Well on target, physically fine thanks to a man with an allen key. Sorry yesterday's entry was so abrupt - was just trying to get information down with an impatient cyclist sitting outside and time online limited. I'll continue...
Day Four (Tues 15/05/07)
Bridgwater to Hereford
Day miles 93
Total miles 290
To go c 685
This ended up being the most satisfying day of the trip so far. After struggling for 50 miles to meet M at Severn Bridge by 12pm (and I was late), I managed to do another 43 miles over some hills, through some torrential rain, and get to a town just one behind my original target. And my knee problem may well be sorted.
As I was starving by the time we met up, I insisted we went into Chepstow for lunch. M dutifully sat outside while I ate, and then while I was on here writing my blog (sorry!), but he also adjusted my seat by a half inch, as I suggested, which made all the difference to my knee. (At first he adjusted it by about an inch and a half, which nearly made all the difference to my chances of getting anywhere, ever) It's a common cyclist's problem - incorrect saddle height means you're putting excess pressure on the knee tendons. I suppose I hadn't noticed it for 3 years as I don't go up many hills in London, but also because much of my cycling is out of the saddle, so I'm adjusting the stresses on the knee.
The knee was still sore though, so the trip out of Chepstow was painful, and then as we headed up the Wye Valley there was a huge downpour, and even some thunder as we stood in some shelter opposite Tintern Abbey (it's a ruin, no idea what Wordsworth saw in it. At least Byron owned his own ruined abbey) I could tell M was getting a bit frustrated at my slow pace (and was rather bemused at the contraption I was riding), but he took loads of pics, and even some film, but I can't get on youtube to see it from here. If you read this, can you post up links to your flickr stuff in a comment, M? Thanks.
Once in Monmouth, I was feeling strong enough to get to Hereford (although Leominster, 13 miles further, would have been pushing it) I've been to Hereford before, once when I cycled from there to Hay (and I thought that was arduous!) It's a nice town, with a cathedral more noted for its literary significance than its architecture - it has a copy of the Magna Carta, the Mappa Mundi, one of the most valuable maps in existence, and a chained library with incunabula (15th century printed works, very rare and valuable) I'm sure there are plenty of librarians reading who'd appreciate it.
But I got there too late and left too early to have another look round. There aren't so many hotels in Hereford, so I accepted a room for £55 - when you've cycled for 8 hours and need a bath and a bed, that looks like good value. My waitress was new and pissed, which amused me - she had slightly smeared make-up, was trying everso hard to keep it together, repeating everything, being very solicitous to the point of irritating...well, it kept me awake at dinner.
Annoyingly, I only found out after I'd washed half my clothes that there were no drying facilities in the room. Damp (but clean) cycling top for tomorrow then.
Day Five (Wed 16/05/07)
Hereford to ...
Feeling much refreshed today. I still have a support on my knee, but it's barely hurting at all - yesterday almost every downstroke of my right leg caused pain, for about 20 miles. Try limping when pedalling, it's not an easy position.
I took the backroads from Hereford halfway up to Shrewsbury, bypassing Leominster, but in the end having to use the A49. Part of the trick of this is good navigation, avoiding the horribly busy A roads used by supply lorries who give you little space or warning, but also avoiding the hills. My bar bag has a map-holder on it, and I've always been a pretty good navigator, so much of my thinking time is spent working out where I'm going next, and how far to the next resting point.
It should be reaonably flat from here for a while, up towards Liverpool (which I'll bypass), and through the northern towns. Urban cycling should be quite quick, although held up by traffic lights. I'm looking to get a couple of 100 mile days done while I can, then see what the Scottish lowlands are like. I'm considering my options re the Highlands - it isn't necessary fot me to go via Loch Lomond, Glencoe and Fort William, although it is a beautiful route - I've been there more than once in the car. I'm not sure my body and bike are up to it. I'll see how I feel once I hit Glasgow, and what the timing's like. Scooting across to Edinburgh and across the Forth Bridge is the other option, but that leads to the dreaded A9. It's flatter and faster, but also more unpleasant and dangerous. We'll see.
My current decision is whether to head to Chester, where there's a youth hostel, or try to get further than that. I've spent too much time in Shrewsbury as it is, so Chester may be the best option. It's about 40 miles from here, I should do that in 4 hours (including rest breaks) - been averaging a good 12.2mph on the road today.