When we stepped out of the halfway cafe it was freezing and I was in two minds about putting on my leggings. The sun still hadn't risen and I decided to just pull up my knee socks in case I got too hot. I forgot to put on my gloves but A2 got them out of my pannier for me and I was all set.
Everyone was a bit chattery and we were anxious to get going. We set off into a dark blue sky and prepared for the sunrise. It wasn't a disappointment. The mist was low on the fields and the only way you knew there was anything around was the occasional bleat of a sheep hidden in the foggy depths. The sun came up red and gorgeous and it was hard to focus on the road as I kept wanting to turn and look.
Our calls of 'Left', 'Right' and 'Hole' became 'Bunny', 'Roadkill' and 'Tractor'.
It started to warm up and then would suddenly cool as we climbed and descended hills and then we came to the split point.
To avoid an enormous hill the leader had decided we could go one of two ways. A 'genteel route' that involved turnstiles, a small bridge built by the Gurkhas and an overgrown trail to Arundel or a 'ruft tufty route' that went over a bridleway of flinty chalk and involved more climbing. I opted for genteel and A2 went for rufty tufty so we bade each other farewell and wished each other luck.
The genteel crew were a lively lot and we spent much of the time giggling as we helped one another lift bikes over gates and went over the bridge. The bridge was about the width of my handlebars plus two inches. Not nice. Beautiful handiwork though, hurrah for the Gurkhas. The overgrown bit was a bit scary to someone who has a history with towpaths as it was narrow and bumpy with drops either side. We all made it ok and got onto the road. We were then warned there was 'one more hill'. Hmmmmmmm, a lovely girl on an orange Brompton was with me when we hit it and it was very steep. We were knackered by the top and a passing tractor halfway didn't help with our adrenaline levels.
Then we were in Arundel. I was keen to see it as a friend's getting married there next year. It's very pretty and we all took pictures with the castle in them (see the Bognor pics). Then we waited. And waited. And waited.
Turns out the flint path really was rufty tufty and contributed mightily to the rumoured 10 flats we got on the trip.
We climbed the final hill through Arundel to meet the other lot on the main road (yes they said one more hill at the bridge and they lied) and off we went. Then we stopped. Then we went. Then we stopped. Again, flats plagued us but we went through the country roads and ended up in what looked like a cul de sac. I was non-plussed until I realised that, rather than end in mock-tudor semis, it ended in the sea!
We had made it and it was a beautiful day. The sun beat down and I felt victorious. Unfortunately, our late arrival meant A2 and I had to head straight back to London so we and two others headed to the station. We managed to get some delicious and well-deserved coffee, got our four bikes safely stowed and sank into our train seats.
After getting to Victoria I cycled to Paddington and then cycled from Southall home. I went a bit metal for a moment and considered doing the 15 miles from Victoria to home but, luckily, I realised I wanted to read the paper and couldn't do that on my bike.
I got home, locked up my faithful steed and had a very hot shower before going to bed. The bruises were developing, I was exhausted and my grazes stung from the shower, but it was bliss.