26th November (#117)

I’ve had a week long hiatus from the bike commute owing to moving house. We’re now in after a frantic and exhausting time spending 48hrs doing the moving ourselves (we had the luxury of only moving 3 doors down). After that, it was filling holes in walls and unpacking to make the house look a little less like a hoarders wet dream. The previous occupants were renting and the house has been empty for a year so it’s all looking a bit shabby but at least I have filled the remaining holes left by hooks, screws, nails and anything else that was used by the previous occupants to hang something on.

Interim garage storage space

Today was my second day back at work. I was gonna have a late finish yesterday so didn’t bother riding and besides, there was rain about and it’s getting colder. I dropped the boys at school and parked up at the supermarket. There is no way that I’ll get a park at work when I arrive so Thursdays are riding days whatever the weather. With the trails muddy (probably), I’m forced onto the roads and all the driver agro that this entails. I rehearsed an email to our Estates Dept on the way. The previous evening some contractors turned up to replace all of the lights in our building. We got 6 hours notice for work that had been in the planning for at least 2 months. This was exactly 6 hours more notice than we had the last time but I was still angry. No one had “engaged the stakeholders”. If they had, they would’ve realised that the job was a lot more complex than it seemed to be from a management office. The ride was the standard mix of speeding close passes, impatience due to 2 sets of temporary traffic controls and brainless walkers along the river path, too deaf or wired in to their devices to hear the “Brng, brng!! Brng, Brng, Brng, BRiiiiiiiiiNG!!!!!! of my bell.

Work was busy and full of poor communication from other departments who have their eye firmly on managing the C word to worry about the consequences of ignoring everything else. I have learnt through bitter experience not to hit the send button when I am angry so this morning, after a dose of fresh air and consequent attitude adjustment I sent it, professional, assertive, advisory which in a nutshell went like this:

Planning

Prevents

P¡$$

Poor

Performance!

It fell on deaf ears (& blind eyes). The same problems occurred delaying my escape from the mad house to get back to Mrs B2W who has (probably) an infection from having an infected wisdom tooth pulled on Monday. It was foggy, thick and mysterious when I left.

I love riding in the fog and if I wasn’t in a hurry I would’ve gone longer. For sure it was cold but no wind and dry. I went the same roads which were quieter and way less speedy and aggressive. My phone rang. I don’t recognise the number and I’m warm now and I ain’t gonna stop for no one! Its work I am sure but the buggers aren’t gonna take any more of my time. The caller left a voicemail. It was the guy who was (mis)managing the project asking me to call back to explain the “issue”. Until then I did not know who was managing the project.

I didn’t call him back when I got to the van. He can sort his own mess out…I think that I have resilience fatigue.

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17th November (#116)

After yesterday’s school run bike errands, my legs were sore at me this morning. It was another early start but my only bike commute during a week of house moving. After a month of solicitor ‘uck ups, sluggish movement and generally finding obstacles for both us and our buyers we have reached the summit and speeding down a step descent. Our buyers forced the issue and booked their romovals people for Friday (who does that before exchanging contracts and before negotiating a completion date?!). I would’ve given them a big don’t argue and not backed down but these people will be our neighbours soon enough so it isn’t worth the long term grief for some short term gain.

Thankfully we have been drip feeding boxes of our stuff into an empty house so there is only half a house to move over the next couple of days but my plan of steaming some awful wallpaper off a couple of walls and skimming the wall plaster won’t happen anytime soon. Until Mrs B2W is no longer distracted by the initial cognitive load of moving that is. The DIY campaign list will start soon enough though and there is plenty to keep me off the bike over the colder months of winter. The quads committee is quite pleased about that development…

Back to this morning, it was an overcast and an unusually mild November morning. 11°C at 6 a.m is “too good to miss out on!” I forcefully told my legs who were again happy to be uncovered below my thighs. The 13mph breeze blowing into me ALL the way was the price that I paid for it but I got in ready to offload my work onto understanding colleagues and script my automatic replies on the email. The new building designs that we have had no stakeholder engagement with are ploughing ahead with little thought for learners’ needs or our needs to deliver effective interactive education. Despite lobbying at every meeting to involve us in the planning the management don’t. Presumably because they don’t understand change management, they fear that they won’t like the answers to their questions when they do ask or there’s no more money left during this plague. I get the feeling that I will get back to work next week with the local MP ready to cut the ribbon to a building that we did not agree to. He’s also the chair of the education select committee in Parliament. Despite being a Tory, he’s a good man. I feel a whistle blowing letter coming on…

I headed back to the van in bright sunshine and a tailwind. I was so busy that I had nothing to eat until lunchtime which was my overnight oats planned for brekkie. By the time that I was halfway there, I started to ride like I was ploughing through treacle. I munched on an energy bar and sloshed back some water but it was too late to hold off the bonk. A little light headed, I wobbled up and down the A1184 to Stortford feeling better by the time that I got back. What a waste of a tailwind I thought as I inhaled my pasta leftovers from last night, followed by half a packet of dark chocolate digestives.

It wasn’t a great “only commute of the week” but at least the next one can only be better.

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13th November (#115)

For the first time in ages, my legs didn’t want it this morning. I considered driving but then remembered that I had my new glasses to collect at 3 and had planned to go home from there. To take the car would mean finding a car park in town or walking to and from the shop and driving home from work. Both would be a hassle for different reasons and I had planned to ride home while it was still light for a change.

Stuff it! It wasn’t that cold and my legs would soon get with the programme. It took longer than it usually does but after 5km, I had switched off with some mental rehearsal of a busy day ahead. Thereafter the ride was all a blur except for the 2nd morning running, a kind driver held back from passing allowing me to hop over the road and onto the puddles of the river trail. Thanks drivers! Towards the end of the ride, my legs reminded me that they weren’t happy and they were going to give me hell on the way back.

And so it was. I made a short trip to Specsavers to collect my new glasses. My old emergency ones were held together by tape (broken bridge) and were fogged by scratched lenses. Afterwards, I made use of the remaining daylight to get an extra bonus 5km in despite my protesting legs. The tailwind made it bearable although it was feeling cool as the day faded. I just glided down the hills, freewheeling to save the juice in my near empty tank to help me up the rises.

Looking at the forecast, it would be the last of any dry stuff for a couple of days with rain being more or less persistent over the weekend. A good time for a clean and degrease I think. Thank God that was Friday!

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12th November (#114)

I woke on my alarm, snoozed and got up. I changed my tyre and as predicted it was flat so replaced the tube over coffee. Not being fussed over distance anymore and having another predicted late finish, I drove to the supermarket and unloaded the bike from the van, ultimately cutting 4km out of my return journey.

I battled into the wind which wasn’t strong, just annoying after the luxury of the last few weeks when it had been relatively absent. To combat it, I tried positive thoughts:

“at least it isn’t wet”

“Hey! It’s November and you’re still in shorts”

“hump day was yesterday. Its all downhill and tailwind to the weekend now…”

…and so on. I weaved slowly around puddles on the river trail mostly avoiding the worst of the giant ones left by the rain the night before. It was unexceptional and won’t last long in the memory as my finest commute of the year.

It was very dark and night time when I was finally able to extract myself from work. But it was still and clear. Perfect save for the light. Not even the road traffic upset my rhythm apart from a pair of cars chasing each other up the A1184, simulating the best example of the Herts & Essex rally that I have seen this month. However it was late and despite feeling more than able to be out for much longer decided on the shortest route back to the van.

I was tired and needed my sleep to keep something in the bank for for a longer ride home tomorrow when, for a change, I aim to ride home while it is still light.

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11th November (#113)

I unwittingly joined a couple of clubs today. The 5 a.m club was the first as I was awoken by the herd of elephants that was Master15 in his room above us. I needed to be up early anyway so dithered around for an hour before I left a good hour before sunrise. The darkness was accentuated by the mist. My light barely penetrated the thick cloak that surrounded me but I like riding in it. Fog and mist while cold is still which=no wind which is perfect for riding. Having been a couple of weeks off bike commuting, I felt effortless as I pondered the newly announced retirement of a colleague and the massive hole created by her departure. Before I knew it, the day was getting lighter and I was nearly at work.

It was nearly sunset by the time I was ready to leave but when I got my bike, the front tyre was flat. A stone had wedged itself into the tyre and caused a slow puncture. My new tyres that I ordered in September won’t arrive at the suppliers until February!

I’m starting to think that that they’re growing them in Malaysia to order!

When I got my repair kit out to patch it, I discovered that the vulcanising agent had dried in its tube. No problem, replace the tube with the spare that I always carry and pick up some more on the way home. When I got it out of my frame bag, it had a hole bigger than what was in the original one! That’s the moment that I sjoined the puncture repair club on their 2 for 1 special offer. Mental note-don’t carry the spare around in a cardboard box, wrap it in a plastic bag. Maybe that’s the first rule of puncture repair club…

So I was faced with a walk to the only shop open at that time, a 3km journey on my route home. But instead, I raided the Resuscitation trainers’ office for some glue. Within 30 minutes, the patch was stuck on with the help of some tape, the tyre was on and I was headed out on 2 wheels towards Halfords. I got what I needed and because the tyre was still firm, I didn’t change the tube. By the time I got home 16km later, it was still (roughly) 75% inflated so I left it to change tomorrow. A minor inconvenience compared to trying to find a parking space and filling up the car with petrol.

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Coffeeneuring #3

Date: 9th November

Where I went: Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford

Beverage: ARU coffee

Distance: 7.54km

Today was my first day back on campus since early March. I drove to the Park and Ride car park outside Chelmsford and rode the rest of the way. Instead of taking the bust arterial, I was brave and went the back roads barely remembering the route. There are a couple of new housing estates and some more subdivisions. I was hopeful of finding some car free cycle paths through these avoiding the worst of the traffic. I found them and, while I knew a rough direction everything felt different. I ambled along shared paths, went this way and that, changing direction from fenced off areas detouring along quiet roads, jumping a couple of fences and made it to Uni in good time to meet lecturers and the rest of the class over a cup of very average coffee.

Forgot my reusable mug. An average coffee in a paper cup which I reused 4 times.

Finishing as the day faded, I headed back the same way to the van with blinkies on front and back. With the legal requirement for new housing developments to build car free paths, I was impressed by the scale of paths. But not being fully finished yet nor adequately signposted it was confusing relying on my poor memory. I was certainly spoilt for choice and inevitably ended up taking a couple of wrong turns before gliding down the hill to Chelmer Valley Park and Ride.

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Coffeeneuring #2

Date: 8th November

Where I went: Hatfield Forest

Beverage: Home made from the French press

Distance: 10.14km

This was a theme within a theme. I poured a coffee into my flask, packed it in my bag and took Boris up the Flitch to get some chicken stock for tonight’s lasagne and some Shiraz to wash it down. I rode a mile past home and sat on a log to drink my coffee in the lifting mist.

A souvenir from my first visit to San Francisco in 1991 looking for work. Now in its 4th decade I only get it out for special occasions. I preferred Peets coffee but I liked the design on the Starbucks mugs at the time.

On the way back, I had an Inkspots earworm on repeat. I love coffee, I love tea. I love the Java Jive and it loves me

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Reboot. Coffeeneuring challenge #1

Until today, I hadn’t been out on the bike for a couple of weeks. After a colleague at work tested positive for the dreaded C word, I was required to self isolate for 14 days. No leaving the house, no errands, no dog walking, no bike commutes, no life. The shambolic Track and Trace system sent texts out to me to self isolate to protect the NHS and save lives. However there is no tracking to police those who should be isolating but don’t. Our “world beating” system has been overwhelmed and cannot cope with the sheer volume of cases in the UK. Instead they rely on good old fashioned “Blitz spirit”, that altruism will prevail and people will do the right thing. If they can afford not to work that is…

So while I could have gone out I did the right thing and stayed at home. Mostly. I was due to have a week’s annual leave but managed to reclaim that as, due to the whole department being off as well, we all had to pull together to mitigate our absence and work from home. I used the rest of my time doing some of the house moving jobs that I had set myself. Only 3 doors along and being empty, I was relatively safe to clear out the garden, move stuff across from the shed and put up some shelves. But I really missed going further than the end of the road to take the bins out for collection. Except I may or may not have gone for a naughty early morning spin up and down the road to “test my eyesight”.

That’s when I think that my spectacles may or may not have fell out of the pocket of my hoodie. I can’t explain this to anyone in my family. To do so would risk shame, hypocrisy and set a poor example, even if the risk of transmission was mathematically remote. Mrs B2W also had a contact from work at the same time so we were both under house arrest. Having to rely on the laziest person in the house to cycle up to the shop to get necessary’s and walk the dog was the biggest headache. His more helpful older sibling who has a broken foot was out of the equation.

As well as house moving chores I even submitted my coursework 6 hours before the deadline. I got lots of sleep and did lots of course related reading done so it wasn’t all bad but without my physical release of a daily ride things were pretty mundane. While my minde looked forward to commuting to work on my bike on my escape from isolation hell, I could not rediscover my previous joy of riding. The thick, cold fog and the likelihood of a late finish put paid to any glorious return on Thursday. It was also the same day as the start of the national month long lock down so driving the route instead of riding, while BORING and unexciting, at least gave me respite from 2 frigid mornings. I also avoided the back ache from humping an accumulated 6 books from the library to return.

My loss of 2 wheel love was in part countered by reading and watching videos about bike packing around the King Alfred’s Way, a new 350km circular ride but it didn’t inject any motivation to get going again. And then while catching up on reading in the warmth of some afternoon sun in my armchair, I was reminded of the Coffeeneuring challenge. I’ve tried this before but never completed it. Maybe 2020 was the year to finish although I may have started too late to get all the rides in.

So after a pressure check I pumped air into some tyres and climbed onto Doris. I slowly ambled up the road which may or may not have been my route during isolation. I scanned the road and bushes to my left for a pair of glasses, mindful that my new pairs where a week away. I then stopped at the shop to see if anyone may have handed a sad, lonely pair of specs in. Nope, I would have to do with my emergency pair. Broken frame, scratched lenses and wonky hinges from being stood on after falling off my head, these are my lifeline for another week.

I went further to Tesco Express to collect some oats for brekkie and spurned the machine coffee for some IPA. This I believe counts as an acceotable alternative for the challenge. As it had been dry for a week or so, I headed for the Flitch to look for a spot to drink it, hoping that the trail wasn’t too muddy for the Marathon Plus commuting tyres. This lock down is not like the first with a number of new rules added to confuse the population (or enable willful misinterpretation). What hasn’t changed is encouraging us all to get out into the fresh air and exercise.

Being a mild autumn day, the masses were out taking full advantage of the sunshine and country air. There was plenty of bell ringing and slowing as I weaved my way, searching for a quiet spot to sup my ale. What mud there was on the trail was that plasticeine texture that doesn’t grip or splatter and I eventually traversed up a public foot path to escape the day trippers to a haven of some IPA solitude.

After collecting evidence of my journey (above) I reflected. The day was bright and mild. It was a good one to reboot. I looked at my stats. With 4450 miles so far this year, I could race to 5000 but I couldn’t see myself enjoying it in November/December. Cold and moving house will see to that and don’t want to end up hating riding all because of an obsession to reach a target. That’s what I will do, just ride and see where it takes me. There’s always 2021…

Date: 7th November

Where I went: Farm field (coffeshop without walls)

Beverage: Vocation Life & Death IPA

Distance: 9.11km

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23rd October (#112)

Having conquered my nerves and perceived danger caused by my mumbo jumbo superstitions from yesterday, it was back to my Friday routine. It was my last bike commute for work for a week. I had a break from coursework last night but made plans to do some during a quiet day at work so packed a some article copies into my bag and pedal off into the lifting mist of another mild October morning.

Lifting because of the 10mph headwind from the south. Still, if I waited for the perfect for a cycle, I would probably only ride 3 or maybe 4 days a year and the current mild temperatures are to be welcomed for sure. I went as many back roads as I could today, avoiding the A1184, going down the back of Sawbridgeworth parallel with the train line and river. I stopped at a large puddle and contemplated going back, across the river and onto the A1184. But I waited and watched some cars and vans plough through it as if it wasn’t there. Walk around it to avoid the deep parts and keep my feet dry? Nah, the edges were high and I’d get wet anyway so I decided to take a path through it and hope that it wouldn’t be as high as my bottom bracket.

I changed into the granny gears, got up enough speed to free wheel into it and pedalled though the shallowest part. My shoes got wet but not saturated and job done headed towards the temporary lights. Except there were no temporary. Bugger! I wanted to make all the waiting drivers envious as they watched me glide past them in a flame of pedal powered glory. Another time maybe…

I stopped at Aldi to get the last of the seasonal cycling special buys. I missed them last week and all the merino base layers were gone in Bishops Stortford yesterday. The Harlow branch always has more leftovers but there was only 1 left in my size so I nabbed that and some merino socks to replace my holey ones. I showered and powered through my admin and started on my coursework churning out another 300 words before I left at 3.30 taking my remaining time owing to start my annual leave early.

On the way home I discovered why there were no temporary lights. They had finished one section and moved down to start on another. The back road that I took was stationary with cars used to using it as a rat run to avoid the previous section. One clown decided that he didn’t have to give way to his right and moved his RangeRover across my path. “No matter, bump onto the footpath and beat you to the junction, see how far that gets you champ!”, I thought as I passed another 20 odd stationary vehicles. On the main road up to Sheering there was no traffic moving. I was just delighted at Mr RangeRover’s timely visit from Prof Karma. I pedalled along on the quiet, usually busy road out of Harlow content to have actualised my morning plan.

And then the steady stream of cars behind me passed as they were let out of their purgatory but not until I was well beyond my danger close passing points on the Sheering suicide. I didn’t see Mr RangeRover again to give him a wave which was a shame. Yes, I have a sad, vindictive outlook at times. I was soon home, soaking in the bath reading for my essay over an IPA.

No bike commutes next week barring a better national emergency than what we have now. Things have felt quite attritional lately so I’m hoping that the break will do me good.

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22nd October (#111)

As a cricketer, 111 is considered an unlucky score made either by a team or an individual. Multiples of 111 thereafter are also seen with dread so if you or your team are on one of these scores of say 222, 333, 444 and so on…watch out, you could be courting disaster. Its said to be unlucky because 111 resembles three stumps without bails, which obviously equates to losing your wicket. Which is bad because you can’t score any more runs once you’re out. 111 is also known as “Nelson”, perhaps originating from Royal Navy Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, who supposedly had one eye, one arm and one leg towards the end of his life.

Whatever the reason, being commute #111, I set off with some trepidation, nervous of what disaster may fall upon me. Riding a bike is most unlike cricket unless you sport white riding kit but still, it gave be the heebie jeebies riding today. I gingerly avoided anything on the road that may cause me to fall, nervously keeping away from the same imperfections and pot holes that I’ve zoomed past many times before. I made it in one piece brawling with a cross-headwind all the way. Maybe that was my bad luck for the day I thought-a bastard headwind!

By the time that it was time to head back to the van late that evening, I could not believe that the headwind was the only bad luck that I could have. I hadn’t finished #111 yet, I had only completed the first half of it. But it was less a worry than the morning, even in the dark on a main road for half of the ride. The wind had died down and 11°C at 8.30pm was a cause for minor celebration at the end of October and it kept my mind off what could happen.

Normally better weather keeps me out for some minor bonus miles but I had to be back to squeeze in some more time on my coursework, if only to maintain some momentum. Due for submission in 7 days, I’m determined to break the back of it by the end of the weekend. That way I can get out for some leisure rides in between doing housemoving jobs during my week away from work next week. We’ll see…

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