Taunton - The seventh step - London to Edinburgh via Land's End and John o'Groats - CycleBlaze

June 7, 2019


Today was always going to be less than pleasant.  We knew that before we went to bed last night and the rain that started falling soon after that simply re-enforced the thought.  In the end we weren't disappointed and we even got a bit more than we bargained for.  However, at the end of the day, all ended well so we have no complaints.

It turns out that the closest village to the campsite we stayed in last night is called Nomansland.  In many ways that is where we felt we were during some parts of the day. 

We woke to the sound of pouring rain - I'm not sure that it has stopped any time overnight - and kept on raining while we prepared to leave.  Than goodness the new tent packs up so easily in the rain in a way that protects the inner.  We didn't even have the usual bowl of oats porridge and we even missed out on coffee and tea.  Instead we opted for a few slices of bread with butter and strawberry jam to fuel our ride.

Once on the road there were a few climbs and some long downhills in bucketing rain and busy traffic on the B3137 until we reached Tiverton.  On the way we passed another "Leigh"town deserving of a photograph, this one called Withleigh but the road was narrow, the traffic busy and we were too wet to contemplate stopping.

On the subject of wetness, we managed to stay remarkably dry.  Our Vietnamese "The North Face" jackets, newly renewed by a wash and tumble dry before we left South Africa along with some chopped off fisherman's waterproof trousers kept us toasty from our thighs to our heads.  Our Goretex shoes also worked well until too much water managed to seep through our socks.  The big disappointment were the SealSkinz gloves we had bought in London.  Supposedly waterproof and windproof, they held up well for the first hour but by the time we got to Tiverton they started to get soaked and became heat sinks.  So soon after Tiverton we removed them and cycled gloveless.

At Tiverton we joined National Cycle route 3 (again) and stayed on it until a kilometer of our final destination.  It started off on the old Great Western Canal and although rough was pretty flat and wonderfully traffic free.

At about thirty five kilometers into the ride disaster struck.  The bike's brakes were needing tuning but I had just not got around to doing the job and now they were starting to fade.  On a rough gravel downhill Leigh's eventually failed and she took a tumble, cutting her leg (not too badly this time) and grazing her hands a bit (no gloves!).  To add insult to injury, the aliminium clamp that holds the twist shifter for the Rohloff gears onto the handlebars cracked and she was reduced to riding in a single gear because it wasn't possible to twist the shifter without holding onto it with two hands.  This meant she had to make a decision as the ride went on as to what gear to use and stick to it for as long as possible.  The result was a lot of grinding in big gears going uphill and spinning out on the downhills.  Of course her confidence had taken a knock with the fall so she was careful on the rough downhills (I did a quick tune up on the brakes after her fall).

Eventually we made it to Taunton.  The first stop was for a hot pie - we hadn't stopped to eat or drink for fifty five kilometers.  Suddenly the rain stopped and the sun burst through and the last few kays through the Taunton town centre to Neil and Carleen's house was much warmer.

Neil and Carleen are both away - Neil returns tomorrow night and Carleen on Monday - so we let ourselves in with the key retrieved from the hiding place we had been told of.  We found ourselves in a real haven after today's toughish ride.  A bottle of red wine waiting to warm us up and instructions on how to make ourselves at home.  We are really blessed to have some great friends.

A phone call to SJS Cycles, the manufacturers of Thorn Bicycles which we ride and the agents for Rohloff in the area, confirmed that I could pick up a replacement clamp on Monday morning.  So the result is that Neil and Carleen will have us until at least Tuesday morning, although the note that they left us indicates that that is what they were expecting and wanting.

Today's ride: 59 km (37 miles)
Total: 771 km (479 miles)

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