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August 18, 2011

Coast to coast part 2: Huw was also in our hearts when we were laughing, enjoying the great company & getting spooked out in a weird village

by huw15

As promised here is the eagerly awaited (I hope) Part 2 of the report back from the Coast to Coast cycle.  I hope Huw was laughing with us as we pushed ourselves, laughed, rested and messed about for 3 or 4 days.  Oh and there was a period where we were a bit mistifyed during our overnight stay on Saturday night!

We had anticipated a fairly straight forward evening on Saturday.  I had thought it would start with the Welsh contingent taking the mick out of Paul and Dave (the English rugby fans) following Wales’ win in the rugby international.  After all Goodman (from Bridgend) had commented on Paul’s ‘offensive’ English rugby shirt right from the start, and we had been careful to update Paul and Dave on the score at regular intervals 🙂  We then thought we’d have a relaxed meal at the local pub.  Well it was an amusing evening but I must admit as we descended through the mist into the sleepy village of Rookhope – passed the disused tin mine – it all seemed a bit spooky.  A bit too much like ‘the Beast of Bodmin Moor’ for my liking.  This feeling was confirmed as we were virtually followed in every step by the owners of the B&B who counted us all in and out every time we passed through the front door.  So much so in fact that the landlady copped an eyeful of one of the guys getting changed.  All she said was ‘I saw a big man naked but I’ve seen it all before’.  On the assumption that ‘big’ meant tall and broad as opposed to any other part of the male anatomy then it must have been either Paul, Dave or Craig.  Either way she didn’t seem concerned and neither of them have admitted it………….yet!

Things got worse when we discovered there were no locks on any of the bedroom doors or the toilets (very weird) and that the son of the owner mysteriously appeared at the pub later to ‘spy’ on us.  That feeling of ‘the Hills have Eyes’ was emphasised when we saw an NFU sign on the hillside the next morning saying “you are being watched”.  Added to which there was no mobile signal in the village – it was kind of spooky…… much so that Jenny piled up the bags behind the bedroom door in the girls room to prevent any unwelcome visitors in the night!  I only found that out afterwards, and it cracked me up.  I was sharing a room with big Paul, Dave and Craig and I would have been right behind all 3 of them if anything had gone wrong 🙂

The pub where we ate was just as strange – the strict ‘house rules’ were notable but we did inadvertently get our own back when Heather told her friends that her meal was ‘vile’ only to realise one of the bar staff was standing right next to her.  Actually my meal was nice – but maybe not every meal was that agreeable.  The evening was in contrast to the welcome we had at the B&B and pub in Langwathby the previous evening – but to be honest it all added to the amusement and banter and the weird village of Rookhope was water off a duck’s back to us.  If we could deal with the hills of the Northern Penines we could cope with an eccentric village ‘welcome’.

And the cycling on Saturday was just fantastic – it included: the iconic Hartside pass at just under 2000 feet; the steepest climb of the ride out of Garrigill; the climb up to the highest point of the ride to Black Hill at over 2000 feet; and a tough climb out of Allenheads and over the border into the county of Durham.   Being part of our group, all of whom took on and defeated ‘England’s Last Wilderness’ was a privilege.  I spent some good quality time cycling at various points in the day with Dave Brennan, Louie Barby, Matt Woolhouse, Sam Bellas, Carys and my brother Rob.  It was equally good to chat with others like Jac, Owen and Huw’s cousins in the evenings and hear about their experiences conquering these challenging mountains.  I was also delighted to sample a hard boiled egg for lunch provided by the support crew and coming from a ‘Travis’ chicken ha ha.  The smell of the hard boiled egg reminded me of the playground humour sometimes trotted out when these eggs are opened due to the aroma they present!  And it reminded me of my brother Steve’s holiday packed lunches that also include hard boiled eggs.  That said, it was delicious 🙂

My other brother Mark, who sadly passed away 3 years ago was a keen cyclist and he would have been right up for doing an event like this.  So it was special to have his son David with us on the trip – Mark would be proud of David who completed the ride with flying colours, despite not being a regular cyclist.  David was a special friend to Huw and should be pleased with himself.

On the football front we were disappointed to hear on Saturday that Town had conceded a late goal at Rochdale to draw their second match.  But we enjoyed the Newcastle vs Arsenal match on the telly, and everyone had a view on the Joey Barton incidents.

To start our the last day on Sunday we were greeted by a steep, one mile, off-road climb – it was even difficult to get out of that spooky place! But we all made it and at least the climb cleared the heads of those who had imbibed of the local liquor the night before.  It was lovely to see some of the teenagers complete the last day in Cardiff City shirts – not because it was Cardiff (because they all rightly support their own clubs) – but they were wearing the shirts because of Huw.  Because they love and adore Huw and miss his entertaining banter and friendship.  And some of us were pleased to hear the Cardiff result on the Sunday afternoon too: a 3-1 win in the severnside derby against Bristol City.

It has been interesting to hear tales of incidents from various people over the last few days for example the chaotic ‘pile up’ of teenagers and bikes in which Sean Brennan acquired some nasty cuts, new friendships being made, oh and Louie’s saddle rash during the day.  I felt for Louie because he was suffering – not from the hills or anything because he’s a strong cyclist – but because the saddle was getting the better of him and even the application of sudocrem was unable to bring him much relief.  But he stuck at it and felt better on Sunday!

Apart from the initial climb, the 48 miles of cycling was fairly straightforward on Sunday.  What was less straightforward was a major mechanical problem acquired by Matty Woolhouse.  After various discussions, Craig and Matty were left with Rob and Dave to nurse Matt’s bike down from the moors and I was left in temporary charge of navigation.   In the end Ann was able to get a spare part (impressive on a Sunday) and Goodman offered to cycle back to get the part to them in a 3 miles uphill mercy mission.  We clapped ‘Harri’ off as he dashed off with the part and re appeared with the other 4 about 20 minutes later.  A temporary repair had been made and Matty was able to finish the ride.  A good effort from these lads to get Matty down to Rowlands Gill and on to the end of the ride.  And an extended ‘Sunday lunch’ for the rest of us 🙂

So.  We set off on the last 20 mile section on a gentle slope along the banks of the Tyne River towards the sea.  The support crew enjoyed seeing us weave our way through Newcastle and on towards Tynemouth like a giant snake.  It was a great feeling being part of a successful team of which the support crew were a central part.  Certain incidents seemed chaotic, but the truth was that the organisation was anything but chaotic.  Masterminded by Dave Brennan and Jane Travis, it was a success in every respect – perfect.  I was proud to be part of it and we all did it with Huw in our hearts and souls from start to finish.  He would have chuckled as we got some comments from young Geordies on the last leg and he would have laughed out loud as we shouted back about Joey Barton and “the Toon’s” game against Arsenal the previous day.

One of the highlights of the last day was Heather advising Dave Brennan to ‘take a (carbohydrate) gel’ to help him keep up if he thought we were going to fast.  We cracked up at that comment which was a reference to the training rides where Heather and Carys had to consume these gels to keep going, eventhough they tasted bad!  That comment typified the good natured banter between people of different age groups throughout the trip – a rebelious and humorous comment referring to Dave’s care and advice that stood us all in good stead.

Our arrival at Tynemouth was delayed by an abortive foray down the slipway to the Tyne ferry (due to some missing signposts) but we arrived at the coast in warm sunshine and enjoyed 45 minutes of swapping stories and eating Dairylea and Marmite sandwiches on the beach.  A group of Huw’s family and friends of different ages, from different parts of the country and of both genders – all of whom came together in a common cause and who welcomed eachother with open arms.

Everyone got home safe (many of them in the early hours) at the end of an unforgetable few days.  Personally I felt free and exhilarated in the beautiful countryside and was able to laugh and enjoy others’ company in a way I hadn’t done since the middle of March.  Although as always there were some moving times, maybe Jenny and Carys felt the same.

I’ve often said that Huw is lucky to have family and friends like this; the same applies equally to me, Jenny and Carys x x x x.  Thank you to everyone for something very special that I will cherish forever, and I know others felt the same too ♥

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