Day 1 of the ride: South Wraxall to Portsmouth

After an impromptu birthday party early Friday evening, and an interrupted night’s sleep with the jet lag still making its mark, I staggered out of bed at 6:30am on April 1st, aiming for a 7:30am start. Richard and I finally made it out of the door at 8:00am, having agreed that the slightly shorter route to Portsmouth – around 85 miles instead of 105 miles – might be prudent for the first day of our ride to Majorca.


The weather forecast had been changing by the hour but had got to the point where we had a reasonable expectation of staying dry, an expectation that was not met when a torrential downpour soaked us both. That was around 1:30pm when we were just south of Salisbury. Then the sun came out and we dried out. Then we were soaked again before finally getting a few hours of sunshine that dried us out once more.

In the early part of the ride, Google took us along the A350 – a main road with enough trafffic to make us more than a little nervous at times. Later, we joined up with the wonderful Wiltshire Cycleway, which took us into Salisbury for an early lunch.

The variety and volume of birdsong always strikes me when riding country roads in Wiltshire and today was no exception. What a difference from the last 3 months San Francisco, where birdsong was most noticeable by its absence.

We crossed the stunning RIver Test in Hampshire and, as always, stopped on a bridge to spot the trout feeding below. This chalk stream is one of the premier trout fishing rivers in England. In places, it can cost hundreds of pounds per day to fish it and in about six weeks time, we’ll enter the so-called ‘duffers fortnight’. This is when the mayfly hatch sends the trout into a feeding frenzy for two weeks and it’s said that even the most incompetent of fishermen can’t fail to catch them.

We also passed the first vinegard we’ll see on our trip, and we’ll cycle through many more before reaching the French – Spanish border at the Pyrenees.

Google Maps has already become the navigation aid of choice for our trip, even though we both have Garmin GPS gadgets to record the ride too. Google on the iPhone strapped to my crossbar worked reasonably well until somewhere around Botley, near Southampton. At this point we went off the preferred route, the spoken instructions being drowned out by ttaffic noise. This meant cycling along some more main roads but the sun was out, so it wasn’t all bad.

The limitations of Google Maps became apparent when we arrived a dead-end lane with an expanse of water ahead of us. No sign of a boat, even though the destination had been set as “Portsmouth Harbour.” A local resident explained that we were still four miles away from the Brittany Ferries terminal and the we were not the first to end up in the middle of nowhere thanks to some quirk of the navigation system.

We boarded the 8:15pm Brittany Ferry to St Malo in good time, and checked into our comfortable, deluxe cabin before enjoying a sumptuous, five-course dinner with wine. Everything tasted amazing after 87 miles in the saddle.

Tomorrow, we head towards Nantes, aiming to cover at least 100 miles to keep on track for our target of 1000 miles in 10 days. The weather is supposed to be good, with no rain forecast. But it wasn’t forecast yesterday either!

About Bob Jones

Cycling enthusiast living in Wiltshire, England.
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