Not often I go to bed at 10 pm with the alarm set for midnight. That’s just what happened though this midsummer’s night eve. The Fairies Flattest Possible 300 km audax was scheduled to start at 2 am! Many people I speak with describe these long rides as madness. Starting at 2 am I did begin to wonder.
Mad maybe but I was in good company. Perhaps it is only through consensus that we are thought to be sane.
About a dozen or so of us stuck together for the first 50 km to see the dawn in at Dymchurch. It was a fast pace and unreasonably easy going. No wind. No traffic. Total immersion in turning the pedals to the wonderful hum of rubber tyres on tarmac. You’d have to be mad not to love it!
It was great to arrive here in good time. The night was receding and the day was drawing in. Not many lay by car parks serving up tea and coffee with buttered croissants at a few minutes to five in the morning.
On the way again. Many more miles to go. Next stop at 102km. Back to HQ in Bethersden.
I rode with Phil for a good stretch of the way. This was just before I left him to take an indulgent garage stop. Took the opportunity to phone a friend riding the BHF London to Brighton ride. He was among the crowds at Clapham Common. It was about 7.30 am. I had covered about 125 km.
Hot drinks, cakes and biscuits at the four manned controls kept me going most of the way.
My tyre went flat very soon after pushing of from this control. I coasted a little way before I found a quiet track of the main road to make the repairs. With the tube patched and the tyre back on I could have been off again in 10 minutes. No rush though. It was a nice day. I stopped for another 10 minutes and took in the scenery.
For much of the way I had little idea where I was other than somewhere in Kent. I rarely bother looking at the route sheet. Instead I trust all navigation to the Edge 200. I have the 800 but find the maps and directions that gives to be unclear at times. The foolproof breadcrumb trail of the 200 suits me much better. Plenty of countryside and what not to look at on the way –
Arriving at Dungeness was hard work. A regular rutted road leading out from Lyd was a pain to ride on. The ruts were evenly spaced right across the road every 10 metres or so. It was impossible to avoid bumping over them. With 250 km in the saddle every bump provided full value. Add to this a sturdy cross wind which as we turned for the final half mile became a vicious head on struggle. It was good to arrive at the cafe.
It’s here where the land meets the sea, flat, wilderness, desolate in it’s beauty. Pebble-dash shingle, stretches, runs free for miles and miles.
It is here where the land merges into sky, which covers like a blanket over your head. Colours ever changing, as weathers break by black to blue, grey to gold.
It is here where the wind blusters, never still seagrass, kale, shrubs, cling and defy it. Tall vegetation, the wind pummels and kills gusting, rippling, no ease.
It is here where man has tried to change. Nature, Shacks, pylons litter, march across shingle. Nuclear power stations, grey, without feature fail to spoil and just visit.
It is here where some fear, but others delight, lonely and empty, barren and wild.
It inspires, it enslaves, its never ending sight. Clouds, openness, no ties.
It is here where man is an alien being, Nature supreme, outlasting, outliving. A place of solitude, peace, calm feeling, meditate, relax and go free
– Ann Rta
From Dungeness it was across the marshes to Hythe. The miles remaining were quickly counting down. I was dubious I had the full map on my Garmin. Just 19 miles from Hythe back to Bethersden? Checking with those at the control confirmed that all was as it seemed. I was at the finish by around 5.00 pm. Felt OK and not in any notable discomfort.
Having tried it once now I have no reservations about setting out again on such a ride at 2.00 am or some other similar time. Maybe we got lucky with the conditions and company; it was a great experience riding in a group at this time of day. Lessons include foregoing runny fried egg sandwiches at Hythe if the urge ever hits me again. My guts made me pay for that cramping up and turning over for the last 15 miles.
All in all the ride went really well with no significant hardship. Really felt for the randonneur I met just into Hythe. 283 km done and he had to bow out with a failed free hub. Last I saw of him was heading to a nearby pub to order a taxi home. Hope he had a swift and pleasant journey.