Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Wrong Trousers

After the mix-up of the previous week Jon was keen to make amends; he raced back from Brighton to ensure attendance on the ride from his house and hopefully restored diplomatic ties with the TCA. Jon wasy soon to be joined by John and they made ready enjoying a cup of tea and some special guest swiss chocolate biscuits. (Actually they were brought a few years ago for people at work but never got there). They were still very palatable though and there were only a few crumbs left when Al arrived uncharacterisitically late.

As the traditional cups of tea were consumed there was some debate as to the appropriate apparel for the ride. Is was a cold evening and the threat of rain was looming. Jon was keen to try his new waterproof over-trousers out but was soon on the wrong end of an ear-bashing from John. Al had packed his over-trousers too and there was much offing-and-oning of strides as he listened to the other two's argument; eventually he felt that John might fr once be right and opted to leave the trousers behind.

Al soon made up for his late arrival eading from the front through Chichester up to East Lavant and past the ford. Starting up the Trundle up using Chalkpit Lane Al conceeded, making his customary comment to Jon that he would once again see him at the top. That gym spinning class seemed to have done something for Jon's fitness as he once again struck out for the summit. Al was not far behind but Johns abuse of business lunches of late, coupled with his lack of activity had obviously saddled him. After a breather for John, we carried on around the Trundle and down our first descent to the Goodward Horse track. We encountered a few droopy branches and a skiddy slippery surface under the bikes: Jon skidded off despite his brand new rear Maxxis Highroller tyre specifically designed for these conditions.

After a brief and fairly fast road section, we got to bridleway at the top of Chalton Woods where we had to again wait for John. By now it was getting cold and wet and Jon was truly appreaciating his new Endura waterproof trousers. Conversely Al was not; complaining as he was that he should never have listened to 'Wrong John'. Again enjoying a rutted, slippery downhill section, Al and John got to the bottom fairly quickly with Jon a bit behind and complaining about his lights as usual. We arrived at the Fox Goes Free where we found that the only ale available was their own eponymous brand. However it went down well and we braved the wintry, rainy conditions to cycle up knights Hill in a stiff head-wind with Jon leading and Al conserving his energy by slipstreaming. Once again at the top of Chalkpit Lane and the Trundle we had a brief debate about a longer route but decided to descend the lane

By now Al (and John had he cared to admit it) was uncomfortably cold from the waist down as his trousers were saturated in freezing mud and water. We dropped the idea of a pint at The Royal Oak in favour of heading home for an early bath, where Al was once again reunited with his warm, dry waterproof trousers. Back at base we enjoyed a lamb stew with winter vegand sweet potato watching Portsmouth play AC Milan felling a little bit robbed at the end after a two goal lead was given away.

(Posted by: Jon)

Footnote: As they cycled in tandem fashion up Knight's Hill Jon and Al argued about when they had both last ridden up and down the trundle on the same ride. Al's assertion was that it had been about two years since they had visited the Fox', going up the Trundle on the way there, and down the Trundle on the way home. Jon felt is was much more recent: For the record it had been 18 months (June 2007) and Al trusts that this is a long enough period for Jon to let him off the 2 pints he is now technically owed.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Show

At 5.30pm Al arrived at Jon's, having made a special effort to get there early, leaving to beat the traffic. After a lengthy period of illness Al was mad keen to get out on his bike again. Sadly only Jon could make it but he seemed keen to host the week's ride from his place.

By 6.00pm Al began to get aggitated; like a horse champing at the bit: He knew that this was too early to expect Jon home from work and the darkened house confirmed his theory. Al upacked his bike, made a few adjustments and waited in his car. He had already programmed all the numbers in his old phone into the new phone and listened to four episodes of The Archers on his iPod.

As 6.30pm passed Al began to worry - had Jon been caught in an accident? He turned the local radio station on but there were no report of traffic problems on the A27. Al rang Jon on his mobile, then on his work number, and finally on his home phone number with his ear to the door listening for signs of life. A disgrunted cat stared back at him form the cold, dark living room window sill.

At 7.00pm Al gave up and went to Sainsbury's where it would at least be warm. He bought a few bits and bobs and went back to Jon's, sipping a bottle of isotonic sports drink (he had not yet lost ALL hope of a ride).

At 7.30pm Al, anxious and worried, gave up and turned for home, poking a handwritten message through Jon's door before he left.

At 7.40pm Al's phone went: Jon had "inadventedly", "by mistake", gone to a bike spinning class at the gym "forgetting" that it was TCA night. After such a blatant breach of regulations Jon feared that his TCA membership is at risk of being revoked on several accounts.

At 8.00pm Al settled down with a fish-finger sandwich and a beer in front of the footie with Tee. At least the food would be palatable on one of 'Jon's nights'...

(Posted by: Al)

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Floundering Fathers

Billy-Bob, only 5 weeks after becoming a father for the second time mind you, took the rather brave decision to host the TCA ride. However, he insisted that the ride would not commence until 7pm when the worst of the evening carnage with the nippers was over. He warned that all riders should arrive fully kitted-up and ready to go as the ride he had in mind relied on perfect timing.

Al was intrigued but resisted the urge to arrive early, knocking on the Billy-Bob's door at 7pm sharp - helmet, gloves, the lot. There did seem to be a distinct lack of bicycle hardware outside - in fact just Billy-Bob's trusty steed was readied - and Billy-Bob answered the door in a furious mood. Jon had apparently bailed out of the ride with no reasonable excuse at hand... "fancied a night in indeed!" muttered the host. Al's once cheery mood was also evaporated as he took a mouthful of this week's cake only to realise that it contained almonds, the only foodstuff he has been known to refuse.

Billy-Bob makes the final checks

Wrong John had also cried off earlier in the day since he had a friend staying, so it was just the veterans this evening: Billy-Bob announced that they would be recreating the logistically complicated Haslemere to Hambledon (Surrey) route previously tackled in July. This relied on catching the 21:40 train home and there was not a minute to lose...

With no-one to referee the conversation talk soon turned to babies as the pair made their way by country lane through Home Wood towards Black Down. Turning off the road for the first time and Billy-Bob quickly got confused (apparently the tracks looked different in the dark). No matter, an experienced rider like Billy-Bob always carries a map, and with the assistance of pin-point GPS location provided by Al the pair were soon on the right track towards Barfold and Ansteadbrook.

It was during this portion of the ride that Al started to tease apart Billy-Bob's somewhat Ellisonian timing estimates. The last time this ride was attempted the party set of 15 minutes earlier and had 10 minutes to spare before the train. On this occasion the recent rain had made the terrain more challenging and darkness was obviously hampering navigation to a certain degree. Coupled with the fact that fording once gentle trickles now meant wading through quagmire progress was considerably slower than before.

Billy-Bob squelches onward
throught the leaf debris

Both riders were relieved to reach another road section but this also turned to farce as Billy-Bob searched for the track which lead off-road from Killinghurst to Chiddingfold. After more pondering of the map and consulting of the GPS the footpath was located and the pair confidently proceeded, following the field boundary next to a wood. Approximately 10 minutes into this section of the ride and Billy-Bob proclaimed that 'something doesn't feel right'. Having consulted the map once again he concluded that the obvious solution was to carry the bikes down a deep ravine, over some fallen logs and into a second recently-ploughed field, where we once again picked up the boundary. Reaching the bottom of the field we again studied the map, consulted the GPS and tried to lock onto a reference point on the featureless landscape, but we finally concluded that we were well and truly lost. We re-traced our steps, round fields, over logs, down ravines, back to the road... at which point Billy-Bob announced that we had lost the map somewhere since our last stop.

It was left to good old navigational instinct which thankfully saw us arrive in Chiddingfold shortly afterwards. We piled into the public bar at the Crown Inn and settled down to watch the footie (Spurs v Liverpool) with a pint of T.E.A. With time dragging the prospect of striking out for Haslemere was beyond the relms of reality and, without the map, Billy-Bob decided to err on the side of caution and use the well established route home via the country lanes which felt like an endless climb.

Two pints of Wacko please!

In order to recover we felt that a quick pint in the Swan was in order and we enjoyed a quick pint each of Everards Wacko Jacko mild (with a hint of pumpkin!) in salubrious surroundings. By the time we were back at base, with talk of nappies and teething almost exhausted, and the phrases "just like the good old days!", "Wrong John - imaginary friend more like!" and "Jonny P - what a woofter!" were becoming decidedly over-used.

Now on their second child the Bowmans
share some of their secrets for a quiet night

With Islay fast asleep in front of the telly the boys were greeted with a steaming plate of Mrs BB's famous beef stew with apple crumble to follow. A top night all round!

Route Map
(click to enlarge):

Elevation Profile (click to enlarge):

(Posted by: Al)

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, November 07, 2008

Guy Fawkes Circuit

With the smell of cordite from the previous night's Guy Fawkes fireworks displays hardly cleared from the night sky, three intrepid TCA explorers Al, Jon and Maalie set of on a regular circuit that took in Droxford and Soberton. Maalie had arrived from Cumbria with his Giant Escape in the back of his X-trail. However, being dosed up to the hilt with antibiotics, he was concerned that he would not be worthy to join the team on account of his enforced abstinence form alcohol. However, the Director offered a dispensation provided that he paid for the chocolate walnut cake required for the pre-ride cake-eating rituals.

Above: Al quarters the cake in anticipation of
the pre-ride cake ritual

Below: Jon tucks into a slice of chocolate walnut cake
before kitting up for the ride

The ride invariably starts off with a near-vertical sprint up the side of the valley because the TCA headquarters lies in a valley. Maalie immediately observed the tail lights of Al and John disappear rapidly up the hill round the corner and out of sight as his bike boasts only seven gear levels (compared to the 132 or so of the others),. Once on the ridge track,it was most pleasant cycling along narrow country lanes with autumn trees already half denuded, windless and an overcast sky keeping conditions mild. Tawny Owls were hooting in surrounding woods and the odd owl and fox were seen by the leaders. Maalie, being on "away ground", was more concerned with avoiding patches of fallen leaves and tricky bends on steep descents that threatened hazards of deep puddles and loose gravel.

All too soon the Hampshire Bowman in Droxford was reached; the first stop for a toast to absent friends.

Al, Maalie and Jon make the toast to absent friends

Back in the saddle it was just a short ride to the next watering hole at the White Lion at Soberton where the sign on the door was an invitation that could not be resisted (even if it was only pineapple juice for Maalie).

While Maalie stayed outside to capture some piccies Jon and Al made for the bar as usual and, somewhat on autopilot, ordered three pints of Bowman's Wallop's Wood. Reluctantly Jon and Al shared the third pint having been reminded of Maalie's course of antibiotics.

TCA cyclists dismount to accept the invitation on
the door of the White Lion at Soberton

After the initial stepp slog from the White Lion it was more or less downhill to TCA Headquarters in Hambledon where a superb chilli con carne was awaiting in the oven.

On this occasion we did not feel the need to
partake of the services offered next door to the White Lion

(Posted by: Maalie)

Labels: , , , , ,