It's not what you want when you're nearing the top of a long climb. I caught a darting shadow out of the corner of my eye. Maybe I was seeing things; it was getting hot.
No, there it was again.
And then it struck - a searing zip on my left shoulder. But she hadn't finished with me yet.
Time after time, she spun round and struck again. I told myself I was imagining torn flesh but I still made haste up the second half of Fleet Moss. I needn't have bothered - in fact, I may just have egged her on. I've discovered she loves chasing dark things (think, horses’ butts, think, black lycra!) and has a top speed of 83.3mph faster than this third fastest ascent of mine - she's the true Queen of the Mountains. She's a horsefly.
It's a first, and hopefully a last, to be knowingly tormented by this marauding creature with its merry low-pitched humming. Turns out the lycra shorts were a slightly better protector than my fly-weight top but maybe I should count myself lucky at only five bites. Thankfully, I'd already been double dosing on anti-histamines after two mountainous midge bites over the previous couple of days.
I'm on my way to Swaledale. I set off before seven to catch a few hours of cool air and I was, excepting the aggressive beast, enjoying myself. Buttertubs was a delight and I headed east through Muker and on to Gunnerside, where the crazy dead-end road I was off to explore awaited.
The start proved interesting - an electric gate. I thought this would be useful. Press the button, start the hill and gate closes behind. But no. Get to the other side of gate, which is on a fairly hefty incline, and there's another button to close the gate behind you. I pondered for a while, not wanting to fall off in my attempt to start. I'm not one to play the damsel in distress but after a few moves of my bike to try and find the perfect angle to give it a go, I was pleased to hear the voice of a lovely man from a nearby cottage asking me if I wanted him to press the button. Glee!
But this taxing little hill didn't end there.
The tarmac is smooth but the width barely makes a toy car. I'm on my way up, twisting on unrelenting hairpins in what feels like every 3 metres. I meet a large vehicle descending. There's nowhere to go. I stop. And pull onto the hillside. That involves a start. I'm lucky. My pedals clip straight in. I set off on the same terrain. A few hundred yards up and I see the post van descending. Nowhere to go. I stop. And pull onto the hillside. That involves a start. I'm unlucky. My pedal doesn't clip straight in but it's resting gingerly on the upturned side. I decide to keep going, careful to exert a continuous pressure through the loose foot. Finally, and with much heart control, I reached the section that levelled out to the ending gate.
I call this a grand success really. I made it to the top without an utter epic and I’m content with two unavoidable stops. And, I have no need to return to do it again! (Rich on the other hand has yet to tick it. (Muttley snigger))
The view was pretty cool from up there too although this was the hottest part of the day. In the background, you can just see the gated road I chose to make my way back on. I selected it for the ultimate cheat's way back into Wensleydale - to be fair, it was the closest pass but it was in the full knowledge that there would be lots of gates to open and shut which I knew to be placed perfectly to dismount and mount my bike - which I knew would give me a breather no less than six times on this stunning climb. I have Earthdreamer to thank for this discovery - otherwise I'd have been taking the Crackpot's way home.
And then it was along to Aysgarth for a wonderful cafe stop where the sun had thankfully disappeared behind high cloud and I sat outside under a big umbrella in perfect temperatures.
That just took Kidstones to gently make my way up in a welcome headwind before trundling my way home. The last hour was tough but I had plenty of good memories to just about keep me going.
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