At the beginning of the year, I had decided to do a bike ride I’d often thought about, but hadn’t ever got round to doing anything about. The bike ride would be a coast ride, about 2 hours-ish in duration and would end up with a great meal with my wife as a finale. To be more specific, I would be riding a vintage Cannondale mountain bike (a 1999 Super V 500 if you’re interested) and which would be newly shod in a pair of Terra One Rider T1 tyres that I’ve mentioned several times previously. I reckon these tyres would be good on the terrain I had in mind. The tread pattern would certainly leave a nice pattern in the sand and they would also be challenged on the slippery, seaweed covered rocks.
The ride starts in a small and very picturesque old fishing town on the North East, Yorkshire Coast of the UK called Staithes, and the goal would be to get to the finish, further down the coast in Whitby. This is a wild, rugged and dangerous coastline as many ships and mariners could tell us over the centuries. This ride needs respect, some planning and timing, because at a certain time during the low tide cycle, it is just about possible to get most of the way on the beach. A bit of a detour is required to negotiate some sheer cliffs, but apart from that, I reckoned it is either rideable or in some cases, bike-carrierable, if that’s a word. If my timing is wrong, I could get cut off by the incoming tide both behind and in front of me and if it’s by the big cliffs, I’m doomed. The local lifeboat would have to be called out and I’d be both in trouble and in the local newspaper as the “stupid cyclist who got into troubled waters” or some cheesy headline like that. Sounds exciting huh?
The finale is a calorific and very tasty plate of fish and chips with my wife in our favourite Whitby restaurant. Whitby has a special link with Dracula. Everybody knows that Dracula first came ashore in the UK in Whitby, right? Just in case you don’t know, or as a reminder, Dracula arrived from Transylvania in a Russian vessel called the Dmitry from Narva. This ship ran aground on Tate Hill Sands below East Cliff in Whitby whilst carrying a cargo of silver sand. The ships’ log charts the gradual disappearance of the entire crew during the journey to Whitby, until only the Captain is left, tied to the ship’s wheel as the vessel runs aground in a storm. The beached ship tips over onto its side in the harbour and a very large hound is seen bounding from the wreck and running up the 199 steps to the church and abbey, which both sit grandly on the top of the high cliffs. From this moment on, things begin to go horribly wrong. Dracula has arrived!
The ship was actually called Demeter, but the famous Dracula author, Bram Stoker, changed the name to Dmitry. There is a famous photographer from the late 19th century called Frank Meadow Sutcliffe who photographed everyday life in the busy Whitby fishing community, and it was he who photographed the Demeter in the harbour. It is an atmospheric photo. The huge wooden masts broken off and lying beside the wooden hull of the vessel, which is beached on the sand, and make it look very sinister, especially when you know what happened on that ship.
So that was the ‘Dracula ride’ plan which I had been looking forward to for several weeks. It was a simple plan as well; Jump on a plane on the Friday with my two new tyres, fly from Switzerland to the UK, get the tyres fitted onto the Cannondale and let the adventure commence the following day, then fly back on Monday. Except it didn’t happen like that. What actually happened was the following……
On the previous Wednesday after work, 2 days before I plan to leave for the UK, I felt a bit tired, which is normal after a long day at work and knowing that I had a night riding the track ahead of me. I had a quick snack and had a strong ride at the track that evening. All good. Thursday dawns fine and I bounce into work with my usual vigor. My wife flying a day ahead of me to the UK. The day goes just fine, except as the evening progresses, I start to feel ‘not great’. I wake up on Friday, have breakfast, kiss the cat goodbye until Monday and walk up the hill to the train. By the time I get to the train, I’m out of breath, coughing occasionally and don’t feel great. I am absolutely not the suspicious type, so give me a ladder to walk under on Friday 13th and I’m fine. However, the Cvirus is kicking off big time now in Switzerland and we’re only 3 hours from Milan by train and things are getting tense. Most companies have people working from home so the train platform was unusually empty for the time of day. I’m worried about my condition and call my wife to discuss what to do. I haven’t got the full set of Cvirus symptoms, but eventually as my train comes into the station, I decide to protect other’s wellbeing and go home, sacrifice the flight and my much anticipated weekend.
Friday 13th continues with working from home as I’m not travelling anymore. I light a fire to warm the house a little, be cosy and throw my abandoned plane tickets on the fire. They burn pretty quickly. My energy is low and I decide that I made the right decision even though I don’t show the main symptoms. At least the cat seems pleased to have me kicking around the place. In the evening, I open up my non-work computer, which, after providing great service, finally dies in my lap. So not only do I feel crappy, I’ve missed a great weekend, my wife is in another country, and now my computer is dead. Even the weather forecast was good for the weekend ride. I’m not suspicious and I’ve just had more than my 3 disasters in a day, so all is well. I decide to put the new Terra One tyres that were destined for my UK ride, onto my old Kona Cinder Cone and recognise this great, coastal Dracula bike ride I had planned, is now for another day. Always look on the bright side of life!
Bizarrely, two days later, I’m feeling fine and cycling up the hill in the dark at night on my trusty Kona mountain bike, new tyres and all, and I pass the village church, which is always beautifully lit up at night. I decide to ride down and photograph the Kona against the wall and in front of one of the many lights. The dark green bike casts a big, gangly shadow across the white walls of the church in a spooky way, and it reminds me of Dracula. Because if Dracula had landed in Whitby a century later in 1991, and when this Kona was new, he might have ridden it from the ship to the church on top of the cliffs. He would have leant the bike against the white church wall whilst he went looking for his next victim. The dark, spooky shadow cast upon the wall by the Kona would represent its rider, who would return to get his trusty steed to then race across the misty, North Yorkshire Moors in search of more death. Some say, he’s still out there…..
All photos by the Author