Riding North for the Winter
It wasn’t too long before I left that I had even begun to make plans for this adventure.
On the morning of December 11th, I set off on my bike from my Lupton residence here in Leeds with the destination being The Lake District. Without much time to spare, I packed a large backpack full of everything I thought I’d need for a five-day adventure in the infamously-wet north-western region of England.
I had not gotten around to planning the details of the 80+ mile route before my morning departure. However, I figured that I’d set out early enough to finish the first 50-miles before sundown. I had arranged to have an evening’s stay at the house of a good friend of mine – Evie. Quick shout-out to Evie and Molly, fans of the blog.
Following the directions given to me by ol’ trusty Google, I find myself amid a story-book-illustration of a trail along the River Aire. House-boats lined the banks each with their own unique colors above and reflected in the slow-flowing water. Potted plants sat on every type of deck, waiting patiently for the morning’s light to filter through the over-arching treetops. This path took me under and over bridges. Ice remained where the shade had given it shelter. Despite the chilled air, the winter-sun had given me all that it could afford that morning.
I rode along the curving river trail for quite some time, nearly the first 25 miles, yet as beautiful as it was, I was growing apprehensive of my lack of daylight. Portions of the path had been undeveloped, turning unexpectedly from gravel to rock to root-lain ruts, meanwhile other sections remained fully snow-covered.
After passing through the town of Skipton, the route changed nature and cut through The Peak District. I stopped for lunch – PB&J with a banana – before committing to this mountainous portion of the ride. I was glad to be on pavement again. I rode with excitement and speed… until I wasn’t able to anymore. Climb after climb brought me deeper into the Peak District and higher up in elevation until I reached a point where the road was fully iced over. Once my bike had slipped out from underneath me for the second time, I decided it was too much for my road bike bruising hips to handle. I hopped of, quickly changed shoes from my cycling cleats into my trainers and began running, conscious of the sun that was being pulled lower and lower in the horizon.
This is really where the lack of planning bit me in the bum. I could see that I still had a long way to go before reaching the top of this icy hill, and yet I still did not know what lay on the other side of it. I was too far into the Peak District now to turn back, knowing I only had about an hour till sundown. My phone was dead but my spirits were high.
I would have liked to stay and enjoy the view from the peak, with the sun’s rays flooding the valleys and turning the snow a lovely shade of gold, but time was of the essence. On my still-icy descent, I came across a large truck that had slid off the road into an embankment. I stopped to talk to the driver. The truck had spun nearly 90 degrees down and off the road, but with the help of a passer-by, was soon freed from its icy trap and returning the way it came. The driver kindly offered me a ride, and I could not have been more appreciative! I threw my bike and pack in the bed, and was relieved to be momentarily out of the cold. He was Scottish, the driver, and in the fireplace delivery business. He took me as far as his route allowed him to, the next town over known as Settle.
Once settled in Settle, I first stopped at a nearby café. I was able to recharge my body as well as my phone. I was relieved to find that I was only about 8 miles from Evie’s house! Two waitresses at the café had been of great help to me, lending guidance by knowledge of back roads wherever possible.
I rode swiftly those last couple miles. I was riding in the dark now, front and rear lights flashing red and white around my bright yellow jacket. Surely enough I found myself on the main-street through Bentham, my stopping-point for the night followed not long after.
I was greeted with an incredible hospitality! I had only asked for a place to sleep, but when I arrived I found myself sharing in a tasty meal, tea, minced-pies, and great conversation. Evie and her father, Robert, pulled out a hardy map later that night and set me up for a smooth ride the next morning.
I was soon back in the saddle on my way, continuing North. December 12th brought with it as good of English weather as I could have asked for. The 28 miles from Bentham to Ambleside consisted of incredible views, killer climbs and breathtaking downhills.
I pulled up to my hostel mid-day on that Tuesday. Early enough to get myself out of my tights and out onto the lakeside to enjoy the afternoons clouds and gentle snowfall. I spent the following day running around the mountain-tops and wandering around the quaint town. The Lake District was as spectacular as I had hoped it would be. Yet, looking back on this trip, as beautiful as the destination was, it was the journey that I will never forget.