There are times when a long bike ride alone can feel like a real adventure; sometimes, you never quite know what’s around the next corner.
On the recent May Day Bank Holiday I found myself (gloriously) with nothing better to do than head out for a ride - and I don’t need asking twice - so the route was planned: out through Wray (Scarecrow Festival ‘n all), over the Cross o’ Greet to Slaidburn, through Tosside and Wigglesworth, and back to Lancaster via Kirkby Lonsdale.
From Wray, the Cross o’ Greet is a long climb, and with a fierce headwind to contend with I knew I was in for a battle.
I had to laugh at the steady flow of cyclists coming the other way; they’d clearly thought this through and were sailing up the climb from the Slaidburn side, using the wind at their backs to their advantage.
They may have had some pity for me, but if they did they weren’t showing it.
From Slaidburn I pushed on, unaware that challenge number two was waiting a dozen miles down the road across the border into North Yorkshire.
After cruising through Tosside and Wigglesworth, the wind now partially in my favour, I was in a groove; head down and breathing hard with the effort.
I looked up for a moment, only to do a comic double take.
A wild animal was running down the road, straight at me. Too big to be a rabbit, and too quick to be a dog, I tensed up on the bike and braced myself, thinking what is that?
It was a huge, brave, reckless hare.
I’ve had my share of encounters with wildlife – sheep, rabbits, even a peacock before now – but this was my first run-in with a hare, and the size of the thing was alarming.
As it headed straight for me, seemingly hell-bent on a collision, I had about three seconds to think about the consequences before it swerved at the last minute and leapt over a wall.
I was expecting to grapple with hills, the weather and my own tired legs, but not necessarily the wildlife too; I’ll be on my guard next time I venture across the border into North Yorkshire.
They breed ‘em big over there.