See the Prologue here.
Lime Street station’s early morning rush hour contained plenty of suited individuals heading to offices in the city and the odd builder in his typically filthy site wear. Our uniform of cycling shorts and a rucksack marked us out from the crowd.
Three of us glanced at a map as we contemplated what lay ahead. Then Dave arrived with his shiny new wheels, minus a pedal.
Somehow it, and the crank supporting it, had fallen off on the short cycle from his house to the station. After some laughter we set about attempting to fix the problem. There seemed little option but to hammer it back into place using a heavy lock.
A three-hour train journey that snaked through some of the highest peaks in England emphasised exactly what we’d have to contend with on the way back. The glorious sunshine couldn’t hide the sheer scale of some of the hills we’d be encountering.
More checks of the map led to agreement that we would turn right out of Hull train station and then head towards the Humber suspension bridge. This would set us on the correct westerly path.
Manouvering the bikes off a crowded train wasn’t an easy job. People looked at us with a mixture of amusement and curiosity. OAPs in particular didn’t seem to appreciate waiting patiently while we lifted our two-wheeled vehicles on to the platform.
And so it began. For about 30 seconds. “Stop, stop,” Dave shouted from the back of our mini-peleton. Already he was lagging behind.
There was a good reason for his lack of progress. In our haste to repair his bike earlier that morning we had forced the pedal arm back into place.
None of us had bothered to check if it was at the opposite angle to the other pedal. It wasn’t, hence his inability to cycle properly. All the bike was capable of was a strange almost clown-like movement that involved both feet going forward together in a parallel motion that got Dave nowhere.
As we all attempted to have a go at this new style of cycling we found it a hilarious, but ineffective method of powering the bike.
After much laughter and a few photos, we agreed the only option was to find a bike shop that could remedy the problem.
Properly re-attaching the pedal arm was lot easier to do with the necessary tools. After an hour our unscheduled pit stop was complete, for a fee of £60.
We were on the road again, and this time we didn’t halt until we’d exited the town and arrived at the impressive sight of the Humber Bridge. Once we figured out how to set the timer on the camera, a quick photo was captured under the structure that consists of 27,500 tonnes of steel and 480,000 tonnes of concrete.
From consulting our maps we calculated that following the estuary inland would set us on the correct route. What we hadn’t taken in to consideration was the impact of the wet mud and seaweed we were going through.
Within minutes it had accumulated to such a level that we needed to pause again to remove the slime from our tyres, as it was getting caught in the brakes.
That job complete, we finally began to progress towards our first scheduled stop of the day; the East Yorkshire village of Howden. Population of nearly 4,000 and once host to one of Europe’s most famous horse fairs, we never expected to see a familiar face in the hamlet.
When we encountered a former university friend walking down the main street a drink was necessary to celebrate the unplanned reunion.
While reminiscing we also chose something from the large menu. Only a few hours of cycling had actually been completed, yet the pains in our legs, necks, bums, etc. that we all mentioned brought further realisation of our task.
Bangers and mash never tasted so good and once it was gobbled down we said goodbye and returned to the saddles. Lost time had to be made up for.
The brilliant greenery of northern England, combined with incessant sunshine, kept our spirits aloft as we pedalled along country lanes, canal tow-paths, grass-dissected minor roads and over hills. All the while large chimneystacks belonging to smoke-chugging power stations randomly appeared on the horizon before vanishing just as quickly.
By 5pm we knew we still had at least another two hours ahead if we were to reach our stop for the night; Snaith.
Supplies of sweets and chocolate maintained our energy levels as we all expressed relief at donning the fashion faux pas’ that is cycling shorts. Ridiculous looking, their padding was a tremendous pain reliever even on just the first day of our expedition.
If pain wasn’t a problem, plotting a route proved more troublesome. Signs for the Trans Pennine Trail randomly appeared before vanishing again. Often we had to double back on ourselves to double-check we were on the right path. Or we just ventured forward on instinct rather than knowledge.
Minutes spent on busy and narrow country roads were also unwelcome. But just as we’d begin to lose patience something else would emerge in the distance.
During the first evening it was what appeared to be an old, abandoned airfield. Markings on the ground indicated it might have been occasionally used. The grass encroaching on the concrete runways and paths suggested not too often.
With the summer sun lowering in the sky a sign for Snaith was spotted. It was a place none of us had ever been. Yet the collective feeling of relief made it seem as though we were about to land in a great metropolis.
A simple B&B was our housing for the night. A long, hot shower was the first part of my evening’s itinerary, before dinner. Again, the simple food of burgers and chips tasted superb, proving the adage that hunger is a great sauce.
The staff serving us enquired where we’d come from and couldn’t believe we were on the way to Liverpool. Our presence didn’t leave them overworked; the exertions of the day meant two beers were enough to deem us ready for sleep.
The rest of the journey will be published here over the course of the week.