Monday, 22 February 2010

Opportunity Missed, but nice Mammoth Coffee

So, for a couple of weeks we had been planning a road ride, 100km using Mercia CCs route, Sunday 21st February chosen, 7am start from the Chase, giving ourselves a steady 5 hours so we can include a cake stop!. 6am, text, "have u looked outside?", I hadn't, and wished I hadn't when I did, 3" of lovely white snow, 100kms on the road didn't look a good idea.

Quick rethink and the trusted Mercian Canyon was in the car ready for Chase/Snow fun, and what a good few hours we had, a highlight riding down a sledge filled slope! A coffee with Gary at Mammoth, we resisted cake though, warmed us a little. A good mornings riding after all, if not the miles I wanted for Cheshire Cat training.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Commute 15th February

ok, manged two days last week so am aiming to at least double that this week!

Off to an ok start, dry, little chilly but little wind so happy................................. until that is I am less than 1/2 a mile from work. I always take my time once on the Industrail Estate and today it proved wise, pedalling along, car pulled over to the left, which then pulls in front of me!, right across to right hand side of the road, brakes full on I was slidding right into him side on, I spotted a worker from the Auctions, waving both arms I guess trying to warn the driver! As we came to a stop I was non too pleased ready for giving him all, but his window came down, his colour gone and obviously shocked and very, very sorry, so a quick "ok and next time use your mirrors" and I was away. Had I been going any quicker than I was there was no way I could have avoided him and I would ended up on the deck, god knows which side of the car! Ride home was less eventful, but wet, so a good drying session upon return home.

Tuesday, cold but dry, a great sunset to ride home into was all I can really say. Home and quick change whilst wolfing a piece of "home baked" Chocolate cake - Nice - then off to "Spin Class", no Motorhead or "Freebird" so was "steady"!

And that was that, Wednesday was a planned car day, but the forecast for Thursday was "heavy" snow, all day the sun was out and I regretted the car choice, but at 4ish the snow began, right choice after all then. Friday was wet & icey so opted for the car again. We have a good ride planned for Sunday, weather permitting, so will hopefully make up some "lost" miles from this week.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Commute 8th February 2010

No ride to work last week, which after getting my new "bikescheme" bike is gaining me some ribbing at work, but made the effort this week. A early ride on the "Boardman" Sunday morning was cold but pleasant, the first few snowdrops popping through a sign that Spring must be getting closer.

Seven weeks until the Cheshire Cat so I need some "big" miles and hills soon, but they will have to wait. Monday morning bright and early and a good ride in, hands a little chilly but soon forgotten.
Homeward bound, still light!, not for long, but enough time for me to spot a follow cyclist ahead, catch and drop him with a cheery "hello", but my smile didn't last long as I was then caught and dropped with a cheery "hello" by another rider, I hung on to his wheel for a while but the elastic snapped and he was gone.

Tuesday night is Spin Night, a full class tonight, bit different to last week when just three of us, finished with Motorhead "Ace of Spades". Wednesday bike to work again. Trip in ok, but return was the worst for a long while. Leaving once again in the light, a steady pedal, but around half way home the roads become white, the afternoons snow still laying. I steadied up somewhat, the roads worsening to "black ice", with cars still whizzing past!, a small hill under normal conditions now a challenge to stay upright, still it took my mind from my frozen fingers.

My hour and a bit journey into 1 hour 40mins, still it was a challenge and will make the next ride seam easier!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Last Day - A Short Ride?

So, this is it, the final day, 77kms. After the night before, the start of the ride was "gentle". To our right, for most of the day, we would have the Red Sea, this meant more wind though and another tough day. For the first few km the road was busy with trucks heading for Cairo, but as they turned inland we were left pretty much to our selves, only the odd UN white Hummer passing us. The group soon strung out with several groups fighting the wind. Shortly before the first water stop a two groups had an encounter with an angry, "rabid" dog which saw their pace quicken somewhat as they tried to leave him behind!, the story meant for the rest of the day the sight of a four legged friend was met with a rapid upping of the pace!
We don't know if in the mind, most agreed that today was the hardest, hills, wind and also the fact that the all inclusive hotel was getting ever closer. Aching legs, sore bums all were seemingly twice as bad today. At one point I may have well as been going backwards dropped from the front group and then caught and dropped by the second, but I wast the only one as lone cyclists littered the road.
A long downhill, forced to pedal though as the wind was fully in the face was followed by a real slog up, but then the road swung and a downhill that could be coasted, I skipped a photo opportunity and went for it up the next hill, short but sharp leading to another descent, the road dropped and the rose, and as it rose I could make out people some walking some riding, the hill was the end the final push of the week, and as we made it to the end the cheers went up, getting more the louder as more of us made it in.
And that was it, a night & morning tourist like by the pool, then 7 hours + return to Cairo. It was, all agreed a great week with some great people, some keen to register for the next event, some happy to have done this, Facebook addresses taken, photo sharing website promised, reunion planned ......... but most of all in the head memories of a truly wonderful adventure, thank you all.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Up the Hill

Thursday, 1.30am and just 4 hours sleep, we must be mad. Cake & tea then a short coach ride to the base of Mt. Sinai, dark, chilly and feeling very wary. Passes purchased, through the security check and its off. The first thing that strikes you is the dust, it could almost be snowing the dust is that thick, picked out by the snaking line of "head torches" lighting the way up the mountain. The second, this is where all the camels are, loads of them all doing their best, well the guides, to get you to hop on the back......... for a small fee! We stuck to two legs and with a steady pace passed many groups resting up. We had a tight schedule today as after the climb just 115kms to cycle, so it was steady, steady keep going. The last section was steps and a queue, no chance of passing and here the camels gave way to human guides eager to grab your hand and give you a helping pull up, temptation again resisted. We reach the summit and grab a place to watch the sunrise amongst the many dozens, even hundreds we had joined.

Sun Up, away we went, the time schedule ticking away, a different, much less crowded route down, with a brief stop where I was able to duck away from the path and build a Cairn in memory of Steve, I don't know how long it will last but it was tooked away so am hopeful it will be around for a while.

Today was going to be tough, a hill within the first few kms, then a head wind all day. The group was split into 2, a 75km group and a 115km group meeting at lunch with a (approx) 25km ride to the fun part of the day - 15km down hill straight into the nights hotel. The first 25km had the hill to start and then up and down against the head wind, sapping stuff. First water stop made and then, well a massive downhill section, smooth tarmac, flowing bends on a good "racing" bike I dread to think how fast you would have been going, for us it was belly on saddle and away!
The trend followed for a while, up, then a fast descent. A comfort stop, and I lost touch with the leaders, no resting up here!, as I began to position myself for a fast downhill in a bid to gain ground, the road turned and the full force of the wind hit me, anchor like! It was a long lonely ride, looking behind no one in sight and the front riders dots ahead. Water stop, last before lunch and the regroup, however, one of the guides let slip that the 75km group were not that far ahead. We cycled a long flat strecth, the ground falling away to our left and so able to watch the road disappear ahead of us as it curved round. Maybe a mile, two maybe through the heat shimmer a slow moving vehicle could be made out, the 75km group. The pedals now a blur as we tried to get across the gap, which we did, in what seamed no time at all, the target pulling us along as we got ever closer.

Lunch once again a good meal, served in the shade of a cliff, with comfy cushions to boot, heaven after so long in the saddle. The early raising mountain climbers where beginning to feel it, it had already been a long day and after this rest we had three big hills to get over. From here to the top of the "hill" was a slog, hills, wind and riders falling off the back of groups to catch up again as someone else hit a low and dropped back. There had been concern that we wouldn't make it the the top of the "hill" before nightfall, but we did, all of us. The dangers of the hill explained - "it is fast, be careful", wine gums shared off we went 15kms of flying, again little other traffic and smooth surface saw us flying along, trying to get a pedal in when we could. A great finish to the days ride, the day though was far from over!

We had ourselves a Beach Hut Hotel, the Beach Bar open, ready and waiting, in no time our aching bodies in the sea, a short swim washed down by a beer, well one or two, but we had earned it today! It has to be said that dinner was a bit of a blur, the dancing with the local guides after even more so, but it was great fun. 22 hours, one mountain, 115 cycled km, a swim and a few beers not a bad day in any ones books!

Wednesday - Rest Day

Wednesday was to be named, Recovery Day, just 77kms after the 125 of the previous day. This sounded good, and after a small lay in, not as long as planned though as "we" forgot to tell the guides we were not getting up till 6.30am!, we where ready and willing to go. On route we had a quick Monastery stop, so for the first few kms, I had a steady pedal watching the world go by. This meant watching the occasional camel wondering around. Approaching 20km and we arrived at our first stop.

Water and Monastery Visit, so on with long trousers and the girls covering shoulders, a quiet oasis in the desert, and the most "green" we had since home made for a welcome rest, oh and the first toilets for 48 hours +! Back in the saddle and time for a blast at the front heading off in the lead group, the hills started shortly after leaving, nothing too hard but upwards. For a while we had what passed for scenery, villages and the odd oasis to take our minds off the road, and the wind. Pedalling hard we made good ground, "Mike the Machine" soon passed us taking his place, as usual, at the front.

A long flat pedal ahead, and shimmering head the Yellow shirted guides, just in time as my Camelback had run dry! A "Lean too" next to a small holding was the only shelter from the midday sun, today was the hottest so far, really hot. Even though we had not travelled that far we had quite wait for the last of the group to get to us, the heat and the gradient taking its toll.
With no toilet, but litres of water to get rid of, a wander away from the group and a case of doing what you have to do, three of us ended up in the same area, all looking around as you do, when we realised that mounds all around, where, well, we were in a grave yard of sorts, already red faced from the heat, we retreated quickly.

Off again, riding to lunch, some camel watching along the way, and then a small town, with lots of children, we waved as you do, and then lots of stones!, being thrown at us!, we pedalled harder to be greeted be a gang of older children forming a human chain across the road. We slowed, a little unsure what to d0, our Police "Levy" guards nowhere to be seen, guides likewise, we went for it pedalling hard and shouting, the "chain" broke and we pedalled harder, easing up we smiled and guessed we had maybe over reacted to kids being kids. Lunch around the corner and again another feast, most welcome in a day that was anything other than a recovery day!

A long hard 25km saw us at the "border" to the Mt Sinai region, from here only a couple of kms to the hotel and chance for a dip in its pool! Now a dip in a pool after 3 days riding the heat and dust of the desert after camping for two nights, is well, a deserved treat. A pool as cold I don't think you would find anywhere, it was freezing, really freezing and other guests (and staff) where amazed to see us in it, well done to those who just jumped in it took me about 10mins of standing knee deep to pluck up the courage to actually swim.

Early too bed for most of us, as the "big" day tomorrow.