After retrieving our bikes from the garden that my parents call a jungle, we set off. I made my usual morning joke.
“Come on ya big old beast… and you Helen.”
Steady away, was the plan, and after fettling with Helen’s gears the day before, her bike was smoother and Helen was therefore quicker. Our route had a couple of dog legs to avoid main roads, as we headed north towards Amesbury. Salisbury Plain, just north of the city is full of army bases and is famous for the tanks, so when we came across our first ‘Warning Tank Crossing’ sign, I propped my tank (my Trek 920) against the sign for a photo.
Helen noticed that there was a rumbling noise, but I dismissed it as distant traffic. Moments later the first tank came into view, followed by another four. I was literally jumping up and down in excitement, hoping that I didn’t get arrested for photographing tanks!
What a great start to the day, although the weather forecast had said that there would be no rain, so after an hour of persistent drizzle we stopped at a convenient café next to the Avon and Kennet Canal.
The Honey Street Mill Café was surprisingly busy despite seemingly being in the middle of nowhere. Coffee and a shared cake later, we set off up Pewsey Hill before dropping down into Marlborough; famous for the posh school not cigarettes. I’m sure Marlborough is a pleasant town, but the traffic makes it deeply unpleasant to walk or cycle through. This is one High Street that is crying out to be pedestrianised.
Leaving the chaos behind we headed east with the wind behind us, making good time, before turning north towards Lambourn; The Valley of the Racehorse. Climbing out of the town there is a mock racetrack with the funny white fences and furlong signs. No racehorses though as it was the afternoon.
From there it was mainly flat all the way to Oxford with a couple of miles on a minor A road and then 100m on the busy Oxford to Swindon road. Apart from those two small sections it was minor roads the whole way. As we neared Oxford I started to recognise a few of the roads, even though it was 12 years ago that I left. I definitely recognised one dodgy roundabout near Cumnor, as a driver pulled out even though it was my right of way, just like they used to many years ago. Some things never change. Maybe I should ride with a Go-Pro.
Another thing that hadn’t changed in Oxford was the nose to tail traffic in both directions along the Botley Road. Fortunately we could use the bus lane, smiling to the stationary drivers as we sailed past for the last mile. Why would you do that day after day?
A quick shower at the youth hostel and I took Helen to see my old pub. Why I say my old pub, it was where I worked for almost 15 years and running it for the last two. The Kings Arms is a very bust student and tourist pub opposite the Bodleian Library.
Nothing much had changed. A new coat of paint, but the smell was the same, as was one of the regulars in the back bar, sitting in the same spot, not moving for 50 years. An old photo of me from 1992 was also still on the wall, looking young, with hair and no beard.
We stayed for a decent pint of Young’s and had a quick look at the Radcliffe Camera in the evening sun, before heading off for some food.
We finished off the evening playing board games and drinking craft beer at Thirsty Meeples. A brilliant end to a great day.