Thursday, 11 June 2009

Day 2 - Getting The Back Wheels In

There was certainly an air of excitement as the team headed down to prepare their bikes. Plastic wrap added to pannier racks, air to tires, seats adjusted and horns fitted the team were ready - for their cooked breakfast. Over breakfast the team looked at the map and saw the hills to come over the coming days while Rich told us of his breakfast cooking prowess. The secret of which was fried baked beans. "But surely they're not fried" Jon put forward "as they're in a sauce". Needless to say fried beans became a running joke for the rest of the holiday.

After a hearty breakfast it was down to the sea for photo opportunities and the Sea to Sea (C2C) ritual of dipping your back wheels in the sea. All with thoughts of dipping your front wheels in the sea on the other coast. It soon became clear that we'd have some company on the route as teams lined up to have their pictures taken. Yet there was something different about these other teams, sure they had matching T-shirts but it was something else they were missing. Then it dawned on us, none of the other teams were carring their own gear, no panniers. We soon decided this made us real men and so Team Pannier was born. So we waved goodbye to our driver and set off on a long journey of non stop cycling along route 71. Well when I say non stop we stopped three times within 3 miles as we fixed our bikes. Rich seemingly the only one who knew what he was doing. Finally sorted we set out on the nice, flat, track out of Whitehaven.

As flat track turned in to country side we discovered the joy of hills, bombing downhill in the hope it would carry us up the other side. Rich soon found his extra weight (in his panniers) and road tyres an advantage on the downhills. Going from back to front in no time he bombed down every downhill. As flat tracks had turned to rolling countryside, cloudy skies had turned to rain and without really realising the team were now riding in a downpour. Coming in to a small village John looked longingly at a pub in the distance as they turn the other way. Still pushing on with the team tiring all eyes were peeled looking for the planned pub stop. Keeping morale high in the rain was Neil, the team juke box happily led the team in singing their way through the best part of Queen's Greatest Hits. However the team soon discovered the planned pub was shut and it was an about-turn and a quick downhill ride to the pub spotted earlier. A good morning's cycling was rewarded with a Jenning's Brewery sign.

Securing the bikes outside the team piled in to the pub as non pannier people piled in to dry vans. With over twenty miles of the days thirty seven miles covered the team were in buoyant mood despite the weather. A round of ales was ordered as the team pondered the pub menu. As baguettes and soup were digested another round was consumed next to the newly lit fire. With clothes drying by the fire and the rain coming down outside, Rich, Neil and Jon enjoyed a shot of whiskey. Then with no sign of the rain stopping it was back on with half melted gloves and socks and back on the road.

The team soon forgot about the weather as they hit Winlatter Pass, the first climb of the day. Cited as possibly the hardest climb of the day and perhaps even the C2C it was a big early test for Team Pannier. Overcoming it despite bellies full of food and beer the team felt confident of what lay ahead. The route then headed in to the woods and past a Go Ape centre. Stopping in the hope of a stamp towards their C2C T-shirt they were told the best route to their nights accommodation, Skidaw House. They were also told they weren't far from Keswick, the planned stop for tea and shopping before the trek up to the cut off youth hostel.

With these words ringing in their ears the team set off at a quick pace down through the forest. Following a now very wet forest track Neil and Jon enjoyed the benefits of off-road tyres. Rich not to be out done followed at pace with John bringing up the rear with his "City Gent's" bike. Heading down a steep section in to a corner Rich misjudged the corner and headed straight for a drainage ditch. Coming off his bike, over his handlebars and narrowly missing hitting his head on a tree stump. Getting up to cheers and with no injuries Rich was soon back on his way.

It was soon Spanners to the rescue (as Rich became know) as a loud noise signalled the collapse of Jon's pannier rack. Digging into his vast array of supplies Spanners was able to get just the right bolts to save the day. Without being able to fix them the team would have been walking to Keswick.

Arriving at Keswick at 4.45 the team were pleased with a job well done. The sun was coming out and with only a 3 mile climb to Skidaw House left the pub beckoned. With more Jennings on the menu and Rich's favourite Lamb Henry, it was a celebratory feel in the beer garden. However first there was an important matter to settle. With Neil wanting scampi (he might have mentioned it a couple of times of the ride to the pub) Jon wanted to know what scampi actually was before ordering it. Neil and Spanners claimed it was prawns but Jon disagreed. A quick look on Wikepedia and it explained it was lobster, but wait, more investigation showed it was langustine, which is also known as a prawn. Petit-dejeuner, everyone's a winner, as Del Boy would say. Back in civilisation the team had been able to settle the argument with their mobile phones. It was Rich's phone that was to provide the next area of intrigue. Receiving a text from his Mum which solely said "Text missing: satisfaction with every erection". Obviously the second part to a text but what could the first part be? Why was his Mum texting him about erections. Sometimes what you can imagine is much more exciting than the truth. The first part of the text arrived "Your Dad says tell John regarding the shop names, he once saw one in Lanzarotte for a scaffolding company..." You can complete the rest.

Two hours later and full of food and beer the team headed to the local supermarket, Booths. An aptly named establishment as Andy Booth, Huddersfield legend, was to play his last game for the club the next day. Now working with a kitty the team got the necessary supplies in for the evening. Three bottles of red wine, pate, houmous, oat cakes and chocolate bars were loaded in to our middleclass panniers. Setting off for Skidaw House, Rich and Neil were still hoping to see the Ospreys at the local viewing site. However with more miles pedalled and the time getting close to seven it was decided the 1/4 mile walk from the road was not worth it. The team pressed on. Cycling away from the main road the team started to climb up towards Skidaw on minor roads. With Neil unable to get in to a low gear for the hills (try driving up a steep hill in fourth) progress was starting to slow. A look at the map showed despite already covering more than the expected three miles the team weren't even at the off road climb to Skidaw yet. Riding by farms in the late evening sunshine lambs and sheep ran to the fence as we passed. With a lake below us in the valley we finally reached the turn off for the climb to our accommodation.

A lady walking down the path said hello and asked where we were heading. She hadn't heard of Skidaw House but when we said we hoped it was one of the buildings in the distance she said the ride shouldn't be too hard. "I've just come over the top which is really steep but you should be alright if you're not going that far". Sure enough, you've guessed it. We soon realised our accommodation wasn't one of the two in the distance. That was it. On a sugar low and without working gears Neil had had enough but they are two easy things to fix. Loading up on Jon's wonderful Moam sweets and Mum supplied mini Toblerones it was just down to Spanners to fix Neil's gears. He needn't have bothered. By the time we got around the corner we realised the steep, rocky road was unrideable to four bikes laden with panniers.

The big push started and the sun ended. With it setting behind us we kept pushing up the steep track. Every corner we turned there was no sign of the accommodation just more rocky track that eventually turned in to a single mud track. Then at about half nine with all light pretty much gone and nearly 50 miles covered we saw, in the distance, Skidaw House. No lights on and looking very desolate. The promise of warm showers suddenly looked very doubtful. With the end in sight Jon and Neil pressed on, finally able to ride as the terrain levelled out, a bit. Riding quickly Neil saw a large puddle in the track. Misjudging it he soon became wet as well as tired as he fell in the puddle. Two people down, two to go...

On arriving at the house we were met by Marie and Martin. We were told the kettle was on and to go and put our bikes in the shed. Although Martin rightly pointed out we could leave them outside if we wanted as there was no chance of them getting nicked. Once inside we went through the boot room where we were offered sandles in exchange for our muddy trainers. The house itself was an old shooting lodge, with stone floors and walls and one central wood burner. We soon gathered around the fire with all our wet clothes and trainers hung everywhere. We were looked up and down by Martin, a guy in his fifties with a familiar accent. He asked us where we were all from and after each "Grenoside" etc. we were told, "I, Grenoside's alreyt".

Martin was a friendly guy but there was something unnerving about him, I don't know whether it was because he was from the Manor or because of the large Daniel O'Donnell mug collection on the wall. We were told where the toilet and hot shower (hurray) were. As well as the much needed biscuit tin and tea pot. Neil was first in the shower as he was looking the worse for wear, cold, tired and wet he had started to get a nasty cough and was having trouble with his breathing. The hot shower soon fixed that and he was soon sat around with everyone else supping red wine and listening to tales of Martin's travels and their secluded life on Skidaw.

So it was off to bed, the room above the fire of course (the only source of heat). The lights in each room were run off a battery so you turned them on at the light as you entered, a difficult job in the dark. Finally at nearly 12, Team Pannier made it to bed.

47.24 miles covered. 5 hours 26 minutes. 8.6 mph average.

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