Saturday, 6 July 2013

First class and stinky

I love travelling back on the train first class from a long bike ride, slathered with sunblock and plastered with dead bugs. It feels somehow decadent. Anyway, I'm on a rather leisurely train back from Taunton to London. It's quite empty, which is nice, and my bike is stored, unlocked, in the bike car, on the other end of the train, which always worries me slightly. I spent two days cycling from Plymouth to Barnstaple to Taunton, through Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks. I do think that the southwest is my favourite part of the country. It's hilly, green and seems to be generally full of friendly and often a bit unusual people. Did I mention it's hilly? Omg I learned an important lesson about cycling in Devon, namely don't take the superdink roads as the have lots of traffic and seem to consist mostly of 25% grades. I almost gave up hope yesterday, the first ride I've ever taken that was actually too hard. Narrow, bumpy, exceedingly steep roads with nettles hanging menacingly over the sides and cars whipping around blind corners. I was very happy, after 40 miles of this, to get back onto slightly more sensible roads. And the hills. Rural Devon is more than enough practice for the Alps, because unlike Switzerland, where they have sensible things like switchbacks, in England the roads go straight up the sides of the hills, only to smash your hardgotten gains with a plunge into some random and completely unnecessary valley, only to do it again, and again. At least they warn you. Around London, any road that goes over a lump bigger than an overpass is called Something Hill. In rural England, it means that God is going to laugh at your puny legs. I stayed the night at a slightly peculiar and very artistic b&b, way back in the woods, surrounded by a sculpture garden. It was run by Dutch people. Go figure. Today was the north coast of Devon. The roads were better but no less hilly. It reminded me of Point Reyes, but greener. Lots of hill farms, lots of sheep, and several hippy dippy towns on the coast. I had clotted cream with fresh scones, which may well be better than sex. Oh, I have also come to the conclusion that the official, el cheapo Devon way of repaving a road is just to dump miles of oil and gravel on it and let the traffic mush it down. Great if you're in a 4x4, not so great on a bike with skinny tyres. At least 1/3 of the 140 miles was like that. Anyway, just like that the ride was done. I'm now heading back east. It's getting warmer, drier and smoggier. Yay, London summer. I already can't wait for the next ride... :-)

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