Stags and staggering

Well, I haven’t been doing much riding recently. I’ve probably averaged about a ride a month over the alleged summer, and my fitness levels are lower than ever. I was Morris dancing the other night and realised I’ll soon need a sports bra.:o

So today, the weather was excellent, and I had the whole day free…

I arrive at the car park in Sherwood Forest to find everyone else has noticed the good weather too. It’s hard to find a parking space. I then walk back to the ticket machine and find the price has gone up 50% over the summer.

I mount and set off along a familiar wide track, with tall pine trees to my right, full of kids screaming and shouting as they walk and scramble along the wires of the “Go Ape!” facility.
( )

A couple of people ahead of me are plodding along in the wrong gears on mountainbikes. One of them notices me approaching, and they are shamed into speeding up a bit. On the KH24 with 165s, I am still not going that much slower than them!

At the first opportunity, I turn off onto a narrow single track path that weaves beneath the canopy of trees. The ground is undulating but firm, and the wheel makes no noise on the carpet of pine needles.

Back out onto a main track, and again I meet mountain bikers, plodding along and missing all the best bits of the forest.

At every chance, I take the narrower track, always aiming up hill to gain some early gravity karma. I am pleased that after about a month with no exercise to speak of, I am spinning along fairly briskly.

Part of my regular route takes me along a narrow path at the edge of the woods. Somehow I find myself entering this section from the wrong end, and stomping up a moderately steep hill. On a whim, I turn off and swoop up and over a low bank onto a wider track that runs around a field boundary. This is glorious: out of the shade of the trees, the sun is shining down on me. Parts of the forest here are beech or birch, and the leaves are many hues of red, gold and yellow.

Unfortunately, the route itself becomes a bit boring to ride and rather full of families on bicycles, all of whom feel the ened to comment, so I take another couple of turns, and find my way back to the point where I came over the bank. It is slightly more difficult in this direction, but I make it over without a UPD. I feel quite smug that I can still do it after such a break.

A bit later, I find myself plodding up a long sandy and gravelly hill. My way is blocked by a fallen tree, but I keep going and, as expected, I find a new path that skirts around the obstacle. Somehow, clumsily, lazily, complacently, or just knackeredly, I UPD just as I get back onto the original path. I’ve probably ridden a mile and a half so I need a break anyway.

After a short break, I remount, and continue my semi random route through the forest, sometimes under tall stately pines, sometimes ducking and battling my way between small plantation conifers. Sometimes the trees are silver birch, with their silver trunks and golden leaves. Dry autumn leaves carpet the floor.

Then on a narrow path, I see a jogger coming towards me, and he has a dog: a weimeraner.

It comes lolloping towards me at high speed like a slightly camp Hound of the Baskervilles, drawn in pastels. The owner shouts it, but it ignores him, so I dismount to appear more human, and try to befriend it. It ignores me, preferring instead to wade in a deep muddy puddle.

I exchange pleasantries with the jogger, then carry on my way.

And then I turn off onto a narrow path between small plantation conifers, and I see something ahead that looksl like an animal… a large dog? No, it’s a deer, its head bent down as it grazes. It is blocking my path, but that’s no problem - It’s a rare privilege to get a good sighting of a deer in this part of the forest. In dozens of rides around here, I’ve only had one good sighting before, and that was near sunset.

I stand stock still and watch the deer. It seems to be ignoring me, so I slowly creep towards it. It must be 100 metres or more away. It lifts its head and I see the antlers in silhouette. It is a stag - a roe deer, I think. This link is to something broadly similar:

I watch the stag for what seems like ages, gradually creeping towards him. Every so often, he looks up, judges my distance, then carries on grazing. Then I hear sounds behind, and it is the jogger and his dog, running towards the deer. I put up my hand as a warning, and the jogger seems to understand immediately, because he turns off down a side track without comment, taking his dog with him.

After another couple of minutes, I get too bold, and the deer is suddenly gone.

Later in the ride, more silver birch trees, and beneath them are fly agarics, their bright red caps with their distinctive white spots. This is just the time to see them before they start to get broken and rotten. Beautiful things:

And then I find the area of humps and hollows where the BMXers never seem to congregate any more. Over the summer, someone has been with a digger and made a real mess of it, so I spend only a few minutes here before moving on. As I leave, I start the descent of a steep bank, I UPD unnecessarily and I have to run to avoid falling over. My first foot step is heavy, and jars my back. Hours later, my shoulder is stiff and sore, and you really don’t want to know what I’m typing this with.:wink:

Already, and hour or so into the ride, I am feeling tired. Fitness goes so quickly, and is a little bit harder to regain each time. I get into a series of those annoying UPDs where the pedal sort of rolls forward under your foot, dumping you on the ground before you can do anything about it. It’s a sure sign of fatigue, and bad technique creeping in. Another sure sign of fatigue is the swearing it provokes.

From here, I find mainly familiar routes, with one or two interesting diversions, back to the car park. After about an hour and three quarters, I am totally zonked. But the good thing is, I seem to have lost no confidence or skill, only the stamina.

Back home and a bath to freshen up. I look in the mirror: those moobs are no smaller.:o

I couldn’t think of a deliberate mistakes quiz (I’m out of practice), so here’s a general knowledge question:

What has always had 13, but has gone from 13 to 15 to 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 49 and then, not necessarily finally, to 50? Answers by PM.

Hey Mike,

great write up. Lovely to have you back :smiley:

No brain power left to do the quiz though.

Thanks for those of you who emailed with kind messages of support. Some of the newer forum members might have been mystified, but there is quite a long tradition of me writing up my rides, and concealing quizes in them. Unfortunately, life has got in the way a bit recently.

Well, five people entered the “tacked on” quiz, but the thread seems not to have taken life, so I’ll give the answer now. Look away if you don’t want to know…

Four people were very close, but not quite close enough.

Hugh was correct…

The answer is…
The flag of the United States (and not, as many guessed, the United States themselves.)

The USA flag has always had 13 stripes to symbolise the 13 original states.

The number of stars has gradually increased, starting at 13, and increasing periodically as new states have joined the Union. The flag wasn’t changed with every single new state, but was updated periodically by the addition of one or more stars or when a group of states joined at the same time, hence the strange sequence running from 13 gradually up to the present 50.

There are even contingency plans in place for how the flag will look if and when further states join.

How should we know that answer… we were born here! ha!

Wikipedia is a wonderful thing. It even has America in it.:slight_smile:

The US flag briefly had 15 stripes when Kentucky and Vermont were admitted to the union. With the admission of the next 5 states it was decided that the field would be too crowded and so the tradition of maintaining 13 stripes to represent the 13 original states was introduced. The stars in the blue field have continuously indicated the current number of states.

You would never make a GCSE examiner.


I exchange pleasantries with the jogger, then carry on my way.

I liked this. Ambiguity makes good reading.

The quiz should read:

What has always had 13, except from May 1, 1795 to July 3, 1818 when it had 15, but has gone from 13 to 15 to 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 49 and then, not necessarily finally, to 50?

Not as smooth reading as yours, I suppose.

Even when it had 15, it still had 13. It just had two left over. :slight_smile:

I was so excited to see a posting from Mikefule. It seems like it’s been such a long time. Glad to know you’re still among the living (albeit a bit out of shape;) ).