In six 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 conclusion of that effort in July 2009 …
ORIGINALLY POSTED 24th JULY 2009
So its over, three months of planning and its over in three days.
Was it hard work ?
Not as bad as I thought it would be, back in the days when I used to do some of this stuff more frequently it was climbing the hills that really did me in, this time, eleven years since my last ride of any distance, it didn’t feel so difficult, this time we all took our own time, this time I concentrated on making the gears do the work and if you’re in bottom gear already then just slow the peddling right down, it worked.
Ah but would we do it again ?
None of the lads had done anything like this before, without exception they all said how much they’d enjoyed it, and yes, I expect that given a few months to forget the worst of the pain, they’ll sign up for the next ride.
The most important point, to raise enough money to pay for at least half a day’s operation of any one of the Sue Ryder Hospice’s in this country – the JustGiving page is around £1650 at the moment and we have at least another £2000 to come in via the old fashioned “sign a piece of paper” methods of sponsorship – we’ll achieve our target and hopefully hit £4000
Back in March of this year a group of ten or more of us had gone inside Wheatfields Hospice for the first time to visit Chris, things were turning for the worse with his ailment and we fully expected to be told to wait outside and only have four around the bed like they do at the hospitals.
Nothing like it, Chris had been fed their bags of magic potion and was sitting up in bed waiting for us, nursing staff appeared from behind a desk, not to tell us to wait outside but to bring more chairs for us – they don’t just nurse in Wheatfields they care for the person and if the person wants ten of his mates in his room all at once then thats what that person gets, if he wants them to bring beer in then they’ll turn a blind eye to that too (“don’t forget to bring the nurses one too” was the unofficial line), its a place where people often spend their last days but its not a place for sadness, far from it.
We sat in the Three Horse Shoes after that very first visit in March and we talked about the Hospice movement and how they still relied heavily on public subscriptions to keep the doors open to those who are in their most dire time of need, and we all said that we should do something to help.
The suggestion that I made that week was purely coincidental as I’d been talking to our Ned a few days earlier about the time that he did the Coast to Coast bike ride – all of the lads accepted the challenge immediately, but not for one minute did I ever expect that three months later each and every one of them would be on the start line in Workington, I guess it was just a little bit important to them.
We laughed too, we laughed a lot.
We laughed halfway up Hartside when the van had parked and was waiting for us, we stopped alongside it, lungs screaming for oxygen, too exhausted even to lift our legs over the crossbar and get off, we slumped over the handlebars and wheezed for air and observing this sad sight of five fifty year olds trying to pretend they were twenty years old again “H”, on van duty and having sat in the layby for half an hour waiting for us observed that “He’s up there now – laughing at you daft buggers”, and I have no doubt that he was.
We laughed when Steve produced some “special” ointment that some cyclist at his place of work had given him, a special ointment that prevents chafing of the gentlemans parts, apparently. Ignoring our warnings that it was likely to be Fiery Jack he set about anointing himself inside the van in the car park at Workington having taking the precaution of closing the side door first, he forgot that both back doors were wide open though.
We laughed when Rod revealed that he did exactly the same thing, but with Vaseline, he’s a doctor so presumably he gets trade quantities of Vaseline, even so there was no need to scoop such a big dollop out and apply it liberally to the parts like he did, a cricket ball sized dollop of Vaseline, where on earth did he shove it down there – no, don’t even think about it.
We laughed long and often, we sometimes complained about the hills, about the brakes on our bikes, about the gear shifts, about the saddles and our sore arses, but then we laughed, we laughed the carefree piss-taking laughter of a group of fifty-something year olds who have known each other for forty-something of those years and who have no need to impress each other any more, we laughed the laughter of a group of fifty-something year olds who have been let out for a weekend of re-living the years before women and marriage claimed their freedom and sanity, and we laughed the laughter of a shared experience that will never be forgotten by any of us and can be marked on the totem-pole of our lives as “we actually did something useful there”.
And for the laughter, I thank you gentlemen.