I woke up like a coiled spring again but a hot bath and an extended stretch before and after breakfast sorted that. I left at almost 11am on the dot, the time counting from zero when I pressed the button which weirded me out for a sec.
I rode out of the Premier Inn onto a main trunk A road for half a mile before took a left at Street (its a place not just some random street) to head due south. It was cloudy, cool (arm warmers on) and a bastard headwind. I was only going one way so I had 70+ miles of that to look forward too.
After finishing on the pan flat levels yesterday this was a wake up. Literally a rollercoaster of a road. The difference a couple of miles makes. The B road I was on had pockets of busy before a right and the first climb test of the legs up to Somerton. The legs didn’t want to get out of bed today like a tardy teenager. They weren’t having it but I had no choice but to plough on.
Ironically, the A road I followed for some 9 or 10 miles out of Somerton was quieter than the B road from Glastonbury. I saw some weird town names too. Huish Episcopi and Curry Rivel were a couple that stuck out.
In the distance I could see the hills I was heading towards. I’d seen them on the map, the Blackdown AONB or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Ever heard of it? Me neither. As I entered it, other than going up you’d have no idea either. No signs, nothing. Its a pretty place but for an AONB I associate that with the Cotswolds, the Shropshire Hills or Snowdonia. Something that has an identity. This didn’t. Nice place. Rural, quiet lanes. Thats it.
The climb was a cow. Endless but the teenage legs had awoke. When you have a load on your bike, you just slap it in the low gears and tap it out and enjoy the view. If you try to fight gravity, the big G will win everytime. The legs liked it. This climb reminded me of Stanway Hill in the Cotswolds if you know it. Shrouded in tree cover and a reasonable gradient. I reached what I thought was the top at a T-Junction and the Garmin said right. I looked right and up. It continued. Not the hardest climb but the longest probably. I rounded a bend and it kicked up again to my disgust but thankfully the Garmin sent me left up a random lane for 100m before a nice long, straight descent into nowhere.
Obviously I had to climb back out of the valley I was in which was another 1st and 2nd gear effort. To be honest, I didn’t mind the climbing as I escaped the headwind which was a bitch. At the top I passed a bloke in an AA van having his lunch I think and took a left onto a road so wide and straight you’d think it was a trunk road yet it was quiet.
I crossed the border from Somerset into Devon and I enjoyed my first route planning fuck up of the trip. I’d just been passed by a group of roadies and the Garmin said go right. It was an offroad track. I wasn’t happy. Luckily I had some phone signal and Google maps told me to carry on first right, first left to get round it and back on course. I set off again and found it really cold, wherever I was. I checked my back pocket and my gilet was gone. The posh Galibier one I love. FFS. I assumed I’d dropped it when I stopped to sort the re-route out so I did a u-turn. I then realised I’d packed into my frame bag a couple of hours earlier to stop my keys rattling. Idiot. Another u-turn and I was back on it.
Now this bit of the ride was odd. I was obviously up high. I was riding next to an airfield but the roads were ridiculously straight, I mean I could see a mile in front of me straight. The airfield plucked my interest though. It looked like ex-WW2, I could see some buildings that looked like that kind of age and as I rounded the bottom of the runway into, the worst of the headwind, it was obvious something was on. I pulled up at a gate with some flags and some info boards which confirmed it was WW2. Looking across the field it looked like they were hosting some kind of Truckfest and as I continued on the mega straight roads, a number of big, fuck-off American trucks passed me going the other way, I mean some serious wagonage was going on. Huge.
From here until Exeter was a rollercoaster with some really technical descents and broken roads to ride. Gravel, dirt, grass in the middle, those sort. After an effort uphill after what seemed like 50 miles (it wasn’t) I popped out onto a main road just for change lol. The old main road between Exeter and Honiton I think. All downhill but as I got closer to Exeter it got busier and busier.
I stopped at a random garage for a sandwich and drink to refuel before carrying on not happy with the traffic. Just idiots that either close pass or have to get in front. On the outskirts it was carmageddon. A three lane highway feeder road to the M5. Fuck that. I took the unusual step of riding on the shared pavement and picked my way across six lanes and traffic lights for about three miles. Cycling infrastructure it isn’t. Just pavements badged up as shared spaces thats all but it was safer tbh.
After a couple of miles of shit, across the River Exe it was a 90 deg left and I left the traffic chaos behind. I was on a the traffic-free Exe Estuary Trail. In the blink of an eye you go from cycling horror to cycling bliss tracking the estuary. I loved it, particularly riding under the M5 and riding over a purpose built railway bridge.
After a couple of miles I dropped into Dawlish. Rammed with traffic but it was moving. From here the hills began to bite after the flat of the estuary and time in the saddle. I necked a gel and dug in, the end in sight now.
Teignmouth was another level of traffic. I think I must have ridden past half a mile of stationary vehicles. I recognised cars that had passed me minutes earlier. Across the bridge I began the climb out of town towards Torquay around the token haiprin bend. I’ve been here a couple of times and I had clearly forgotten how long the climb was. Mutha Fucka it was long. A bit narrow and twisty in places too making the drivers queue up to pass. Over the top I stopped on a plateau to take a pic of some cruise ships docked out at sea and I carried on riding the rollercoaster until on a descent I saw a ‘Welcome to Torquay’ sign.
As I signalled left to stop and pulled up, the car behind honked. I looked expecting some grief but the driver was smiling and gave me the thumbs up. Not sure why.
Until now the legs were A1 all day but when I set off again the wheels came off. The legs went but I only had a bout 3km left. One last draggy climb, a left and I was on Babbacombe Downs with 120km in the bag.
Sally and her mom were there which was a much more pleasant end to the ride than rocking up at an anonymous door to our apartment for the weekend and making a call.
So. Its done. 200+ miles in 3 days with a 30-40lb bike & kit. Happy with that. Its surprising how strong you can be from just riding to work and back. I’ve been riding literally decades now and I now know my level which helps meter out a prolonged effort like this. I seem to do good on long rides. Maybe I should do more? Hmmm…..
Thanks for reading.
Till next time. Adios.