Cycling with Ladia (22nd May 2009)
Decided to go for a long ride around Pontail, Pyestock and take in the view across Farnborough Airport. One my way down from that hill, I saw someone who I thought I recognised. He caught my eye at the same time and slowed, so that confirmed my suspicion.
“Hi, are you…Gary?” I enquired.
In a friendly and distinctively Eastern European accent, he denied this. I explained I hadn’t seen this person in a long time and that he was English, so clearly this was my mistake. “It’s fine,” he reassured me.
He was kitted out in professional-looking mountain bike gear. I asked him: “Are you in training for an event?” Seeming a little surprised, he said “No…are you in training for an event?” I laughed and said “Look at my bike! I’m not in training for anything.”
He glanced around my bike, from missing front mudguard to exposed cables and mismatched tyres. “Ah,” he grinned, “now I see that.”
We decided to ride together so I could show him some interesting tracks. He lives in Farnham and likes to explore the surrounding area. Indeed, he was several miles from home already. Apparently he once rode 180km to Oxford and back some time ago!
We were out riding for a couple of hours, from mid-afternoon to early evening. The main places I showed him were:
- View over Farnborough Airport
- Meandering track through the heart of woodland, known only to locals.
- Steep natural rthymn course in nearby woods.
- Pyestock’s double bridge.
- Basingstoke Canal, including the very fast, steep descent from the high bridge and the overflow’s flood pool. (I mentioned the canal was completed in 1730; he commented “Everything has so much old in England!”)
- Rode back up the hill and a long section of sweeping, downhill turns.
- Steep and technical uphill and downhill narrow track, weaving between saplings and clattering over roots. (We both really liked this!)
- Looked through the fence at the Pyestock research and testing facility.
- Returned to main gravel track and went to the stream.
- Forded the stream a few times, with me taking a video of Ladia fording it. (He e-mailed this to me a few days later. With better resolution it could be a station ident for the Extreme Sports Channel!)
- Rode down to Fleet Pond and he took a picture from a jeti.
- Continued around to the railway side.
- Went onto Fleet Station and rode the whole length of Fleet High Street.
- Stopped at The Harlington Centre so Ladia could place himself on the map.
- He gave me some of his energy cake, which we ate at The Views while kids rode and skated the recently upgraded street course.
- Turned right at the Oatsheaf crossroad, past Fleet Constabulary and towards where I live.
- Continued through Crookham Village and Dogmersfield. (Ladia thinks English villages are beautiful.)
- Stopped at Crookham Wharf and he planned his route back to Farnham, which was a long way but a very simple route.
- Shook hands, got his e-mail address, said our farewells and went our separate ways.
I rode home along the towpath.