The Weather Gods' revenge - End-to-end the downhill way - CycleBlaze

June 15, 2024

The Weather Gods' revenge

LEJOG Day six: Market Drayton to Preston.

I awoke to find the sun, if not exactly streaming, then at least seeping in at the edges of my curtains. Confounding expectations, it looked like we might be on for another dry-ish day. Downstairs for granola, toast, full english and a banana, and I adjourned back to my bedroom for some preparatory stretching and to let the meal subside. In the manner of a snake that's eaten a goat.

Some way above us, and at almost exactly the same time, Trevor the cleaner unlocked the office of the Weather Gods with a cheery whistle. On Saturdays, he had the place to himself. Pulling out his feather duster, he flicked at various desks, all piled high with lists of the righteous people on whom the sun should certainly shine, and the opposing lists of edgier characters who probably deserved the odd soaking. It was at the third desk that he spotted something amiss. Almost concealed at the foot of a heap of celestial blue dockets, a single red one peeped out. Trevor extracted it, and leafed through. This chap didn't look righteous at all. Must have been a clerical error. He tossed it back onto the tottering heap of the unrighteous, and waddled off to brew himself a well-earned coffee, whistling merrily.

Down below, I pulled the door to, clipped into Raven, and set up the GPS. And at the very same moment, the heavens opened.

I guess we'd been riding our luck this week, and today it finally gave way.

Our route would thread between the populous cities of Liverpool and Manchester, touching neither, but dealing with urban traffic and chunky conurbations on our route north. The ride was to be a flat one, but there was a lot more up and down than the statistics give us credit for. We eased our way into the journey and towards busier roads with a series of quiet country lanes. But the road surfaces were unremittingly poor: the kind of tarmac where you judder over a series of stones which are definitely stuck to the road, but stand a centimetre proud of it. If you counted the million uncomfortable bounces as we edged forwards, it would have added hugely to our climb tally. 

The overall experience was like riding a spin drier along the highway. For an hour.

Straight, and flat. So why did I find my teeth vibrating this much? Badly-maintained surfaces frequently forced us into the middle of the road.
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Progress was therefore steady at best, and the rain acted as a further disincentive for a fast run. By the time we reached Runcorn, though, said rain was at such a pitch that the few pedestrians still out were mostly sprinting for cover, hands and bags over their heads. Raven and I, by contrast, were already as wet as we could get. I'd programmed a coffee stop here: flapjack and coffee, 35 miles in. Locking Raven up directly outside, I sauntered insouciantly in, leaving small puddles in my wake as I headed for the counter. Raven watched me reproachfully through the window as I sat and dripped in a quiet corner at the front of the shop, waiting for the deluge to end, or if not, for a passing ark on which we might hitch a lift. 

Reviewing my previous over-optimistic tendencies, and also my soggy feet, I adjourned briefly to the toilet to change into the goretex socks.

Unprepossessing, I grant you. But dry, warm, and very friendly. I'd chosen well - their Google reviews were entirely deserved.
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From here, it was a short run to the Mersey crossing. A huge cycle lane for us, and a single lane of traffic light-controlled vehicles alongside. The main bridge, which didn't apparently allow bikes, was a far larger structure off to our left.

Our bridge. In the continuing absence of county signage, I think they're a good way to mark the passing miles.
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Everyone else's bridge. They could keep it. We'd already had our fill of motorway crossings.
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We were still in a heavily populated area, which meant that the navigation required a lot of attention. 0.4 miles, slight left, next cue in 0.2 miles, 600 feet, turn left onto the path. The small numbers began to add up, and although progress wasn't exactly rapid, the journey absorbed me and the miles began to tick away. Some of the paths were pretty dubious - we were sent down one particular wooded trail from which we emerged mud-splattered, and with fronds of greenery clinging to us. That probably ended our chances of any fine dining luncheon experiences: but it was ok, I'd already formed other plans.

Beautiful trees. And a lovely wide cycle path, right next to the busy road. Combined, they made the perfect travel solution for any sub-two-feet cycle tourists. Thank you, urban planners.
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I wasn't too sure where we were now, other than that the black line was still heading north. We did pass a sign advertising Cheshire Potatoes, which seemed to imply that Shropshire was now some way behind. In my reckoning, we were definitely now Up Country. For those of you not familiar with my home county of Devon, this is generally a term which residents apply to anywhere north of Bristol, something which confuses a large swathe of folk who'd previously defined themselves as Midlanders. But now, there was no disputing that by any reasonable definition, we were properly far up the country, surrounded by the names of rugby league teams, and with accents changing all around us. 

It's a sign! Sadly, not of the rain ending though.
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I may have been a little harsh about Spar shops in an earlier post. This one, at Appley Bridge, was definitely more photogenically located than its southern counterparts.
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I grabbed a quick sandwich meal deal at a Spar shop about 15 miles from our destination. By now, the rain was slowing, with a smug sense that anything it could soak, it already had. We'd coped reasonably though: the weatherproof kit was doing its stuff, and both my torso and my luggage were dry.

Some of the puddles were frankly scary. I'm not sure this one had been here when we set out.
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With the end now in sight, I took a short detour to a Preston-based bike shop, to borrow a track pump and get my tyres properly inflated again. Raven also had an early shower, because I genuinely thought they might not allow her indoors in the muddy condition she was. With ten minutes spent wiping her down and rinsing with leftover water, I assessed that she'd probably pass muster. And we both headed for our hotel.

A few hours later, Raven is on the room with me, the kit is all cleaned ready for the morning, and the alcohol -free lager is flowing. I feel like I've earned it.

Apologies if you're squeamish. This is the washing water just from my socks. I was glad to get in the shower. And I think the hotel staff were glad to get me out of reception.
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It's good to be relaxing again, after a long and challenging day in the saddle. Honestly, I'm looking forward to this time tomorrow. The day's riding should be scenic, and I'm meeting a friend for dinner. More than that, I'll have completed seven days of seventy-mile routes.

Apparently, as I read in the news today, this has been national bike week. I feel like we've certainly done our bit to participate. But Monday is scheduled as a much shorter day. Fewer miles, earlier finish, and a chance to explore one of my destinations a bit. I think a change of pace will do me good, before we embark on the challenges of Scotland. Hopefully, in the sunshine.

Not bad progress, on a spin-dry cycle. Full route details at https://ridewithgps.com/trips/190910520
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Today's ride: 75 miles (121 km)
Total: 415 miles (668 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 2
Lesley AndersonLike you, I was sloshing my way through fairly determined rain showers as I walked round a very big puddle called Ullswater. 26 miles of mostly mud and treacherous rocks 👍
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1 month ago
Lesley AndersonTo Lesley AndersonSee you in the Lakes later! It’s a much drier day ( so far!)
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1 month ago