"Each step forward has a sacred meaning of its own"   Sri Chinmoy

Coast Roads and Coach Roads 100k 2 x AAA Audax - November 2018

I sarted this sequence of 12 "AAArty" rides ages ago, and as I twice missed a month's hilly ride, it feels like I've been round the cycle of the seasons at least twice! This time it was profound autumn in East Devon - a great combination.

Out of Honiton at just after 8 I was climbing straight away and getting battered by rain from the off. The route was on an A road but amazingly there was hardly any traffic at all on the way down to Sidmouth. The rain slackened off in the Sid valley but once on the sea front I saw the rough weather out in the channel and the waves pawing wildly at the shore and knew I'd be lucky to keep dry for the full 100k. Still, it was dry enough when I paused to use the ATM for proof of passage in the High St.

Out of Sidmouth I found the ford mentioned on the routesheet but it was closed as the river was way .too high to risk putting vehicles (or bikes) through it. Fortunately a footbridge meant I didn't have to re-route and I was quickly on to the first really steep climb - there was no sign saying what percentage it was, but it was one of those where you can't come out of the saddle without the rear wheel spinning - especially on a wet day with the road strewn with fallen leaves. It was a silent lane winding up into the coastal hills and passing the Norman Lockyer Observatory. The rest of the stage was a long descent to the village of Branscombe with it's brooding 10th century church that has the air of a Norman keep, then rolling lane out to the sea itself. By the time I reached the Sea Shanty the waves were really crashing and I was getting properly pelted by heavy rain, so the warm fire and rich cake were very welcome. They were awesomely friendly too. I resolved to do the ride again in the summer when I could properly appreciate the views and have tea on the beach tables instead of huddled inside. Although at the second control I'd hardly scratched the surface of this Autumn ride though so I was soon back out, under clearing skies, and following (thanks to the routesheet) a pavement closed to cars but fine for bikes - it reminded me of the "road" I'd ridden on one of the Cambrian epics and equally of the "road" I'd hiked in Bali that was only a yard wide but open to traffic anyway...

I had to pause a couple of times on this section to use google to check the route, as one "R @ T" had taken me to a dead end, but it was easy enough to Seaton and then the lovely ride along the shore of the Axe estuary. The lane to Uplyme was proper Audax with grass and gravel down the middle and as you'd expect with 2 AAA points in 100k it was always up or down and never flat. The sun came out which surprised me as I'd expected a whole day of rain - there are few things as uplifting on a ride than unexpected sunshine. Whether you really dry out or not, you feel like you have and even with stiff climbs on filthy roads it all seemed easier.

Next came an exploration of south somerset, narrow lanes that looked like they rarely saw traffic of any kind led me into Crewkerne for chips and out towards Chard. There were epic views and thanks to the endless ups and downs I felt tired but not wasted - I was surprised to feel actually "pleasantly tired" which is not a feeling I often get on a ride.

As usual the beautiful surroundings distracted me just a little too much and I didn't really take on enough calories - this meant that after 6 hours of cycling bliss I ended the ride with half an hour or so of torture when my legs were pretty empty and incapable but like all roads the road to Honiton finally came to an end with a feeling of satisfaction and one more of the 12 rides ticked off. Cotswold Corker next, in December.

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