Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Day 2 - Northampton to London - 110 km

Had a bit of a lay in until Shelagh persuaded the good Boxo to kick me out of bed, so I didn't get off until 11.15 or so, laden with boxogrub, which went down very well along the way. Cut through Salcey Forest to Wolverton, which was pleasant, but from there on it was trafficky roads pretty much all the way. Went straight through Milton Keynes, ignoring its concrete cows and its tradition of fourth division football (saved a good gob of phlegm for the National Hockey Stadium), and out on the first bit of Roman road of the trip through Fenny Stratford, then shadowing the Grand Union canal to Leighton Buzzard.

Here I was on pretty familiar roads, being Bucks born and bred and all that; indeed, roads I had raced on. Using my local knowledge I chose to take the easy way through the Chilterns, climbing to Dagnall close by (but rather lower than) Whipsnade zoo. The climbing was still rather slow, but on roads you know you don't get taken in so easily by false flat, and the flatter bits rolled past nicely.

At the top of the climb, my mother was waiting beside the road to offer support; I duly sent her off down the Gade valley road to look for somewhere that would sell a cup of tea. Turns out that the Gade Valley is actually a bit of a desert (albeit a pleasantly descending one), but she managed to find somewhere just short of Hemel Hempstead. Which was nice.

On setting out again, I tried to terminate the expedition prematurely at a roundabout on the outskirts of Hemel; if the bloke driving the invisible black car that elected not to drive into me despite it being blatantly his right of way happens to be reading - sorry and thanks. Anyway, that woke me up a bit for the remaining 300 or so roundabouts from Hemel and down the old A41 (which is Akeman Street, i think) to Watford. I chose to avoid the town centre, not least because going straight on at Hunton Bridge roundabout is a bit terrifying for a cyclist who wasn't really capable of doing much more than 12 mph on the gradients involved, so I took the bypass up by Leavesden (where my mum used to work for De Havillands) and north Watford where my grandparents lived; it's a trafficky dragstrip but there was plenty of space and only one nasty sliproad to negotiate. By the time I was bypassing Bushey, the rush hour was in full swing and I was mostly moving faster than the traffic. At Elstree I rejoined Watling Street, stopped for a breather at the top of Brockley Hill and from there on it was straight down the Edgware Road/Cricklewood Broadway/Shoot-Up Hill (down)/Kilburn High Road/Maida Vale/Edgware Road, which was all familar territory from when I first lived and cycled in London; I quickly discovered that my courier trackstand techniques required more strength than I really had left, although they did get some applause once or twice. Anyway, across the park, down Exhibition Road and I reached the youth hostel at Earl's Court a bit after seven, definitely feeling like I'd done some miles but a lot less knackered than after day one. I celebrated by joining Ken from E2's pub quiz team for the evening at the Queen's Arms in, um, some bit of SW6 that I don't really have a name for. We came second, but it was a pleasantly sociable evening anyway.

Pictures to accompany this post when I get to somewhere with a card reader.


Jon said...

The Queen's Arms in on Queen's Gate Mews... I don't really know that that area of Sarf Ken has a name to be honest. Perhaps "That bit where Jon should have spent less time in the pub and more time getting more than a third"

Albert Herring said...

Nope, different Queen's Arms. I know that one pretty well from the Proms though.