It ‘s not often the journey to the start of a little ride merits a mention, however I think in this instance a little indulgence is needed.
With only three riders brave enough to take on the latest “good idea” Mr Fossil, Mrs Adam (from the Basket Brigade) and your humble narrator, we rendezvoused at Euston Train Station taking a rather circuitous route to the start of the ride the Thames Barrier, unfortunately whilst our navigator had indeed delivered us to the Thames Barrier several hundred yards of water separated us from the start point on the other side of the river Thames.
Fortunately a pair of St Crispins’s cyclist local to the area happened to be making their way to the start after finding their original route blocked. A brief conversation and an invitation to join their quest of an alternative route, one we were happy to take up. It became clear fairly quickly that the only viable route that would get us to the start anywhere near midnight was the Blackwall Tunnel a car only link under the Thames. Perched by the side of the road the traffic did not appear that fast, the decision was made, to cry God for Harry, England and Saint George mount our steeds and charged the tunnel.
The first few hundred yards were fairly pleasant, warm, well lit and a gradual downwards gradient allowing us to keep pace not much slower than the lorries over taking us. The next section was a little stiffer, what with the tunnel levelling off and the Carbon Monoxide fumes taking the edge off our performance. The incline was the most challenging Mrs Adam’s legs were beginning to slow a little, your humble narrator shouting words of encouragement over the noise of engines, tyres and horns (I assume the horns were also in encouragement) and Mr Fossil holding a gallant rear guard action against a forty ton articulated lorry. As a point of order we have to assume the size of the lorry as at no point at any time did any of us venture to see what was happening behind us.
The cold, the cold, the cold. At one point we saw a low of -2 degrees centigrade, I know we do not inhabit the coldest area on the earth but a night at these temperatures does soak through to ones bones a little. The ride out of London was jolly enough, although we may have again taken one or two wrong turns this time in good company, but I shall be honest and say not what you really want near the beginning of a hundred mile ride. Anyway allegiances made, new plans of attack drawn up and off again.
Fifty miles and a couple of stops later under a stunning clear night sky we found ourselves at the Stanlake Park Wine Estate just a dawn was breaking, a bite of hot food in our stomachs a bottle of St Crispin’s Day wine issued to ourselves and back off on the road through the rolling southern counties.
Seventy Five miles in and the final tea stop, at this point Mrs Adam rustled around her basket and produced the most gorgeous, wonderful tasty chicken and ham pie I have ever eaten at an earthly time in the morning. Bravo the basket brigade!
The final twenty five miles saw us heading back into the City, it was at this stage a chap called Ali caught up with us. Ali stood out a little from the other cyclist in the fact that he was riding a tandem hewn from solid granite by himself, the Stoker having bailed at the Vine Yard, and the entire time spent on the bike wearing a bright yellow balaclava with integrated knitted moustache.
Ali was a most fortuitous fellow for us to have in our little Band of Brothers, incredibly amicable, a balaclava that could disarm the most irate London driver and a knowledge of the streets that steered us home as sure as any North Star.
We did reach the finish point sometime in the early afternoon, I am afraid I cannot confirm at what time. I fear I may have been losing my grip a little on reality and a waking dream.
A couple of snaps at the end of ride banner, a fond farewell to our new found friend and the four of us set off again all in the same direction.
It was all a little bit embarrassing really.
A few miles later we bid our final farewells again Ali to return his tandem, we three to Euston and our return home.
As ever with these events it’s the people that make the ride, a standing ovation has got to be given to Mrs Adam over one hundred miles on a Pashley Princess insane and yet not unexpected.
Ali, if you happen to pop onto our little site thank you from the three of us you guidance through the London streets made you yellow appear less like a variation on 1800′s head wear and more like a halo.
Mr Fossil, as ever a joy to ride with and thank you for setting us to the door on our way home.