With the promise of a post-ride beer to celebrate JR’s impending birthday, for once I was at the garage meeting point with time to spare. JR arrived 5 minutes later, and after the obligatory further 5 minutes of chat and waiting for latecomers (none expected, none arrived), the two of us set off.
We planned a reprise of the ride a fortnight ago, up to Ranmore, then across the top to take in the ‘Lovely Linda’ descent from Crocknorth Road down to Honeysuckle Bottom. In a first encounter for what proved to be the prevailing conditions for the evening, Wiggly Wood was very sticky, and was quite a struggle in places. JR took a detour to avoid the worst of the mud, and found himself wading through a quagmire to rejoin the bridlepath at the top of the wood.
Here we bumped into a couple of Jem’s mates as they returned to finish their ride. Apparently they were out because Jem had organised the ride, but then cried off at the last moment. “Lightweight” was the general consensus as we slithered off in opposite directions. We headed straight on down, avoiding the right turn and the fallen tree, and towards Chapel Lane and the bridleway to the Youth Hostel. I managed the Tanners Hatch climb in 12 minutes, so I only need to halve that time to rival the best effort of ‘The Stravanator’.
Badgers and Collarbone were back to their winters worst, and we struggled desperately for grip and had many a sideways moment as we slowly wound our way to the top. Avoiding the expected treacle-like experience of Trouble in Paradise we headed back to the Ranmore Common Road before turning off left on the wide track across the top of the ridge towards Whitedown Lane and beyond. Lovely Linda was delightful, as always, and I was quite happy to be just 15 secs slower than our madcap descent in the drier conditions of a fortnight ago.
By this time it was close to 9pm, and there was little debate as we agreed that a warm bar and good beer were preferable to further mud-plugging. From Honeysuckle Bottom it was a spin down Green Dene to the A246 and the steep road section to Calvert Road. These roads are a lot easier on a lightweight road bike than a mud encrusted full suspension mtb, and I had to resort to the granny ring to make it to the top! A final bridlepath section through ‘The Short Wood’ saw us to Orestan Lane and a spin back through Effingham to The Anchor on Lower Road.
The beer and crisps (scientifically proven as the most rejuvenating of any post-ride refuelling strategy) were excellent, and the barmaid christened me ‘The Barefoot Contessa’ as I padded up to the bar for a refuel, having left my shoes and socks drying by the log fire. D-Dub made it to join JR in a celebratory pint or two, and we were nearly joined by Tony. However, in a double-dose of non-recognition, we failed to identify the roadie stood outside fiddling with his phone (can’t be Tony, he always wears blue) and he failed to identify JR’s blue Orange 5 and my Santa Cruz 29er secured to the pub table.
Happy Birthday for Saturday, JR.