There are times that taking a bicycle along is a good idea, times when it might not be. Not sure about today.
To get up to the top today, it was going to take a winding route on a 1 in 4 grade. It’s interesting going up a road which is like going up stairs with a bike, handlebar pressed into the moosh. Stairs end but this road didn’t seem to. Mind you, some of those winding villages were so picturesque, houses teetering on the sides of hills.
The theory was Ok – the worst of it, the climbing, was at the start and at the end of the climb was a hilltop pub I hadn’t seen for 30 years. The sun was beating down and the air was around 25 degrees, the skies were blue with fluffy clouds all about – when they weren’t streaky, that was.
In short, God was in his Heaven and all was right with the world – except for one little thing. I was puffing like a steam train, walking the bike, sometimes jumping on and going up in first, sometimes grinding to a halt, leaning over a dry stone wall and
retching getting my 34th wind … and so it went.
Made it to the top road and then the route changed – it now went uphill uphill. Finally, I spied a road sign which indicated the village I was looking for and off I sped downhill, only to pause at the first bend because I seem to recall the pub was on a corner. Hmmmmm – more climbing back up to the main road. Then, around the corner came a water supply van and I flagged it down. This was not the road – the pub was another mile on.
She looked at the bike dubiously – it be a mile or so, she said, all up and down. As if that made it better.
Nose to the handlebar again, up we went, nearly run off the road by idiots only five times. And then came the first break – the dips were such that they gave speed to make halfway up the next hill and so on – soon the pub was in sight.
Closed. Dying for a pint and it’s closed.
Someone inside took pity, opened and it took ten minutes to get the first pint unfrothy enough but it was worth waiting for – Summer something it was called and they’d cleaned the pipes the day before. And it was in the glass I love best – think it’s called nonech or sommit – the rim comes in from the widest point. It were grand, that pint, gazing out on the world from up there.
Eventually, food came and another pint, a Black Sheep. If the first had been a teaser, this was the real thing and most welcome – the foam clung to the sides and that’s a good ale in my book.
[You can tell the photo is fake because he's wearing a helmet and has short trousers]
Now came the bit which I’d waited for – cycling downhill. Thought the steering was a bit loose, the bike was yawing about a bit and then it struck the brain that I’d best start pedalling but as I took that corner, pedal hard to the asphalt, the bike wouldn’t respond – even in top gear, I couldn’t pedal, it wouldn’t take – had the chain come off?
By the next corner, it struck me that I’d been heading down faster than the bike’s gear range and an idea punctured the brain – try the brakes.
Suddenly I was in the village and hadn’t seen the panorama all that much. No matter. By accident, the bike took a left and was in a road I vaguely remember and then a shop and then the house I’d been looking for for days. Twere for sale.
Went into the shop and the girl helped me out who to contact, drew me a map and then we spoke of ‘things out there’. She was a village girl, hadn’t been out of village for five years, to briefly visit Spain. I said I had the opposite problem – I was sick of being out there and wanted to be in one place for a long time now. She looked at me as though I were mad. Jade was her name and some man had done her wrong but that is by the by.
I promised to visit again one day and off we shot, then stopped to get my bearings a bit, although downhill seemed good.
There was screaming from further down the road and in the distance were about thirty schoolkids in red jackets lined up along the metal barrier, gesticulating wildly and shouting. I cycled down to the teacher and she explained they wanted me to go past. They’d been waiting for minutes now.
One little tyke took pity on the idiot cyclist and showed me his tally sheet – they were marking down all the traffic going past and I was firmly down under Bicycle. Twere about three had gone by – thought I was the only one. ‘Good luck,’ I said to the teacher, ‘I used to do this sort of thing.’ Don’t know what she made of that.
Down to the towpath and finally some sane riding.
Was shown over a boat club by the mooring master I just happened to have accosted and that was fun – he had his very own bridge too.
The day, has it already been mentioned, was superlative, one of the few true summer days we’ve had so far. Now came the inevitable final stage, the climb up the hill back ‘home’ again but surprise, surprise – after a few days of this, I now found I could ride up much better and even overtook two boys walking home from school.
‘You’re getting a bit old, lads, youngsters like me can overtake you.’
Ten metres on, I were knackered and gasped away, leaning over the wall in retching mode as they sauntered past, upwards, ever upwards.
Got ‘home’ and fell asleep in the chair just inside the front door. The cats appeared quite disinterested.
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