On the most stunning autumn morning we headed off on what is actually our first holiday together this year. Both of us have had pretty bad luck. Ed missed his epic summer holiday when he was struck down with a proper dose of chicken pox. My week with the girls in Portugal seems like 5 years ago. My week with Susan in Corfu is a hazy memory.
For the last 5+ weeks I have been off the bike. After returning from a long journey after a Skills Day instructing at Mallory Park, I developed a knee injury. Don’t ask me how. That’s like asking Ed where he got chicken pox from. It seems I had twisted my knee out of alignment. Ouch.
Pain killers were useless. I shared that little ditty with with my amazing Chiropractor. What does Gina say? “Yup. You’re right.”
Especially frustrating was Ed telling me he would be less than impressed if I missed our holiday. I wouldn’t have been impressed either.
I am now into week 6. Apparently it takes 6-8 weeks to heal. I know I am far from healed. I know, I should jump on Smoggy and do a few miles….
So, it’s 7°. The heated jacket is on. We head off south. Destination Cornwall. Smoggy has been fettled and fixed by Andy. Just in time it seem. He’s looking gorgeous. Cheers Andy. Given he (Smoggy) was stripped, he got a polish. Good grief. Silky smooth.
It’s been the best part of 5.5 weeks and it’s as if I hadn’t missed a day off the bike. I guess 108,000 miles on one vehicle develops just a tad muscle memory!
Ed, wanting to make sure I was ok, offered me a coffee at Dobbies in Stirling. I was feeling ok, too soon thanks, so we headed off on the motorway. Normally, Ed would judge a coffee stop perfectly, however, it seems he was waiting for me to let him know I was ready to stop. Uh, ok. We stopped on the far side of Carlisle. My knee didn’t appreciate that…. lunch was like sitting in someone’s front room. Actually, we were in someone’s front room! Quaint would cover it. Good craic with the locals!
Onwards to the Lake District. Now, let me tell you, I thought I’d been there before, however, it seems the closest I got was the M6. So, what was the list of things I knew about the area:
- It was in Cumbria
- There were lakes.
And what do I know now:
- It’s drop dead gorgeous.
- The villages are cute.
- There ARE lakes.
- There are also big puddles.
- There are mountains… not to Scottish scale. Why didn’t I expect that?
- Between the lakes and mountains, they have wee mountain passes which are gorgeous.
- There are a lot of sheep.
- The sheep look cute, fluffy and cuddly. It’s as if someone has spent a LOT of time with white sheep and a black spray can; randomly spraying the sheep. So much so, they resembled Old English Dogsheeps.
- The black sheep with the completely white heads were kind of cute too.
- The world’s fastest cat lives there.
- There’s such a thing as a geep: a cross between a sheep and a goat. Confirmed by the dinner chat tonight: “Remember that herd of sheep we went through?” No, Ed thought that it was a herd of goats.
- Beer’s good. Ed can verify that. *rolls eyes*
- This is off season. God forbid anyone that thinks it’s a good idea to drive a car here in the summer.
- Car drivers don’t let motorbikes pass.
- Have a riding buddy that will go in front of said cars, driving at such an outrageously slow speed that they have to let you pass.
- There’s some anticipation by car drivers. They see the on coming car and for some reason don’t stop where they have space. They fill that 50 yard gap. Just because there’s a gap. Then there’s NO space for anyone….. apart from a motorcycle…. *re-read #14.
- I love the villages where the houses are made from Coniston slate.
I had booked a room at Lamplighter in Windermere for the night. It was their beer that was good and their food was great. We did take a stroll around to see what was on offer elsewhere, and with hindsight, we should have had the pizza Ed craved. Then the following wouldn’t have occurred:
- Red wine
- Lost glasses
So, I had a fairly good nights sleep. Ed didn’t.
This morning, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. We were packed up and ready to go at 9.15, based on a 2 hour ride before popping on to the motorway to munch miles.
After 2 hours, which included a coffee stop, we still had another 1.5 hours to complete the route. No bloody surprise there. No surprise when you throw in the Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass.
The Wrynose. *shrugs shoulders*. Pretty. Technical. Memorable? No. Nice sheep.
Hardknott. I think the road sign speaks for itself:
Now, Smoggy and I have been on many an Alpine Pass. The Bealach Na Ba, once you’ve been on it a couple of times, is great fun.
Here’s some top 10 tips for the Hardknott Pass:
- Go off-season
- Go early in the morning and not when there has been a frost or snow.
- Don’t forget to put on your big *girl’s / boy’s (*delete where applicable) pants.
- Do a thorough brake test.
- Don’t think too hard about it. Weird, I know.
- Maintain a positive attitude and throttle. (The latter is VERY important).
- Don’t, just DON’T stop on a hairpin. It might be expensive.
- Think about going up the Stelvio for the first time and feeling the satisfaction. Reduce the distance by 4/5 and multiply the potential fear factor by 20.
- Congratulate pedal cyclists for being… well… knucking futs.
- It’s called ‘Hardknott’ for a reason. It’s hard. The road surface is like riding on a curved bit of wood with knots. You have to choose where your wheels go very, very carefully. Believe me. Re-read #6.
It’ll be carnage, guaranteed, in the summer months.
It was nearly carnage when Ed stopped mid-narrow-hairpin, apparently to check I was doing ok.
Now, I was concentrating on staying on the road. The words, “Get the fuck out my way or WTF have you stopped for?” They didn’t get uttered. There wasn’t any time. Thankfully, Ed realised Smoggy and I were doing just fine thanks!
Did I say it’s not for the feint hearted?
The decision to jump on the motorway was an easy one. Time was getting on. Last night through the night, I had bother with my knee. I needed to be sensible. Yeah, I know.
I would like to point out the irony of this picture. According to my phone, the location was “Millom Without – Duddon Bridge”. Uh, yeah. Without.