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Onwards through the Isle of Dogs, where two decided to call it an evening and make their way home via the Greenwich foot tunnel to some dry clothes and a hot meal.
That left two hardy souls to complete the ride, which I extended beyond Barry Mason's usual route to Southwark Bridge, with a slow spin along the south bank of the Thames through Bankside.
Finally, a desperate attempt to dry out self and cycling shoes before setting out again for the Midsummer madness ride.
Some two dozen departed in the small hours from Cutty Sark Gardens, led with near military precision by Colin from Southwark. It was strangely quiet in the Gardens, with few speaking to each other. I suspect that Barry Mason was being missed. It took around an hour before the ice broke and stranger spoke unto stranger. That happened at the Southwark Needle, where we collected another couple of dozen or so riders.
It rained in large part on the outward journey.
There was a coffee stop at Bar Italia in the West End, timed just right so that new acquaintances could be made. And then, what seemed like only a few minutes later, we were climbing Primrose Hill, with an army of hardcore fixie riders leading the way. The rain stopped, but the cloud remained solid. A few of the non-cyclists present on the hilltop seemed to resent our noisy presence. It hindered their attempts to be all contemplative and spiritual. Or something.
The return ride was free of rain, with patches of blue appearing overhead and growing steadily. Huge plates of food of the deep-fried variety was wolfed down at a café in Southwark, following which the riders made their own way home, with me wending my way along the same Thames Path I had visited only a few hours earlier.
Six departed from Cutty Sark Gardens on a cloudy and humid morning, and began a long spin south, escaping London's grip in Chislehurst. From there we headed toward the top of the North Downs at Badgers Mount, and then turned east, following the Darent Valley through Shoreham, Eynsford and Farningham, stopping for a swift pint at the Bull in Horton Kirby, now sadly sans Chloë, the mottled four-legged greeter from Birmingham.
Photo: Josef Frendo
By the time we left the Bull it was showering, though not enough to get us properly wet. The light was good, despite the rain, and the poppies glowed a glorious near-infrared all along the roadside.
From Horton Kirby we continued along the north bank of the Darent Valley, and joined the main road east at Hawley. From Hawley we continued onward to Dartford, and, foregoing the delights of Dartford town centre, headed north to Crayford, and from there on to Erith, a delightful town about which Jane Davis was most complimentary.
Following a short stop on Erith Pier, we headed west along the Thames Path, with the rain getting steadily heavier. All were soaked by the time we reached Greenwich, but looked happy enough despite the drenching.
A new face on today's ride: Boris, a young fixie-riding courier from northern France, who moved to London a couple of months ago. This was his first group outing. Welcome, Boris!