It’s just air. Until you need it.

9 Sep

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Regular readers will know that I like to take time out to go camping for a few days in the summer just to clear my head and think about what’s coming up. Regular readers will also know that I had my motorcycle stolen, which rather limited my plans. And my son took his tent back up to Edinburgh, which left me tentless.

So, what to do? The obvious answer, of course, is to cycle 50 klicks to Rutland Water, stay overnight in the open and then cycle back. What do you mean, that’s not obvious? It’s obvious to ME!

I got off to a late start, mostly by messing around doing stuff that didn’t need doing. Finally I had a bag packed with the stuff I thought I might need – but not so much stuff that I couldn’t get it in a backpack. Probably not the RIGHT stuff though. And off I went. A mile out and the puncture I had just repaired started to fail. I cycled home, since that’s where things like sinks full of water are. (To check where the leak is, for those who haven’t done this before). Puncture repaired, I set out again.

There are a LOT of hills between Oundle and Oakham. I have mentioned this before, but I feel that it is important to mention it again.

670px-Mend-a-Puncture-in-a-Bike-Tire-Step-6-Version-3Round about 30 kilometers out, the repair failed again. But I had brought a spare inner tube! Ta-Da! I fitted the tube and set off again, conscious that time was against me. By the time I reached Hambleton peninsula, my goal, it was getting dark… which means I had no real idea where I was setting up camp. I decided a bench overlooking the reservoir would be ideal, although I was keen that the sheep didn’t disturb my repose in the night.

Rutland Water is a very spooky, quiet body of water. The water is quiet, tranquil, ruffled only by the wind. Somewhere under there lie abandoned villages, fields and farms. On the peninsula in the middle it is almost eerily silent, the only noise being the lap of water on the shore, and the occasional hoot of an owl.

I settled myself down, lit a fire and boiled some water for coffee, as I watched the moon set over the water. Above me the stars came out, and I was treated to a beautiful display of stars set against a gentle veiling of clouds. I stretched out on the bench and gazed peacefully up into the darkness, letting the quiet and the solitude soak into me, bringing a sense of true peace and calm, as I snuggled into my sleeping bag. Memo for next time – if you have a shaved head, bring a beanie.

As I dozed I was suddenly shocked awake by awareness of a presence next to me. I am not sure which one of us was more surprised – me or the deer that had wandered up to check out the strange apparition in the darkness. Startled, it scurried off into the forest, and I settled down to sleep as best I could. This is not particularly easy when you’re 5’10” and the bench is something short of 5’, but stuffing my feet out the end solved that problem. Benches also tend to be slatted. This is not comfortable, so I began my usual approach of rotating like a washing machine until sleep overcame me. I woke a lot in the night, and watched the progress of the stars across the sky. Finally something like sensible sleep gripped me, although by this time I was completely buried in my sleeping bag…

…which was why I didn’t notice the rain that started around 5am. I scurried to collect my stuff together, by which time I was wet and the rain was over. So I sat and watched day break over the water, the sky gradually lightening as the sun rose behind me, painting my vision with bold strokes of blue and gold, red and yellow, orange and grey.

Time for breakfast. A 6km ride into Oakham, and I hit Costa just after it opened. I debated buying another inner tube (somewhat seduced by the idea of self repairing tubes), having used my spare, but decided not to bother. Of course, this would prove to be the wrong choice. I mean.. I have a repair kit with me – and for heaven’s sake, my tyres are lined with Kevlar! 

Suitably refreshed, I set off to circumnavigate the reservoir. And around 10km into THAT, my earlier poor decision making skills bore evil fruit, as I got another puncture. Undeterred, I had puncture repair equipment with me and I set to fixing the problem, while I was overtaken by all the cyclists I had jauntily whizzed past on the way. This puncture was not going to be easy, as it was too close to the valve, and I had to surrender. I could return to Oakham, or walk on to the cycle hire shop on the North Shore. I decided to press on, and was confronted with a 5 km walk with a grumpy bike.

Finally arriving at the hire place, the sales assistant and I decided that given my luck so far, the purchase of an extra spare would be advisable. This proved to be one of the better decisions of the day.

New tube fitted, I rode off – the exertion of the previous day now starting to take its toll (and, come to think of it, earlier rides in the week). All I really wanted to do is to head home, which (probably due to the aforementioned hills) is not really a straight line affair. Choosing not to duel with lorries and BMW drivers on the major roads, the only options were to zigzag home through pretty little villages.

I may have mentioned the hills. But I feel it’s worth mentioning them again.

I decided on a shortcut. You can already tell that this isn’t going to end well. Part way through the shortcut, another puncture struck. I had to use my precious spare, still a good 35k from home, to fix this, as I couldn’t actually locate the hole. At this point, every single bump in the road felt like the tyre was going down again, shredding my nerves with every jolt.

I was now hungry and thirsty.. I began an approach of zigzagging from village shop to village shop, buying water and snacks to keep my flagging muscles moving.

Finally, the welcome sight of Oundle church spire hove into view. Redoubling my efforts I soared home, incident free, and collapsed. Until I remembered that I have to cycle out to feed my son’s animals later….

But lesson for the week… having declared a desire to become more intuitive, perhaps it is wise to listen when your intuition says ‘buy an inner tube’.

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