Of all the times to sign up to a long distance charity bike ride, doing so with the fewest kilometres I’ve had in the legs for many a year was probably not the best. Still, the thought of a few days cycling through some lovely countryside sounded like fun. I’ve been working for Exodus for a (very) long time, and have lost count of the times I’ve admired colleagues for what they’ve done with or for some of the amazing projects we do around the world. This was my chance to make some kind of contribution.
It’s amazing how quickly these things come together, though it was no fluke. My first worry was how we actually find our way. Up stepped Ian from our Northwich office, who created a few different options, spoiling us for choice. He’d even done it using the fantastic navigation software our self guided clients now get, with voice cues and a surprising level of detail. My favourite was “turn left before the chip shop”.
My second worry was the thought of lugging all our stuff on our backs. At an early meeting, one bright spark pointed out we have an Exodus van, free on the weekend in question. Within a few minutes we had a volunteer for a driver, well done Nat. Once that all fell in to place, all it needed was someone to pull it all together. Done. Thank you Vicky!
With enthusiasm at full throttle, even the fact that a few of the group didn’t currently have bike was a mere trifle.
When the day came, we set off from the office along the river, chatting as we went. With my new friend in my ear giving handy instructions and a few others in the group loaded up with maps, it went surprisingly smoothly, if a little slowly at first.
What was less surprising was that some of the nicest cycling of the day was either side of London. Along the Thames up towards Richmond, then out to find the Grand Union canal. I won’t lie, the likes of Uxbridge didn’t do enough to draw me back the next time I fancy a ride.
Our goal for the first day was the bike friendly Premier Inn outside Oxford. We could even take our bikes into the rooms.
Checking in as a big group is always interesting, especially when it’s all booked under one name.
Vicky – “No there’s 12 of us, but the booking’s under the name Bell.”
Reception “oh, ok, well can everyone give me their names then. You sir, what’s your surname?”
Danny – “Bell”
……..sometimes you can’t script these things.
The next day featured some wonderful countryside out through the Costwolds. We’d all been looking forward to that. We began with a zip through Oxford, readily guided by Jack, who relished reliving his uni days. So committed was he to showing us the sights that he completely forgot what he was doing, or more specifically, what shoes he was wearing. Clip in pedals. Cue a slight mishap at a red light. Luckily the group was on hand to help him up, after taking a quick photo. Good old social media, as unforgiving as ever.
Despite being lucky enough to cycle all over the place thanks to Exodus, I really enjoyed riding through those iconic villages and past Downton-esque grand properties as we wound our way up towards the middle of England.
We also enjoyed a lovely lunch at Stowe on the Wold, fuelling up on burgers and fries like any good cyclist at a lovely little pub. It’s name? The Bell Inn. Of course.
With Warwick in sight our goal was approaching. We’d only had one puncture, and a few of us stayed back with the unfortunate, ready to pace him back to the peloton in time for a triumphant group arrival just outside the city centre.
Showered and changed, we were looking forward to a victory meal. The fact we’d forgotten to swap key phone numbers with our colleagues from Northwich was only a slight inconvenience. You’d think in a relatively small hotel we’d eventually find each other, and we did.
The evening was a good crack, lots of food, a few drinks, the odd bit of narcolepsy, some ropey live music and an errant Uber driver all contributing to some fond memories.
And the next time there’s a round up of the latest charitable activities going on in and around Exodus HQ, I can look forward to not having one of those “I really should get more involved” moments.
Next up……. Who knows?!