Cycling through a gale in search of a cup of tea

A distinct lack of teabags in the house saw me venturing out in the high winds in search of the magic leaves for a brew-up. The fact that I was freewheeling uphill suggested to me that the return trip, into the wind, might be a little difficult. I hurtled out of the village with a whirlwind of leaves, grass and twigs blowing around the road, onto the Wingfield Straight with the wind pushing against my left side. Luckily I presented a thin profile to the raging gusts and I kept my line on the road. Turning right at the shrine, I had the wind behind me and was blown along the road to Trowbridge itself. I raced past the roundabout for Broadmead and continued to where the Bradford road joins up, going all the way round the church that sits on a traffic island. My right pedal grounded slightly with an audible scraping sound as I leant hard into the bend, still pedalling. I cut across a no through road and took a hard left onto the bike path. Over another main road, avoiding the massive roundabout by the large Tesco’s, now I was in the backstreets.

Here the wind was less steady, less predictable; gargantuan gusts howled round corners of 1930s red brick houses. Frequent patches of waste ground spewed out clumps of dried, white, grass which skittered and raced about the hammered tarmac, Wiltshire tumbleweed. A scally crested the railway bridge in front of me on a full-sus mtb, his eyes alert, looking round intently, for what? Escape routes? Opportunities? On seeing me he looked down, spitting hard onto the ground  and rose from his saddle to pump the cranks before passing, eyes flicking up once, wolfish, then he was round the corner and away.

The bridge was in poor repair, crushed kerbstones and chipped caps that spoke of wide loads and tight-squeezes, back a bit, left hand down, steady, woah woah WOAAH! On the other side the road just gave up, disintegrating into gravel and bramble. Lamposts leant into the wind, which sang its banshee cry through sagging telephone wires. By the side of the tracks a trolley was choked in brambles, obviously it had been there much longer than the brand new, spike-tipped, galvenized steel fence dividing the walkway from the trainline. No one had thought to pull the trolley out while putting the fence up. An avenue of stunted blackthorns festooned with ripped plastic bags; tattered fruits, noisily flapping, funneled me into the maze of roads backing onto Tesco’s. White paint was splashed over the asphalt, a decorator’s accident, now etched into the surface of the road, white tyre prints radiated out thirty yards or so before fading to grey.

Into the relative calm of the store, emptier than usual. I had the Brompton and  the front bag in the trolley together, no need for a bike lock. Pretty soon I was back outside, the bag laden with groceries including some excellent quality tea. The return journey promised to be hard work, I spent as much time as possible weaving through the backstreets and houses while the wind probed at me where it could.

Finally, Trowbridge spat me out onto the A361 to face the gale, now at last the wind had me where it wanted me. Three miles of agonisingly pushing the pedals, moving forward slowly, almost down to walking pace. I kept with it, a steaming hot mug of tea appearing in my mind’s eye like some sort of grailquest vision. I guess I am a hardcore cyclist, not in the traditional sense of putting in lots of hours or miles on the bike, but I am hardcore in the sense that I will take on the A361 in a force 7-8 gale. The light over the fields appeared silvery where the grass was blown flat in waves, exposing the pale underleaves momentarily so that the landscape appeared liminal, even unreal. It kept my mind from over-thinking the sluglike pace I was crawling home at. Indeed, it seemed that soon I was slipping into the lowest gear and trickling steadily up Rode Hill.

You can be certain that the first thing I did on arrival back at base, was to switch on the kettle. Never, and I mean never, did a cup of tea taste so damn good.

Published in: on March 11, 2008 at 11:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,