Author Topic: Virgins  (Read 2250 times)

Oscar's dad

  • aka Septimus Fitzwilliam Beauregard Partridge
« on: August 11, 2008, 03:24:26 pm »
I can confirm it is possible to be scared and excited simultaneously. Before me stood one tandem and a newly purchased Trek solo, both hung with panniers.  Ready to mount the machines were Kirsty my wife and a step daughter known, on occasion, as Twinkle Toes.  Both tour virgins.  Before us all loomed our first cycle tour as a family and my first for many years.  I wanted this to work.  We are a new family, less than four years old.  I wondered if the highs and occasional lows of touring by bicycle might further the process of melding us together. On the bars of Tina the Tandem was clamped our new GPS, ready to tell us the way to go. I wished it would also tell me how it would go, but Garmin have yet to introduce a range of crystal balls.

My nervousness was not helped by our lack of preparation.  Over the last few weeks we had done hardly any miles.  The weather forecast was best described as mixed.  It was a fair bet that we were going to get sore and wet.  We had a 28 mile Friday afternoon / early evening ride from home in Witham, mid-Essex to our B&B in Boxford, just across the border into Suffolk. Our second night would also be in a pre-booked B&B.

As soon as Kirsty got home from work at about 2.30pm we were off.  The first leg through Rivenhall and Silver End was dull.  We cycled past a gang of workers from the local water company stood around a hole in the pavement.  I didn’t catch all the reply to my jovial comment of “Oh look, 5 guys watching and one guy digging” but it did include the “f” word! 

Once we had crossed the busy A120 we were in classic East Anglian touring country, quiet roads and big skies.  We rolled past The Compasses at Pattiswick which is one of four pubs with “Compasses” in their name that lie on a dead straight line ten miles long.  Mystery surrounds the reason why but the Masons and Knights Templar feature in some of the theories.  We stopped for a breather at Colne Engaine.

By 6pm we were locking the bikes up in the yard behind The Fleece at Boxford.  In we piled for dinner.  The food wasn’t great but hit the spot.  We were hungry enough to have eaten our Brooks saddles so it could have been worse.  Then we were off again to our B&B at Hurrells Farm.  The farmhouse is a Tudor, part Jacobean, timber framed Grade II listed building.  Comfortable enough but spoilt by the noise from the busy A1124 that runs just outside.  We also thought £95 for the three of us was a bit steep.

Kirsty can be a woman of few words and clams up at the most inopportune moments, normally when it is critical to marital harmony that one knows what she is thinking.  So, as we lay in bed I conducted a health check. I snuggled up to her. She snuggled back, a good sign. Thus far all seemed well. Was a new cycle tourist in the throes of being born?  Tomorrow would tell.

The morning of Day 2 was always going to be a test. Legs would be a little sore from yesterday's ride. Bottoms might be a little tender. But would minds be reluctant and full of doubt?  After breakfast and teeth cleaning the bikes were loaded and we hit the road.  I had originally intended the route for our second day to be about 28 miles.  But the mixed forecast and the likelihood that we would be sore had prompted me to programme a shorter route into the GPS – just in case.  This was the option we chose, better to finish the day knowing you could have done more rather than feeling half dead and miserable.  After all, this trip was meant to be a gentle introduction to cycle touring.

“Hang on honey, we should have turned left back there”.  Crash! In attempting to U-turn in the narrow lane the combination of gravity, a heavier than normal bike and my inability to read a GPS screen caused Kirsty to fall off her bike.  Up right and back on track we forded the River Box.  The roads were even better than the day before, often so narrow you would have struggled in a car.  The grass and mud down the centre showed how often they were used.

Narrow and quiet the roads might have been, flat they weren’t.  The area is dissected by rivers, the Stour, Colne and Box to name just three.  Into these rivers flow many streams, often set in a mini valley.  You don’t notice the descent but the short, sharp climb out of each valley grabs your attention.

We entered Nayland through the side door after dropping down into the village from the north.  The mobile library was parked in the square and we pulled up alongside a lady with a bike basket full of books to be returned.  “Hello” she said “Have you come to look at our beautiful village?”  “Yes, what is there to see?” 

On her recommendation we walked down to the church to see one of only two religious paintings ever done by John Constable.

Inside the church there is also a war memorial hung on the wall.  As well as remembering the men of Nayland who died in both World Wars a USAAF pilot is also commemorated.  Charles F Gumm died whilst flying his stricken plane away from the village.  His heroism obviously saved many civilian lives as he is also remembered on a bench in the square.

Despite the forecast the sun shone.

But not for long.  As we approached Earls Colne, our destination for the day, it began to rain.  Fortunately, the owner of Riverside Lodge let us into our room and found somewhere out of sight to store the bikes.  We got changed, donned waterproofs and walked into the village to find lunch.  That afternoon we slobbed out and watched the Olympics on the telly.  In the evening we walked back into Earls Colne and ate at The Lion, a better meal than the night before but still not brilliant.

Riverside Lodge wasn’t as pretty as our first B&B but quieter and cheaper at £78 for the three of us.  Day 3 was upon us, bright but windy.  After a couple of miles we came across an airfield, one of many in the area, and watched a couple of planes take off.

To the southeast of Halstead we joined our outward track and battled back towards Witham in the teeth of a freshening headwind.

And with a left turn, a sweep right and another left turn we arrived back at our garage door. Our tour was complete. We had only covered 63 miles but had ridden on three consecutive days. An achievement in our book; thus far a slender volume of cycling feats.  Twinkle Toes was already consumed by excitement for tomorrow, as she was off to Pony Club camp. To ask her opinion of the tour was pointless: "Been there, done that, I'll be riding horses in the morning, not tandems". Kirsty’s final verdict on our first tour will come out over the next few weeks. My breath is bated.

Me?  Well I had a great time; it was my idea after all. With a combination of guile, bribery and cajoling I had got my little family on the road. We had set off and we had got back. I had won a battle but what about the war?  If we hit the road again, for a longer tour then we will have all won.  We will come to know better the peace and contentment afforded by an open road and your life in a set of panniers.

Re: Virgins
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2008, 03:34:49 pm »
...So, as we lay in bed I conducted a health check. I snuggled up to her. She snuggled back, a good sign. Thus far all seemed well. Was a new cycle tourist in the throes of being born?  Tomorrow would tell.

Tomorrow?  I'd give it 9 months if I were you.


Re: Virgins
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2011, 10:32:42 am »
I just found this RR Oscar's dad.  What a lovely story!

So, was there any more touring with the family?

Oscar's dad

  • aka Septimus Fitzwilliam Beauregard Partridge
Re: Virgins
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2011, 04:06:42 pm »
I just found this RR Oscar's dad.  What a lovely story!

So, was there any more touring with the family?

Thanks!  There have been other family adventures ...

We all went on this one

Just me and Twinkle Toes went on this one

Re: Virgins
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2011, 08:32:36 pm »
Fantastic stuff hope you have many more.
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain