Phaseolus vulgaris, the common bean was introduced to Europe in around 1528 and eventually sold as a delicacy called ‘baked beans’ in Fortnum and Mason at the turn of the last century. Fortunately, this culinary delight is now available to us mortals around the regions and provides essential fuel for kids, the long distance cyclist and comedic stage entertainers such as Le Petomaine. Although, it is a common misconception that Joseph Pujol actually passed intestinal gas as part of his stage performance. But that is another story!
The Cheshire Safari Audax is one I’ve done before and provides the novelty highlight of cycling through the middle of Chester zoo. I’ve only done a handful of Audaxes and so elected to do the short one which is only a mere 160km. The course is also flat and passes through Tatton Park and lunch stops at the famous Eureka Café.
The bloody alarm went off at 5:45. What on earth was I thinking. It’s dark, cold and a Sunday morning so time to get up, quick breakfast and on the road to collect Paul who has had the luxury of another half hour in bed. He probably needs it though I thought, as he planned to do another 200k on the bike the day before.
So bikes loaded on top of the car and first stop, the obligatory McDonalds for 2 breakfasts, just for Paul. He’s a growing lad don’t you know.
In no time, we arrived in Cheadle for the start. The car park was full to capacity and the riders for the 200k ‘long’ route had already set off into the freezing November air.
At the village Hall and greeted by the sound of 300 chirping Garmins confirmed we were at the start. We spotted Tom and Ian. Graham E had a puncture on the m62, in his car, so he was out as well as a few other imps were absent.
Brevet grabbed, quick cuppa and off we went, and yes it’s cold. What are we doing here? Many of the locals looked like they’d been invaded with poor people on bicycles. A lot of the poor people seemed to have carbon frames, Garmins and electronic gears though. I don’t think you see many cyclists between the Bentley and Ferrari dealerships. Why would you? What, you actually pedal yourself!
First treat, and off the road and through the lovely Tatton Park. It’s rutting season says the warning notices. So groups of deer are all huddled around. It’s too cold for any of that nonsense but quite a few photographers were all at various vantage points trying to get that ‘money shot’. The deer seemed struck with stage fright and obviously wouldn’t perform particularly with hundreds of cyclists huffing and snurching their way through their ground
Suddenly a twanging sound from the rear wheel. Oh bugger. I’ve lost a plastic nut off my new mudguards and one of the plastic arms was playing a tune in my spokes. One zip tie later and we set off again although as every cyclist carries zips ties, very few carry snippers to cut the long ends off. With the bit sticking out, the remaining 78 miles looked like I was permanently turning left.
It was a relief when Ian wanted to stop for a pee. I’d been bursting for the last 10 miles and we were averaging 20 mph with Cre at the front so a comfort break was restful. The only downside was getting cold again. At least it was still dry, apart from the area around the bush where I was standing.
Turning right onto Parkgate Road and past the Emu’s. Emus? Yes, I think that’s what I saw in a small enclosure just there. I think there were some Lamas and rare looking sheep in there as well but the Eureka café was just up the road so that’s where the attention was focused.
At the famous café there must have been 250 bikes parked outside. Inside, there was probably 300 million baked beans and 20,000 loaves of bread. The queue was enormous and as we got to the door, I recognised a man on the photograph from 1978 who appeared to be just at the front at the till with an enormous beard, covered in cobwebs. We also caught up with David S and Richard W. I don’t think they’d been waiting that long.
While we queued, we all got the opportunity to view cycling accessories for sale. Healthily marked up to the captive audience. I can’t imagine buying a turbo trainer or spare bike from a cycling café but if anyone is ever passing and you’d forgotten your bike. They can sort you out providing you’re patient enough to wait a while.
Anyway, the coffee was great. I wish I’d ordered two as it took so long for the beans on toast to arrive. Someone remarked that they only had one toaster which is probably true.
Back on the road and it’s still cold. We followed a dual carriageway for a couple of miles before turning left onto a quiet lane towards the zoo. A brisk pace and nicely warmed up again, we pass the elephant enclosure.
“Oooh, an elephant”
“look, a camel”
“some kind of deer, or horse, no rhino, bear?”
“was that lion’s roar?”
“sorry, it’s my stomach, the beans”
Tada, that was it, apart from the squashed hedgehog or something on the road. Still, it’s not
every day you see stuff like this on a bike.
Back along rolling countryside and through Delamere forest which seemed full of muddy mountain bikers. Very picturesque though and a nice change after the flat Cheshire countryside. Stopping again at great Budworth. A lovely place with homemade icecream and posh tea cups to slurp from.
Nearly back now and the last stretch just as it got dark and the rain came. Up went the power at the front jet propelled by the beans and arrived back at Cheadle for hot soup and biccys.
I’m always impressed how well organised these rides are and the time that people give to provide an enjoyable day. I’ll probably do this again next year. Great fun and great company.