Beacon of dark

The Worcester beacon is a properly pointy landmark at 425 metres above sea level. Which is pretty close to what the surrounding plain is at, with uninterrupted views east to the Siberian Steppes* and – to the west – the proper mountains of Wales.

Allegedly. Because every time I ascend the southern slope of this Worcestershire Alp, the last 50 vertical metres are generally in cloud. From which a light, and yet extremely irritating, drizzle visits moistness on my sweating person.

The descent off the top, and in the dark is one of the finest in the Malverns. It’s long, varied, bumpy, occasionally significantly involving, and well worth the twenty five minute climb from the valley bottom to get there. All was not sweetness and dark tho, as we’re extending our night rides a little further every week. And as you’re gurning up the beacon’s lower slopes, it’s a nasty realisation that you’re less than half way round.

Thursday’s ride played out at 27k with 3100 feet of climbing, all within a three hour weather window through which the rain incessantly poured. I was staggered by my lack of total brokeness at the end, but disappointed with my ‘drunken demon possessed manikin‘ assualt on the downhills. The fitness is quite new, the rubbishness sadly constant. I blame the tyres.

And since that felt like two rides in one, this weekend shall be bike free. In addition to being a bit leg weary, Random has somehow made it to her eighth birthday, and all my time is taken answering the same question “Is it my birthday yet?”. This started about a week ago and has become a little wearing.

Birthday obligations were not sufficient for a bit of pointless parent hobbying to take centre stage today. After fetching** the SuperCub out of a tree, and finally getting to fly one of my scary engined models under the beady tutelage of a ex Squadron Commander, I got bored of rules and chucked the Wildthing off a big hill in Shropshire.

This time it didn’t fall out of the sky straight away. No, that required my notorious flying skills to send it fifty vertical meters down into the valley. But only once – after that, the whole thing went rather well, loops, staying above the ridge, failing to properly crash and a lack of nervous twitching made 30 minutes pass like 30 seconds. I absolutely loved it, which makes me a) geeky and b) desperate to develop a machine to give me twice as much leisure time.

And it’s so much less hassle than engines. On my day off on Friday, I spent another two hours in the same muddy field for 8 minutes instruction. The flying was great and surprisingly non catastrophic, but the sacrifices to the God of Nitro Engines is becoming tedious in the extreme. As is ingesting a fuel that has so many warning notices, it comes in a separate leaflet.

Tomorrow I shall be a) riding my bike b) flying my glider c) flying my noisy trainer or d) Making Jelly and collecting bit of wrapping paper from where the dog tried to eat them.

It’s probably d) which has to be the right choice. I’m not always good at those.

Hope it rains then.

* Although you’d need some pretty funky binoculars, and the word would have to be flat but I’m not letting such things ruin such a dramatic statement.

** Not me. I chucked a hissy fit and refused to have anything to do with it. The builders took pity and nailgunn’d four fence posts together and beat it out of the tree. I fixed it and flew it afterwards but it’s a bit bent. The front end goes left, the rear goes right which reminds me of a certain political party.

I’ve killed the dog.

Okay I haven’t but how the hell can that be comfortable? I tried lying like that – cementing the owner imitating pet myth – but quickly ran out of flexibility, dignity and limbs. We’ve been leaving the cage open over night and, aside from the daily loss of at least one wicker bin, he has so far failed to eat the furniture, cat or anything structural.

I feel he may be merely luring us into a false sense of security. One day we’ll sleepily fall downstairs* only to gasp aghast “Where is the ground floor? All I can see if one fat, sickly looking dog!

Talking of fat, I’m merely filling until time and wine converge to bring forth the much awaited** missive on plumbing. It has a poem and everything. No, I know you can hardly wait either. But tonight, I abandoned this much stared at tube to go and ride my bike. Yes that’s right, riding it, not fixing it, hanging pointless bling off it, or staring at it with frankly worrying thoughts.

It’s thawed. Hard trails have disappeared under muck. Tyre trails snaked more sideways than straight on. Trees viscously reached out of the dark to deliver a barky headbutt. Nothing much was frozen, except for feet and noses. We lured in a newcomer with talk of an easy ride and almost no hills; and now he’s bruised and broken, but vowing to come back for more.

Top night all round really 🙂

* now Carol has removed the carpet which makes a “Headlong Plunge Fakie Bloodied Skull Finish” the descending move of choice.

** This might be classed as a phrase quite close to marketing. Which is the Dictionary Of The Hedgehog is the entry next to Painful Death.

Next time..

… I’ll walk the dog. 7PM yesterday evening, some confusion about whose turn it was to drag Smurf The Smelly around the local field. I wasn’t keen due to an appointment with some snow, mud and cold – all wrapped up in a dark and windy night – starting about now. Carol wasn’t keen on the grounds she was warm and dry in the house. The dog – frankly – didn’t look up for it either.

Shirker of responsibilities that I am, I left them to it and headed out into a night about as wild and dangerous as a saloon bar in Goldrushtown, Gunsville, USA back in the early 1900s.” The ride started drizzly with a stiff north wind belying the above zero temperatures. Half way up the first climb, I felt about as overdressed as an Oscar Nominee at a Cage Fight, with sweat from the inside vying for “Dampest Thing on Al” against the increasingly persistent rain.

An hour later I was congratulating myself on three layers, all of the outer ones waterproof, buff, thick gloves and clear glasses. However that was somewhat accentuating the positive ,as we slogged up wet grass in a weather event dangerously close to a full on gale. The God of Darkness is a vengeful deity – he taketh away traction and warmth before even handedly chucking in horizontal sleet and a clump of unwanted chainsuck.

We’d already been within tree striking distance of some big accidents, travelling horizontally off roots and having less steering input than a sleeping passenger. There was unclipping here, facebush(tm) over here, and an undertone of grumpythermia* as a sleet battered route conference insanely selected a long route home over high ridges.

A decision that left us unprotected by the shoulder of the hill, and climbing on increasingly snowy paths that limited both grip and visibility. The latter was less of an issue what with the icy wind driving spiteful sleet into a faceful of numb and squint.” The descent was even more amusing with a desperation to get off the summit tempered by not actually being able to see where you were going.

I pointed the light directly at the front wheel to try and give me something to work with. But it was just placebo, and the route down was a full on trials brake-squint-deep breath-roll effort. In a further moment of madness, it was decided that we’d have a crack at one more big climb. And why not since we were already cold, piss wet through and head-to-toe muddy?

This proved an incautious decision as the now settled snow sucked power from your legs and traction from your tyres. The descent was nothing more than a “just get me out of here alive, I’ll vote Liberal, I’ll start going to Church, just get me OFF THIS SODDING HILL“. Sanity returned in the guise of a soul destroying drop back onto tarmac, losing painfully gained height but preserving sufficient core temperature to stave off proper hypothermia.

The ride home through freezing puddles and proper full on stormy rain actually wasn’t that bad after the horror of the previous hour. And when I’m sprinting up the climbs next spring and snaking down dusty singeltrack, nights like that will return more than they took. But as I shivered in my car, with the heater on full blast and the sky exploding overhead, I couldn’t help thinking:

I should have walked the bloody dog

* A sub symptom of hypothermia bringing together the coldness of all extremities with the unhappiness of being stuck outside in a pissing storm.