Every now and then one of us gets the crazy idea to cycle somewhere afar and the next thing I know it’s early in the morning and I am outside their house waiting to set-off. That was Saturday and on this occasion the chosen destination was Oxford. Why? If I recall correctly because it is flat route to a beautiful city and a place we didn’t know well. Oxford it is then.
Getting there was pretty straight forward. We hit the normal back roads that were quiet but wide until we reached the Cotswold Lakes just north of Swindon and then headed east to our first coffee stop which is in Lechlade. We always choose this stop because the food is absolutely amazing, there aren’t any others around that we know of, and they welcome cyclists. The food is amazing because they make their own sourdough and it’s that very tasty treat that wraps my thick sausages as I tuck in for my first refuel.
After the stop we headed on new roads along some beautiful long, flat and field lined treats that took us from one new village after another. Eventually, the roads started to widen and the traffic louder as we picked up signs for A roads, Botley and then eventually Oxford City Centre. By now we were impressively holding an 18mph average which was pretty rare for us after sixty miles of riding. It was a shame it had to be brought down so rapidly as we meandered through the city centre traffic.
The city was fairly quiet and we immediately found ourselves behind the protective road barrier that kept us car free and spoiled for food stops. It could not have been more perfect and even had that Northern European city feel about it with the tall buildings each painted a different colour.
Baguettes in pocket, we headed off to find a park where we could dine. This was when Julie regretted opening her can of coke at the cafe as the now cobbled streets meant it was splashing all over her and her bike as she bounced along. I didn’t notice it until I heard her swearing loudly! Douglas got off his bike on the cobbles to take a photo and as he eased himself across the uneven floor in his cycling cleats a passer by stopped to ask him if he was OK! Bless him, he must have looked like a cripple.
The wall we found outside the theatre wasn’t quite where we had in mind to eat lunch but it was at the time perfect due to the sun shining down on us and a stream of people walking past to keep us occupied. We mumbled unfriendly comments under our breath about most of them and in particular about their weird sense of dress. The irony being that we were all sat there in matching cycling jerseys and lycra shorts at the time.
Before we set off I had a quick chance to catch-up on Charlie who I knew would be working in the city centre Sainsburys. Sure enough, he was behind the till, mask on and working hard and I was hopeful the management wouldn’t mind me interrupting him. As it turns out, he seemed very much in charge and was really pleased to see me which was great – even if I was only able to stay for five minutes.
The ride back was just as good and by now the temperature was rising a little which was perfect. The wide expanse of green countryside was divided neatly by the road ahead and it wasn’t ever that hard to work out the direction we needed. At times it had a real feel of London to Paris about it due to the unfamiliarity of the area, the group size and the green and blue views. The only thing different really was the speed! By now we were hitting 20mph pretty much every time we found a flat piece of tarmac and some of those roads went on for miles before the welcome interruption of a junction for a quick stretch or sip of water.
By Royal Wooton Bassett I was feeling pretty fresh again and if anything, felt a lot better than I had done for most of the return leg. My legs felt raring to go, my lungs were good and the only part of my body disagreeing with me was my feet, shoulders and hands, all of which demanded rests to change position every twenty minutes.
From RWB we went flat out for the next ten miles and before we knew it we were back in the familiar country lanes of the Seagry’s and on our way back home. We finished (as always) on the Scarecrow Straight and as we have now on so many occasions, reflected on the ride behind us. All in all, a really good day, not as challenging as I worried it might be and I am now energised to repeat it all again soon.