Waking on day two, the first thing I noticed was the chill in the air. At just over 1000 feet above sea level, it wasn’t the highest point of the trip, but I was the highest point I’d be camping at for the week. I was slightly concerned about how my legs would feel after the first day, but they felt ok as I got up and headed for a shower. I ate the last of the bread and hummus from the night before and headed off on my way. I had a small climb to get over, the legs feeling surprisingly good. It was a beautiful morning, crisp, but the sun splitting the sky. I’d gotten used to being a bit slower on the climbs, the weight of the bike feeling significantly different than if I’d been riding with no luggage.
I flew past Ribblehead Viaduct on a beautiful flowing descent into Hawes. I decided it was far to early for a cafe stop, took my left turn and set off for Kirkby Stephen. The route rose up and down sharply, I’d slowly been learning there wasn’t much steady about this part of the world. You’re either climbing or descending. The road flattened a bit as I travelled up the next valley, rolling alongside a railway line. The closer I got to the town, the more people I noticed out on the line with cameras on tripods. I stopped at the next bridge over the line to see what the fuss was about. After being informed it wasn’t a steam train, I learned it was in fact a passenger train completing its last journey before being taken out of service. A few minutes later, as I was back on the road, I saw the train coming along the line, emblazoned with the old ScotRail logo. A nice reminder of home.
As I arrived into Kirby Stephen, I popped into the local bike shop to get my bike checked out after the crash the day before. The gears hadn’t been the smoothest since and I turned out the crash had caused the rear derailleur to come out of alignment. A quick ten minute job and everything was buttery smooth again. A massive thanks to Coast to Coast cycles. Some lunch was in order, so I had a lovely baked potato with beans and headed on my way. The route for the next while was pretty flat and what slopes I found were gentle, which was nice. Today was the day I’d have to tackle Hartside Pass and it was beginning to play on my mind. I could see it off in the distance as I sped through the quiet country lanes, the tall hedges occasionally broken up by a farm or small group of houses.
As I got close to the bottom of the pass, the upcoming elevation graph on my computer revealed the task ahead, the line going from the bottom left of the screen to the top right. Ouch. I stopped in the last village for a quick bite to eat, finding some lovely vegan carrot cake. I washed this down with a cool can of Coke, thinking I best get some quick sugar in me for the task ahead.
The climb started quite steep but after a few hundred metres levelled out. This was a nice relief, as prefer long and gradual to short and steep. I found a nice gear and settled into a rhythm, finding it very easy to distract myself from the task at hand, thanks to the incredible view of the North West of England that was gradually revealing itself to my left. About three quarters of the way up the climb, I could see as far as the Solway Firth. Incredible. The last of the climb was incredible, a switchback worthy of the Tour de France taking me to the summit finally. At the top, two cyclists spotted me and gave me a cheer as I hit the stop. I had a lovely chat with them, the couple out for “just a hundred miles today”. I got the mandatory picture with the altitude sign at the top and off I went, flying down the descent on the other side. I love long descents like this, the road flying past at forty miles per hour and the distance on my computer racking up fast.
As I got to Haltwhistle, I found a nice pub with vegan options, opting for a sweet and sour vegetable curry, with a pint of Moretti to wash it down. I opted for a second pint, just to be safe I’d topped up my body’s carbohydrates levels. I’d often heard beer is the perfect recovery drink. The day had one last sting in it’s tail as I dragged the bike up what seemed like a twenty percent gradient, the last mile to the campsite taking about twenty minutes. Getting my tent setup much quicker than the night before, I had a quick video chat with my friend and fellow adventurer Colin, before drifting off to sleep much quicker than I did the night before. Day two checked off and the big days out the way. Or so I thought.