Day 85

Sad to leave Oxford City but must press on – Oxford United and Swindon Town make grounds 61 and 62 completed.

Struggling for web access. My dongle does not want to work …. sounds like other parts of my battered body. It can go on the same list as brain, knees and ankles LOL

So, an early start but just as all looked good, there was a problem with the bike. On a tight schedule and even tighter budget that was not good news. Help was at hand! Reg Taylor Cycles quickly found the fault and fifteen minutes later I was on my way again. The least I could do was to make them Sponsor of The Day. Thanks, Philip and your guys.

When I am cycling there is no greater feeling than knowing I will be meeting a friend and having a bed at the end of the day. As I set off from Oxford I heard from an old friend from Spain, Robin Robson who invited me to his home in Calne. A quick check of the map showed it was only about 17 miles off my route so the attraction of saving a few bob from the depleted budget and catching up with Robin meant I set course for Calne via Oxford United and Swindon Town.

United have a new ground (badly-signposted) on the outskirts of the City of Spires and although it has a nice-looking hotel and conference centre it is one of these modern three-sided stadiums that I always think take away some of the atmosphere from the ground. Then it was four hours as fast as my little legs would carry me to Swindon Town which is well-signposted just outside the city centre.

I am beginning to get obsessed with how well or badly towns and cities treat cyclists and if Oxford is a ten out of ten and Doncaster is a zero (being kind!) then Swindon sits somewhere in the middle. OK in places and then I found myself struggling uphill on a blisteringly fast dual carriageway with no hard shoulder or dedicated cycle lane. I’ll be blogging about my thoughts on cycle lanes, signposting etc later but suffice to say that I am quite surprised I am, relatively, in one piece! Dedicated cycle tracks are a particular bone of contention as if you miss one tiny sign (behind a tree or hedge, vandalised or whatever) then your chances of regaining your route are limited. Additionally, they seem to attract the ne’er do wells of society alongside the ladies of the night (or broad daylight in Runcorn!) who seem intent in making respectable visitors unwelcome. Anyway, I eventually left Swindon and its one-way system for the hills to Calne. Seventeen miles sounded like a pleasant enough end to the day but there are some testing hills and I was glad to arrive in Calne. One of the real beauties of having a local host is that they know the short-cuts and best routes so it was a great feeling to see Robin at the entrance to the town and he escorted me through a maze of streets to his home. Five minutes with a local host or thirty minutes cycling around in circles.

I updated Robin about the project and he immediately offered to sponsor a day in return for me distributing some of his leaflets. Perfect. The budget is now almost completely blown and I really need some ad hoc work or sponsors next week to enable me to get to Swansea so if anybody wants to sponsor a day, please shout.

Nice write-up by Notts County. Thanks!

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