Here we are – that's not actually all of us. But it's most of us! Charlotte, Juliette, Julia, Helen, Mazerati, Rachel and I. All of us did Kenya and it was lovely to get together again. MIA are Lorraine, Julie, Richard, Delyth and a few others that had wandered off.
Richard, Julie and I started the day in a rather novel fashion. Julie managed to get a fellow to GIVE us a van [yay that fellow & Julie's powers of persuasion!], plus a tank of petrol to transport us and our bikes to London. We need rather a large vehicle, as Richard has a tandem. So, all organised the day before – 11.30 ETD and we were all packed and ready. But the van broke. Hmm. Panic stations – but a new one was organised and we were off! Three and a half hour trip, including collecting Laurence from Heathrow, who flew in from Switzerland [I think] for the ride. We stuffed him unceremoniously in the back with the bikes for the last 50 minutes – poor fellow. In the dark! But he had coffee, sandwiches and Julie's head lamp, so he survived. I am wondering what the CCTV chaps at the airport thought…kidnapping?
We went off at 00.30, about 75 of us. And promptly got lost. ALL of us! Quite chuckalicious, as we were still fresh, so going down and then up three extra hills didn't seem too drastic at the time. The signage for this ride was NOT very good. Green plastic with black text. NOT luminous. Ok in daylight, but try and find one of those at night in the middle of sign infested London whilst watching out for buses, taxis, drunk people and massive potholes [who knew? roads are worse than Kenya!]…suffice to say, lots of people got lost. Happily, there were so many of us  that eventually everyone found someone else.
There was a marked lack of marshals too.
Having found our way back onto the route, we were off! Again! And it was fun! But exhausting- we didn't factor in the 3 billion sets of traffic lights – literally stop start stop start all the way. About 90% of the lights were red…so our overall time was terrible, but it isn't a race, it's a team effort. The first half we did an average of 4 miles an hour…the second half [after 4.30 when everyone was off the roads apart from us and a few random prostitutes – who, by the way, cheered us on thinking we were Olympic cyclists :) ] was better – about 10 mph.
This is Regents Street at 3.30 in the morning! Buses, cars, taxis, and the Pedicab Rickshaws. They take up the entire cycle lane [when there is one] and drive like maniacs. This was manic. The level of concentration required was high, so it was more tiring than a normal cycle. London is NOT cycle friendly.
Back to the cycle – the break stops were not the best. Usually there are bananas, fruit and cake – stuff to eat that fuels you but also tastes nice. This lot had those horrific corn chips that kids eat [they were in the shape of ghosts for heavens sake! what? yuck!], and energy bars covered in chocolate. Ugh. Lots of water though. And lovely friendly people to help if you needed it.
The main break in the middle was shocking – bendy pre-packed sandwiches. A choice of ham and tomato on dry brown bendy bread, or cheese and tomato on dry white bendy bread. Hmm, what to do? Mainly, choke it down! And we had to pay a pound for a coffee or tea. After paying £99 to do the cycle?? Lots of rather startled cyclists. Plus only ONE chuck wagon to deal with 3000 cyclists? Poor women were run ragged – they did their best, but it was bad planning. Look – yum eh?
At about 4.30 in the morning, the sun started to rise – it was amazing. All night we were lucky with the weather. It was warm enough. No rain! With sunrise it got very cold, but still not unbearable – and the Thames was incredible! We gave the third break stop a miss [please – no more revolting ghost chips!] and took a break on the bridge – brilliant [no corn chips was a bonus]. The skyline is wonderful.
At this point we were a tad delirious…check out the Shard! To the right of Helen, who rather resembles a delirious 'X'
Cycling round London is fabulous – you see so much that is impossible to see from a car, and cover lots more ground than you would on foot. The idea of this cycle is great, but the organisation en route needs some tweaking. If I hadn't been with my friends I don't think I'd have made it round – the last bit being the worst as it was a massive hill back to Alley Pally. Here I am with Maz egging me on, I cannot believe I am laughing! I couldn't see where I was going, as the sweat was pouring into my eyes. I didn't dare raise a hand to wipe it away, in case I just stopped and fell over! But we made it – no walking, we cycled the lot. All 76 miles!
One highlight was my lovely friends Jack and Bill came to see me in at the finish line!! I was so touched – hope you had a fab birthday Bill, and that the 75 baked potatoes were all ok. Thank you both for being there. It meant a lot!!
In conclusion – it was brilliant to do this ride, and we're all very pleased we did it. We enjoyed most of it - but none of us want to do it again. At the end, when one should go and grab a bacon bap and celebrate, there was a 90 person queue and they actually ran out of food. Same single chuck wagon. Silly. To say the least. Back to the Plastic sandwiches, which, by now, were decidedly sweaty…ugh. BIN!! So we were starving. The medics had gone home by 9.30 too. Not the best form, as there were still a lot of people coming in an hour later.
Charlotte, Lorraine, Julia and I then had to cycle back to the B&B! We were cold, tired, starving and grimy. But amazingly, we were still cheerful! Another 4km…thank goodness for Charlotte, or we'd probably still be at the finish line. Thanks Char!! And thanks London for having us and not killing us.
Off for my CT scan tomorrow - another early start. I think I need a week of sleep to recover. No such luck, as the appointment is at 9.15. No eating. Then contrast fluid which tastes disgusting, then a wait, the the scan. Oh joy – but I'm glad to be having it, as the little niggles are becoming bigger. THEN the wait for results…ugh. That's the bit that sucks.
But I am thinking on the positive side – after all, I did manage to cycle 76 miles this weekend. And I am cycling another 100km for Force on the 24th. I feel ok, so let's hope it's a trip to the osteo that's needed and nothing else eh?
Thanks for the photos Helen and thanks for the support girls! Roll on the Shakespeare Ride!