Day 24

The toughest day of my tour so far

At Stoke and Port Vale. Two VERY different stadiums and after a couple of tough days I could really have done without this challenge! If Rome is built on seven hills, then Stoke is built on six! I must say that I have driven around Stoke off and on for 30 years but have never thought of it as a hilly city (like Bradford or Sheffiled) Wrong! I really struggled today.

It started well enough with a little trip from an overnight stay in quaint Wem, to a bank in Whitchurch it was truly exciting to see a “Cheshire” sign. Cheshire? Yes, the north of England and the home to Crewe Alexander. I have been to the famous Gresty Road stadium many times over the years and have always enjoyed my visits. Today was the first time I had arrived by bike. As you can see, I gatecrashed a wedding but nobody seemed to mind.

So, ground 15. (Almost one sixth of the ninety two!)

Things went downhill from there (or more accurately uphill) as I struggled with poor directions and steep climbs to the Brittania Stadium to the east of Stoke. It was definitely worth the frustration and sweat. It was the first time I had seen the new stadium and I have to say that I was MOST impressed. The photos probably do not do it justice but like Shrewsbury, Stoke City have abandoned an inner city ground that was showing signs of neglect for a great spanking-new and state-of-the-art stadium on the outskirts. They also have a new hotel on site and my tired legs were begging me to book in after I had completed ground 16. Sadly there was no room at the inn and with no manger either I continued to Port Vale’s stadium which like so much in the Potteries is at the top of a mountain hill. To be fair, it was very late and I was tired, hungry, thirsty and aching. My lack of excitement may well have had as much to do with that as with the fact that it was not one of the more impressive grounds I had seen. Nevertheless, number 17 is chalked up.

So, all I then had to was find a bed. Huge mistake! I spent nearly two hours cycling on towards Macclesfield where I eventually crawled into the Egerton Arms near Congleton. The owner showed me the room and he commented that I could hardly climb the stairs. He was right. I think he took pity on me though as he gave me a great offer and I clambered into bed without having to worry about busting the budget. Thanks, Allen. I will return and check the gourmet menu when I have completed the 92.


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