16 October 2006

At last! A day on the bike!

It seems like ages since I last sat on the bike let alone had a ride. Things to do have meant that it has sat in the garage waiting for a trip out. The last ride was the weekend in Arras over a month ago!

Today’s outing was a ride up to London to watch the Arsenal at home to the transient Premiership side from Watford.

Despite having a rail season ticket, I decided to ride up. Why? Well, fair weather biker that I am nowadays it was going to be a dry day and reasonably warm. Plus the journey home after a game is horrendous with a train service running one an hour from Charing Cross back to the Kent Coast. Of course, you have to get to Charing Cross in the first place. Sadly, the tube services haven’t been upgraded to support 60000 leaving the new stadium and so the queues to get into the stations are quite horrendous. They could barely support 38000 leaving the old one but no one seems to have spotted that there might be some contention? Or did they and just thought “b*gger it”?

The ride up was okay, 103 miles on the trip and ¾ of a tank according to the gauge. By Maidstone I was down to 3 bars (!) on the gauge and I decided to divert into Sainsbury’s for petrol. I was left scratching my head, as I needn’t have panicked. I don’t remember 3 bars meaning I could only get 14 litres in before! Perhaps I need to monitor it?

On the approach to Wrotham Hill the “50” limit signs were flashing in the central reservation and we all carried on at about 80 until we caught the first of Kent’s finest in their Volvo. We all slowed down, bunched up and the potential for accidents increased dramatically as we started to crawl up the hill. Inching past the coppers testing the limit they would allow. Then the central signs alternated between “50” and “Fog” all the way to the back of Brand Hatch. Of course, of the fog there was no sign. It had been foggy overnight but it had all been burned off by 1pm and visibility was over a mile at least. So why don’t they turn them off? Answers please?

On that section we encountered another Volvo crawling and one of the Highways Agency non-porker cars! Once past them the pace picked up until the A2 junction off the M25. Roadworks. Bad signposting means that the cars are tailed back beyond the start of the exit slip and onto the inside lane of the motorway for about half a mile. This means that the slow lane cruisers and arseholes that want to push in later then crawl along the centre lane and then stop to go left. What a cock up. Once through the traffic you can see that they are all stuck in the right lane on the exit slip, the centre one for those that feel Dartford is a genuine alternative to suicide (it’s not!) is virtually empty, and the left “swoop” lane join the A2 northbound slip is empty…. Better signposting might alleviate the dangers to the traffic on the M25? Or is that too radical for the Highways Agency? How about the Volvo driving coppers hanging about and keeping the traffic flowing?

The A2 itself was free moving all the way past the cameras at Bexley, all five of the buggers between the Black Prince and what used to be the Dover Arms. I opted to cut through the city instead of Hackney. Well you would wouldn’t you?

Roadworks! Bane of the motorists’ world. Commercial Road roadworked to death, Christ only knows what it is like on a weekday! In the end as the stadium has moved half a mile the road up so Highbury Barn has far less traffic and getting parked at St Joan of Arc was achieved with the minimum of hassle. I had a chat with the priest about his idea that the HM The Queen was coming to watch her favourite club in action. At least we had two Englishmen starting the game in the first eleven! Sadly, Mrs Quinn not making until later in the week.

The walk is a little longer but not that bad and it brings you out between the two new footbridges over the railway and see the ground in front of you. Although I’ve seen it a few times and watched it going up from the remains of Islington Council’s Albany Place vehicle and dustcart workshops, it is still spectacular.

The game went predictably and our way, then after a coffee I had the uphill walk to the church to get the bike. I discovered that my boots have a problem in the right foot that makes a squeak when walk. I think the metal shank inside has broken, as the sole doesn’t seem as solid. They’ll last until next year. They are Oxtar and waterproof. I bought them back in 2000 and they have given good service. Never leaked and have seen some really crap weather at times.

On the way back it chilled quite rapidly as the sun headed for the horizon, and I began to question the sanity of wearing my vented Joe Rocket jacket in preference to the more 4-season HG Maxwell jacket. Once again roadworks conspired against me and I took the A13 to the Dartford Crossing and that way back to the A2, heading through the shunts and fender benders near Bluewater to arrive home just as Robin Chav started on BBC1.

I shouldn’t be surprised but later that evening my neck and shoulders started to feel stiff! I know I am overweight and unfit, but stiff neck after a few miles (Okay 160 miles) on the bike shouldn’t be this bad!

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