hello (from the other side)

If it were an Olympic sport, I would be the English champion of the world when it comes to sleeping.

When I was a young boy, I’m told I slept through Concord flying overhead at an air show. And every time my dad took us out on the boat, I’d find a spot up front and nap as the waves lapped at the hull; the mackerel obligining climbed onto the line, and later under the grill.

As a grumpy teenager, I would sleep until midday; often later.

As a crabby adult, I’d stay in bed all day, if I was allowed. Karen often jokes about me being a hermit.

Did you know Hermit Crabs are nocturnal? Coincidence? I think not.

Days one, two, and three of our trip across Northern England via the Way of the Roses under our belts, Matt and I were finally camping in our new favourite place, Pocklington. ‘Pocky’ to those in the know.

Not long ago, we’d somehow found our way back to our campsite along the darkest road ever, with only my headtorch to guide us. I’d drunkenly brushed my teeth by my tent, not wanting to try my luck searching for the toilet block in the darkness.

The awkwardness of taking my shoes off, removing just the right amount of clothes, and getting into my sleeping bag without pulling my tent down or making enough noise to wake the dead made me smile to myself. A few feet away, Matt was doing something with his crisp packet Thermarest; zips were being unzipped, zips were being zipped up again.

Zip. Zip. Ziiiiip.

My one Achilles’ Heel when it comes to my normally super-human ability to sleep is camping. I’ve never been good at it, even as a boy scout. The last time I’d camped (again in early Spring, again with Matt), I had the world’s most useless sleeping bag, and it was COLD. This time, I had my expensive new hydrophobic down filled bag (which is AMAZING), and it was pretty mild out. But I prepared myself for a sleepless night all the same.

18118862_10155216036832930_8875673534852747995_nIn the morning, I complained to Matt about having not slept at all; convincing myself I’d laid awake for hours listening to Claudia Winkleman on the radio. My vision was blurred, and it felt like someone had been stood on one side of my head all night.

If Matt is to be believed, I was snoring within minutes of all the fumbling and zipping. Loud enough to bother the horses in the neighbouring field, so legend has it. Maybe one of them came and kicked me in the head. It was either that, or we really had drunk that much beer the night before.

The morning had dawned bright, but quickly changed to grey, and we knew from the forecast it was going to be a wet day. Our luck had run out. Still, there was only the ‘Col du Pocklington’ left before a quick bimble into Bridlington, and then the train home.

We packed up, our collective tents disappearing back onto the bikes (I’m always amazed by that somehow) and we headed back into Pocky for breakfast. We spent altogether too long in a lovely cafe, watching the rain fall on our bikes.

What we’d laughingly named the ‘Col du Pocklington’ lived up to a reputation we didn’t give it respect for. Those first few miles were particularly tough; made moreso by my choice to wear full waterproof gear, and Matt’s choice of pain au chocolat for breakfast.

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18157542_10155218382632930_9202975677471055433_nAt the side of an amazing road, I cursed my waterproof trousers and slipped them off, giving the local sheep a great show. I felt much more free, and the going was much easier. The rain wasn’t too bad, and we eased into our old routine of riding side by side on deserted roads through pretty village after pretty village; right up until we took a wrong turn (totally my fault this time) and ended up on the main A166.

Our next target was Driffield, and it was only 9 miles or so on what looked to be a relatively quiet road. Matt reluctantly agreed not to backtrack and we mixed with the traffic. The road surface was good, and the terrain was a mix of false flats and long rollers. I was loving it, but as we traded places at 30mph, I could tell Matt wasn’t. He tore past me and we caught up sometime later in Driffield, trading stories of HGV near misses.

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Nafferton was up next, and we were getting close.

I was getting tired; my mind having convinced itself we were practically home after taking care of the Col. We were close, but not that close.

The roads were still great, and the weather wasn’t bad. We even encountered a considerate BMW driver who made an effort to pull off the road and let us ride through. Miracles do happen.

Finally, we were into the outskirts of Bridlington, and the finish line was (almost) in sight. The final streets seemingly taking us through every single part of Bridlington just kept coming. We caught a glimpse of the sea. We were achingly close, and I was running on a mixture of adrenalin and lemon flavour energy drink.

Matt, the consummate gentleman, waved me ahead to the finish line on the promenade, as old people strolled by in their scarves and hats, looking at us like we must be mad.

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The Garmin said we’d done 181 miles in total, a little over the advertised 170.

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We wanted to sit and look at the sea we’d come so far for. We wanted time to reflect, to tell stories. We wanted to remember the descent into Malham, the Contadoring, the laughing, the freedom, the noises the bikes made.

We wanted fish and chips, dammit.

We also wanted to ride home; either the way we’d come, or down to Hornsea and back via the Trans Pennine Trail.

But we both knew the weather wasn’t going to cooperate. We needed to find the train station, sharpish. Somehow, we managed to get there, buy tickets, and sweet talk the train guards into letting us take the bikes on without reservations with moments to spare.

The scenery that had been our constant companion flashed by through the rain-streaked windows, and we were once again glum. We feasted on a pork pie I’d bought in Pocky, and a packet of fig rolls I’d carried from Manchester.

We said our goodbyes and returned to stupid real life.

Oh, and I still have that Ashima brake disc on the Troll. It got me 10 miles. It got me to the end. It got me home. Much love Moonglu, much love.

Until the next time, my friend.

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