D’you know whats good about The Old Gits Bike Rides ?
You only do what you feel like doing, thats why we have a backup MPV and a van, if you want to get off for an hour or two then you there will be at least one of the two vehicles waiting for you within the next five miles or so, some do the whole course.
I took the tactical decision on Saturday morning in Berwick town centre that here would be a good place to drive the van and as Kev hadn’t managed to ride at all on Friday I offered him my bike and helmet and like a fool he accepted, “tee-hee” I sniggered behind the palm of one hand.
Five miles down the coast road I parked in a beach front golf club car park and did the accounts for the bike ride, money in, money out, all that mularky and for the first time in ages I got the numbers to balance, sat for a while, went for a short stroll in the morning sun, was rather refreshed when eight little helmeted heads came into view some way back up the path.
“Its a doddle” they cried as they stopped at the van, “Much easier than yesterday”, “Its all flat”, “I hope it stays like this all day”, “This is so much better”, damn them and curses to the god of the map who had made me think the first bit would be a tough uphill, oh why can’t I read maps properly for there in multi-coloured splendour was all the proof I needed, this whole day, all 70 miles of it would be spent following the coast path, a coast of gentle rolling sand dunes and precious little in the way of cliffs – I should get back on the bike before the hills kicked in again.
Water bottles filled and the sun starting to get rather warm they left me and I drove down to the Lindisfarne causeway to meet the MPV where our other driver Tony had headed off hoping to cross the causeway to Holy Island, maybe he wanted to be a monk I don’t know, whatever, when I got there the tide was still in and Tony was sat in the car park wondering what to do next, it would be two hours before the causeway was uncovered and so we retired to a cafe just up the hill where we dipped into the petty cash and had a “drivers treat” while admiring the scenery.
And there is a lot to admire around those parts, Lindisfarne has had a religious settlement there since 635AD and a few miles down the coast the impressive Banburgh Castle sits on the spot where Anglo-Saxon settlements have been recorded back to 547AD, the whole coast is one Hollywood film set after another amid long beaches, sand dunes, nature reserves and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and then Rod the Medic’s chain broke.
We repaired it with the aid of pliers, a wrench and a hammer right there in front of the ramparts of Banburgh Castle and did such a good job that he swore it ran better after breaking than it did before, but he is a medic and not a mechanical sort at all, ask him about eating grapefruit for breakfast with slimming pills and he’ll tell you how and why that could kill you, make the chain fall off his bike and he comes to you after half an hour struggling with it, covered from head to foot in oil and asks if you know anything about bikes.
Some way down the coast I was ready to get back on the bike again and Kev was ready to get off but not before I had waited for them for half an hour parked in a dune with a thunderstorm raging all round, the bad weather that had been promised all weekend finally caught up with us, or rather we finally caught up with it for we had been travelling towards it for the past 24 hours, they all sheltered in a barn some way up the track where they found a German couple who were also doing the route on bikes, they followed them down to where I was waiting eventually and pointed out the difference between our party and theirs – they had the very latest in cycling technology, waterproofs that would have withstood complete immersion and still kept you dry, Smithy by comparison was wearing a bin liner over his head in which he had cut two arm holes – the Germans must have wondered how the hell their grandparents had conspired to lose a war against us, twice, (and a world cup)
I was warm and dry and in clean clothes when we set off on the second half of the Saturday ride but within 50 yards was soaked and covered in mud, the thunderstorm had passed but left the unpaved cycle path a sea of mud and deep pools and so we stayed wet and very muddy for the rest of the day, ’twas fun though and now we were into National Trust coastline and AONB’s, Alnmouth passed, the English Heritage site at Warkworth Castle, the estuary at Amble and then the long. long, 18km long stretch of dune and shingles known as the Druridge Bay nature reserve – it all got to be same after same, we were spoiled by the scenery and frankly Druridge Bay should have impressed more than it did in the fine rain but by then it was just the last ten miles to get rid of for we were heading for the towering chimneys of Lynemouth and its power station and smelting works, we rode towards them for what seemed like an age until finally the day was done and transport awaiting to whisk us off to a night at The Queens Head in Morpeth, an old coaching inn dating back to 1656.
Where Berwick had been like a ghost town on the Friday night, Morpeth was bouncing, we were a party of eleven by then and needed food and possibly beer, cake would have gone down well too, I wanted pizza, I craved pizza but the two Italian restaurants in the town square were packed full and just laughed when we asked for a table for eleven, we eventually, after beer and much discussion sought out an Indian, nothing fails to impress more than a good Indian meal and the fare at Manzil Tandoori was exceptional, theres nothing quite like ordering enough bowls of rice and nan breads to capsize a fair sized tanker and then laying eleven main course dishes across the table for everyone to try, maybe we were a little loud, we’d ridden almost 100 miles up to this point, we have accumulated memories over 55 years, we shout and laugh heartily and when we left we were the last ones in the restaurant, it had been full when we took our seats, a good night Gentlemen, £200 well spent.