Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hampshire Bowman Welcomes Prodigal Cyclist

On Thursday 6th April 2006 the week's posting (our first) read as follows "...determined not to let the TCA die we resolved to make a special effort to keep the faith, and commit our pursuits to a blog". This week's ride is testament to the success of this original commitment: Eighteen months after one of our founder members left to pursue career opportunities in New Zealand, the TCA stands as strong as ever, welcoming Billy-Bob back to the fold once more while on holiday in the UK.

Mr and Mrs Billy-Bob and almost-4-month-old Eli-Bob arrived in Hambledon nice and early in anticipation of the ride, closely followed by Jon. Mrs Billy-Bob was in attendance in the capacity of midwife while Tee supervised Eli-Bob's training regime (although too young to join in on this occasion a rigerous exercise program on the activity mat was devised to develop the appropriate muscle groups). Billy-Bob seemed to approve of the relatively new custom of pre-ride tea and cakes, although six pieces of millionaire's shortbread between five was always going to cause trouble!

Billy-Bob reluctantly offers Jon some pre-ride carbohydrate

Refreshments consumed we then set about the task of cobbling together spare gear to equip Billy-Bob for the ride ahead. His original unfeasibly large cycling shoes were found in the shed, cobwebs were dusted off Tee's helmet, Jon lent some lights and Al prepared his trusty spare bike for his friend's longer legs. Billy-Bob had made space amongst the baby gear for his cycling-specific outfit and the UK associates were impressed with the natty new antipodean apparel that their companion had acquired since they last met.

Just like the good ol' days!
(Left to Right: Paul, Al and Jon)

After weeks of variable and unpredictable weather Billy-Bob had obviously contrived to bring along conditions more reminiscent of his stop-over in Hong Kong than those to which we have become accustomed in Hampshire. It was a truly glorious evening as we set off up Cams Hill for a gentle cross-country bimble; we were bound for old TCA favorite - The Hampshire Bowman - in Dundridge. Simultaneously John H was preparing to leave in a novel two-pronged TCA strategy: Earlier that afternoon John H had called from Heathrow airport on his return from a business trip, explaining that it was unlikely he would be able to kit up and arrive in Hambledon in time for the start of the ride. A contingency plan was therefore adopted which would see John heading for Dundridge by bike from Fareham.

Back in Hambledon it felt just like old times as the three old friends meandered down the country lanes catching up on events. Billy-Bob remarked that he often missed the rural English country-side typified by the meon valley (above) as they pedaled towards their rendezvous. No records would be set this evening as the riders adopted a pace which is best described as 'sociable'. By chance their pace and subsequent timing were perfect as the three pulled into the familiar car park only seconds after John.

The usual bewildering array of real ale, served traditionally from insulated gravity-flow casks behind the bar, greeted the delegation. We all plumped for Elderado from Bowman Ales in Hampshire, initially thinking that is might be brewed at the Pub. However, further investgation reveals that this is produced by a independent brewer based in nearby Droxford with a history that may be of interest to local beer-aficionados. Elderado was judged by all to be an excellent pint and perhaps reminded the riders that the TCA should really try and fit this exceptional pit-stop into the itinerary more often - the only disappointment was that we were not able to sample anything from the superb menu generally on offer here!

A toast to absent friends - Hampshire Bowman, Dundridge
(Left to right: Billy-Bob; Jon; John; Al)

Having introduced our newest Associate (John) to the most established (Billy-Bob) we sat and enjoyed our beers in the evening sun. A traveling band of morris dancers were also at the pub lending even more to the traditional English feel of the evening - they just do not make pubs like this any more! Beers seemed to slip down even easier than usual and it was soon time to re-mount: Easyrider John started up his thunderous machine with minimum disruption to the morris dancers and disappeared in a cloud of dust: Given that John was on a motorbike directions to the White Lion, Soberton were provided in advance and the three pedal cyclists followed behind.

John won the 'shiniest bike' award

Predictably John arrived at Soberton some time before the cyclists despite the fact that the section of the route from the Hampshire Bowman to the White Lion is largely downhill. Thankfully the ride was relatively uneventful although Al narrowly avoided a collision with an oncoming car speeding down the winding lane out of Dundridge. Rather disappointingly the TCA's usual White Lion tipple, Palmers 200 was 'off' therefore - by default - pints of the pub's rather uninteresting eponymous beer were ordered. Once again the group split after finishing their drinks - John took his bike back to Hambledon using more established roads while the three cyclist headed up over the hill, lights ablaze, on a more direct routing home.

On our return to Hambledon the Billy-Bobs were insistent that we accompany the established TCA favorite dish of chilli con care with their gift to the TCA - a DVD of 'Kiwi Kitchen', cult New Zealand cookery show hosted by Richard Till: "...seeking out both the expert and the amateur as they cook their favourite New Zealand food in their own Kiwi Kitchens... dishes that have refused to die with their decade". In episode one we watched as "Richard heads off to Haast to catch and cook whitebait with an 80 year old woman who hasn't missed a whitebaiting season in the last 74 years". This show really has to be seen to be believed but suffice is to say there has rarely been more hilarity during the traditional post-ride entertainment slot. On-line recipes include tips such as the secret "...for a good roast is all in the killing of the animal. If you are about to kill your sheep, you already know more about it than me. Good luck".

Perhaps Billy-Bob sums up best what the evening was all about: It had been a long time coming but it is quite strange and somewhat reassuring that it is the simple things in life that one misses being away from the fray for a bit. The reunion ride to one of my favourite all time pubs was like putting on a familiar pair of old slippers ( extra large) and smoking jacket. The pre-ride rituals of greeting my good mates after their working day for a bit of sociable banter had been supplemented by a welcome new tradition of novelty cake consumption, I took the largest piece for myself. it was just like ye good olde days.

Kitting up before the off, pre-ride faffage, riding down narrow country lanes edged by historic field patterns and rather expensive character houses . All this just on ones doorstep was a fresh reminder of what is unique about this part of the world. The ride was at a leisurely pace which allowed ample time to admire the verdent rolling Hampshire countryside. I listened fondly to the plotting of future TCA events and of course savoured the taste of a pint of warm real ale amid the surroundings of classic English eccentricity and tradition.

So there you have it, a long anticipated ride that did not disappoint and it was comforting how easy it was to just pick up where we left off. It's funny really, what we do is not a complicated thing, but it surprising how few people share the ethos that it is just good to get out of an evening for ride in the company of good friends. Long may it continue!

Route Map (click to enlarge):
Elevation Profile:

(Posted by: Al & Billy-Bob)

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At 9:57 am, September 04, 2007, Blogger Fat Lad said...

I wish I could talk my lot into stopping for a pint half way round!

At 10:16 am, September 04, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Thanks for stopping by Fat Lad.

Cycling on no beer you crazy fools? You'll end up dead!


At 1:28 am, September 06, 2007, Blogger simon said...

Harley Davidson Heritage custom that i see? Which engine? What year model....


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