Have we forgotten anything important?
I didn’t manage to get out on the bike last year (2017), and as Moz was busy with impending mini-Moz, a trip this year was looking pretty unlikely until Micha suggested visiting from America. After looking at the map for a bit, we relucantly decided that getting to the Scottish islands from Essex would be a little tricky (and expensive) , and settled on a route along the South coast from Cornwall to my new home in Colchester. The plan was to take the overnight train from London to Penzance, as the sleeper trains give you more time to board, sort out putting the bikes somewhere secure, etc. Sadly, this plan was quickly dismissed as GWR didn’t have any tickets (and possible no actual trains), so we turned to Scotrail for plan B: cycle to London, take the Caledonian Sleeper to Edinburgh, then cycle home!
Day 1 – Colchester to London
We managed to cobble together everything we needed and got ready to head off. Just before leaving, I asked if Micha wanted to swing by the bike shop to pick up some spare inner tubes. I believe his response was along the lines of “No, it’s ok, I should be fine. I never get punctures on long trips like these.” Hmm, ok. Well, fair enough. Let’s go!
Getting out of Colchester, and on to a road heading towards London, turned out to be tricker than expected. At one point we cycled on to the duel carriageway, before quickly deciding to turn round and walk back up the verge. It really didn’t feel like a good idea. Apparently there was a cycle path somewhere, but how to find the start, I have no idea. And of course, cycle paths or directions are really poorly signposted.
We somehow made it to Mark’s Tey, found the start of the cycle path parallel to the A12 and made good progress downto Wittham where we stopped for lunch.
Getting through Chelmsford was frustrating. While the roads and cycle paths seemed pretty safe, progress was incredibly slow with so many round abouts and junctions to navigate. This was proving a lot lot less fun than cycling through rural Quebec and New Hampshire. We stopped for a coffee.
Once we got out o Chelmsford, things improved rapidly and we ended up on a nice strech of National Cycle Route 1 heading through and past Writtle, and then along some quiet B roads to Epping. By which point we were both feeling exhausted and wondering if we would actually make it to London before sunset.
We stopped in a forest and ate some apples. By this point, my arm and sholdur were aching a lot, not to mention my legs, and I was worrying a little about getting blisters on my hands. Oh well. Too late to turn back now. Onwards!
Onwards turned out to be a canal towpath. This is a lot nicer!
Perfect. We’ll make good time, and get in to Euston for a meal and beer before boarding the train. I’m in a better mood already. Where’s Micha? On previous trips he’s usually been ahead of me, but recently, he’s been lagging a lot. I guess I’ll wait here for him.
Well, no bother. Micha didn’t take inner tubes, but I assume he checked that he could borrow one of mine. I’ll just relax here and watch him unclip the breaks, take the wheel off the bike. And take the tyre off the wheel. And take the inner tube out. Only to find out, that no, of course my tubes don’t fit his wheel. It’s quite obvious that my wheels are a lot larger than his. So, put the old tube back in, put the old tyre back on, put the wheel back, and try and get the breaks clipped in again then. And pump up the flat tyre with a puncture.
Cycle on for a few minutes. Pump up flat tyre. The sunsets. These last five miles take forward. Cycling through London on pavements, at night, with a lot of luggage on the pannier tacks and a flat tyre was not part of the plan and is certainly not any fun.
Still, we eventually eventually made it, getting in to Eusteon around 11pm, so with over half an hour to spare!