Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Bideford to Taunton - Day Nine - Bristol to Cornwall round trip

Before breakfast I tried to wash the curry stain out of the towel but nothing short of a wash cycle heated to 100 degrees was going to shift it. I gathered up the various takeaway containers and the empty wine bottle and stuffed them all into one of my pannier bags. The room smelt strongly of vindaloo so I also flung open the window.
"Shit," I muttered, "this is not going to go down well."

We went down to breakfast where Mick tried to make conversation with the owner with no success. He clearly was not interested in making small talk. I would guess what he wanted to say but couldn't was: "You've had your bed for the night, so eat your breakfast and hurry up and fuck off, so I can get on with cleaning the room for the next moron with a bike that turns up."

I worried that his wife would be sneaking up to inspect the room whilst we were tucking into our bacon and egg, which took the edge off my appetite. After breakfast I rushed upstairs and grabbed my things. I couldn't wait to get out of there.  I cowardly offered to wait outside with the bikes whilst Mick paid. He was gone a while and I became convinced that they were having an argument about whether he should pay for the laundering of the towel. Apparently not, he eventually emerged and said, on the contrary, the owner had (as usual) said very little.

We thought it prudent however to stay off the main road and we left Bideford by way of a convoluted route through backlanes and alleyways and a residential housing estate. just in case. As we climbed a steep hill out of the town, Mick said with satisfaction, "He'll never find us this way!"

The honourable thing of course would have been to confess to the towel incident and offer to pay for it. I had suggested as much to Mick that morning but he had vehemently opposed the notion. "Serves him right," he declared. "It was overpriced, unwelcoming and unfriendly. There's no way I'm 'fessing up to that!"

Having made our escape from Bideford we headed along minor roads towards South Molton. I wanted to clean my gungy bike chain but didn't have a cloth so I popped into a charity shop and bought a man's handkerchief for ten pence. "There, m'dear, that'll be a lovely hankie for you," said the old lady behind the counter with approval. I didn't have the heart to tell her that within two minutes it would be covered in oil and then chucked in the bin.

After a coffee and a couple of bananas we continued heading east. We briefly joined the A361 and quickly realised our error. The traffic was hurtling along at a terrifying speed. We quickly got off again and joined the B3227 instead. This was much more pleasant and reasonably quiet. On our left we could see the hills of Exmoor parallel with us. This road, although not flat was much less punishing in terms of gradients than the one on which we had travelled down the previous week.

The weather had been superb all week, warm and sunny and very pleasant for cycling. Now however, clouds rolled in from the west and it started to rain heavily. As we sped down the 250 metre gradual descent towards the Exe Valley I started to feel very cold as well. At the bottom of the hill we stopped for a quick route check and a garage owner there, overhearing us, told us to cycle round the valley to Bampton rather than up over the hill. We didn't need much persuading.

By the time we got to Bampton we were soaked and shivering. We dripped into a tea shop and sat for half-an-hour huddled over a pot of tea trying to dry off. I would have liked to have stayed longer but we still had a way to go. The less we cycled today the more we would have to do tomorrow. So we heaved ourselves up and cycled on along, still on the B3227, to Wiveliscombe. A quick inspection of the town did not indicate a huge choice of accommodation so we decided to continue to Taunton and then call it a day. A further consideration was that we knew that Taunton had at least one Wetherspoon pub.

Some people complain about Wetherspoons with their big barn-like establishments and their stack-it-high-and-sell-it -cheap approach. But I like them. Or rather I don't like paying £3.40 for an un-special pint of beer in an un-special pub as we had done in Glastonbury. Wetherspoons pubs may not be special but at least one only pays £2.20 in an un-special pub instead. And they always have a reasonable choice of beer, often from smaller breweries.

M'mmm beer lovely beer

Not long ago we had bought a polypin of beer from an independent brewery and had been charged£1.20 per pint. "Why do they charge so much in pubs then?" we asked the brewer.
He shrugged. "They don't have to," he said. No doubt publicans will cite overheads, rent, staff costs etc. etc. But the fact is, I and many people I know, simply don't want to pay, and can't afford to pay, a tenner for a round of three drinks. Anyway, rant over.

It was seven o'clock by the time we got to Taunton. I tried to use my iphone for the purpose I had bought it, to look up accommodation, but, as had been the case on the whole trip, it was hopelessly slow. So we went to the tourist information and started phoning some numbers from the accommodation list on the window. We couldn't believe the prices, many of them  were charging. £100 per night plus! This was Taunton for goodness sake. There's nothing in Taunton!

After dialing half a dozen numbers we rang back the first one we had tried which had  quoted us £69 and we said we would take it. They then said that the price didn't include breakfast. I was tired. I lost my temper. "I asked you the price for Bed and Breakfast!" I yelled. If I had wanted the price for just Bed I would have said so!"
"Ok, ok," said the woman on the other end of the phone. "I'll include breakfast in the price."

When we got there is was a very nice hotel and the receptionist didn't turn a hair at us dragging our filthy bikes in, providing a downstairs room for them to be stored until the morning. Mollified, I was extra nice to her when we checked in, thanking her profusely for everything.

She got the last laugh though. She had booked us into the room next to the central heating boiler for the hotel and it kept us awake half the night.

Miles cycled today: 59
Total miles: 369

Our route is here

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