THE BIG JOURNEY (PART TWO)
I was ready to leave around 6am, but one thing was still there to do. I had to pump my front wheel up. I spent about an hour trying to do it and after the 3rd time it had let the air out as soon as I took the pump off, I gave up and started cycling. I hoped that there is going to be a bike shop on the way. It was 7am and nothing would be open until 9am anyway.
A few miles in, I cycled over a cattle grid and when I checked my tyre, it was flat. As I turned the bike around to pump it up again, someone was driving past. I had asked the driver if he had a pump for a bike. Of course he did not, but he got out of the car to help me pump it up. As he was taking the pump off the valve, it let all the air out. He told me that there was something wrong with the valve. He kindly searched through his car to find a little screwdriver to poke the valve with. He fixed it and gave me the screwdriver as well. Lovely man. I carried on cycling and the tyre got flat again. My guess is that when I cycled on the half flat tyre, I punctured it. There was only one possible way to fix it. I changed the inner tube, pumped it up and it was fine from then on.
The morning issues with my bike delayed me by a couple of hours and as the sun was exchanged for wind, I was getting tired. I kept walking up the hills. It was early afternoon, It was getting later, and I still had about 40 miles and one mountain range to go. I had no energy and I really wanted to get to my friend in Manchester as early as possible to be able to have a relaxing evening and catch up with my friend. I found myself very anxious about going down hills as well, even though my brakes were working now.
I kept moving and trying to get a lift at least part of the way. Lovely Tony from Ingleton was going mountain biking in the direction I was, so he put my bike in the back of his van and kindly took me over the mountains. I cycled another few miles to Clitheroe where I tried to get help again. It was in the middle of the town so it was harder. However, Craig who was on the way home from school stopped and helped me get another 10 miles closer to my destination. It started raining so I put my waterproofs on and kept going, hoping to catch another lift. As I was cycling up a faster road leaving Clitheroe, there was not much space to pull over, so I did not have much hope. But, I was exhausted so I kept trying to wave down someone else. Peter stopped and asked me if I was ok because he saw me down the road. He had some painting stuff in the back of his car and was going a slightly different direction than I wanted. But, I insisted that I could take my wheel off to fit my bike in and that even a couple of miles would make a huge difference to me. We chatted about life and he kept driving further and further. He told me that he was not actually going that much out of his way so he would drive for a bit longer.
I ended up only about 8 miles and 30 mins cycle from my destination. I was so excited to get to my friend’s house. We ate pizza, cheese toasties, and chips, and chatted through the evening until it was time to go to bed.
I set off around 6am again and enjoyed riding through a quiet Manchester with a beautiful sunrise in sight. I had heard about saddle sore before my cycle but at this point, I was starting to realise why it really is your worst enemy. Just thinking about The Peak District ahead of me made me feel simultaneously excited and exhausted. It was windy, hard and some of the Komoot’s ‘road cycling’ choices looked more like the hardest routes for mountain biking. I had to walk for a few hundred metres and even that was sketchy.
The sky was grey, but the views were so picturesque. The strength of the wind was slowing me down, even walking downhill was a push. Anyway, I did not mind as long as I could hear my podcast. At about 3pm, I was passed the halfway point and the highest point. I felt another wave of energy thinking that without the big elevation, I could totally do it. But, around 5pm, the tiredness hit me hard. Yes, I was travelling on flat ground but I had to constantly push against the wind. Sitting on the saddle was so painful and my back was in agony. I felt broken.
I tried to keep feeding myself, hoping I would be able to keep going. I almost choked on a dried apricot dipped in peanut butter. I tried to hitchhike but no-one would stop. It was Friday afternoon and everyone was heading out to enjoy their weekends away. I tried asking a bus driver if he would take me to Leicester but he said no. I got lost on a big round about and when I asked a passing man for direction, he told me about a train station about 3 miles away where I could get a train to Leicester.
I cycled there and hoped they would take me on the train. There was no ticket office so I jumped on the train. No-one came to ask me for money. When I got off the train in Leicester, I had to squeeze through the barrier with an old man because I did not have a ticket to let me through. He shouted at the conductors something like ‘fare doctor’ or ‘fare dodger.’ When I spoke to them and explained what had happened, all they did was ask me if I was leaving the train station. I said yes, and they told me to keep going. That’s how you get a train ride for free.
I was staying with lovely Mark and Jo who are avid cyclists themselves. I was served a lovely dinner with desert and we talked about their adventures over a cup of tea until it was time to go to bed. 65 miles cycled that day.
The final day. As much as I wanted to have breakfast with Mark and Jo, I had 120 miles to go to get to Norwich. It would have been the same distance to get to London but I made the decision to spend a couple of days resting with Charlie’s family and then take the train to London.
I was beyond exhausted when I woke up. It was a new day though, and the thought of cycling on mostly flat land made me determined to conquer the final leg of the journey. The morning was mostly sunny and I was loving the familiar smell of the English countryside. I was trying to stay positive even though I felt weak and sitting on my bike was painful. From the morning, I fought every mile, keeping a slow pace. Later, I was taking a lot of breaks, almost every couple of miles, and I wanted to cry every time my butt touched the saddle. My back and every part of my body ached. I was not giving up, though. All I thought about was just having to keep moving forward.
I was going through my food leftovers to fuel. I had to chuck a couple of hard boiled eggs away as the smell did not seem right. The burritos I made at home were as soggy as if I had soaked them in water overnight. A bird shat on the back of my hand without me even noticing.
I still kept trying to make it another few miles further but the wind was against me. I would have probably gone faster if I was walking. Eventually, it was about 3pm and I was broken. I picked up the phone and called Charlie’s dad to pick me up. I could not go any further. I got to a little village called Parson Drove and waited for my lift. It was about half the way I had intended to go, but I was sure I had done my absolute best. The evening was spent in the bath, watching David Attenborough’s Tasmania documentary whilst eating a lot of food.
Falling into bed that night felt better than ever.
If you missed the first part of the journey, you can find the posts here.