Sunday 1 April 2018

Easter Trail (to York or not to York)

'Eleven' on the Easter Trail 
A cross country run started the training this week. A single cycle commute to work and back was the filling. The week ended with an adventure that I hoped to shout about.

Good Friday didn’t turn out to be quite as good as the name suggested. Good Friday started really quite bad in fact. I left my dwelling at early doors with the plan of cycling over to Jamie’s to collect him and Toll for the awesome ‘Easter Trail’ event to York. This event was supposed to be a long distance cycle to York following some slightly unusual audax rules. Anyways, moments after leaving, I had to turn back. For starters I had forgotten my helmet and worse still, I could not get my gears to shift. There was nowt wrong with my gears, however, the dry bag attached to my front harness had prevented the shifters from shifting. Returned home.

Once back at home, I emptied some contents from my front bar bag (spare shorts and buff) and rolled it up tighter. The whole harness is a menace to initially set right with all the buckles and straps. Further menace was the fact that I had to tighten and untighten mudguard bolts too. After about an hour later than planned, I was all reset to start my adventure with a working bike and suitably packed bags. SJ made me a pancake when I returned home too so felt great for the re-start.

The Easter trail followed a route that I had created and the second control was or should have been Burton upon Trent. Before getting to the control, I had obviously collected Jamie and Toll and we proceeded to cycle much towpath. The paths were great initially and stretched for miles. However, the further we cycled the poorer the towpath got. Decent path turned into quagmire and our energy was sapping. Things got worse when I punctured.
Such a faff and difficult to refit wired bead tyres. After much mud menace, we decided to divert and follow some road instead. All was better for a while, then Toll punctured, followed by Jamie.
Puncture menace! Puncture menace for all! (All for one and one for all?!)
Punctures were not the only menace. Due to re-routing, I had reset my Garmin which took us past the control to Burton upon Trent by a good 7k or so. Grr, we weren’t gonna turn around and waste more time. Thankfully the ATM here (for POP purposes) did not specify the place. Further puncture menace here slowed us a while so we opted for butties from a local cafe rather than a sit down affair.
The next section to Chesterfield didn’t fare much better. Punctures remained a frequent issue for us all. My tube kept giving clues it was gonna die because a hissing could be heard every now and then. I tried hard not to replace tube and kept pumping it up at times instead (after all it was a slime tube). At one point though, no further pumping was gonna revive my tube and a tube transplant had to take place. Oh boy, getting a wire bead over my wheel rim was near impossible. Jamie and Toll had thorns in their tubes. If the punctures weren’t grief enough then the weather was. Rain! Rain in the style of cats and dogs. Oh, and it was getting colder too. Just as things were starting to turn real sour and light was disappearing, we saw the golden arches of McDonalds! Winner winner Maccy dinner! Turns out that I really was a winner - I won a quarter pounder and a McFlurry. Only right to eat a Creme Egg McFlurry during Easter.
The road to Doncaster was a heavy one. Further puncture menace. Cold. Rain. Hills. I think they call this ‘audacious’. The wetness got wetter. The darkness got darker. The coldness got ridiculous. I was that cold that my arms started having involuntary movements - ‘the shakes’. These shakes were so bad that I thought my headset had gone wonky and bike was gonna come apart. We all figured finding somewhere to camp out would be a good idea. Finding somewhere to crash out in a wet rural area was hard. There were no barns, wooded areas or isolated empty buildings. I spotted some new constructions but fencing prevented entry. Churches in this area were closed. We found a very inviting porch but a steel gate prevented entry. Just as we nearly froze to death, Jamie spotted our camp spot - a BT exchange. The front of this building offered a roof, lighting and shelter from the wind and rain. Sure the front was covered in much rubbish but hey, nothing my man-sized tarp wouldn’t cover over.
Out initial musings and slightly negative thoughts evaporated as we pulled out our sleeping mats, bivvy’s, sleeping bags and liners! We set up camp and boy how great it felt to remove wet layers and get into dry gear. Felt even better to climb into my bag and sample the delights of Toll’s whiskey and Jamie’s slow gin. Before we closed our eyes for the night we had to have a conversation with a BT employee who just happened to pass by. He accepted our case and said no one would bother us until 8 a.m. We all settled down to broken sleep and much snoring. At some time after 5 a.m. a BT employee walked over me (to start work I guess) to enter the door I was blocking. Grr, some of my wet clothes were hanging over the door handle - these wet clothes were trampled over and nearly went to work with him. Grr!

Must have been close to 6 a.m. when we decided to get up and pack up. Brr, it was cold (was cold all night and close to freezing) and wearing already wet clothes and shoes was not much fun. We spotted a McDonalds just over the road and figured we’d have breakfast and talk battle plans.
Over breakfast we figured we had about 50k to cycle to get to York, our final destination. We had plenty of time, we had to get to York between 8 - 11 a.m. according to the rules. We also figured, however, it was bitterly cold, raining like crazy and if we cycled to York and then back home it was gonna be like 300k in these conditions. My headspace was telling me to go to York but I was happy to abort and head home with the lads. This year had already seen 2 x DNS and now I added a DNF into the mix. (YACF forum, accessed later, revealed lots of folk aborted the Easter Arrow which made us all feel better).
Easter Trail DNF
Heading home, we felt cold and quite miserable. We had only 1 spare tube (other than punctured ones) between us and tubes never seemed to stay inflated. No master plan was really in our heads and despite attempts to avoid towpath we ended up on it anyway. We stumbled across a shopping area and figured a visit to Wilko’s or similar (for tubes) would be a good idea. Tubes were purchased, along with some oil and washing up gloves to keep out water. A further stop at coffee shop was agreed and further plans were drawn up. We figured we would cycle to Sheffield and board a train.

Great plan! Wet ride to Sheffield it was. Damn blast, no trains with bike spaces available once we got there. No bother (much), we decided to cycle to Chesterfield and try our luck with the trains there.

Wet cycling along much busy A road finally took us to a train station. Chesterfield was a winning stop, we could board a train to Derby. Once at Derby, our good fortune continued, we could board another train to University. University was ‘end of the line’ for Jamie and Toll. For me, another train on the same line took me to Redditch. A short cycle from Redditch took me back home to my family. They were surprised to see me return so quick.

All in all, a great week. So, I cycled less than predicted and did not complete an audax event. However, I cycled some, experienced tough conditions and wild camped rural style. I shared an adventure with some of the UK’s finest audaxers (cheers Jamie and Toll). I had a great Easter with my family. And, to finish the weekend in Style, was able to sup on some JD Tennessee Fire (big thanks Rob) and reflect on my experience.

1 comment:

  1. Respect++ to you crazy guys...what a bat shit crazy event to ride in such wintry conditions...well done for sticking to the task..stiff upper lip and all that!


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