An email from Brian to the effect that Richard couldn’t lead his ride to Hodnet led to me volunteering to take his place. Luckily, Richard had done the groundwork, come up with a route, checked whether the pub in Hodnet was open (it wasn’t) and found an alternative. The Castle Inn at Bletchley (another 4 miles further North) would be open and he reckoned it had good reviews, so I decided that would be our destination (I also anticipated a bit of fun in announcing that we were going to Bletchley at the start, and that we’d head off down the A5!). I took the precaution, the day before, of phoning the Castle to check they’d be open and to warn them we were coming – something along the lines of “there’d be up to a dozen cyclists arriving between 12:30 and 13:00, but all they’d be wanting was sandwiches, baked potatoes, etc; if there are more than a dozen, I’ll ring in the morning”. No problem, was the response.
We met at Greyfriars on a damp, blustery morning which had whittled us down to six hardy souls. Bit of a slog into a northerly headwind, not helped by Dave having two punctures within a mile of each other. However, it turned out sunny most of the way, and we put the forecast for the afternoon to the back of our minds. Despite the delays, we arrived, as promised, for lunch at 12:45. After we had given our drinks order, a lady came out of the kitchen with a confession – somebody had recorded in their diary that twelve cyclists would be coming for plates of sandwiches, sausage rolls, salad and chips, and that is what they had prepared. She said that we could order off the menu instead but, on being asked how much the prepared food, she came back with the sum of £5 per head! I’ve never seen six people agree with something so quickly – we should stand for parliament!
After our drinks arrived, she came out with two large plates of sandwiches (beef, ham, cheese and tuna), a plate of sausage rolls (two each) and a big bowl of chips – and we polished off the lot! Now I know what you’re going to say, I thought you were on a diet; well, I have to say, I did feel stuffed for the first few miles on the way back, but I soon burnt it off. Besides, I hate waste, and had thought about the other six helpings of food still sitting in the kitchen, so thought we’d better leave empty plates when we departed.
To avoid as much of the A41 and the A442 as possible, and to skirt round Tern Hill Barracks, we had to navigate the outskirts of Market Drayton. However, on turning South, I was anticipating a tailwind for most of the way home, but it became increasingly apparent that the wind was swinging around to the South-west. The weather also had a bit more to throw at us in the form of three or four heavy rain/hail showers – wish I’d put my winter tights on rather than spring ones.
One of my ambitions, when leading a ride, is to find a stretch of road that I haven’t ridden down before – gets more difficult with the passing years. I had managed a good few miles of unfamiliar roads in the Whixall/Prees area, but most of the way home was on a tried and tested route. I was on my own after Upton Magna – they were all going home a different way from me, but decided a cafe stop was in order first. Luckily for me, my daughter was just brewing up as I walked through the door, and rarely has a (big) mug of tea been so welcome. Oh, and I looked at my phone and found that I’d done over 60 miles (just) – the first time for ages.