It was good to catch up with John and Ivan before they set off on their own trajectory. It was also a pleasure to have the company of super-slim Dave and Liz for a while. There was a lower turnout than of late for various reasons. Undoubtedly, the likelihood of being struck by lightning and suffering torrential downpours, had led some to lily-liveredly buttering another round of toast and hunkering down at home. The moderates consisted of Steve Haywood, Alan, Peter and myself. Loppington was the chosen destination. Peter was accompanying us only part of the way, as he too was running frit of forecast deluges. It was difficult to know what to wear, as it was likely to remain warm even if we were soaked through. We drooled over John's neat GoreWear black jacket from their Rich City Slickers collection. Evidently, it remains totally waterproof in a tsunami, yet retains the ventilation comparable to travelling in an open Ferrari Portofino at a steady199m.p.h. Some would rather have the fluorescent yellow safety of a Decathlon waterproof jacket on a dark, wet day in winter, and put the hundreds of pounds saved in the tin marked, “Winter Holiday in Barbados.” To be fair, John covers more miles than most, and being soggy and sweaty for many hours is not pleasant.
We were a little late setting off as we inspected the Pipe's electrified tandem, which I thought smelt of burning. My route was through Tilston, Malpas and Higher Wyche. The sun had appeared and was pretty hot. I had left my helmet behind at home after the distraction of my daughter's dog escaping as I went to the car. Alan kindly lent me a cloth cap to spare my burning bonce, and we made good progress toward Whixall. Alan had hopes that if we could just make lunch before getting wet......Then, the heavy rain started, and we sheltered under some trees as it really began to pour down. It was time to forget further meandering on intricate lanes toward Wem. We cut across to the B5476 and rode south and straight to Wem and out the other side to Tilley. We passed the Tilley Raven where we once arrived late, but the chef left a good helping of chips for us as he left for home. We sped down the back lane to Nonely, as the rain eased off, and reached The Dickin Arms shortly after. We could have sat outside under canvas, but Steve preferred a wasp free lunch, and we agreed to eat inside. The food was very good and excellent value. The standard of the cooking, and the class of the clientele is definitely up a notch on most pub stops. We were the only plebs, and the only ones looking like drowned rats.
|Photo by AO|
The narrow, well-surfaced lane to Lyneal was a scenic delight on the way back. Alan kindly took the photograph, and the sun was out again. The dirty little lanes towards Tart Hill were given a miss, and we headed for Hanmer via Northwood and Bettisfield. We continued to push on through Threapwood, conscious that a lot more wild rainfall was looming. Steve persuaded me that the direct route to Shocklach was a bit rough, and that he had a nicer little detour! So it was that we cycled down Chapel Lane to “The Holy Land” and then ploughed on north for Farndon and Holt. Thanks to Steve's cute diversion we failed to beat the next heavy rainfall, which hit us at Crewe-by-Farndon, minutes before reaching Cleopatra's! Steve may well have led us to the Holy Land, but, for me, he now still needs to find the Road to Redemption. Perhaps, I am being a bit harsh, perhaps, I am being that “typical Scouser” from home that usually blames others if things go wrong! At Holt, Alan headed for his car, and Steve and I had a last coffee and a chat to Helen. Steve reminded me of my once forgetting to bring my jacket to this venue, on a very cold day. I asked the staff if they could spare me a bin bag, and I then made a gilet from this. Helen took pity on me and lent me her partner's cycling jacket. Today, Philippe made an appearance from the kitchen to amuse us with some inane trick questions. If you don't know why Philippe left South Africa, and how he met Helen, read their 'Journey' on Cleopatra's website. The drive home, across country to Steve's at Kelsall, and then to Runcorn was extremely frought with deep, swirling floodwater everywhere, but fortunately the old Berlingo made it. Despite everything, we were never cold, the scenery was enjoyable, and I am sure that the three of us were glad that we had made the effort. We had covered nearly fifty miles, the majority of them dry, surprisingly.