Updated: Sep 6
Yesterday before we had even finished the fantastic Tissington Trail I had already begun to feel the pang of regret that the adventure was coming to an end. Today Rachel understood this. As we rode into our home town of Warwick she asked "but what will we do tomorrow?” *. Like it had only just occurred to her that the whole thing was over. I felt like this after both my previous long trips. The enjoyment of having nothing to do every day except think about riding your bike is wiped out by the reality of having to go back to work and the knowledge that it will likely be months before you can do this type of trip again. Of course this is familiar to anyone with a passion, it is not exclusive to cyclists. What normally makes this worse is that the final day inevitably involves riding through more built up areas with all that goes with that.
We started our final morning in Ashbourne and for the hundredth fucking time I decided that I knew better than Garmin/Komoot/Strava and picked a short cut to get to the start of our route. Twenty minutes later we finally joined the route after riding through a camp site and farmer's fields. Why do I do this to myself (and others)? Why can't I just stick with the route I'm given? Inevitably all that happens is that get lost, lose my temper and ride around in a foul mood. Rachel was very forgiving of my directionless twattery, perhaps because she was onto her tenth bout of road rage for the week after a couple of unnecessarily close passes.
The ride to Etwall was pleasent enough if unspectacular. It was followed by a particularly crappy section to Burton upon Trent through housing estates. Even the cafe stop there didn’t lift our mood and we had mostly ridden in silence. Post coffee though the morning was saved by a nice section of trail roads through The National Forest. The weather joined in and we rode along in the sunshine, although Rachel was feeling tired and sore from days and hours in the saddle with little preparation. We were stopping more frequently and it felt like the day was dragging on. This was not helped by reaching Leicestershire then Warwickshire. Road signs with familiar place names started to appear. I think in many ways this makes things tougher. You are closer to home, but still have hours to go. No sooner had we seen a sign for Market Bosworth, a town I had been to many times, then we saw another for a cyclists cafe. We decided to follow it and discovered it was at man made lake that we had both swum in over 10 years ago when we were triathletes. We couldn’t resist the temptation to go off route for a trip down memory lane. In the decade since we last visited the lake has become a Mecca for chavs and it now had a funfair where it used to have a scout camp. It was like a JD Sports summer camp. Judgemental I know, but its odd when something jars so much with your memory of it.
Very little improved from that point onwards as we rode on through Nuneaton, Bedworth and Coventry, three places are best glimpsed from the window of a fast moving train rather than a slow moving bicycle. Even the section of canal we rode failed to cheer us up and that normally works a treat. Perhaps it was our close proximity to the end or just the Chernobyl-10-years-later scenery that was affecting our mood. The final 10km put us back on the most familiar of roads and there was some pleasure to be had in that, even though by now Rachel was fading noticeably. Today turned about to be the longest in distance although the shortest in elevation gained during the whole trip. She has been simply amazing and has every justification to be tired out. This trip was a big effort for me and I had prepped for it. She has made it through some days just through force of will alone. We had a double finish in Warwick, so that I could give this ride a new name and the second time outside our house where two of our children were holding up a finish line tape and our son in law videoed it. It was a lovely touch.
For now I am too tired to share the final numbers and reflections. I will do that tomorrow and Rachel has promised she will finally write a word or two.
* 10 points to you if you guessed my answer was “I am going for a bike ride"