Bike to The Future ’23 Tour – Part 4
As Rob and I were about to leave Bath and make our way to Chepstow, I received a worrying message. My wife, who was visiting her mother in Germany, texted to say she would not be returning that day as planned. Helga – who was in declining health – had taken a turn for the worse and my wife wanted to stay with her. She also wanted to be around to look after her father. However, she was clear she didn’t want us to break off the tour.
Part way along the Bristol to Bath Cycle Path, I had a strong intuition that Helga had left us. Noting the time, I pushed on but was keen to know whether my instinct was correct. On stopping for refreshment at Bitton station, I picked up my phone to check for news. At that moment, my wife rang. Helga had – indeed – died.
Again, my wife insisted we should continue our journey. She’d be there to look after her father and liaise with the rest of the family. Rob had also known Helga. She was someone who particularly treasured music and had, herself, sung for many years in choirs. She’d cherished Rob’s visits when I and my family had been living in Germany.
So, after a weep and a much needed hug, we continued – in something of a daze – our journey to Bristol. For once, my much-maligned mapping app had chosen a good route. I’ve made the journey from Bath to Wales a few times now and each time taken a slightly different path around North Bristol. And this one had the best compromise to date between directness of travel and main-road avoidance.
Take It To The Bridge
Crossing the Severn Bridge, there were some pretty hefty side-winds, which made for interesting travel. The tide was also very high, something I’d not witnessed before from the saddle. It was apparent there are some strong eddies and currents in those waters. Which made me think back to the last time I cycled across the bridge.
On that occasion, accompanied by my son Florian, we witnessed multiple emergency vehicles converging. We then heard the unmistakable low rumble of a helicopter at close range. But we couldn’t see the craft at all. Until it emerged from beneath the bridge! A second helicopter soon arrived on the scene and it appeared they were looking for something or someone in the water. Hopefully all was well in the end.
On the way to Chepstow, I had a call from my wife. A funeral date had been set and this would mean cutting the tour short. Once again, my wife said we should continue as far as possible and we agreed this would be a fitting way to pay tribute to Helga. Rob was fantastically supportive and helped organise a return journey in time for the funeral the following week.
An early Night?
Arriving at our digs, a tidy yet rather impersonal hostel (with shouty instruction signs on every surface), I received another call. This time, it was from a local radio presenter. Amid all the disruption, I’d completely forgotten I’d agreed to take this call to conduct an on-air interview. Fortunately, we’d just installed ourselves in a room where I had time and space to answer the questions – hopefully with some degree of coherence.
We’d promised ourselves an early night in preparation for the early ride to catch our train from Cardiff to Haverfordwest in the morning. However, in the light of recent events, a drink or two seemed to be in order. We repaired to the lively riverside hostelry The Boat Inn. I’d previously spoken with the management to discuss a possible booking but had been told there was an open mic night on this evening.
And The Beers Flowed
Initially, we sat outside, enjoying river views and quirky company. Later, however, we decided to take refuge from the cooling conditions and make use of the pub’s WiFi. To no avail. Repeated attempts to book my trains to Germany ended in frustration. Meanwhile, the beers flowed. Oops.
The open mic was actually good fun. There was a ‘house band’ who backed the majority of have-a-go singers. And some of those were really very good too. Inevitably, we were drawn into the room where this was all happening. And the beers continued to flow.
Let’s Sleep On It
No matter. Only an early dash in the morning, across the hills to Cardiff, to worry about. Followed by a train journey on a major strike day. Followed by a steep climb up to the top end of Haverfordwest. Followed by a quick meal. Followed by a hasty soundcheck. Followed by a gig.
Easy. Let’s sleep on it.