Well today, I am going back. For once in a while, the holiday has been long enough. I have made a vow that never again shall I spend a week – if only in nights – at a holiday resort, however seductive it seems to be. The district has been good, and something entirely new, a fine coast, quaint villages, good roads, very pretty lanes, and some fine moorlands, but it is not scenery that I grumble about, it is that having to get back every night, having to leave on miles of road that were not, in themselves, in good surroundings, and soon became painfully familiar. The loneliness of it also did not add to the scenery. With a chum like Tom, I could talk on any subject, we could (and do) criticise things and in such ways we get the best out of what we see. Also, “Two pairs of eyes are better than one”, and in this way, we miss very little. Yes, for me at any rate, it is touring – or stay at home – in the future. Touring, every time, for all time, that wonderful variety and fascination which, once it has captured the heart, holds it to such an extent that the very thought of a week at a notorious resort like Scarborough is enough to make one shudder. But I am concerned with the return journey – and to say ‘return’ is to put it mildly. A very strong west wind was blowing when we left Scarborough at 11am.
We took the Seamer road, and at Staxton, faced the wind. The road was good, but I could not get along, and I asked Pa – on the m/c – to go on and leave me, many a time, but he would not. Near Sherburn, I saw a field that was one blazing mass of poppies, and another that seemed to have great scarlet splashes across it. Every inch of the 22 level miles at the foot of the Wolds was contested, and I foresaw a very long struggle. Beyond Malton, we crossed the Howardian hills, and the glorious woodland scenery amply compensated all the headwinds – but really, I needed no compensation, I enjoyed most of that keen struggle against the elements. If one smiles at such things, and goes ‘into the fight’ with a determination to win through, come what may, one finds that the opposition vanishes! A steep drop took me to into Ryedale, across, and up to Whitwell, from where, I ‘fell off’ the hills to Barton Hill. Then it was slightly undulating pastoral land, and the wind was fiercer than ever. I plugged along, until six miles from York, Pa called a halt for lunch at a roadside café. It was now about 2.30, some three and a half hours and we had only covered 34 miles. I considered that I had done well to average 10mph, but I was just a little afraid that, with well over 80 miles to go, I could not keep even that pace up. Pa volunteered to couple me up with a rope, but, of course, I spurned the idea. When I get down to that, I will chuck up! I would need no assistance whatsoever.
Two miles further on, we reached Monks Stray, a road that runs dead-level, and straight as a die for four miles to York. It was exceptionally hard going, and the three great spires of York Minster, straight ahead, never seemed to get any nearer. There is no doubt that it must gladden the hearts of motorists, for they love a good wide straight road, but give me a winding road, rutty bylane, and the motorists can scorch along Monks Stray for all they are worth (this is little). Reaching York at long last, we passed under Bootham Bar again, and along the narrow crowded streets to the massive pile of York Minster. The m/c wouldn’t stop again, so for the second time in eight days I had to be content with just a passing glance. Near the Ouse bridge, I caught a glimpse of St Mary’s Abbey over a wall, then passing beneath Micklegate Bar, we lumbered across some dangerous cross-roads, and, by a stretch of luck, emerged on the very road we wanted – the Tadcaster road.
Then we passed the racecourse, and left York behind. The wind again started to trouble us, and the road was none too good for scenery, but to even matters a little, the m/c drew on in front and the inevitable chug-chug gradually died away. About five miles beyond York, a cyclist asked me if he was right for Wetherby. I did not know, but referred him to my map, which put him right. He told me that he had come on an all-nighter from Newcastle, and was due at Wetherby at 4.30, to ride in the Yorkshire Club ‘50’. After riding with me a mile or so, he pushed on in front in search of a lunchplace. I noticed that he was riding very light, and that he had sprints and tubulars on. I reflected that these newly tarred and gritted roads were not destined to improve them! That’s the real cyclist all over! The newspapers rant about athletic feats and sacrifices in the interest of sport, but here a chap rides against the wind all through the night, and then goes to compete in a race against crack cyclists! I admire his pluck – and optimism, and I bet that does not get into the papers!
A little farther on I met the m/c stopped with a cyclist who joined our little party. He was a Bradford chap, and ‘cyclist de luxe’, resplendent with a full blooded roadster, ‘upstairs’ bars, mirror, cash register and innumerable other gadgets, including an electric dynamo lighting set with a rear lens, and a massive carrier at the rear, on which reposed a huge amount of luggage. He had come from Rosedale, near Pickering, where he had been spending his holidays, and he already looked tired and weary, although he had not yet travelled 36 miles. What could one expect. As I rode, I could literally pick him to pieces, so chock full of mistakes was he, the mistakes of an inexperienced, untutored ‘man-in-the-street’. Saddle too high, too near the handlebars, far too much weight, unsuitably clothed, riding the wrong type of machine, riding the wrong way, and, though he had a three speed gear, he was geared far too high. His lowest was round about 70 inches, whilst his highest – well it got well into the hundreds! I told him to put the low on, and leave it on, but he did not seem to comprehend. Owing to the wind, it was hard at times even on the level for me, and my only gear was 66 inch freewheel, yet he said that I seemed to ride easily towards himself. I did not like to start going on where he was wrong until I thought that it may be advantageous to him, for he had only been riding a month. So I told him to chuck his machine up when he got home, write to ‘Cycling’ or the CTC for specifications of a machine, and start real cycling. I was sure that then, and only then, would he find cycling worthwhile, not just worthwhile, but something to look forward to. I tried to explain the many points to him, and I believe that he began to see his own faults. I hope so. He seemed a good sort, and proved interesting company, although at times we walked absurd hills and never rode above a crawl.
At length we reached Tadcaster, the Roman Calcaria, and the last red roofed town I saw. On the summit of the hill just beyond the town, the m/c drive belt broke, but was soon repaired. After that, this road, the Leeds–Tadcaster turnpike road, was very undulating and somewhat sheltered, and in places was very pretty in the sunshine. Bramham moor, Thorner moor, we crossed, not moors in the real sense of the word, but well-wooded, pastoral scenery, with never a sign of the industrial districts ahead until past Seacroft – at Halton – tram lines started. We – Pa and I – had got in front, so we waited here for 20 minutes for our Bradford friend, but as he did not turn up, we decided to carry on. He had not far to go, but we had a matter of 48 miles beyond Leeds, and the time was getting on. My advice to intended tourists, never to go through Leeds, especially when there is a carnival on! We did! We had to walk through the main streets in the centre of town, and that was a job with thousands of people about. After several times asking for our direction, we got on the Halifax road, then we soon left the crowded city behind. Came a long walk uphill, the resultant drop on the other side having to be pedalled owing to the ferocity of the wind. Another long tramp of over a mile with enticing(?) views of colleries, slag heaps and squalid cottages, to Gildersome Street.
I was feeling ravenously hungry, and so the m/c went on to try and find a teaplace. He was successful, a little shop where we had a wash and tea. The people inside were very good, and were weavers. Such was their stinted intellectual education, that, when talking of their occupation, they told us that the master had asked them to go back to long hours on low wages – and they had done without a murmur! ‘T’master wur reight’ ‘We mun work lunger an’ accept lower brass if mun go better’ was the theme of it. Fancy trying that on in a large industrial town! They have tried it, but with different results. We have had some of them! But it just shows the way that people who are not organised are exploited. A perusal of the map resulted in the discovery that we had got on to the wrong road, the Birstall –Huddersfield road. However, it happened that we could soon rectify that, and running through Adwalton, we gained the Halifax road. It started to rain, but soon gave over again, and we made pretty moderate progress on the hilly, windswept road, through Hunsworth and Wyke to Hipperholme. Here, on the tram-lined road above the Calder valley, the rain came again, and as it looked like settling down to it, I got my cape out. Pa, after some considering, decided now to push on home, so after I had given him directions to the best of my ability – I was an entire stranger to this side of Halifax– he pushed on, and was soon lost to sight. The remaining three decidedly bumpy miles to Halifax were made against both wind and rain.
I have memories of Halifax! The wet, greasy setts, and the ill-laid tram lines made the going very dangerous. For several miles out of Halifax I rode with my heart in my mouth. First my front wheel would slide into the gutter, then my rear wheel would swing right round, and often I felt the wheel slip round when I applied pedal pressure. Both brakes jammed on tightly rarely stopped me properly. It made me glad of a low riding position. Halifax is about the hilliest town I have ever seen. What struck me most, however, was the surprising ease with which all the tramcars climbed the steepest hill. Sowerby Bridge was another awkward town, but beyond here is the Ryburn valley and there was some glorious wooded valley scenery. The rain came down faster and harder than ever when I climbed the steep hill out of Ripponden. Now came a grand four miles in torrential rain and against a howling wind to the summit of Blackstone Edge. The streaming moors looked different – fine, in their wild desolation tonight. I saw the wide gap of the Roman Highway, which brought back a flood of memory, for it was on another such day as this that Tom and I got that never-to-be-forgotten complete drenching whilst exploring the Roman road last year.
At length I topped the Edge, then ran level for a half mile past the huge reservoir to the White House on the summit at 1,269 ft. Then came a long sweeping descent to Littleborough, somewhat retarded with the wind. Here I turned, and, for the first time got the wind behind. I think I deserved it, for I had struggled dead against it for 104 miles, 20 of them being inside the cape. Came a rough, fast, wet spell to Rochdale, then the well known route via Heywood. At Heap Bridge, the m/c with Pa on board, caught me up! There had been trouble with an exhaust pipe at Littleborough. I felt really sorry for Pa, such a weary bedraggled look had he. The exhaust pipe, which he had packed up behind, fell off, and I broke the cable of my rear brake trying to pull up quickly to avoid it. At Bury we had to light up, my ‘two bob Lucas’ responding immediately, but the m/c gas lamp kept going out. At Bradley Fold, he called at a garage for a fillup, and I carried on for the last four miles home. This has been to me a keen struggle against the elements, but I won through inside 12 hours. I got home quite fresh, not even feeling the ride, which has been, all told, glorious. Pa does not think so, and has a mind to chuck up motor cycling. Such is the way of motorcyclists. A change and supper, and I felt right for another century.