Where to start…
So these 2 days have continued on in a similar vein to the first 2, at least in the mechanical breakdown stakes (more to follow), and the intolerably steep climbs. Oh, and of course the great British summer – in fairness though, the rain hasn’t been as bad, and there have been some awesome moments too. We need to increase those…
Day 3: Launceston to Kingsmead Centre (Taunton): (the big wheel keeps on turning)
We set off from Launceston (Countryman inn), too late, as usual. Nonetheless the weather was good (read better), and that was good. We got 0.5 miles down the road and for some reason Matt (rightly) had a panic attack about his keys, after 10 mins of emptying his panniers (he has a system), David road back to the pub to pick them up from the car park gravel. We regrouped and pedalled on.
At this point we were still in Cornwall – the hills let us know that, but soon we would cross the Tamar and enter Devon – a land less hilly we thought.
The climb up the other side of the Tamar (literally a stream) – was brutal. Very much a taste of things to come. I should say here, bleat as Matt would say, that riding up 5,500 ft of climbing on a road bike is doable, but carrying 30 kg’s of gear, is hellish. The day became climb after climb after climb.
Nonetheless it was great to cross that wee bridge and enter County 2. Progress.
We rolled along (climbed, descended) in some amazing scenery for around 2 hours and planned to have lunch in Oakehampton. Which was a good job – as – upon entering Oakhampton, Matt’s rear wheel hub gave in – no drive at all. It was terminal, and tensions were high. Also, predictably, the heavens had opened again. Luckily there was a bike shop (2 days, 2 bike shops) and Matt purchased a new wheel. Josh ( below) sorted him out.
Had that happened an hour either side – we would have been in major shit. We weren’t though, and after the brutal 2 days we’d already had – we’ll take any ‘luck’ going.
After that 2 hour delay we were running later and later, so not much opportunity for pics. Is worth mentioning though, the weather had cleared and the landscape more rolling than jaggy.
We finally made it to our campsite at 22:00, set up camp in the dark, lit a fire (those 2 love that); and cooked and ate dinner at midnight – brutal day, but a lovely end to it.
Some more pics.
Day 4: Kingsmead to Chepstow (5 miles North and 1,000ft higher to be exact): (You’re Gorgeous)
Day 4 promised to be a good one, with some iconic landmarks to pass and also the promise that as we were entering counties 3, 4, 5 and 6, and putting some distance between us and Cornwall, things might get a bit flatter. Hmmm….
The day started great, breaking camp after David cooked up some grand bacon butties and coffee. The first 30 miles were fantastic and we made good time across the Somerset levels en route for Cheddar. It started great, but it also started late – we didn’t get off until 11:00 – which – as you will see, is way too late.
On the way to Cheddar we cycled across the ‘levels’ and as the bane suggests – they are pretty flat. Nice one. You do see the odd mound, or Tor, and in the distance we could see the Glastonbury Tor – iconic for many obvious reasons.
This inspired us, in particular Matt, who hadn’t seen it before and loves that sort of thing. Not long after that pic (above) was taken we made it to Cheddar – the half way point for today and where we would grab some fuel for the afternoon.
Having consumed, clearly all the wrong things (in my case anyway), we set off for the climb up the gorge. Not actually that tough a climb. A really stunning gorge, and easy to see why it’s famous. Ruined somewhat by the theme park type outlets that have been built into it for much of the first 1/2 mile.
We crossed the Mendips and set off for Bristol and a couple of iconic bridge crossings.
We also started crossing (climbing) hill after hill. And I had nothing – absolutely nothing in my legs. Is such a dreadful feeling being left dragging behind as you make each climb – both of them looking strong, me, looking dreadful!! I’m sure it’s down to nutrition and will power, and clearly I’d gone wrong on the first, and had none of the second.
The entry to Bristol was stunning, crossing the ring of mountains that clearly encircle it!! But we were making progress. But, it was getting later…
In the distance we could see both bridges we would cross. The Severn crossing and the Clifton Suspension.
Crossing the Clifton bridge was a good moment – it’s a stunning piece of engineering and was one of the few points on the trip we had specifically planned to take in – it’s always good when you make it to those points – gives you a sense that you are going places. Sadly it was already gone 6, and so we pressed on through.
It took us ages to traverse Bristol and by the time we were cycling up the ramp into the Severn bridge it was 8 already.
We stopped off at Tesco’s in Chepstow to grab some supplies for dinner and then commenced the climb (read Serious climb) up into the hills above the Wye where our campsite was.
I’m not going to dwell on the next hour or so, but it really was brutal. Firstly it was pitch black, second, it was a really tough climb, third, we had no lights. Things were dangerous, and tense. We spent around an hour like that – on a little road, in a forest, completely invisible to other road users. Also it was gone 10 by now, we were exhausted, and the prospect of another pitch in the dark was getting us all down.
Not going to say much more on the end to yesterday, except the campsite lady was awesome and we got set up OK. One thing I did observe though is how differently the 3 of us deal with stress. I make it quite obvious I’m un-happy, and it’s clear to all I’m stressing out – not panicking, but stressing. Matt ploughs on, apparently un-effected by the surrounding events – but is stressing underneath. And David, well he just takes it all in his stride – I take my cap off to him. He even cited the pitch black climb as his favourite part of the day – Nutter!!
I’m writing this at 6 in the morning – having all made the decision to abandon dinner in favour of sleep and an early start. As I write this now it’s gone 7, the rain is pouring, and we’re aiming for a 9 0’clock start. Wonder what our journey to Shropshire will bring…