I promised you a different blog report today, and this is it. Ok, it's a long blog, nothing different there, its just the type of adventure I had. Me and the Old Boy was asked if we would like to ride with a bunch of other people on a nice 'Genteel' over night ride to the coast, organised by the FNRTTC, a great bunch of people!
Always up for a challenge. (Well it is a challenge!) I know I have ridden to the coast a couple of times now, but this will be over night. Starting from London, Hyde Park Corner, at midnight, and riding at a 'conversational' pace of an average 12.0 mph, to Southend! When I say 'starting from London, really I should say 'Starting from Bromley, because me and the Old Boy met up with one the 'Frdays' so that he can 'drag' us to London to get there on time!
We met 'Big E' along the A21 at around 10 o'clock last night (Friday) and we set off towards London. I was a bit apprehensive about todays ride, the people that go on these rides are, well what can I say? You know they call people who totally love fast cars 'Petrol Heads' well these guys are 'Ped Heads' (they love their peddles) They love riding, they love their bikes and they love all the 'bling' that goes with it. Well I can understand about the bling, as I am slowly building up my stock pile of cycling gear! but to be truthful I know nothing about bikes, and the frames, and gears, brakes and de-railers! A 'Boardman' bike, to me looks like a 'Specialized' (I know I am going to get such a comeback on that statement) I mean, I bought my bike because it was white, and it had a name 'Escape' on it, (an idea I liked) and it was tons lighter than my old bike!
Big E took the lead, the OB was behind me, so he could keep an eye on me if I couldn't keep up! But I managed to stay with him, even though Big E said that he 'plodded' along knowing that I had to keep up with him! Well if that was his plodding along! But I wasn't going to complain! I knew that this is the sort of pace I am going to have to get used to over then next 8 or so hours, to get to our destination at Southend.
Through London we rode, passing old familiar places as we were getting nearer to London. I was coping quite well with it so far, and I started to relax. If this is the sort of pace that I am to expect then I really have no worries! I think the only worry for me would be if I start to feel tired. I love my sleep! I love drifting off to dream world, snuggled up in my bed! This would be my challenge today, staying awake! I was looking forward to seeing the sun rise over Southend in a few hours time. We picked up a couple of other of Big E's mates and continued our journey.
We arrived at Hyde Park Corner and there were just a a couple of other riders there. 'Blimey, where is everyone' Says Big E, and then he checked his watch, We were at at least half an hour earlier to what the Ride Organiser told us to be there. "I bet you thought I would be a bit slower in getting here?" I said to Big E, then a smile spread across his face as he realised that I had rumbled him. He did think he would have to drag my ass a little harder than he did, "Tell him, Old Girl" said the OB "Tell him that you're only a woose, and not a double woose"
Eventually a large number of bikes and riders where huddled together under the arch at HPC. After a briefing and safety instructions we headed off towards the Thames to ride parallel all the way to the seaside! An array of bikes and people made their way out of the arch, there were quite a few 'Bromptons' (probably one of the only bikes that I would be able to recognise) and people in 'Fancy dress'. Because it was described as a 'Genteel ride' Some brave and crazy people arrived wearing dinner jackets and bow ties! One chap in particular, who was also riding a Brompton, wore the whole suit, complete with shiny black shoes! While another chap only had the top half well dressed, and completed his ensemble with cycling shorts!
Riding pass the sights of London at night is amazing. It took me back to when me and the Old Boy were courting (that's dating, if there is any slight chance of young people reading this) We spent many a nights wondering around London, and drinking and eating. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, Tower of London, anyone would think we were on Skye Ride!
Then through Mile End road, and the Olympic stadium. coming into view, I do live near a fantastic City! If it wasn't for all the cars creating their nasty pollution...... (oooo, I sound like a proper cyclist now!) I was managing to keep up with the first group! Because of all the traffic lights, there are little pockets of cyclists. But it did look good when we stopped for regrouping, All the twinkling lights, one bike in particular had lights wrapped around the frame plus had these really cool lights attached to his wheels!
The safety notices were well heeded as whenever there were pot holes, debris and bumps in the road you could hear a 'mexican wave' of 'Hole!' ripple back to let all other rides know. I was really enjoying it. Ok so we are still in London, and the conversational pace is governed by the traffic, but it really was just a great atmosphere. It was like the Led Ride into London when me and Big Son did the Skye ride. But being part of this ride, was brilliant! Although there are no children, no marshaling as such, and no stopping traffic. We are 'road users' and have to abide by all traffic signals and be totally aware of traffic! The regular 'Fridays' did keep us riding in the right direction, At each junction there was always someone there pointing the way to go, plus keeping us safe from the broken class, AND also on hand if we needed help with punctures and the such! Great organisation!
Around 1 o'clock (I think) we had another regroup, People were still wandering the streets, there were shops open, there were also people very drunk, making their way home or to parties! But amongst this were a group of people with blue shirts on, with the words 'Street Pastors' written on the back. Among all of this, people were doing God's Work! At this time of night! Fantastic! Now that did make me smile!
I was wondering when the pace was going to pick up. I thought I was cycling at my own pace and soon these guys will kick into 'professional mode' and then I will have to pick it up a bit. But they just kept on going, at MY PACE!
Before I realised it, we were half way to Southend, nearing our 'cup of tea and sandwich' stop! Just as the rain started! Well, its Britain, and it is summer, and its Wimbledon fortnight (ok, so they not actually playing at this time of night!) Everyone was pulling over and donning their brightly coloured rain jackets, and then carried on riding up the road. I was glad that I bought mine along.
I was glad to see the service station where we are going to stop. Can you imagine, over 60 bikers, all taking their wet bikes into the building, where, thankfully, there is a place to grab a coffee! The queue had started to build by the time I had come back from visiting the ladies. Just a quick anecdote, the ladies were all trying to dry various bits and pieces of themselves not just their hands! I had a yucky wet bottom, and I was trying try it under the hand dryer, but me, being short, the hand dryer kept turning off, as I wasn't close enough to it to keep it going!. It did look quite funny! Several of the girls, had their legs up to the dryers trying to try their cycling pants, or holding out the wet shirts!
We sat there with our coffee, and our really expensive, tiny chocolate biscuit, and waited for the rain to go. We sat there longer than the ride leader planned to let the rain do it's thing. Well, there were quite a few 'first timers' on this ride, and he had to keep us all happy, and wanting to do it again.!
Eventually it did stop, but now the sun had started to wake up! the sky was getting brighter, I doubt very, very much if we would see the sun rise over Southend! Still, there is breakfast to look forward to! And already I was hungry!
We continued on our way, the ride leader doing an excellent job of keeping everybody together with just enough stops for regrouping, but not too many that it became frustrating. OOO, hark at me! Thinking that I'm one of the 'Elites' already! Mind you, not to brag about it too much, I was doing quite well!, I was even overtaking some cyclists because they, well, they were just a tad to slow! Both men and women! It seems all that hill training that the Old Boy puts me through really is paying off!
The rain kept starting and then stopping, All the riders kept starting and stopping, putting jackets on, then taking them off! But some how we all kept together. Then it came! Bread and Cheese happened! "Oh, how very civilised" I can hear you all thinking, but let me assure you, it wasn't! It wasn't very civilised at all! Bread and cheese is a cafe or pub, or whatever AT THE TOP OF A VERY STEEP HILL! The ride leader did warn us about it, both in the email before we even decided to do the ride and again at HPC, but it was still a nasty little thing to face after riding for so many miles. I had told the OB and Big E that I will be walking. Its a forgone conclusion. Both the men told me not to be so negative, and not to think negative thoughts! But I just know me, and I know how my body feels right now!
I still attempted it though, after all, over night rides to the coast are not for the feint hearted. I was behind a lady in red and she was behind one of the chaps that Big E had arranged to meet on the way to HPC, I was just willing her to get off her bike! I had it in mind, if she got off then I will get off! They both stopped together and dismounted! Oh yes! I said something on the lines of "Oh, I am so very pleased that they got off their bikes!" or words like it!
I walked up! It flattened out and I got back on and started riding again, only to find it rising even more. "I can't get back off!" I thought to myself, I just had to keep going. Its a flat ride the leader had said, its a flat ride! Surely this is nothing like Bitchling Deacon. I was so pleased to see everybody at the top, waiting! The end was there! At the top the cafe, pub or whatever it is, Closed! But the name, clearly in view, Bread and Cheese!
We hadn't far to go now! I could feel it (my tummy, it was rumbling!) The rain kept stopping and starting, I decided to keep my jacket on until we got to the cafe now, I wanted to be one of the first in the queue, (is that being greedy or hungry?)
And then another nasty little blighter of a hill. Sugar! The Old Boy was ahead of me, he knew we didn't have far to go, so felt he didn't have to babysit me anymore. Big E was riding next to me. He heard what I thought of this hill "You can do it, its only short, that's the top up there" So, gear down, I stood up on my peddles, uh oh jelly legs, but I tried and tried and pushed and pushed. One of Big E's mates had got off and walked up it, others were getting off walking up, but Big E kept urging me to get to the top, others coming up from behind, joining in the chanting! Breakfast was not in front of my mind at that particular moment! All I wanted to do was to not woose out on this hill! I could see it, the little round about, I'm swearing my head off with each peddle! Yes! I done it! What I forgotten to do, was to apologies to all around me for my language! But blow me! I was feeling good right then!
Just a very short ride along the sea front to the end, to breakfast! Yup, a very, very pleasant way to spend the night with 65 complete strangers!
Big E and a few of his mates were riding back to their homes from here! Me and the OB, we were getting the train!
Back in London we took a very short tourist walk and ride from Liverpool street to London Bridge. I used to work near Liverpool Street when I was a different person! When I wasn't a mum! How it has all changed! I came across my old building where I worked as a telex operator. We took some pictures here. We rode to London Bridge and seeing the Shard, tower above was totally awesome! The sun was shining on it. I just had to take some pictures.
One more thing! Thanks to Simon, the ride leader,and Big E, Great fun, pity about the rain though!
All the pictures are at the end of todays blog, along with the geeky stats from the OB's garmin, (I had forgotten to start mine up after stopping it at HPC and again from the service station!)
and this one is of me, excuse the sexy pose! but my reflective strips were playing havoc with the flash!
This is me outside the building where I worked, years and years ago. No longer the same business though!
http://www.youtube.com/embed/8bCr4Weq7Us This is a video of the ride, you can see me and the Old boy around 1.30 and again at 2.13 with Big E as well!