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Saturday, 23 June 2012

Homecoming number 1 - Day 13

Thank goodness this was a short journey.

A hideous headwind made progress along a very soggy, sandy Greenway very hard going.  The Vale of Evesham could just as easily have been hills for the effort we had to put in.  The ride from Badsey into town was horrendously busy with big lorries and vehicles doing silly speeds.

By this time, Jake could no longer change gear and his little legs were a blur, producing minuscule forward progress - much to his annoyance.

St. Richard's C.E First School was the first stop.  It was great to see everyone.  Mrs. Spencer had arranged an assembly for years 3 & 4 and supported by Philip, Jake stood confidently and told them about our trip and the 2 charities.  There was a collection for the charities from all year groups.  For Jake though, best of all was to see Lizzie Kelly who has kindly been sending the team encouraging texts along the way.  We even had a family donation from her and lots of hugs!

Nearly home

Yes, honestly, nearly there

Jake talking to Years 3 & 4

The team collecting money - Thank you very much!
 From St. Richard's a quick stop at our favourite local bike shop, supplier of Nic's & Philip's bikes - Vale Cycles.  Paul duly looked at Jake's dodgy gears and fitted a new cable in a flash.
About to take our leave

Then off to Jake's school - Bredon Hill Middle School.  We were a little late due to the mechanical difficulty so what an emotional treat to see all of Year 7 and staff gathered at the gate to cheer Jake home.

It was a fantastic welcome, very unexpected and hugely appreciated by a very tired team (photos to follow hopefully).

Jake was quickly back into his stride and left the oldies drinking tea and went to watch his classmates play tennis in their P.E. lesson.

A great end to part one of the journey!

Coventry - Stratford upon Avon - unscheduled Day 12

At the end of the tour the team spent much time deliberating our next move.  Fatigue had caught up with us and the prospect of trying to complete Coventry to Evesham and Ashton under Hill before the end of the school day just seemed too much.

We headed for Stratford upon Avon and started off down the canal towpath.  Once in the centre of Coventry we searched for signs for Route 52 and bumped into someone who actually directed us in the right direction for Kenilworth along.... a cycle route.

Now for a safe run Kenilworth to Stratford, bearing in mind it was rush hour.  Yet another bike shop to the rescue.  Mike Vaughan Cycles, in particular, Matty Clinton got the computer whirring.  We not only got directions but were even shown the tricky junctions.  So when we came to one of these tricky junctions did we move with the confidence all this information should have given us?  Were we, in fact, about to sail into the sunset miles off course ... who should appear but M Clinton, lycra clad and whizzing along on his bike to put us straight.

Just another quick check with a member of Stratford Cycling Club at the shop in Snitterfield and there we were just 20 miles from home.

Coventry - Venue 4

Despite the good night's sleep we knew that Coventry City Football Stadium, Venue 4, was back North of the city, it was a fairly depressing thought.

Philip's bike had acquired a very disturbing clunk after all the mud going into Manchester and the clunk was getting worse.  We headed north dreading getting across Coventry as we really hadn't seen much in the way of helpful cycle lanes.

There, in front of us was a sign to Halfords - hooray!  Steve, bless him, listened intently to Philip's bike, which right on cue seemed to make much less noise, and then gave us directions to the stadium.  His directions had involved going behind armco barriers along a major A-road on grass - he wasn't kidding! What seemed like an eternity of pushing the bikes along narrow strips of grass and cycling on dodgy bits of tarmac was apparently the safest way of traversing Coventry and getting to a cycle lane along the canal - hmmm?

One positive is that Coventry appear to be embracing the Olympic vibe with the torch due in the next 10 days and 12 matches to be hosted there were banners and rather splendid figures on roundabouts.
An appropriate colour for Coventry
The stadium is surrounded by workmen and it seemed difficult to get into - residents at the hotel attached were probably quite surprised to see us wheel 3 very dirty bikes through the smart, clean foyer and into the stadium.  Stacey, our hostess, was brilliant.  After catching up with our morning caffeine break with the slightly more strident than normal hotel mood music, an alarm siren - we had a great tour.

It's a great little stadium that has seating so close to the pitch that it must be a great atmosphere.  We know Coventry are struggling at the moment but let's hope they're soon filling the stands on the back of lots of success.

Venue 4 for our mascot Destination London 2012 taxi

The team, pitch-side with Jake's change of shirt

Our hostess, Stacey.  Thanks for a great tour.

Jimmy Hill

Uttoxeter to Coventry Day 10 of pedalling

With a great breakfast from The White Hart and more sponsor money into the kitty we left Uttoxeter and headed to Tutbury Castle.

Bizarre coincidences continue as we stop to check directions and, as usual, hand over our 'information' postcard.  Simon, to whom Philip has just handed the postcard, deals in postcards whereupon a conversation ensues and we are sent on our way - what are the chances to happen on Simon in a remote Staffordshire village?

Some of what remains of Tutbury Castle.
Some of what remains of 2 team members!

This was a hot day for a change, humid too, thankfully not hilly.  From Tutbury a pedal south to Barton under Needwood and Jake's promised stop for a Fox's glacier fruit sweet whilst the map was re-checked in order to negotiate some big A-roads.

Imagine the spooky sensation as we stopped and found ourselves outside a bike shop - not just any bike shop - a bike shop run by Adrian Timmins - not just any Adrian Timmins but the former British Olympic Team member and Tour de France rider!  Out came Jake's 'famous name' shirt and a signing beside Adrian's fabulous TdF Peugeot bike.
Adrian Timmins signing Jake's shirt - thanks very much.
From Barton under Needwood things got a little tricky as we approached Coventry, a slight miscue meant we spent longer on the B4098.  Now, we know that this is not a road into Coventry that many of you will be familiar with, places such as the long sought for Over Whitacre, Fillongley, Corley (big shout out to @dirtbiker13), Keresley however as a cycling trio this was a road that we did not enjoy AT ALL.  Fast traffic making silly, impatient judgments about over-taking meant we finally made it to Coventry highly stressed.

We entered North West, our Holiday Inn rooms were South East,  a long way South East.  So, we are approached by Vinny on his mountain bike - do we have an allen key as his saddle is wobbling.  We do indeed have an allen key, despite Jake having lost his at the National Cycling Centre.  In return, Vinny escorts us to London Road in a blur of pavements, back streets and cut-throughs, some of which he pedalled doing prolonged wheelies, all of which was in good spirit.

Good grief, London Road is long but there was an oasis in the end - a great room and supper - thank you very much Holiday Inn staff!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Manchester - Uttoxeter Day 9

A 58 mile day with some nasty bits to it but fantastic scenery.

Getting out of Manchester was a nightmare and more time checking directions than pedalling for most of the morning.  Hit Wilmslow and a place called Alderley Edge (liked it) and stopped for a coffee break.  Jake had a strawberry milkshake of mega proportions and we sat down next to fellow cyclists.

Big haul up onto Biddulph Moor but can thoroughly recommend it (on a clear day!)  Great 360 degree views.  Got completely lost several times up on the top.  Thankfully Nancy dragged out her Ordenance Survey and plied Jake with biscuits and ribena.  Within half a mile we were lost again.  IT's obviously so remote they only expect locals who know their way around.

Made it to Cheddleton, up hideous, narrow hill and gave up the ghost.  Decided to take 'A' roads to Uttoxeter - good shout.  With the climb to Wetley Rocks out of the way we sped to Uttoxeter via JCB and Cheadle.  No-one around, thank goodness England playing football.  Arrived at our destination and as pedalling into town heard huge cheer as England scored.

Found the White Hart, who kindly offered us free B & B, take-away fish and chips and pizza - bed.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Manchester - Venue 3

Update to come tonight but great day


BBC Manchester for interview - Media City

Old Trafford - great tour and Museum tickets to raffle

National Cycling Centre - bikes cleaned and new brake pads

Lancashire bites back - Day 8

Kelbrook to Manchester - 57 miles.

Bikes cleaned in the morning - thanks Philip.

Out of Kelbrook to seek out an entirely cycle network, mostly traffic free route into Manchester.
Steep, steep hill out of Salterforth.  Thank goodness for local cyclists giving us directions to the vanished signs for the network.

Along the canal super ride.  Off the canal, struggling to keep up with the route signs up some long, long, long hills.  Jake rode alongside Terry, a mountain biker who paced him to the top with Nic getting there but much slower.  Down into Lumb Valley, then up through Cloughfold.  Lost on the outskirts of Manchester as the signs off the canal petered out again.  We happened on the route and went down a track that was most definitely NOT bike friendly rocks, mud, stones, nasty slippery stones and big obstacles to lift the bikes over.

We ended up in Irwell Vale - beautiful, met Neil and his wife (carrying 3 cold, baked potatoes for the chickens) and they set us on the right road into Manchester.

Lost again we had a tip from a chap that there was a Nature Trail into Salford that started, "Just behind Asda."  Ah, ha our lost cycle route.  Great route in - no traffic but after the rain of the previous couple of days it was a mountain bikers dream, not for touring bikes and a road bike.  Jake loved it, of course until Crash! Slippery gravel, a stone pinged under Jake's wheel and down he came.  Up he got, great scrape below his knee and on we pedalled.

We reached the Holiday Inn at 9:00pm a very long day, crammed in a salad and piece of pizza courtesy Sainsbury's and the local take-away.

Pennines all the way - Day 7

Pateley Bridge to Kelbrook (53 miles covered including an unnecessary 16 miles!)

Very wet, very windy some big climbs, fantastic, moody scenery.  A great Yorkshire day with all weather elements, hills and rivers and a canal trip in the wrong direction included.

More mud and grime than you can shake a stick at.  Great supper in The Old Stone Trough, Kelbrook.

Introducing the Pennines - Day 6

Darlington - Pateley Bridge (57 miles)

A very damp goodbye to Darlington and a whip-round collection in the hotel, off we pedalled with a degree of apprehension because we knew that at some stage, over the horizon, there would be hills.

Weather improved and we went through great countryside and into Bedale where we stopped for a chocolate break at the Bedale News where the proprietor Anna-Marie Salton embraced our cause and along with a fantastic £50 from Anna-Marie, £5 from shop staff, sweets, cycling magazine and a loo break we were sent on our way in sunshine.

The skies blackened, the thunder rumbled and we sheltered for over 30 minutes getting drenched in a spectacular storm.  We were left to complete our journey through huge floods on the road and Nic picked up yet another puncture just outside Ripon.  Inner tube changed we made it to Ripon Cathedral where we bumped into 2 more intrepid cyclists nervously contemplating the hilly road to Pateley Bridge.

Buoyed by tea and Jake's enormous, marshmallow and flake filled hot chocolate from Chimes Cafe we started our climbing in more rain.  Nic's tyre went flat and was re-pumped just to limp the last couple of miles into Pateley Bridge, Foxfield B & B where we were met by a family of keen cyclists.  Clare, Bop, Oliver, Gus and the absent Josh were just what tired, wet cyclists need.

Clothes dried, puncture repaired and irritating, sharp little stone found in Nic's tyre tread - who could ask for more?

Let's hope they were duly repaid by Oliver having a great cross-country mountain bike race on Sunday!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Long Day in the Saddle - Day 5

The rather unnerving entrance to the Jarrow Cycle Tunnel -
does this mean flippers and snorkel are essentials?

Spectacular tiling - still undertones of swimming though.

Gosh, it's a long way back to the coast along the Tyne!  Safety first means sticking to cycle routes away from heavy traffic and it also means adding on the miles.

It was great to meet up with Michael near the Tyne bridge and get a guide through to South Shields, excellent company with lots of local knowledge and £5 donation - what could be better?  We passed Swan Hunter on our right and the remains of an old roman town on our left. We found ourselves confronted by the Jarrow Cycle & Pedestrian tunnel and a lift down to a tiled masterpiece.
Michael discussing Swan Hunter

We trundled down the coast to Sunderland following excellent signage feeling confident.  Then we hit Sunderland, Wearmouth Bridge and things began to get tricky.  Initially we got directions (and a donation) from Peter Darke of Darke Cycles.  We just had to pose alongside some of his early morning artwork before heading south.

Sunderland gearing up for the Olympics.

National Route 1, so beloved of Day 4, became National Route 1 of the mysteriously missing signs, back of beyond tracks and middle of nowhere confusion.  The Route is actually pleasant enough, the cycling a bit rough and lumpy at times but there's nothing like standing in the middle of a field trying to guess which direction to pedal by the position of the sun to start up some 'interesting ' conversations!

We put in a 72 mile day with nothing but breakfast and coffee at Kitty's Kitchen, Ryhope to sustain us.  We entered Darlington and (sorry Claire) we hit a bit of a black hole. We had some great off-road cycling when Jake piled down the tracks at 17mph on his narrow road tyres having an absolute blast.

We were thrilled to see a sign for Darlington, less thrilled to cycle a further 5 miles before actually seeing the town.

Then, disaster!  Our B&B was an unmitigated horror!  Apparent surprise at our arrival on bikes, despite the name 'bikewithJake'?  Rubbish was piled high outside & in the kitchen, no bed made for Jake, no tea making facilities.  We dropped our bags and headed straight out for something to eat.  The prospect of food did not make the prospect of the B&B any better so the food was put on hold until we had done a bunk and booked a room in a hotel 1 mile down the road.

We went from the ridiculous to the sublime, courtesy of Philip but it was very much the right thing to do.