There’s a party goin’ on and I’m not invited!
When I woke this morning, I lay in the tent listening to SCRITCH…SCRATCH…SCRATCH…SCRAMBLE…RUSTLE… as the squirrels climbed the trees next to the tent. Bless. What a nice way to wake up. I wrestled myself out of the boa constrictor grip of my quilt lining and snuck past Steve’s still slumbering form, as I took myself out into the dawn and over to the shower block. Once again I experienced the benefits of being an early riser, by having the place to myself, so I took my time, so as to leave Steve in his Land of Nod for as long as possible. When I eventually made my way back to the tent, what I saw made me smile. Outside the tent was the Watership Down of the squirrel world. They were everywhere, their bushy tails quivering and their little feet darting their little bodies this way and that. As I went to unzip the tent, I heard some scratching from inside. Hmmm, that doesn’t sound like Steve and he wouldn’t be up yet anyway. As I pulled back the tent flap, what did I see? A squirrel having a lovely time investigating our belongings in the tent! There was a squirrel party goin’ on in our house! “You little rat bag,” I admonished our uninvited visitor, “out of there!”. That little varmint hightailed it across the tent and under the side and he was off. Steve slept through the whole party!
Steve eventually rose and joined me for breakfast, kitted out in his puffer jacket with hood up, long trousers and woolly socks. It was a cold morning! It felt like we were back in February in the Portuguese winter. I layered up in fleece and we packed up and pedalled off out of Chertsey, via Sainsbury’s to supply ourselves with elevenses and lunch. We continued following our National Cycle Network route, heading south into the cold wind. The path was beside the road, so we were at least out of traffic but we were still alongside the noise and zipping cars. It was along here that we passed a sign that Steve was a bit chuffed to see. The McLaren factory. He got to ride past the place that churns out all those F1 cars.
On we went and thankfully found ourselves on a nice, off road path through trees and beside a lake, where we decided to stop for elevenses. Lots of dog walkers went past and the occasional dog stopped to say hello, many of which were soaking wet from their dip in the lake.
As we snacked on elevenses, Steve asked, “How far do you want to ride today?”
“I don’t know, a normal day I suppose,” I replied, thinking a normal day has to be a minimum of 50km. “Why, how far do you want to ride?”
“Until I get sick of being cold,” he said. Now I mention this only as another indication of the chilly temperatures we are experiencing. As I’ve said before, Steve doesn’t feel the cold, so for him to comment on being cold and being prepared to stop short because he’s tired of being in the cold, that right there, says it’s cold! Even when the sun came out, as we were sitting and having elevenses, the wind chill didn’t lessen any. During elevenses, we wasted a bit of time, beginning to research possible places to stay, which is something we never do, we do that later in the day over lunch. The cold weather though, had us already beginning to look for possible destinations. As a result we faffed about a bit and took a longer than usual elevenses break, which put us behind a bit for the day.
A short ride later, we arrived in Guildford, a bustling but really nice looking town. The main street was cobbled and pedestrianised, which is always a bonus and makes a town nice to walk through, with the traffic kept away from the high street.
We walked the bikes through, then called into an outdoor store to buy a pillow for me. The “make do and mend” approach I’d been using, with a jacket stuffed into a shopping bag, had finally had its time and after a few sore necks and head aches from a cricked neck, it was time to find something with a bit more support. We hadn’t been able to find a self inflating one like Steve has, but found one that will do the job, so after bit more time wasting while this purchase was made, we eventually began our ride out of Guildford.
As we rode along the street, we were headed straight for a mammoth hill. “Do we go up that hill?” I asked Steve.
“I don’t know, we’ll find out when we get to the corner.”
Sure enough, there was the route marker, pointing us up this enormous, steep hill. OK, up we go. We huffed and puffed and cranked down the gears and pedalled slowly…slowly…slower…slower…as we continued the grind up this steep and seemingly never-ending street that was so aptly named The Mount. A couple walking down, went past me and the man said, “The best of luck to you.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“You’re nearly there,” added the lady.
“Oh, goodo,” I laughed and continued huffing my way up.
Finally, as usually happens with these monstrous hills, we did eventually make it to the top. The top also brought with it a nice, quiet, tree lined track. I had the lead up the hill, so now Steve took over and led the way along the track. We bumped along the potholes and sloshed through the mud, but it was a nice place to ride. Steve stopped up ahead and as I approached and stopped beside him, I heard those words I never want to hear.
“OH NO!” cried Steve. ‘Oh no,’ I thought, that’s never good to hear! Steve was consulting the route on the phone. “We didn’t have to go up that hill at all! We’re on the wrong path and going the wrong way!”
It seemed the route had forked back in the town and we had taken the wrong fork, even though it was still marked with our route number. Now what? We could keep going and eventually make our way back to the route we should be on, or we can go back the way we came. We decided on ‘better the devil you know’, stick to the marked route and just backtrack and pick up where we should be. U-turn, bump…sploosh, then whizz (in the case of Steve) and brake (in my case) back down The Mount that we had just scaled. It turned out the route wasn’t that easy to find, so we were forgiven for taking yet another wrong turn. Eventually though, we were back on track and heading in the right direction.
Things seemed to have taken so long, that when we reached a park on the outskirts of town, we decided to stop again, have lunch and make sure we actually had somewhere to stay in the direction we were heading. Our research revealed that there were very few campsites in the area we’re riding and not many options at all until we hit the coast. We sat and pondered what to do. It was 2:00, so do we keep riding another 45km to get to a campsite? Do we ride and take our chances that we find a hotel with a room? Do we cut our losses and just stay where we are and start afresh tomorrow. We ‘ummed and aahed’, and wasted a bit more time procrastinating about what to do, before finally deciding, “Let’s just ride on.” So that’s what we did.
It was a good call, because the path we ended up on was lovely. It was flat, all off road and through trees and forests and it was delightful. It was the nicest ride we’d had all day.
We rode into the small town of Cranleigh and as we crested a hill and stopped at an intersection, what did I see in front of me? Truffles Bakery and Tea Room. Aaaah, I’m back in the land of villages and tea rooms. I felt a warm glow! It was such a nice little town, we decided it would be our pitstop for the day, even though we’d only ridden 43km. We found a room at the pub and they kindly found a storage spot for our bikes, so we cleaned up, had a cuppa and then went out for a stroll. Our first impressions were accurate, because as we roamed around, we continued to find this small place, utterly delightful. There were some gorgeous old and historic buildings and houses and the shops in the main street were adorned with hanging baskets of flowers overflowing with colour and it was all quite charming. The sun eventually warmed up too, so our afternoon stroll was thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe it’s not the weather that’s the problem, maybe we just ride at the wrong time of day. We obviously need to start riding about 5:00pm, because the weather seems to improve about then.
So the ride ended well, with a pleasant ride through the trees and a pitstop at a lovely little town, which is almost a village. Even the hill was good, I’m glad we got to tackle a doozy, just to remind ourselves we can do it. We will try and get our act together tomorrow though and have a slightly more productive and forwardly progressing ride. I think we just experienced some brain freeze today and faffed about too much, just because we were cold and uncomfortable. Tomorrow, we will aim to improve, as we continue our journey south. I’m also hoping that somewhere, there’s a squirrel party happenin’ and I’m a gonna gate crash it!