Today is called lost and found… I lost route 72 a few times and ended up finding an extra ten miles en route. Ooops.
I am also finding that the days are split between a morning which feels slow and unproductive followed by an afternoon which feels a bit more successful. This was probably exacerbated by the fact that the extra miles happened very early on, meaning that, over an hour into the ride, I still had more miles to go than I was meant to achieve in the whole day!
Once I had left the marshes around Skinburness, I began to realise what the previous day was missing (other than hills) – Old buildings. I am a huge lover of ‘proper’ countryside villages. Nothing makes me swoon more in terms of residential architecture than an old school house and I just find churches stunning, especially at this time of the year. Between Ravenglass and Silloth, the villages seemed to be clusters of cloned council houses – absolutely fine but without any contrast, they became rather dull. It was wonderful to pedal through quaint hamlets and villages and to once more have that thought – oooh I’d like to live there. It’s funny what you realise you appreciate when you spend hours of solitary pedalling!
It started raining just before Carlisle and I was getting frustrated with myself again. I’d followed the amazing Sustrans signs which would lead me through Carlisle on perfectly traffic free routes and was just pondering how wonderful this was, even if it had meant dragging my bike through tight footpath entrances… only to come to what felt like a dead end in the middle of some woodlands. I got the map out and cursed myself:
I texted Lucy – I was so tempted just to get the train to my brother’s house in Skipton. There was a direct train, just moments away. WHY WAS I DOING THIS?! The hours were racing away from me and I realised that I wasn’t going to get to stop for the luxurious lunch break I had become accustomed to. Thank goodness I had picked up some cheese in Abbeytown. Outside the castle, I threw a slice into each of my leftover bread rolls and pedalled on, promising myself that I would stop at a little grocery store on the other side of Carlisle.
Then all of a sudden, Carlisle disappeared. My phone suddenly stopped playing music and I realised that this would be the absolute end of days since the on-off button was kaput. It began raining more intently. I wasn’t on course to re-join route 72. Something in me changed.
Instead of getting upset, I just decided I would give myself over to Garmin. The miles looked pretty similar and I didn’t want to give up. I thought of things which had cheered me up along the way – freshly pickled silage, finding out that farmers were ‘wrapping pink’ for breast cancer, the cows, that yellow sheep that I am *sure* I saw near Annan and I forgot to tell you about… I had plenty of snacks and I could keep going.
And keep going I did! I made a huge 70 mile day. The hills in the afternoon actually helped me through – it was great to have something to concentrate on and to be returning to the incredible views of rolling countryside. I’d been a bit worried by a lovely chap I had met earlier in the day. He was a keen cyclist and thought I was a bit daft for trying to get all the way to Haltwhistle – ‘It’s all uphill from Brampton’ he said. And it was, but I was ready.
The promise I did make to myself though, was that I could crash out at the nearest place to stop that I could find. Once I got down to 8 miles to go, I was allowed to stop. But 8 miles away and I was still in the middle of nowhere! At this point, soaking wet, starving and mentally drained, I decided that it would be sensible to get a proper bed for the night.
My chain came off at Gilsland as I tackled a hill in the wrong choice of gear and this probably would have been a good place to call it a day but I felt good – I wasn’t quite ready to stop. I trundled on a few more miles and stopped at The Greenhead Hotel, Northumberland – I’d left Cumbria at last!
It was perfect. A small hotel, full of ramblers bedding down for the night on their travels of the Pennine way. The service was fantastic and they even gave Peggy a bed in the garage. It also had a BATH. It was the most incredible luxury of all. Not only did I thaw my aching bones but I also hung my sopping tent to dry. YES! AND I managed to get my phone turned on again. Phew!
I’m definitely getting better at turning a day around and at pushing through. The mind is clearly the most difficult muscle to train. My head is often ready to quit when my body has much more to give. I am learning so much on this trip. I’m so glad that I made time for it.