Paula’s 100 mile Isle of Wight Challenge
With the advent of the last Bank Holiday weekend of the summer and as usual a dreadful weather forecast it was time for me to set off on the longest and most challenging ride to date.
It’s been a tough 3 years, but the light at the end of the tunnel was achieving my PADI Open Water Diving Qualification a month back, in order to help realise my dream of being able to dive alone and to help support the Scuba Trust (a charitable organisation that helps people dive) which supported me through my training and being a keen member of Bromley Cyclists I decided to use my love of cycling to raise money to buy equipment and ride the most challenging ride I have ridden to date covering 100 miles from Orpington to Sandown on the IOW.
The final preparations were made on Thursday prior to the Bank Holiday with the trailer being packed and the bikes being given the once over by Nev of BCR Bikes, a Brompton (the tow bike) and the trailer were packed in to the car and the bikes prepped for an early start on Friday morning, with some last minute route planning an early night was in order.
5.30am Friday morning saw some awful weather but it was time to depart Nev and I set off to rendezvous with Steve Watkin at Crofton School who was riding with us to Portsmouth.
So off we went with Nev and Steve’s panniers full to capacity with water proofs and warm jumpers, until I got into trouble for going too fast, (which makes a change, I can in tell you) in the end Nev our trepid leader had to take the lead and slow me down. The first few miles went without any hiccups nice roads and some fast down hills with the odd shower. We reached our first stop which was in Epsom for our breakfast, which was yummy. That’s when the rain started to get a little more frequent, a few light drips, then it poured down but off we went for the next part of our journey. This was quite a hard part of the ride as the hills got worse the further we got into the ride, longer and steeper. It was quite funny watching Nev’s legs spinning in a low gear as fast as he could make them as I know he was itching to go faster. By this time we had completed about 50ish miles, so half way there. Anyway we got soaked and just as we turned up at the lunch stop in Hasslemere the weather changed and brilliant sunshine, just our luck, or so we thought. We ordered our lunch and had a long break chatting about the ride so far, what was the best part and the worst, which was the weather of course. We decided that we would get going once it stopped raining.
After about an hour and a half we got kitted up fully refreshed and ready for the rest of the journey. Off we went again laughing and chatting on the way. Steve was on his new 3 speed bike so I was actually faster than him going up the hills, awesome. We went through many villages and towns like Liphook, Rake and Hill Brow, the scenery was lovely. Anybody who knows Nev will understand that if he says there is only a couple of hills then you know there are at least 20 or more! Well he forgot, or so he said, with a grin on his face that the hill coming up in Buriton wasn’t very big, liar! It was huge. Anyway Nev sped up the hill leaving Steve and I for dust, as usual, but we both made it puffing and panting and red faced, and yeah we collapsed once we got to the top of it, with Nev laughing at us.
By this time the weather had turned nice again so we stripped off our water proofs and set off. It wasn’t long before we got to Portsmouth, we thought Hooray. An hour and a half before our ferry left. So we found the Portsmouth sign and had our photos taken to mark the first leg of our journey. We were being optimistic; it took us that long to get to the Ferry. All those one way streets and the directions were useless. Eventually we had done our first 80 miles the weather had really changed for the better and the sun was shining when we met with Stephen our support car, Brompton and trailer. It was here that the realisation hit we only had 20 miles to go till we had reached the 100 miles to Sandown.
After a brief rest on the ferry crossing, half hour goes quick when you want a rest! It was time to set off on the last 20 mile journey to Sandown. Feeling a little refreshed and our spirits raised the now beautiful weather and knowing that Stephen (who met us at Portsmouth with our gear, trailer and Brompton) was towing our supplies the final 20 hilly miles we set off out of Fishbourne. It was great to realise that we were so close and the beautiful scenery of the island helped us on our way. Winding through the lanes surrounded by countryside we slowly but surely put mile after mile behind us.
Half way there we realised that we didn’t have any food supplies for dinner, so after a quick detour to a village shop and rearrangement of the already overloaded trailer (poor Stephen who was towing it) we set off again up another hill onwards to Bembridge. We were relieved when we reached the beautiful coast line of Bembridge harbour as we knew it wasn’t far till we could open the beers and celebrate our achievement of 100 miles. We arrived at our destination at 9pm, after 15 hours of riding!
Saturday the weather was fantastic, Nev cooked a breakfast for us all and we set off (on the bus) no riding for us to the town (Steve W must have been mad as he decided that he wanted to ride, as if 100 miles the previous day was a mere Wednesday night wander!) Needless to say Steve beat the bus and was waiting on the sea front for us when we finally arrived. It was then we decided that more food was needed and a nice cafe provided us with lunch. We then headed back across the town to the Zoo, Steve W decided that he’d still not ridden enough and went off exploring whilst Nev Steve and I spent some time wandering round the Zoo which I can thoroughly recommend.
Walking home to the campsite we met with Steve and it was here that we met a few of the locals, running and riding down the road dressed as the Village People, it certainly made us laugh. We decided that a drink would be in order and stopped at the Propeller Inn where we met with the locals again, obviously on a fancy dress pub crawl. The highlight of our night was a celebration meal followed by a “quiet” drink and dance back at the campsite bar!!
Sunday dawned bright and clear, or so we thought when we set out on our cross the island ride to Freshwater bay to sample the best cream teas on the island. After a leisurely ride across beautiful countryside we arrived in Godshill where clearly coffee and cake was called for, we basked in the sunshine watching the world go by. It was then time to continue towards our treat of afternoon cream tea. It was here that things didn’t go quite to plan. The beautiful weather we had all morning started changing and slowly the cloud built until we hit the coast and it was like a black roof hovering over our destination. The wind had picked up as well and it took every effort we had to continue riding! Then the rain started to fall boy was it cold! We decided to stop and shelter from the wind and rain under a tree on the side of the road, but it was teasing us, as no sooner had we found shelter it stopped raining, off we set again, with a brief detour to the Pearl Factory, it was her e that the sun made an appearance, Steve and Stephen were so excited that a chorus of “The sun has got his hat on” was sung whilst riding out of the car park – Famous Last words, 2 miles from our cream tea stop, whilst in a country lane with no shelter the heavens opened, we were drowned. We finally managed to find shelter under some trees at the bottom of a valley but it was too late we were drenched!
The reward of our cream teas soon made us forget about the drenching we had suffered earlier and it was soon time to set off on our way back to base. We followed the main road from Freshwater back to Newport, where Nev and Steve decided that it was time for Paula and Stephen to lead and “map read” We knew we were in for a treat when Paula and Stephen started off with the map upside down. After a few detours, going round roundabouts a few times and the wrong way down one way streets much to Steve’s frustration we found ourselves back on the cycle route to base. After 45/50 miles of cycling we thought it would be wise to treat ourselves to fish and chips on the beach which h we ate while watching the sun go down what a fantastic end to a great days riding.
Monday saw us set off on our journey home, the trailer was loaded to capacity and off we went, back to Fishbourne, after some discussion the night before we decided that our route would be different to the cycle path route that took back to base the night before. Little did we know that Nev our leader for the section of the ride had a little surprise for us, just a few slopes! After conquering “Everest” we made it to the “top” of the island, a few hills were pushed up as Stephen physically couldn’t tow the trailer but boy was the view worth it! It was then a fantastic ride down to Newport for breakfast. Then from here we headed to Cowes and spent an hour watching the boats go by seeing how the “other half” live. Then we realised we had an hour till our ferry back to mainland!!
Suffice to say a great weekend was had by all, and it was a great achievement to know that I had completed the original challenge of riding 100 miles!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have supported me and would like to make special mention to Tony and Ruth from ID Signs for printing our t-shirts and Rory from Michelson Diagnostics for the BCD and Regs.
Anyone that would like to sponsor me or the Scuba Trust, please dig deep and contact me at BCR Bikes.
I think anyone that knows Paula will appreciate the effort she has had to put in to be able to complete this ride and to deal with the last few years. I am really proud to have helped her along the way and I was over the moon with how hard she trained for this ride. Her effort shone through as she completed the ride with ease, albeit with achy legs. I’m proud of her and her determination.
I hope you will find it in your hearts to make a donation, no matter how small to help her to live her dream of diving. She is now so close, she has finally completed her diving training and is a qualified PADI Open Water Diver, she has completed her 100 mile ride, and all she needs now is to buy the specialist equipment.
Please help make a dream come true.
Having not know Paula long, the one thing I can say is when she is determined to do something, she does it, and I’m sure that it’s this determination that has helped her get through the past few years and also helped her prepare for this challenging ride. I was upset at not being able to ride the whole Journey with Paula, Nev and Steve, but this was soon forgotten when I saw the BIGGEST smile on Paula’s face when I met them in Portsmouth, it was amazing when the realisation hit that there was only 20 miles to go and that she was actually going to make it, and am proud of her achievement at not only obtaining her PADI Open Water, which at times we thought wasn’t going to happen but also riding 100 miles from Orpington to Sandown.
Well Done Paula!!