Onwards, northwards, and up to Carlisle… 9th day of actual riding…

Posted: February 11, 2013 by Ben Weber in Cycling, English, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Natalia and Paulo on top of Shap

It was with a heavy heart that I left Lancaster. We took the A6 directly north: as I said, the original plan was to take longer and go through the Lake District up through Windermere and have an evening there, but with Paulo’s knee being bad and having to give extra time to see if it would get any better, we decided to change this and just go north to Carlisle.

The Shap MonumentThis was always going to be a challenging day, whether we had gone the indirect route through the Lakes, or the direct route we did eventually take – it was going to be hilly and it was going to be windy. Going along the A6, we would cross Shap, the highest point of which (covered by the road) reaches about 450m above sea level – not the highest mountain in the world by any means, but a tough climb from sea-level where we had been. And in the strong winds that had settled over the area, certainly not the easiest.

The route took us out of Lancaster past Carnforth and Kendal before it settled into the climb up the mountain. It took us a little while getting up, though the climb wasn’t too steep. We were actually helped by the wind on this occasion as it turned into a tail wind, helping to push us up it, so we weren’t complaining too much. Just at the top it was so windy and desolate, again with that desolate beauty that accompanies the winter in the UK, we didn’t want to dwell too long. We could see dark, ominous clouds as well to the west of us…

Which were coming our way. And with these clouds came not rain, but hail. And hail that came in what turned into be strong side-winds. Now rain by itself when coming in hard and when you are riding quite fast can hurt. Hail, however, stings like anything. We were battered by this hail for some time before it relented, and though we had balaclavas and glasses on, it still hurt… a lot. Not fun at all, really! This happened twice that afternoon, and much as I like dramatic weather conditions from the visual point of view… being in the middle of it is not great!

We got to Carlisle just after dark. Fortunately the hotel was just along the A6 so we did not have to go along any lengthy detours to find it. Nice and straightforward really. The hotel (the Swallow Hilltop) was able to keep our bikes in a meeting room, and keep all our gear safe there. The hotel was pleasant enough though it had an atmosphere of having seen better days, and it made me think of some holiday-camp-like atmosphere from the old TV series, Hidy Hi (not sure how it was spelt!), and there was very retro music playing continuously in the lobby and restaurant. Would recommend the place though as the food was good, the rooms were comfortable and the staff were nice.

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