Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Isle of Wight Circumnavigation


 This trip was a little off the cuff:  I met my cycling partner Richard via the CTC forum.  I had originally put a post out in relation to my planned 2015 circumnavigation of the UK and Irish coast.  Richard had responded with an offer of cycling across Ireland, unfortunately my route will be round the coast, however he was looking for a companion for a ride around the Isle of Wight. 
He asked if I was interested and being always up for an adventure I agreed straight away and the first date we could both make was the 20th of December.  I explained to Richard that I was rebuilding my bike and that was the earliest I could get it ready as I was waiting for the new wheels etc.. to be delivered.

When cycling with someone else, especially someone you haven't met in person before there's always the chance of incompatibility.

On my mind were a few issues regarding riding style and speed:

I had torn my side a month before and hadn’t cycled or exercised as I was giving it time to heal: I was repeatedly straining it and unsure of how it would be.

The other issue was the fact that I am doing every ride I can overladen in preparatrion for my tour next year, I would be taking everything I would for my tour and then adding other stuff so that it is as heavy as I can.  I had broached this with Richard and said that I would be slow we had agreed this wouldn’t be a problem.

Meeting Richard:

On the 19th I had booked an afternoon lunch with my old work team in Worcester so I drove down spent the afternoon with them catching up on stories and meeting some new faces.  Richard lives in Bristol, so it made sense for me to drive down and meet up with him, taking him up on the offer of a bed for the night.  

When you decide that you are going on adventures you have to accept you are going to meet some very different people and one of the most common comments I get is:  “what if they are axe murderers”??  Well you can apply common sense, communicate via email, chat with them on the phone and make sure everyone knows where you are and that they know that as well (Axe murderers don't like people to know where you are)...

I thought it best at this point not to mention to Richard that I can actually throw an axe...  and besides you should always leave something for late night conversation!

Axe throwing for fun!


Knife Throwing too!
It was a fairly quick drive from Worcester to Bristol in light motorway traffic and I arrived without incident, Richards home is set back and down a private drive so after a quick phonecall he came out to the road and waved me in with a torch.

Richard and his wife were welcoming and hospitable so I left my Axes in the car they have a wonderful house and soon made me feel right at home.  There was a lot of conversation, Axe murdering mentioned etc.  but cheese and biscuits, coffee and geeky talk over bikes soon had everyone at ease.

Now, at this point I really should mention that Rich’s wife was is incredibly tolerant:  I am not small and tend to fill up space being loud in equal meaures.  To have a stranger in your home disturbing the peace and take it in your stride deserves special mention.

They have a small dog who was very friendly which was a bonus because I am an incredible dog lover and he was a great little character with an obvious independence.

I was shown to my room and here is a big tip about getting knowing someone, I slept in their daughters room which had been kept as is, it had a huge dolls house Richard had built and all of the old children’s books and Toys, I couldn’t help thinking what wonderful parents they must have been and what lucky daughters they must have had.  I really wanted to take a photo but felt that would have been too intrusive.

Getting Ready:

I had already taken the rear seats out of my Citroen Picasso which has tons of room for two bikes and luggage so it made sense to use my car and I was happy to drive.  Fortunately I had finished building my bike the night before, however I took it out of the car and gave it one more going over and made a few minor adjustments.

Richard made a few comments about my gadgets, my bike has a sat nav, camera, alarm and horn etc..  Richard comes from the camp of – get on your bike and start pedalling which I also do but this was a practice run for my new kit.

We chatted for a while and then decided an early night was in order as we were going to get up at 5:00 am.  Richard had left his preparation and packing for the last minute, I wasn’t worried as I had almost double everything we could need!

Setting Off:

We set off very early in the morning after a coffee breakfast and some cornflakes.  Richard had his special porridge and we left as quietly as possible, which probably wasn’t that quiet.  The drive down was uneventful, and Richard like myself doesn’t really like being a passenger I smiled inside several times as he put his foot onto an imaginary brake.  I don’t speed and althought passing advance driving tests etc..  I will admit to not being the perfect driver however, I don’t speed and we arrived in one piece without “from my perspective” incident.

Parking up and the ferry:

The ferry was easy to find although the parking was a little confusing, we parked up and walked towards the meter each of us taking a couple of quid to put in the ticket machine, only to find out that it wanted £16.00 for the privilege of an overnight stay.  Now the trip across with a bike was £14.00 each and neither of us really wanted to pay that for no good reason.
One of the advantages of having bikes is being able to park somewhere else and cycle in, so finding an instant soulmate in not wanting to pay for something neither of us felt we should, we got back in the car and turned round to find a road to park on.   Quite co-incidentally all of the roads within a mile or so of the ferry have double yellows (funny that isn’t it) nothing to do with the pricing of the car park of course!
We found somewhere to park, checked there were no hidden parking signs i.e.  “park here and we reserve the right to fine you a month’s wages, a quart of blood and your first born”.    We decamped and cycled out to the ferry.
We bought the tickets and Richard bought a couple of Costa coffe’s for us as the morning was a little chilly. When it was close to the ferry arrival time we headed down to the loading ramp.
The ferry across is a fairly short journey and I should point out that I was amazed at how pleasant the ferry staff were, they seemed genuinely helpful and just very very nice.  I had been on a ferry to the Isle of man recently and was met with basically ignorant staff who treated me like a head of cattle so this was very welcoming and for all those dealing with the public it really does give you a great start to the day and is very much appreciated.
We headed upstairs and sat ourselves down, chatting through the very short journey across.  We disembarked without incident and then headed out of the ferry entrance to begin our journey.

Day 1 – Yarmouth to –

Video From Day 1

We left the ferry terminal at Yarmouth and turned left on an island headed out to A3054, I pulled over to set my Sat Nav to find out for some reason that the first day course had been wiped.  This wasn’t a disaster as I was very familiar with the route I wanted to take and Richard had a little tourist map of the Island.   

I should point out that Richard was neither fazed or upset a great omen to him being a good cycling companion, we started out with a pace of about 14mph, the weather was good and surprisingly little wind (although it was a little nippy).

We pedalled on quite happily with Richard on occasion riding side by side, at a fair pace and I was happy considering the weight I was carrying that I wasn't holding Richard back.  I cycle at my own pace and that is often too slow for those not carrying a fully laden bike!

We were travelling along what was supposed to be the "Coastal Path" which we both agreed had to be the most misnamed route ever, as we hadn't seen the coast or smelled the sea since leaving Yarmouth!!  I had decided that the tide must have been out and it was such a long time out that there had been time to build up houses and move in....

 Electronic Frustratrion!

Now don't get me started on testing things out beforehand, I didn't have time and I was using this trip to test stuff.  I immediately found that I was very unhappy with the setup of my biologic reecharge which takes power from the dynamo to charge up usb devices.  Very simply I could never tell if it was charging or not, the indicator led's are located on the side and only light up when there is enough power being delivered from the dynamo. 

To be sure it was charging properly I would have had to hang over the side of my bike whilst pedaling and trying to view two very small green and red led's fantastic design.... when there is loads of room for them on top!!!!

after much prodding of buttons theres and LED light to indicate the charge left in the cache battery, I think when cycling and enough power is delivered that flashes rapidly also however I can't find any mention of it on their site or the manual!!!  This was one to be looked into at home...

 Some photos from day one below, for some reason I didn't take very many, I think i was singularly unimpressed with the first part of the island, Richard echoed the same thoughts and we had some very jovial exchanges.

The original plan was to leave the A3054 and keep tighter to the coast however we continued on into Newport where we furnished Richards hankering for a bacon sandwich and I had my coffee top up outside a B&Q which had a burger van in it.

We discussed the next move and decided we would follow the route directly along the River Medina taking a few shots on the way.   Not far after the point where Stag Lane crosses the path along the river we had a shot of a sunken wreck photo below.   

Richard mused why it was still there, and I said it is probably home to a lot of wildlife, we then spent a few minutes discussing wild stories about it and headed on.

Shot of Richard (Helmet in tact)
We continued on a very pictureseque traffic free route into Cowes to catch the mini ferry across the river Medina, BIKES and Cyclists travel free!!!

The ferry is curiously titled "the floating bridge" however it's not a bridge but does indeed float :-)  I cycled up to the ramp and was sternly told cyclists must dismount....  I was already off my bike at this point an not on the ferry, so I smiled the smile I reserve for the less fortunate in the manners and brains department.

We left the ferry and made a quick stop at the local Waitrose to pick up the provisions for the night.  When I began to push my bike towards the shop entrance Richard hesitated and he said he had never considered taking his bike into a Supermarket.

I have a golden rule, if I can't take my bike I don't go, it's simple I don't want it stolen.  I then had the wonderful opportunity of educating Richard on how to get round a supermarket without getting thrown out on the grounds of a non existant health and safety rule or directive surprisingly never available when you ask for it and usually quoted by some jobsworth who can't spell exercise or fresh air.

The rules are simple, be very polite, if a staff member is near you meet their gaxe (don't act guilty they smell weakness like a shark smells blood)  Issue a hearty good morning (it's very difficult to be awkward with someone being very nice).  You have to ignore the comments of people who have so little to do in their life that they feel honour bound to mutter at you even though they are yards away and in no danger, sometimes I think people believe bikes are covered in razor blades and they will be mortally wounded if they so much as rub against you .....

As for this Waitrose, the staff were wonderful, the butcher was extreemely helpful dealing out our planned liver and stake for the night.  We collected the rest of the necessaries, Richard couldn't help himself and grabbed two Chelsea buns which we plonked ourselves outside to eat.

Just after leaving a Canadian woman came up and repeated several times how she had done lots of double centuries but not lately and when we failed to respond in hallowed tones she told us we would have an awful time as it was all uphill from here and bad ones....   My mind tried to calculate an island geography that was all uphill on the coast... I could only imagine a massive climb with a 3000ft drop at the other end, my mind couldn't cope so I pushed off and left Richard to the polite goodbye...

We headed out onto the A3021 towards Wooton and the crossing for Wooton Bridge, the scenery and the journey had become more pleasant at this point and we were starting to enjoy the trip more.   There was no shortage of chatting and we were both in very high spirits.

Wooton Bridge

Taught Richard about getting into shops with your bike and how to head off staff with morning or hello – they don’t like being unhelpful to someone being very nice
.woman going on about the hills commented on me being ortliebed up – roughly translated I look like an orange on wheels and carrying too much.

Whiteclif Bay Campsite - Reception

Unfortunately I have no pics, so I will have to paint a mental picture.  We arrived at our campsite Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park a compromise because I don't like campsites I prefer wild camping but Richard had booked up front and I was happyacquiesce which as it turns out was a good decision as campsites go it wasn't bad.

We rocked up to the  reception and was met by an extreemely charming young girl who could quite possibly be the nicest reception person I have ever come across.  When you are tired from cycling it is great to be met with a warm smile and a welcoming attitude so forgive me if I wax lyrical..

As Richard was talking her through the booking he had made I noticed a bowl of sweets on the table and a vampire like thirst for sugar took over, straining against the urge to plunge my head into the bowl and gorge on quality street I asked politely if I could have one..  She replied:  "take as many as you like..." that was a big mistake,  my hand plunged in and like a JCB shoveled two handfuls into my pocket..  She giggled went round the back of her desk and dug out a huge box and promptly filled the bowl to overflowing "we have loads she replied", this was a mistake on her part..  to me it was a CHALLENGE...

Our host was very pretty and slim so my mental gears whirred instantly on the most logical train of thought that would justify me obtaining as many free sweets for Richard and I as possible... the mental train of thought thundered down the rails with a full steam that simply said - pretty girl... slim... doing great favour eating her sweets and keeping her that way..  I know, I know... I was being shallow but in my defense I had the Vampiric thirst I mentioned and she had said first....  this allowed me to completely override any sense of decency or dignity..  I commenced to shovel sweets..

Richard hadn't reacted the girl had walked round to show him something on the wall map, good good Richard you keep her talking I will continue to shovel free sweets..  It was further obvious to my thundering mental train that Richard had no survival instinct... that it was my duty born of loyalty to my new companion to shovel on his behalf as well.... I announced this to the world "I will grab you a few to Richard"..  I can remember some toffee dribble as I was talking and eating at the same time.

When they had finished their discussion our hostess moved back to the counter and never gave the slightest indication of displeasure at the now vastly reduced bowl...  My Sumo/Ninja skills had won through.. to be sure I took a few steps towards the door and freedom... imagining running across the campsite howling as I stuffed sweets into my mouth and left a glittering trail of wrappers with Richard and the hostess attempting to track me down..  my fears were not realised.  (Please note don't be disturbed by my mental state at this point..)

The young lady explained that the shop was shut and Richard exclaimed that he would have to eat his porridge without milk, the young lady turned round and grabbed a bottle from the fridge explaining she had loads...  and handed a bottle to Richard...  free sweets.. free milk... perhaps there was something to campsites after all..

It was getting dark, so I unpacked my gear and w 

Day Two -

Bought two spicy apple pies (as a cheer up item for later)
Had to fix Rich’s wheel (my spanner) story about lightest spanner is mates
Compromise on climbing down the stairs with my bike – rich came to help
Worried about rich – could see he was being brave – asked at what time is it ok to laugh about this (getting to know your partner) – he answered now lol.  
Rich’s brakes some of the hills were so steep he told me he was running out of room my brakes were sharper being discs – something to think about.
Going down the wrong way ignoring closed roads (ususally ok this time completely blocked due to slippage)
Wonderful pictures
In the restruant rich disappeared for a while didn’t tell him at the time I got worried about him (knock to the head) – but he came back smiling saying he had warmed his hands up under the cold weather tap.
Hi Winds – rich commented that he coulding understand why we were cycling into the wind in any direction, later on I rrecalled that on the last few miles the wind was helping me but I was pointing downhill lol.

Photos - Story to follow

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