Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Ride 2008

With Maalie arriving at dawn and John, Mrs John, and Billy-Bob turning up at Al and Tee's straight after work it was an early start for the most anticipated ride of the year. Tea and shop-bought buns would not suffice on such an auspicious occasion and it was out with the (almost as eagerly anticipated) bottles of Santa's Sleigh Stopper which Al had brewed especially for the event. Maalie had baked a veritably array of cakes to accompany the beer including 'sub-prime' Welsh cakes, mince pies and snickerdoodles. As each guest arrived Al issued the wager that he had cooked something for dinner that all assembled would have heard of but yet never have consumed. Cue a variety of ridiculous suggestions ranging from partridge to rook pie!

Jon arrived shortly afterwards and refused to rush his beer and cake as the others fettled equipment enthusiastically. Billy-Bob and Al felt that the festive occasion merited use of the tandem (and also helmet fairy lights) while John had bedecked his bicycle in truly spectacular fashion - with a fully-functional Christmas tree, baubles and fairy lights! Jon had also gone to town on the tinsel and fairy lights in customary fashion, although it was like waiting for Christmas (as usual) for him to make the final adjustments to his running gear.

With Maalie complaining as usual that he wasn't sufficiently 'warmed up', and the tandem boys making an early dismount, we struggled up Cam's Hill. However, there followed an easy coast to the Horse and Jockey where 5 pints of Hardys & Hansen's Rocking Rudolph Ale were ordered. Jon and Maalie soon got stuck in to 'bird talk', while Billy-Bob and Al turned to their usual comparative critique of nappies and puke; John was feeling a little bit out in the cold.

Birders at the Bar

The Horse & Jockey had spared no
on this year's Christmas Tree

There was a mile or so of re-traced steps as the boys headed for the Traveler's Rest and another 5 pints of beer at a long table in the comfy bar. The bottles of 'Triple S' (as Al's home brew had affectionately become known), the cold air and exercise were starting to lubricate the conversation by now.. although Maalie and Jon were still sat in the corner discussing their various twitches.

The Drinks Start to Kick in
at the Traveler's Rest

Having once again made hearty toasts to Absent Friends, and wishing the punters and staff a hearty Merry Christmas, the TCA made for the door. We had a relatively long stretch to the next watering hole therefore a full check was made to fairy lights and baubles before the off.

Deck the bikes with bells and baubles
fa-la-la laaa, la-la-la laaaaaaa...

The White Lion was uncharacteristically quiet - in fact the landlord confessed he was in two minds whether to keep the place open. There was a solitary pair of middle-aged women enjoying a quiet drink. Having all ordered various pints of the obligatory Bowman's ale Maalie set about chatting up the ladies in the bar on the pretense of explaining the culinary riddle set by the host. Needless to say the pair left almost immediately!

Finishing their beers the group slogged up the hill from Soberton before enjoying the leisurely and somewhat merry ride to Hambledon. They were soon back at base enjoying more Triple S beer, a turkey curry and, for the finale, a genuine figgy pudding.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
(Left to right: John, Jon, Al, Maalie, Billy-Bob)

(Posted by: Al)

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Canal Basin Convalescence

Still not fully recovered from last week's ride-halting illnesses Jon and Al decided to struggle on but attempt an easier ride than usual - cycling the familiar route south of Chichester along the canal tow paths, through the marina, under the A27 and upto East Lavant by disused railway.

While Jon and Al had clearly defined priorities - getting out in the time honoured way dispite extenuating circumstances - John had apparently disregarded the ancient TCA ethos: He was going out with 'other friends' on a christmas social. Billy-Bob on the other hand reported that his family were still making a recovery from flu and various other ailments including headaches, vomiting, etc.

Starting at 7 we "roaded" it to the Canal basin after being held up at a level crossing for what seemed an age. Once on the Canal path we seemed to be on our own apart from a courting couple and a dog walker surprised from our full sets of cycle lights. Al had the ultimate suprise though as the dag gave chase once the owner felt we were at a safe range. There was an errie feeling to the night with mist coming off the canal and various birds - coots, mallards and mute swans - calling. Jon rode to the front having recovered from his cold better than Al. Once at the Marina, the riders both successfully negotiated the sluice gate across the estuary entrance to marina without stopping and then rode through Saltern Copse up to Dell Quay Road.

At the Crab and Lobster at Dell Quay, we both quenched out thirst by drinking a pint of Youngs Winter Brew which reminded Jon of his golden years in drinking at various establishments in Old Portsmouth pre-TCA. After a serious discussion about whether to have another one, we decided, needs must and all that, to ride on to East Lavant.

A Toast to Absent Friends,
The Crown & Anchor

Cycling along a disused railway track, we both got up a bit of a momentum up, just missing a few dog walkers and then up to the Earl Of March. The pub was packed with christmas revellers, alien compared to tho the usual quieter atmosphere we were accusomed to... no doubt this was the just the type of atmosphere that John had traded for a night with the TCA. Nevertheless another enjoyeable pint of Harveys this time along crisps were consumed.

Homeward bound we cycled though a recreational park near the Festival car park and then the carpark itself, startlng a group of school children (not an unusual occurrence for Jon, Ed.) on a trip to the theater. Back at Jons, were more beer was enjoyed, a cracking chilli and huge servings of chocolate profiteroles with lashings of cream was consumed whilewatching Desperate Housewifes.

(Posted by: Jon)

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Going Urban

In customary fashion Al turned up first and, with tea already made, tucked into the homemade flapjacks laid on by John. Shortly afterwards John and Al were questioning whether to answer the door, thinking it might be Christmas carol singers... much to their disbelief it was Jon who had arrived uncharacteristically early.

It had been a while since the TCA had done an urban ride, and also had had the chance to sample Mrs John’s excellent food. John had therefore been very busy making sure Helyer Mansion was seasonaly decorated; the appropriate amount, and carefully positioned Christmas decorations and thoughtfully decorated and well lit tree were all in place. In fact planes landing at Southampton now have an extra beacon for reference!

There was some debate as to which way round we would tackle the 'usual' Fareham route but it was finally decided to do it the normal way, i.e. clockwise. This was on account of the two pub stops being in the last third of the ride this way round, the only con being the prevailing headwind along Lee-on-Solent seafront. The opposite direction would finish with the relatively featureless haul back up the Gosport Road rather than the short hop home from the Hallowed Shire of Titchfield.

The trio turned to bike fettling in the traditional manner - Al had turned up with what looked like a bag lady’s bike - adorned with all manner of bolt-on goodies - and then insisted in giving John a guided tour showing off the new handlebars, rack, stem, mudguards (before John fell asleep...). On the other hand John had decided to use his modified cyclocross bike, hoping that it might help him keep up with Al and Jon. As ever Jon turned up with his trusty steed, with his new wide tractor type tyres fitted.

Jon suddenly became quite anxious about the task ahead and came up with a pathetic excuse that he had left his light cables at home and would therefore have to duck out. For once Al came to the rescue and was able to supply him the spare set he had in his box of tricks (for those who have not read any previous blogs, it is usually Al who needs to borrow stuff, sometimes for around 18 months, i.e. Jon's tyres).

Following last week's experience without waterproof trousers, John and Al adorned a pair as rain was forecasted and finally the riders headed down to the Gosport Ferry, stopping to take the usual TCA picture in front of the Spinnaker tower; Al commented how disappointed he was that it was not decked out in Christmas lights. There was a brief discussion regarding a proposal by Al and Jon to cross on the ferry over to Portsmouth for a beer but this was quickly dismissed by the ride leader, John. Instead we headed along the costal path past Haslar Hospital and down to Stokes Bay. At this point we encountered the head on cold winds, but in true peloton fashion John and Al took it in turns to head the ride. Jon thought he was being crafty lurking at the back but it has been noted that he was rarely seen to “do his bit” up front, until not so subtle comments were made by Al.

The TCA model Reflective Overtrousers

Beside the Spinnaker Tower

From Stokes Bay, round to the first stop in Lee on Solent, the wind was relentless, but Al and Jon showed true TCA spirit and were even seen racing each other. John was left behind a couple of times (even though he was on his 'fast' bike): Too many business lunches and too much travel continues to take its toll on his waistline and fitness. The Osbourne View beckoned and all were ready for the first pint, of Pickled Partridge after their excursions.

It was Al's round and he returned from the bar fuming at the incompetence of the barman who was more focused on his abilities as a comedian than on serving punters in the correct order! His mood was not improved when he then discovered that his new super-dooper RaceFace triple layered, fully taped seam, waterproof shell had a broken zip and, despite utilising all his mechanical skills and some of the pub's cutlery, could not be fixed.

Jon this time came to the rescue with a spare waterproof top belonging to his mum, and J and J then had to put up with Al winging about it for the rest of the ride.This put Al in a miserable mood, so for the rest of the night hated everyone and everything.

From the Osbourne View we then headed into the Shire and the sanctitiy of the Queens Head. Al again tried to keep up with Jon; John just did his own thing behind. All recovered over a couple of pints of Irvings Type 42, and a pint of 'Bonfire Beer', and the discussions then turned towards the traditional variety (i.e. not babies and nappies), with Jon discussing some of the merits of living a bachelor life. Fortunately the tale did not put A and J off their pints, or off their appetites.

A Toast to Absent Friends

The Queens Head

From the Queens head it is a quick 15 minute ride back to Helyer Mansion where the aroma from Mrs John’s home made curry was very welcoming. Once showered and sat down at the dining table, (on which the fine fare was served and consumed with great gusto and delight) dinner was all washed down with Spitfire and Adnams broadside.

Post-ride Nosh

The curry was followed by a fine apple pudding, (something which has been sorely missing from many a recent TCA gathering John noted). All then retired to the “comfy chairs” where of course very high brow and intellectual conversation was had as usual.

Route Map (click to enlarge):

(Posted by: John)

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