Mud Mud Glorious Mud
I’m sure you’ll have a mental picture of the evenings events just by the title.
I pushed the bike to the corner of the field, easy enough. I decided on a night under the stars as glorious sunshine had been out all day. I lay down my bivi bag, unrolled my self inflating sleeping mat and put it with my urban ultra light sleeping bag inside the bivi bag. My bike was on its side above my head and I was snug as a bug in a rug, I lay on my side and watch the rabbits hop around the field, the horses on the hill opposite eat grass without toppling over (it was a steep hill) and the birds flying overhead. I wondered if it might rain so draped my tarp over the bike and next to me, so if it rained I could pull it over me too. I dozed off around 9pm.
I was woken around 11pm with rain hitting my face, thunder and lightning in the distance so I grabbed the tarp and covered myself up to keep dry. This proved to be difficult, as I was on a slight incline and I must have slid down when I was asleep so the bottom of the bivi bag was sticking out in the rain, also the tarp was touching my face and gathering pools of water on the outside so I was kept awake by the constant need to lift the tarp up to get rid of the build up of water. I took my tent poles out of their bag to prop up the tarp but they kept falling over. I was warm but my legs and sleeping bag were soaked, I managed to sleep on and off throughout the night. I got up at 05:26 to discover I was lying in a pool of mud, it got everywhere. I piled everything onto the bike and dragged it out of the field, it had so much mud on it the wheels wouldn’t turn. I tried to use a stick to scrape it off but it snapped, I ended up using my bike pump. I got enough mud off so I could push it, which I did for 2 Miles. I managed to sit on the bike and coast down a few hills but had to be careful as most of my wet gear was balanced on the bike.
I stopped next to a car showroom and attempted to clean more mud off and pack the bike properly, all in the pouring rain. I cycled into Dover at 08:00 and sat in a bus shelter until the rain eased. I then headed to the port. The port staff were brilliant, I was greeted by a high vis jacket soggy guy who pointed me in the right direction, where has he been the last 130 miles. I propped my bike outside the terminal building and went to Costa Coffee, I went for the ham and cheese toastie and a latte. The woman at Costa said I could bring my bike into the terminal and dry off, she felt my pain and spotted that I was drenched or she wanted me to stop flooding her corner of the terminal. I think it was the latter she even gave me a big roll of paper towels to wipe my gear down with. Quite a few port employees came over for a chat or at least to find out what plonker cycles through a storm but they were all very friendly and helpful.
Mum turned up as arranged but she was sensible and arrived by taxi. She had a coffee and sat with the bike whilst I went to get dry clothes on, when I got back she had managed to tell everyone my plans, one proud Mum, it gave me a boost. I had to ride around to the port check in to buy my ticket and it was a bloody long way. The guys at customs were great and asked about my journey and why I was going, they said to call back in 18 months to let them know how it went. I went into the check in office and bought my ticket which was cheaper than mums even though I had a bike. I was directed to lane 188, as I came out of the P&O office the rain was bouncing off the floor, I waited 20 mins but it didn’t ease so I just went for it. Luckily I could ride under a road bridge for most of the way but as it was very windy I had to lean-to one-sided just to stay on.
I went into the shop and cafe area to keep out of the rain but almost immediately an announcement was made to prepare for boarding. I grabbed a drink and some wine gums from W H Smiths and cycled to the front of lane 188 only to be told by a friendly port official that due to the storm the ferry was unable to dock here and I was to go to lane 106, off I went in the pouring rain and wind. I waited at the front of lane 106 for about 20 mins in the wind and rain, a few people passing to and from the toilet stopped for a quick chat until the same guy who had directed me from lane 188 turned up in a range rover, he got out and came across. He told me the ferry was delayed due to the weather and to follow him, he took me to an inside staff waiting area told me I could take my bike in with me and he would come and get me when time to board. I was grateful and there were heaters and they were on, as I put my bike on its stand it snapped, on closer inspection the welded joint had fractured, so the first thing to break was a new stand bought from Halfords. (Loz if this was a manufactures fault and you are aware, then I will be unable to return it so just pop the refund in my Pay Pal account. Call it a gesture of goodwill. Thanks)
I was collected and sent up the ramp ahead of all the other vehicles but had to push the bike against the strong wind, even the guy at the top of the ramp commented. Mum had made it aboard all dry and had gotten a lot of useful information from the desk, I just stayed in wet clothes for a few minutes to catch my breath. Once I got out of as many wet clothes as I could without causing a scare, I sat through the remarkably smooth crossing. Next stop France!