Think ‘tent’, and you probably think of interminable sleepless nights. You fidget around on the hard ground trying to find a comfortable position, alternating between sweltering heat and shivering cold, until finally your tent starts dripping on you and, although it’s only 4:30am, the sun is up so you can justify emerging from your torture pod. Not so for us. Partly owing to our exhaustion and partly owing to the lavishly comfortable mattress and feather duvet in our tent, we both slept well. I woke late feeling so disoriented and confused that I wonder whether I had slipped into a slight coma. Following a spectacular breakfast of all things fresh and homemade, we said our goodbyes and were back on the road. I’m not sure whether I’d gone numb or whether one of us (my bottom or my saddle) had adjusted, but I felt properly comfortable for the first time ever on my bike.
We rejoined the disused railway line in Yarmouth and followed it through the postcard friendly landscape of Thorley and Wellow. Before long we had reached the stunningly beautiful Newtown Creek and, although I was tempted to stop and go for a walk, we had hit a rhythm and were keen to keep pedalling. We passed Shalfleet and headed towards Porchfield, where I first stayed on the Isle of Wight with my family in a rented thatched cottage, complete with the ten remaining cows in the country who were hand milked (by dear old Amy) for commercial sale. My nostalgia had kicked in once more, so we stopped at the Sportsman’s Rest in Porchfield for the first drink of the day.
Refuelled, we picked up the pace as we headed towards Cowes. Arriving in Gurnard, I remember thinking that we were a mere fifteen minutes or so away, given that I remember walking from Cowes to Gurnard along the esplanade without much thought. Somebody on the Council obviously has a sense of humour though, because law-abiding cyclists as we are, we followed the cycle route signs on a steeply undulating and circuitous route into Cowes. By the time we had arrived at our final pub for lunch, my thighs were practically twitching from the exertion and my sense of direction had been thrown completely. If you do this route and are either thirsty or with children, trust your common sense and just follow the very safe road along the seafront from Gurnard and straight into Cowes.
A smooth ferry crossing carried us back to the mainland and we savoured that unique sense of both satisfaction and relaxation that arises from a tiring and successful expedition. We should have savoured it a bit more, because the train journey back to Clapham Junction did its best to ramp up our stress levels in time for our return to London, involving a stressful game of human / bike sardines. Bursting off the train and into some fresh(er) air at Clapham Junction, we felt the first spot of rain that we’d felt all weekend. There’s a moral buried in there somewhere, but we were too tired to work it out.