Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Boat Ride 200 PERM

It was a day for bullfinches, buzzards and bumblebees.  I could add bluebells also.

At the most northern point, Stoke Bruerne, I felt connected because of the Grand Union Canal that passes through Hanwell also.

Stoke Bruerne
The 'Road Closed' sign reminded me of the rope across the Solovetsky Monastery shop: it's there to be climbed over!  The road turned out to be closed for cars, but not for cyclists or pedestrians.  Try not to get angry!

I didn't have a good time collecting receipts.  The first tea room's receipt didn't have the location nor the time.  I explained and they stamped a card that still didn't have the location nor the time.  The first pub was open, but not open for business.  The second pub was jam packed full of Grand National punters that I walked straight back out.  I took various photos for proof of passage and then I gave up and relied on my memory that you can use gps logs for validation, which indeed is true.

I didn't take many other photos.  I wasn't inspired, didn't see any buckets in trees.  I wasn't very mindful either.  My mind was elsewhere.  Shame on me.  But I couldn't help but look forward to the next day's Southall Vaisakhi.

I was pleased to get home in time, but all in all, I'm putting this down to a training ride.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

FNRttC Southend

I was on the hunt.  Not on a witch hunt,  that's just a bonus.  But I found a tree!

Lovely tree
This ride was a game of two halves.  The first half was in the dark, in rain-ish weather and with tailwind all the way to Southend.  The second half was in daylight, in glorious sunshine and with a stinger of a headwind all the way back to London.  I had a great time!

Of course, the first half was in the company of the Fridays.  Riding out of London, it has become second nature to take note of buildings.  Here we are by the Shard.

Fridays by the Shard
It wasn't long before there was a puncture.  We got off our bikes, parked up and sheltered from the drizzle whilst the repairs were being done.  Then, because it has become second nature to look up at buildings, waw! we were right by the Walkie Talkie coming up like an alien looking to see what we were up to.

The Walkie Talkie
The half way stop was a good service station, overwhelmed coffee bar staff type of stop.  I often feel like helping out.  But we had plenty of time, so there was no need.  We were not on an audax.

Thankfully there were two of them

The run in to Southend wasn't so dramatic, as it had already been light for a while.  I was still taken by the exotic look of the seafront, because of the palm trees.

Palm trees in Southend
Breakfast was in a great cafe overlooking the beach and sea.  That was a great spot to enjoy a full English breakfast, soak up the sun and have chats about rides past and future.  There is revival in the air.  Like me, a few others had taken a break in 2015, but are now out an about looking for new adventures.  I didn't want to leave, but I had planned to ride back to London, so as to get some more miles in, in preparation for the Texas Stampede in May.  Reluctantly, and after asking Titus for some oil, I set off.

It turned out to be a fantastic journey back.  Sun, sun, sun!  Sun means ice cream.  After a night of drizzle it was appropriate that I stopped at the Puddle cafe.  

Ice cream at the Puddle cafe
I did my usual straight through everything route which takes you through the estate backstreets of Ilford to tourist laden canal towpaths.  With that sunshine, people were out creating a festival-like atmosphere.  I was tired from battling against the headwind and the pesky little climbs dotted around London, but I was loving it.

An even bigger smile appeared when I came across this:

Many, many thanks to Titus, Martin, TECs and all the Fridays (including Simon) for yet again, a wonderful experience.

The rest of the photos are here: MyPhotos

Monday, 4 April 2016

The 3Down 300

It's a good audax when it's sunny enough to treat yourself to an ice cream.  It's an even better audax when you have the time to treat yourself to an ice cream.  And it gets even better when the ice cream you choose is locally made: New Forest Ice Cream.  That was a very nice treat!

It was a tough ride though! I found it physically and mentally much tougher than the hillier Dean 300 a couple of weeks ago. The headwind on the way down to the New Forest sapped energy and morale.  And on the way back it rained for a good few hours.

Still, on a day when you have local ice cream, you see your first Great Grey Shrike, can admire the huge Bozedown Alpaca Farm and enjoy the picturesque Test Valley, you can be happy that you're out and about.

I was in good company also with James and Roger.

Having a break with James and Roger
We helped each other along.  Great team work!  I loved the way Roger shouted out the instructions.  At first they gave me a fright.  Imagine you're in zone doing a 5 miles stretch, mesmerised by the rhythm of the pedal revolutions and soothed by the sound of rain coming off our wheels.  And then you hear this  shout coming from the back.  I thought something bad had happened like he'd forgotten his brevet card in Fordingbridge or he had just run over a stoat. But no, they were very helpful 'left at T and immediately right' instructions shouted out at the top of his voice.

I took a couple of pictures of the New Forest and noted how it's not new and in places looks nothing like a forest.  Wiki tells us that 'Nova Foresta' was recorded in the Domesday book in 1086, and the reasons why it was called 'new'.

The New Forest
There is a great variety of animals you see there: the ponies, donkeys, black pigs, Highland cattle, and other cattle I don't know the breed name of (Galloway?).  The sun was still out then and I loved the cattle's colours of brown, sandy, copper, red, black, grey all blending into a lovely scheme.

The most bizarre moment was when I saw a bucket in a tree.

Bucket in a tree
Thanks to Ian and team for organising.

Photos are here: MyPhotos

Other thoughts:
  • Finishing at 1:15 AM
  • Very nice welcome back at HQ where soup and bacon rolls were presented.  Thank you!
  • During the dark section, a deer crossing the road right in front of us
  • Hearing owls