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Cycling Hertz Day Four 
Stories from the Great North Road...
Bawtry to Wetherby
Day four started with me fretting about my hand. I lay in my four star bed after a one star sleep staring at the ceiling and listening to the rain outside. I really didn’t want to move. It was a lovely room to look at, but hadn’t offered me much in the way of recuperation.
Something got me out of bed though. Possibly the £15 breakfast I’d ordered. Not because I was hungry, my appetite still appeared to be broken. But because I wanted to see what a £15 breakfast looked like.
My room was in an adjacent building to where breakfast was being served. On the short commute I got to see the weather I was heading into. Rain bounced off puddles and streamed down the outside of drainpipes. So I turned my focus back to breakfast.
In this instance a £15 breakfast was basically a buffet before a menu. So I ate as much as I could, finishing with a veggie full english. I actually finished with the surreptitious packing of pastries, fruit and fancy teabags into into napkins for later consumption. No one seemed to mind.
After checking out I retrieved my bike, loaded the bags and dragged myself into the street. The rain had miraculously stopped. And as I stood on a pedal, cocked my leg over the bike and began to roll, I realised I was heading into a downhill.
Good weather and an easy start were something I was definitely thankful for. I have to admit, as I picked up speed on the slope, I had a little cry. One of those small outbursts you have when someone totally unexpectedly gives you a surprise gift. Sleep deprived and in pain, I’ll take a downhill in the dry any day.
It was 8:15am. A good time to start riding.
I did not want to tempt fate but quietly I pondered how well the bike was doing. The thinner tyres did not seem to struggle with any of the terrain and the course tread, although slow on the road, had me cornering in confidence on all surfaces. If I was to upgrade anything it might be to do something to ease the pressure in my hands. And that could just mean thicker bar tape.
I hadn’t peddled many strokes since that thought before the universe delivered once again. A bike shop that had been mentioned the night before came into view on my route. Yesterday I had popped into a chemist in Bawtry asking if there was a bike shop around and they mentioned Cycle Supreme. It was closed by then but here it was in all it’s glory.
I entered looking to upgrade my gloves. The cycling gloves I had been riding in were void of any decent padding across the palms and I feel this had facilitated the crushed nerve.
Sadly none of their gloves were an improvement and there were no handlebar attachments that would offer me more hand positions while riding. Jamie who was serving kindly offered to move a 10mm spacer under my stem to raise my bar height a little. This would enable me to lighten the load on my hands.
Not sure how effective this modification will be but it felt more comfortable and there was no charge for the service. I picked up some energy bars and continued north.
My body appeared to remember what it needed to do. The more I rode the less it hurt. I made more of an effort to not place my right hand on the bars and although still numb, I’ll take a numb hand over a painful one.
I picked my way through the 50 mile day and chatted with whoever crossed my path. I was surprised not to see any cycle tourers heading in the same direction. For a moment there was a couple up ahead but as I approached, gleefully thinking I might have some company on the road, they crossed and disappeared down a side street.
When I got to Campsall I slammed on the brakes. On the ride in I saw two lads sitting on the windowsill of an old wrecked house. Their faces black with what I thought might be soot. They look tired as they stared into space. It could have been a scene from a hundred years ago. Two young chimney sweeps taking a break.
I turned the bike around to ask if they were old enough for me to take a picture. However one was 17 and the other 14 so realistically I’d rather their parent’s permission. I questioned why they were so filthy. They told me they were helping renovate their house. Unfortunately a workman had just fallen through the roof and landed on his back on the top floor. He wasn’t moving.
I asked if I could do anything. They told me that somebody was with the workmen and the ambulance had already been called.
They weren’t tired after all. They were in shock. I told them to be strong as all that could be done was being done. And hoped the workmen would be okay before heading into the village.
After recalling what had just happened through the door of the local post office, one customer said they knew them and would go check see if they were ok.
Rolling on I stopped outside an impressive church to record a little video reciting what just happened.
I spent a bit of time at that church. Reading gravestones and looking at all the people who were dead at my age. I hadn’t aimed to. They kind of just stood out.
Riding away from the church I spotted a group of boys walking along sharing a bag of chips. The smell had me feeling hungry for the first time in ages and with their rough directions I discovered an awesome little chip shop frozen in time.
The owner Darshan had ran the chip shop for 38 years and assure me he had done so because he loved it.
We chatted about a few things as well as his family overseas. On snapping a photo of him he wished he could send it to his son in Australia. So after a short lesson on how to share images from his iPhone 12 he gave me a portion of chips with curry sauce. Then a woman popped in to buy chips and I ended up showing her as well.
They were good chips which rapidly disappeared.
Refuelled and keen to get some more miles in I later came across an exciting looking descent under a bridge. I mistook the ground for sand and as I gathered speed I soon realised I was heading into into a quagmire of clay.
It covered both my legs and the bike and as I rode on it solidified. This was going to make it hard for me to convince an inn keeper to let me store my bike in a room. So I found a garage with a jet wash and got to work.
I’m glad I stumped up the extra cash for a titanium framed bike. I’ve had steel and aluminium in the past but have already found a few advantages with this frame. With it’s corrosion resistance i’m hoping I only really have to monitor the components. The overall longevity of the material itself means the frame should outlive me. It’s also nice to not have to worry about paint chips and scratches. After the clay puddles I had an altercation with a concrete post along a muddy towpath. The bike took the brunt of the impact with little damage outside of a barely visible scratch. On top of this is the ride quality. I have a smaller frame and I feel the titanium offers the comfort of an aluminium bike. Plus, and i’m not sure this is a feature of titanium, but even though the clay had hardened to the frame, the jet wash made light work. It looked as good as new.
I was still 20 miles from the halfway mark from London to Edinburgh and I got contemplating the next few days. I had a niggling feeling that I need to peddle more and blog less. To sleep more and chat less. That goes for online and en route. Bit it’s the kindness and encouragement online that is keeping me going. As with everything I need to find healthy balance.
I got to the Royal Oak in Wetherby at around 5pm. Another traditional, affordable English inn. The sun was shining and a friendly guy behind the bar let me take my bike into the room.
I had dinner at Sant’ Angelo, the renamed Angel Inn. An amazing coaching house with a fascinating history. Seems to be wasted on a huge Italian restaurant though. Food was OK, but service mediocre as it was a massive space, full and woefully understaffed.
I’m probably just bitter as I was surrounded by folk laughing and drinking wine. Something I still don’t think I can stomach.
My body is doing weird things. If I pick up another injury then I’m not sure I’ll be able to get to Edinburgh as the hand feels debilitating enough on it’s own. I had to carry my clay caked bike up some stairs to cross a river bridge today. If I’d still had the camping gear it would have meant taking everything off the bike. But as I found out tonight I’m not at all good at fastening straps with one hand. Thankfully I managed to drag the bike up the stairs into my room. No need to unpack. It did make make me wish i’d started this steep learning curve before day one though. You know, with stuff like proper planning, training and preparation.
On the bright side. I’m half way through the distance with five days riding to go. So that is something to toast with my stolen decaf Earl Gray.
I’m told it can get hilly in Scotland though. And hills could get interesting as my bike is built to have just enough gears for Cambridgeshire.
On a technological downside, I lost my phone clamp and mini tripod somewhere along the way. I think it was in the clay pit. I must see if I can get a replacement somewhere up the road.
As it’s now bedtime I should got to sleep focusing on the best bits from today. Flying through sunny wooded single track and then down a smooth black ribbon of meandering cycle path. Also that massive plate of curry sauce and chips was defiantly a boost.
While on the towpath today I slowed down for a dog walker and their dog licked my sweaty leg. As a stand alone incident this is nothing really. But this is now my fourth day cycling and the forth consecutive day that a dog has licked my leg. This is how superstitions are born. It might be that my whole trip hangs on whether a dog now licks my leg every day.
I’m now wondering if those dogs that chase cyclists are just running after a moving salt lick, looking for essential mineral nutrients. Tomorrow I will slow down for all dogs. I think a fifth lick will seal the deal.
This countryside is a wonderful backdrop, but as well as the dogs it’s the people who are making this trip. Some of them may have had generations living along this ancient route. So far all of them, locals, visitors and new arrivals have welcomed me into their lives. Even if most of them think what i’m doing is mad.
Tomorrow I head to Darlington.
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