Tuesday, 19 May 2009

C 2 C. Final Day

Everyone was up early doors keen to get on the road and homeward bound for the final day of our trip. After the morning showers and deep heat application we headed downstairs for breakfast. Good old Stuart and his wife were busy in the kitchen preparing the full English for us. I quite enjoyed Stuarts offering but it was never going to win any prizes, especially after following the excellent breakfast we had had the previous morning. We kindly declined the offer of a packed lunch for the pricey sum of £4 per head and we got on our way. The stay had been very pleasant but we all agreed that Stuart shouldn't give up his day job as a postie just yet.
Cycling out of Allenheads it was a glorious morning and the mood was upbeat in the group as the end was in sight. It wasn't going to be plain sailing for us though that was for sure as the first climb we encountered out of the village was a beast and took about 25 minutes to reach the top at a crawling pace.

A pile of rocks is the only reward you will recieve for reaching the top

From here we had a nice stretch of downhill for a good few miles passing through the next valley and small villages. The roads were deserted so we could go as fast as our little legs would manage!

We passed this old mine on the way down the hill

Go on son!!

After about 45 minutes of nice easy downhill riding we were faced with a proper stinker of a hill. It really was a tough slog and even the group of riders we had dubbed 'The helmets' were struggling up ahead. The wind was howling once we reached the top and it was freezing until we came down the other side.
We checked our trusty C2C map and by the looks of things we were done with climbs for the rest of the day and indeed the trip, "the rest will be piss easy" we chuckled as we hammered down another fast downhill farm track. We couldn't have been more wrong! The skipper got it in the neck as he was in charge of map reading. This slight oversight became more apparent as the first section of the hill was out of the way, the rest of even steeper for about another mile. Everyone was knackered by the time we reached the top but we still had a mile or 2 to go before we could stop for lunch.

Halfway there..

Lunch is over the crest of that hill, must keep on keepin' on!

We finally made it to the cafe around lunch time. The place was packed out with hungry cyclists much like the Hartside Cafe was yesterday. More spandex and sweaty crotches than a Chippendale's show.

We made it at long last!

Team Bowman ready to have a romantic meal of cheese toasties, crisps and sugary piss weak tea

After lunch we double checked the map and this time we were certain that the climbs were over with, I think we had 30 or so miles to go until we got to Tynemouth and with the wind behind us I was confident we could get there in a few hours. We set off across some moorland towards Consett and we were flying. The fatigue in my legs was gone as soon as I could see Newcastle in the distance, the beauty of Westgate Road high rise sparkling in the mid day sun nearly brought a tear to my eye. From here it was gentle pathways and bridleways all the way through Consett, through the Derwentside Valley and onward to Gateshead and Newcastle.

Terris Novalis by Tony Cragg, Consett

In no time at all we passed through the sticks and started to see people in tracksuits drinking cans and spitting all over the place, we had reached Gateshead. There was one part of the track which split into 2 paths, this confused Mark and he decided to turn right at the last second going straight into a rock causing him to fly over the handlebars!

Mark going arse over tit was too much for Steve to take and he fell off laughing!

I think we made it to Newcastle Quayside at around 2.30pm, pretty good going we thought so we rewarded ourselves with a Greggs and a 15 minute break. After some pasty time we cruised the last 10 miles or so along the banks of the Tyne and got to the finish line without any problems to meet the modest welcoming party that had assembled to see us .


After that it was straight to the pub for some well deserved refreshments. It felt class to have finished it and I'm so glad I did it. It left me wanting to do more, really fancy Land's End to John O'Groats next year with a bit of planning (and training). I recommend it to anyone it really was a top weekend. Thanks to Mark, John and Steve for a brilliant trip.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

C 2 C. Day 2.

Everyone slept well last night and after a smashing full English and a set of dry clothes we were good to go. The sun was also blazing this morning so it was all smiles as we cycled out of Penrith. We had been told that the second day was the hardest and no sooner had we got round the corner of the B & B we were faced with one hell of a steep climb. By the time we had gotten to the top of the hill the breakfast was almost burnt off and we could see the whole of Penrith in the valley below.

1st Climb of the day out of the way. Goodbye Penrith!

After that first climb we were pretty steady for the rest of the morning and we rolled through the Cumbrian country side taking in the sights and the sounds. Of course we knew this wouldn't last as we had to climb Hartside Summit before lunch. Pretty soon we could see Hartside Cafe in the distance perched atop the summit and it looked life a lifetime away! And so we soldiered on and began to get into the climbs.

Once we got closer to Hartside there were 2 routes to take either on the road or off road, we decided to go for the off road route because it was slightly shorter. The track was rough and hard going to say the least, the life of a mountain goat can't be much fun! Most of the way we had to hike up the hill because it was too steep.

Almost at the top, that climb was hard graft..

We finally made it to Hartside Cafe at the top of the hill. The place was packed full of cyclists and motorcyclists alike all refuelling with cups of sugary tea and snacks and sheltering from the wind that had started to pick up.

Hartside Summit: Done

Once we had had our lunch we were rewarded with a long and fast downhill section down the other side of Hartside. It was great to be belting it past cars and vans after the slow pace of the mornings ride. The downhill section lasted long into the bottom of the next valley and we covered several miles in the next hour.

The start of an Epic downhill section!

Aside from the downhills of the afternoon there was another reason for the blistering pace. It was the 2000 Guineas race at 3.10pm today and we all had money riding on Rip Van Winkle who was the second favorite in the big race of the day. We made it to the village of Nenthead after another fast down hill section for just after 2.15pm, just enough time for a few ales before the race. The landlady was kind enough to let us stick the racing on the TV and also gave me £5 towards Motor Neuron Disease Association (the charity I was riding for).
We watched the race with baited breath but sadly the Rip was nowhere to be seen. Gutted.
And so we set off on the final stage of the day to Allenheads where we would stay for the night.

Duck Racing, all the rage in Nenthead!

We made it to Allenheads in little over an hour and after getting lost trying to find our digs for the night we double backed on ourselves and finally made it. After getting showered Stuart the postman/B&B operator ran us along to the local pub so we could get fed and drink beer. The food was top notch, same can't be said for the decor!

Foxes: not popular in the countryside

After a few beers everyone was knackered so canny old Stuart gave us a lift home. Everyone enjoyed it today. A great day.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

C 2 C. Day 1.

The night before the coast to coast was meant to be quiet and relaxing. I was staying down at my grans to make it easier for us all to rendezvous in the morning for the van pickup and Granny B was cooking a hearty supper of Spag Bol to give us some fuel for bike ride. As soon as my Uncle Mark suggested we had a glass of wine to 'calm the nerves' I knew the start of the ride would be one accompanied with a hangover. 3 Bottles of wine, half a bottle of vodka and some rum all the way from the Dominican Republic later I finally got to bed. It literally felt like I had blinked before I was up at 5.45am and in the car heading up to Steve's house to drop off the car with Mark and load the bikes into the van.
Once we picked up the skipper John Smith we were ready to roll, only thing being I had left my bag back at Steve's in the car. Bugger. So we had to double back and wake up Steve's wife Pauline to get it out the car. Finally we were on the road.
As I was the youngest of the 4 I volunteered to go in the back of the van with the bikes even though I was a bit dubious as it was pitch black back there and with this hangover I thought motion sickness would get a hold of me. Luckily with a couple of pillows and a blanket thrown in the mix I was fast asleep before we left Newcastle's city limits for Workington on the west coast.

It was more comfortable that it looks honest

If me forgetting my bag was the first piece of bad luck for the day then the second one was only round the corner, literally. I can't be sure but I recall dreaming about being in a car crash while getting some shut aye in the back of the van. As chance would have it suddenly there was an almighty smash somewhere near my head and the sound of Mark shouting "FUCK!". The van came to a stop on the side of the road, there was panic coming from the cab as Mark was not meant to be driving the rental van as it was under Steve's name. Somehow they managed to get out and the driver of the other vehicle didn't seem to notice that Steve didn't get out of the drivers side!

Luckily no one was hurt

Mark points out the damage to the rental van

After finally arriving at Workington Steve had to give the rental guy the story about what happened as we got the bikes out. The third piece of bad luck of the morning was that Mark had a puncture straight out of the van, could have been from the bikes bouncing during the collision I suppose. After that was sorted we were finally ready to get started on the 3 day ride. We made our way down to the start point in Workington, Mark dipped his back wheel in the Irish sea to make it official, despite the gale force winds that were blowing..

Theres a storm brewin'

Once we got started we were full of beans and the first couple of hours flew past, the wind was behind us and we were going strong. That was until it started completely pissing down for the rest of the day. It was pretty hard going with a good few hill climbs and all of us were feeling the strain, not least Steve who looked like a broken man by the time we crawled into Keswick for lunch. By this point we were soaked through and miserable and had to console ourselves with steak bakes and cups of tea from Greggs.

After a sausage and bean melt, cheese pasty and traditional Cornish pasty along with a change of pants I was good to go. The rain was still lashing down but we had no choice other than to grit our teeth for the last 25 miles of the day.

This hill was about a mile and a half long. Bleak!

The Lake District: wet

In a rather typical fashion the sun decided to show its face just as soon as we were in spitting distance of our destination; Penrith.

Finally the sun shows up

The Albany B&B we stayed in in Penrith was amazing. The landlady had the radiators blazing to dry our shoes and took all of our wet clothes and washed them for us. The showers were hot and the beds were comfortable. Sorted. We got changed and headed out for a few ales. No sooner had we walked into the first bar we attracted the attention of the village idiot. His toothless banter and thick Cumbrian accent was hard to take after a hard days cycling so we left after the first pint, although our impersonations of the piss head continued well into the trip.

The guard dog of the pub keeps watch over the bar..

To round the night of we went for an Italian. I was in need of some hearty fare so ordered as quickly as I could. Sadly the food was below par and overpriced, my languistine pasta dish was especially shit so we ended up complaining to the cocky waiter who knocked a fiver off the bill. Not happy with this level of service I decided to take a little memento to ensure I got my moneys worth..