Friday, 1 June 2012

The Black Cow....

The rain came as a bit of a shock as I rode to meet Gary; I'd set off in sunshine, now the sky was a murky grey with watery streaks. Soon it started to rain, at first just a few spots but quickly growing into a proper downpour. Within five minutes I was truly drenched - I was carrying a waterproof but I couldn't be bothered putting it on. Somehow the rain was warm and refreshing, my thinking was that I would dry out quickly once it stopped.

I got to Measham and the rainfall was much worse - heavy and soaking, riding through it was difficult, the big droplets stinging my eyes. I decided to stop and shelter at the bus stop. Gary called just at that moment and I told him I'd be at his house in about 15 minutes - I set off again in the rain - this time with the waterproof on. By the time I got to Gary's and he invited me in I was thoroughly drenched and dripping profusely all over his kitchen floor. As we gazed out of the kitchen window, wondering whether to continue, the rain stopped and the sun reappeared - onwards then.

I went from soaked through to totally dry within 5 miles. Gary set a fast pace into Burton on Trent, we were running slightly late and needed to make up time. In Burton there was a new rider - Mick, we hadn't met him before although he said he had been out with the Burton branch some years ago. Mick works as a cycle mechanic at Halfords. Soon Barry and Pete had arrived and we duly set off - heading for Dalbury Lees somewhere north of Derby towards Ashbourne. There was no evidence of any rain haven fallen in Burton, the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm.

Pete, Gary and Barry
We travelled out to Egginton and on to Etwall - glorious lanes, tree lined and with clouds of cow parsley all around. We climbed gradually so that we had a panoramic view of the surrounding valley and fields. All was peaceful, quiet and typically English. We caught a glimpse of a hot-air balloon lurking in the trees like a stranded animal, it had either just landed or was about to take off. We had a short climb now, up to Dalbury Lees and soon we were at our destination, The Black Cow, standing on the village green. Norman and Mike where already at the pub - it was Norman's birthday and he treated us all to a pint of the most excellent 'Mr Grundy's 1914' a dark beer but not at all overpowering and perfectly presented. We sat outside for 20 minutes and then decided to move into the pub. The Black Cow has seen much modernisation and 'improvements' - the results are typical. The place had a librarianised quietness, an almost genteel atmosphere - no sign of any rough-arsed farmers which is the clientel you might have expected in these parts. This is though a pub with aspiration - its been watching the cooking programmes on tele and thinks 'I could do that' - and so it has. The menu looks familiar but tempting; there are a couple of couples hiding in the corners who are giving it a go. As I wait to be served at the bar, the shiny-faced barman saunters past with a couple of entrees for the couple on table 3 - they looked good to me (the entrees) - but then he'd forgotten something and had to go back to the kitchen "two seconds sir" he said as he fled past. This was a lie. Isn't it always a lie when people say 'two-seconds'.... why not be truthful..... "6 minutes 43 seconds sir...." at least we'd know.

After three pints of Mr Grundy we decided to head back. The tradition with these beer rides is to find a chip shop on the way home - out here in the middle of rural Derbyshire it felt doubtful. We pedalled off in vaguely the right direction, the sun had gone to sleep now, although it was still warm and the the sky had a moonlit glow that made us all look like part of a far off nursery rhyme. Strangely we didn't see any cars - not one. I was worried about it - maybe the world had ended why we'd been enjoying Mr Grundy - lets face it, it has to be serious when there's no cars .... and no sounds???  To take my mind off the problem we pretended we were in the Tour de France - riding all over the road without the hinderance of traffic - it was fun.  We got back to Etwall and were almost hit by a couple of cars going through some temporary traffic lights too fast. Back to civilisation. The chip shop was shut though - but, rather handily, there was a chinese takeaway next door - they did chips - we ordered - job done. It turned out these were fine chips - Barry said they were "the best chips I've ever had"

After a toilet break in the bushes across the road we were off again - a straightforward route back to Burton on Trent now and riders slipped away at various junctions and roundabouts as we approached town - I couldn't help thinking they would be tucked up in bed soon - whereas I'd still got over 25 miles to ride.

As we passed through Burton and headed towards Gary's house he upped the pace. Fuelled by dark beer and chinese chips he seemed powered up, hyperactive and full of strength. He shot off into the darkness and I followed. It was a Herculian ride up to Rosliston - don't think we've ever been faster - Gary (on his old bike) was pushing....pushing....pushing. In the end the heavier bike and maybe a few twinges from his knee slowed him down, thankfully - but we were at Netherseal in record time. Gary was done - but I still had 13 miles to get back - and the efforts from Burton were telling. I took it easy for the rest of the way. Got home at about 1.00am - almost 70 miles done.

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