I began by trying to sort the luggage: luxury item no. 1 – knitting needles. Sorted out a small case of them. Knitting project no. 2 – Rafe’s fox. This needed a beanbag in the bottom (in order to sit right, you understand). I’d already knitted the neck because I’d forgotten to put the bean bag in – so now I had to perform keyhole surgery. All those years of midwifery came in handy as I removed the stuffing and then inserted the bag through the tiniest of holes. Got there in the end. (I know – I just don’t know how to prioritise – but it was IMPORTANT dammit).
Then to pack (after breakfast): All the gear I’d taken on the practice run back in August PLUS the D lock and solar panels –which must add an extra 8kg at least. The bicycle is too heavy. I’m sure I will discard things as I go.
The ‘send off’ party included Steve and Seth, Dawn, Sean and Sara and Trevor. (Mum had phone yesterday to wish me luck) Martin and Charmaine (who had planned on cycling down the road with me) had given up waiting for me and gone on to the pub for lunch. It was 2pm when I finally wrenched myself away and wobbled down the road regretting Sara’s offer of a lift to Budleigh. I knew I’d left it too late to get the Starcross/Exmouth Ferry but consoled myself I’d saved a tenner.
The weather couldn't have been better - balmy weather, sunny weather, almost T shirt weather! Could have been SO much worse - as Storm Katie blew over last weekend - in typical British Bank Holiday tradition.
I cycled down the railway line to Bovey, along Le Molay Littry Way, across the Heath and turned right to Claypits. off new road to Gappah, and round the back of Chudleigh by Ugbrooke.
Though bideford and Luton and just pushing bicycle (Ro) up the hill toward Haldon, when a car with a bicycle rack stopped and offered me a lift up the hill. I jumped at the chance. I know there are probably a few tuts at this - but hey! I'm not a purist! I AM so happy to accept lifts! Dave had been mountain biking on Dartmoor. When he heard my plans he took me down the hill from Ashcomble (which is a nasty hill with traffic going too fast) and dropped me off on the start of the Exe Valley Trail - which is traffic free and flat! Dave is a Teign Valley Pedal Basher - some of who I know from Tegn valley HHH. Thanks Dave! (NB you won't get so much detail on route when I gets to foreign parts - but we're still in home territory).
I followed the Trail up to Exeter and back down the other side of the River Exe through Topsham, Lympstone - going slightly astray in both towns because those little blue NCR signs have a nasty habit of disappearing in urban areas. It's a lovely ride along estuary, with buzzards and primroses and seabirds galore.
I was using the bike hub app as a navigational aid - but it eats power. I'd plugged it into the solar panel and hey! she works! charged it up relatively quickly. I used this to phone Ruth while an owl hooted loudly at me from the hedge right next to me (I kid you not). I was managing a paltry 6.5 miles an hour on my laden bicycle so my ETA kept getting later and later. In fact, in Lympstone I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to lie down and go to sleep - probably the result of late night and early morning and not enough nutrition. Oh yeah, and that minor fact of lack of training. I dived into the first open shop I came to and bought chocolate - lots of chocolate - that worked to revive me. I got lost in Exmouth - but finally found my way out (those disappearing NCR signs again).
Ruth walked out to find me in Budleigh Salterton - and we walked back to her house together. We all ate much later than anyone normally does - but washed it down with a wonderful glass of local wine (called Lily - crisp, light, white and eldeflowery/appley). Chris and Ruth had just come back from a family holiday celebrating her Dad's 80th birthday - so we're all exhausted. (I got a slab of his celebration cake in my packed lunch next day mmmm.)
Ruth and I still managed to stay up to talk knitting after supper, despite the yawns, and I'm amazed to see it's gone midnight again, before I lapse into unconsciousness on the sofa bed. Slept like a log (cliche but true). Woke at just gone 7am to scrawl this journal. More NCR 2 planned and off to Bridport (which ought to have been the same distance but we'll save that story).
Total: 37 miles - cumulative - 37miles.