A day trip not to forget – for some anyway
Sunday 8th January 2016 report by Joe Anne.
‘Lets get the train to Coleraine’ they said, ‘it will be an adventure’ they said, ‘the weather will be fine…honest’ they said. So a number of bike loving adventurers set off from Comber shortly after 8am.
We arrived to the train station a little harassed, one was late and one had just suffered a large swelling in her tyre (This wasn’t code for something else). After debating about this actually being a train station and not a bus station we boarded. All we needed now was a sausage soda and a coffee…. apparently NI Railways don’t do food. Nevertheless we munched through bars and juice and after a short delay arrived in Coleraine just in time for Halfords to open. My large swelling needed replaced. Now time for McDonalds McCafe before the off, after all it was lunch time.
The wind had not eased as promised and as we approached the first roundabout there were a few squeals as we all held on tight trying to stay as close together as possible. We headed towards Portstewart, Portrush and on to Bushmills… the coast road was an amazing sight with the waves crashing off Whiterocks… perfect day for surfing! The wind never let up and we struggled to stay together as a group but team leader Keith kept us together doing sweeper if anyone dropped off the back. Those who felt stronger rotated regularly at the front to shelter the group. Plenty of chat and laughs along the way despite the hard work.
About 10 miles from Ballymena the rain started, that was it, never stopped. The clock was ticking and we needed a food stop. A cafe in Ballymena was chosen and we refuelled as quickly as we could (45 minutes later), it was 3:30 and light was against us (some had dinner plans and parties). The mood was a mixture of optimistic and pessimistic leaving the cafe, some had glasses half full and others were completely empty, the phrase I remember most was ‘this next 3 hours is going to be hell!’
As we left the cafe rushing against the clock we managed to loose Philip in the melee of the roundabouts and road works in Ballymena, we rang and arranged a meeting point, it never happened! Some may say he had a lucky escape… some suggested a well timed and planned exit.
In an effort to meet Philip we somehow took a wrong turn and ended up climbing the Rathkeel Road for what seemed like forever, rain and wind still beating against us! We split and regrouped a few times and the weather was starting to take its toll. Just as we tried to figure out where we were Andy got a nasty puncture, Darren came to the rescue but because of the cold and nature of the damage this took 40mins to fix. Kyla, Keith, Stuart and Adam had gone on to get a signal on their phones and found shelter at the next junction (a wall), Jonny and I supervised Darren and Andy changing his tube. I can’t remember being so cold or wet and so far from home, I really questioned my sanity and wondered how, if at all, we were going to get home. It was now after 5pm and getting dark. Kyla with a nasty cough and Adam who had strict instructions to be home for his Sunday bath rang for a taxi back to Ballymena to get the train home.
The remaining 6 moved on, Keith, Stuart, Darren, Jonny, Andy and myself. We worked quietly eating up the miles in the dark and the rain. Keith kept the encouragement coming and we made progress. I hadn’t a clue where I was but was assured we where nearly in Belfast. Doagh is not nearly in Belfast but apparently it was going to be downhill the whole way home. Andy had dug deep for a long time and decided enough was enough, time to ring for backup… Mrs Andy was going to collect him at the Odyssey with a fish supper.
Spirits lifted when we noted the lights on Black mountain and the rain eased a little. We made great time down into Belfast, I even recall an attempt at sinigng somewhere along the Antrim Road. There was a great sense of comradery and the laughs kept on coming.
Darren and Andy left us in Belfast and the last 4 headed for home, over Dee Street, Holywood Arches and safely onto the Greenway home to Comber.
Some think we are mad and yes I guess we are slightly off the scale but we have one thing in common, we just want to get out, ride our bikes and explore…. So that’s exactly what we did. We had to dig deep at times and we worked together throughout our adventure with a great spirit of friendship. No one was left behind, well apart from Philip who was sitting in the house.
To all this was a marvelous effort and to Andy B a special well done as this was only his second outing with KCC. Maybe next time Andy you don’t need to bring a rucksack filled with chicken drumsticks!