Coast to Coast unicycle challenge day 0 – the long journey to the start

This post is as much a test of the technology as anything; it doesn’t include much about unicycling, but hopefully has a couple of interesting things which happened on the way to the start of the Coast to Coast unicycle challenge.

Having crammed seemingly everything I own into a suitcase, I dragged it across the road and into a taxi, ready to begin the first leg of the long trek up to Whitehaven. On seeing my unicycle and huge pile of luggage, the driver asked me whether I was going to the fringe festival. He seemed unimpressed that I was instead embarking on a 140 mile trip across the country on one wheel. To be fair, I still had about 400 miles to go before the ride even began.

At the station, the loose screws holding the suitcase’s extending handle in place finally gave up the ghost, popping out and immediately rolling down a drain. I’ve attempted to tighter these screws to no avail on previous occasions, but I guess now I have to actually fix it properly once I get back home. In the meantime I can still drag the rammed thing about by its other handle, so all is not lost on the luggage front.

When I boarded the train, the sight of my unicycle impressed the small group of kids at the end of the carriage. When I told them about the cross countryside and gave them a couple of my cards promoting it, they asked for some more so that they could distribute them to the other passengers on the train. I was slightly surprised but couldn’t see any major problems with the scheme, so I gave them a handful of cards which they bounced off with up the aisle. I was slightly worried how this situation might appear to recipients of the cards, not to mention the kids’ parents, but I figured that it should be alright since it was the kids’ idea, and it’s not like I have the chutzpah myself to go round the carriage shoving cards under people’s noses.

Changing trains at Cardiff was interesting, as it wasn’t obvious which platform I should wait at. According to the timetable there were two trains leaving for Swansea at 21:06, neither of which had the final destination listed, and the departure board listed trains on 3 different platforms all going to different termini, none of which was Swansea. I checked the online timetable, and determined that I should wait for the Carmarthen train on platform 3. However, when that was due, what actually arrived was a train proclaiming Milford Haven as its destination. I confirmed with the conductor that this was in fact the correct train, and mentioned that the front of the train was showing the wrong information. It doesn’t seem easy to correct these things though, SD every time the automated announcer told us our destination and next stop, the conductor would then direct us via the tannoy to disregard this misinformation.

The van is packedAde and Kelly picked me up at the station and drove us to Kelly’s, where we packed the camper van, chatted about unicycles, watched BBC3’s Family Guy marathon, and finally settled down for the last night we’d sleep in sensible beds for a week.

Those hills look bigThe drive up to Whitehaven on Sunday was long, but mostly uneventful. We were misled at one point by extremely poor signposts, but that only cost us about 20 minutes. However, soon after leaving the M6, we started seeing some pretty big hills in the distance. As we drew nearer to them we were reminded that we were getting closer and closer to a very strenuous 4 days of riding. When driving through the Lake District, it’s all very picturesque n I hope I’ll be able to pay attention to more of the scenery while riding than the bit of road immediately in front of my wheel.

Due to the late arrival of the final members of the group, we didn’t even order our evening meal until after 8pm and it didn’t arrive until after 9, which is really far too late for me. However, my black pudding tower covered in melted Stilton was even better than the menu had suggested. The black pudding slices were interleaved with bacon, and the whole construction was surrounded by chunks of bacon and unmelted Stilton. One of the best starters I’ve ever eaten, and well worth the wait. Regardless of any of its other undoubtedly fine qualities, I’d recommend the Seacote Hotel on the strength of this dish alone.

With a couple of last minute additions, there are now 8 unicyclists in the group starting the ride tomorrow, plus one who’ll be on 2 wheels. The support team is almost as numerous, with 5 or 6 people who have very kindly agreed to drive ahead to set up each day’s camp, organise lunches, and generally just make sure we all survive the journey. A huge thank you is due to them. We’re due to start at 9am in front of the TV cameras, so it’s high time I got to bed.

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