Leg 5 - Walton le Dale (Preston) to Carlisle [RVCRC A Ride]
After what seemed like a two minute stop at home we were on the road again. I’d last spoken to Paul yesterday evening just to check he’d got home OK after we parted in Euxton. My girlfriend came over to stay as it was going to be the only opportunity to see each other for nearly a fortnight. I’d been pretty busy with the ride, so it didn’t seem like we’d been away that long, but it always seems longer for the one left at home. I arrived back before her, but she soon arrived with supplies and we feasted on a Curry to try and get the calories into my body following the one hundred and fifteen mile ride the day before. There were a few checks to do and a few bits of kit to swap over. We were possibly expecting to see some snow as we progressed further North, so a few more layers need to be put out to wear and carry. I had a mental checklist, but decided it was better to get up a bit earlier the following morning and put it all together then. I’m one of these people that need to take everything out again to check it if I pack the night before, so it’s better just to lay stuff out were I can see it. I was a little bit stressed about forgetting something when there were other distractions and I wasn’t in the company of a fellow LEJOG participant. All in all, it was a pleasant and relaxing evening.
The following days ride had been planned for a while in advance. Paul and I normally ride with the Ribble Valley Cycling Club (RVCRC - Ribble Valley Cycling and Racing Club - www.ribblevalleycrc.com) on a Sunday when we get chance. When the ride leader became aware that we were coming through Preston on the Sunday he planned a route that would allow him and the other riders to accompany us for at least some of the way. We left our homes and headed up to Preston College in Fulwood, which is the usual meeting place for the RVCRC Sunday club rides. That day’s ride leader (Mike Smith) had planned a route that would take us in the right direction but would keep us off the busiest road (A6) for at least the morning. It was good to catch up with our team-mates and everybody was interested to see how we’d been progressing. I was personally chuffed that we were going to be joined by one of the older members (Ken Stratford who’s about 80) for some of the morning. Most people were amazed at the weight of our bikes with the Panniers and luggage. I’m pretty sure they were glad not to be riding with them.
|Ribble Valley CRC Sunday 'A' Ride - The Usual Suspects|
After the usual Sunday morning banter, and a bit more because of this unusual long distance ride we got under way again. I was very tired at this point and was glad to sit in the wheels a bit to start with and just have a chat with as many people as I could. We got to some more undulating terrain on Mike’s A6 avoiding route and I was always mindful that we’d have to do some reasonably significant climbing to get through Cumbria (which ever way we did it). However, Paul seemed to have a new lease of life and wanted to show his strength compared to the riders without the extra weight. I couldn’t avoid doing the same as much as my legs were trying to tell me to do otherwise. We are lucky to normally be living in this area, from a cycling point of view and we were reminded of this when we made a forced stop to fix one of the groups members puncture. We had seen some great scenery so far along the way, but some of our local stuff was good enough to match any of that.
|A Short Stop for a Mechanical - Fortunately Not Ours (Paul & Ash)|
|Some of Lancashire's Scenery - As Seen on Our Normal Club Runs|
|Ash and Paul at Farletonview Tea room - Not the Usual Club Run|
|Paul at the Cafe with Another RVCRC 'A' Rider, David|
|If I Park My Bike Here Will Somebody Steal It? - Please Do!|
|Paul with Ride Leader Mike Discussing Our Exit Northwards|
|Saying Farewell to Our Fellow RVCRC Members|
|Kendal Town Centre - A Stop for Electrolytes - Which Way North?|
In Kendal we visited Evans Cycles to pick up a new supply of High Five Zero electrolyte tablets (I can‘t remember whether this was in Kendal or not now). There wasn’t too much time to look around the shop, it was just a case of a quick in and out whilst the other rider minded the bikes. We’d already earlier visited a health shop to see if they had anything suitable and we struggled to find anything, so the specialist tablets at the specialist bike shop was the only real answer. Armed with new supplies, we continued Northwards and finally took the decision to travel over Shap Fell.
|Views Back Towards Kendal from the Shap Fell Climb|
|Views Over Gurnal Bridge Lane From A6|
As you can see, I am well down the leader board, but surprisingly I am no longer the last rider. I can only presume that the people currently in 225th and 226th position are fellow End to End riders or very new to cycling. I keep meaning to go back to Shap and post a time without the baggage, but it just a bit far to do a loop in one day from home.
|Views from the Early Parts of Shap Climb - Any Excuse for a Rest|
|Paul Sporting His 'Condom' Checks-In From Shap Fell Summit|
|The Road Leading South From Shap Fell Summit|
|Our Bikes Parked Near the Weather Station on Shap Fell|
We were fortunate, we now had things like mobile phones with Internet connection wherever we were and we were able to use apps (little computer programs on the phone) to help us find our way and book a place to stay. Even though Paul had a more sophisticated Garmin than mine, with GPS map, we’d still tended to use Google Maps on the smart phones as a way of navigating when we were unsure. I’d previously done quite a lot of last minute booking whilst out on the road whilst either travelling for work or on a couple of road trips I’d had to France and Spain. The app of choice was booking.com, but we were open to keeping a look out for suitable establishments as we rode along.
Prior to leaving Preston the first time, Paul had done quite a lot of research around the options in various places. Even though it wasn’t definite that we’d be visiting or staying in Carlisle, he’d become familiar with a few of the options, and knew that there was a Premier in on the run in on the A6. With the down hill sections and some flatter roads, we seemed to get there in no time. Whilst I often ascended the climbs a little quicker than Paul before regrouping at the top, I could barely keep on his wheel on the dual carriageway approach to the city. We pulled up in a lay-by across the road from the potential accommodation and Paul had a look at the room options on his phone. At the same time I had a look at the booking.com app on my phone and came up with some options in the city centre. We opted for the city centre, as it meant we could progress further along the way towards Scotland on the Sunday, the offer was better at the hotel I’d found and our evening meal options were going to be better in the more built up areas.
|Paul does the Final Check-In of the Day From Our Hotel Room|
We chose the Cumbria Park Hotel in Carlisle, as we could get a twin room and breakfast for a very reasonable rate. It was less than just the room out of town. The staff were very friendly and whilst there wasn’t anywhere safe out front or a car park around the back to leave the bikes the desk receptionist allowed us to put them in one of the smaller function rooms that wasn’t being used that night. We got to the room, which was spacious and pleasant but a little old fashioned, checked in with Facebook followers etc. and freshened up. The hotel offered us the option of dining in that night also, but we opted to go out and have a little look around town. Rather than going and sitting down in a restaurant, Paul suggested we have a look around for a take away establishment. We found several. There were two close together which gave us the option of Fish and Chips or things like Kebabs and Pizzas. Paul suggested that there may be the potential of sampling a strictly Scottish takeaway delicacy, ‘battered haggis’, if we went to the chippy. I liked the sound of this, and whilst I’d had haggis many years before, I had definitely never sampled the chip shop battered variety before.
|Not Quite in Scotland Yet, But Time for a Haggis|
|Battered Haggis and Chips as Sampled in Carlisle|
All in all Preston to Carlisle was a tough but enjoyable day. It was great to share part of the ride with our cycling buddies and we were still being fortunate with the weather conditions. Also, we’d been very lucky as far as any incidents that would impede our progress or cause us to have to abort the whole thing were concerned. So far everything was going very well and according to plan. It was by no means easy, but it wasn’t a case of hating every pedal stroke. We could have done a few things better, but generally things were working out well. Tomorrow we’d be in another country and soon I’d be venturing to places I’d never been near before.