or, The One With the Pass
It’s a strange old place to be, in the saddle of the bicycle for days at a time. You have the freedom that no other road user can ever dream of having and are more or less in total control with how you want to travel; you can travel for miles and miles in a carefree state with your legs ticking over effortlessly and then, in the same hour in some cases, every pedal stroke is torture and that saddle feels like the loneliest place on the planet as you try and plough through.
No point beating round the bush…today was tough. Tougher than my first century back to Peterborough. Tougher than that day through Exmoor earlier on this tour. It was, by far, the toughest day I have EVER had on two wheels!
Finally finished writing and getting Day Six’s blog and got out of the B&B at around 10.45 (so much for the early starts!), and set off on the coastal road out of Morecambe – stopping for the obligatory photo with Eric, of course. The couple that kindly took my photo also gave me some sponsorship money too, after I explained what I was doing…thank you!
The first twenty five miles were great cycling miles with decent surfaces and lovely terrain. The first five miles or so along the coast were particularly nice, with the sea breeze offering a nice respite to the already warm sun.
I stopped for a feed stop in Ings (best flapjack in the world!) and had a chat with the guy in the shop. Showed him my route and we had a laugh about it; ‘so you’re going over the Pass?!’, ‘yep’, ‘good luck with that!’. Gulp!
After twenty five miles the hills started, gentle at first before it appeared…
…’Kirkstone Pass 5′. Looks pretty innocuous like that, doesn’t it? What that sign doesn’t tell you is that it’s a long, winding road up the side of the fells. Yes, it’s pretty…but there’s nothing up there. Nothing. Not even a McDonalds and they’re everywhere (actually, that’s a lie…haven’t seen many golden arches at all on this trip)!
Just me, my bike, this god awful road, the beating sun and sheep. Lots of sheep. Seems to be the ‘in thing’ up here, sheep. They’re nice and everything, but they don’t offer much encouragement when you stop at the side of the road. At least a cow would sound like it was telling you to ‘moo-ve’…
I digress. As I wound my way up the climb (slowly) I remembered my Garmin wasn’t the base model…mine had an altimeter built in! Now, it took just as long and I seemed to be stopping for far longer than I was actually cycling but the numbers slowly ticked over…
…500ft, 600ft, 700ft, 800ft, 900ft, 850ft (oh yes, there were slight dips too…just for giggles I guess), 900ft, 1,000ft, 1,100ft, 1,200ft, 1,300ft, 1,400ft, 1,450ft…
…then, as I rounded another bend, I saw it. A pub! That must be the summit, you wouldn’t build a pub called The Kirkstone Inn before the top would you?! I powered (ha!) up the final few yards to 1,500ft and as the road levelled out I knew. I’d done it. I’d f*cking done it!
Not sure what the guy in the blue top thought as a sweaty, hot but deleriously happy cyclist thrust a camera at him…but I wanted a photo! Thanking him, he told me to enjoy the descent…’it’s worth that climb’.
As I sat at the top and pondered what I’d just done, the support vehicle for that group I mentioned the other day rolled in. He kindly filled up my bidon with water (so much water…that’s where a support vehicle comes in handy!) and we had a bit of a chat on how things were going. We’ll probably see each other en route again but if not, and you’re reading this…good luck.
Setting off over the flat summit I indulged myself a little with a small arms aloft celebration, Le Tour style. Yes, I probably looked ridiculous but I’m never going to win a polka dot jersey…let me be Contador just for a minute!
You’d think the descent would be fun. It wasn’t to start with! Twenty per cent (that’s one in five, fraction fans!) descents round hairpin curves aren’t for the faint hearted. Use of the brakes had my rims red hot in minutes and I had to stop to let them cool for fear of bursting an inner tube!
After a while it slows down a bit and the meandering curves with the peaks and lakes in view are breathtaking. I stopped for a break at Pattersdale (best brownie ever!) and set off again.
Now, the Garmin has this lovely ‘feature’ that is the knack of turning itself off as the road gets too bumpy (fair enough). As I rounded the lake I realised it had done so and turned it back on. To find I’d missed a subtle turn off. Two and a half miles back.
I cheerfully (ha!) pedalled my way back to this point and got going in the right direction to hit the second climb of the day. This one was ‘only’ 600ft according to my route card but my legs were refusing to oblige.
I laboured my way up this tortuous climb with my legs burning every stroke and somehow made it to the top. No celebrations this time out, just a real desire to get the last thirty miles or so out of the way so I could get some rest.
The last spell of the journey flew by in comparison, along desolate local roads, and I arrived at the Arkale Lodge in Carlisle at around 20.15.
Pat welcomed me in and informed me he was entertaining his daughter-in-law Georgina and grandchildren (Niamh and Grace) for the weekend. I apologised for the late arrival and hoped I hadn’t ruined any evening plans for them – the food that was being cooked smelt delicious.
With the heat throwing up dust and grime from the roads I asked if it would be possible for me to use a tumble drier to dry off clothes if I rinsed them. I was amazed when Pat said he’d do better than that and would wash and dry them for me…thank you!
After showering it was time for food. Whilst there was a Burger King over the road, I felt like something a bit more substantial so asked if they could recommend anywhere nearby.
Pat said I could join them! Not only was he kind enough to offer to do my washing, he was going to feed me too! Feeling guilty I asked again (and again) if he was sure, but he insisted.
American ranch chilli chicken, rice and carrots. And peaches and ice cream for dessert. I could have cried, dear reader.
We shot the breeze over the meal, topics including travel, Las Vegas and British seaside towns. It was a really nice end to what had been a struggle of a day.
So it was off to bed with a hearty meal inside me for a change and thoughts of tomorrow’s trip into Scotland and up to Edinburgh already forcing the struggle of today out of my mind.
Reflecting on the day just gone I thought of the towns I’d been through (Kendal and Windemere in particular were lovely), the sights I’d seen (RAF fighter planes tearing round the peaks a particular highlight) and the stories that I’d have to tell once I get home. I started to think that it’s not all bad I guess, it’s almost enjoyable in a weird way. It’s a strange old place to be, in the saddle of the bicycle for days at a time..
Stats for the day
Distance for the day: 82 miles
Time in saddle for the day: 6hrs 20mins
Average speed for the day: 13.0mph
Maximum speed for the day: 34.8mph
Total distance to date: 599 miles (gah!)
Total time in saddle to date: 44hrs 37mins
Average speed for trip to date: 13.4mph
Route for the day…
Route profile for the day…