Friday, March 21, 2008

Riding for Sport Relief

Last week, in the UK, the Sport Relief event was held. People do vaguely sporty things to raise money for charity. Being a cyclist, I decided to ride to work one day and back from work the next. I live near Winchester and work in Poole. My chosen route is about 57 miles each way. Because it's still early in the year, I had to set off about an hour before dawn. This was a bit tricky, because I've not ridden in the dark much. The route, which you can see on my MapMyRide site, is out in the country, with little or no street lighting. I gradually got used to the dark. The early start was more than amply rewarded near Up Somborne, when a Barn Owl crossed the road at head height just in front of me and then flew parallel for nearly half a mile no more than 20 feet away. Wonderful! Later in the morning I disturbed a deer having breakfast in a lane just north of Mottisfont in the Test Valley. The trip through the New Forest was as peaceful and quiet as usual, with lots of ponies browsing in the weak early morning sunshine. Traversing Ringwood provided a short burst of traffic-related adrenalin before the gentle ride down the Avon valley to Christchurch. I crossed the A35 on a footbridge and rode straight into vehicular chaos, which seemed to be caused by a problem with the traffic lights on the narrow bridge near the center. After that, crossing Bournemouth and Poole was tedious. A ride along the promenade all the way around Bournemouth Bay is a nicer option, unless like me, you worry about getting sand in your transmission, with no obvious way to clean it afterwards. A gentle tail wind, and not too much weight on the bike (just overnight things and a change of clothes) made this a very pleasant 4 hours and 40 minutes of riding. The return journey the following day was considerably tougher. That was due to a combination of a headwind, a longer period of darkness, and lower temperatures. I was very glad to be home. The barn owl experience was great, but even more surprising was an encounter I had with a fox, near the centre of Poole, at 7:30 in the evening. I was on my way for an overnight stay in Bournemouth. It was trying to cross a busy main road, with lots of traffic and many people in close proximity!