One of the things I love most about cycle touring is seeing a country and a landscape change. To see it shift from one region to another and observe the geology and nature transform mile by mile.
Today the swoop down the hill into Taunton marked the change from the densely-packed contours of Devon to the smoother terrain of Somerset. The long, smooth, wet road hissed under the bike wheels as we freewheeled down the hill, hunched over our handlebars as our waterproofs flapped in the wind.
It rained all morning. My mood was brightened by the discovery of salted pretzels. Once upon a time, my heart belonged entirely to M&Ms but then, half way around my Ironman marathon, I started eating pretzels and I’ve been in love ever since. Who cares if it’s grey and rainy, I have pretzels!
For lunch we cowered under a very large sheltered picnic table. I usually spend a great amount of time while touring fretting about the dampness of my tent, so I was feeling slightly smug about the fact my tent was flapping dry in the wind despite the fact it was raining. But then the wind picked up. And then, specifically, the wind picked up my pretzels and scattered them on the floor. That was, what you might call, a Low Moment.
The leg warmers went back on. They are partly for warmth, partly for protection, but mostly for morale. My mum gave me some good bike touring advice: “do whatever you need to do to not be miserable”. It is good advice, because it makes you focus on what is making you miserable (my tent is wet, I’m hungry, my pretzels are on the floor) and it helps you find the solution.
I scooped the pretzels off the floor. Who cares, I ate them. My tent dried out. We cycled on.
Slowly the sun emerged as the clouds parted and the Somerset hills flattened. We headed across the Somerset levels. On our right I spotted Glastonbury Tor which stood, shimmering with light, as the sun broke through the clouds. Are we here already? The shape of the landmark is unmistakable. Only a few months ago, I’d come to Cheddar for a weekend of walking and cheese. And here I was, again. It seems unreal that this morning I was in a green, rainy Devon and this evening I go to bed with a clear, crisp sky opposite the face of Cheddar gorge.