On a bus from Pocklington before 7am wearing lycra, a high-vis jacket, and a helmet, carrying a suitcase but without a bike, I am sure I appeared more than a little unhinged. An appearance I cemented when I sat atop of the said suitcase at the side of the road in the middle of Heslington as I awaited Neil coming to my rescue.
Soon after, we went to this petrol station, and I felt a little less alien.
Another feature of the North is a prevailing assumption that if you are there, you must know where you are going, resulting in a paucity of signage. Inevitably, this led to a number of different turns and seeing a handful of unexpected villages. The morning was cold, though, and the sun hadn’t managed to peek through, meaning that windbreakers were a must.
Then it got a bit warmer, but the most interesting diversion of the day so far was an accidental jaunt along a track leading only to a travellers’ campsite. Ponies and guard dogs lined the track, tugging at their chains with all their might as they launched themselves towards the flying fluorescent intruders. We were pleased to get out of there alive.
We wound our way Northwards and upwards towards Northallerton.
And then on to Thirsk, where we stopped for lunch in the town centre.
After a short stop, spurred on by the gathering clouds, we headed for Darlington, a section of the route with a surprising amount of climbing. A surprise only enriched by the headwinds. And the downpours. Not to mention the thunder.
Some of the team hid in the trees as the heavens opened, while the rest cowered in the van.
It got hillier, and the descent in to Durham was only to be followed by a few hidden killer climbs, too short to really show on the elevation map, but long enough after 85 miles to hurt. A lot.
Then we reached the warmth of Van Mildert College, Durham, where the laughter of the jolly porter and scents of dinner wafted through the air.
I would like at this point to offer our utmost thanks to the Treasurer of the University of Durham and to Van Mildert College for so generously hosting us and for providing the comfort (and the protein) to make that exhausting day bearable. Also, thanks are owed to Adam Bent, of the Durham Bicycle Users’ Group, who provided assistance with the route in the area.