Sometimes, when they get bored of freezing us, drenching us, or throwing f***wit cagers at us (presumably shouting ¡Olė! as they watch us dodge left and right, duck through the gap and escape), the biking gods make up for it by arranging a perfect riding day. Today was this decade’s … proper Goldilocks weather, not too hot, not too cold, but just right for riding in summer gloves without the heated grips on, and in a long-sleeved t-shirt without being desperate to throw caution to the winds and go Greek; a Round Britain Rally route with a landmark every 40 miles, and no “short walks” involved (Dave the Disorganiser may have been a mountain goat in a previous life. His idea of a short walk has been christened “motorhiking” by RBR for Charity Blogger John Goodwill); co-operative fellow travellers moving to the left not in order to get a better run-up before taking me out but actually making space for an overtake (apart from the one guy in Donington who was swerving to the left only because the other hand was off the steering wheel giving me the finger. Yes, I was a bit slow through the roundabout because I didn’t know which exit I needed, but if you hadn’t been so close on my arse that you could read the size of my knickers you wouldn’t have had to brake quite so suddenly).
It feels like it has been raining since the Kill Spills rally, so it was with little hope that I watched the weather forecast for this weekend – but the scarily enthusiastic late-night weatherman in the trainee’s slightly too-shiny suit did not lie:
Note to Self: Pack sunglasses not sub-aqua goggles.
This fabulous blue sky is one of the five primary colours of the perfect English ride – the others are fluffy white clouds; dark green trees; bright green grass on the verges and the really rather lovely slate grey tarmac favoured by English local highway authorities (sadly overlaid in some places by yellow rumble strips that shake your teeth out and, in other spots, by beige profiled overlay designed to make you feel slightly queasy in corners. At least, that’s what it does to me).
The first part of the day is a straightforward push north up the A1 with detours – in Hertford, Samuel Stone looks rather like he is hailing a taxi (to get him away from the horde of bikers, we presume). Sutton’s Medieval Packhorse Bridge is rather larger and more impressive than the usual “three slabs on a pile of rocks” that has been the norm thus far; while St Peter’s Church in Oundle has a sign pointing to it from the town centre, making things good and easy (RBR for beginners!)
Heading past Peterborough a small tragedy has occurred – Wansford Little Chef is no more. It’s boarded up and has already grown a coat of graffiti over its slightly battered 1930’s modernist exterior. I’ve eaten a lot of Olympic Breakfasts here because it’s the perfect distance from London, if, like me, you like to start at sparrowfart and get out of the South East three hours ahead of the rest of the traffic before stopping for coffee and cholesterol. It’s also a Control for the National Rally, a cheerful BMF branch camping out in the car park ready to stamp cards and offer you a fly-encrusted sponge for your visor. One more nail in the coffin of back-road biking – if you can call the A1 a back road!
Heading up to bag Matthew Flinders in Donington, the Fens stretch away on each side of the road, flat, open and mostly covered in what looks like cabbages. This means lots of tractors, and where there are tractors there’s heroic overtaking by people who don’t seem deterred by an on-coming motorcycle. Fortunately the roads are good and wide, and my repertoire of Italianate hand gestures is coming along nicely.
Captain Flinders sports an impressively large telescope (arf arf), while the Old Windmill at Bateman’s Brewery also stands rather proud from the surrounding flats, making it impossible to miss (and easy to photograph).
From here it’s a quick blast down the A19 to Kings Lynn for the Greyfriars Tower, “as featured in Restoration” – and opposite the police station, so no driving onto the pavement to get a better shot this time; and then another simple hop down the A10 to the William Harley Memorial, which is a fantastic piece of public sculpture. Can’t show you the Memorial till the rally is over so here is a photo facing in the other direction!
As a Brucie Bonus, because I got a bit lost coming out of Littleport and missed the turn back to the A10, I fetched up in Ely on a route which took me right beneath the walls of the cathedral at sunset.
Mellow sunshine, mellow stone, mellow rider. Makes a nice change!
Scores on the doors:
Landmarks bagged: 7
Miles travelled: 265
Little Chefs Visited: 1
Number of Little Chef staff telling me “I’ve got a scooter but I’m saving up for a ninja”: 1
Number of Little Chef staff with Rossi-tribute “46” on their scooter – in felt tip: 1
(note to self – leave bigger tips so that they can at least afford stickers).