Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful, with only a hint of ominous clouds in the distance. Caley is part of the Cowley Road Condors Cycling Club, and she told me they had a “superfun 75ish k ride through the Cotswolds.”
“It says it is not going to be hilly” she reassured me.
Lies, all lies.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Once sufficiently caffeinated and fueled up, we headed out to meet up with Ben, our friendly and fantastic ride leader. As I tend to be a total lone wolf when I ride, I was kinda nervous to be joining a group ride, but it ended up only being the three of us, which was quite a nice way to ease into group riding again. We started out a good pace, heading north-west of Oxford. Once we hit the Cotswolds, things started to get a little bit more sweaty, wheezy, and embarrassing on my part. Turns out Ben is training for a completely masochistic trip to ride up and down the Alps in two weeks, so I came to realize that his definition of “not very hilly” was very different from mine. I, on the other hand, grew up in the completely hill-less farm country of southern Ontario, and I think the Dutch preference for flat and fast cycling runs deep in my blood. At the first sign of an incline, my pace bottoms out to an embarrassing crawl, and I muscle my way up the hill in a completely graceless fashion.
In my defense, it was super hilly. I swear. I mean, there is no way to get spectacular views like this without going up several hills. Thankfully, both Ben and Caley were very understanding in the face of my struggle, being super encouraging and, at times even breaking into song, which really bolstererd my spirits.
The Cotswolds are truly spectacular. Picturesque rolling green hills and valleys peppered with some of the most charming towns that I have ever seen. The honey or grey stone houses, complete with thatched roofs and vibrant roses climbing up the sides. As we rode, there were a few breathtaking castles/manor homes/palaces thrown in for good measure. Taken together, these humble cottages and sprawling estates gave the sense that these are the places where fairy tales come true. Mercifully, we stopped to check out the fabulous Victorian Hook Norton Brewery, before popping into the local pub for chips, coffee, and very local beer. At long last, we made it back to Oxford! I was surprised to note that my legs were still attached to my body and my spirits were soaring, despite the ache in my knees. According to Ben’s Garmin, we burned over 4000 calories each, which made this final stop possibly the most important one: G&D’s cafe for giant globs of local ice cream.I might have been a little bit excited! Thanks to these guys, the excellent route by Ben, the patient and good-natured demeanor of the entire crew, I had a completely magnificent day sweating and smiling through the Cotswolds.
Route details (by Ben) here: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/14621231
Remember, this is all part of my “Pedalling for Mental Health” challenge, where I am hoping to raise money for mental health research. If you are able to support this great charity, please donate here!
Today’s distance: 80miles/129km
Total miles logged: 542miles/870km