I left the garage atop the Boardman at about 11:35. I’d decided to head out east with the tailwind behind me and see how I got on. I thought I might just go as far as Wymeswold then come back, which would have got about 35 miles under my belt. But equally, I thought I might well turn back after 12 or so, to be on the safe side.

Wrapped up fairly warm, though it wasn’t that cold. I trialled a new tubular headscarf that came as a freebie with the balaclava – and that turned out to be really effective at keeping the wind off my ears. There are several ways to wear it but I opted to stick my head through it and arrange it so just my face was sticking out of it, like a hijab. Wore a dutt on top. Probably more useful than the balaclava, actually.

I took a low-elevation route to the main route out east, Ashby Road, joining it at Belton. Pushed along quite happily over the river and into Nottinghamshire in pleasant sunshine, with the wind at my back. Got to Wymeswold after about 18 miles, but decided to keep going for a bit. Took a detour along a quiet lane called East Road, looking for an inconspicuous spot for a wee. After consulting Google Maps I decided to keep going in that direction, then take a right along Hades Lane before joining Paddy’s Lane, where I would turn right and come back home.

Unfortunately, although the wind was supposed to dissipate roughly at this time it actually grew substantially stronger, as evidenced by a number of wind turbines in the vicinity, spinning quite powerfully and facing the direction I would have to pedal to return home. I was being buffeted by the wind quite powerfully from my right, so much so that at one point I was actually pushed onto the bumpy grass to the side of the road. I had to pedal quite forcefully to stay upright and rejoin the road, which was a real bummer because I hurt my right knee doing this and it wasn’t quite the same again for the rest of the ride. Up until that point I’d been keeping it in a reasonable state of equilibrium by taking it easy.

Anyway – I came to the junction where I was due to turn right and homeward, but I simply wasn’t going to push into 40mph winds with a dodgy knee. So I turned left instead, heading still further from home but with the wind at my back. In the back of my mind I thought I might even go as far as Melton Mowbray, spend an hour or two there in Costa Coffee then head home into less hostile conditions once the wind had died down. I pushed on another 1.5 miles until I came to a steep descent approaching Asfordby Valley, which I’d forgotten about. Definitely wouldn’t have been a good idea to come back that way so I came to an abrupt halt and consulted Google Maps. As it turned out I’d just passed a left turn to a village callled Grimston, with a pub called the Black Horse. So I headed that way instead.

That turned out to be a good idea because the Black Horse had a very nice sandwich menu and friendly staff. I left the bike leaning against a wooden bench outside, strolled in and ordered a bacon & brie sandwich and an orange juice. I didn’t have my bike lock with me so I ate outside, at the bench. The sandwich came with perfectly made crispy fries, coleslaw and a small jar of ketchup. Perfect. Quite a fortuitous find because it’s only half a mile from Six Hills Lane, the main road over to Belvoir Castle which I’ve done a few times – a road which is conspicuously lacking in garages, caffs, pubs, small shops and other places to fuel up. Ideal really as it’s just about the half-way point as well.

So, suitably replenished and with the power of the wind having diminished a tad I set off again in the direction of Six Hills Lane and came home the usual way. My right knee had started to hurt a bit by this time but I took it easy, making the occasional stop to do quad and hamstring exercises. My left knee started to hurt as well over the last fifteen miles or so, which reminded me not to be complacent about it – I’ve focused mainly on the right leg for my physio exercises but I need to work them both.

Gloomier conditions set in just as I was leaving Nottinghamshire about ten miles from home and the temperature dropped a bit. I picked up a bit of rain near Zouch, but only for ten minutes or so. Things brightened up a bit again 20 minutes later.

Got home on 49.63 miles, but felt as if I’d done a long one – partly I guess because I hadn’t done a ride of that distance for many months, partly because I’d made a bit of a day out of it with a lunch stop, but also because I mainly used roads which I associate with longer trips. Very nice to be riding over that way again.

Didn’t see much interesting wildlife, just a buzzard, a fox that had recently been twatted by a motor vehicle, a quadruped that was so badly decomposed that it was impossible to tell what species it was, and some cute little hedge birds with brown / white foilage.

So – despite the wind and my concern about my knees, that was actually a pretty cracking ride out. A bit of an adventure being largely unplanned, and with some new roads and a new pub. And – I think I’ve got away with it. My knees don’t feel too bad. Assuming they do recover as I expect in a couple of days then I think it’s probably safe to try a Fondo in two or three weeks, if I can devise a suitably low elevation route (probably out west, north of Lichfield). I seem to be able to pootle along flat roads without putting any trauma on my knees if I take it easy.

Actually – here’s a thought. Maybe I could drive a bike to start / finish point somewhere east of Stamford, and do a flat 100 miler from there? It’s not cheating, is it? It’s not like people who live in Norfolk get disqualified from Fondos. I’ll think about that.

Anyway so that’s 71 this month, 85 miles to go to reach the Feb target of 156.

Oh yes! Almost forgot. A discarded underwear sighting a few miles from Rempstone. Black, with pink and purple hearts. Unusual as the roadkill panty season proper doesn’t start until late April in the East Midlands.

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