Today, I cheated on my LBS (local bike shop) and I liked it. An awesome, awesome day and testament to the fact that mind-set and sleep are far more important than physical fitness when completing a multi-day challenge. With everything that happened today, I probably should have been miserable but the sun was shining and so was my mood.
Having a huge full English breakfast probably helped set the tone of the day and I heaped a portion of cereal and extra toast on top of the full works that I was presented with. Almost certainly I must be putting weight on but if it gets me through, I don’t care!
Still that first challenge of actually getting onto the bike is the hardest. I was stiff and worried that I might not make it as always. I knew that it was going to be bumpy getting out of Greenhead and hoped that I would be okay.
That first hill did get me, though. I did my usual pedal, push, pedal, push until I reached the summit. Little did I know that this was going to be the terrain for the next few miles – I decided on the Roman road – ‘Old Military Road’ which ran next to the course of Hadrian’s Wall rather than the suggested Sustrans route, which wound through the villages closer to the valley. It really was poker straight, but did no one tell the Romans that blind summits were easy to hide behind too? The elevation profile was like a roller coaster! It was great fun whizzing downhill and being able to use the momentum to take me half way up the next incline.
The views were incredible, too and my pictures do not do the route any justice. The best eye candy tended to be cycling uphill and I just didn’t want to stop to mess around with my phone at this time so I selfishly kept the views for my own eyes. You’ll just have to go yourselves!
Over the biggest of the bumps, I started the wonderful descent into Hexham. Here I caught up with the father and son that had passed me on the first hill – I think they must have been on a scenic route. They were only going as far as Corbridge so were nearly done for the day. Here my chain fell off again, it seized up and Peggy fell over. The rain and the fall in Annan must have done more damage than I had thought. I had already had in my mind that I needed to get some things to clean her up and get her oiled. Now it was even more pressing.
As I cycled a little further, I noticed a funny noise and stopped to inspect Peg. The news was not good. In the fall, the pannier rack had snapped. I would have to find a bike shop to try and sort things out. Unfortunately, the first shop on the list (Sustrans maps helpfully have a list of bike shops) had become more of a café. Here I didn’t have any reception but I did have a small amount of WiFi. I messaged my friend Emily and asked if she could call ahead to the next bike shop at Prudhoe. They said that they would be happy to help so I just had to make it the ten miles to the shop.
The ride was lovely and I would have really enjoyed it had I not been worrying about my bike. I did have a little chuckle to myself, though. Life was really becoming a chick lit novel. The only thing I needed to cap the story off was to be rescued by my prince charming on his ‘Giant’ steed. Rolling along, the miles soon ticked away and I reached Prudhoe.
Garmin pulled a blinder here, making me go up and over a hill and through a housing estate… here we learned that Garmin does not like main roads AT ALL. Everything started wobbling quite severely and my hopes of cable ties and gaffer tape to fix my problems died as I looked at the rack again. I actually had to take the pannier off and carry it over my shoulder like a messenger bag.
I arrived at the address and of course it wasn’t the right one, but fortunately the store was just down the road at the next industrial block. Here is where the fun began!
Giant Store Newcastle encompasses Bicycle Repairman (maintenance arm) and also Cycle Art (café and premium bike store). The customer service here was just ridiculously good and I didn’t even bring the team Calippos! Whilst I was taken over to Cycle Art to be fed and watered – even though the lady in charge of the café had tried to leave twice – Peggy was treated to the full works – a new pannier rack, cleaned and lubed chain, straightened out derailleur, re indexing, limit screws reset… it would seem that the falls and the rain had had a much more substantial impact on Peggy than I had realised. Poor thing.
Chatting away, things became a little spooky and I found out that not one but two of the team were to leave soon for… you guessed it… New Zealand! Dave will be staying in Wellington at a hostel, leading outdoor activities and travelling and mountain biking in his spare time and Nick leaves just a few days after me to take in some of the new trails on a half fat bike. Incredible. I had to get a photo of team NZ. Hopefully I will get to meet up with both whilst I am out there. Perhaps not prince charming but definitely a team effort worthy of the name and so funny that it was a Giant store!
Just to cap everything off nicely, I was escorted back to my route 72 through a grizzly off-road short cut. I’m not sure the service could have been improved here at all. Thank you so much a please do keep in touch!
Afterwards I only had thirty miles or so to go and it was all downhill. Garmin wanted to stay in the bike shop so I don’t have the proper records for the next fifteen miles but it was awesome cycling through areas I began to recognise. I pulled up to take a picture over the Tyne of the Sage and the Millennium Bridge and was soon joined by a couple of drunkards. They were impressed with the volume of my tunes and insisted on giving me a push on my way. Once off, they shouted after me – specifically appreciating my bum haha. Not sure it’s a good sign that this made me feel like I had come home somehow.
The final eight miles were all through quite built up areas and were not the most exciting or enjoyable of the trip but I was worried about following route 14 along the river in case this would take me too far away from my hosts for the evening (it wouldn’t have – what is wrong with Garmin?!) When I finally reached Dave and Vanessa’s flat, I was exhausted but very happy. I had such a great time chatting away with Vanessa about her travelling experiences and the lack of cycling in Mexico City. Dave had to work really late and I only spent a few minutes chatting with him (my brain capacity really had dissolved by this point) before I collapsed in my bed. Thank you so much for the perfect welcome to the Warm Showers community. I couldn’t appreciate it more.
Today I also spotted a huge donation from parents from school for which I am so incredibly thankful. To make my online day, I realised that I was leading the week’s UKCycleChat miles! An excuse for a screen grab if ever there was one.