Rapha and an unexpected visit

The first thing I noticed as I landed back in London was the difference in temperature. It wasn’t cold, but the morning was certainly fresher than Malta. Even wearing my jeans, which I tend to do when I fly, I felt quite comfortable. I headed through passport control, managing to explain satisfactorily my complex trip and how long I would be in the country. Then I headed over to the baggage claim, hoping that my plastic wrapped Surly was still in one piece. It was a bit of an anxious wait for 15 minutes until the carousel start turning. I spotted my bag pretty quickly and pulled it off. Everything seemed to be in order, despite the zip being busted and the whole thing being held together with bungees. A few minutes late a baggage handler came in holding my bike. I was relieved. I then set out about unwrapping the bike and putting everything back together. It took a while to realign the handlebars, replace the pedals, pump up the tyres and attached all the panniers. I was ready to go. I rolled the bike out, following the signs to the train ticket desk. The station was a few miles from the airport, so I bought my ticket to St Pancras and rode down there. When the train arrived, there was no space for a bike, so I just stood with it for the journey into the city.

At St Pancras, I found a spot for an early lunch and free WiFi. I got in touch with my cousin, Joanna, originally planning to head up to her place, but since she and her husband Steve were working, it made more sense to see them on the weekend. The free WiFi was pretty rubbish, so after lunch I went to the Vodafone shop to get a SIM. They hooked me up with a £10 deal that included lots of calls, unlimited text and unlimited data. Bargain! Once I had my SIM I got in touch with my Grandma in Leeds, to let her know I had arrived and was heading up there. I went to buy a ticket to Leeds and was horrified that the cheapest ticket was £100. That was excessive. Leeds was quite a distance, so riding wasn’t an option, but I noticed that the train to Leeds passed through Peterborough. Maybe if I got a train to Peterborough, I could visit the assembly there before heading to Leeds. I contacted Cathy in Zimbabwe who gave me her parents details and I got in touch with the Beggs. They were surprised to hear from me but said they would be glad to see me. It would only be a flying visit, but at least I would get to see them. So the plan was set. Peterborough tonight then Leeds tomorrow.

Having my travel plans organised including bike reservations, I then set off in search of the Rapha store. I had been looking forward to this since I knew I was coming to London. I wasn’t sure when I would be able to fit it in, but being in London for the day, with no particular plans, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Riding through the London traffic was lots of fun. London is becoming pretty popular with bikes with the Boris bike scheme and many commuters. The shared bus/cycle lanes are a good way to get around. Arriving at Rapha, I accosted the nearest person I could find and asked them to take a photo for me as I posed, grinning in front of the iconic store. There was a notice outside requesting customers to bring their bikes into the store and lock them up there. I headed inside carrying the Surly down the steps. I had to remove a few panniers, but found a hook to hang it on, then went to explore the store. Vintage bikes, portraits of cycling legends, classic quotes and of course the very best in cycling apparel. I was so excited. I wandered around for a few minutes just soaking it in before I was approached by Kirsty the Scottish shop assistant. I was determined not to leave empty handed, but with all the awesome gear, I wasn’t sure what to get. Kirsty encouraged me that it didn’t cost anything to try it on (something you can’t do when shopping on line) so I went for it. I tried everything. Going in and out of the Rapha van change room for at least an hour. In the end I had a ‘Yes’ pile, a ‘Maybe’ pile and a couple of things in the ‘No’ category. When Kirsty added it all up, it was a significant total. I tried haggling, but that wasn’t going to fly. I convinced myself that I hadn’t bought clothes for ages and this was Rapha IN London. So I got the lot. Jeans, shirts, trousers, shorts and some ridiculously awesome white gloves. Then Kirsty asked if I wanted to claim by VAT back. Of course! It meant that I basically got the shorts for free. Woohoo!

Panniers bulging with all my new kit, I pedalled back across town to Kings Cross station to catch the train to Peterborough. By the time I arrived it was 4:40PM and the station staff told me I couldn’t take a bike on the train between 4PM and 7PM because of the rush hour. Doh! I contacted the Beggs and let them know I would be arriving late. Then I went for another ride around London, finding a little Turkish cafe where they fixed me a fresh juice. Having a bit of time to kill, I got my laptop out and tried connecting it to my phone. No dice. I found myself in a loop on the Vodafone website with no indication of how to set up the hotspot. So I went back to the store I bought it from where they told me I couldn’t set up a hotspot on a pre-paid SIM. Great. It sounded too good to be true. I found something for dinner, then watched the boards for the trains to Peterborough. I managed to get onto the 7:10PM and I was off.

The train was running late and didn’t arrive into Peterborough until about 8:30PM. I sent the Beggs a message to let them know, then headed off on the 10 mile journey to their place in the village. It was a nice ride through the countryside following the cycle path. I got a bit confused at times and when my phone battery died I stopped to ask for some directions. The village where the Beggs live is like a postcard of the English countryside. Rolling hills, dry stone walls, it was really picturesque. It was after 9PM when I eventually arrived. It was great to see them, and they were so hospitable. We stayed up for a few hours talking before retiring to bed. My train to Leeds was leaving at 8:15AM so I had to be up early tomorrow for the ride to the station. I was really glad I didn’t get that train direct to Leeds now. I wasn’t sure whether I would make it Peterborough, and although it was only one night, I’m so glad I did.

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