Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Long Road to Wigan

Following on from the quaint and touristy havens of the Scottish Highlands, and amidst the amiable joys of a day off the saddle in the Lake District, a wet and windy ride to Wigan was always going to be a hard sell. 

Bowness-on-Windermere had been kind. Really, our home for the previous two nights, Lansdale B&B, even provided complimentary entry to a nearby spa complex, so it was a logical choice for a relaxing day off the bike. Yesterdays delightful agenda consisted of a slow breakfast, a lingering stroll, a coffee, and that very wonderfully British pastime of ambling in and out of shops in a confused but happy trance. Never causing much hassle, but never buying anything. Spending more than necessary deliberating the values of flavoured handmade soap for 20mins, and then tossing it back in the basket, and doing much the same with rustic looking posters offering homely and sarcastic quotes. Mums birthday is coming up, and several alarmingly nervous purchases were nearly made. I can only hope she likes Kendal mint cake. It was the only souvenir which was all at the same time light, thin, and securely packaged. Sauntering back outside, pregnant skies delivered a seemingly constant spray of drizzle, it felt the world and his dog had similar ideas for wasting away a Monday. Gentle hums of conversation in several different languages could be heard at every step, all dressed in pleasantly coloured variations of shower and wind proof Goretex. 

Yesterdays heavy clouds hung around and see us off this morning, and were kind enough to provide a morning shower as we climbed up and out the Lake District via Windermere and Heaning, and Kendal. The remainder, and bulk, of todays route were a mixed bag. Split just about evenly between the A6 and the cyclists Russian Roulette of NCN6 & 55. From Kendal to Lancaster, and from Lancaster to Preston, we switched between the two. Consistently battling a head wind, the A6 was a faster way of ticking off the Kilometres, while the NCN6 was scenic in it's early incarnations, and provided amble loud expletives at it's latter lack in signage, direction, and flow.

Moods were raised by coffee and cake in Lancaster (cappuccino and bakewell tart), and lunch in Preston (pizza slices, sausage baps, and a pot of tea). Post-Preston, the NCN55 followed a similar pattern of starting out in blissfully scenic weaves throughout park area, along winding country lanes, and even along an old tram track arched by trees and shade. After a promising start, we soon found ourselves tossed traditionally out in the middle of sketchy industrial estates, or thrown into dead end cul-de-sacs, or, our personal favourite, along a suburban street where the signs simply gave up and went into hiding. The latter forced us back on to the A6 where the crime of cycling quietly along the side of the road saw us spat at, and then onto the A49 for a long awaited final straight into Wigan. 

Yesterday's Google searches for lodging options had revealed Wigan to be something of a hotel/hostel/b&b bermuda triangle. Perhaps due to it's location sandwiched between the bigger brothers and brighter lights of Liverpool and Manchester, or perhaps due to the damming verdicts of George Orwell's 'Road to Wigan Pier'. Either way, sitting at our average 130km mark, we were determined to stay there. I'd feared our inevitable choice of the Premier Inn. I'd anticipated a 12hour tribute to all that's negative about England and it's hopeless addiction to chains, and uniformed drabness. However, as I sit and patter on the keys from the bar of Wigan's Premier Inn city centre branch, I'll begrudgingly admit it's all been a wonderful surprise thus far. Instead of being told the bikes would have to remain outside in the car-park's bike rack, they are tucked up in the room. Furthermore, said room is a disabled room, made available to us with the thoughts of keeping the bikes close-by, and for the ease of access the ground floor brings. Also, the disabled room comes fully equipped with a bathtub, the first of the tour. Assuming we can remain guilt free, and 120 doesn't become required by someone genuinely less-able than ourselves, we're appreciative of the spacious domain, and a relaxing soak in the tub. Even if the bathroom is all open space, white tiles, and emergency cords, it's relaxing to us. The bar area is home to myself, Emily, and four other individuals who's life story my imagination will invent. They're all solo, and despite the dark, secret, and sometimes erotic secrets their existence shields in my mind, they're probably just salesmen/women on a nightly stopover in the outer reaches of their regional area. I guess we'll never know what they make of Emily and I. We are evidently tired and weather-beaten, we smell of a heady blend of Deep heat, dampness, and toil, and we've just shared a starter and a bottle of Merlot. I guess it's time for bed.

Tomorrows destination: Shrewsbury.

Todays numbers:

114.2km's ridden (a 900.5km running total so far)
5:53hrs moving time
788m climbed
19.4km/h average speed
51.8km/h top speed
2267 calories vanished

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