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Pedalling North Day Two

Pedalling North Day Two - Saturday 22nd August – Newark to Harrogate – 89.5 miles planned, 103.5 miles completed 

For the next part of my journey I had the whole day at my disposal, but that did not mean I could sleep let myself sleep in. After waking myself up properly with a shower, I wandered downstairs to be treated to a hearty breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs and baked beans along with a good strong coffee which would stand me in good stead for the miles ahead. Once I’d been fed and watered Lola was once again checked over, the handlebar bag reattached, top tube bag filled with ride snacks and this time all three of my bidons were filled to the brim, with two stashed in the bottle cages on the bike & one in my back pocket along with my bananas. 

Mr & Mrs A joined me for the first fifteen miles out of Newark, using that part of my route as the beginning of their own ride for the day and it was a very pleasant way to begin. It wasn’t too challenging a start, but there were inclines to contend with and I think I surprised us all when I shot up one like a gazelle, seemingly unhindered by all the extra weight my bike was laden down with. Reassuring as that may have been to me, I put it down to still feeling fresh and having decided that the incline was of the short, punchy variety that it’s best to get up and over quickly. Reaching the point at which we would part ways, Mr & Mrs A waved me off with the promise of another warm reception on my return and I settled in to a good rhythm following what was for the most part, the Old Great North Road. 

Pedalling steadily, I felt no need to rush particularly not as I expected the route to climb upwards the further north I got so figured I’d need to conserve my energy for that. This turned out not to be the case and the route remained pleasantly flat.  I took my cues for left and right turns from my Garmin which had my pre-planned route programmed in; this allowed me the freedom to relax in to the ride, to just enjoy the feeling of the sunshine on my face, the wind at my back and the hum of my wheels rolling along the tarmac whilst I made mental notes of places that might make a nice pit stop on the way back.  

After around 45 miles, at what should have been half way, I decided it was time for lunch; so at the next inviting looking place I pulled in. McCallum’s Farm Shop on Bank End Road near Blaxton was a cute little venue nestled amongst fishing lakes, selling farm produce and serving freshly prepared food. After considering the menu for a moment I settled on a massive prawn salad and a whole punnet of strawberries, which I devoured whilst sitting in the sunshine and watching the fishermen patiently waiting for a catch from the nearby lakes, and enjoying the sounds of nature all around me. What could be better than that? 

Re-fuelled and well rested, it was soon time to get going again. I had not been underway for very long before it became apparent that I was just about to join the halfway point of a Time Trial - the aero helmet and skin suit of the rider coming around the roundabout after me did give the game away somewhat! So I tried my best not to hinder his progress and looked ahead to where his minute man was approaching from further down on the other side of the road. I was cruising along at a good speed all things considered and I am not quite sure what I was thinking, but I determined at that moment that I if I could help it, I did not want to be overtaken by anyone else. So I endeavoured to keep my pace up above 20mph over the whole stretch of the long straight road before me, or at least until I was past where the riders were being set off from.

Now I don’t do time trials at all, the thought of that sustained focussed effort on my own pains me, but there was something ever so slightly amusing about the idea of me with all my touring kit attempting to hold off the advance of the seasoned time triallers behind me - even if they did already have five miles in their legs before I joined in! There I was, hands on the drops and elbows bent bringing my body as low and flat to the bike as I could manage all the while trying to keep my pace and cadence high. I can happily report that only one rider passed me, that being the chap behind the rider I first saw at the roundabout, which was to have been expected. I did wonder if any of the other riders or organisers noticed me or whether there would be any comments on my inadvertent participation in the event afterwards! 

Continuing ever northward I began to see familiar looking landmarks on the horizon, after a small rest stop in Carlton, the immense chimneys of Selby Power Plant loomed large and I began to feel like my journey was approaching it’s end. Checking the mileage I’d completed so far, I was happy with the progress I’d made and being roughly two thirds of the way there I was reassured that I was making good time. The sun continued to shine and the wind continued to blow at my back, a rare thing indeed and certainly eased the miles along! Stopping at Tadcaster to take a snap of the impressive looking John Smiths Brewery, I checked the distance covered again and saw that I’d already covered 84 miles, brilliant I thought, only five miles left to go! This was particularly good as my legs were starting to feel the miles now but I could definitely manage another five miles, easily.  It did seem a little odd though that this close to the end I had yet to see any road signs for Harrogate, surely there should have been some? Had I been so engrossed in the ride that I’d missed them?

And that was my first clue that perhaps my route wasn’t heading exactly the way I’d originally mapped it. Steadfastly following the route indicated by my Garmin I pushed on thinking I’d definitely see a sign for Harrogate soon - I had to - definitely in the next few miles for sure. But no, no sign appeared and in the distance the sky was beginning to darken with a heavy, foreboding looking cloud. Marvellous! 

Already past my planned 89.5 miles, not sure exactly how far away I actually was and with bad weather moving in, this was not exactly ideal but I had to keep moving - I had to get there. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to finally see a sign for Harrogate. Sixteen miles to Harrogate! What happened to five? Nevertheless, it helped galvanised me to keep going despite the twinge of discomfort I was now feeling in my right knee with every pedal stroke. But it was ok, and I’d reach the hotel soon; well, soon if an hour could be considered soon, and once there I could shower the heat of the day away and spend the rest of the evening resting. Just as I’d begun to think about how nice that shower would be there was a flash of lightning up ahead followed by a crack of thunder and with that the heavens opened. Not quite the kind of shower I had in mind but I did at least laugh at the irony.  

The rain continued to fall fast and heavy until the roads I was travelling on had become rivers with the flow of water in to the storm drains. I was in Harrogate at last and I could see the end of the route on the Garmin map, but the instructions it was giving out didn’t seem to be taking me directly there. By this point I was soaking wet and ready to stop. I wasn’t laughing anymore and really just wanted my Garmin to behave and get me to my destination. It didn’t look like it was going to do that, so in frustration I switched it off and used the satnav on my phone to guide me to my hotel, which was as it happened straight ahead on the road I’d stopped on and not all around the houses as the Garmin would have taken me!  

At last I had made it; The Grants Hotel was there, right in front of me. A welcome sight! The receptionist was expecting me so had my key already to hand and I tried my best not to drip all over the floor as I checked in. Lola was safely stashed away in a secure cupboard and I made my way up to my allocated room for that long awaited shower before seeking the next essential item on my list of things I needed - food! I was helpfully shown to a lovely Italian restaurant around the corner from the hotel and happily sat inside watching people dash through the rain as I tucked in to what was possibly the most eagerly anticipated meal I’d had for a while! 

Once back at the hotel I tried to understand quite how I’d travelled an extra 14 miles when I was meant to be following a pre-planned route. It turns out I’d left the auto-recalculate function on which essentially meant that every time the GPS signal dropped out the device recalculated the route. I didn’t notice this happening and the device didn’t display the difference between the old route and the new, so I was none the wiser until it was too late! Clearly a rookie mistake and after quickly disabling this function not one I planned to repeat! 

That sorted, the comfort of my hotel bed was calling me for the rest that was well and truly needed, as the next day I would be meeting up with the lovely Rob from Pedal North who was going to show me around the beautiful countryside that he calls home...