Mrs. Wow and I were in two minds about setting off for the ride this morning. Hers and mine. She was all rationality: “Where’s the sense in driving over 300 miles so that we can cycle about thirty, when the weather forecast tell us that we’re odds on to be drowned out?” I was all optimism: “Well, we’ve been lucky before… I grant you we’ll probably get a bit wet, but we’ll meet some lovely people, we’ll see a bit of the country we don’t know, and we’ll have a good lunch.”
We left home around 7.15 and rolled into Sutton Park shortly after 10 o’clock. The only event of any note on the way up occurred on the M1 when a motorcyclist pulled alongside our car and waved to me in slow motion. It took a while for the penny to drop: it was Charlotte!
We must have been pretty well the last to arrive. We had scarcely got out of the car when a lycra clad gent with strong Brummy accent greeted me and shook me by the hand. “Didge” said he. The inestimable Mr. Didge, aka Charlie. We meet at last!
There were others whose existence we had only previously witnessed electronically: Si (main ride organiser), Docsquid, Clarion, Pagan, Elleigh (came to wave us off), Mr & Mrs Pike, Windy, Paul, mas051 plus others whose names I will inevitably forget. Apologies to all – worn-out brain syndrome (WOBS). Of those I had met before, there was Vicky, Charlotte (that awful Charlotte!), The First Two Things, Zipperhead & Son, AlanS and Alchemy (flying visit). There were 10 tandems (one with a complete crew substitute at half-time), two pretty standard (but high quality) touring bikes, Didge’s splendid Viking Fixie, the recumbent that Charlotte had borrowed for the day and a very interesting concoction made out of a mountain bike frame and a park bench which Johnny Thin rode. He arrived at the lunch stop and accompanied us back to Sutton Park.
As parks go, Sutton park is very impressive. It’s big: probably not as much as a square mile, but it can’t be much less. There are lakes, trees and lots of the other stuff that urban parks are renowned for, but on a large scale. The first mile or more of our ride took place within the park, but then we were out on (almost) open roads. Little Aston looked plush – we didn’t see any houses because they were all set back too far from the road. Thereafter we took a fairly meandering route to the lunch stop, mostly on country lanes with a plethora of bovine evidence about them, but with a couple of busy road crossings thrown in. At one point we saw a buzzard and Vicky I think it was pointed out a second, but my eyesight wasn’t up to that one.
Charlotte had to do a bit of luggage adjusting ( ) and we took the opportunity to find out which of our wheels was rubbing. It turned out that we were losing a great deal of power because the front wheel wasn’t seated properly. A quick flick and back with the quick release skewer and out bike went a lot faster, or, more accurately, went at the same pedestrian speed much more easily.
Lunch was excellent. Not many people went for the starter, but I did: mushroom and cheese with a bit of salad. Tim & I opted for the bangers & mash main course, and the toffee pudding for afters, washed down with plenty of tea. There was a good deal of variety and forummers selected a fair cross-section of what was on offer.
Then we were on our way back again, by a considerably shorter route than on the way out. I made the entire journey 33 miles. Once back at the start, there were photographs, some silliness involving a recumbent which involved Windy sitting in a puddle, but most importantly there was a very large black cloud heading northward and, having had the luck and the dry weather, we were keen to get in the car before the heavens opened.
We had scarcely left the park when the rain started. It was heavy and lasted at least half an hour, by which time we were on the A14.
Charlotte shows her class.
Family Clarion & Windy at lunch.
More ACFers at lunch.
Keeping the faeries at bay. This dance is clothing optional.
A collection of tandems.
Didge shows his class.