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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Coast to Coast - Day One

At 5am on Monday morning seven Anglo Mules and our driver congregated around our 14 seater minibus . It was comforting to know that the capacity of our carriage was greater than our requirement on account of our luggage.

I was the clear winner of the heaviest load and it was suggested that I ought to be accompanied to the local weigh bridge by 'abnormal load' out -riders.

The humour was not totally lost on me as the 0.9 mile journey from my home to the pick up point usually a sedate affair demanded the lowest cog of my triple chain set.

When stationary it was similar to handling a large motor cycle, unless the bike was balanced upright there was the perpetual threat of toppling over with the ensuing crushed legs and bruised ego.

With no cycle rack or luggage space available it was always going to be a challenge to arrange the bikes inside the vehicle. Thankfully the collective minds of years of high level decision making soon came up with a solution.

The side door was slid open, the bikes minus panniers where randomly thrown in and then the vehicle was rocked from side to side.

Once the bikes had settled all the panniers were scattered evenly on top with a layering of blankets.

This successful recipe created the availability of 2 spare seats up front and 5 in the rear, which was all that was required. The bikes took up the rest.

I sat next to Dave our driver and old friend who had set up his own transport business after retirement.

On our three hour journey to Morecambe I was intrigued to know who had previously used these seats and subsequently heard the Confessions of a Mini bus driver.

I listened in awe as one of the tales included him hearing the sound of a rattle from the rear of the bus.

The sound emerged 20 minutes after dropping a family off at a local airport and belonged to a baby who had been left behind. By the time Dave had got back to the airport and found his errant passengers they had not even noticed the void in the pushchair !!!!!!

After hearing all the tales it was apparent that our bikes fared well in both style and behavioural ratings, however they scored badly in their conversational ability.

We got to Morecambe at about 9 am and were greeted with a strong chilly north westerly blowing off the sea and making us all dash for our coats, whilst smiling at the prospect of a tail wind.

We soon set off down the banks of the River Lune towards the imposing Ingleborough on the distant horizon which is one of Yorkshires highest peaks. This was our gateway to Settle and onto the Yorkshire Dales. The Roses Way cycle route was well sign posted and tracked a route along cycle paths and beautiful country lanes. Alarmingly this also included a section from Clapham to Wharfe which was soon daubed 'boulderville' It consisted of a green lane which ran through a darkened tunnel and along a mountainside. Although it was outstandingly beautiful and offered zero traffic, It also presented a higher risk of punctures, broken bones and broken bikes. If you have a mountain bike fine but for tourers or road bikes great caution is required and if its wet I would strongly avoid.
The climb out of Settle would have been extremely challenging if unladen on my carbon road bike, but fully laden on my tourer it was always going to be a tough ask. I had previously descended this beast during the white rose classic so knew of its perils.

In the early part of the climb I had settled on steady but slow tempo, my only chance.

One of my fellow Mules gratefully overtook me whereupon I politely advised him that he should keep his powder dry.

Some 100 meters later around the bend I overtook him. He had dismounted his bike with his legs trembling like a worried dog. No dry powder I noted. I managed to get two thirds of the way up before I realised that I was running out of places to dismount gracefully. Seeing a gateway ahead, breaking the line of dry stone walling I sensed a lifeline. Instinctively I aimed my slow moving crawler right at its heart and launched myself onto its horizontal bars.

Pushing my load up the remainder of this MOUNTAIN was no bed of Roses (Pardon the Pun). If the summit had not arrived when it had I was about to jettison everything but my wallet, water and wristwatch to lighten the load.After a short rest and saturation of panoramic brilliance my spirits where lifted and my heart rate able to drop to a sustainable level. More importantly the panniers were undisturbed.

With the prospect of fine food, ale and rest we pressed on to Grassington and the Forrester's Arms. I love using my blog to promote cafes, places of interest and hostelries but The Forrester's Arms found no favour with me. The staff were rude and unfriendly and Id rather eat my food in a public latrine. Resourcefully we still sourced fine food and ale before closing our weary eyes on our first day.

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