Chased by Rainbows 200

I looked up and saw a beautiful and complete rainbow, stretching in one uninterrupted bow across the fields in front of me. And then it started to rain.

Since Ordination, I’ve found my free-time quite limited and the opportunities to ride with others almost non-existent. As I walk to church on a Sunday morning I see cyclists heading out in groups up into the Wolds. There is no envy, but there is a sense of loss in moving from one sort of freedom to another. I may be set free by this faith in Christ, but my calling to ministry is also a calling to sacrifice some of that freedom in order to share it with others. An interesting juxtaposition.

I was riding the third event in a new “Randonneur Round the Year” attempt; the goal being to cycle at least one 200km ride every month for an uninterrupted 12 months. So this lonely Monday morning I find myself following a route which is designed to circle York without getting snarled up in the traffic.

As I dropped down into Thixendale I saw my first rainbow of the day; the sun was low in the sky behind me to the south, and the skies were blue, but ahead the rain clouds were drifting towards me and on the front edge was this gorgeous arc of colour… but yes, then the rain hit. I wrapped up with as many layers as I could and rode on along the bottom of what felt like the aptly named “Waterdale”.

By the time I reached Malton I was soaked, but received a warm welcome at ‘Café 53 with Cake-a-licious’, just opposite the supermarket. A good coffee and some high-calorie Carrot Cake solved my energy deficit and I headed out again, this time west bound for Boroughbridge. The country lanes in the East Riding and in North Yorkshire seem to have been given to me on a weekday morning, and I rode without seeing another soul all the way past Castle Howard and through the choppy hills by Terrington before dropping down into the flatlands of the Vale of York. With the wide open countryside I was able to see the gathering rain clouds to the north, and again, on the edge of them was a rainbow… curved… menacing… hunting me… I had to get to cover!

The strong breeze from the north carried bursts of rain across me, as I flitted from sunshine to cloud-cover and continued westbound. Another deluge was about to hit me as I arrived in Boroughbridge and looked for somewhere to eat. I spotted a nice looking café, but as I got off my bike I saw a sign in the windows saying ‘no cycles against the window’ and yet there was nowhere else to leave my bike. I decided to take my custom elsewhere and thankfully I saw another cyclist outside a café less than 50 yards up the road. ‘Bowe and Co’s Deli Cafe’ was warm, welcoming and no one was bothered that I was dripping wet, so I bought a superb bowl of soup, a sandwich and some good coffee.

With a full belly, and warmed body I headed out for what I knew would be a fast section of the ride: Boroughbridge to Howden… 70km of flat riding with a tailwind! I really settled into a good pace along the service road beside the A1(M) and was going to keep my head down and plough on as fast as I could, but I was interrupted by the sight of so many Kestrels beside the road. There were several of them swooping along the road beside me and clearly not afraid of me. One stopped and rested on a fencepost and looked so majestic stood with wings folded and chest pushed out: sandy-beige plumage and a hooked beak with a bright yellow flash across the top of it. It was wonderful to see these lovely birds so close and unafraid. I politely requested that they refrain from pecking my eyes out and I cycled on.

My feet were soaking wet, squelching in the bottoms of my shoes, so when I saw “Rabbit Hill Country Supplies” I jumped at my chance to buy new socks. I might even stow ‘spare sock money’ in my saddle bag again in future as these comfy and dry socks were a delight to put on for the last section home. Back on the road the rains seemed to have passed and I was treated to afternoon sunshine all the way down to Tadcaster.

I crossed the river Wharfe on the temporary footbridge and had a good view of the repairs being done to the road-bridge that had been washed away in the floods of December 2015.

I left Tadcaster and felt slightly disoriented and wondered where I was supposed to be going next, especially as I joined the A162 and the heavy traffic headed away from the town. I was about to consider stopping and looking at a map when I spotted my turning onto the B1223 and felt myself physically relax as I left the heavy traffic behind.

Ulskelf, Cawood, Wistow: pan-flat lanes with little traffic all the way to Selby and as I found the outskirts of Selby the sun was getting low in the sky. I joined the A63 at Osgodby and back into the fast flowing and heavy traffic heading south away from York. My lights and reflective jacket reassured me that I was visible to all the drivers around me as I pedalled hard all the way to Howden.

It was 5pm by the time I reached Howden and stopped at the 24 hour garage on its outskirts. I’ve been here before on an Easter Arrow, but it was a lot colder now. I wrapped up warm, had some chocolate and a coffee before heading out onto the last leg. My legs and arms were shivering as I tried to move and warm up through exercise. It was very dark now, but at least the rain had stopped and all I needed to do was get home.

There is a moment when I feel so cold I wonder if I’ll ever be able to keep going – but then there is a moment when I feel warm and fit and like I’ll never have to stop. Although I know this, and although this helps me to push onwards, it still isn’t easy to get through that first bit of tired coldness.

Home again and feeling exhausted – these winter miles feel really tough in the cold and the rain. November’s 200km ride was complete, and December loomed – I wondered if I would be even colder next time.

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