Another hearty breakfast awaited us on Sunday morning with kippers for Andy, always a highlight of any bike ride is watching Andy eat his kippers for breakfast just like in the Supertramp song, its a strange tradition but its meaningful for us all, its like watching the last relic of the British Empire right there on the plate in front of you – who the hell has kippers for breakfast these days – Andy, thats who.
A short ride awaited on the last day, 25 miles or so, Lynemouth to Tynemouth along a coast that was still flat but now populated, we would ride through the townships of Cambois, Blyth, Whitley Bay and then on to Tynemouth, all on cycle paths through former holiday resorts and the sad thing is that I can remember when they used to be holiday resorts too, sometimes its like living with a history book inside my head but a history book in which you’ve played an active part.
The Sustrans people need to take a look at their route through Blyth, quite honestly its like a cat has unravelled a ball of wool or a spider has crawled through the map-makers ink while he was taking a toilet break and then walked all over the map, there are so many twists and turns to the route through what is a small town that its very easy to miss a turning or (as suspected) for the local ruffians to “mislay” a few signs and off you go, peddling towards the horizon in blissful ignorance – suffice to say we were split into two separate groups and each took a different way through the shabby little town (its always been a shabby little town, it was a shabby little town when I used to live close to it) but eventually met up on the south foreshore where a tea break was called for in the morning sun midst a large number of sightseers who unfortunately were out to see the sights and not necessarily us.
A new cycle path has been constructed in the sand dunes that line this two mile section of coast between Blyth and Seaton Sluice, a very pleasant ride on the flat and then suddenly we were in my old stomping ground, Andy had insisted on viewing the harbour at Seaton Sluice after seeing it in a painting of mine which I cannot now remember doing (I have such a marvellous memory, when I die the archivists at The Tate are going to have such a job cataloguing my works) and so we stood above the harbour and I explained the history of the place and how a single Victorian coal mine owner had paid for the whole thing to be constructed just so that his own ships wouldn’t have to pay the docking fees further up the coast, the others grew bored very quickly and wanted to be off, if only Rod the Medic hadn’t been in such haste and had waited for the history lesson to finish then he may still now have skin left on his elbows and knees.
He was riding just in front of me along a back street above the bay at The Sluice when a young lad ran out onto the road in front of him and rather than run the little bugger over the kindly Medic hit the brakes in his own, now traditional, and inimitable manner to find himself performing once again his famous double somersault over the handlebars but this time with an added cartwheel from the bike to end underneath his own cycle with spectacles slightly skewed in a classic Eric Morecambe stylee.
Laugh, I wept tears of laughter while I awaited the good doctor to examine himself and declare himself fit to continue the ride, there is no sympathy among us for the good doctors attention seeking annual crashes, he is the only one who has ever tumbled from the bike on any of our Old Gits Bike Weekends and he has managed to do it on all of the Old Gits Bike Weekends so far, he loses some skin off his knees and elbows but as the saying goes “Physician heal thyself” and we wait while he does, then we continue, laughing.
Along the clifftop at New Hartley and then down the links to Whitley Bay and we paused for a couple of minutes in front of what was the Queens Hotel, my old home for at least three years but now boarded up and forlorn on the headland, I told the stories of my breakfasts sat in the bay window surrounded by dogs and staring out across the North Sea but they weren’t interested and we pushed on, only two more miles to go now, a fine sunny day to be had and the whole afternoon to entertain ourselves in Tynemouth.
The arrival in Tynemouth was once again greeted by huge crowds, a fair and a musical stage, no they weren’t there to greet us, it was once again the annual Mouth of the Tyne Festival, we stopped on Front Street and were gently moved on by a policeman keen to not block the street and so on to the last 500 yards down to the official Sustrans sign at the place where the Coast to Coast and Coast and Castles routes meet, and then we had a quandary.
Rod the Medic is most insistent when he gets an idea into his head and some months ago he had urged us to continue on for another nine miles to reach Sunderland for it was in Sunderland that we had completed our first Coast to Coast bike ride and inside his head it all made perfect sense to “complete the circle”, not that it was a circle at all, but we got what he meant, it was symbolic and theres a good chance that next years Old Gits Bike Ride will start in Sunderland so he had a point.
And there was something else too, Rod the Medic wanted to go on the Shields ferry, the ferry boat that links North and South Shields across the Tyne, why I do not know, he stated as his influence the 1960s Michael Caine film “Get Carter” which features said ferry boat and the four minute cross-river journey seemed like some sort of epiphany moment to him, so we acquiesced , took the ferry, put a smile on his face and then rode another nine miles to our new finishing post – all for you Rodney, we did that last bit for you, don’t ask again, ok ?
And there we were, on the foreshore at Sunderland drinking beer in a pub on a warm summer afternoon pondering on another successful long distance bike ride in memory of Chris and to raise funds for the Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, we shell out around £200 each for the privilege for these weekends are expensive things to arrange and anything left over in the kitty goes to the Hospice, plus the very generous (and always a surprise and pleasure) contributions from friends and family via the JustGiving web page, this year we should get to around £1000 which will pay for around three days care for one individual at the Hospice but more importantly leave us with a warm glow at having done something in his memory again.