Wednesday 22 August 2012

A long day out in Billingshurst

SimplyPaul arrived at 8:30 for our day out in Billinghurst to the "Queen's Diamond Jubilee Walk", a series of some 74 caches. First, we had to replace one of the pedals on his new bike, the old one was faulty, and as we would be going 20 miles, I didn't want to chance using that.

I took my three best batteries, numbers 6, 7 and 2, expecting to probably only need 6 and 7, but in the event, used all three.  I also gave the first outing to the Altura saddlebags that came from my old bike, but which I'd thought were too posh to use on rough biking. We took two spare inner tubes (not needed) and sufficient tools to do most roadside repairs (not needed), and plenty of water (definitely needed).

We started the trek at about the 20th cache in the series, "1969" (they were numbered from 1952, of course). I did that so that we'd arrive at the pub in Codmore Hill at lunchtime.

We parked on the grass verge near the bridleway that led into the cache series, and I immediately had the first disaster. I was trying to avoid an overhanging bramble, managed to lose balance, and toppled over to my left; I got scrapes and scratches on my left arm, and I twisted my knee slightly. Paul got the bike off me (I think he should have been standing taking pictures, but he said he thought I needed a bit of help) and I got up, feeling slightly stupid. After I pulled the prickles out of my arm, we continued.

Things went well, and we got to the pub as per plan, at 1:30 (they close at 2). but the pub wasn't a pub any more, it was an Indian restaurant. That was fine by me, but Paul only eats chips. Never mind, we persuaded them to provide him with chips, and lunch was good. I had a chicken curry with rice, two pints of diet coke, and we refilled empty water bottles.

The weather forecast had been dry and overcast, but not long after this, we were standing under some trees signing logs, when it started to rain. Fortunately, it was only a short shower, and we stayed dry.

We carried on round, but the series was taking longer than I'd thought - I'd hoped that we could average 8 caches per hour, and get round in 9 hours before it got dark, but darkness fell while we still had a dozen or so caches to do. I think it was because we had a very large number of stiles to lift over, but I really could not have done 20 miles on foot. Fortunately, I'd had the foresight to carry head torches, so we used those, and I found that wearing a head torch under a biking helmet works fine. But torchlight isn't as good as daylight, and as we were biking along by the river, I skidded on a patch of mud and went over again, once more falling on my left. The good news is, I fell on something soft; the bad news is that this was a lush bank of nettles. My left side tingled like a bell for several hours afterwards, and even now, 20 hours later, I can feel it. I also slightly wrenched my left knee a bit more, and my knee started muttering about a divorce.

Paul lost his biro three times, and each time, he went back to find it. The last time, it was night time, he went back 500 meters while I sat and waited for him, and I can't help wondering if maybe he has the most valuable biro in the world?

One of the caches was an "earthcache", in which you have to answer various geographical or geological questions. I'm not a fan of this kind of cache, I feel that unless you find a container and sign a log, it isn't geocaching. And it was especially so in the dark, where we could barely see the things we were supposed to remark on.

We got back to the car at about 10:30. I'd used three batteries (B7 - 16.6 km, B6 - 12.7 km and B2 for the remaining 4 km, which gives me some idea of the battery lifetimes on rough ground) to cover 33 km, 20 miles. On the way back, we tried to join the M25 at junction 10, but the slip road was closed, so we had to go the wrong way round the M25 eastwards to junction 9 so that we could join the westbound M25 there. But the junction at 9 is complicated, we got it wrong, and we had to go all the way to junction 8 before we could get onto the M25 going west. As a result, we didn't get home until 1 am.

Here's an interesting sight I spotted along the way

But we didn't see any.

Two caches weren't there (it was clear in both cases where they ought to be) so we replaced them, for a total of 73 caches for me (75 for Paul, because along the way there were two I'd already done).

About half way through the day, my iPhone ran out of juice, and I hadn't been using it, or so I'd thought. I must have had something running that was continuously draining the battery, either the geocaching app or Memory Map.

I had a look at the Altura saddlebags, and they're worked fine, there's no sign of the wear that I was getting on the ETC bags. That's because they give a lot more clearance to the working parts of the bike. I also found that getting them off and on (needed whenever you have to lift over a stile) is very quick and easy.

Of course, Altura don't make those any more, they've changed to a somewhat different model. Isn't it so often like that - you find something that works perfectly for what you want, and the manufacturer moves on. It's the same for the Mio 550 and the Fujitsu Loox 720. But I can still bid for them on Ebay.

I also bought a couple of "army surplus" plain olive shoulder bags, just a bit bigger than a bike battery. They arrived today, I put a battery in each of them and hung them on the back rack using a tent peg.

To take them off, I just pull out the tent peg. They don't hang down much, so they won't foul the bike working parts, they were very cheap (£5 each), there's room for a couple of bottles of water in each apart from the battery and I'm very pleased with my home-made saddle bags.

A very good day out, the tingling on my left arm has almost stopped, and my left knee still hurts.

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