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Sunday the 23rd of July

Guess how many miles we clock up today

We picked up where we left off last night. Though the evening and night was dry, it had started raining again on the morning.

We cared not. It was hardly a down poor, still quite warm and within an hour we'd pulled in to remove our wet weather gear (well, most of us did, Matt's wet weather gear was still in his bag back in Cheshire somewhere).

We followed the A38 for the most part. Some of it easier for the cycle than other stretches. Bristol turned out to be demoralising. Bristol is surprisingly hilly, and we managed to find the steepest of them on our route. Saying we had a route suggests a plan at this point. Evidently not the case and we decided to follow the road signs to Taunton. If anybody that isn't local to Bristol decides to cycle through it and is reading this I'd like to offer the following advice. Under no circumstances follow the roads signs. Buy a map. We might have saved 5 miles cycling if we'd gone directly through the town centre. As it was, we cycled around and then zig zagged across the town. One signpost sent us down a dual carriageway, only to direct us on a full U-turn about a third of a mile down the road.

Looking at the map later we could see a direct route through the town for cyclists. As it went, it felt like we'd been locked into some Prisoner-esque City that was never going to let us go

Another good tip for cyclists going through Bristol on the A38 is to ignore cycle lanes. The A38's dodgy cycle lanes were as bad as the A38 yesterday. They take you across more junctions and end very abruptly, dumping you on a fast moving dual carriageway. You'd be better to take the lane early putting you in sight of following motorists, rather than hidden from view until you're dumped in their path. Neither the motorist or cyclist wants that kind of surprise.

700 miles just outside Bristol

Bristol was home to at least one idiot. We met him at a set of lights. He gave us a load of verbal abuse as he passed us and I'm afraid I responded in kind, so he slowed down. I caught him up and had the usual conversation where I was told that cyclists shouldn't be on the road etc. He objected to the amount of road I took on the junction. I tried to tell him that I was cycling to NCTS for safety, but he ignored this and continued with his rant. We wouldn't have slowed him on his journey at all if he wasn't so keen to argue with us regarding his opinion that we should pay road tax.

Y'know, as previous

Of course, I responded that I did.[1]

Oh well, on we go. Following the A38 out towards Taunton from Bristol we found a rather inviting pub. It turned out to be an alright place to have lunch. We sat outside under a large umbrella, the heat being too much to sit outside of any shade. Lunch and a couple of soft drinks later, we set off for the second leg of day 10.

The A38 here was as grim a route to cycle as the previous stretch and we pulled in near the airport to give ourselves a break from the traffic. Things changed once we passed over the top of the M5 and for the a good few miles we rode pretty much along the motorway which meant we were cycling traffic free roads, for the most part.

We passed Brent Knoll which is a landmark I've often driven by and for me is the gateway to Somerset, a place I've spent many happy summers exploring. I like this part of the world and looked forward to cycling through it.

On a (possibly) related note, I read the children's book The Roundhill by Dick King-Smith (quite a good read even as an adult) so that I could discuss the book with my niece who was reading it for school. I believe that Brent Knoll is the Roundhill in question. Who knows eh?[2]

From Brent Knoll we cycled on through Burnham On Sea, Bridgewater and out towards Taunton. Though this is some of the most level terrain we have cycled over, the heat was again ferocious and we made an extra stop to pick up some shade and water.

We arrived at Taunton and (as so often we had done during the ride) called ahead to Bryn for directions to the Hotel. We still got lost a little. Not lost as such, but sort of expected the hotel to appear sooner than it did.

We cleaned and lubed the bikes, got showered and headed for the pub for well earned food and drink. The drink in question for me turned out to be a stunner of a pint. I'm afraid it may have even knocked McKewens 90 Shillings off it's number one spot in the "Drink Of the Ride" charts. Stinger by Badger Breweries is an organic pint that uses nettles for flavouring. Sounds awful, tastes divine. I understand that the recipe was formulated by Hugh Fernley Whittingshaw and is a must try for all ale fans.

The very good staff at The Hankridge Arms

The bar manager at the Hankridge Arms, a girl called Shelley asked about our Sheila's Wheelers T-Shirts and upon finding out our ride was for charity, bought us a round of drinks. We donated the money for the drinks to our charities on behalf of her and her staff, one of whom cycled E2E last year.

We're so ugly, we were asked to hide our faces

[1] Or would if it existed. The roads are funded out of the treasury and not through the VED (often mistakenly referred to as road tax). In other words, my income tax, the VAT I pay on goods I purchase and so on all contribute towards the upkeep of our roads. And I also pay VED for my car. So to use idiot mans logic, as I cause a lot less damage to the roads when I cycle I should get a rebate for every journey I make without my car. Yes VED also goes to the treasury. But then, nobody demands that the tax gained from alcohol is used to fund better beer (though I would support that), so why this narrow thinking about VED and road funding?

[2] Dick King Smith, obviously

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