Some of the things we faced today left us thinking someone must be playing a trick on us. This can not be for real! You’ve got to be joking!
We packed up early from our campsite in Nottingham, after a little bit of drama! A police car drove in and parked near a small tent just across the field from us…then another police car joined it…then a police van…then another police car! The police stood around and then walked this way and that and then a car drove off and then another one arrived! I was up at 4:00am and the police arrived shortly after and they were still there when we rode out at 8:30. I entertained Steve with all manner of theories as to what had happened and why The Bill had arrived, but maybe it was a sign that it was a good time to leave this part of town!
We rode off to follow the National Cycle Network route up to a campsite in Sherwood Forest. The route began on some busy roads, with lots of roads to cross which always makes me nervous. I think I’d rather ride on a road than have to cross busy roads, so it was a bit hairy scary at times. The route eventually put us on a cycle path that was off the main roads and weaved behind houses,through parks, beside a river and through trees. This is where things turned into someone’s idea of a practical joke aimed at poor touring cyclists such as us, riding heavy cumbersome bikes with lots of fat, sticky outy bits and bags!
As we rode along the path we came to a barrier. As I’ve mentioned previously we do come across these from time to time and while they are a bit annoying, we manage to get through without too much drama. The barrier that faced us on this path though, was of a style we hadn’t seen before. We looked at it and said, “What are you thinking! How can our bikes get through that!”
What made it all the more ridiculous was the fact that the barrier was on a designated cycle route.
We lined up the bikes and they were not going to fit through…no chance! Beside this barrier was another barrier than looked a bit like two high railway sleepers, with a space in between, so we decided to tackle that one, which meant Steve had to lift the front of the bike and I had to lift the back and we heaved the bikes over. Shaking our heads and muttering words of annoyance, we continued on, only to find…there were another two of these barriers up ahead! We changed strategy and this time wiggled the handlebars through the point of the bars of the barrier and then squeezed the panniers through and with some manoeuvring and squishing and squeezing, we got the bikes through. Mutter…mutter…mutter…
Feeling quite chuffed that we had successfully overcome this challenge, we pedalled on to enjoy the ride along the tree lined path. The path was well signed, so we continued following route number six and we had the GPS set to take us to the campsite too, so that was our back-up, so we were confident we were heading in the right direction. We turned a corner on the bike path and right in front of us was an overpass with a pedestrian crossing for walking over the bridge above the road below. The pedestrian access was, as they always are, a set of steep steps up to the bridge crossing the road and down the other side. When we saw this, we thought we had obviously taken a wrong turn somewhere because there’s no way…NO WAY anyone would expect bikes to go up those steps on a DESIGNATED CYCLE ROUTE!
We checked the route marker sign again, it was pointing that way, we checked the GPS and it was sending us that way. You’ve got to be joking! What is going in here! Then we looked at the stairs again and Steve said, “You see that little rail on the side? That’s for the bike wheel.” WHAT!!?? Sure enough, we were expected to continue on our way along this cycle route, by heaving our bikes us those steep steps, balancing the wheels in the rail! Fair dinkum! We put Steve’s bike on first and Steve took the handlebars and pushed and I got behind the bike and pushed and we heaved it up those steps, balancing it in that rail on the side. We puffed and we muttered!
Then we went back down again and did it all over again with my bike.
After much pushing, we eventually made it to the top and had the bikes on the bridge.
What worried me more than heaving the bikes up those steps, was having to wheel them down that steep slope on the other side. This is where Steve took over. Getting a heavy bike down a steep slope is definitely an occasion where height is a huge advantage in the fight against gravity, so he wheeled both bikes down the other side.
When we got to the bottom, we were feeling confident that these barriers were obviously just curve balls, erroneous fixtures at the beginning of the path, placed there by someone who was obviously either new to the job, or had a long night on the turps the night before and wasn’t on top of their game when it came to cycle path design, or had a devious sense of humour, or was a vehement cyclist hater, but they had obviously got it out of their system now and we were free to ride on along the pleasant traffic-free path.
Then…only about 1km later what did we see before us? A barrier! This one was a pretty regular style one, with two bars offset against each other to create an “S” shape to weave through. We got through this one without too much trouble but…what is going on here! This is a DESIGNATED CYCLE ROUTE!!! There will be cyclists using this path! Who decided that putting a series of barriers along this route was a fabulous idea and thought these would be welcomed by cyclists as an enjoyable addition to their day’s ride? Who is doing this!?
Righto, we had now tackled three different barriers, each of a different style and all placed fairly close together. Enough was obviously enough, it was over now. Then…what did we see before us? This can not be right! This must be an optical illusion! Surely not! Surely not another one! You’ve got to be joking! But…sure enough, there it was…another barrier! A different style again! This one was semi circular, with a swinging gate, so we had to manoeuvre the bikes in and around. The added little bonus to this challenge was that it happened to be right beside a big puddle of water! Oh joy, thank you so much! Wet and muddy feet and a barrier! It must be Christmas!
We squelched through and wriggled and heaved and lifted the bikes around the corner of the barrier and eventually got them through. Now…that has to be it, no more, because after all, this is a DESIGNATED CYCLE ROUTE!!! Only a complete prattish turkey would continue to put barriers on a cycle path!!!
Then…after riding along some nice tree lined tracks and trails, what’s that we see? What’s that up ahead…do my eyes deceive me…is it…it can’t be…no way…NO WAY!!! Yep, there it was..a BARRIER!!! This was another pair of bars, offset, so it forced us to wriggle the bikes in between, then swing them around in the narrow space, before squeezing them out the other side. OK, we’ve dealt with these before. Steve manoeuvred the big bike through, wheeling it into the narrow space and lifting it around and out the other side.
I lined my bike up ready to do the same, then I looked closely at the barrier. Hmmmm, I think there’s another way. “You know what I’m going to do?” I said to Steve. What did I do? That little bike and me just walked right underneath the bar! That was one occasion when being short was an advantage! We were small enough to just bob straight underneath!
I can now report, that barrier was finally the last one! Can you believe it though! On a CYCLE PATH!! Barrier after barrier, each with a different design, but all with a personality that very firmly said, “I do not like bikes. Cyclists are a pest! Begone! This may be a cycle path, but I am going to make it as unpleasant as possible, so you will never again clutter up this path with your pesky wheeled contraptions!”
By this stage we had well and truly earned elevenses! We found a bench on the side of the path and sat in the sun for a snack and to continue our muttering, head shaking, eye rolling and general utterances of disbelief at what we had just encountered!
We rode along some country roads, with some nice scenery to calm our frazzled nerves.
We rode past Newstead Abbey, which was a spectacular looking building standing almost in the middle of nowhere.
Then the route took us up a narrow, dirt track and we were back to having to get off and push because the bikes were struggling. My wheels kept spinning in the thick, soft earth and without traction, there was nothing left to do but get off and push the bike up that dirt track. This day is going from the crazy to the ridiculous!
We also had quite a few hills today and a doozy of a headwind, just because, well, we obviously hadn’t had enough challenges, so clearly we needed some hills and wind thrown into the mix too! We had just ridden up another hill and stopped at the top when Steve got a text message from his mum and dad. They had just arrived in England and had picked up a hire car in Manchester. Their plan had been to drive to Edinburgh and Steve and I were going to catch a train on Saturday up to Edinburgh to meet them. After picking up their car, their message said they would drive to where we were and take some of our gear, to make things a bit easier when it came to the tricky task of getting the bikes on and off a train. So we changed plan on the spot. Rather than camp tonight, it made sense to give Len and Pauline our tent and camp gear, which is a heavy and awkward part of our load when it comes to throwing bags on and off a train. So we changed route and rather than heading to Sherwood Forest, we headed to Mansfield where we could meet up with them and find somewhere to stay that didn’t require the pitching of a tent.
After some new navigation and a bit of fast and busy road riding, we arrived in Mansfield, found a very nice, but budget friendly hotel and checked in. The people were very friendly and very helpful and very accommodating of the bikes and after a shower and settling in, we waited for Len and Pauline. Just a short while later, there they were, they had arrived! It was so nice to see them again and they decided to stay the night in the same hotel, so we have been all together again, catching up and sharing travel stories.
We haven’t decided where we’ll ride to tomorrow. We might still go to the forest, or we may just head straight over to the town of Chesterfield, where we need to be to catch our Saturday train. In Edinburgh we’ll spend a few days with Len and Pauline and Steve can have the experience of exploring his dad’s birthplace with his mum and dad.
So that was our day. From the ridiculous to the delightful! What a start to the day though! A police presence at our campsite, then a crazy bicycle obstacle course that went on and on and on! Unbelievable! Just when we thought we had tackled every possible barrier and bike challenge imaginable at the various train stations we’ve had to navigate, today threw in the mother load! I dread to think what the train trip on Saturday will throw at us! Maybe today’s little workout was the training run for what’s to come! Oh well, what’s life without a challenge or fifty-five! But…we’ll keep facing them and tackling them as best we can. We’re still smiling! I’m still lovin’ it! Off we toddle into the next adventure!