Friday Night Ride to the Continent
This Friday night ride to the coast was always going to be something special. It ran on a Thursday, and not only was it going to the Coast, but to the Continent. With the opportunity for me to extend the ride to Belgium, the proposition couldn't be better.
So 9 people set off from Hyde Park Corner, and two more joined us on the way. We got thoroughly soaked all the way to Gatwick Airport. The 'Fastest way to London' sign, which I kept reading as 'The fastest way back to London', seemed like a good option. Still, the Costa Coffee experience, I wouldn't have missed for the world.
I had started the queue, and when Simon's order was taken before mine, I should have known that things weren't altogether go smoothly. Instead, I thought, yes, yes, quite right that Simon, our leader, should get served first, how rude of me! In a loud clear voice Simon ordered a cappucino with a raspberry and milk chocolate muffin. That muffin bit was a bit hard for the guy at the till. To help him out we pointed at the muffins which were right in front of us. Mr Quick, who had already put the muffin in a bag, was retrospectively instructed to get a muffin, which caused another bout of confused looks and repetitive instructions by the till man.
But this was only a warm up! 'Four' the till man said/shouted. 'Four?' repeated Simon. 'Four what?' I kind of mumbeld 'must be four pounds', which is a bit odd really. How often do you order two items that come to exactly four pounds? And then, with a look of revelation, the till man shouted: 3.59! Blimey, the price is going down! Go with it Simon! 3.59. It's as if he suddenly remembered that the code for a part he needs to order is not 4, but 3.59. He was not really looking at Simon, but looking through Simon, right through Simon to the other side of the big hall, where on the wall there was an Exit sign.
Anyway, it came to my order, which was a flat white and a point and point muffin. Mr Exit took the receipt he'd just entered and studied it carefully. Then I felt bad, I thought, you see, he's just had a bad start of his shift, realised he's ordered the wrong part for his lawnmower, but now he is pulling himself together, reading, double checking the receipt, making sure there are two items, the right items, all correctly charged, etc ... Then he looked at the Exit sign which I was now obscuring, handed the receipt to me, and asked "Which coffee did you order?". "Flat white". Its printed on the receipt! 3.59, he shouted! Oh really! From then on everybody's order seemed to be 3.59. I was beginning to think this was a candid camera scene. Or we were in a world where there is no expressive laughter. And the joke was on us. They were testing us to see how long it would take for somebody to give up or else get behind the till themselves. 3.59 was just their code for laughing their socks off.
In the mean time, Simon was waiting for his coffee and had said 'yes please' to chocolate on top. As I turned to join the coffee queue, the coffee man asked Simon 'Would you like a sprinkle ...' 'Yes! I said yes before!' Mr Sprinkle put the back of his right hand limply to his forehead, it had been a busy night. 3.59, I could hear from my right!
But it was when Simon, with a click of the heels, on receipt of his coffee, said to Mr Sprinkler: 'Outstanding', that I spontaneously combusted into laughter and Simon did the same.
On the Simon scale of badness from 1 to 10, this whole scenario stood out at 20! Still, we did get served and had entertainment to boot!
All of the FNRttC gang
The ride from Gatwick to Newhaven was wonderful. Titus must have been chuffed that he hadn't bailed out. It wasn't raining anymore and soon it was getting light. The roads were great to cycle on. I trust somebody took a picture of the sun rise, was that at Wivelsfield? We had a puncture stop and during that time, Des kindly let me have a go on his fixed bike. Thanks Des.
The Pitstop Cafe was ideal for our traditional breakfast. And it was great to have so much time. Normally, I watch the clock because you need to get that train back to London. More entertainment, but of a different kind, was provided by the staff. The breakfast was superb, I was pleasantly surprised. We had time to chat, the sun was out, we could sit outside, put my flip flops on. Great!
And then we said our goodbyes, I didn't like that bit, I wanted all of us to go to Dieppe, it was a great group. Not even Aperitif could be persuaded, although I think he was the closest to a 'life is short' moment. Off we went to the ferry terminal: Simon, Tim and Kathy on tandem, Stuart and I.
Hey! More entertainment! If you are going to have a clipless moment, then there is not better spot than here:
Then we were joined by more cyclists, some better prepared than others it seemed. A couple of guys had the full Ortlieb front and back panniers, tent on top. Then there was a guy wearing a casual jacket and trainers. He was cycling to Paris for charity. He was rather concerned about his bike on the ferry. 'Don't worry mate', said Simon, 'they won't nick your bike'. Simon's intonation was disguised enough, but I was in stitches again.
Stuart was a star on many occasions. First directing us straight to the most comfortable seating area on the ferry where those who didn't sleep the whole way could watch a film so bad that it became entertaining again. Then directing us, together with Simon, to the Formule 1. Because we wouldn't have got there with my directions!! Where did I get that address from??
We got to the hotel in time to catch the end of the Tour de France. The belgian Van Den Broeck seems to be doing well. Can't believe Renshaw got disqualified.
After drinks and dinner in Dieppe, we had cheese and wine back on the 'hotel terrace'. 'Bon appetit' someone said genuinely. Then said goodbyes again, because the next day, it was going to be an early start for me to set off to Belgium.
The tailwind made the whole ride effortless, I was cruising in the biggest gear for much of the time. My only worry was where to get water from next, but I only needed to ask wherever I had a food stop. I was slightly annoyed at myself for getting out of the habit of carrying oil. But the mobile shop came to my rescue. The man shook his head from side to side when I asked if he had oil. He didn't have any oil for sale, but he did have oil. Off he hopped from his trailer and got a can of spray, applied it to my chain and 'Allez!' he said.
The scenery was rolling country side. There weren't any hills to speak of until I reached Belgium where I climbed the Kemmelberg. Smalldean Lane is much harder!!
Rapha has an article on it: Rapha Kemmelberg . I wouldn't call Kemmel nothern Belgium though, its pretty close to the French border. But here is a bit of trivia that might explain why the writer calls it northern Belgium. West-Flanders - which is where the Kemmel is, is the only county bordering both France and the Netherlands. Hence its also flemish, and flanders is often regarded as northern Belgium.
From there I was close to home and didn't take many more photos. I arrived close to 6PM, which was my original ETA, the tailwind helped me get there.
I had an absolutely fantastic weekend, made by the night ride, the DIY 200 ride, the company and my family. Thanks to all.
Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky