The sound of heavy rain rattling against the window wasn’t the wake up call any of us wanted. It added to our aching limbs. Even climbing in to the saddle was a major effort.
Finding the right route was another challenge and one we had to give up on. Thankfully we spotted a bike shop, where the proprietor informed us of the correct path to take.
This involved loosely following the M62. At times we took bridges over it. On other occasions we were underneath the motorway.
Weary from the efforts of the previous 48 hours, hunger set in quickly. That’s why the sight of a burger van on a layby seemed mirage-like. With nobody else in attendance, the vendor appeared as delighted to see us as we were to meet him. Large, greasy burgers were savoured as if they were juicy sirloin steaks.
Polishing them off concluded with the rain easing and once again we were shadowing the M62 in the direction of Liverpool.
When our route diverged it was replaced by flat tracks across green countryside. The lack of hills was very welcome. The only problem was the monotonous nature of the terrain. Everything seemed similar to what had gone before. We’d cross a main road to find ourselves back on a narrow lane. It was almost a cartoon like repetition of the same background over and over again.
The reappearance of rain didn’t help our cause either. By now, Dave in particular was struggling. Another puncture didn’t improve his mood.
“I’m getting the train home,” he declared as he flung his bike into a nearby ditch.
The outburst created laughter and eased the building tension. A joint effort meant repairs didn’t take too long as we located and removed the offending thorn.
St. Helens’ canal path proved to be a muddy challenge, with large puddles created by the earlier wet weather still present. Again the sight of a power station stalked us, on this occasion it was Fiddler’s Ferry constantly visible during our progress.
Another, more familiar marker soon became our point of focus; the Runcorn Bridge. Constantly mentioned as a problem spot on radio traffic updates, it was visible evidence that we were nearly home.
The usual gridlock wasn’t part of our itinerary as we gleefully went underneath the Mersey River crossing.
Through the picturesque village of Hale the skies began to darken and hunger once again arrived, this time with a vengeance. By now our supplies of sweets, bananas and cereal bars had been completely exhausted. Home was only a few miles away, but the lack of energy in our legs made it feel like we were scaling Everest.
One of many stops for a drink led to Mark having one more rummage in his bag in the hope of discovering some food. “Yes!,” he roared, before producing some beef jerky. Disgusting under normal circumstances, it tasted superb.
While sharing out the measly portions a woman and, probably, her granddaughter approached. “Are we going the right way for the Trans Pennine Trail they enquired?” Our explanation that we had been on it for the best part of three days was met with bemused smiles. The crazed looks on our faces, created by hunger and tiredness, probably had something to do with their reaction too. Nonetheless, they carried on.
The tremendous roar of jet engines landing and taking off was another – loud – boost. John Lennon Airport was just ahead, another marker on our way home.
A huge spill of rain from the black sky accompanied us along Speke Boulevard, where we stopped for drinks and food in a petrol station.
From there we navigated our way back to the bank of the Mersey via Otterspool. Finally the Liver Building on the city’s waterfront came in to sight. We were soaked, exhausted, sore, thirsty and still hungry. Yet I never felt better.