Thursday, May 29, 2008

Many Happy Returns

Al should have had the camera ready to capture the looks of disbelief on Jon & John's faces as he pulled up the car ready for this week's ride. We had decided on an urban ride, following a route tested by John and Al early in the New Year, which Billy-Bob and Al figured had 'tandem' written all over it. The pair rolled up with the over-size bicycle strapped to the roof; clearly a sight to behold if the expressions of the other TCA delegates (and the neighbours) was anything to go by.

The traditional pre-ride tea and cake chatter was punctuated by comments from the two Jons poking fun at the tandem and generally questioning the sexuality of the two other riders. Al had heard it all before but Billy-Bob was perhaps beginning to wonder whether we would be struggling to keep up on the more cumbersome bike. Em was grinning from ear to ear as she looked on and rushed outside with her camera as the group pushed away - convinced that there would be some blunder on the tandem - waiting to capture an 'off'.

(Stoker Al; Driver Billy-Bob)

The solo pair smiled smugly as they lead the ride through a series of winding alleys through the housing estates towards the main Gosport Road, gradually pulling away from Paul who was concentrating as he steered the tandem through the tight turns. Once on the road the tandem two were soon wiping the smiles off the other's faces though as they caught and over took them. This advantage was to no avail however as they did not know the route. A series of wrong turns was taken, with John frantically barking instructions to get the party back together again.

The approach to Gosport harbour consisted of a series of tandem limiting obstacles - alleys speed bumps and junctions - but the group managed to stay together as they emerged onto the promenade. We were convinced we would get stopped by a couple of bobbys on their beat as we rode past the 'No cycling' signs but they barely glanced our way as we slid past them, negotiated yet another sharp turn and setting our sights for Haslar and Stokes Bay. Crossing Haslar bridge there was nearly a tandem-meets-lamp-post incident as Billy-Bob was caught in two minds. A collision was narrowly averted however and we continued on our way.

Having reached the golf course at Stokes Bay the tandem crew split from the others - they were reluctant to take on the deep shingle, which even caused Jon one or two difficulties despite his knobbly tyres. We eventually caught up as the promenade ran out and joined the road once more. We all followed the cycle path from Stokes Bay to Lee on Solent where we endured a few hundred yards together, weaving in and out for the family parties, dog walkers, joggers and geriatrics. Where were they all in January? We all decided to join the road but went our separate ways again as we turned towards Hill Head. The road climbed steadily which afforded the tandem crew a good view of the other pair, behind us on the promenade. Minor adjustments were made to Billy-Bob's seat post (which had sunk under the strain of recent pastry-based product abuse) as he and Al waited for the stragglers outside TCA favorite, The Osbourne View.

At around this time Al realised to his horror that he had left all his money back at John's place. A swift calculation was made before we entered the pub but Jon was the only one with any significant resource - £16. Things were looking bleak if we were to have a second pint in the cradle of the TCA Shire. Jon got the pints of Badger's Hopping Hare as we frantically scrambled through pockets and bags for beer money. Jon, Billy-Bob and John had a cumulative total of about £11 - there was nothing left for it but to haggle at the next port of call. We mounted our bikes once more and enjoyed the leisurely ride down Triangle Lane towards the Shire, rehearsing our plea for sympathy.

Crossing the Border and
into the hallowed Shire

We eventually pulled into the Queen's Head and parked up our bikes. It was only right that Al, whose door this mess was firmly placed at, should approach the bar. He casually inquired as to the price of the various beers. The Bowman 'Swift One' was only £2.80 a pint but Irvings 'Pompey Glory' - at £3.10 - had caught his eye. Al decided to appeal to any Pompey persuasion the landlord might harbour whilst also explaining the lengths we had gone to to visit the pub, the episode of the missing cash, the fact that he used to be a local. Rather miraculously it worked... obviously the recent FA Cup win had brought out his charitable side, either that or he was desperate for Al to stop talking. Pompey Glory is apparently a special brew to celebrate the cup victory by new brewery Irving (recently set up in Farlington by ex-Gales staff). All agreed it was one of the best beers they had tasted in a while, perhaps because it was partly stolen!

We inevitably toasted absent friends but we also had some birthdays to celebrate owing to both Jon and Billy-Bob's recent aging. In addition it may interest you, dear reader, that the TCA2006 website recently turned two years old - with over 100 posts committed to the internet.

The Birthday Boys Celebrate with a
discount pint of Pompey Glory

We chatted to a trio of Liverpudlian painter/decorator types who in rather stereotypical fashion entertained us with their cheeky repartee. Thankfully they did not live up to another stereotype as the wheels were still on all the bikes when we came to remount. Up the hill towards Fareham the tandem crew were lagging behind as they struggled to negotiate the Titchfield gyratory. Al and Billy-Bob decide to regain the advantage by risking a cut-through as the soloists chose the main A27. Thus an unspoken challenge was laid down - it was obviously a race for home (despite Jon's protestations later that he had not been trying)! For the record the tandem crew arrived home a little ahead of the soloists.

We enjoyed a fine chilli prepared by Em, followed by an equally delicious summer fruit crumble with custard... better tighten that seat post up again for next time.

Route Map (click to enlarge):
(Posted by: Al)

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At 7:34 pm, June 01, 2008, Blogger TCA said...

Tandam-tastic. A good enjoyable ride taking sea views and the Shire! Real Ale tastes even better when it partly free! Many thanks to Mrs John for laying on a superb post ride Chilli.


At 6:25 pm, June 02, 2008, Blogger TCA said...

By the way I thing they were harvesting CAULIFLOWERS in the fields on the appraoch to Titchfield. I bought one in Waitrose and it clearly had the mark of the Shire on it!


At 12:51 pm, June 04, 2008, Blogger Magpie Val said...

Pompey Glory also appropriate for Pompey's recent cup win (congratulations to Pompey fans even though I support Saints!)
Nice cycling round there - I've done the Round The Harbours bike ride for BHF before, which takes in part of your route, very nice too.

At 10:59 am, June 05, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on you men! I can't believe that your sexuality was in question, that's absurd!!!

Well done you and well donme Pompey!

Roll on the Chichester Challenge...


At 7:12 am, June 06, 2008, Blogger simon said...

is a tandem really quicker??

At 7:06 am, June 10, 2008, Blogger Maalie said...

Hey, good to get Cetti's Warbler on a bike ride! I think Jon's 159 for the year has overtaken my British list. He won;t show a candle to my European list, White-billed Diver and Steller's Eider, eat your heart out Jon!


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