Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Battle To Trafalgar

Wow, isn't Milton Keynes weird? But it's the home of the Open University and I found myself on my way there on Tuesday, the day before the big team ride to London, to meet the gang behind the OU's Platform. That's where you can find my other blog if your nonsense quota isn't already exceeded by this one.

Despite the OU's campus being the size of Ipswich, no one in Milton Keynes knows where it is so obviously I got lost on my way there. It's not surprising really when every road is an identical dual carriageway terminating in an identical roundabout offering you a choice of three more identical dual carriageways. Asking directions at a petrol station I was told I should turn right and it was just around the corner, I should definitely turn left, and I should turn left and cycle for "about six or seven miles". In the end I asked a bloke who had no idea where it was but typed it into his SatNav. I followed its advice and, ten minutes later, ended up back at the petrol station. In the end I abandoned my search for the OU and went to the hotel I'd booked instead. They drew me a map.

The next morning I was back at the OU to start our team ride. I would be joined by Fenella and Annie, recent OU psychology graduates, and Mark from the Blood Pressure Association, the man who has masterminded the UniCycle50 press campaign (at least six newspaper articles, four radio interviews and an appearance on ITV - I'm impressed!). Although I'd known each of them for months or years this was the first time we'd ever met. They were going to help me glide into my second capital, London.

We aimed to leave at nine but almost inevitably Fenella and Annie got lost on their way to the OU and then, with the various photos and people to meet, our departure wasn't far short of ten o'clock. We'd decided to take the most traffic-free route possible, which, given that this is only sixty miles from London, is relative.

Our route took us via a sandwich pitstop in Leighton Buzzard, Hemel Hempstead with the world's most stupid roundabout, a lovely little lie down in a park and a self-imploding pannier rack on Mark's bike, over an Alp in Bushey and then we hit London proper and came to a traffic light-flavoured halt every twenty metres down the Edgeware Road.

We weren't far away now. At about quarter past six we arrived at Hyde Park, which, given the tropical April weather, was crawling with people enjoying the last of the English summer. We each scoffed an ice cream and polished off the chocolate sqidgey thing lovingly baked by Ashley, the Blood Pressure Association's Head of Cakes. My, that was good.

From there it was only a death-defying ten minute scoot around the streets of central London to reach Trafalgar Square, where I was reunited with the lovely Nina and cool, refreshing alcohol.

Each member of the team had done him or herself proud, especially Annie, who had never cycled anything like this sort of distance before. I want to thank a great group of people for making it a very special UniCycle50 day for me. You're all stars.

1 comment:

  1. Hahahaha. This made me laugh so much! I have only ever been to Milton Keynes once and never ever again. That's the great thing about OU, you never actually have to go there. If you did I think they'd be in trouble! I had my directions to the theme park yet they did not match the descriptions at the actual roundabouts. I managed to stumble upon the place we were headed and had a great day. Returning home was another story. Every time I asked for directions, no one could help or sent me in the wrong direction. Then the petrol started running out. Dual carriageway after dual carriageway, roundabout after roundabout and no petrol station. I have never been so lost and confused in my life. Never again!