By this point in my LEL preparations, I should in theory have done a couple of 400s and a 600. The first 400, Shawn Shaw’s Porkers, ended with a coughing fit in pitch-black Somerset lanes—a return of the lurgy that meant I didn’t even start the Hard-Boiled. The second 400, Mike Wigley’s Llanfair PG, was a joy from start to finish. Work-related travel meant I’d be unable to make the Brimstone or most of the other calendar 600s, so I showed up for Ian Hennessey’s Kernow and Southwest 600 the weekend after the Llanfair ride. Unfortunately my motivation failed to turn up with me, so I bailed when it became clear that at the current rate of progress I’d have minimal sleep time. OK, no 600s completed so far, and only one 400. What now? The answer: a summer Arrow to York—a team ride with the spirit of our late lamented friend, Dave Lewis. Here’s how it went.
The Oystermouth Pilgrims (Cap’n Jim Churton, Edwin Hargreaves, George Hanna, the Spirit of Dave Lewis, and me) had a cracking ride. We began at Dave’s grave. Jim’s chain broke at the bottom of the hill to the cemetery—a sign that Dave, who didn’t so much maintain his bike as engage in sporadic crisis management, was already of the party and having a joke at Jim’s expense. George had a spare link, to Jim’s mock-disappointment.
The sun shone on us through some lumpy bits of mid-Wales, and the wind blew mostly in the right direction. Mrs C plied us with food at Churton Towers, and we burped off into the sunset once Jim had swapped one immaculate steed for another (is this allowed?). A mighty rushing wind blew us to Prees Heath, where Jim charmed the man at the 24-hour garage into letting us in. Fortunately the Fashion Police were elsewhere as Edwin donned Rainlegs over long white socks and George put on his Emergency Shorts, apparently fashioned from bin bags by a blind seamstress under the impression she was making a garment that could be pressed into service as a marquee for a medium-sized wedding. Gentle rain turned into steady rain, turned into a deluge. My front light decided enough was enough in Nantwich (I could see its point). Edwin lent me a replacement, which emitted a fitful glow that was just enough to spot white lines, where present. We sheltered under a garage canopy in Alderley Edge for a while, variously taking nonprescription drugs, eating pocket food, purloining polythene gloves, trading mutual insults, and shivering.
It got light. Well, light for a Manchester dawn on a dull day. The route developed a nasty case of the lumps, as we toured through some insalubrious suburbs. Jim charmed another man at a 24-hour garage into letting us in. Then we winched ourselves over the Isle of Skye road (Here Be Curlews. But Bugger All Else) and plummeted down into Holmfirth. I realised I was bringing undeclared Eccles Cakes into Yorkshire. Dave looked after Edwin on the downhill, ensuring his rear tyre flatted in the village rather than on the 70kph descent.
Arrowmeister John Radford met us by the bus station. This was above and beyond the call of duty. It was only half-past stupid o’clock, but there he was with coffee and pastries. And beer. Beer, of course, is an essential element of a Dave ride…
A couple more biggish lumps, and we were heading for the flatlands. We raced a trotting horse uphill (we won, narrowly) and had a close shave, almost visiting Normanton, which apparently is even more of a hole than [Redacted]. My legs decided to put in an appearance—better late than never—on the approach to York, so I was Bruce Derny for the run-in.
We reached York bang on 24 hours, with all team members (and their senses of humour) present and correct—a tribute to Cap’n Churton. My frayed gear cable didn’t snap—a tribute to the Spirit of Dave Lewis.
As I said, a cracking ride.