Lancaster to Chester leads us down through the industrial North West on smooth, fast roads. We pass Preston within an hour of profound Cavendishing and stop briefly for Lunch on the Wigan pier. It seems appropriate that the pub we stop outside is blaring northern soul out across the canal. We’re held up briefly outside Wigan by another puncture and a procession featuring a full brass band. One local woman who is held up by the parade peers down the road at the assorted priests, flag carriers and cross bearers and inexplicably sneers, “Fucking Muslims.”
About 30 miles outside of Lancaster, we ride past a ramshackle seemingly endless group of cyclists on a Sunday fun run. Middle aged women in shorts and t shirts mix with serious looking young men in Lycra winding their way from Wigan to Preston. I wistfully recall afternoons, having finished work, where I would jump on my bike for a quick furious climb up Mount Ertato to spin away frustration followed by a few beers in the local St George bar. Things are different now.
Eight full days and nearly 650 miles into the ride; cycling has become a trancelike meditative state. I’ve started regarding my body as a machine; the inputs are food (usually bread, cheese and meats in a variety of combinations), water and oxygen, the outputs simply involuntary motions and gradual movements. For long stretches of the ride we switch off any higher cognitive processes and simply focus on the task of gripping our handlebars, breathing heavily and putting force into our pedals. A beautiful waste of energy.
Tomorrow we ride onwards towards Wales and loved ones…