I had a dentist’s appointment today – made back in the heady days when the other half wasn’t working and could give me a lift to Notso Bigtown whenever I chose. There is a bus that could take me there from the bottom of the village road end – it even allegedly takes bikes – but today dawned sunny and (amazingly) with a forecasted bi-directional tailwind so even though it was a 28-mile round trip there was no contest: a cycling I would go. I also had to pick up all the things that we used to regularly buy in Notso Bigtown (hippy eco-washing up liquid, meat from an animal with a name or at least a local address, organic lemon squash) so I emptied out my pannier of all the random crap that accumulates in it and makes it weigh as much as a small handbag and set off.
Now there’s an official cycling route to Notso Bigtown and it involves going down an enormously steep hill with a stop sign at the bottom of it. This means that the official cycling route from Notso Bigtown involves stopping at the bottom of an enormously steep hill and then tackling it from a standing start. So once I’d visited the dentist (clean bill of health, thank you very much), visited the hippy eco washing up liquid shop, visited the butcher where they tell you which farm the animals come from, and re-attached my laden pannier to my bike, I was keen to find another route home. I do sort of know the alternative route, in that I had done it before, but that was with somebody else navigating. I knew I headed north out of Notso Bigtown and then eventually turned east, but that was it. Well, how hard can it be, I thought to myself. I’ll just head in roughly the right direction and eventually I’ll recognise where I am.
All went well enough out of town, and I was happily cycling north, under Big A Road, looking for the point where I turned east. I came to a crossroads and saw that the right turn was actually signposted for Bigtown. Superb. Off I set, despite the fact that I was on a B Road with actual white lines down the middle. Quite a wide B Road. A wide B road with a give way sign at the end of it. What do B Roads give way to? They give way to A roads, Big A Road to be exact. Suddenly I was faced with multiple lanes of speeding traffic and I knew that even to get back to the big steep hill route I’d have to turn right off it. I realised that I’d gone wrong by following signs aimed at cars, because signs aimed at cars are going to want to point you straight back onto the A road. So I retraced my steps, and took the arm of the cross roads where the sign didn’t point to anywhere and hence managed to find my way home. Another 14 very pleasant rolling miles, and barely a car or even a tractor in sight.
As I was sitting on the bench recovering, New Neighbour came back and was asking about my day. I told him I’d cycled 28 miles to the dentist. ‘Lucky you,’ he said, for he is a cyclist too. It’s not often people envy you for a trip to the dentist. But on a day like today, better the dentist on a bike than almost any trip anywhere stuck in a car…