August 31, 2012, by David Greenaway

The VC’s Life Cycle 2 Blog: Day 7 – Annan to Kirkby Lonsdale

Normal service has been resumed, four punctures today, one each for Kate, Andy, Chris R and Steve.

There were also a number of mechanical failures. It is not only us riders that are taking a bit of a battering on consistently rough roads, some close to being corrugated. The bikes are suffering too and the Support Team are working overtime in keeping them roadworthy.

Blog duties meant I was again late in setting off, but Andy and Nick held back and waited for me. We set off from Annan in overcast and chilly conditions and picked up all the other riders bar Chris R in Carlisle. At one point there were actually eleven of us snaking through the city.

The first 20 miles or so was fairly easy riding through the floodplains of the Solway, then the climbing began. We had settled on Lazonby, at 35 miles for the first stop. But it had nothing to offer beyond a Co-op and a pub whose landlord told us bluntly that food would not be available until midday.

We asked advice from a passing motorist. She was on her way with a stock of sandwiches to the Ravenbridge Stores in Kirkoswald. So me, Chris J, Karen, Kate and Penelope diverted there; Gavin, Andy, Neville, Steve, Nick and Mike decided to get what they could from the Co-op and press on.

The Ravenbridge Stores is a classic village shop with everything. The three ladies who run it (one of whom was from Chris J’s home village) sold us sandwiches, made us tea and coffee and heated pies in the house’s microwave. A bit of make-do, but we left warmed up and fuelled up.

In the meantime we learned Chris R had had a tumble in Penrith. I am not sure why he was there, since it was not on the route, but he was. He spotted a bike shop and decided to have his bike tuned up. In turning to get there he fell of and wrecked his derailleur. (That’s not me speaking French by the way, that’s the name of a bit of the gear system). Chris was fine, but his tune up now extended to a major repair.

From Lazonby, Karen, Kate, Penelope, Chris J and me headed due south, through Langwathby and the serious climbing started, culminating at Shap where we reached almost 1,200 feet, the highest point of the day (though not the journey, that comes tomorrow). It was a clear day and there were stunning views from the top, including Hartside which is a 2,000 feet climb that has to be faced on ‘Coast to Coast’.

After Shap, we had a fast descent to Tebay. I always associate this name with M6 motorway services. But now I know there is a lovely village behind the services, with the Old School House Café which serves great food and has a well-stocked shop, where Sebastian bought us a lucky horseshoe.

Notwithstanding the fact we were in the eastern lakes and heading in to the dales, I naively thought our serious climbing was done for the day and the last 25 or so miles would be mostly downhill. It was actually a punishing end to the day. Beautiful terrain, but rather than long slow climbs and equally long descents, it was a relentless up and down.

Everyone was in Kirkby Lonsdale by six and tonight we were joined by a number of family and friends. Two of my oldest and closest friends, Dave and Mary Sapsford live in Kirkby, so Susan took the opportunity to visit them and all three joined us for dinner. So too did Kate’s father in Law, John and his friend Joan, and Steve’s partner Jenny. It was great to see them all.

Now for a cautionary tale how blind faith in technology can fail you. No it is not Chris J and his Garmin (though that had its moments today).

Some of us loaded Google Latitude, an app which gives you the location of other riders in a group in real time. When Chris R was leaving Penrith he checked to see where other riders were. To his amazement Chris J had overtaken him while he was in the bike shop. He was about half a mile ahead. Affronted, Chris R set off to reel him in. After a few miles of riding at full pelt, Chris J still seemed to be ahead and if anything, was stretching the gap between them.

Chis R could not work out what was going on. He pedalled harder. This went on for 18 miles and he finally seemed to have gunned him down in Tebay. But, when he got there Chris J was nowhere to be seen. However our minibus was, and in the minibus was Chris J’s broken phone with Google Latitude still switched on!

Accomplishment of the day: well, it has to be Chris R finally running down the minibus.

Team of the day: the easy thing to do is give this to the Support Team; Simon, Paul, Sebastian and Barry were everywhere. But it must go to the Garmin Team, Karen and Chris J for their complete inability to coordinate the readings from their machines.

Quote of the day: when Kate had her puncture just before we hit Shap, her reaction was ‘Oooh, I think this might be the first puncture I have ever had. I’ve got the tools to fix it, but I’m not sure what to do with them. Oh, and I have got a pump that goes in and out’.

Finally, with four punctures, who gets the pink bell? It had to be the last one recorded, in distance not time. So it goes to Andy, and he seems pretty chuffed.

Another 84 miles clocked up with almost 6,000 feet climbed today. Our total mileage is now 545. We are exactly half way in days and almost exactly half way in miles.  Bodies are creaking, but spirits remain high.

At 71 miles tomorrow’s run to Wetherby is shorter than recent days, but with more climbing.

Professor David Greenaway


Posted in Life Cycle 2