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day one

sixth march 1999

leicester -> tynemouth

awoke early, a quick look outside confirmed my worst fears; it had been, and still was snowing. a good 2..3 inches lay on the ground. this did not bode well for an expedition to the wild northlands, crossing some of the bleaker areas of england. still no turning back now, so i had a quick breakfast & finished packing. usual sense of anticipation i get before a trip, but with a pinch of trepidation & a generous sprinkling of excitement added for extra flavour. loaded the bike, kissed wife & child farewell & set off for the railway station. quiet trip in the snow, especially wary of the 4 wheeled dimensional transmutifiers, they become even more unpredicatable in these conditions.

i made it to the station without major or even minor incident. when i boarded the train i discovered that it was full of spurs supporters, on route to sheffield. the bloke who had taken my reserved seat kindly gave it up on request
not far into the journey, a caco-phone-y of mobiles shattered the usual clangorous racket of the train, and i watched amused as every supporter groped for their device. their simultaneous groans filled the carriage; loved ones were calling with the tragic news that the match was cancelled. at derby there ensued a debate as to whether to abandon train there and go on the rozz, or to carry on to sheffield as planned. this farce took 20 minutes, during which the train could not move. they decided to grace derby's hostelries with their presence & custom.

arriving at sheffield, i was greeted by a wall of black-topped fluorescent green; the welcoming comittee for the expected hordes of 'lovers of the beautiful game'.
the garcons au bleu were a tad miffed to behold that the expected army of hooligans emerging from the newly arrived carriages consisted of me, my bike and a couple of old biddies. my suggestion that they attempt to improve communication between the various constabularies was not welcomed with the warmth that i had hoped for. one can but try.

my journey continued without further noteworthy incident. the snow reduced to rain, and all trace of lying snow disappeared by durham. i arrived at newcastle more or less on time and set about amusing myself for the hour or so that i had to wait for the arrival of lou's train from sconny botland. i purchased a local cyclists map of the n-u-t area from the shop in the station, this turned out to be much more useful than the one supplied by sustrans. lou's train groaned & wheezed (i was to learn how it felt) up to the platform, and she emerged clad in winter woolies & enthusiasm.

we departed immediately for tynemouth, the idea being that we would find some digs as soon as possible, none having been booked for the first night; we were, after all heading for tynemouth/whitley bay, one of the best tourism areas in the world.
the official route (the @rse end of the c2c) was not too difficult to follow, despite somebody's efforts to get us lost by closing paths and introducing diversions. the weather wasn't even too bad until the rain started as we rounded the harbour. now this was cold rain, and by the time we reached the top of the hill, next to the priory, we were soaked & freezing. we decided to go for the first b&b that presented itself, which we found about half way along front street.

Picture © by fara serajian

a twin room was secured and once ensconsed, wet clothes were hung to dry, dry clothes were donned, and the pub (fitzpatrick's) accross the road, which just happened to be in the gbg (good beer guide) approached with eager anticipation.
now, the important thing to remember with the gbg is that it can be a little euphemistic at times, somewhat like estate agent speak. so, for example, "friendly local" can often mean that you'll be knifed if your family has not lived in the area for 5 generations. fitzpatrick's did not quite live up to the glowing critique printed in the gbg & we would class it as merely adeuqate. but it was warm, dry & served mostly potable ales (but no food). we quaffed some pints and retired to bed, in preparation for first proper leg the next day.

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