Picture the scene. A dark Sunday morning, somewhere on the fringes of the Mendip Hills, Somerset. November. 2014.
"Why not stay in bed" asked Mrs Rouleur as I peered gloomily out into the stygian gloom of the first proper day of Winter. No, I resolved, despite the murk, the drizzle, the wind and cold, I was going. And what's more, I was coming back too.
It all started a couple of weeks' ago when Martyn and I were talking about great rides, in the sense of wonderful parcours, scenery, the right mix of hills and dales. That sort of thing. I waxed lyrical about the ride I used to do to my parents' house on the Hampshire/Dorset border. I'd get up at 7, cycle over on a Saturday morning and then la famille would drive over later and we'd all drive home on Sunday.
But of course there are no parents to ride to anymore, so I've not had the opportunity to do that route in ages. "Well", said Martyn, "ride over, ride back, you'll get a 200km ride in, and kick off your Randonneur round the Year". In my first year of Audax membership I managed to achieve the modest award of a Randonneur 1000, so to have another goal for 2015 is an interesting idea. I'm also one step ahead as I have already done a 200km ride in October so do the ride to Alderholt and back and I'm only 10 months away from the award.
Intrinsically motivated though I am, a bit of external validation never goes amiss, especially if I can get a medal for it. So I duly signed up the route, the first 100km or so out to Alderholt and bolted on a return leg which came from my last 300km in June. That meant that even though I was in for a DIY Audax by GPS, with a registered date of 23 November, so at least navigation would be fairly easy.
There was another reason for wanting to do the ride though. The last time I did the outward route to Alderholt had been my sister's 50th birthday celebration, and none of us knew it would be the last time we'd all be together, and I had no idea it would be the last time I'd ride that route. So I wanted to bid farewell to that particular set of roads.
So despite the drizzle, the cold, the wind, then the hammering rain, then a bit of almost sunshine and plummeting temperatures, I just got out and did it. Parts of it were tough, my bottom gear (admittedly a puny 28T) was lost, so I had to do all the hills on a 25, but it wasn't too bad. And even the headwind across Cranborne Chase was bearable. And the trees were still gorgeous. There's a hedge near Berwick St John that has to be the most beautiful I've ever seen.
I saw three other people on road bikes, one mountain biker and a teenager out for a Sunday spin on a hybrid. Apart from that it was just me, the weather, the road, and the sky. I'm now going to have a two week break from riding give my body a restful break rather than a real one. I'm 9 miles shy of 7000 miles for the year, so I don't want to make next year's targets too tough, do I?