So as I've said it's Sunday morning as I write about my adventures which took place on Friday and Saturday. I've awoke to a very stiff left leg (the one I call my good leg) although at the moment it doesn't feel all that good. Not only is it stiff, but I also have that darn niggling pain back in my ACL (cruciate ligament). I put it down to my shoes and the cleat position as it happened last time I wore these ones on a long ride. I've tried adjusting them several times, however no joy. Funnily enough I also have a pretty stiff stump too. I guess that shows the extent of the workout I gave the poor little fellow. Add this to saddle and socket sores and a blend of phantom pain and your probably wondering "errr why do you bother when it causes all this pain and discomfort". Well there's an easy answer it's because I love being out with my friends, riding my bike, seeing new places and faces and making memories. In the past I have had way too much sit in the house, thinking "well this is it for me", so now I have the ability to do things I like to grab every opportunity I can.
So lets move on to the tale of our micro-adventure.
Friday afternoon and Saturday of this week was to be our planned biving "over-nighter" micro-adventure type thing.
I got finished work around 12:30'ish and as I walked out checked my mobile for any txt's or Facebook messages from either of my friends John or Lee. I had one message from John, telling me he was stressed as his backpack weighed a ton. I found this rather amusing as I know what John is like. I wrote back "Don't stress, supposed to be fun" and invited John down, telling him I was finished work now.
John rode down to mine, not long after I got home and we checked over his kit trying to lighten where we could. We had a quick look over his gear and to be honest there wasn't a lot he could dump, so it was a case of just carrying it. A big portion of the weight being in his water reservoir. Anyhoo John had the last laugh as my backpack eventually came in way heavier, John's being around 5kgs and mine weighing in at a whopping 9kgs. Bloody hell it was like carrying a small, yet slightly overweight child on my back. "Ahh well" I thought, everything I had packed was essential. I had decided to take my new backpack, my Camelbak Hawg NV. I like the Hawg as it has a zip which allows the bag to expand,this can come in very handy. First impressions when I was loaded up and the bag in place were good, the bag is very comfortable, if a little heavy.
Of course this little adventure was going to require more than just my backpack, so I got out and strapped on my trusty Bike Bag Dude frame bag. I honestly don't know what I would do without this bag and like it so much I have decided to get myself another one with matching handlebar and chaff bags from Kath n Kedan over at Bike Bag Dude. I'll be using these for our planned fund raising trip away which I'm hoping to get off the ground later this year. I haven't spoken to much about this planned trip as it's a short space of time to get so much organised. My friends Lee and Michelle, who are the most awesome husband and wife team are helping me try to get things sorted.
Right that's everything packed, the mule is ready. John and I head over for Lee. When we get there Lee isn't around. We don't have to wait long before he pulls up in his car. Lee explains he is only half packed as he has had a bit of a nightmare day. He has been here and there trying to sort out things for Michelle at the doctors and chemists. As I've mentioned in one or two of my previous blogs, Michelle was diagnosed with a rare form of nasal cancer and is now undergoing treatment. She has just had her first course of radio therapy and will also start her first course of chemotherapy next week. There's a lot going on in the Sheridan household and it makes me appreciate their friendship and help in whatever I'm doing all the more special.
By the time Lee gets ready it is 5:30pm...Omg! Lee you are worse than a woman... "Should I bring my lights" Lee says jokingly as he puts his final things together. This is because we got caught out when heading back from St Mary's a few weeks back and had to call for my dad to come and rescue us as it was just too dark to ride home. "Nah I' don't need them" he says. I know his thinking they may add a few grams to his weight. This is proven as we are about to set off when Michelle hands Lee a small 150ml bottle of some sort of rub on bug repellent. "Aww howay am not carrying that Michelle" Lee says, "it's massive, how much does it weigh anyways". Michelle tells Lee the bottle is half empty. Nope he's not having any of it so heads of to get a smaller bottle of insect spray from inside the house. God I'm pleased I didn't take a bottle of insect repellent, that might just have pushed my weight over the edge lol.
Yay we are off, our aim is to get to St Mary's and bivi there for the night.
Like I said this is more about the adventure than any route /map following. At around Wallsend (I think) John does his usual party trick and gets a puncture. I'm sure he looks for old thorny twigs and glass to ride over. Oh it's in his rear tyre there's a surprise lol. John has a bolted back axle this means we can't get the back wheel off as we don't have a spanner (so much for Ern giving John that spare tube). I had shown John and Lee a trick my dad showed me and we just repaired the tube whist the wheel was still on the frame. It actually saves time and is quick and easy to do. As we are fixing the puncture this gives us sometime for some canny banter and we share a few jokes, one of which is about what we are going to do when we get there. I pipe up with my brilliant plan "lets hit the offy and get bladdered", John finds this very amusing. Both John and I have our own ideas about what camping is and this includes a roaring fire, no we aren't budding arsonists, it's just one of those things man has done for thousands of years and finds facinating the ability to make an outdoor fire. Lee on the other hand isn't so keen. He is more like a ninja and wants to remain "stealthy", this isn't so much a micro-adventure as a "Black Ops Mission" to Lee.
When we arrive at North Shields Lee suggests some chips. As we head into the fish and chip shop, we are greeted by a rather stern faced woman who shouts over the counter "there's nothing left". At this point both Lee and I look at each other (John is outside minding the bikes) I know she's telling porkie pies as I can see at least 2 fish a couple of pies and some rissoles. Ooh and there has to be at least a couple of cartons worth of chips in the fryer. Yes I know what she's up to it's nearly closing time and she just wants to keep it all to herself. Just then one of the staff behind her says "mind those rissoles are for us"...Ha ha suspicions confirmed. We are persistent and stand firm, "Err can I have what's left of your chips and 2 fish then please" I request. I then ask John "you sure you don't want anything". He deicides he will have the steak pie. I reckon this woman must have been thinking these aresholes are just going to leave me with rissoles lol.
We ride over to the benches and devour our grub. Have to say even though the lady was a bit miserable, her fish n chips were lush. From North Shields it didn't take us long to get to the top of the bank and the priory. Lee was starting to worry at this point as it was getting dark. "I knew I should have brought my lights" he remarked as he headed in the direction of St Mary's. "Ahh but think of the extra weight Lee"
John and I got our eye on this bloke carrying some bottles of cider, so made a slight detour up the front street until we found a Co-op. I then rang Lee asking did he fancy anything to drink. "Not really was his reply". I think his goal was to get to the dunes and get settled for the night. I let John go in and choose what he wanted and when he had come out I went in and got 4 cans of Carling for Lee and 4 bottles of cider for myself. Carrying them proved to be a bit difficult in the carrier bags. I then remembered I could expand my Camelbak and this proved very handy. Lee had rode back so we shared the bottles out as John rode with 8 cans.Arrived at the bivi destination.This was to be some dunes which overlooked St Mary's lighthouse. It wasn't really sandy, more grassy. As we got our things sorted and chose where to put our sleep mats I spotted something in the grass. It turned out to be a frog. I managed to capture the little guy and took a photo. He or she was so cute. I then bent down and released it in a nice safe place.
I've added Lee's video here
Biving was overall a great experience, the good bits being able to look up at the stars, share a great bit craic with the lads whilst drinking our various cans and bottles and then hunkering down and falling asleep to the sound of the waves and birds calling. Nature can be so beautiful. The bad bits were once we got there boy racers in a local car-park revving their engines and using this as a declaration of how big their penises were. Chav music playing Boom,boom boom, you know that Brass Monkey or whatever it's called crap. Other bad things were the cold, but I can't really blame my bivi bag, this did an outstanding job of keeping me dry. I bought a Snugpak Special Forces and it worked a treat keeping me dry. It was my sleeping bag that let me down. I have discovered my Polish down bag is knackered. All the down has clumped together for some reason so it meant basically I was lying in no more than a thin nylon sheet, with patches of down in certain areas. It was in the morning I discovered the benefit of only having one foot. As my left one was freezing cold.
|Lee proper snug like|
|Me proper freezin like|
Panasonic Lumix DMC FT5 camera. Been planning to get a more rugged camera for ages as my old Canon just keeps getting wrecked.
As I rode over to join John at the lighthouse (John had walked over) I fell off in some nettles, my hand is still itchy even as I write this. I've washed it applied copious amounts of Savalon and Germaline, yet it's still bloody itchy.
|This was the shot as I turned in my bivi at around 4:45|
|John looking out over at St Mary's Lighthouse|
|Then capturing a shot|
|Prob my favourite shot of the day|
|A Cold morning, however turned out to be a red hot day|
|Sandman with Bike Bag Dude Frame Bag|
Just as we were packing up two policemen approached us. "we have had a report of some conspicuous people over here" one of the policemen said. "what are you doing?" Lee became our spokesman and just told the truth "we are just biving, getting some practice in for a fund raising thing we plan to do". To which the policemen said "Oh right, no problem lads" and they went on their way. This began a conversation between John, Lee and myself on the good and bad in people. Here we are obviously not scum-bags and the police turn up on the report of some nosey git, obviously concerned because we are being quiet and in an area where we could potentially errr! break a dune. Then there was last night all these boy racers making loads of noise and not one policeman turned up. It was actually quite funny as this all started off John and Lee doing really posh accents and making up different things about why, where and what we could do throughout the day. We know through some of our past adventures and being cyclists that people consider us to be scum-bags ourselves. I find it particularly funny those people who give you a derisive snort or a filthy look when your actually riding on a designated cycle path. Some people really do think that because they pay tax, any kind of tax that this gives them the right to have the whole country to themselves. They are oblivious to anyone else's rights, either that or they just simply don't care.
Pictures taken we head back over to where Lee is just waking up. We all start packing up our gear and have various things for our breakfast. I'm a bit gutted as I brought both my little stoves. An Esbit meths/alcohol stove and a titanium Bushbox. I don't get to use them though as I couldn't resupply with water as the toilets were shut last night. All I had was juice in my backpack and so no water to make a cup a soup,coffee or hot chocolate. More planning required me thinks.
|Just after I'd fallen in some nettles, even with gloves on I got stung|
Our mission now is to get to Alnmouth. Lee has booked us 3 seats and places for our bikes. We are going to go from Alnmouth to Newcastle and ride home from there. As we ride along the coastal path Lee stops and informs John and I "If we get lost off from one another just follow the number 1 route". Ok that seems simple enough, number 1 it is. Both John and Lee are out of water so as we ride along we are looking out for public toilets. Some are open however there is no water turned on so out of luck. Lee rides on ahead of John and I at his own pace (We, especially me are a lot slower). John and I are following the number 1 signs. These take us through a rather nice park which is well sign posted as it twists and turns. Lee is no where in sight. John and I have to be switched on to these signs as we are completely lost now, having never ridden in this area. As we ride along the signs appear to be getting a bit less frequent and a lot harder to spot. We come to this road junction and the sign is actually back to front. We have to ride past it to then see which way to go. It takes us through an industrial estate and eventually we are out down by a river. We follow this path as it's the only one and now and again there are signs which tell us we are on route 1.
By now we have been going for what felt like ages and no sign of Lee. usually Lee rides ahead then waits for us, but he is no where in sight. My phone was on silent as the previous night it had been ringing quite a bit as I posted about our adventure on Facebook. It was right deep inside my pack as I had an external charger plugged into it with a dodgy lead so couldn't put it in my pocket. it needed to be kept flat to work and charge my phone. Just then John got a phone call from his wife,Lee's wife Michelle had rang her saying Lee was worried he couldn't get in touch with me and he was slightly lost as to where he was supposed to be heading and also to where we were. I retrieved my phone and rang Lee. What a nightmare the signs were all over the shop. Lee had dropped in to get some water from some local toilets and John and I had passed him, not seeing him we thought he was ahead of us so kept riding to find him. Mean while Lee had waited an hour or so for us to catch him and when we hadn't come past got concerned. Ah well never mind at least we all knew we were ok. We agreed to stop where we were and wait until Lee caught up.
Quite sometime later, Lee rang to ask where exactly we were. Saying he was at a place called Cambois. John and I were by now completely lost and told Lee we were at an intersection that said Bedlington station. "You need to head to Cambois" Lee said, "Ok we will try and find it". Well both John and mines sense of direction isn't the best, we were both starting to get more and more stressed. At the top of this hill we saw a sign for Cambois and headed down the bank. I then stopped as I saw another route 1 sign. "We can't be going in the right direction" I thought. So I got John to turn around and we went all the way back up the hill, eventually coming out at East Bedlington. Just then Lee rang again. By now I was proper stressed,as was John and Lee. "These F'ing signs are all over and I haven't a clue which way to go" I said to Lee. Lee asked me to give him some street names so that he could pop them in his Garmin and then find out where we were, however as he was new with his Garmin he didn't realise he had to put the town in first so as I gave him a few street names, but he was saying "I can't find that one" Just then his phone died and he was out of credit.
So John and I where stuck, we were sore, pissed off, thirsty and hot. Just then this really nice guy came up to us and he started asking about my bike. I get this quite a lot as it's an unusual bike, either that or people are interested in my leg (Yeah the metal one). Now this is the bit where I feel I have to apologise as in hindsight when I look back I wasn't in the best of moods. So here's the story.
As I say this nice lad comes up to both John and I and starts asking about my bike. I have other things on my mind like "crap we have to get to Alnmouth for this train and we are lost and we have no water and I think my ass is going to drop off. So rather than talk about my bike I blurt out "err which way is Alnmouth and how do you get there and where is Camois and how do you get there and I've lost my friend and we have no water and did I mention we are lost...Boo hoo!" like some 6 year old who has lost their mummy lol. Well this man was just awesome he started directing us to where we needed to go and then said "I just live up here come on I'll get you some water" and invited us to go up to his house just a short distance away. From there he got us some water and as he was dong this Lee rang to say he knew where we were and he was on his way to us. John asked me for some of the Zero energy tablets I had brought to pop in his water well I emptied my backpack out and couldn't find them. I knew I had packed them so became aggitated (I think it's the OCD in me). Things didn't improve when I then thought I'd also lost one of my Go-Pro cameras as I couldn't find that either, something else I had brought along yet never used. John found my camera hiding in my pack so I eased slightly and then I found the Zero's hiding in my frame bag. Ok time to calm down a bit, deep breath Glenn. I then took the time to ask this very kind gentleman's name and he said "yeah I'm Al". I extended my hand and gave him a proper handshake, Al and his wife Sarah who had joined us,(sorry if I spelt your name wrong,a few spellings) were absolutely lovely. As many of you know my friends and I use the term "scum-bag" for those people who are worthy of it. I've yet to think of a term to describe those people we meet on our travels that are so very kind. These people are the ones who are really worthy of writing about and my friends and I thank you for your kindness and support. John hit the nail on the head as we rode away after saying goodbye and thanking Al and Sahra for their generosity saying in simple terms "you see if we hadn't gotten lost we would never have met those lovely people".
I passed my blogsite on to Al and Sarah, so hey guys if your reading this and would like to hook up sometime maybe for a drink or just a chat get in touch. You're Lee, John and my kind of people and we would like to repay your kindness by getting you a beer or light refreshment.
Off again through the "crappy bits" as Lee describes them and onto the more scenic bits. It's been a long ride, way too far for both John and I. Poor John had a new, smaller saddle on that I had given him last week, he was fed up with us pulling the pee out of his "tractor seat" and the new saddle was killing him. Me well I'm now going at a snails pace,each revolution I can feel my socket cutting into me and grinding off a new piece of skin. My endurance is there I just get so demoralised by the saddle sores and socket issues. I'm determined to get home under my own steam, well that and a diesel powered train.
We approach Cresswell , it's really beautiful here, it's a shame I'm more focused on just getting to where I want to be rather than enjoying the scenery. What do they say? "It's not about the destination, it's more about the journey". Yeah well who ever said that didn't have a sore ass and phantom pain, oh and and an itchy nettled hand lol. From Cresswell it's on to Druridge Bay, again absolutely beautiful. As we ride on the Coast to Castles route, which is a designated cycle path, again we pass one of those hiking couples who give you the hacky look, tut and look at you as if you are beneath them, this is of course a form of discrimination ..."Look at those dreadful fellows on bicycles, ruining the countryside all dirty and with their common tongue, not to mention blocking our rights of way, they should all be birched or better off shot"...Ahhh yes we know what your thinking...
We have a look at the big lake at Druridge Bay, it's called Ladyburn Lake, then ride on. Heading for Walkworth which is about six and a half miles away. I'm just knackered. I've only had around 4 hours sleep and by now the temperature is getting canny high. I'm wrecked and don't mind saying so. I always try my best, however never claim to be an elite athlete. From Walkworth after stopping so John can get a few pics of the castle we crack on and before long see signs for Alnmouth. This has to be the longest stretch of the journey for me, getting to Alnmouth. I think it's because it's on a cycle path and as there are high'ish hedges on one side it just feels never ending. As I approach the end of the cycle path at Alnmouth both John and Lee are waiting. From here it is a turn to the left and up the hill, yes more hills to the railway station.
Lee collects our tickets and it's not long before the train arrives. We are in coach seats "C" "scum class all the way woo hoo" The train dude (I don't know his correct title) checks our bikes out and says "do you have these booked on", "Err yeah Lee says" pointing to the bikes train receipts. "well you will have to hurry" the train dude says we only stop here for 6 minutes. He then tells us after we get the bikes in place to walk all the way through 1st class through to find our seats in coach "C". So we get our bikes in place and head off through 1st class as the train sets off. John is walking way ahead of Lee and I as we get stuck behind some people. Lee then said to me "it's pointless walking all the way down to "C" as we will have to walk all the way back and it's only like half an hour on the train to Newcastle", so we decided to head back up the train and just wait in one of the train sections mid way between carriages. We had just gotten there when one of the ticket inspectors came along. He asked where we were heading and when we told him Newcastle, he just said "go and take a seat up near your bikes". "Lee said "but that's first class isn't it?" to which this man replied "yeah but your only going to Newcastle, go ahead it's ok". Wow, that's another nice person who deserves a mention. I know his name but I'm not going to mention it here as I don't want to get anyone in trouble. I would like to say though that personnel who are like this really contribute to the overall experience of using services such as East Coast and they are assets. That's the 2nd time in as many weeks I have come across a really spot on guy from East Coast and not just some jobs worth, so kudo's to them.
We pull into Newcastle and go and get our bikes, poor John couldn't find a seat amongst the saw dust on his carriage lol. From here it's all up hill, Newcastle to Mordor. As we make our way down to the Quayside and cross the Millennium Bridge we have to take a detour, there is some CBeebies thing on and so the normal foot path is closed off. This means we have to go all the way around the Sage to get back down by the Swing Bridge and then follow this along to the Dunston Staithes, where we come off.
Just after Dunston is where the climbing starts, we come up the back of Lobbley Hill and from there it's more or less a reversed route of the way we came. I'm dreading Watergate Park. Lee is up it like a proverbial mountain goat, John gets part of the way up, however is really struggling now with the heat so decides to push his bike the rest of the way up. Me I have two choices either push all the way up or ride up. Sod it, if I have to get up may as well ride. I hate getting off my bike, for me it's a Fail! This is probably due to me having one leg and from early on using banks and hills to set personal goals. Each bank I fail on I strive to get up again and again until I either complete it or it breaks me. I make it to the top and come out onto Watergate Bends. At this point I'm boiling, the temperature is stifling, to complete the next section I'm going to have to take my helmet off I'm just so hot. So I cross the road and just concentrate on one slow hard pedal stroke after another, until I get to the top. Wow that was tough.
It's now pretty straight forward all the way home, well until we get to Tanfield and Lee gets another puncture, well actually it was the patch he put on earlier it has leaked. I take the opportunity to sit on the ground which leads to a semi lie down on the pavement. Now it's time to go and I really struggle to get back on my feet, my backpack now feeling like it weighs a ton. I get up on one shaky leg and one carbon,rubber and metal one I place my leg over my bike and resit on the sore bits Ouch! Not far to go, 2 more little banks, one onto the C2C from the industrial estate at Tanfield and the one up from the C2C at the back of the sports centre coming out at Iceland car park.
Goodbye's said to both John and Lee now in the house and able to look back over our 83 mile two day micro-adventure. Mixed feelings about the experience. On the one hand I love being out and taking part in the adventures, doing new stuff, meeting new faces and seeing new places. I think the only down side for me is not so much my endurance, yes I'm slow, needing to go at my own pace, no it's this constant soreness I encounter on every long ride. It takes days to get over and makes the end of every ride more like a chore than some enjoyable outing. That said I will continue to ride on as the positives far outweighs the negatives.
Lee is going to make a video out of the footage he has taken. Expect to see some pretty miserable faces on both John and me as towards the end of this adventure we were just about broke.