Overwhelming support, but this is tough
It wasn’t exactly a room with a view, but we were delighted when we looked out of the Premier Inn bedroom to see blue sky.
The view of the room itself was rather more like a teenagers bedroom than usual. The torrential rain meant we’d got items drying and shoes stuffed with ends of towels. If you look closely you can see Gerry the Garmin charging. Unfortunately, although we’d dried out from yesterday’s downpours, Gerry hadn’t and once again he’d be unable to provide appropriate support. However, today’s route was much simpler than the previous days’. There were 4 roads that would lead us to Oxford and then getting to Didcot was relatively straightforward. It wasn’t a day of zig-zaggy travels so we felt that navigation shouldn’t be an issue today.
The sunny weather outside was matched by the atmosphere in the breakfast room. We were greeted by a very welcoming, exuberant, positive, Polish woman, Anna along with her colleague Rosie. Thank you for giving us a good start to the day. During breakfast Patrick received a message from friend Mark who said that he was surprised to learn about the naked men. Spellcheck had converted ‘asked’ to ‘naked’ in yesterday’s blog. We can confirm there were no naked older me in the Crew and Harpur yesterday!
We managed to leave the hotel shortly after 8am and headed off towards the B4455 (the Fosse Way). Our route took us to a road which had a sign ‘no through road’. Rerouting would mean adding a couple of miles to our total. However, a local man advised that it was tarmac all the way and would be fine for Rubes and Roberto. He was right.
Not knowing the Fosse Way we assumed it would be a fairly standard B road. It proved to be very busy with fast moving traffic. It allowed us to make really good progress but wasn’t as relaxing as we’d expected. What are the defining characteristics of a B road? We’ve certainly cycled far less busy A roads. It was a hilly ride, but the ‘downs’ were not too steep, so we got into a high gear and pedalled furiously to allow the momentum to take us as far up the other side as possible. When we didn’t have a downhill booster, it was getting really tough climbing any hills. The sight of a 10% or 11% road sign made us even more wary. Sometimes it’s best not to know what the gradient is.
We felt we were making progress when we saw the sign for Oxfordshire. As we crossed the border the road surface immediately deteriorated. The road surface makes a huge difference to how easy it is to cycle. For us the smoother the better, so there’s less friction and it therefore takes less energy for weary legs to pedal.
Just north of Banbury we came across another cyclists’ frustration. The appalling surface of the cycle track made it unusable. Whoever has responsibility for this has never been on a bicycle.
We’d had a tough climb, but were rewarded with a long sweeping road down into Banbury. We saw the cross, but no fine lady or cock horse. What is a cock horse? Only another 6 miles to our planned stop with Jackie.
This time she’d found another pub where we could get a coffee. The sun was shining and we sat outside for longer than planned as we’d made really good progress and it felt good not pedalling. A conversation with a family who were moving into the area from Hampstead meant we could procrastinate further. Although we were feeling weary due to having cycled 300 miles since we’d left Newcastle 3 days ago we were looking forward to visiting the CRUK Oxford office and research centre.
Although we were tired, we were relieved that we were going to reach the office on schedule. Each hill became more of a challenge, but somehow we kept pedalling/
We were absolutely delighted to see the sign to the crematorium as this left us with only 5 miles to the CRUK office.
On arrival at MacDonalds in Headington we phoned Cathy in the office to announce our imminent arrival. Round the ring road on a great cycle path, finishing with a cut through to their office, where we surprised them by arriving in the opposite direction to the one they were expecting.
We were overwhelmed by the number of staff who welcomed us and the warmth and enthusiasm of their reception. It was an emotional moment for us and a reminder of how proud we are to be part of this CRUK team. We were provided with a welcome cup of tea (weak, black, no sugar) and a range of foodstuffs to replenish our rapidly deminishing energies. Two of the team Claire and Bec have their own cycling challenge planned in October and we’re looking forward to reciprocating and joining them on that.
We were joined at the office by Nikki, who’s is the lead CRUK nurse in Oxford and 3 of the research team – Emma, Eva and Rich. Nikki was one of the CRUK nurses who was involved in Philip’s care.
The four of them were joined by other CRUK staff who cycled with us to the research centre. We were greeted there by other researchers and some friends. Again we felt proud and humbled. Once again we are reminded of the world class life-saving research that CRUK funds. Thank you Sophie and Mari-lenna for more cakes and tea.
It was great to meet researchers and staff who we already knew well, but also rewarding to meet new people and see their enthusiasm
Thank you friends Jock, Linda, Cathy, Julie, Claire (and dog Rocky) for turning out to support on this year’s challenge.
When we finished in Oxford we the had to cycle another 18 miles to our accommodation in Didcot. Although we were increasingly tired it was fairly uneventful and we arrived just after 6pm.
When we checked in at the Courtyard Marriott in Didcot we were not only given a very warm welcome by Owen and Nicola, but we received a kind donation from Alex and his staff. Alex and Patrick had both lived in Sheffield. However, their allegiances were to the town’s opposing football teams. Thank you for being so helpful to us.
Next task was to prepare Rubes and Roberto for the following day’s ride. We were discussing how well today had gone and then we had to think again. Ruby’s front tyre would not inflate properly. On further investigation we discovered that there was a rip in the inner tube about 3cm long. We couldn’t understand how the tyre had stayed inflated! As we’ve said before “We’re not proper cyclists – we just don the lycra and do our best and sometimes our best can take an awfully long time”. This isn’t just the case in terms of cycling – we’re not quick at replacing punctured inner tubes. Our tyres are really strong and pretty puncture resistant, but this also means we struggle to get them back on the wheel. This occasion was no exception. Worse than that, when the tyre was back on with a new inner tube, we realised we’d damaged the inner tube getting it back on. It all sounds really pathetic, but we were so tired and not confident that we’d manage to achieve a good result if we tried again.
I suggested we phone a ‘proper’ cyclist and shout for help. We can’t thank Chris Green enough who drove over to Didcot and got Ruby sorted. You’ve saved the day tomorrow, Chris. A very big thank you!
Final day tomorrow. We’re looking forward to reaching Southampton and visiting the CRUK research centre. Who knows what it will hold!
According to research in 2017 Didcot is the most normal town in England. It represents England more than any other.
William Bradbery (1776 – 1860) was born in Didcot and was the first person in England to cultivate and sell watercress.
A Didcot is the small, oddly-shaped bit of card that a ticket inspector cuts out of a ticket for no apparent reason.