Tuesday, 17 November 2015

14 & 15 November – alright, we went to the Tatsfield Bus Stop again!

A friend of mine recently told me that I wouldn't be cycling over the weekend of 14 & 15 November. There was a storm coming. In fact, the storm in question had a name – Abigail – and it was, apparently, scheduled to ruin mine and Andy's regular weekend ride into the wilds of Northern Kent.

When I woke up I peered out of the window, expecting to see the trees rocking violently from side-to-side in the blustery weather, but there was nothing. The trees were still, like statues. The only sign of potential bad weather was a general bleakness that normally means rain, but so far it looked fairly dry. There was certainly nothing to worry about and no need to send an 'abort' text.

Add straw and punch a few air holes
In fact, talking of 'abort' texts, I hadn't received any either, although I seriously doubted whether Phil would be waiting on the doorstep at 0700hrs. He'd gone down with a sore throat and hadn't been on the ride for a week or two. Having said that, the weather's getting colder and that means Phil is on the verge of hibernation, just like Freda, the Blue Peter tortoise. When I was a kid I used to watch Blue Peter every week during the period when John Noakes, Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton were the hosts.

Freda was the Blue Peter tortoise – one of many on-air pets – and every year, when it was time for her to hibernate, Noakes, Purves and Singleton made a right old song and dance about it. They produced a cardboard box with holes punched into it and the name 'Freda' written on the side in black marker pen. Freda would be placed in the box and covered in straw and that would be it until the weather warmed up.

Phil is, in effect, the Blue Peter tortoise. Once the weather gets a little chilly – 'a bit parky' – Phil hibernates. He climbs into a cardboard box with holes punched into its sides and we don't see him until the spring time.

We rode to the Tatsfield Bus Stop and did what we always do – eat biscuits, drink tea and chat about this and that while watching the world (and Lycra monkeys) pass us by.

While we'd managed to avoid a soaking on the outward journey, we weren't so lucky on the return ride. We almost made it home dry, but shortly after waving goodbye to Andy having promised to be on the green again the following morning, the heavens opened. The only good thing was the mild weather, which took the edge off of things.

The rumour for Sunday was pleasant weather and sure enough, no rain and continuing mild temperatures. This must be one of the mildest Novembers on record. But it's early days yet. I remember back in November 2010 when the cold weather really set in (click here for details).

We rode again to the Tatsfield Bus Stop having originally considered a ride to Westerham. All the way along I was thinking about Beaumont's The Man Who Cycled the World and the way that he sometimes camped the night in some of the most remote parts of the world. The normal procedure was to wait until the coast was clear and then dive off the road in search of somewhere private to pitch the tent. I must admit that I'd be a little wary of what is known as 'wild camping' (which I think is illegal in the UK). The thought of somebody stumbling across my tent in the dead of night would mean sleepless nights for yours truly, but Beaumont took it in his stride and made me realise that, as long as you're concealed from view and nobody knows you're there, then all should be fine. Beaumont proved as much and, as I cycled along the 269, I started to wonder who might be camping off the road, behind a tree or a bush, out of harm's way and, more importantly, out of sight.

For a lot of the earlier stages of the ride, Beaumont seemed to live off of cous cous, but as the adventure continued he resorted to motels where he could get a decent night's sleep and something reasonable to eat.

We gave up on the idea of riding to Westerham – too much in the way of chores to do back home – and settled for the bus stop. Out came the tea and biscuits and we both sat there enjoying the moment: the fresh early morning air, the peace and quiet and, of course, something decent to eat and drink.

Yours truly's bike at the bus stop...
Getting up and preparing ourselves for the ride home is never pleasant. The bus stop is such a relaxing place and I could have done with more tea and biscuits and, perhaps, the Sunday papers. But no, it was time to go home. We rode up towards Botley Hill roundabout where we turned right and headed north along the 269 towards Warlingham Green. Halfway along Andy branched off and rode down towards Woldingham and beyond the to Wapses Roundabout where he must have prepared to ride up the hill towards Caterham-on-the-Hill (the clue's in the name).

The weather remained mild for the rest of the day and I spent an hour or two in the garden chopping up wood.

Colder weather is on the way, or so they say, but it's not going to stop us riding. We'll be back in the saddle again next weekend, unless it's raining, of course.

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