Telephone commitments had been made, barring snow and ice. There was also the forecast of very strong, gusty winds to consider: enough to deter our intrepid tandemists for once. Keith, Steve and myself arrived at Utkinton in the big, black van. John, Ivan, Clive, Jim and Liz also made it, with Bryan in civvies as he was preparing to go to the Caribbean. Jim had already briefly mentioned a couple of possible destinations with me the day before, and we had since independently decided exactly the same route. It is slightly disturbing to find one's thinking processes to be synchronized exactly with Jim's! The splitting into two groups was needed as the pace differential between the fastest and slowest was likely to be considerable.
The moderate group comprised Liz, Jim, Keith, Steve and myself. We set off on a route that we often return by: Rhuddall Heath, Tilstone Fearnhall, Bunbury and Brindley. We then navigated our way to Larden Green and up Chorley Bank before heading west for Bickley Moss and The Wheatsheaf at No Mans Heath. We had selected this route so that any strong wind or wintery showers would not be directly in our faces after lunch, but so far we had enjoyed some blue sky, and only a little rain, and the wind had not really bothered us. Our hosts at the Wheatsheaf were friendly and helpful, and the food was very good and excellent value. I made sure that I ordered my food first, but was served last - there's a moral there somewhere for pushy people! There was a choice about portion size, but without Dave and Liz to collude with, we all seemed too self-conscious to order the larger meals.
The uncertainty about the weather had us heading more directly back than if we could have been sure that we wouldn't find ourselves coping with possible snow and high winds. As it turned out it was a very pleasant ride back via Hampton Green, right at Ashton's Cross, and avoiding Harthill by heading north-east to Peckforton with the wind largely behind us. We were soon rounding Beeston Castle and diving down to the tricky humpback at the Shropshire Union Canal. We arrived early in Tarporley, but I was out-voted, so we didn't stop at The Fire Station for coffee and cake. Being a true democrat I accepted the group's decision, but really what's the world coming to? I suppose the hard up peasant culture of their youth is never really forgotten by natives of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, who enjoy being ' tight' even with themselves. Medics enjoy doing without in order to boast about their exemplary low blood sugar levels. Am I going to be the only fat man on a bike in this club? It's not as if the moderate riders are trying to emulate Chris Froome, or even second-rate horse jockeys. Where were the Pipes when I needed them! 32 very enjoyable miles in excellent, if slightly stingy company, finishing rather early, because of the tragic omission of a coffee stop. It wouldn't have happened if Bryan Wade had been able to ride. . . .etc., etc.
DH for Jim
DH for Jim