(pics and lessons learned at end)
Following three wonderful days with the wedding party for Vicky and James’ amazing wedding, Pete and I set off for a three day 200 mile practice for our big End to End trip. Susie and Charlie join us for Day 1.
Day 1: Gloucester to Portishead (should have been 40 miles but in fact 52 due to Pete’s Garmin having a mind of its own) Mostly flat Sustrans Route 41 – we avoided the canal path part by taking to the A38 (felt fairly safe because of a cycle lane). Susie and Charlie had set off earlier than us while we enjoyed breakfast with the bride and groom. Inspite of our best efforts and the worst that the Garmin could do, it took us until lunch time to catch them, when we were rewarded with a lovely pub lunch at Littleton.
Pulled into Portishead around 5pm having been over the new Avon Bridge Cycle way and through the new build estate around Portishead Marina – 3,000 new homes – all different, beautifully landscaped and sought after as new homes. Certainly a good example of how new build developments can actually improve a community. When we arrived at Parsonage Court, Susie made us a perfect supper (risotto and salmon) and allowed us our first practice with washing and drying our clothes over night. Charlie and Pete spent a happy evening looking at new bicycle specs with the aim of C and S moving up to road bikes fairly soon and then a lovely night’s sleep.
Day 2 Portishead to Bickleigh (71 miles)
With 70 plus miles planned for day 2 the aim was to leave at 6 am the next morning. All went well until at 5.50 am when we attempted to get our bicycles out of the garage only to find that one of their cars, brought back late the previous evening, was parked too close to the door and so we had to wake Charlie to move the car – shame! We set off enthusiastically along the B3124 to Clevedon (avoiding the hill on the A38) and had a bit of a pause 3 miles down the road when I realised I had left my glasses on Charlie and Susie’s wall. Pete kindly went back (gave him a chance to stretch his legs) and then we set off in earnest. We picked up the A38 at Churchill and stayed with it until Tiverton. There were few cycle lanes and much of the traffic was fast. However, the road was flat and the traffic was local since the road runs very close to the M5. Our savoury snack food stops were at lay by snack waggons, the first at 20 miles (Snax R Us) and the second at 40 miles (The Chou Hound Snack Bar). At this latter, we tucked into something called a Torpedo and were told enthusiastically about his specialities and how he only used the best ingredients. We enjoyed this stop and made a note to call again. At Tiverton we made a serious mistake. The plan had been to go into Tiverton via Samford Peverell and Halberton and then down the flat A396 for four miles to Bickleigh. The Garmin, however, suggested shaving a couple of miles off and that we should do these last four miles south of the River Exe. At this stage we had only climbed 400 metres or so. Once we had completed these four miles, the total climb was over 1000 metres – yes we had added a 600 metres climb! We definitely won’t do this again. Finally we arrived at the very picturesque Fisherman’s Cot overlooking the River Exe at Bickleigh Bridge. They had kindly arranged for us to have a room with a hallway in which we were able to park our bicycles for the night. We were exhausted but, as agreed, washed all the clothes we had been wearing, rolled it in a towel to take out the worst of the moisture, and hung it in the cupboard to dry over night – very effective. We had initially booked a supper table for 7 pm but agreed we needed to eat at 6. We ordered a main course and a drink, thought about the cost and agreed that on our long trip I would go for a main course and a half a lager – topped up with water.
In terms of my latex allergy issues, had tried wearing just my black vest tucked into my shorts to stop the elastic waist band touching my skin but then not very visible to traffic. I had been using my knee bandages to protect my legs from my shorts but again too hot to keep them on today, so a bit of an issue. Pete gave this some thought and wondered if I might be able to wear his old Serpentine tri suit – make of spandex and elastane.
Also had a think about moisturisers for face, bum and feet and decided to make some changes. Decided on REN emollient for my face (originally planned for my feet); Vaseline for my bum (less messy thank Sudocrem); and Sudocrem for my feet (originally planned for my bum! My feet are an issue because I have to wrap them in cling film at night to keep them moisturised.)
Day 3 Bickleigh to Liskeard (75 miles)
Although breakfast was at 7.30 am this meant we were not able to leave until 8.30 and this did seem a little late to us. With our planned route, the A3072 between Bickleigh and Crediton, closed for repair, we were forced to add another 10 miles and go down to Exeter (calling into the Bike Hut for more supplies) and then take the old A30, now an unclassified road along the northern edge of Dartmoor. This route is very pretty with a lot of picturesque villages but very hilly. We enjoyed our stops at the Woodleigh Coach House (Cheriton Bishop) and the Taw River Inn (Sticklepath) and finally pulled into Okehampton and up onto the Granite Trail. Four miles along we stopped at the cycle café. Knowing we still had 36 miles to go, I felt I could not manage another 50 yards. Took in a Mule bar gel; some gel blocks; a flap jack and a cup of tea and then climbed back on the bike. Tried drafting with Pete to avoid the head wind and after a while felt a bit better. In fact we were OK all the way then into Tavistock. Here we were grateful to find the last pack of chocolate donuts (ate two each – thank you, Chris) at the Tavistock Spar and Post Office. Then on towards Gunnislake – and as we were making the final descent (13 miles from home) Pete’s spoke went. This was down a steep hill so he was lucky not to be hurt. Not knowing he had dropped back I waited the other side of the bridge. Wasn’t able to call Pete because his battery had gone but a driver told me he was sorting his bike. A kind cyclist (Geoff) stopped to help Pete and also lent him his phone. We were then able to call Geoff who came to collect us. We arrived home at about 9.30 pm. having completed 186 of the 199 miles planned – I was quite relieved to have our journey cut short.
Lessons learned: Important to keep two phones working throughout the day; a late start from a B and B is not possible if we have 70 plus miles to complete; roads like the A38 are doable on a long trip but a mirror is essential. It is sobering to think that even if we make no mistake at all over a 15 day period, we are dependant on thousands and thousands of cars being careful too; and, most importantly, NEVER TRUST A GARMIN!