I set out on Saturday morning, around 7am, with three chums. We had a really strong coffee beforehand, then headed out. I took charge of the route out of town, and when we hit the a38 near the airport Graham took over with his Garmin 800. the only problem with this idiot proof plan was that graham had uploaded the wrong route files for the 4 day jaunt. Cue a hasty 15 mile detour to the edge of Taunton, taking in a visit to Steve’s inlaws so that we could get the correct files.
Up until Taunton we made great progress; tacking along at around 17mph; a veritable bunch of cyclo-tourists – brooks, carradice, hewitt, mercian, condor… all present and correct. the only thing we needed to ensure was that an uber-strict media blackout was observed at all times, thus keeping the outcome of the tour under wraps until we got back on tuesday and caught up through the long-play record function of Steve’s cutting-edge, retrofitted steampunk VHS machine. the rule was a simple one: ‘if we talk to no-one then no-one mentions the tour’.
it was a stunning route, taking in the edge of the Mendips, the blackdown hills, before finally climbing up onto dartmoor. After 110 miles we got to Bovey Tracey and stopped to pick up provisions for the evening. this seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight, and only ten minutes later, seemed totally ridiculous. I added a tin of tomatoes, hand of bananas, onion and other assorted items to my carradice. the others did similar, with pasta and other foodstuffs. then we started the longest climb of the day, Haytor Vale, a 3 mile leg-breaker. However, it’s what came after Haytor that did for me, a series of savage undulations, dropping down to Widecombe in the Moor, before finally ending at Bellever, pretty much in pieces, chewing stem and sunken of eye.
we ate pasta and drank ale at the hostel. graham was happy to cook in his lycra, such was his hunger, but the wild laughter of a german family put paid to his plan. there were german families at each of the hostels we stayed in. youth hostels are wondrous things, but in contrast, youth hostel bunk beds are utterly horrible.
The figures for the day tell the story more succinctly: 122 miles, 15mph average, 9000 feet of climbing. it’s odd how all sense of distance becomes subtly warped by the amount of mileage; after having done 70 miles i remember being strangely pleased that there was only a further 50 to go, as though it was a short hop in the big ring back from the shops.