Saturday, 25 January 2014

I stare at the sky

Great ride today with Trevor and Jon. From Brent Knoll across the moors to Cheddar, up the gorge, down Burrington (where we saw Mike Day going in the opposite direction.

Coffee, cake and conversation in the Walled Garden Café. Surprisingly, Trev and I found we agreed on two things, though he's wrong about history. Fact.

Then a quick blast to Congresbury, Banwell and Hutton over Canada Combe and Bleadon, I added on a couple of wiggly bits of my own to make a ride of just shy of 100km.

It was another nice day, or at least the bit of it we were out in. You have to grab those windows, or open them, or jump through them, whatever, while you can. It's now raining and blowing a gale.

But earlier it was like this:


Anyway, that was today.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Most People Like me

Most people like me

Seem mildly surprised

There wasn’t more

The best bit’s gone


I’m taking it now

I know full well

There’s nothing after

I get to the end


Every day my clock

Keeps sweeping along

Inexorably circling

My waiting game


Frantic I pedal

To get to the top

Only to find

More muck and rain


Sleeping’s a waste

Kissing’s quite good

Thinking’s the best

Just never stops
copyright Mendip Rouleur 2014

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Someday you'll meet your rocking chair

Today's ride was the first challenging one of the year. Apart from the watery ride we did a few weeks ago to Bath and back via the Two Tunnels. That could be a film, like the Two Towers, only underground and less exciting.

A funny shaped route, comprising two flat bits, across the moors twice to get to the Quantocks. As painful as it sounds. Various pick-up points included the New Inn at Cross, from where I took these pictures of the sunrise, one of those occasions for being in just the right point at the right time.

I had lured out a big crowd with the temptation of climbing Crowcombe Hill. Of course those who know what that means were easily persuaded not to do it, and those that didn't were easily persuaded at the conversation in the Pines Café at the top of Enmore Hill. Itself a difficult climb. We had already lost Adrian, Jeanie and Mark to a flatter route out of Bridgwater by then, but we were still six-strong with Trevor, Russell, Martyn, Peter and James all showing good form both on and off the bike.

Particularly James. But then he is the best climber in our group, and still benefiting from that youthful circulation that allows him to wear practically no clothes whatever the temperature and still feel warm. Whilst the rest of us used our bulky layers as an excuse for huffing and puffing, James wearing the Winter equivalent of a thong, (shirt, baselayer, shorts, gilet and leg-warmers) made it look effortless. Unfortunately I think his youth, physique (turn sideways and he is invisible) and undoubted talent has more to do with it.

Once re-fuelled we decided to descend to Bishop's Lydeard. But not before an elderly gentleman, not much older than Trevor it has to be said, decided to display his near-passing skills by Peter, Trevor and me, in his red BMW, on the 17% slopes of a gravel-strewn and 90-degree bend-infested Cothelstone Hill. Oblivious best describes it rather than malicious.

His progress, and ours, was brought to a sudden halt by the presence of a large puddle stretching around a corner. Undaunted I decided to test the waters, quickly finding the my shoes, ankles and lower calves under water. Keep pedalling was the only way to avoid both retracing my steps, and possibly a very wet dismount. Unfortunately by the time I was on firm ground, I was out of sight of my comrades.

Thankfully they decided to follow, as they did with a slightly smaller puddle later, which I suspect was the cause of Peter's puncture in Bishop's Lydeard. How many mend does it take? Well in this case it was Trevor's long thin one, rather than my short fat one, that did the trick and after an age, we were on our way again.

After a loop on an almost dry main road, it was up and over the hills again, before heading for North Petherton down the slopes that look out over the flooded levels. These pictures don't do it justice, it really does look like an inland sea.

Heading for home now through the lovely picturesque town of Bridgwater, over the hill at Woolavington and back home, shedding riders to their homes as I went.

A great day, still very wet on almost all roads, very, very cold in the shade, but we were blessed today with bucket-loads of sunshine and even more good humour and bonhomie. And you know how much I like that.

And if you are in need of the urge to fight back a bit, feeling a little battered or worn down, then this is for you. Get well soon and if you can't dance, then just tap along with your fist.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Wash it away

Down at the end of my road is a car park of sorts. It's an area where those going walking, riding or mountain biking on the National Trust land (Wavering Down and Crook Peak if you want to look it up) can leave their cars or horseboxes if they have come from afar. It's a popular spot, and the views from the various hills are sublime.

During January the car park is always full to overflowing. Cars park up the side of the road, creating dangerous hazards and annoyances for the impatient. Particularly if I'm cycling on the other side of the road and holding up the cars. It's the same old story with gym memberships, diet fads, cycle racks at work, and all sorts of initiatives that started out as the best of intentions. (Warning link contains comic violence & swearing!).

I have a friend who didn't wear a watch for over 8 years. He claimed that as time was a man-made concept he wasn't going to go against natural laws and rhythms by being a slave to it. Fair point, I like a man with principles. But is was annoying that as he sat next to me at football he would constantly grab my wrist to see how much time to go in the match. Eventually I bought him a watch and became a slave like the rest of us.

But the point is the same. If you want to do something, do it. If not, don't. New Year is an artificial albeit convenient point of fresh resolve. I've fallen for this trap myself on numerous occasions with targets, goals and plans. Not this year though. Sure I have some things I'm looking forward to accomplishing. But I have made not one New Year's resolution, it's a more a transitional period. (more swearing).

The good news is that the compulsive record-keeping has continued, if not intensified. It keeps me happy and away from more dangerous obsessions. But I won't bore you with the details, suffice to say that I won't hit that sleep target if I carry on surfing YouTube till the small hours every day.

It was good to get out with a proper group today. I've enjoyed a fair bit of solo riding over the Christmas period, and last week was back on the commuter trail with a couple of runs to Bristol and back. But nothing really beats cycling up Cheddar gorge into a headwind with seven fellow cyclists all wondering what they are doing going up here in the January mists. After some nice coffee, food and chat we descended from the Mendips onto some of the only remaining dry roads on the levels. Cue photo opportunity:

We lost Chris at his house in Wales, and Peter near Westhay. He rode off the front into the wind and we couldn't shout loudly enough to get him back. And he was going too fast to catch as well! But Trevor, Paul, Martyn, Jennifer and Steve all made it to the bridge. But good to see them all today.

Most of what you see here is normally fields, although you do always get some flooding in most Winters. I've been here 12 years and never seen it as extensive as this. Actually I'm quite enjoying this weather. I know that the days are getting lighter, the Winter is only two months from its end, and we will soon be back in shorts, suncream and enjoying the sunshine.

Gradually people peeled off and I ended the ride on my own with a short loop around the Webbington Hotel. Total mileage just over 43 for a nice circular trip.
And my bike's very clean now too.