Doing extremely silly things isn’t stopping as I get older, it is just changing form. Instead of staying up to the wee small hours drinking to celebrate the New Year, I got an early night. Not for any sensible reason but because I wanted to get up at 4:30am and go for a New Year Day bike ride.
The Ice-Road-Trucker Version
following a Star
Alarm at 4:30am, on the road by 5am. Sticking to the A167 because the temperature has dropped below zero and there is an icy topping to the tarmac. Meeting up with Aidan at the Angel of the North and he is riding his tricycle – a beautiful piece of engineering which will reduce the chances he’ll experience a slippery fall.
We ride south following the A167 on totally empty roads – then waving at two policemen ‘Happy New Year!’ as they arrest a young driver… perhaps someone going home after overdoing the booze? No one else around. Miles after miles of empty dual carriageway.
We had some company though; Catalina was brightening up the sky for us, and wow she was bright. This was our once in forever chance to see Comet Catalina because she’ll be gone leaving the solar system and heading into ‘outer’ space.
The last time Aidan and I rode this route, with Anne and Ulrich, dawn arrived as we passed Thinford. But this morning it was still pitch black, just the Moon and Catalina in a clear black sky. I mentioned this to Aidan and he reminded me that we’d set off two hours later last time. What?!? Whose idea was it to set off at 5am on a deeply cold New Year Day. Oh yes. Mine. Oops.
South with geese flying along in formation next to us, drafting the lead goose and presumably taking their turn-about. Not much drafting for us though, as Aidan and I were often side-by-side. I didn’t want to get too close to the edge of the road where the frozen puddles were.
Coffee on the frosty forecourt of a garage in Northallerton and then down further south. We reached the Angel at Topcliffe by 10:30am and thankfully the hotel bar was open for more coffee.
The weather-people forecast a strong southerly but as we turn around and ride back north we wonder where it went. Back to Northallerton and a warm welcome from Phil Tiermat at the THoFC (Tiermat’s House of Fine Coffee) where the youngling is preparing for her own frosty dip into the North Sea at Saltburn – brrrr.
We leave the A167 at Great Smeaton and… I push my bike! Aidan trailblazes along the untreated Girsby road and sends back hand signals. I get off in advance of a wide patch of ice and push my bicycle uphill until the tarmac returns, then onward again to the bridge at Dinsdale. We stop for flapjack and admire the view of Middleton One Row on the opposite bank of the River Tees.
With some more energy in our cold bodies we ride on side by side through Middleton St George and over the A66 at Long Newton. We aim for Sedgefield thinking of dinner and find the Dun Cow public house and restaurant. The food and drink is excellent and we warm up seated in a bay window beside the machines outside. Time for a ‘Good Stuffing’; pint of please! (Never mind the wrongly labelled glass.)
Stepping back outside it is very cold again, but the good news is that now we have the climbing ahead of us; through Coxhoe and then over to Low Pittington. Soon we were back in Durham and I was home. Aidan safely home a little further west from me.
Happy New Year – Wishing you a God blessed 2016.