Tuesday, June 22, 2010
I biked to Brighton.
In case you didn't read, I participated in the London to Brighton Bike Ride on Sunday. I lied earlier when I said it was 70 miles - it was only 60 from door-to-door - but past 20, I say who's counting. The day was supposed to be warm and sunny, with patchy clouds, but it dawned overcast and cold. It didn't help my mood as we had to get up at 6am to leave by 7am to bike to the start on Clapham Common at 8am to set off on the route. It also didn't help that halfway to Clapham Common, I pulled over to the side of the road to wait for The Irishman who got caught by a light, and a bird SHAT ON ME. And not just like, a little poo; The Irishman cycled up and asked me what died on me. It was disgusting, purple, and smelled like gingko tree berries. I almost cried right there and turned around.
But The Irishman mopped me off and would have hugged me if I didn't look and smell so foul, and headed to the start. There were hilarious characters of old women (people in drag) on motorized granny vegetable carts (dressed up segways), riding around and dancing to early hip-hop, which was possibly the only thing that could have lifted my spirits at that point, and then we were off! It was really difficult to get out of London; the sheer numbers of riders on the road was huge, and even with police directing traffic we had to stop several times in the first few miles.
The crowds didn't really let up throughout the ride; several times we turned a corner just to find that people were getting off of their bikes and starting to walk. Mostly this was at hills, and to be honest it wasn't so bad - it was like a nice break from all of the cycling. A bit over halfway, we came to Turners Hill - a small town at the top of a hill with a pub and some shops on a roundabout that sets up a BBQ, band, and several food tents for the riders. We stopped there for lunch and had a break to enjoy the atmosphere. It was like a carnival! The Irishman contemplated a pint, but frankly there was no way that was going to happen for me.
We attempted to make it to Brighton by 2pm, but with all of the stops we made it at more like 4pm. The very end of the race has a really horrible gigantic hill called Ditichling Beacon, and unfortunately a rider some distance ahead of us had a heartattack on the ascent. The organizers stopped the race for probably an hour to give everyone a rest, so we had some forced downtime that gave me the opportunity for a nap on the side of the road. But once we did get going, and made it to the top of the hill, it was all coasting down to the seafront.
Brighton itself is a mad, lovely seaside town. We stayed a fabulous little BnB in Kemp Town, the gay neighborhood, called Nineteen. I highly recommend that if you visit Brighton, you stay with Mark. It was so comfortable and calming and relaxing - less like a hotel and more like your own house in Brighton, just with breakfast in bed (for real!). After showering and stretching and etc on Sunday, we met one of The Irishman's friends for a few drinks and then headed to the seafront for seafood at Due South. It's a really nice restaurant, and really good value, so treat yourself! We were pretty exhausted after stuffing our faces so we headed back to the hotel for the night. Monday was fabulously sunny and warm and we spent the day exploring the pier and wandering the Lanes and North Laine (thanks for the tips Kate!).
I loved Brighton, it is like a cross between San Francisco and the Jersey Shore (two of my favorite things) - and at only about an hour train ride from London, I'll be sure to go back soon to sit on the beach chairs and enjoy the sea. Would I bike down there again? The ride itself, distance-wise, wasn't terrible - I'd definitely consider it - but maybe not as part of the organised tour. Riding with 26,999 other cyclists wasn't exactly easy, and I think I'd enjoy it more if The Irishman and I did it ourselves. Also - I'd invest in one of those gel bikeseats. REALLY.
UPDATE: Pictures here!