Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Spin on the Green Wheel

Yes, my butt hurts today...but more on that later.

Well, spring has finally sprung. The Midsummer Commons cows have returned (with a silly controversy as a local butcher angered some with a sign (right) outside its shop reading "Coming soon. Beef from Red Poll cattle grazed on Midsummer Common, Cambridge"). So has the rapeseed flower, which covers the fields of England like a yellow tarp--the plant produces a valuable oil and has become the crop of choice for many.

But the real evidence of spring is a sunny day in the 70s and me on a bike--on a bike for a ridiculously long time. My lovely wife is off the United States, enjoying the cheap dollar and as much Chicago food as she can stand (deep-dish pizza, Chicago hot dogs, Chiptole!), so yesterday I woke up early and decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day. I threw my bike on the back of Ralph and sped off to a park just outside the cathedral city of Peterborough. I was a bit nervous because I usually have KT reading maps but I made it to the park in 45 minutes and only circled roundabouts unnecessarily twice as I tried to figure out where to turn. The park--home to a real Thomas the Tank Engine--was beautiful and we need to go back to picnic, but I was determined to try the Green Wheel, the 45 (or 56 mile depending on the route) bike route that forms a circle around Peterborough and was created with about $20 million in national lottery money.

I had no plans to do the whole route as I have ridden at most 15-18 miles before. So I picked what appeared to be a 20-25 mile route. But around the point where I should have turned home I started riding with a real cyclist--and since I was feeling good, I didn't stop. When my new buddy finally left me in the dust I had made it halfway around the wheel and there weren't many shortcuts home. Uh-oh. Plus my back wheel, which has a busted spoke, was more wobbly than I liked. Worse, I faced a stiff headwind that made the ride back about three times tougher than going out. I wanted to stop in a pub for lunch but I worried my legs would tighten up and I would have to call a cab to take me back to the car.

Hoping to shave some miles off the return, I took one of the "spokes" into city centre and took a quick look at the beautiful Cathedral. I needed to walk a bit and replenish fluids as my thighs were cramping up. A final few miles along the river and back into the park where I started brought me back to the car about 5.5 hours after I left. Studying the map last night, I did a minimum of 35 miles and probably closer to 38--I must admit I'm quite proud of myself and had a lot of fun. I do need to buy some padded shorts as the tailbone isn't happy today. --jt

(Oh, on the right is a picture from the Ferry Meadows county park and here's a map of the Green Wheel. I started in Ferry Meadows on the left and went clockwise through Etton, Peakirk, and Newborough, before reaching Eye and heading into the city on the spoke)

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