In the wetJuly 18th, 2015 | Posted by in UK
Chester to Garstang
Distance: 129 km
Watch any TV document in which a celebrity lugs their ailing body from Lands End to John O’Groats for charity and there will inevitably be a segment on the “tough bit” in which they cycle along the A59 in the pouring rain. Trucks splash past. The camera zooms into a close up of their mud-caked legs whirring away. Their socks are soaked. Their teeth gritted.
“The day started grey, desolate and wet. And it didn’t get any better.” That was my Dad’s rather accurate assessment of the day.
We could have enjoyed a nice ride this morning as we cycled through Rock Ferry on the way to catch our ferry across the Mersey. This is where my grandparents and great aunt used to live and where my Dad grew up, so many of the places held memories. “Once I cycled a whole mile along this road without touching the handlebars,” my Dad reminisced, though he wasn’t tempted to repeat his childhood trick on a fully-laden bike in the rain.
Oh, rain. Rain, rain, rain. Plus on a bicycle you get the splash from the puddles, the splosh from the cars and the splattering from the wheel of the cyclist in front.
Waiting for the ferry across the Mersey we caught a small bit of warmth after seeing an inviting sign for cake and coffee. The ferry itself had a very, very loud tannoy which, despite the gloom and wet, boasted loudly of Liverpool’s greatness. Not just home to the Beatles, did you know that Liverpool was once home to the longest floating landing stage in the UK? Now, there’s an achievement.
Out of Liverpool we cycled along the dock road. There was more smell than colour. All around us: grey road, grey trucks, grey concrete, grey industrial blocks and grey sky. The smells told the journey better: adhesives and paint, newly sawn wood, fried food, instant coffee and the Sandon Dock sewage works. We turned onto the bike path along the canal. In the sunshine I could imagine this to be quite nice as moorhens squeaked and plopped into the water. In the rain, we fought with wet cobbles and a damaged pathway that threatened to topple us into the canal.
We meant to follow the canal for a lot further but, erm, there was no path. On the map our path was marked in blue not because it was a Sustrans bike route but because it was a line of water. Oh dear. A bit of last minute re-routing let us to the A59 and our classic TV “rough bit.”
The highlight of the day was halfway down the A59 where I slowed down to give room to a duck and four fluffy ducklings which were waddling down the path on the side of the road.
The lowlight of the day was pushing our bikes the wrong way up the slip road of a busy dual carriageway after the bike path into Preston was closed and we diverted the wrong way.
The wet of the A59 was outdone by the drenching gloom of the A6. It was 6pm as we approached the A6 to Garstang. We’d been on the road for over 10 hours. We were soaking wet. Could barely see beyond the water smears in our glasses (oh, that’s another story… How I lost my contact lenses…) and yet we still had 13 miles to cycle. I downed both my emergency caffeine gel and an emergency mini packet of Haribo, told my Dad to cling onto my back wheel and sped off. Yes, it was rush hour. Yes, three men lent out their car windows to yell abuse. But thankfully the wind whipped away their words and we carried on pedalling.
To add misery to misery we overshot the campsite because there was no sign visible from the way we came, and had to stop in the rain to call for directions. We weren’t grumpy AT ALL by this stage so it was fine, really.
But genuinely, we were relieved to find a nice campsite which – joy of joys – had a breeze block lean-to with hot showers, a dry picnic bench and a kettle. A kettle!!! We erected an indoor washing line to air our garments, drank tea and, hopefully, forgave each other the grumpy moments of the day.
Please pray for sunshine.