Well, I enjoyed the ride(s). The first one was a taxi from Maidstone to Chalfont St. Peter because when I arrived at Maidstone East station for the 5.05 to Charing Cross, the station was in total darkness. After about 20 minutes searching about trying locked doors, eventually I saw someone on one of the platforms wielding a torch. It appeared that there had been a power failure.
To make matters even more exciting, the Man with the Lamp soon announced that the 5.05 had been cancelled. There were about 8 people hoping to get that train, and there wasn’t another until 6.30, and that would have made me at least an hour late for the start. All but one of the passengers stood about in a very British way, huffing upwards through our (in some cases imaginary) moustaches in a “what-shall-we-do-now” kind of way, when the other chap, of Asian origin, insisted that the Belamped One should order him a taxi to get him to London. He had to get to work and would lose his job if he didn’t. So everyone else went off by car to London Bridge, whereas I held out for a lift straight to Gerrards Cross. In the end, the taxi driver took me to the Community Centre where I was able to enjoy early morning tea and toast with Charlotte, Vicky and Liz.
Until Hummers arrived…
The ride itself was very pleasant. The weather was as kind as January can be: not too cold, hardly any wind, to begin with at least, and once we were out of the suburbs, through gorgeous countryside. My Red Kite count reached 8, although I am sure I heard the cries of two others I didn’t see. I came across the scene of the accident a few minutes before the helicopter arrived, and I wonder whether The Biggest Fluorescent Jacket Of All made the critical difference, because it seemed that once I appeared, they didn’t take too long at all to find a spot to land. Indeed, I think that when I came through, all the ice had melted. A very unfortunate incident but, as they say, it could have been worse.
I was bearing a few pangs by the time I reached Pangbourne, but the bacon baguette was most welcome. From there, it seemed only a short distance to Hungerford and lamb balti in the excellent company of Mal Volio.
I was aware that I was unlikely to finish in the time. For the first 100k, I just could not get my riding average up beyond 16kph. I felt I needed to keep to more like 18kph in order to give myself time for essential stops, but it was beyond me. After leaving Hungerford, I am sure my speed picked up, but I was amazed that it was as late as 4.42 when we went past Kintbury Church, not least because it was still light.
Bramley came and went, and I thought I had set off an estate agent’s burglar alarm because the moment I leaned my bike against the shop front, so electronic noises began, but it turned out to be the level crossing gates closing.
When I reached Winnersh Sainsbury’s before 7 p.m, I thought there might be an outside chance of making up the time, but getting lost in Maidenhead cost me a good 20 minutes, and when I found Berry Hill, and I was back to 6kph again, I knew that I had lost it. It was so frustrating following correctly a sheet through some 45 miles of unknown dark roads, and then ballsing up when the streetlights appeared.
I actually don’t know what time it was when I reached Gerrard’s Cross station but I phoned the Esteemed Organiser to ask whether there was any point in me going back to base as really all I wanted to do was get a train home, but he persuaded me to return to the Chalfont St. Peter Community Centre as apparently I could still be accredited with something or other even though I was wouldn’t be troubling the Audax Club Parisien with that particular performance. So off I trundled for the last time, handed in my brevet card and Mr Manotea was kind enough to give me and the bike a lift back to Gerrards Cross. I eventually arrived home around 1.30 a.m., some 21h30m after I got up.
I ache, but not much, and I got on the bathroom scales this morning: 16 stone 13 3/4lb! That’s the first time for almost two decades that I have broken the 17st barrier! I’m off to do another 200 today…