(If you want to start at part 1 of these posts click here)
It was the middle of the night still and I woke up, my first thought was to wonder who was shining a light under my tarp until I realised that it was the moonlight, I am always amazed by how bright it can be. My second thought was that I needed to go to the toilet, I was warm in my sleeping bag and I didn’t really want to get out as I could feel it was cold. I looked at the clock and it said 2am, my next thought was maybe I should just get up and start riding again?
That thought was entirely due to Mike Hall. Mike Hall is an endurance cyclist from Harrogate who has competed in both the tour divide and the round the world record. When he gave a talk at the Yorkshire bicycle show this year it was last thing on the Sunday and we were packing up our stall. I was waiting for him to finish during the Q&A session so I could get one of the Spa bikes which were behind him. Someone asked the question – I think regarding an endurance race in freezing temperatures – ‘what do you do if you need to get out of your tent to go to the toilet?’. Mike calmly replied that if you are awake it’s time to ride again.
I was awake, it was time to ride again. This would actually turn out to be a really good decision although I was very doubtful of this at the time. With everything packed up I was on the road and moving again by 3am. You don’t see many people on the road at this time of day but there are a few cars/lorries about. You do see quite a bit of wildlife though, across the whole trip I saw an owl, a deer, a weasel, at least one mouse or vole and two rabbits. Strangely I didn’t see a single fox, I see a lot of those in Leeds. It worth also mentioning the birds who had a habit of noisily taking flight from tree branches as I passed beneath them making me jump.
I quickly made up the 11 miles that had defeated me the day before and entered Salisbury, to be honest I was glad I didn’t try to stop here as I’d forgotten that it’s actually quite a big town and took me a while just to ride from one side to the other. I was also hampered by the fact that the pain in my left knee I had felt the day before was back and my right knee was joining the party. I tried to put the pain aside and carried on into the night, I was surviving on a Clif bar and shot blocks as I didn’t think my stomach could face breakfast yet.
The numbers on my GPS ticked by though and the distance to my parents started for the first time to seem ‘small’. In hindsight when planning this route I wish I’d looked at the contours on the map a bit more closely as I climbed away from Salisbury and up on to the top of a ridge running south rather than riding the main road along the valley floor. The climbing was fine at this point but the wind was picking back up and being on top of the ridge was hard going. The ridge also wasn’t flat and had numerous ups and downs as it slowly rolled towards Wimborne Minster losing elevation steadily rather than with a nice long descent.
My knees were starting to really hurt now and I had to walk a short climb for the first time as the pain became to much. I pushed myself on by promising I would stop and eat in Cranborne which I was 4 miles from. Eventually I made it there and sat down to eat my remaining bagels and rest my knees for the final push. It was now about 6am and people were starting to stir and get up to go to work. The guy who said ‘morning’ to me when he passed on his way to the village recycling bins was definitely confused to see a cyclist sat on the pavement at that time of day.
After a short rest I had to carry on, my average speed was now only about 6 or 7mph I think. I managed to grit my teeth and get up a lot of hills at first but was forced at times to walk when I just couldn’t ride any more. My mood wasn’t the best as progress was slow and painful and I was willing the sun to come up as for no apparent reason I had decided I was fed up of it being dark. Finally the map on my GPS to my relief showed that I had a couple of longer descents coming up and I limped into Wimborne just as it was finally starting to get light. I stopped at a garage and bought water, cola and a sandwich which I knew would give me enough energy to travel the last 7 miles.
The end was finally in sight and we were now on roads I had ridden, walked and driven multiple times in the past. My mood definitely lifted as I knew what was ahead, could break down these last miles into chunks separated by familiar landmarks and day dreamed about a hot shower. I walked up the final two hills of the day and freewheeled as much as possible on the descents until I reached the main road on the outskirts of the village where my parents live. I thought I better ring ahead and check that someone would be in not really considering the fact that it was 8:30am and my parents had only just got up, of course they would be there!
So just under 50 hours after we had set off and 270 miles later I rolled onto my parents driveway and knocked on the door. My mum looked at me and said ‘you haven’t ridden all the way from Leeds have you?’. When I replied that I had they didn’t seem surprised just suggested I sit down for breakfast with them and tell them all about it. It’s nice to know that my parents know me well enough these days to take me as I am and be interested in what I do rather than reproach me for doing something most people think is crazy.
An hour after arriving the wind was howling outside and heavy rain lashed the window panes. I sat on the sofa now clean sipping a cup of mint tea and munching biscuits whilst reading a book about touring by Alastair Humphreys. Glad I’m not out there riding in this I thought to myself…