The Journey

220 miles (and a little more)

I look like a German fetishist.
Hitherto a week or so ago I hadn’t taken any particularly long journeys with Aliona. Well, “particularly long” is a relative term, I suppose. For some people, perhaps 20 miles might be a long ride. It’s all a matter of your experience. I’m still pretty green –– having now owned a bike for less than 3 months –– so my experience is such that the 110 miles to the Fleece Inn in Bretforton seemed like a pretty long distance.
Indeed, by the time I finally got back home, having racked up at least 220 miles in one day (I say ‘at least’ because I got lost several times en route), I was completely exhausted. Before that, the greatest distance I had covered in one day was 140 miles. And the extra 80 miles I tackled on my Bretforton trip just about kicked my ass.

Coming home, I started to suffer major lapses in concentration –– focusing too intently on just the car in front of me, changing lanes or turning without checking my blind spot, etc. The worst moment came as I was speeding toward a roundabout at 80 mph and suddenly realised that the massive truck ahead of me was stopped. Thank the sweet baby Jesus for good Honda brakes (ABS for the win, y’all), dry pavement, and the absence of any cars in the lane I drifted into while slamming the brakes. Because of them it was just a learning experience and I can, overall, look back on the day fondly. Here are a few pictures from the day:

The Monnow Bridge in Monmouth, Wales. Crossing the River Wye, the bridge was built in the 1270s. If you’re reading this in the United States, try to wrap your mind around that: 740 years ago!
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I got lost a lot. I’ve lived in the United Kingdom 7 years but British roads still confuse the hell out of me. What’s wrong with road signs that actually convey pertinent information, guys? What’s wrong with the occasional road sign to let you know what blasted road you’re on? What’s wrong with the occasional straight road?
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Eventually I made it to the Fleece Inn, just an hour and a half later than I had originally intended. This is the beer garden –– a perfect place to spend a British summer afternoon.
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The building is a farmhouse, built some time in the 1400s. In 1848, it was turned into a pub and remains as such to this day. It preserves its older feel, with very low ceilings and uneven flagstone flooring. It is a special enough place that it is, in fact, a National Trust property.
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I definitely want to come back here with Jenn (she was at a music festival, so I was travelling solo), in the winter, when the pub will have an entirely different and cosy feel. That’s assuming I can find it again! 
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Not keen to jump back on the bike after having a beer (even though it was only 3 percent), I decided to rest and lounge in Bretforton’s green for half an hour or so. You can see the pub over my left shoulder.
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Bretforton’s a pretty nice place to kill some time. The village consists of only old homes, many with thatched roofs. What I loved most, however, was the quiet. I just sat and listened to the sound of birds and felt the summer breeze on my face.

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Eventually, though, I had to get back. Here’s Aliona in the Forest of Dean, where I stopped for a rest, then decided to get in a little practice riding on gravel. There’s a section in the latest MotoGeo episode where Jamie handles gravel like a boss. Upon seeing that, I decided I needed to get over my fear of the stuff.

All in all, it was a good ride. I got home, washed the bike, lubed the chain and took a very long shower. Slowly, slowly I am working toward being the sort of rider I want to be –– one who can travel particularly long distances. Like, say, to Spain…