Preparing for my big ride.

I had to have some work done on my car yesterday. It’s a rather specialist vehicle which my local garage don’t want to work on so I had to take it to the experts about 18 miles away, north of Preston. Previously I’ve left it there and ridden my mountain bike home and back again later but I was determined not to do that on this occasion. Instead I’d ride a few miles north to call in at a friend’s shop in Garstang and fill my day in with a long bike ride, which would be useful preparation for my big ride which I’ve set myself as a challenge for this year. I’m planning to ride a mixture of road and trail for well over 100km, taking in 4 big hills. I imagine that there will be over 6,000 feet of climbing and descent. I’ll use my Boardman FS Pro, which I rode today, but will use my real cycling shoes which have cleats which attach to the pedals. Today I wore shoes which were slipping around on the pedals, which made things a little harder.

I headed north to Garstang on the road only to find the shop deserted. Perhaps I should have announced my arrival. This meant that I’d have quite a few hours to fill and wasn’t sure where to ride. To the east are the Bowland fells rising to over 2,000 feet whilst to the west the ground is flat. I soon reached the Lancaster canal and thought it would be good to follow the tow path. It isn’t nearly as easy as clocking up the miles on the road. The ground is rougher and sometimes soft so progress needs more energy. I rode for about 10 miles before reaching a junction where a 3 mile branch goes to Glasson Dock which sounded appealing. The path drops at about 5 locks as the canal descends to the coast. The dock is used for leisure and commercial purposes. There were canal boats, sailing boats and trawlers, large and small. Another lock gives access to Morecambe Bay which is notorious for it’s rapid tides. It’s said that the tide comes in at the speed of a galloping horse and many have been overcome by it and perished. I looked out across the Lune estuary to Sunderland point which is a unique place in Britain. It’s the only part of the mainland which is cut off by high tides. The road runs across the mud flats and is overcome twice daily meaning that you have to time your entry and exit with the rhythms which even King Cnut could not hold back.

Sunderland point holds a dark secret and if you’re a millennial liberal, prone to screaming racism at the drop of a hat, you’d better not read the next paragraphs. If you’re a grown up, though, you may learn something of historical interest. In around 1736 a black man arrived at the point. It’s presumed he was a cabin boy to a ship’s captain or maybe a slave. The story of his arrival and subsequent demise was oral history but was recorded in the Lonsdale Magazine of 1822.

“After she had discharged her cargo, he was placed at the inn…with the intention of remaining there on board wages till the vessel was ready to sail; but supposing himself to be deserted by the master, without being able, probably from his ignorance of the language, to ascertain the cause, he fell into a complete state of stupefaction, even to such a degree that he secreted himself in the loft on the brewhouses and stretching himself out at full length on the bare boards refused all sustenance. He continued in this state only a few days, when death terminated the sufferings of poor Sambo.”

Being presumed to be a heathen poor Sambo, who’s name is not even known, was not to be buried at the nearby fisherman’s chapel. Instead he was taken towards the end of the point and buried near the sea in a rabbit warren. His grave is now a place of pilgrimage for many and I have visited myself on more than one occasion. Tributes are left and an inscribed stone marks the spot in a walled area. His dismal end causes us to look within and hopefully tells us how far we have come.

I rode back to Garstang to find the shop still empty so I bought some food. I got back to the garage to discover that my car was not yet ready so did more riding and dropped in at a pub for a quick drink. What I was discovering about the bike was that it has a medieval torture device which poses as a saddle. For my long ride I’ll have to find the best saddle from one of my other bikes. I was a little tired but hadn’t been putting much effort in. Still, nearly 5 hours of riding was bound to take it’s toll and was useful training for the big one. With much more climbing and another 20 or more miles to cover my big day will be a serious challenge but I think I’m ready for it. I’ll pick a still day which will hopefully not be too hot. I’m excited by the prospect.

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