After another busy week Friday was very much a day to look forward to as it meant a night ride, not to the coast but a loop from Reading to Oxford and back again to Reading.
It did feel rather strange to be setting off for a night ride when it was still light outside. Normally, I am always heading out when the sun has well and truly set.
My train was the 22:22 from Paddington which would take only about 25 minutes. I set off in good time but forgetting a suitable face mask I had to turn back home to get one. This then meant a frantic dash to Paddington and at one point I thought I might have to take a later train. Thankfully I made it and saw Dr John and Jenny (The Mile Monster) on the station concourse.
We boarded our train and with only a few others we had the train more or less to ourselves. It was lovely to catch up.
Just after 23:00 we arrived at Reading and getting off the train there was a strong breeze that actually made me feel a little chilly.
There were a few participants waiting outside the station and Nick, a local to reading, took us on a little tour of Reading - more to help warm us all up. I am sure that with more time we would have seen a great deal more of what Reading had to offer but our tour was quite short consisting of an ancient wall from an Abbey, a river with lots of modern developments built along it and a church tower.
After a safety talk and briefing by Bob the assembled riders - 5 of which were on Brompton bicycles - we were off.
Getting out of Reading we travelled across a bridge that proved a draw for those of us wanting to take photographs and not long thereafter we seemed to leave the urban behind and all was countryside before us.
Our pace was purposeful and it was great yet again to be riding through the night with a group.
Our first stop of interest was The Maharajah's Well in the village of Stoke Row. Naturally, it had to be photographed!
Moved by the story of a small boy being beaten by his mother for drinking the last of the water in their house during a drought, The Maharajah of Benares agreed to fund the sinking of a well. It stands to this day and is recognised by the golden elephant that adorns it.
Pressing on it didn't seem to take us too long to get to the less than dreaming spires of the outskirts of Oxford and before long we arrived at the more picturesque bits. We didn't stay too long in Oxford but did have enough time to take a few more photos of some of the touristy bits.
'The Handle Bar' which is a little bit like 'Look Mum No Hands' here in London looked good and I recall going there on another one of Bob's rides a few years ago.
At just after 04:00 in the am with reached the halfway stop at 24-hour drive through. Sadly, they did not open until a couple of hours later and wouldn't allow bicycles to use the drive through.
An alternative was found not too far away in the form of a 24-hour service station. Here we stocked up on supplies and hot drinks.
Almost immediately before setting off again I felt a chill so donned a boil in the bag jacket. This didn't stay on too long as a hill not long after we set off soon warmed me up again.
Sunrise was at about 04:40 and the scenery was beautiful. Each turn of the pedals brought more and more views. Just when you thought it couldn't be bested, another came along to do just that.
Long and empty country lanes, devoid of traffic stretched for miles and made the cycling that bit more enjoyable. There were a few hills on this ride but I think that all the practice recently going up Turners Hill and Ditchling Beacon on my London to Brighton ride with Dr John really helped.
What was originally billed as aliens in a field turned out to be a piece of artwork by John Buckley (famed for his shark coming out of the roof of a house).
The artwork titled 'The Nuba Survival' near a derelict barn is actually two skeletons embracing portraying the plight of the Nuba peoples of Sudan after he spent some time there.
It is a strange location, made even more particular by no signs pointing to it or information nearby to say what it actually is.
Arriving back at the bridge and later Reading station we had travelled just over 69 miles. This was a great ride with great company and a wonderful route. Many thanks to Bob for leading and organising.
Dr John and I decided not to stick around in Reading, instead heading for the first fast train back to London. At Paddington we cycled the short distance to Baker Street where we had a breakfast before heading off on our separate ways.
A really lovely ride and after some sleep yesterday I feel pretty good today. Until next time, stay safe out there people!!