On my handlebar was my old Pentax in its padded case, along with my tiny stove and my coffee and cup. My sleeping bag and bivvy strapped to my saddle, along with a long sleeve jersey and a rain jacket, it was England after all, I aimed my bike Northwest towards the mountains and the lakes.
My ride to England’s Lake District was a monthly pilgrimage, sometimes a 110-mile weekend spin to escape, sometimes a 110-mile slog to forget. I’d say goodbye to my folks and roll, figuring out the route on the way. Should I grind through the Trough of Bowland? Or maybe the mellower spin through Preston and Lancaster? Either way didn’t really matter, I was along for the ride, just my bike, me and my adventure.
A quick laugh at the Ramsbottom sign as I pedal past, wondering why anyone would name a town after the ass end of a male sheep. Barnoldswick, Wigglesworth, Tosside – seriously who came up with these names? Northerners? Romans? Celts? no idea… But someone had a sense of humour.
Skirting around Kendal, I’d start thinking about their famous mint cake. This usually meant a grumbling belly, but now I’d have to make the choice to eat there or make the grind over to Lake Windermere. Most of the time, I’d just keep rolling, heading over Bowland Bridge so I could pedal the length of the big lake bottom to top.
Double sausage and chips, extra portion of chips, from the chippy in Bowness, plus a 4 pack of Guinness from the offy next door, were attached to my bike for the final spin to find a quiet spot to camp. Warm meal, beer, sun going down over Scafell Pike in the distance, hopefully no flies as I sat on my sleeping bag lakeside, lovely.
A small fire kept me company, often I’d wait until after dark, because the rangers looked down on people rough camping lakeside in Wordsworth’s land. Sipping on Guinness and reading a favorite book, watching the moon and stars rise, eventually drifting off to dreams that are now long lost.
First light, coffee was brewed while the mist rose from the lake. My Pentax close at hand ready to capture another picture of the lonely heron from a previous trip. He’d been standing there, within reaching distance of my camp, mist around him, like me, thinking of breakfast. A quick grab of my camera, shutter fired, but before I could wind on he was gone. Somewhere in my photographs, that picture sits, waiting for me to rediscover it, assuming it’s not lost to time, like so many other memories from my adventures.
Bike quickly packed, I would roll toward Ambleside. The café in town made the second best bacon buttys in the whole of England, a mug of coffee and a full belly and I’d be off, rolling down the west side of the Lake, thinking that thought of “did I really need to go to work tomorrow?”
But I did go home, I did go to work, then wait for the next free weekend to escape.