What a day! Tasker rocked up at our stopover in Kingswood on his lovely looking carbon framed Cube and in his Welsh dragon shirt. Apparently this was to offset the fact I was bypassing Wales on my trip, but for whatever reason an extra layer would help him later when the heavens opened. We set off in the direction of Hawkesbury Upton, winching ourselves up the winding hill and it was soon clear to me that Tasker’s recent foray into the world of road riding had come with a good slice of RacePace – he wasn’t giving an inch. We quickly reached the A46 and a new level of hell. The rain had set in, the visibility was poor and it was rushhour. I may have forgotten to mention yesterday that Gloucestershire drivers were the worst for passing wide, but this was something else. The cars were just plain ignorant of the fact we were on the road at all – at one point a large lorry practically ran me off the road. For the uninitiated, when a lorry passes you at 60 – 70 mph two things happen. First the air they are pushing in front hits you, pushing you away from the vehicle, then the vacuum following them pulls you in. Depending on the proximity and speed, this effect can be quite profound and we were experiencing it regularly.
Wet through to the skin, with our sealskin socks filling with water, we were being honked at for no reason and truly having to fight to stay on the road. The weather was making this whole experience worse and I felt bad that Ian had chosen such an awful day to join me. We stopped in a lay-by for a regroup and Ian’s observation was a classic: “Blimey, this rain is bloody wet, innit?”. Off we set once more, into the heavy wet traffic. Then some fat idiot on a motorbike that barely supported him pulled over to Ian and gave him some abuse, then caught up with me and did the same. In a way I respected his genuine commitment to the task – when it was my turn he took the time to slow down, and actually lift up his helmet visor so I would hear him shout obscenities about being slow. Now, that’s how you give insults properly. I figured that he was jealous of our obvious good looks and muscular figures, so I bare him no malice – really, who could blame him? The other possibility was that it was Davenport or Paint on a dirty tricks campaign…
Finally we headed into Bath, it had been RacePace all the way and Ian was having no trouble keeping up. Bath was again a traffic nightmare, but when we were out the other side the car situation started to calm down. The weather was still shocking however – the rain was just relentless and there was a headwind to make it even more fun. As we made our way towards Chew Lake the roads became even better and quieter and we were both pleased to be doing the sort of riding we enjoyed. A long steep climb out of West Harptree (around 800 feet) tested us well, and soon we were heading towards Cheddar Gorge, which had been one of the landmarks I shaped the route around. As we neared the top I rotated the iPhone to attempt to take a video of the descent. It’s a long video but gives a good idea of the speed and overtakes, despite the lens being blurry and full of water.
Reaching the bottom of the Gorge I was looking for the roof box to locate Mrs W and lunch and that’s where it ALL went wrong. Badly wrong. I turned left into the carpark and BAM! I was lying on the floor wondering why I wasn’t on the bike any more, noticing that an iPhone was sliding at speed across the tarmac and feeling a pain in my left leg. Amazing. Really Reuben, you cycle for over 800 miles and then you have an accident turning into a car park at 4 miles an hour. Good one. I glanced up to the bemused onlookers and pulled myself off the floor, quickly fetching the iPhone and wondering how I had got there. Mrs W had heard the crash from within the car and had got out to see what was going on, not realising it was me. I guess I just hit a slippery patch and lost the front wheel, either that or it was Mr Paint dressed as a goat trying to sabotage the whole thing, I’ll never know. Checking the bike over it seemed mostly ok apart from some scratches and a twisted shifter which was quickly moved back into position. The iPhone had survived fine in the Dahon case, but the case had broken from the mount. After some investigation I managed to click it back together and it was all as good as new. Unfortunately my left leg had suffered a minor graze and I had a few small grazes elsewhere. I got off very lightly all in all!
Ian left for his home – he had truly put in a great effort and I reckon we are pretty well matched on the roads. I ate lunch and tried to dress the cuts. Later I headed off once more, at slightly slower pace. The rain never subsided and it was a long miserable 40 miles to Watchet, through busy Bridgwater. The damaged leg became a bit more painful but I’m hoping it will have settled tomorrow. I stopped for a small break under a large tree and the Lego Men did some collecting.
Hitting the road again the rain got worse and worse and it was getting truly miserable. Tangfastics were taking on mass to try and increase the spirits and Mrs W was soon seen passing with a friendly honk. Finally I made it to our B&B for the night and changed into some dry clothes. Only two days left!
Distance travelled: 84 miles, total so far 925 miles. Here is the route and photos: