Saturday, 27 October 2012

Trains, Boats And Bicyles!

Hello Blog lovers.

Big Cheese Strikes Again!

The call came from London. Captain Leggy had told all the Fridays to gather in the specialists. As many as possible needed to capture The big cheese, The fat stuff was being peddled out again to our poor unsuspecting citizens.

We met up with one of Captain Leggys Fridays, Big E.  It was a cold night. Big E is used to these cold nights, regularly riding  through the night, any time the year, in search of the Big Cheese. The Old Boy was used to cold nights too, as he has worked nights for years in the past! But for me, this is going to be a challenge. Returning home from a November night out with the girls in ridiculous unsuitable attire, waiting for taxis for half hour in the freezing cold, does not constitute training for a mission like this.

 On The Job Training

To test the Old Boy in path finding, he was given the honour of leading some of the way to Head quarters. He has been training hard! Talk about speedy! I was having to work hard to keep up with him! Big E  was at the back, making sure that I didn't get lost on the way. I was pleased he stepped back into the role of getting us to HPC. Test completed for the Old Boy on Path Finding. Pass, as for me, I think I would probably get a 'Could do better'.

Head Quarters At Midnight

We arrived at headquarters, The Arch at Hyde Park Corner. I was already chilly. But I had listened to advice, I had come prepared with drink, but this had some special energy giving stuff inside, with added caffeine! I was really determined to do battle with the 'The Big Cheese' this evening!  I took a slug of my drink, maybe I should invest in a thermos and have some nice hot chocolate in there instead.  We waited for others to arrive. The cold wind reminding everyone one that this is going to be a tough mission! I only hope that I am up to it. The Old Boy did give me an opportunity to back out of todays ride. We could just ride on home, while its still early, and we are able too!

There were only about 50 brave souls today! 50!  Can I really keep up with them. I took another slug of my energy drink, gave myself a talking to, and tried to pull myself together. The regular Fridays were there, Walnuts, Long Martin.  Captain Leggy took the roll call and allocated all the positions of 'Tail End Charlies' and 'Marshals' The safety talk was given. And then we were off.

Littered Streets.

Through the chilly busy streets of London we wound our way. Through the traffic and revellers of the night. The street cleaners were going to be very busy tonight, the wind had blown over the day litter bins, there were plastic bags being blown up in the air, along the pavements, across the road, threatening to get caught up in the wheels and gearing of our bikes. Or maybe even getting blown into the windscreens of the cars passing us by! That could be a disaster, that could take out quite a few of the Specialists with just one plastic bag! I still am amazed at our city. As we pass by some of our fantastic monuments and buildings I look at them and feel proud to live in or at least near by this great place. So far the cold wasn't affecting me. I was well wrapped up,
"More skins than an onion" as the Old Boy loves to say! 
I even have two pair of socks on!  But going through the streets of London, was bound to be a bit easier and warmer than the country side. I was still feeling confident.

Last Chance

I'm not sure if there were any 'Newbies' on todays mission, but I did notice that it was a tad faster than the last two missions I had been on. Or could it be that I am probably not as fit as I should be! I will carry on, this is an important job, and a tough job, there is no room for wimps. As we were going through London I kept thinking, "This may be a good moment to bail out."  But the Fridays only want the dedicated people to complete the missions. Maybe in hindsight I should have done. But I am a determined soul! I had started and I wanted to finish. We make a great talking point as we ride through London. Ok, so the people who are out at this time of night are usually the revellers, and they are amazed at the amout of people there are on bikes! A car on our right rolled down the windows and sitting in side were Dracula and zombie, and some other creature that I couldn't quite see. Halloween party night! Let's hope that this ride won't turn into a horror night for me!

The Big cheese has an Alie, our code name for him is 'Baby Bell' We are to reach this 'Fat Stuff lab" and close it down before the stuff ever gets to the street. Fortunately for us it was on our way to where the 'The Big Cheese' is ready to peddle the 'fat stuff' to the unsuspecting citizens of Burnham-on-Crouch.

Stock, Lock And Tea Urn.

Captain Leggy had information that  'Baby Bell' was in a place called 'Stock' So that was our first point of call on this very cold October night! Our band of brave Specialists, along with the regular 'Fridays' snaked our way, silently through the clear crisp night. The rain that we had during the day, was evident on the roads, as we avoided puddles and muddy verges. We had to stay as dry as possible if we were to complete tonights mission. I  don't think I would have made it if it had been raining as well. Although, I had on the regulation uniform that was necessary for colder, wetter missions, a new cycling jacket, warm gloves and thermal socks! Nothing is every truly waterproof.

Once we were out into the country side, I kept having to sip at my drink. My energy levels felt like they were totally depleted! I was struggling, big time! I can recall the first time I rode this way, on the the training mission, A Nice Genteel Ride To The Coast, I found it all so easy!  It seems that my memory has been playing tricks on me and just like the mental blocks about the hills going to Brighton, I couldn't recall any hills going to Southend, well maybe one one or two, but I had managed those fairly well. Now I am struggling even up tiniest hills.

Instead of overtaking everyone on this ride, everyone was overtaking me! I was at the back, I could hear the tail end Charlies chatting to each other! This was so unlike me! I kept trying to push myself to go faster, but it just didn't happen! I was whining like a child to the Old Boy "How far have we cycled so far" I said to him
"Well from when Big E met us we have only done 34 miles"
That did not make me feel any better! It meant we had another 12 miles or so to do before I can get out of the cold and wind! I felt such a fraud being there, among Britain's best 'Fat Stuff Digesters'. The Old Boy kept me going, literally! He was pushing me up the hills and the flats and the slight inclines! All while pedalling along himself! I think the Fridays could have another member someday, if the Old Boy feels the 'calling'.

I was so pleased to hear the words, "Just a hundred yards up is 'Baby Bell Cheese lab"
The Big cheese had taught Baby Bell well, he too was using unsuspecting innocents to dish up the 'Fat Stuff'. When I arrived I was really hoping that all the others had cleared the tables, with maybe just leaving me a few crumbs to deal with! But when I got there, the  tables were still laden. There were cheese baps, trying to look like the healthier option by using whole grain bread rolls! There were ham rolls and egg rolls, they all looked so delicious. Oh and the cakes! Muffins, the size of a eight portion birthday cakes! Homemade bakewell tarts.  I really wasn't feeling to good at all. The site of all the delicious fat stuff spread before me was making me want to run for the hills! I opted for just one chocolate muffin and a cup of tea, with sugar of course.

I did have a drop of warm stuff with my tea!

I sat down at a table, the Old Boy chose one roll, one cake and a tea. But the tail end charlies! Now they are dedicated to the cause! Big E, who was Tail End Charlie for this mission, had two rolls, two muffins,  two cups of tea, and Walnuts, the other Tail End Charlie, had a rolls and it looked to be a huge toasted tea cake!. And all the other regular Fridays, and the volunteer Specialists, all seemed to be 'doing their bit' Saving Stock from the 'Fat Stuff'.  Yes, I felt a total fraud.

Let's Roll!

Captain Leggy gave his troops a pep talk, as he always does when they reach these 'mini factories'  He thanked the people for their hospitality, after all, they are the innocent ones, they just don't know what they are peddling to the unsuspecting public, and he doesn't want to cause unnecessary panic by telling them. We just roll in and roll out. Some might say, they are the men in black!

Time to head out, to the latest main outlet of the 'Fat Stuff'. I reluctantly put on my coat, still shivering from the cold. I was feeling so ill. The muffin, felt so heavy in my stomach. I felt as if I wouldn't be able to digest this at all. All the way to the next destination, I felt very unwell. The hills, each one felt like 'Bitchling Deacon' all over again!

I had heard some of the Specialists talk of a nasty little hill further along the route. I just tried to ignore it. I was expecting this huge great hill, maybe not as steep as Bitchling, or even Turners, but a noticiable hill. We started a climb, I had told the Old Boy about the hill, and he said
"This must be it"
"No, I said, this can't be it, I'm sure its steeper that this" I kept going up the hill, the hill just seemed to go on for ever! I wanted to stop, but I didn't want to let everyone down. I didn't want to keep the front runners waiting for me all the time. The hill went on and on. And then I saw them. Waiting at the top. Big E came up from behind me and said
"There you done that hill"
"Yes, but I won't be able to do the one they were all talking about" I said appologetically,
"Thats it, tha'ts the one we just did" he said. Well, I could at least smile about that!

 I struggled all through the rest of the night. Burping, spitting! I know, not very lady like at all! And then it happened. I had to pull over!
"Stopping!" I called out!
I didn't know whether I was going to puke or pee! In the end I had to pee. I got off my bike, my head spinning like a top! I nearly fell over my bike! Luckily we were stopped by a discreet bush for me to hide behind. Still, a tad embarrassing, knowing that the Tail End Charlies, were parked up waiting for me to emerge from the bush!

Further along, into the cold, windy night! The wind was just so strong! I could feel it pushing my bike sideways! I have never really experienced that before! But the 'Fat Stuff' was proving to much for me. Every breath I took, I could taste the sweet chocolaty muffin. It was almost as if I was still eating it. It became to much.
"Stopping!" I shouted again! I had to pull over! Heaved, and spat, and chocked! I threw up! Not the whole lot! but still enough for the 'Tail End Charlies' to notice!

I felt a bit better, I took some more of my energy drink! And then I suddenly thought "I wonder if it was this stuff that was affecting me?" I was grasping at straws now. I so want to be one of the Specialists, to be able to keep up with the Fridays and Captain Leggy, to do my bit for Britain's ever expanding waist lines! For the rest of the journey to Burnham I was at the back, although, I did notice one other chap was riding along at my pace. I even had to over take him on a couple of occasions as well!

I kept up my spirits by looking around. Looking up at the stars. It was clear sky! The brightest star seemed to be our guiding star, as we  followed it along, keeping it in our eyesight. A comforting star, sitting up there in the sky. I can imagine, that star up there, has guided so many people to their destinations. Looking out for them, getting them to where they need to be, all over the world, and for hundreds of years. And there will be plenty more people that will be following that star.

The sky started to brighten up as daylight slowly crept up on us. Our final destination was near! The Old Boy continued to push me along, especially on the inclines and hills! I started to feel a little better. Maybe I won't head for home as soon as we get to Burnham! A second wind the Old Boy and Big E had said. Maybe I will be able to get stuck into the 'Fat Stuff' when we get there!

The Ferry 'Cross The Crouch

The new factory was a little cafe, right next to the river Crouch. We locked our bikes up and joined the band of willing and very hungry volunteers to devour and eat, and digest the fat stuff. We took over the whole cafe! There wasn't a chair left. Me and the Old Boy found a table and chairs in what seemed like the stock room. It was cold! I sat there and shivered. Again, I felt as if I couldn't manage to really get stuck in, the Full English was just not going to be had by me. I opted for tea and toast! With butter! Well, this is the whole reason for being here!

Here's me, looking grey still in the stock room

The Fridays and the Specialists cleared the cafe of its eggs, bacon, and sausages. Some of the regular Fridays even had chips!, Like a plague of locusts they cleaned up. I still felt like a fraud. Captain Leggy was giving the option, to some of us, of returning to London from here. The train station was just up the road, we had past it just as we arrived at the cafe. Here was my opportunity to quit while I can. But, I really didn't want to. I know the mission was over, but for the Fridays, the war against the fat stuff is never over. As it was only another 9 miles to Southend, Captain Leggy wanted to head back there to see his good friend at the Cafe they always use for the Nice Genteel Rides to the Coast, the training group bike rides for would be Specialists, The Rose at Southend.

Me and the Old boy on the Ferry

Some people did go back from Burnham. But me and the Old Boy didn't go! I thought I would manage to do the extra, tiny little bit. It was 'flatish' as Captain Leggy said. I wanted to show my worth, my metal. So I said I would go the extra mile, or 9 miles in this case. He had organised a Ferry to take us over the River Crouch. I was very pleased that it wasn't a frosty morning. The gangway would have been lethal! The people who had opted for the ferry carefully made their way down the gangway and loaded the boat with their bikes. It took three trips by the ferry to get us all over. I was in the first boat! I was so pleased that the cafe on the other side had opened. Although we had to wait for about 30 minutes after landing from the ferry! Still, the sun had warmed up the wall of the building which also acted as a wind break from the cold northern wind.

As soon as we were all together Captain Leggy wasted no more time, and we were off to Southend. We arrived at a T junction, they were all stopped there, waiting for the people at the back, i.e. me along with the tail end charlies. From here, a few complete 'Fat Stuff' hero's were heading home, riding all the way! Big E and Walnuts and some others. Incomprehensible for me to even think about! We said our good byes and the were off. The rest of us continued on our way. There were now about 20 of us left.

We arrived at Southend. The sea, the fun fair, the people amazed about how many bikes had turned up! and we rode on towards the cafe. Here is where some more people parted company. Some were going straight back to London on the train. Yet a few more were going inside the cafe to consume just a little more. Only 8 of us went into the cafe. A nice refreshing cup of tea, coffee, chocolate biscuits, egg sandwiches. Friday men to the last! I had the easier option of tea and toast again.

Look Mum No Hands!

Me and the Old Boy were invited back to chill out with the Fridays and specialists in a great favourite place of all cyclists. We took the train back to London, Fenchurch street, and rode though the busy streets of London again to their favourite place. A place called 'Look Mum, No Hands'. Here there is healthy foods, salads, and olive breads, jacket potatoes! But also pies, cheeses, cakes. This group of dedicated souls continues to rid Britain of the Fat Stuff.  Pies, and jacket potatoes with chilli were consumed, and what impressed me is, they all left the salad. The mission weekends is all about the 'Fat Stuff'.

The Big Leggy was looking around, chatting to all his regular soldiers that were here. The ones that had gone straight back to London from Southend. The debrief began, over a few beers. Great company of people, a great night, bu just not one of my finest rides, I  had failed in my mission, but I had managed to continue to the very end, learning valuable lessons for future missions!

Captain Leggy, with his wife and two specialists


The Big Cheese and Baby bell, well, they won't be doing business for a while. But unfortunately, they both got away again. The hunt for the Big Cheese continues, Captain Leggy and his Friday crew will not let this land of ours fall into the hands of the 'Fat Stuff' peddlers, all the while there is the FNRttC crew to kick ass! A big thanks to Captain Leggy, for a great night! Can't wait for the next one, but, I think I will leave the colder months to the professionals!

The Old Boys geeky stats are here. In my novice ways, I had forgotten to start my Garmin, again! But it has only record as far as the other side of the river Crouch.

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