In seven days time The Old Gits Cycle Club will once again set forth on a journey of discovery and sore arses and a three day mission to cycle from (almost) Edinburgh to Tynemouth using the most excellent Sustrans Coast and Castles cycle route in order to raise funds for the Sue Ryder Trustand specifically for their hospice at Wheatfields in Leeds in memory of one of our group who was taken into their palliative care two years ago before passing away peacefully and pain free, for this alone they have earned our support but we do this because they are also nice people and have given us t-shirts.
Two years ago after Chris’s death we all set forth to Workington, land of despair of hopelessness and the starting point for the famous Sustrans Coast to Coast cycle route over Lake District and Pennine mountains – they cursed me for suggesting it, for three gruelling days they cursed me with their every breath but at the end of it all we had raised just over £4000 for Wheatfields and so they suddenly started to feel good about themselves too.
Here is the story of that effort in July 2009, spread over three days …
ORIGINALLY POSTED 23rd JULY 2009
Ready to Enter Northumberland and still only halfway
“The worst is over” I assured the boys over one of mad Hellens breakfasts the next morning, “there’s one more hill then its all downhill today lads” I assured them.
How wrong I was, how the guide book lied to me.
Turning left out of mad Hellens driveway and we were on the first hill of the day immediately, the climb to the summit of Black Hill, at 609 metres the highest point on the C2C ride, ’twas a fine and sunny morning and the view back over Cumbria towards Hartside from whence we had climbed the previous day was spectacular.
“We’ve done it lads” I enthused, “Its all downhill from here”
How wrong I was, how the guide book lied to me.
It was around here that the complaining started.
“Can you look at these brakes again” whined H, “I pull them on and nothing happens”
I’d fitted new rear brakes on that bike just that very morning, now he was complaining that his front brakes weren’t working and after a few more miles he was at it again, his rear brakes weren’t working now – how petty can you get, fancy that eh, someone needing brakes at a time when you’re going to spend the next 50-something miles descending out of the hills, some people are never happy, I tweaked his brakes, they worked for another two miles then he gave up on them completely – for the rest of the day whoever rode that bike had to jump off when the speeds got too scary.
A long descent into Allenheads led to an unexpected sharp ascent the other side of the village but we were all well used to steep hills now and surmounted the peak as if riding in Le Tour’s peloton, nothing could scare us now “Its all downhill from here boys” I assured them for one last time
How wrong I was.
Another unexpected ascent out of Rookhope, we showed no fear, we even sat on top of the fell and had a light lunch and a little drinky-poo of Lucazade while the Red Arrows flew overhead, I told the lads that I’d arranged that fly past for them, they seemed impressed, we remounted and pressed on, “Its all downhill from here boys” I repeated, hoping to god that it finally was.
How wrong I was.
Stanhope was a nice village, worth a revisit at some point in future with no mention of the monster hill that lurked behind we sat for a while in the sun outside its victorian mock castle and then we took a leisurely turn off the main road to face it – the monster hill up out of Stanhope to the peak at Parkhead, two miles of solid, steep, climb, worse than Hartside had been the day before for we all knew Hartside was coming, this ascent was just as steep (although mercifully half as long) but totally unexpected – its actually marked on the map but I’d forgotten to look.
We pushed most of the way up this hill, a dreadful half hour of shoving your bike up the steepest hill known to man, its actually harder to push your bike than it is to ride it but there are times when your brain simply refuses to ride any longer and insists that you walk – but there was more eating at the summit and from there we could finally see the North Sea on the Durham coastline, it was still 33 miles away but the really good news is that on the summit of Parkhead there is nothing as high as you are between you and the sea, “Its all downhill from here boys” I cried, and for once they seemed to concur.
At Parkhead you join the Waskerley Way, a path which I suspect was once a private railway from Parkhead Quarry all the way down to Consett 10 miles away – its downhill all the way on a hard but sometimes quite rough surface, it was a bit tricky on road bike tyres but there were also other times when I flew down that track – a good bit of the ride with barely a turn of the pedals for an hour.
After that it was the last twenty or so miles of plain and simple flat cycle path riding through an unremarkable Durham landscape, five of us on the last leg and just Steve and Rod going for the whole distance, through Washington we rode and then along the River Wear on woodland paths, just five miles to go…
…and then we lost Rodney.
He had the smell of the sea in his nostrils and nodded his head in agreement when we’d stopped earlier and discussed the need to all stick together, but like a dog after a rabbit he shot off into the distance and on a downhill path through some woods we lost sight of him in front – when we hit the well disguised left turn (that I initially missed) we realised that in all probability he had gone straight on, so we waited for his return back up the path.
He never returned, we waited for ten minutes then left him to the wolves and picked our way through Sunderland centre to the marina and the finishing point on the seafront where Sue, (Chris’s wife), and a small crowd of disbelieving well wishers had turned up to claim their bets at the bookies that we wouldn’t finish anytime in July – amid torn up betting slips we toasted our success in champagne – and Rodney was there having finished in front of us after forging a brand new path through the undergrowth along the river – he finished on his own to tumultuous applause, rode through a puddle, put the brakes on, went over the handlebars, picked himself up off the floor and lit a cigarette to earn the weekends Comedy Gold Award from Sue.
The team at the finish line, from l-r, Kev, H, Andy, Stu, Sue, Steve, Me, Rod
Combined age of cyclists 370 years, combined mileage 798, total distance en route 133 miles, total cycling time 20 hours