Onward we go, to the sound of applause from the Cock o’ the North.
You wonder why the applause?
The packing takes six hours to organise.
I say packing, but the packing is thwarted by a couple of mishaps. A security cable is stuck in the brake disk of Verd’s bike. The second is a packed pannier bag that refuses to go into the pannier. Our first thought is that we’re going to have to get rid of the axe (we need an axe?) However, the obstacle is a previously unnoticed dent in the pannier caused by the dramatic toppling of The Beast before we even left the house. The Cock o’ the North is not only attached to a micro-brewery, but to an engineering company. Hans comes to the rescue with a car jack and irons out the dent. We also have to adjust the suspension on The Destrier so that she doesn’t become too fond of wheelies all the way to the next stop.
Finally, we’re on the road (hip, hip, hooray!) and The Destrier and its rider are extremely happy. Not quite so heavy, beautifully balanced and in complete control. Verd and The Beast are little wobbly and top heavy, but not so bad that we have to spend another six hours addressing the difficulty.
We have a good and faultless ride. Stop-start traffic in urban areas are challenging, but we remain in control. We enter a dual-carriageway and reach the speed limit with little effort; both bikes pull well. They are built for this kind of journey. The Yorkshire Dales presents very narrow and windy roads – fun – even with a load.
The final challenge is getting into Kettlewell campsite itself, undertaking its rough stoney track and wet grass to the tent pitch. By the time I dismount, I’m feeling very pleased with myself and now more confident about the feasibility of the trip. Verd is happy too, but still feels he has some weight distribution to sort out. I’m sure this is going to be another 6 hours of pain when we we’re packing up again in 5 days time.
The campsite is a field with 5* shower facilities. After 5 nights with only pub toilets and basins for basic sanitation, I wallow in the luxury of a hot shower that’s better than many hotels I’ve been too. It is set in a valley between limestone hills and is beautifully peaceful. Swallows are gliding over the grass catching midgies with incredible aerobatic accuracy.
We soon make friends with Mick, Tim and John, and accompany them on a ride that takes me a little beyond my comfort zone for hills, blind bends, blind humps and general adventure bike-ness. But I’m really happy with how I’m managing the new terrain, although I don’t keep up with the leading bikers, who’ve been riding since they were nippers.
We go to Skipton first for some provisions, then make our way to Ribblehead Viaduct. I’ve only ever seen the viaduct from a train window before and it always looks magnificent, but to see it on a bike ride is just exhilarating. We do a circuit, stopping briefly at a cafe where I break my decaffeination regime – I’m with dedicated tea drinkers and it rubs off.
Back at base I draw a laugh from the newly arrived BMW riders – my hands have cramped and I’m cursing as I try to get the blood circulation functioning normally again.
The next ride takes us up over Nidderdale. Mick promises there’s nothing more to cope with than experienced on the previous day.
This is an outright deception!
Only a couple of miles into the ride and the lead rider has missed a hairpin bend into a very steep hill. The next two riders go for it. I follow. With some help from my guardian warriors, we make it up that hill and I’m whooping to celebrate the success. There isn’t anyone going fast on this road and we manage to stay together. The scenery is magnificent, with 360° views. Not that I can fully enjoy it. My eyes are firmly fixed on the road ahead and I’m learning to look further than I normally would for clues as to what hidden obstacles it presents next.
The road presents a herd of hefty cows. With calves, I’m aware how quickly they could become aggressive. We pull up and wait, but they don’t move. Mike braves the challenge and presses slowly forward. We bunch up into an impenetrable line, hoping that no calf becomes separated from its mother. We are all holding our breaths.
I’m relieved when the herd thins out and we finally cross a cattle grid. I sense the communal exhale of breath as the bikes are revved and those wheels begin to gain distance. It’s not long before we hit another hairpin bend into a steep hill. A car occupies the road leaving little room for manoeuvre. It’s a nervous moment, but we all make it up safely, although I can’t say that it was the most graceful of feats.
We stop at Jervaux Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery, for tea (of course). The monastery is quite close to my heart, it being a sister monastery to one in Ireland, Mellifont, where I was once employed as a tour guide. The cakes look more than tempting, and I opt for a gluten/dairy-free lemon and blue poppy seed variant.
The club member regroup for a meal at a pub in Kettlewell, conversation is good and we’re given good tips for the road, including ditching the 21st century technology! Most are taking off this morning for home, I’m taking a hormonal break from anything adventurous. It’s necessary – or it could be a conversation with an officer of the law: “sorry officer, it’s me hormones.”
Not sure they’d buy it.
Next stop: Alnwick Rugby Club.
It’s in Northumberland, beautiful countryside and a place where we spent one of our first romantic weekends. Looking forward to exploring further.