You know those black and white films, on a station platform in a cloud of smoke, a lady gracefully steps down from the carriage and emerges through the haze. A vision. Smiling radiantly, hair perfectly coiffed and dress dancing in the breeze. Meeting Miranda off the train was just like that. Except in Bangor. With slightly less smoke. I was a bit concerned she didn’t realise this was a cycling trip.
In contrast I was stinking after cycling nearly 100km in 26 degree heat, with my entourage of dead insects now permanently stuck to my face. People probably thought she was doing some kind of voluntary work with a homeless person.
We cycled back to our bunkhouse as the sky turned through a cycle of orange, pink and red in the last light from the summer sun. I took a photo of Miranda but tactfully deleted any of myself.
I mean travelling with Miranda is like travelling with a VIP. Take our arrival at James Street train station for instance. Unbelievable though it may be, there are no lifts at this particular station. After discovering this at the foot of a flight of stairs I heaved my bike and luggage onto my shoulder (by this is mean a few inches off the floor) and slowly dragged it up every sodding step. Upon arrival at the next level I found some station staff. Rather then being impressed at my amazing show of physical prowess they looked over my shoulder to see Miranda flapping around with her bags at the bottom. She was quickly descended upon by an army of willing volunteers who carried her bike and bags not only up the stairs but accompanied her into the lift and all the way out the station.
‘Don’t worry about me, I’m fine’, I said to anybody who was listening. Which was noone.
The following day we set off for the summit of Snowdon after a slap up breakfast at the legendary Pete’s Eats. Famous for selling tea by the pint. We were so impressed by the establishment that we went there for dinner too.
After the ordeal that was Carrantoohill I was hoping for an easier ride this time round. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and it wasn’t long before we were in the could again. We had chosen a popular route on bank holiday weekend and set off surrounded by people of all shapes and sizes, children, dogs and a man who looked like he’d got lost on his way to the office in suit trousers and a shirt. However the cloud was so thick that we were soon lost in a spooky world, haunted by the voices of our fellow hikers and the occasional chugging of a ghost train but completely unable to see anything but ourselves.
The visibility was so poor we were concerned we might not find the summit. We needn’t have worried. After a while a line of people snaked out of the gloom. There was no doubt about it, it was the hallmark of Britishness, an orderly queue! Despite not being able to see what they were queuing for people just couldn’t stop themselves from joining the slow shuffle. Turns out they were queuing for the summit selfie. I’m not sure why as the non-existent view was the same in all directions. We snuck around the back for a quick pic then headed down as quickly as possible.
The next day we felt the call of the ocean and headed for the line where the sky meets the sea. From there we kept the sea to our left and cruised along to Liverpool for a lovely stay with Miranda’s auntie and uncle who had made possibly the best curry in the world.
Further north in Lancaster we were reunited with Maria who had popped back to Bristol for a short holiday from her holiday. Many of you will remember Penny who I have done a lot of cycling with in the past, her passion for trains and constant commentary on the compliance of rail bridges with the EU regulations. Well this trip train trivia has been replaced by wind turbines from Maria our resident wind expert who has been having a field day with the amount of turbines we’ve seen over the country. Regularly stopping for a quick pic you can imagine her excitement when we passed a lorry carrying one of the huge blades. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to tell me about the serrated trailing edge and to see one close up.
Next stop on our journey was the lake district and Scafell Pike. We approached from the stunning Langdale valley and as we climbed were afforded views of the fields covered with a tangle of stone walls and flanked on both sides by rocky ridges and shear scree slopes. Before long however the clouds captured us again, stealing our view and our morale.
‘Someone up there has got it in for me’, I cursed.
We trudged on for another hour before our luck changed again and the clouds cleared. Convinced it wasn’t going to last long we practically ran to the summit and revelled in the panoramic views which actually lasted all afternoon.
Now I would like to take a moment to pay my respects to the north. As soon as we hit Lancaster we have had day after day of beautiful cycling, plenty of sunshine and endless pie shops. It really is a cycling heaven.
This afternoon we reached Scotland. I was expecting it to start raining as soon as we crossed the border. Much to my delight the sun continued to shine although we did face a monster headwind for the final 8 miles. The three of us pulled together and took it in turns to lead the pack, constantly switching who was in front in order to give the others break. Elated and exhausted we arrived in Annan. We started this journey as individuals but rode into Scotland as a team.
This journey is in aid of Young Bristol. Please donate if you haven’t already!