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Saturday, 14 July 2012

Greenwich to Hampton Court

Originally planned to include Greenwich Venues and Wimbledon, the timetable went out of the window with the regression to Teletubby Land and the team found itself hacking across London trying to get in to the Holiday Inn Kingston Slough without a particularly clear plan about how to go about it.
The Shard under grey skies - a long way to go.
So, we got to Merton, it was late.  The team disintegrated into 3 individuals all wanting to go in different directions.  It was not pretty, not good for morale and then ... Jake had a puncture - aaargh!

There was a garage just down the road, could we get it together and sort out how to mend puncture and get from Merton to Kingston in the failing light and impending rain?

Of course we could because we found Larry!  Larry had a 'mini bus', knew where to find the Holiday Inn on Portsmouth Road and took to his role of knight in shining bus like a duck to water!  We were initially happy to take directions, we were then offered the opportunity to follow him, he then proposed the full journey to Kingston before, eventually throwing in a trip passed Wimbledon for good measure.

In addition to his driving skills, Larry had great knowledge of just about anything and everything and was tremendous company.   

The team would like to wish Larry all the best in his quest to move from London to Somerset - he deserves the quiet life!

Greenwich Park - Venue 13

We were quite chilled about Greenwich Park, home of the equestrian events.  Such a large area, we'd surely just rock up and there would be a photo opportunity?

Ah, there you go you see - you never can tell.  Despite our best smiles, our best photo opportunity was outside the Maritime Museum but it definitely confirms our location.
Message in a bottle at
Greenwich Park.
Stands to main arena in background.
Jake was a little despondent but just as we were about to leave we bumped into some lovely gentlemen from the police and LOCOG who made our visit so memorable - as always, it's the people!  Thanks for applause for Jake as he left the Venue - very special.

North Greenwich Arena - Venue 12

You do know the North Greenwich Arena, really you do - (aka Millenium Dome, aka O2 Arena).  We could see the hedgehog from the corridor at the Holiday Inn.  We wondered whether that counted?
It is now an iconic sight.
However, anyone for cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks?
We visited it, in the daylight - it was still open to the public and loads of people were milling around - security didn't like our bikes much though.
O ... look it's the taxi about to get wet.

Royal Artillery Barracks - Venue 11

For some reason we hadn't got a contact at the Royal Artillery Barracks (RAB) and what's more, on the late night trek to Greenwich we had passed the Venue.

It was not a terribly popular move to back-track along our route to go and view the RAB probably an impressively grand barracks behind black and gold railings and impossible to view.

Some fine figures outside the Royal Arsenal
We did indeed see the smart barracks and the railings but we'd also 'spotted'  some strange polka dot structures beyond so kept pedalling.  Carefully avoiding making tyre impressions on the newly laid tarmac we located Kim, the Venue Manager.  What was in front of us was undoubtedly the funkiest venue we have seen to date.
May we present the funkiest shooting galleries imaginable.
Locally, it is affectionately known as
Teletubby land.
These fab buildings are made of the 2012 version of the Millenium Dome material and those round discs serve the dual purposes of air vents and frames to stretch the fabric.  Pink and blue buildings and qualifying rounds the red monster is for the finals.

Jake with Amy who explained all the
technical stuff so we could understand.
All in all, the team found this one of their favourite Venues partly because it was so unexpected and partly because it's just brilliant!

Brands Hatch to Greenwich

We did the whole run, Hadleigh Farm - Brands Hatch - Greenwich in one day.  It was a very, very long day.  However ... we passed the 2000km marker and inevitably, the 2012km marker -WOW!
2000 kilometres
2012 kilometres - the target distance already achieved!

As we finally made it back from Brands Hatch to NCR1 at Bean, it was late and there was a long way to pedal.

The team headed for the Thames Path but this was no paved pathway.  This was the back of beyond or to be precise Dartford Marshes after a lot of rain.
That storm was heading our way.
Could we get to cover before we were drenched through again?
We don't want to moan and we try to be upbeat.  We would like to assure everyone that this challenge is incredibly hard.  It was a long day, the weather was playing tricks again, we had breakfast at the hotel, a muffin in Gravesend, a cup of tea at Brands Hatch.  Despite covering our water bottles, the road/path conditions meant that it wasn't safe to drink from them because of mud and grime.  Sometimes the team get stressed after being over 1 month without a break.

Anyway, once we got to Erith, took a little shelter from the storm, the path improved considerably.
Trying to shelter - there are some turbines
out there in the fog

These are the turbines as the thunder moved north.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Brands Hatch - Venue 10

Brands Hatch Circuit
Philip, Jake, Nic & Mike Grove,  Circuit Manager
Brands Hatch, venue 10, will be home to the Paralympic Road Cycling competition.  The athletes will have a circuit around the perimeter of the track (as cycled by the team) and then come onto the actual circuit (not cycled by the team - Jason Plato and others were doing a far quicker job at the time!)

Thanks very much to Kevin Ritson and Mike Grove, the first venue providing cups of tea to the weary travellers and a great explanation of how the Paralympics/Olympics will come to a close at Brands Hatch.  Thanks too, to the drivers completing practice laps whilst we were there - great excitement.
Taxi on circuit 

The team, taxi and Brands Hatch entrance

Hadleigh Farm - Brands Hatch

Oh my goodness, it's tricky negotiating roads to these venues!

Anyway, good jaunt down to the ferry at Tilbury from our Basildon base.  There are some great parks/nature reserves just to the south of Basildon - most unexpected.  Intermittent, drizzle, rain etc just to keep us on our toes.
Yes, he is yawning - and the day's only just begun!
Crossed the Thames by a ferry captained by a very generous (free passage) stereotypical ferryman - fascinating face! Nice bit of ironwork as we left the jetty..
Mind your Step

By Jon the Welder

 Into Gravesend for the obligatory coffee and phoned ahead to Brands Hatch.  Kevin Ritson, PR department, gave us a 45 minute expected ride time.  2 hours and much tension later...

The roads from the north are tiny, busy and not suited to cycling & it rained off and on for good measure.
Still, we were not disappointed.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Hadleigh Farm - Venue 9

Just the 10 miles to the venue and then the 10 miles back - a little 20 mile outing.  A cycle path all the way to Hadleigh was, in fact a cycle path alongside the A127 main dual carriageway from somewhere to somewhere else.  The cycling was horrid and initially damp and drizzly.

We had a date with a photographer.  Jake had another broken gear cable.  Guess where we met up with the photographer.  Rayleigh have a Halfords, so that's where we met!  The pedal got fixed too.

Off to Hadleigh in the dry.  Salvation Army run farm, rare breeds centre, training centre and cafe - great views over the River Thames.
Hadleigh Castle overlooking Thames

Towards Canvey Island
Our contact, as has often been the case, was not there today.  We managed to sweet talk her assistants into a quick photo across the farm to the Mountain Bike course.
A good grin considering he didn't want to take off his jacket

We returned via Sainsbury's to get salad (yep, green stuff) for supper and gave ourselves an hour off 'paperwork' to watch 'Wiggo' win his first ever Tour de France stage - more cycling!

Lee Valley to Hadleigh Farm

Now, team bikewithJake knows that our readers are clever folk so you get minimal points for guessing the weather conditions as we left Jurgita, the lovely receptionist at Walthamstow, to head for Basildon our Hadleigh Farm base.

It was wet, very wet.  Bikes loaded, goodbyes said, puncture within 50 metres of the hotel.  Sheepish return to mend said puncture within the confines of the hotel.  Philip's new tyre appeared to have an unwanted crease in it.

Ride resumed 20 minutes later, torrential downpour, straight through our no-longer waterproof, waterproof jackets, refuge under a bridge.
Philip never far from his phone
Called in to Halfords - there's a pattern here.  Nic came away with some new gloves as she was functioning on a left handed glove only, the right hand having opted to stay somewhere near Hampton Court in the sunshine.  We also acquired new waterproof jackets, at least Nic & Philip did (sorry Jake, none in your size!)

The torrential rain had subsided but we had travelled less than 2 miles in 3 hours, spent a small fortune, not fixed Jake's pedal and the standing water was not just standing but pouring down the roads in torrents.  Imagine the condition of the canal towpath.  Imagine our delight when Philip got another puncture in his other brand new tyre.

Punctures are definitely deflating, rain definitely dampens the spirits - things were very, very difficult.  At one stage we spent a long time sheltering under a tree, contemplating the safety of the onward journey as the roads filled with water and the cars drove past us at a ridiculous speed.

Onward, to shelter again, to ride through more water, to come across a proper, flowing flood covering a 20 metre stretch of road.  A car turned up, we watched, it stopped, the 'gentleman' allowed the lady to get out and paddle up to her knees trying to identify the way into their driveway.  We decided it was passable, the water came over our shoes, already drenched feet were now dwelling in water-logged footwear.
Looking back at the flood

Fresh, dry socks into cold, wet shoes

Running repairs to ensure Jake's ankle dried out as quickly as possible.

It was a very difficult day - how lovely to find the hotel easily and be greeted so well.

Lee Valley - Venue 8

Now, bear in mind it was a 10:30 p.m finish and for some, nearly midnight, imagine our joy when the alarm rang at 5:30a.m in order for us to get to Lee Valley at 7:30a.m.  You can't imagine it?  Neither could we...

The Olympic Torch Relay was due at the White Water Centre and we were due to meet Access Sport Fundraising Director, Dave Boorman.  Luckily the route was alongside the canal so not too much route stressing.

Brilliant to be there with lots of activity, including demonstrations on the water and a large raft carrying the torch, not once, but twice and a particularly good plunge into the water doused the flame on the initial run.
Jake, Philip and Dave enjoying the spectacle

How it should be done
We were a little surprised about the size of the venue, it was much smaller than we'd expected and also we could see all  the action - this was an unexpected bonus.
The GB raft racers plus torch bearer

It's that taxi again - no stopping it!

Charity fundraisers in summer gear.
The coats are on a seat near by - don't be fooled!
As if this wasn't enough excitement we were then filmed and Jake was interviewed for London Tonight (don't know if they used it?)  Anyway, at the end of the interview we were asked to pedal off into the sunset, except our sunset was actually a torrential downpour - oh joy!

Eton Dorney - Lee Valley

It's that weather again!

Still, we left fairly early and got into Windsor in the drizzle.  Pop, fizz, bubble - Jake had a puncture.  The team repaired the puncture in the dry, under a bridge and cycled 50 metres - pop, fizz, bubble - Jake had another puncture.  The 1000 miles had worn the tyre thin and there were little tears, time for new tyres.  Back to '700' and a coffee, 30 minutes and several pounds lighter we were off again.
Team work.
Jake is checking the inner tube to go in.
Nic is removing the inner tube that needs repair,
Philip is taking the photo?
Leaving Sue and setting off into Great Windsor Park
Now all the team needed was to get on to NCR 4 - up steps another cyclist.  Sue was just finishing her shopping before going off on holiday, however she offered to cycle to Great Windsor Park to get us back on track.  Then, puncture followed by another puncture.  It was now throwing it down and we took shelter in a garage to change the tyre before trekking off to Halfords in Staines.  More necessary purchases in 4 tyres for Nic's & Philip's bikes.  When we set off again the roads were covered in water and we got absolutely plastered in mud, sand and rubbish along the Thames Path.

By the time we reached Hampton Court - Flower Show going on (lots of very smartly turned out people) we looked great!
You should see the legs!
Through Richmond Park and past the docile deer, on to central London.  Very scary indeed despite great route and lots of paths not for the faint hearted.  Back along the Thames, a close encounter with the Shard, past the Cutty Sark and into another under-river tunnel at Greenwich.
We hacked on to Canary Wharf where the signs to NCR1 disappeared because of a diversion due to building work.  It was getting dark very quickly, we had at least another 10 miles to go and not a clue where to start.
We found a taxi - with all the miles spent to and fro to bike shops we had already completed our predicted distance (58 miles), it was a matter of safety first.  We found a taxi big enough for us, 3 bikes and all our incredibly dirty, Thames water smelly kit - hooray!  The hotel was across the road from Walthamstow Greyhound Stadium, adjoining a dual carriageway and overlooking Sainsbury's but it was home!

Eton Dorney - Venue 7

It looks like there's some kind of strange dance
move being demonstrated?
School Council members who invited bikewithJake
 to come to the school.
Thank you so much Eton Wick C.E. First School we had a fantastic time.  Thanks so much for the funds you've raised for our charities but most of all thanks for your welcome.
Jake walking into assembly - it was an amazing reception!

To all staff and pupils - you were great, especially to Mr Harris, Miss Westoby and the School Council.

After a great time at the school, the team headed off to Eton Dorney and were incredibly lucky to be escorted lake side by Andrew.  As one of the operations managers, it was fascinating to hear about how a venue like Eton Dorney gets transformed into a major Olympic site.  It really is all hands on deck (to use a boating phrase) and it must be incredibly exciting to be involved.

We particularly liked the TV coverage idea - let's just say the idea is visible from miles away!
Jake sitting outside the only part of the venue
that has the name on it.

The travelling taxi clocks up another venue overlooking
the stands at the finish line.
The team could only sit outside the perimeter fence here
because of the extent of the construction work at this end
of the venue.
As you can see, it was not raining so, the team treated itself to a visit to Windsor and an opportunity to get Jake's shoe and pedal fixed because one bit had broken off.  Good job done by the boys at Windsor cycle shop '700'.
Post ice-cream consumption (1st of trip)