One Way Ticket

CAM-BTON-01One way ticket, only one way home. A flat before I’ve even started. A lap of Cambridge looking for an open bike shop to borrow a track pump. Saving that gas canister for emergencies in the middle of nowhere. Really must buy a decent mini pump. Buy an extra gas canister.

CAM-BTON-02The fear of not knowing. Can I do this? What if something breaks?

Then riding into an unknown landscape in sunshine pushes all the doubts to the far recesses of my mind.

CAM-BTON-03A list of place names and road numbers on a sheet of paper emerge into reality. Ignoring the route sheet because that way looks prettier. The right choice.

Cambridgeshire. Big skies filled with the spiralling song of the skylark. The golden smell of rape.

CAM-BTON-04Crossing a corner of Hertfordshire into Essex. Eating cake next to a village pond.

A quick check of the map.

CAM-BTON-05Shouldering the bike and clambering over the grass bank along the middle of dual carriageway. Think that pedestrian crossing sign may be from a few years ago.

The northern flood plain of the Thames, all desolate and eerie.

The northern hinterland of the Thames, all scrubby and scruffy.

Industry looms on the horizon.

CAM-BTON-06Running out of land. The sound of wheels rolling over the wooden slats of a jetty.

Eating malt loaf next to the river waiting for a boat to carry me to Kent.

Talking to strangers. “Where are you going?” and “Where have you come from?”

CAM-BTON-07A second flat tyre. Down to one spare inner tube and a long way to go. No patches.

The fear returns.

CAM-BTON-10A pretty corner of Kent squeezed between motorways and arterial roads.

Climbing over the Lower Greensand Ridge on sun striped lanes.

CAM-BTON-11West Sussex. An infernal one way system. Turning around and riding the grass verge.

The recognisable shape of the reservoir down to my left. A pork pie and bottle of coke bought in a village shop.

A lowering sun and the smell of earth. Slugwash, on home lanes now. Can count them on one hand.

The list of places is tucked in a pocket, don’t need that any more.

CAM-BTON-09Final county border. East Sussex. Home. Almost.

Wrapping a broken spoke around the spoke next to it. The sound of a loose nipple cascading around a wheel rim on a steep hill. The last hill.

CAM-BTON-08Freewheeling home in twilight.

Half a day.

All of the daylight and a little bit of the darkness.

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