At Last. HM The Bike is back amongst its subjects - mud, sand, ruts, stones, holes, good dirt.
And when you go to Guildford by bike for radiotherapy, there's only one way home.
Starting here after the daily dose of sub-atomic particles:
Then continuing from Shere, taking London Lane, on the left by the cricket field.
Yes, there's a hamlet called Little London just south of Shere, this is the lane that leads to it:
The rutted road to Little London.
No need for a side-stand. Just lean the bike against the side of the rut. That'll do.
The 20-metre swimming pool in the road has dried out a bit - only paddling today.
Next, Wolvens Lane, south from Wotton. Right at the Wotton Hatch pub (Shere Drop beer on tap).
A bit narrower than the M25, the alternative route. And no cars to see here.
It's an ancient sunken track - and dark.
Tea at Box Hill before the last stretch home:
Packed with bikes on a Sunday - not so many on a Friday afternoon.
And the view of the Surrey Hills from up top.
That was my first real ride on the TTR since Cape Town airport, so quite an occasion. Although the recent MOT annual test was a bit of an adventure.
"What have you brought me here?"demanded the tester.
"I can't see whether these pipes are for petrol, brake hydraulics or rear shock adjuster. They're buried in a mess of oily sand and mud and look as though they've been leaking for months. But who knows? Maybe it's just oil off of the chain."
"I've found a petrol tap here, buried in dirt, and the pipe seems to go nowhere!"
I explained it fed the open-ended stub of pipe clipped to the sub-frame, to fill my Coleman stove for tea in the depths of the desert.
The look of bewilderment spread further across his face.
We had a little chat about the softness of the sand on Tanzanian roads and he was kind enough to acknowledge, "I know the last thing you want to do is wash all this good African dirt off your bike - but it's got to be done. I can't see what I'm supposed to be examining under it all!"
It's taken quite a few months to reach this stage although not much work was needed. Repair of the headlamp, new rear tyre, new bulb above the rear number plate.
And now this.
For anyone considering such an overland journey, I can definitely now confirm that the hardest part by far of the whole undertaking, London to Cape Town, and air-freight back, is cleaning the bike when you return home so the tester can see it.
But it's done at last, with the Green Piece Of Paper now in my hands.
It's Saturday now. The sun's shining, there's a day off from treatment, I think I'll continue where I left off yesterday and check out some more of those alternative routes.
In the meantime, Caroline came over for a week a little while ago.
I learnt that Beau's bike, hardly running by the time they reached Addis Ababa on their way from Nairobi to Khartoum, needed new piston rings which were couriered over from Fowlers of Bristol. That fixed the problem enabling them to make the final dash to Khartoum just in time to change old money for new.
But Caroline's Serow was misfiring as well, and the mechanic that helped with Beau's bike wasn't so good with carburetors. He butchered it somewhat and made no improvement to the problem. So Caroline brought it here to Whyteleafe for checking.
The pilot screw had been almost destroyed but was just salvageable. We also made an ultra-short screwdriver, which you need for adjusting this pilot screw without damaging it when the carburetor is fixed on the bike and engine running.
On removing the throttle slide for a check, the needle and clip fell straight out, separately. So we're hoping that now it's all been put back together properly, the bike will run better when Caroline re-fits the carb back in Khartoum.
Sun's shining, time for some more ancient Surrey dirt roads.
I took another couple of alternative routes between home and Guildford, so below are a couple of photos.
But firstly I read the other day about two lads who are soon to embark on an adventure on two scooters to raise money for Cancer Research UK. And would you know it, their 2,300 mile Round Britain Route includes a ride from Caterham to Guildford, the same route that I've been trundling along every weekday for the last 8 weeks. More info below.
They'll be sticking to the tarmac known as the M25 and the A3. But in my book, Admirals Road across Fetcham Downs is on the most direct route to the Linear Accelerators of St Lukes. There was just a modicum of mud on the day that I went that way.
Admirals Road, leading to:
Hogden Lane which skirts around Polesden Lacey.
(If you can find the other end of this byway you'll be close to London Lane, the next stretch of mud on the way to Guildford - see previous posting)
Once I was on this track, memories came back of attempting to ride it maybe 15 years ago, and giving up because I just could not work out where it went.
All around Polesden Lacey there's a dense network of footpaths and bridleways in all directions, and the byway known as Hogden Lane snakes through the middle of it all. So you have to follow its route carefully.
Well, I reached a junction of five muddy tracks about a mile from the start, with not a single 'Byway' sign. But a little way back two bikes had passed me going the other way, near the photo above, so I was sure I was on the right track.
I retraced my steps, found the site of the photo, so turned round and continued on.
But no, the lanes at the next junction were all signposted bridleways.
Oh dear, cardinal sin No.1, riding on a bridleway.
At least everywhere was deserted (the rain had started), so I took the best guess and found myself heading towards Polesden Lacey and a track that had council rubbish bins along the edge. That's no guarantee that it's a right-of-way so I hurried on and found tarmac at last. A quick check of the sign pointing back showed "Bridleway".
Oh dear again, will need to do some serious map reading before riding that one again, so I headed straight for tea at Box Hill.
Anyway, my treatment at St Lukes Cancer Centre has now been completed, the last rendition of Name, Rank and Serial Number given, the last beams fired. So we enter a new era. That is, nothing happens until mid-December when testing starts to see how things stand, so I'll have more time now to navigate these ancient tracks properly.
I tried to bring some humour to these treatment sessions - laughter is the best medicine. Apart from crazy games with nebulous particles, this seemed to go down well:
It's a tradition that patients bring in some token of appreciation for the Radiographers on their last day of treatment. Usually that's a tin of Roses or Quality Street chocolates. But in the waiting lounge we all notice that most, if not all the chocolates end up on the coffee table, for consumption by us patients, which didn't seem quite right. So one day one of our number announced that he would bring in some smart fancy biscuits instead, which the staff could have with their tea breaks. Seemed a good idea.
Well, the very next day, one of the two Linear Accelerators that do pelvis treatments broke down. (There are six in all of various types). The Radiographers were under a lot of stress as they tried to fit all the patients that were arriving onto the one remaining machine. They have some experience of this as these machines are serviced quite frequently. On those days all the patients on the out-of-action machine are scheduled onto the other machine later in the day, and the shift continues until about 8pm.
So this particular day was going to be an unexpectedly long one for staff and patients. Lots of time for chats around the coffee table.
Someone mentioned what a good suggestion was made yesterday to bring in biscuits instead of chocolates, and I had this crazy idea. "I know, I'll bring in a box of broken biscuits to go with the broken machine."
A conversation broke out about where you can buy them these days.
"Woolworths used to sell them."
"You could buy them on market stalls."
"Iceland sold them the last time I was there."
I thought the internet would sort it out, no problem, so I checked when I returned home. And there it was. Dairy Crest will deliver a box of broken biscuits if you click the right button, and they just happen to deliver my milk in the mornings.
So the next morning I tied the box up in a piece of ribbon and added a label announcing:
Biscuit Accelerator Spare Parts
Handle With Care
"To help you relax during your tea break after yesterday's hectic sessions!" I said when I arrived for treatment. And the Radiographers seemed to get the joke, I'm pleased to say, as they pushed and shoved me around the treatment table with millimetre accuracy, lining me up ready for take-off.
Ben Bromilow and Olly Newby-Robson have set themselves The Unbearable Challenge.
For a tiny part of that challenge they'll be riding from Caterham to Guildford on the morning of Friday 18th November. Normally I'd definitely go along with them. But I'll be visiting The South Pole.
The one in Ireland, on the Dingle Peninsular. (See Adventure Into Space for an explanation).
Ben and Olly's nationwide route will take them to every BMW bike dealer in the country, over just 5 days, starting and finishing in Peterborough.
Their website sends out an invitation for as many riders as possible to get involved and accompany them along their way. So have a look and see if you can fit a section of their ride into one of your days. Maybe even Caterham to Guildford.
And, of course, donate some money.
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