Day 2 – teamwork, towpaths and surprise guests

Northampton

Today was a bloody long ride. Not by normal standards – 54 miles is a long way but not like crazy distance – but around 30 miles of it was on towpaths, with surfaces that ranged from just about acceptable to medium length grass. You could feel every blade of the grass collaborating in the challenge to sap as much speed as possible as you fought through it.

Newlec Cycles
Newlec Cycles

The day started off in a complicated way – Andy’s knee hurt like hell in the night, and Rich thought that some adjustments to his bike might pay dividends in the long run. The main thing was his bottom bracket – the thing that runs through the bike where the pedal cranks join on – which was wobbly and in need of replacement. We rang a bike shop called Newlec Cycles on the southwest side of Northampton, and they said they’d fit us in as an emergency job. My garmin GPS proved to be a massive pain in the arse to program manually (I normally import files from the computer) so in the end I navigated us the 3 miles or so through winding city streets with my phone held in one hand while I cycled along. Far from ideal.

Rape fields
Rape fields

Once that was done, we set off, probably around half ten. Once we were out of Northampton there was about eight miles of gentle noodling, with some slightly wearing uphills. Beautiful countryside though, big fields of rape and long views. Things improved massively once we crossed under the M1 – there was a long winding hill going down through the village of Hartwell, then undulations through a couple more. Then we came off to a cycle path by the side of a railway, which was all downhill and absolutely great fun.

Ouse Valley Park
Ouse Valley Park

After a while it opened up into what I now know was the Ouse Valley Park, where there was a beautiful stretch of river with lots of herons standing around. The cycle path was excellent too – that took us into the outskirts of Milton Keynes, which we rode through on a complex but useful network of cycle paths. While we were in MK I got a text from Amanda and Michael Craven – a couple I met at a kidney information day at Leicester General. They live nearby and said they’d meet us at a pub on the route. As it happened we missed them, but we both realised and they relocated to a pub a little later on in the route called the Three Locks Inn.

Before we met them though, I had to be on the radio again!  Here I am:

Us, Amanda and Michael
Us, Amanda and Michael

It was great to see them – we laughed a lot. They are a funny couple, and it underlines the fact that having a sense of humour helps you get through anything. Michael’s two years into a transplant, and doing fairly well – although suffering from the increased amount of coughs and colds you acquire with a reduced immune system post-transplant. They bought me my traditional pint of lemonade and glass of Sambuca, and we had some lunch.

A punture
A punture

When we set off, Rich had a puncture, so we had to sort that out, then we were gliding down the varied towpaths again. About 15 miles later I got a puncture, which we tried to patch and then discovered there were more holes – in the end Rich realised there was something actually broken off inside the inner tube that had caused damage, so we threw it away and installed a spare.

SIMON ****ING DAVIDSON!
SIMON ****ING DAVIDSON!

10 miles later, we were at the hotel – quite a nice place. My old friend Simon Davidson, who I haven’t seen for over 20 years, turned up and bought us a drink and we all laughed a lot. He drove us to a nearby pub and we had a nice meal and a drink, then came back to the hotel for a bath and sleeeep!

I coped surprisingly well with the ride today – I’m starting to think I won’t have too many problems. Fingers crossed.

The wifi is pretty poor so I can’t upload the usual video – I will tomorrow if I get the chance. My GPS ran out of batteries too so I haven’t got a full route – here’s the route we planned:

and here’s the abridged / battery messed up route the garmin saved – accurate until around Marsworth:

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