Friday, June 30, 2017

June 30 2017 Dearne Valley (Barnsley) to York

It had stopped raining yesterday evening and it looking like the sun was starting to show through.  So it was promising to be a fun day on the trails.  Once on the trails I was quite pleased to see how much they had dried out.  Where the path was paved and tree lined the leaf litter was still wet and slippery.  Where the path wasn’t paved the water had soaked into the gravel.   The new Garmin was working perfectly and the big mud flaps where keeping what spray there was off me.  
We started down the Trans Pennine Trail.   The path behind the hotel was an old rail line with a general slight downhill trend so we were just flying along.   By time we hit mile 15 (24 kms) we were down a canal path.  This path was paved so again we made good time.   The clouds had started to build and at one point it looked like it was about to start raining so we pulled on rain jackets.  This chased the rain off.   The trail took us across and old abandon airfield and this was the only rough section of the day and it was only a couple of miles.
Before we knew it we were in Selby where we met Agnes for lunch.  The sky had darkened and rain was eminent. So we had a quick sub and while we ate lunch the rain started but it was short lived and it quit just as we were getting ready to head out.   About 2 miles out of town we had a short rough section of path and were just flying down this narrow little path which was pretty rough when Patrick broke his chain.  This is a brand new bike with less than 800 miles (1300 kms).  We were able to push the pin out and shorten the chain by a couple of links which means Patrick can’t get into a couple of his gears, however as we have two rest days in York he can get a new chain fitted. 
The last few miles down a paved rail line flew by and before we knew it we were in York and alongside our home for the next two days.  We are staying in a luxury canal boat which is right down town York. The Motor Vessel Till is the oldest operating vessel on the river and was built in 1910     as a freight barge to haul beans to the chocolate factories in York.  Now it is a luxury house boat.   It is just down from the British Rail Museum which is the largest rail museum in the world.   It is reported that it takes a month to see it.  Agnes and I will spend one day.  

What a great day!  We had a great route down a lot of paved pathways.  The 60 miles (100 kms) just flew by.  The new Garmin worked great.  The new mud flaps kept me nice and dry.  We landed in a beautiful home for the next few days.  Agnes and Jos cooked us a great supper.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

June 29, 2017 Buxton to Barnsley

It poured all of last night and it was still pouring this morning.  The wind was straight out of the north and into our faces.  The weather service was saying it as 50 F (10C) but it sure felt about 10 degrees colder.  So as we sat facing each other this morning there was a lot of discussion around the course and the weather conditions.  The ride was a 50 mile (80 Kms) ride with the first 30 miles (50 kms) half rolling ups and downs and the last 20 miles(30 kms) losing 900 feet (275 m) which was just under 1%.  The only unfortunate part was that 80% of the course was on unpaved trails.  This meant that with this much rain the course was going to be one huge slippery mud hole.  My feeling was that we would be lucky to average 6 mph (10km/hr), including stops, lunch etc so this was going to be an 8-9 hr ride. 

Bottom line was we decided to go see the National Heritage Site of Quarry Bank Mills, instead.  Quarry Bank Mills is one of the best Britain’s best industrial heritage sites.  It is a cotton mill which was built in 1790 at the start of the industrial revolution.  The mill is persevered in original condition with a 67 hp water wheel which drove the mill. The mill operated through 1910.  It is by far the largest water wheel I have ever seen. It is approximately 30 ft in diameter and 40 feet wide.  Inside were all the different machines needed to take the raw cotton bales and turn it into cotton cloth.  While only a few were running it was pretty loud and when all 320 looms where running back at the height of production it was deafening.  In fact that was the major.  Later steam engines were installed and they had two of the original steam engines running.  A large walking beam engine and a smaller although more power full horizontal cylinder engine.  After walking through the mill we went on a guided tour of the apprentice quarters.  There were 90 child apprentices who worked in the mill.  The children were indentured at age 9 for a period of 10 years.  The conditions were harsh to say the least.  However they were fed, clothed, and given a rudimentary education.  It was a page right out of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations when Pip was indentured. 

After the mill tour we jumped back in the van and drove down to Barnsley where we are staying.  The rain was still pouring down and it was pretty nasty looking out there.  We passed a couple of places where the bike trail crossed the road and it looked like a total swamp.   Never the less it was beautiful country side and I was sorry to be missing the ride.  Jos wanted to jump out and go but got voted down. I was glad to be in the nice warm van. 

On the way into town Jos spotted a Halfords Cycle and Sports shop.  After checking in I looked and they had a Garmin Explore 820 for 244 Pounds ($450 Cdn) which was $80 cheaper than I could have gotten it in Canada.  So after checking into our hotel we hurried straight over there.  They also had these big mud guard fenders on sale for 14 Pounds. 

Tomorrow is 60 miles (100 kms) in to York where we are staying in this luxury house boat.

New Garmin (Maps and courses already installed), new mud guard fenders and it has quit raining.  I am pumped to get back out there!


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 28, 2017 Hilton to Buxton

As I mentioned yesterday Jos got a flat from a thorn which we could not dig out.  So this morning Jos’ tire is flat and low and behold so is my front tire.  It took only a few seconds to find that I too had picked up a thorn.  I dug in my sewing kit and came up with a seam riper which I used to dig out the thorn from my tire and Jos’ tire.  
The weather report was really bad and the BBC was issuing a heavy rain fall warning.  It was coming down pretty heavy alright but rain has never really scared me off.  We pulled on the numerous layers of rain gear and I mounted my clip on fenders.  This proved much more difficult than it did at home when I test fitted them however the bike was on the stand and this was kneeling down in the pouring rain.   
After fixing tires messing with what clothes to wear and fender messing about we were off.  The trail we road in on had turned from a nice packed dirt trail to a slippery mud hole.  Within a couple of miles we were totally covered in mud.  My clip on fenders are packed with mud and I have to take them off.  So now I am really getting pasted.   After about five miles my Garmin quit working as it seems to have developed leak and the screen has a bubble of water under it.   Maybe I can dry it out.

There were a ton of really steep hills and it is raining harder than ever.  The wind has picked up and is now a 15 -20 mph straight into our face.   I have to stay right behind Jos and Patrick as I don’t have any navigation, which means I have to work a lot harder than I normally would as I usually let them sprint on ahead and then catch them at the next turn.   
At mile 15 the lightening starts so we decided that we would load bikes and sag into Buxton and have a nice hot meal. Another 25 miles (40 kms) in this just didn’t make sense.   By the time bikes are loaded we are all shivering as it is only 50 F (10 C). 
Tonight’s B&B is a lovely Edwardian Town house just on the edge of downtown Buxton.  We have beautiful main floor rooms (not on the fourth story).  It is really surprising how your perspective changes once you get a hot show and a hot meal into you.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June 27, 2017 East Kennett to Hilton

We were packed and on the road at 7:55 AM this morning which is a record.  I was totally blown away at how organized we were.  I think that none of us were really looking forward to a day in the drizzle which was forecast.  It was quite dark and even though only the odd drop was coming down, back home this would have been a major rain storm coming in.   
Twenty twenty hindsight I should have looked at the departure route a little closer.  It seemed pretty straight forward up the road and take the first right.  However once we got out there it wasn’t that simple and we messed around for thirty minutes trying to find the route. There was about 5 or 6 lefts and rights and down unders before we found the path out of Stratford Upon Avon.  
Once on the road the odd drop turned into a steady rain so we stopped to put on rain coats.  This was a really smart move as almost as soon as we donned rain coats the rain abated.   Over the years I have found that this is the very best way to get the rain to quit.  Last rain of the day – Yahoo!  
The first site was the Warwick castle.  It wasn’t open so we took pictures through the fence.  However kind of disappointing as the Warwick castle is now a theme park.  Warwick castle was originally laid out by William The Conquer in 1068.  There was a long way to go so off we went.
The first 27.5 miles (44kms) were generally up hill. There were a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns and even a couple of which “way does the course go?” episodes.  However at the end of the 30 miles we were at Coventry.  A lot of Coventry was destroyed in WWII by bombing so a large industrial city has grown up.  This meant lots of big busy roads and lots of traffic.   The route took us through the center of Coventry as it would have been miles to ride around it.  This gave us a chance to see the famous Lady Godiva statue which is in the downtown square. 
From downtown Coventry we accessed a canal path and followed it for around 15 miles (25 kms). This canal path was not nearly as nice as the one we rode the other day.  It had a lot of floating garbage in it, and all the bridge over passes were covered in graffiti.  Of the 15 mile probably less than 1 mile was paved and this was only in little segments on either side of harbours.  The rest was really rough and narrow. The actual riding surface being at times only a foot or so wide.   This really slowed us down as the best we could do was around 6 mph (10 kms/hr).    
At one point along the path a family of swans had taken over the path and were not going to let us pass.  The big male got his wings up and was threatening us.  However we dismounted and keeping the bikes between us and the swans carefully picked our way around them.   You can’t blame them as this was their home and they were protecting their family of 4 cygnets.  
A little further along the path Jos got a flat which was caused by a thorn.  His tires are big thick cyclo cross tires and the thorn went right through.  So try as we might we could not get it out.  No amount of digging or pulling was going to remove it. So it wound up being broken off and a big heavy boot was placed inside the tire.  Ok that cost us close to an hour.  I think it fixed it but Jos must have stopped a dozen times on the rest of the ride saying I think my tire is going down.   I understand how he felt as I have been in that position many times ridding along on what is not a perfect fix.
The last 33 miles of today’s ride was down a mix of paved and gravel paths, country lanes and busy roads.  However they at least were relatively uneventful. 
So we arrived in Hilton at 5:30 pm after what has to be one of the hardest, roughest and longest (9 hr 30 minutes) 75 miles (120 kms) I have ever ridden. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

June 26 2017 East Kennett to Stratford on Avon

Today was probably very close to the ideal bike ride.   It started with a fabulous breakfast in the Old Forge B&B.   The weather was cool but not too cool that you wanted to start with warmers, just right.  Following the idea that we were riding roads without a center line we were down a lot of small secondary roads and lanes and a few bike trails.  As an added benefit we were riding through the Cotswold area which is considered to be one of the most beautiful areas.  It has rolling hills with beautiful green pastures and hills, lots of quaint villages and magnificent manor houses. 
We had lots of fun cruising along through the rolling hills.  Of course when I saw rolling hills doesn’t mean no steep hills as that is the down side of smaller roads, there are always lots of steep pitches.  I think that there were a least five major climbs to day and all of them in the second half of the day.   Several of them hit 15% and all of them were in the 2-5 mile (3-8 kms) range.   None of them were really terrible but certainly a few of them had me huffing and puffing. 
One of the good things about the ride today was there wasn’t a lot of really rough road.  The off road bike paths which are not paved and rough really take their toll.  When you can only ride at 6-7 mph (10-12 kms/hr) so you can’t cover much ground. Plus you are riding as hard as you can so it is really exhausting.  The last 6 miles into town was down rails to trails path which wasn’t paved but it was hard packed dirt.  There hasn’t been any rain here for a while so the path had about 0.5 inches of dust on it.  So the bikes are just covered in dirt.  It would have been a total mud bath if there had of been a normal amount of rain.  The dust is easy to deal with.
The path took us right into the backdoor of Stratford of Avon and to our apartment.  We are in a very nice modern apartment right on the corner of the main street of Stratford on Avon.    It has a roof top patio which overlooks the downtown.  Shakespeare’s house is four doors down the road.  This place just reeks of history.  The window of the shop next door has Yorick in the window.  We ate supper in a pub which has been in constant business since 1600 and the place down the street says it is the oldest pub in Stratford on Avon.  I am sure that the next few days are going to be filled with bad Shakespeare jokes. 
Agnes stopped and visited a Roman villa which was built in 200 AD and was in operation through 400 AD.  She also stopped and visited a couple of manor homes.  The pictures look really fantastic.  I will try and make a couple of picture posts of some of her pictures when I get a chance to process some of them. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

June 25 2017 Bath to East Kennett

Today’s ride had kind of a scary profile in that it looked like there was huge climb in the middle.  Unless you happen to be the owner of a Garmin 1000 you cannot get the total climb until the end of the ride so as I only have a Garmin 800 it looked like a scary climb. 
Jos had laid out a quick exit from Bath down a canal tow path.  However before we got to it we had to take a couple of other roads and as I was in the back I took what my Garmin said was the right route.  As it turned out there were two parallel routes and Jos and Patrick took the easy one and I took the one with all the stairs.  They stopped and waited then turned around and came back in the mean time I passed them on the other route and was headed down the canal path.  We traded texts and I stopped and waited. The canal path started paved and turned to crushed stone and by time we a few miles out it was pretty rough going.  It was kind of scary as we were bouncing down the path which had gotten narrower and narrower.  I was afraid that one wrong bounce and I would wind up in the canal.  While they are only 4-5 feet deep I didn’t fancy doing for a dip in what looked like really green muddy water.
The big hill turned out to be a series of 29 locks which carried the canal boats up a hill.  So it turned out to be a not a big deal but kind of fun watching the locks in action. 
Today was a big touring day as well as we stopped to visit Stonehenge.  One of the tour highlights.  Jos had booked tickets for us on our National Heritage memberships so we walked past a huge line up and got on the bus from the visitor center out to Stonehenge.  It was quite impressive to see this monument which was constructed 5000 years ago.  Well that isn’t quite true.  The circle was constructed in 3000 bc and then was add to over the next 1300 years.  The big stones which we associate with Stonehenge we actually add in 1700 BC.  Still very impressive. You would wonder how people in the late Stone Age period could transport stones weighing 40 tons 240 kms and then set them up and align them with the summer and winter solstice.  Alien intervention not withstanding.  I guess it was the same as it is now; “If I can get you to work like a slave for me for free so that I can wear the big hat. Great” 
A little further down the road is Avebury.  It is a much larger Neolithic site.   It started as a circle back in 5000 BC as a 30 ft (9 M) deep trench with a diameter of 10,000 ft (3 kms).  All of the earth and chalk was piled to the outside to form a huge berm around the outside.  Then over the next 3000 years thousands of standing stones were added to the inner rings.  These stone range from small (a few feet high) to very large. The stones at Avebury are all the local Sarin Sandstone.  Stonehenge is constructed of the local Sarin Sandstone for the outer ring but the inner ring is constructed with the large granite stones which were hauled in    The surrounding landscape is surrounded by burial mounds most of which have not been not be excavated but are quite large.  Unlike Stonehenge you can walk right up to the stones and touch them.  At Stonehenge you are not allowed to get within 200 feet of the stones, although today there was some sort Druid ceremony going on in the circle and it was filled with worshipers. Apparently if you are a Druid you can get special permission to have a ceremony in the inner circle.  
Tonight we are in “The Old Forge B&B”which is a cozy spot in East Kennett.  It is a long way into town so Agnes and I were hungry jumped in the van a drove into Marlborough which is an interesting town as it has a very wide main street which serves a market square.