Monday 3rd March, day off work, other plans go awry, and the day is free to ride. So which uni? The Coker’s not been out for a while, so…
Drive to a safe parking place, and set off across level but slimy field to the hard grit path next to the River Trent. Ride upriver past the Nottingham Forest training pitch and receive mild mockery from players. Reflect that only 11 people are laughing at me, and 15 000 pay each week to laugh at them.
Up and over the suspension bridge - that’s a steep climb and descent at each end, with cast iron bollards just that bit closer together than I’d like. I make it and feel smug. Then on to the next bridge, and an attempt to find a short cut leaves me stranded in the rough at the edge of a rugby pitch, and the first UPD of the day. Not bad after nearly 4 miles of varied riding.
Then along a cycle path, surprising a couple of anglers riding to the river on 20 inch shopper bicycles. (I think, but don’t say, “Where’s your trawler, mate?” ) Then the devil makes me follow a track I’ve never seen before, and soon the Coker’s wheel is twice as heavy, and I’m slip sliding all over the place. I’m riding past steeply sloping woodland, and thinking I’ll come back with the MUni. A mile later, someone has repaired the path with poorly compacted hard core (US = rubble?) and it’s time to stand up and tip toe through the tulips.
And then I pass two teenage drunks (wish I could afford it at 11:00 a.m.!) who politely draw my attention to the absence of my other wheel. The pressure is on, now, because they are right at the bottom of a short but difficult slope, and then the scenery is flat river plain for miles, so they will see me if I UPD. I manage to stay on.
Is there a short cut back to the river bank? I end up climbing over a fence and through a hedge, then ride along a track until I come to a community of shacks and mobile homes. Seizing the initiative, I ask if it’s OK to ride past, and is there a way along the river bank? The response: “Yes, but you won’t make it on that thing.” There is only one possible response, as the red mist comes down, and, with the exception of about 50 yards of real rough stuff, I DO make it on that thing…
And I come out eventually at the A453 - busiest road for miles, and not safe to ride. A notice advertises a footpath but it looks like a farmer’s drive. I ride up, then politely dismount to walk through the farmyard. There’s a massive German shepherd dog, but I don’t flinch at his mock attack, and minutes later we are firm friends. But as soon as I push the unicycle, he bites the pedal!
I hope the farmer will come out so I can ask about the direction the path takes - it looks too hilly and muddy for the Coker. No farmer, so I walk back to the road - every time I try to ride, the German shepherd gets a bit too interested.
Then I cross the road and the dog follows me. I lead him back (stopping the traffic) and say, ‘Home, boy!’ As soon as I cross the road again, he follows me. Lorries brake sharply and a driver yells abuse. I reply that it’s not my dog. I lead the dog back, and repeat the pattern a couple more times. Some drivers laugh sympathetically; others yell abuse.
Eventually, I decide it’s not my problem. I ride off. The dog follows, but doesn’t bite my ankles. A bus approaches. I tuck in to the side of the road. The dog runs out. The coach driver brakes and yells abuse. I shrug. It’s not my bloomin’ dog!
And eventually I escape, and I’m back on muddy slimy paths, and starting to wonder whether I should turn back… but am I a man or a mouse? The mud devil leads me on.
At last, back onto the road, and a couple of steep hills, and far too many big lorries. I dismount to let each one pass, and one of the drivers sneers rather too obviously for my taste. I explain that he should enter the highland games or open a pancake restaurant, what with him being such a tosser. We part, but not as friends.
Then down to the marina, where I discover that the cafe is closed. (Only in England can you not buy food or coffee at lunch time.)
They sell newspapers though. My money is a bit slimy because, being conscientious, I put my banana peels back in my rucksack instead of discarding them. Thoughtfully, I drop the coins, and scrub them on the carpet with my foot before handing them over, but the lady behind the counter still wrinkles her nose in disgust. Disgusted now? Wait until she has to vacuum the carpet. :0)
So the cafe is shut, and I add a mile round trip to my loop and find that the other cafe I know is also shut. And now I’ve done 25 miles and things are looking bad. Calories are needed, and my temper is fraying.
Into the Harrington Arms pub, where meals are listed at £14 for a main course. Panic! Until the barmaid shows me the ‘light meals menu’ at 1/3 of that price.
And from here it’s only a dozen miles home, but the pain fairy has removed my Viscount saddle and attached an engineering brick to the seat post. My legs are starting to cramp (all that cross country on the slimy mud has taken its toll) and progress becomes a series of 1 mile bursts followed by rather glum rests.
And let’s hear it for the President of the Canal Boat Comedy Club of Grate (sic) Britain, whose wife/partner/floozy laughs rudely and derisively as I pass. He decides to entertain her by asking me where my other wheel is. I recall having heard this comment once before, and explain this too him perhaps a little too bluntly. My voice echoes off the bridge ahead, slightly surreal, and the silicon chip inside my head is switched to overload. I launch a brief but devastating tirade of abuse at him. Canal boats do 4 mph, Cokers do 12, so I know I’m safe.
Then I’m back on slimy rutted fields, and starting to regret things a bit. Three lady joggers oscillate attractively past, thanking me for stopping and waiting. Little do they know my legs are like two badly cramped blancmanges.
To my surprise, I get over the steep hump backed and cobbled bridge that I’ve never previously managed on the Coker, then I’m back on the canal towpath, and I’m making good speed now, but stopping every couple of miles. People are finishing work and cycling home, and I am greeted with a mixture of surprise, contempt and admiration.
Where the canal runs alonside the main road, a few young males express carefully thought out opinions about my state of mind, and the optimal number of wheels for a pedal cycle. I ignore them. Only 2 miles to go and I’m back at the car, and 38 miles covered.
And on Tuesday? Legs hurt all day, and no sympathy from my workmates, who seem to regard unicycling as an aberration. One seems proud of the fact he couldn’t ride 38 miles on a 2 wheeler.
If you don’t have a Coker yet, why not? (Jagur need not respond. :0) )