists to keep further over to the left, then don’t do this! Because on encountering such obstacles not only are cyclists going to move out to avoid said vehicles, but if they have any sense they are also going to allow another metre to avoid the drivers who fling open their doors without looking. And just so you know, I have no qualms about delaying drivers behind me in order to avoid becoming another accident statistic – so get over it! Rant over.
At Blidworth, instead of heading towards Oxton, I routed myself through Ravenshead. This was a big mistake, making the ride much more an ordeal rather than the pleasant ride I was hoping for. In Ravenshead I took the “safe” option and turned on to the A60 southbound. I mean “safe” as in I knew this would take me through Nottingham and on to the A606, which would eventually take me to Stamford. Direct but unpleasant due to the drivers who insist on “squeezing” cyclists in order to pass them whilst encountering oncoming vehicles, all at speeds usually exceeding national speed limits.
There was one moment of respite during this section of the route though, and that was at Normanton-on-the-Wolds just south of the A46. I spotted the village sign and took the side road bearing off to the left, leant the bike against the sign and recovered my jam butties from one of my jersey pockets. I also removed my vest as the sun was doing a good job of roasting me. The heat was such that as the cars flew by on the main road their exhausts were shimmering in the heat.
Butties dispatched, and copious amounts of lemon and lime electrolyte consumed I looked for and found the street name of the side road I was on. Old Melton Road. Could this be a minor road taking me to Melton Mowbray other than via the main A606? Time would tell.
I cycled on through the village, whereupon I came across the local village library. I considered this a worthy photo opportunity.
Unfortunately, as I’d half suspected, Old Melton Road took me back on to the A606 just the other side of the village.
Melton rolled by and Oakham was next. Out the other side of Oakham I saw the chance of making Stamford by 1pm, an hour in hand, so literally turned the revs up. I must have looked a peculiar sight hammering on towards my destination at significantly higher speeds than your average, fully loaded, touring cyclist.
I really must get the hang of this touring business and slow down – only problem is like any long journey boredom sets in on those A roads and the speed creeps up…
Being ahead of schedule, I headed for Sam’s cottage where Angel welcomed me with chilled lager – perfect. We sat in the garden watching an air display including several Spitfire fly-pasts. How english.
BTW, the Saturday night party was great, and I didn’t wake up with a hangover – bonus.