A sure sign of a tough ride is when I start my chorus of “What’s the distance now?” “How much further?” “How far have we got left?” I’ve only sung that chorus once before since being in England and that was a day early on when it was freezing cold and we had pouring rain, hills and we got lost and I was fixated on the odometer the whole ride. I was like that again today. My eyes were fixed to the odometer and all I wanted was for the ride to be over. It was a hard day at the office. A tough day.
Another warm morning was a t’riffic sign for the day to come. It had poured rain all night, with a lightning show flashing through the tent, which made me a little nervous. The rain cleared though and the morning greeted us with sun, warmth and, unfortunately, wind. Off we pedalled from Wimblington, following the GPS route on our way to Cambridge. Down a short, bumpy lane we went and were confronted with a busy highway. Why are we going this way? Why have we chosen a route on a road like this? Let’s turn around, we thought, and recalculate. Back we went and the route then took us off road. When I say off road, I mean really OFF ROAD! We rode along rocky, bumpy tracks and through fields and the wind was ferocious. The forecast was for 30 mph (48 km/ph) winds and it was sure building up to that. After yesterday, cruising along at 23 km/ph effortlessly, today I was struggling to keep moving at 10 km/ph and at times I was down to 6 km/ph as I bumped over rocks and along fields, struggled through thick gravel and battled the full force head wind.
“What’s the distance?” I asked.
“Twenty miles,” said Steve.
I asked Steve why we were on this route, there had to be a better way. We stopped and tried to take shelter from the wind beside a hedge while we consulted the GPS. A man drove along in his farm 4WD, with his grey muzzled labrador leaning on the open window.
“Are you lost?” he asked.
“No, just taking shelter from the wind.”
“I don’t blame you.”
I asked him how much further the rocky, unsealed road continued and he said it looped around and joined the main road.
“You’re better off on the main road,” he suggested.
We decided to try and make some faster progress, so instead of looping around, we took the bumpy, rocky road ahead of us and went straight to the main road.
Trucks. Speeding cars. Wind. This is a horrible combination for me. The wind was pummelling me, the trucks were rocking me and the cars were zooming past close by. There has been nothing on this trip so far that has brought me to tears, but I’ve been close twice. The first was the horror ride on our arrival in France, when I kept being blown off the bike and my other near-to-tears moment was today. I didn’t feel safe. I was struggling to battle the wind and I was being pushed onto the road and off the edge of the road by the wind and trucks.
“I don’t feel safe,” I said to Steve.
“The GPS is telling us to turn down here,” he said. The turn was down another rocky, bumpy, dirt road. Our choice was wind and traffic or wind and rocks. We opted for the rocks.
We bumped, bounced, swerved and struggled our way along it until Steve called out to stop. The GPS had us turning a corner, that was basically turning back on ourselves, but Steve had looked at the map and could see a B road up ahead, if we continued on in the direction we were going. We kept going. Then the rocky road ended and turned into…
…a wheat field. We were now bumping through a wheat field. Yes, an actual wheat field, as in wheat right beside us and we were riding on the outer edge of the field. We bumped along the field, through holes and over piles of slashed grass. We decided to stop for elevenses. We just sat down where we were, in the wheat field, feeling completely knackered. “This is not a good day,” said Steve. If we could just keep going, we should eventually get to a sealed B road, that would at least give us a break from the gravel and holes and rocks and field tracks.
The sealed road appeared in the distance. First though, we had to navigate our way through a locked gate that had just enough room on the side of it to lift the bikes around, but there was a drop down towards a dam on the edge. Steve lifted his bike around and then I tried to lift mine around. Haul…pull…heave…huff…the bike’s not moving. I’m lifting and pulling and it won’t move. Oh! I’m caught on a piece of metal sticking out of the gate. One torn bike seat later, the bike was around the gate. We finally had tyres on sealed road again.
“How far to go now,” I asked.
“It’s saying twenty one miles,” said Steve, “it’s increased!”
“WHAT!? You mean we’ve just ridden 10km along there and made absolutely zero forward progress?”
“I don’t know what’s going on with the route,” replied Steve.
On we went into the gale force wind. The words spoken by the nice man who helped us as we left Barton a few days ago, were ringing in my ears. “The wind’s ‘orrible in’t it. Soom days yer joost want ter turn ‘round when the wind’s bad.” I couldn’t have agreed more emphatically at that moment. As I may have mentioned a few dozen times before, wind just does me in, mentally and physically. Today the wind was horrible. I just had to keep going and get that self-talk happening. “Just keep pedalling. With every push of the pedal you are moving forward. If you’re moving forward you’re making progress. Progress means this will be over.” As I talked to myself, the wind continued to hammer my attempts at this forward progress.
The B road became another busy road, so we were back in traffic again. Not for too long, thankfully, as we turned down a road headed for St Ives.
“What’s the distance now?” I called out.
“Nineteen miles,” came Steve’s reply.
“Still another 30km!” I asked in bewilderment.
“Yep,” came the confirmation.
Nothing to do but keep going. We rode into St Ives and found a supermarket for Steve to pick up some lunch. “I don’t know what’s happened to the route,” he said again, “the original route had us nowhere near St Ives.” From here, finally, thankfully, things got a little better. We were able to pick up the cycle route #51 and we were now able to ride on a flat, sealed, no traffic, cycle path all the way into Cambridge. The wind still made forward movement really tough, but at least the path had some trees and fences beside it in places, which provided a slight windbreak at times. I just kept looking at the signs to Cambridge along the path and counted down the miles.
We rode into Cambridge 55km later, after a few hours of tough, hard, relentless, wind battling riding. Today took us almost as long as yesterday’s 74km, just because the conditions were so tough. It was time for a bit of a rest, a cuppa and some recovery time.
It will be nice now, to have a couple of days in Cambridge, to roam and have a look around this heavily bike populated city. Today was a toughie. We got through it, but neither of us could claim to have enjoyed the ride. It was just a slogfest and willing ourselves to get to the destination as best and as soon as we could. The wind is supposed to be even stronger tomorrow, so a rest from the bikes will be welcome. Oh England, I do love you, but you blew the smiles off our faces today. Let’s be friends tomorrow. My grin is ready and waiting.