I slept fabulously and practically bounded out of bed when the alarm went off at 7am. Undoubtedly that was the result of my cakey dinner. I had a leisurely breakfast and took my time over packing up, but it was still all done in an hour. How is it quicker by yourself?
Unfortunately my swift exit was then stifled by the lack of internet. I diligently looked up the route for the day in Google maps last night, but this morning it was gone and I couldn’t get it back. So I had to try and look through my offline maps and figure out a route for myself. It didn’t go that well.
I left town en route to the next town, taking a busy country road that had a cycle path alongside it, which was fine. There were a few gentle inclines to contend with, but nothing major. After 20 km I stopped for a break beside a quiet, leafy roundabout on the edge of town, ate half my pretzel and cream cheese and talked to numerous passers by.
“Where are you heading?”
“Oh my, you’ve got a few mountains to climb!”
“Oh boy, they’re steep! One of them is 12%!”
“Wow that is pretty steep.” [Thinking yeah, whatever, I’ve been over the Rockies, the Picos, the Pyrenees and the Alps. I think I can handle the ‘mountains’ here.]
I headed through town and took a cycle path alongside a main road. Then, at a junction, the cycle path ran out. I took the side road and the cycle signs pointed in a lot of directions, but none that I wanted to go in! A man who’d parked up his company truck for a cigarette break chatted to me about route options.
“Where are you heading?”
“Oh, you’ve got a few mountains to get over between here and there!”
“So I’ve heard.”
He recommended me a side road and off I went again to look for the mountains. And soon enough, there was my first one. It crept up on me, gradually at first, not even looking like an incline but slowing my down none the less, then steeper and steeper until granny gear was engaged and I was chugging up at 6kph. It was so muggy and I was sweating like crazy! I had to stop a few times on the way up for water breaks and to get my breath back. But really, it only went on for 2 km maximum – definitely not a mountain! Perhaps something bigger is coming, I thought. Then I remembered having to walk up the tiny but insanely steep hills in Exmoor and thought I suppose they don’t have to be that high to be really bad.
I zoomed down for a bit, then started climbing again. And then after a few ups and downs were done, I stopped for a little rest to eye up the next hill. This one was the biggest of the day – and whilst it was far from a mountain, it was still enough to have me working after a few weeks of beer festivals and beach holidays!
The cycle path had been coming and going some more between towns and I was missing it on this steep hill. The traffic was mostly good to me, but it’s stressful having to check the mirror all the time, adjust road positioning, thank drivers (or call them wankers, as appropriate), worry about getting knocked off and try to find places to pull in for a rest and to check directions. It was relatively busy and people drive quite fast on the country roads! I did manage to make sure that nobody could overtake me when there was oncoming traffic, and nobody blared their horn at me, so that’s something.
At the top of the biggest mountain, there was a café and I pulled in. When I got off the bike, I felt all weak and wobbly. How long since that half a pretzel? The oppressive heat really stops you feeling hungry! I got a fizzy drink and sat down to take on the sugar. Then I rolled down the other side of the hill and headed towards the campsite. Just one more stretch of busy road to go and I’m done for the day!
It was only 3pm when I arrived and I found myself without much to do in the evening! I showered, did laundry, chatted to some English people who I had zero in common with besides English, ate the rest of my lunch for dinner, finished my book and attempted to do yoga, but it was busy and I felt self-conscious. What do we usually spend our time doing? Thankfully there was free internet and I browsed unenthusiastically until bedtime. Then I didn’t really sleep at all because the tent was pitched on a hill so I kept sliding down my roll mat, and I’ve got an annoyingly tickly cough. At that point I was probably better off on my own with nobody to moan to!