Saturday 15 October 2016

Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Gardening and a Dark Horse in Breckland (C#49)
Saturday 15 October, 102 Miles

Click here for Route Flyby

One of the loves of my life is Bob Dylan. Ahem, I’d better rephrase that in case you get the wrong idea about my relationship with His Bobness. What I actually love is his music and especially his writing, his lyrics. But I do admire and respect the man and much of what he has achieved. So I was delighted to learn that while I was meandering around Bedfordshire on Thursday in search of those elusive Clangers, His Bobness had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Needless to say, this honour has not been universally welcomed but then His Bobness has spent a lifetime pushing the boundaries musically. Great art, whether it is visual, written or performed, succeeds when it challenges accepted thinking and forces us to reconsider what we see, know and understand.

Now at this point I guess some of you might be wondering if I have lost the plot. You might even be asking “What did I eat, or take, for breakfast?” Well, I can assure you that as far as I’m concerned I’m still in full possession of all of my faculties. Or at least as much as I usually am. So bear with me readers, all will become clear presently. And the answer to the question – porridge and a Morning Glory. The latter’s a spinach based smoothie with some added avocado, strawberries, mango and some berries. Yummy!

Today I decided to try a variation on my route planning and decided to ride the Breckland route in Chris Sidwells book ’Best 100 Mile Bike Routes’. I thought it would be interesting to see how someone else had ridden my local roads. My bike of choice for the ride was my trusty Impulso which had its last outing just over a week ago when I did a century in Spain on the last day the Tour of the Pyrenees. The Impulso is probably best described as an entry level Bianchi. It was chosen for me by Mick Madgett and Aunt Lucia as a replacement for my much loved Via Nirone 7 frame which sadly had to go to the great Bianchi resting place in wherever.

The Impulso and I have been together for about 15 months and we’ve travelled just over 10,000 miles (the Nirone and I enjoyed a 30,000-mile relationship). So we are getting to know and understand each other quite well. With an aluminium frame, the Impulso is a dependable, reliable, and even a solid bike. But it is no slouch and if we’re in the mood sustained bursts at 20mph are not unknown! It runs with a Veloce groupset as I’ve always been a Campy man. I can’t reconcile riding an Italian heritage bike with anything other than Italian heritage components. The shifters, front and rear mechs are the originals from my Nirone and after 40,000 miles still do the job they are meant to. Well that’s my take on the relationship. You’ll have to ask the Impulso what she thinks about it. She does tell me that she enjoys our outings, especially the ones in mainland Europe. And she’s usually pretty honest with me.

The Great Hockham Stone
So off we went on what seemed to me, to be a slightly curious route. I’m guessing that Chris Sidwells wanted to showcase as much of the Breckland countryside as he could. After about 20 miles we arrived at the village of Great Hockham where we paused to look at the famous stone. It has become something of a tradition for the stone to be rolled and turned over on special occasions, beginning with Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887. Other occasions have included the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (1977), the 50th anniversary of V.E. day, at the Millennium, and for the Queen's Golden Jubilee (2002). In April 2008 it was turned to celebrate the saving from quarrying of the nearby Hockham Woods. It was last moved in 2012 for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. We do like a rolling stone!

From Great Hockham the route then crossed the Army battle area at Stanford before entering Thetford Forest. Now our usual route here is to ride through Santon Downham and into Brandon but today we turned south east at Santon Downham and headed towards Thetford before turning towards Elveden and then heading back towards Brandon – adding around 10 miles.

Daren (Nairo) Morgan 'gardening'
Leaving Brandon with the aid of a tailwind the Impulso and I picked up the pace as we had an appointment. As the route passed close to Daren (Nairo) Morgan’s house I had said we might pass by, wave hello and perhaps even enjoy a swift cuppa. Daren it seemed was grounded today and was supposed to be doing something in the garden. The intended brief stop turned into an extended Bianchi chat. Daren was clearly glad of any excuse to escape from the gardening and even offered me one more cup of coffee in an attempt to persuade me to linger. As we still had 40 miles to ride I passed on that and we were soon pressing on once again with the Impulso chuntering something about me being a bit of a malingerer. The cheek!

Passing to the north of Bury St Edmunds the clouds took on a nasty, threatening, dark shade of grey and we began to fear that we were about to get a soaking. We could even smell the oncoming rain in the air. This was one of the more exposed stretches of the route and I was worried that there was nowhere for us to shelter from the storm. But as luck would have it, the rain passed behind us and we stayed dry.

3 miles from home; 20 miles to go
Towards the end of our rides there are places we reach that say ‘nearly there’. One of these is a sign for the Dark Horse Restaurant which is about 3 miles from home. But today, in a rather simple twist of fate, the Garmin was claiming that we still had another 20 miles to go! The Dark Horse used to market itself with the slogan ‘Difficult to Find, Hard to Forget’. Hmm, read what you will into that. So we headed on into what looked on the map like an indentation on our conventional route. One bonus though was that for the next 5 miles we enjoyed a strengthening tailwind and were able to up the pace. In a slightly euphoric state the ImpuIso and I almost felt that we could ride a million miles.

But as is usually the case with wind, what goes around comes around, so with a 180° turn we then had to face a full on headwind for the last five miles home. By the time we arrived, my pulse rate had risen, my legs were twinging and my breathing was heavier. So much so that you could say I was blowing in the wind. The Impulso seemed completely untroubled by these efforts

This was certainly an enjoyable outing and it was quite interesting to ride on our home patch but in a rather different way. So what about the link with His Bobness, the Nobel Laureate? The more astute of you, and any Dylanologists (yes such people do exist) will have spotted that I’ve scattered the titles of some of his songs throughout my scribblings. How many did you spot? Like His Bobness, who has constantly pushed the boundaries over the last 60 years, I feel that riding offers many opportunities to break new ground on whatever terms you choose: distance, speed, gradient, route and location to suggest just a few. It’s what keeps me enthusiastic about riding – there’s always a new experience to be found and enjoyed. So until we meet on the road again - Passione Celeste!

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