Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Day 11 Homeward Bound

Monday 1st October - Day 11                      Daily Mileage 275 – Total  3100

Having had a good night’s sleep on Ron’s couch it was time to head back into London city centre to wish Bruce Smart of www.TeaPotOne.com “Bon Voyage” as he sets off around the world from the Cenotaph at 9.30am.

Ron gave me a shout at 5.30am, no rest for the intrepid Gold Post Box hunter. By 6.30 we were on our bikes having said our fair well’s after coffee, as Ron was off to work and I was heading home after seeing Bruce of along with another 40 bikers.

Following Ron on his CBR600 in the rain through what was interesting. The traffic was quickly building into the beloved London Rush-Hour and it was not long before Ron peeled off leaving me to carry on alone. Not something that I was looking forward to but as I rode over London Bridge past the Houses of Parliament it all felt a little surreal. There were cars, taxis, buses, bikes and scooters absolutely everywhere.  The time was flying by.

Westminster - Riding through yet another tunnel I was filtering through gaps that I’d never thought possible. I even clipped my mirror and shoulder on a couple of occasions. “Steady on Raymondo” I told myself but I just didn’t want to be late for the photo of Bruce & I at the Westminster Gold Post Box. We had arranged to meet at 7.45am so Bruce could get to the Cenotaph for 8.00am.

I arrived at Gold Post Box , I asked the police guarding the entrance to the Houses of Parliament. They didn’t know where it was. Just at that minute the postman arrived in his van, the police officer asked him and he pointed across the square. “It’s over there, you can’t miss it” I already had done, twice! Tiredness was starting to seep in.

Thanking them both I rode around the square again and true enough there it was just 10 foot from where I had ridden 5 minutes ago. I parked up at the side and took a few pictures Tweeting one to a couple of fellow #GoldBoxJourney’s.

Westminster Abbey - Project Launch

By 7.55am I knew Bruce was not coming so I mounted up and headed around the corner to the Cenotaph where Bruce was already drawing a crowd. As I arrived he came straight over,

“I was here at 7.45am as we arranged”

“It’s OK I was at the Gold Post Box, we must have got our wires crossed and I realise you have enough on today”.

Bruce’s bike was packed so high I wondered how the hell he was going to get on. Just as well he’s over 6 foot tall and can just put his leg through without issue. Within what felt like minutes there were well over 30 bikes behind Bruce’s bike. It was a sight to see and the photographer was having a ball. All the charities Bruce is raising funds for were represented and I was  really pleased to see “Wandering Walton’s” across the side of Bruce’s bike.

Now that's what I call

We will travel with Bruce every inch of the way
In mind & spirit if not in body

9.15am everyone mounted up and followed Bruce to the other side of the Cenotaph to have a group photo. I’ve looked on line but it’s not up yet but I will post a picture once I’ve found it. There was Bruce in front 8 Police Bikes who would escort the 40 bikes out of London. It was a brilliant occasion and one I’m pleased to have been a part of.

Bruce with representatives from all the charities
he is supporting

9.30am prompt Bruce led us all out escorted by the police cavalcade. It was brilliant but as they were all heading to Dover and I was heading to Stoke Mandeville I peeled off after the first mile and doubled back to where we had started.

And he's off..........
"Good luck Bruce - have a fantastic journey"

Turville – My first destination was 40 miles away to the West of London and so off I set. The first 15 miles  was heading out of the city in the rain. Not that much fun but luckily for me it was a single road all the way to the M1. I have never been so pleased to see a motorway in my life as I was yesterday morning. Manchester traffic is an absolute doddle  after running the gauntlet of London Monday morning rush hour traffic.

Heading along the M1 I was soon looking for the A41 turn off which would whisk me across to Turville. I thought I’d best top up with fuel only to find three consecutive Shell garages void of unleaded fuel. I carried on to the quaint village but could not find the Gold Post Box for the life of me. Pulling over at the local pub I asked a couple who were in the car park.

“It’s the brick post just at the side of the road on the grass verge” replied the kind lady.

“It doesn’t look like a post box from three sides you have to be on the foot path to see it” added the gentleman pulling up weeds.

True to their word the pillar was there and I’d ridden past it three times. Photo taken it was time to head to my most anticipated Gold Post box of the day.

Main Street Weston Turville
Pamela Relph - Gold medal Rowing: Mixed Coxed Four (LTAMix4+)

Stoke Mandeville – The short ride from Turville to Stoke Mandeville was over in a flash and there it stood the Gold Post Box painted by Baroness Grey-Thompson to commemorate the birth place of the Paralympics.

As I pulled up in front of the Gold Post Box I felt sick. It was sealed by a metal plate and had clearly been subject to some form of vandalism. Taking my photo a tear ran down my cheek.

Stoke Mandeville Hospital
Baroness Grey-Thompson - To celebrate every ParalympicsGB gold medal win.

Now part of me wants to explode with rage at this mindless display of disrespect and the other part of me feels sick to the pit of my stomach. I have contacted @RoyalMailNews and forwarded on a picture that I took. They are looking into it. I did a little research today and found out that no less than 4 Gold Post Boxes have been vandalised two of which I have already visited. They were in a good state of repair when I visited them but this is just sad. People peeling Gold Paint from Andy Murrays Gold Post Box inDunblane, Kat Copeland’s Gold Post Box in Ingleby Barwick was defaced by two young girls, Jessica Ennis ‘s Gold Post Box in Sheffield,  was defaced with “Go Jess” and to top it off police are hunting vandals who sprayed 5 post boxes gold in Norfolk. Has the country gone mad?
Oxford – With mixed feelings I left Stoke Mandeville and rode over to Oxford my last visit of the day.  Arriving without issue, a student agreed to take my photo as her friend looked on giggling. Seems I can still get folks laughing at me even without trying.

Divinity Road Oxford
Lily van den Broecke - Gold medal Rowing: Mixed Coxed Four (LTAMix4+)

Day Eleven - 4 Gold Post Boxes 

So with the my mission complete I plumbed “Home” into the Garmin 660 and was told “184 mile to your destination” doddle. I arrived back in Rochdale after only seeing a couple of incidents. The first being a Volvo’s engine burst into flames in the middle lane of the M6 North bound. I only just managed to ride through the plume of smoke as the owner watched one of the road workers douse the front end of the car with a foam extinguisher.

Only to see on the opposite side of the road, a truck ram a car clean out of the way spinning it into the hard shoulder facing the wrong way. The car driver had slowed down after seeing the plume of smoke from the burning car I’d just riden through.

Still it took a nice ‘ethnic female driver’ in a dark green Rover 600 to pull straight out in front of me just 2 miles from my front door to round off what had been a wonderful yet thought provoking days ride.

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