Day Four – Kendal to Shrewsbury – 206.4 km (128 miles)

I got up with the alarm and peered out of the window to see if the forecasted rain had arrived. Fortunately not.  Hopefully it would hold off for a while: I don’t mind cycling in the rain but I hate starting out in the rain.

Each day I was feeling more tired at the start and finding it harder to concentrate on my morning routine.  Fortunately I was in the habit of setting out everything in logical piles the night before so I could try and rely on my automatic pilot.  First, make strong coffee.  Then start eating everything in pile one and rubbing items from pile two into sore parts.  Mustn’t mix them up.  Then gather the charging electrical items and pack piles three to six into the bag, in that order.  Finally dress in the clothes in pile seven, pick up the bag and leave as quietly as possible.  Simple.

But it still took me 46 minutes!  I know this because the alarm was set for 05:00 and I texted to announce my departure at 05:46.  Apparently my legs were very stiff.  Never mind.  Only today to go and then it will be the penultimate day.  [This sounds much better than, ‘I’m knackered and I’m only halfway there!’]

By now I was regularly feeling tired, achy, nauseous and feeble in the mornings.  I had already learnt that I just needed to keep plodding on, eating what I could (and then forcing down a little more) and after about 100km I would start to feel better.    It helped enormously with the mental to know that this was a norm.

Initially the road was quiet, with just the odd lorry thundering past, but it started to wake up around 07:30 and by the time I pulled off the A6 into Garstang at 08:30 it was getting busy.

I got a lot of strange looks and the odd unintelligible but supposedly witty comment from the school kids congealing around the bus stops and as I headed into town hoping to find somewhere to re-fuel.

I replied to a couple of texts whilst I took a well earned break scoffing a bacon sandwich and a bag of crisps. I waved cheerily to the school bus as it passed thinking that, despite the aches and pains, I was going to have a more endurable day than them.

The route sheet was going to get a bit trickier from here on in: I was entering the land of the wiggly multi coloured roads. So far today I had been cycling in a bit of a daze but knew I would have to wake up and start concentrating now. So I sucked down a caffeine gel and set off back to the A6.

I don’t remember much of the next few hours. I was obviously too intent on the road to take much notice of anything else. My texts home were merely town names, so no prompts there either. I can say that the area was nowhere near as built up or busy as the road atlas had led me to believe. Yes, there were a lot of large lorries and juggernauts on the major roads but they were helping to drag me along. And whilst I seemed to be cycling on wet roads nearly all the time it was yet to rain on me. In fact, whenever I climbed to the top of a hill I could see showers dotted all around but so far I was leading a charmed life, slipping between them.

Around 13:00 I got lost. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up pointing down the wrong road. I turned on the Sat Nav for help. It whirred away, calculating the route and told me I was lost. Thanks! It told me to U-Turn or recalculate the route. Well I didn’t want to go backwards so I asked it to recalculate. Whir, whir, beep – nice pink line stretching out before me. Great!

I followed the pink line for a couple of miles growing more and more uneasy as it was heading due west not south. After another mile I stopped and zoomed out on the map. The sat nav was taking me to Chester and then dog legging south. That was miles extra!

Never having used a sat nav before, I assumed that when you asked it to recalculate it would take you to the closest point on your original route, after all that is what I would do if I had a map. What it actually did was redo the entire route, from the point I was at to the finish point, providing the quickest, but not necessarily the most direct, route. So the sat nav had re-routed me via Chester, which was probably quicker if you were in a car but not on a bike.

I have now learnt never to ask the sat nav to recalculate a route if I get lost [unless I just want to get to the end and am not bothered about how I get there, i.e. I don’t have to reach certain check in points like on an Audax ride]. I just zoom out on the map and manually find my way back to the pink line.

But at that point I didn’t realise what it had done and, having heard all the horror stories, just assumed the sat nav had freaked out completely. So I abandoned the sat nav and headed off on as southerly a route as I could manage in the hopes of picking up signs to the major towns on my written route sheet.

Sure enough I was soon back on route and trundling through the miles quite quickly. Before I knew it I was through the ‘urban sprawl’, that never really was, and charging towards Shrewsbury. Today was my shortest day and I reached the B&B by about 16:30.

I had quite a long conversation with the landlady about my bike. Her idea of secure parking was to chain it to a post. I wasn’t entirely enamored with the idea, especially as the post in question was only five foot tall with no loops or securing points: so all you had to do was lift the whole bike up and slip the chain off the top! Eventually she capitulated and let me lock it in the laundry room. She even gave me a key when I said I would be off before six.

The B&B was the worst on the route: surly host, no ensuite and a poky room next to the toilet. I got a shower in quickly before any other victims guests turned up and barricaded myself in my room.

The room did have a television though and I was amazed to see that the local County Show had been all but washed out in the rain. In fact the news was all about how much it had rained in the area all day. This was a big surprise to me because I had managed to cycle 130 miles or so and only get showered on once. I must have been doing something right – maybe it was because I was riding for charity, mate.

I tried to capitalise on my short day and get to sleep early. But the B&B was right next to a busy road with a Mc Donald’s and a Pizza Hut opposite, both with a continuous stream of overly noisy customers.

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