I sit here in the Museum of Air and Space in Washington DC and realise how lax I have been in updating the blog. Luckily I can still remember what happened in the past few days which is quite surprising, my brain is usually as forgetful as a goldfish with Alzheimers.
I began my ride from Bryan and Stephs in Philadelphia (thanks again for the room, shower and company!) and set out to the library to use a printer so I could find my way to Bel Air. Today is my longest ride, 85 miles and I already begin to regret such a long slog as soon as I arrive at the library to find it doesn’t open till 10. That immediately adds nearly 2 hours to my arrival time, which is a very optimistic 7pm.
Not all was lost as I found a USPS office around the corner which meant I could post a couple of things. This also meant I had to play the game in the office, whereby the exceedingly happy office clerk would shout “Next contestant please”. I was very close to saying “History of stamps for $500” but I bottled it and just said “Stick these in the post biatch”. I also took the untimely opportunity of the library being closed to stock up in the grocery store nearby and proceeded to ensure I had plenty of carbs and water for the long haul.
Printing took an extra 15 minutes as naturally I had to check the usual social media sites and by the time I’d reloaded my bags it was 10:30. Just enough time for a sloppy burger from a street vendor. I still couldn’t bring myself to eat a Cheese Steak – they look like a heart attack in a bun. Navigating my way through Philly was pretty straight forward and I was on the main roads quite quick. The main problem with this particular route was that it was pretty solidly on main roads, and although they have wide shoulders for cyclists you still have mahoosive trucks going at 60mph a couple of metres (I’m still refusing to spell the American way) away from you.
20 miles in and this ride was already hurting like a motherchuffer. Without going into too much gore I had developed sores on my ass cheeks and they stung like a thousand bees. No matter how loud I played my music to take my mind off it, my body kept on reminding me how sore it was. As a result I took a break around every 45 mins and whilst I was on my bike I was stood up which started to sap my energy after 40 miles.
At this point I was just under half way and sent an email to Jeff and Kathy (my hosts for the night that I would be arriving at around 10pm, and asked if they would rather me camp out – I didn’t want to be rude if they were going to be in bed.
I ploughed on and got to the 60 mile mark at 8pm, at this point it began getting dark and although I was now going through nice woodlands, the sounds soon turned from whistling birds to croaking crickets. I donned my headtorch and relented through the rolling hills, I’m sure they could flatten it all if they weren’t so lazy!
The last 20 miles were demoralising. I almost gave up 3 times. The combination of pain, fatigue, darkness and silence were all now starting to take its toll. My body seemed to keep getting shots of adrenaline from its deepest reserves, which keep me pushing up each hill and through every mile.
I felt as though I was getting lost with each turn towards the end, a few streets weren’t marked and I just had to make my best educated guess as to the distance I was going. I found myself on a farm.
Now at this point, it’s 10pm, I’m in the middle of nowhere with a farmhouse and a horse shed staring at me. I heard something locking inside and unless this farm was breeding horses with opposable thumbs it meant that a person was inside – maybe armed with a shotgun or cattle prod. Either way I figured there was no harm in calling out to ask for directions. The farmer warily peered out and saw a disheveled figure on the edge of desperation. He explained that this was private property, but took pity on me and explained if I kept going through the farm and turned right at the end of the gates I would be back on track. He followed me in his 4×4, probably to make sure I didn’t set up camp and showed me out of the gates. I continued on in the dark, still with 8 miles to go.
After 20 minutes I could sense I was getting closer, I was back on main roads, still without roadlights, but wide shoulders to give me enough room to avoid being hit. I took a quick water and cake break and began the last 40 minute stint. At this point I wouldn’t allow my body to stop cycling, I knew I would collapse if I did, and I pushed through the pain barrier. I started feeling physically sick but daren’t stop to chunder because I wouldn’t get back on.
Pure adrenaline (and a bit of cake) got me to the last few corners and I was elated to be stopped outside my bed for the night. It was 11pm. I knocked a couple of times. No answer. I began to start thinking about camping in their back garden, but I go and try once more. A dog started barking and a weary man answered the door, sleepy but still greeted me warmly. After I apologised profusely for waking him, Jeff proceeded to show me where the shower was and where my bed in the basement was. Jeff went back to bed as he was getting up at 5am, which made me feel even worse!
The shower was refreshing, but stung a little on the raw parts of my body, I trundled to the basement, collapsed on my bed, and was asleep quicker than an overactive narcoleptic.