A game of two halves - End-to-end the downhill way - CycleBlaze

June 12, 2024

A game of two halves

LEJOG Day three: Crediton to Weston-super-Mare

So let's start with the confession. I'm going to have to row back a bit on my claim to be doing this solo and unsupported. 

It is of course debatable whether any married person can do tours unsupported; you leave someone behind, manning the fort, sorting the chores, watching the bank balance shrink a bit while you're having fun. Last night I had some moral support too: three of my four girls (the other being at uni) came out to join me for dinner. In a definite sign of progress, the pub also had a dog menu,  so extra sausages too. Omnomnom.

My girls. The ones with four legs are Italian Spinoni; everyone asks.
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That, however, is not quite where I'm going with my confessional. This evening, I've had to call on extra help. I'm travelling light and getting quite used to it now: a good routine of what goes into which bag, how to unpack and repack, and where to keep the essentials like wallet and phone. It's been a learning experience. Only it seems I've yet to fully master the luggage thing.

On arrival at Weston (we'll get back to the preceding cycle bit shortly) I locked my bike to the railing, went in to reception to check in, and re-emerged a few minutes later to start stripping the bags. Except, one wasn't there any more. My saddlepack with tools, spares and puncture kit had gone. Pretty worthless to a non-cyclist, but indispensable (and expensive) for me. 

I'd had a couple of brief stops during the day, but the bike had barely been out of sight. I thought no-one would unclip a saddlebag, but on reflection it would take no more than a second. And then - I'm sure you're there already - I phoned last night's b&b. No sign at all. No, wait hang on... What's that on the inside windowsill of the secure shed? A black bag with "ortlieb", would that be it?

My long suffering wife is now en route to tonight's location, bearing luggage. Tools, tubes, tyres, chain link , lube. Good job today was puncture -free, hey?

So, let's rewind a bit to the start of day three, skipping over the packing bit and getting straight to the stuff that, apparently, I can do, like rotating pedals repeatedly.

Traditional breakfast, leisurely start, and off on a route that headed mostly north now, the western tip of England being largely complete. We successfully avoided the marauding tractors of Sandford (see previous) but there was a definite stampede of heavy aggregate trucks thundering past, marked 'highway maintenance' on the main route. Either there's a depot around these parts, or there's an impressive plan afoot to sort local potholes. For sure, we'd need a good few lorries.

The journey took me up through the market town of Tiverton, which has some damned fine cake shops, but it was a bit early so I skirted the centre and headed back out. Conscious that the day potentially had few photo opportunities, I paused on the outskirts for a quick shot of Blundell's School, which has its own crossing, and goes on for several hundred yards along the main road. It's far from a free education there, if you want to send your kids, but they're not yet charging for photos of the architecture.

I bet they'd have good cakes in the tuck shop here. Not sure I'd get in though.
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Another typical view from my tour today. The archetypal Devon hedge. You can see why I was reduced to taking snaps of educational establishments.
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My first stop was scheduled about two and a half hours in, and I'd actually been organised enough to programme a likely location into the GPS. A man can only do so many Spar shops. On arrival at my nominated coffee stop, I'd have covered just about all of the day's hills. The bad news was, this meant I was slightly dreading the start of the ride.

Up and down and up and down and up and down and flaaaaat
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But you know what? Either I'm getting better at this, or the training worked, or Raven was on form... Whatever the reason, I found myself heading up long inclines which were shallow enough to pass unnoticed, and when I hit the real gradients, I had enough in my legs to attack them and get them out of the way. It's often said that Devon and Cornwall are the hardest counties, and we've ticked them off now. Of course, the people who often say this probably plan more sensible routes through Scotland than I have. I think we've already established today that tour planning may not be my forte.

Anyway, the coffee stop was great: up a hidden track and suddenly overpopulated with chattering brunchers. I fancied some toast, and refuse to be drawn on whether any treacle tart also put in an appearance. My memory isn't what it used to be (yes, quiet about the saddlepack, already) and I can only find evidence of toast. It was good.

There might or might not be a reason I've cropped this picture. Behold: lovely toast.
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I think it unlikely that you'll ever be passing the White Post Café in Langford Budville. But if you are, I can recommend the treacle tart. They add ginger to it. So I'm told.
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We were now in Somerset, known - amongst other things - for the Somerset levels. Whether they were always flat, or whether the landscape gently receded in a subsequent feat of nominative determinism, is now lost in the mists of time. What is certain, is that at this point, there are no hills.

Somerset: like a Netherlands tribute act, only with more cider.
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This of course meant that the second part of the day went quickly, and today's run shaded a new fastest average speed, although I certainly wasn't trying. We paused briefly on the "seafront" at Burnham for a notional lunch of takeaway chips, to keep the carbs up. Burnham isn't really on the sea at all: instead, it looks out onto the Bristol channel, which has the world's second largest tidal range. This means that the water is silted, brown, and often absent entirely, having run as far away as it can manage. 

Burnham beach, and pier. If you look carefully at the far left of the shot - see the darker brown bit? Yup, that's the sea.
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The day's cycling ended at about ten to four, as we drew up to our hotel in Weston-super-Mare. Sitting a little further up the channel, it's known to locals as Weston-super-Mud, but to be fair to it, it's a popular place with quite a lot of life. It's well situated as the closest beach for much of the Midlands, and I've a good view of its charms from my window. The room's small, not least because I'm sharing it with Raven tonight, but it's pleasant and it's opposite a pub. I'll be buying Mrs M. an apologetic drink there later.

View from the window: the pier, the beach, and possibly at some point the sea 😊
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So that's day three done. I still feel very much a novice at this. I started with no clue as to whether I could actually make it to Scotland, and I don't want to tempt fate, but I'm feeling quietly confident now. Tomorrow starts to take me away from areas that I know well, and soon I'll be exploring new parts of the country for the first time. The good news is, the legs are still working, and I'm excited for more. As long as I can remember my bike, I think we've got this. Cross your fingers for me?

Today's numbers. If you want to see the route details - perhaps you're intrigued by Langford Budville - you can find them at https://ridewithgps.com/trips/189573251
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Today's ride: 67 miles (108 km)
Total: 194 miles (312 km)

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Stuart RussellOne drink? Surely dinner, too! 😁

Loving the writing, btw.
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1 month ago
Lesley AndersonFuelled by treacle tart - no wonder the famous Somerset ‘hills’ seemed flat!
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1 month ago
Mark M.To Stuart RussellYes, and dinner, and flowers. You don't stay married this many years without learning what's expected 😉
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1 month ago
Mark M.To Lesley AndersonCake definitely makes the downhills easier. The jury is still out with regards to the uphill bits. I'll keep experimenting 😁
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1 month ago