Four of us met at the Fishbourne bridge; Sam, Alan, Rod and myself, (Bob) for an unofficial ride to nowhere in particular. A pre-meeting interchange had revealed that nowhere in particular was going to look a lot like Alresford today, and Alan had brought secret knowledge of a new cafe there near the old station. He had also brought new tyres after discussion with Russell, which threatened the integrity of our adventure as not stopping for a puncture might well leave us with nothing to do but ride. Sam has of late re-entered the competition for the most punctures however, and today was eager to impress upon us the assurance that he was using tyres and tubes which had sprouted two holes on Sunday and, he thought, had a dodgy valve, so we were able to set off in an optimistic spirit, confident of a hissing sound at any minute. Russell wasn’t with us as he had ear ache, apparently entirely unrelated to listening to Sam talking, and neither was Paul, who was evidently intending zooming around on his own, training up for his forthcoming End to End and possibly meeting us for lunch.
So off we went down Clay Lane, passing the first two designated places for punctures before Woodmancote without incident. We swept past Rowlands Castle and up to the QE park above Buriton. I was feeling ok but lagging even more than usual at that point, and suggested they go on and I’d go at my pace, possibly overlapping at stops, but Sam wouldn’t have it. Alan meanwhile mused about the possibility of being featured as the next Vogue cover, as he was clad in perfectly matching jacket, shorts and helmet, yellow and black combining in a fetching contrast but with each component referencing the other thus creating a vibrant ensemble evocative of the theme widely celebrated in fashion houses as Bananas on Tarmac.
So we continued down the hill and through East Meon to Cuppacheeno at West Meon, which was very crowded and the lady coping on her own very harassed. But she Battled Bravely On so we got our drinks, and in Sam’s case his lunch after only a short delay. As we waited Sam rang Paul to arrange Synchronised Lunching, but he was still in bed, so was obviously training for the End to End at a horizontal angle to Conserve his Strength. We passed this exercise tip onto Rod who has his own End to End coming up shortly, but he seemed sceptical of the method, having last weekend ridden round the Isle of Wight in an upright position, a full 90° from the posture recommended in the Paul Proposed Procedure (or PPP as it is known in the trade).
And from there we went the usual way past the church and so up to Alresford, where we turned left off the main street down to the station, and so to Alan’s delightful cafe called the Party at the Mill. It had large outdoor and indoor areas, plenty of room for bikes, and gave a cyclist discount. I’ve no idea what that discount was or whether we all got it but it’s worth looking a bit cyclisty when you go to pay. And the food was really nice; I had what I think was a Turkish dish with eggs, yoghurt, garlic, toast and all sorts. The local wasps thought it was nice as well, at least I assume that’s why Alan, sitting beside me, suddenly got up and moved to a different table, but maybe I need to shower more often.
Going home we went through Bishops Waltham via Cheriton, and as Alan mentioned the words “ice cream” on the way we found another delightful foodery that Sam knew in the high street, a sweet shop selling ice cream as well, which we guzzled in a messy kind of way. From there we took a route Sam knew that I don’t think I’ve been on before, through some woodlands eventually ending up between Soberton Heath and Soberton; it was lovely and I must get him to show me on the map.
But by then I was lagging even more, and insisted on the others going on ahead and leaving me to stagger back at my own pace, which they readily consented to once I’d screamed various phrases on the theme of **** OFF, thrown hand grenades, sprayed them with rat poison, shouted LEAVE ME ALONE, and rung nearby military units to request air support. I think we all went back a similar way, through Hambledon and Rowlands Castle, but whereas they stopped (I believe) at Rowlands for a tea at the shop, wondering if I’d catch them up, I had unbeknown to them stopped at the Old Forge in Hambledon for a ginger beer and sausage roll. They had thought the Old Forge was shut, but probably the cafe were just stunned into immobility by the thought of a Vogue Cover model passing within feet of them.
And I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, was 76 miles for me from Chi.