Well I've had a good run for my money, as they say, but after 6 weeks of cycle commuting pleasure, disaster struck yesterday, with a flat tyre. Fortunately, I was on my homeward leg of my commute, and the Cycling Gods must have been watching over me, because I was only about 500 yards from home. I heard a bang and felt the complete loss of pressure on the back wheel. So I pushed my Subway the rest of the way home.
I checked the tyre over, and couldn't find any obvious cut/tear etc., because it was the back wheel I didn't attempt to take it off, too much hassle, I'm not back in work till Tuesday, so I'll take it to Halfords to repair, as the tyre is guaranteed against puncture for 12 months, then, if it is a puncture, I'll have a replacement tyre and inner tube for free.
6 weeks, is probably the best run I've had, without a flat, since I've been back cycling, which must be approximately 3 years now, averaging it out, at say a flat every 6 weeks (that's being generous), that is 156 divided by 6 weeks, then I've had to contend with 36 flats, adding inthat horrendous period of 8 punctures in 2 weeks, back in June, I come to a figure 44 flats, or 156 divided by 44, which gives a depressing return of a flat every 3 and a half weeks!!!
Cycling must be very important to me, for me to have persisted against such disappointments and frustrations. But let me try to remain positive.
These last 6 weeks have been great, on average I've commuted at least 3-4 times a week, only used the car twice, once because I overslept, and the other I had to run Elizabeth to the airport, she was going to her niece's graduation and to stay with her mum, in Belfast. So my commute is 40 miles a day round trip, I reckon I've knocked up over 800 miles in those 6 weeks. This is where I need a diary to make a note of such details, also for what has happened on my commutes, weather, widlife I've seen and so on, in order to write it up in this here blog.
For the moment, I'll have to regale you with the fantastic 10 minutes I experienced on my way home the night beore last. I was on my final leg of the commute, I'd just passed Aberpergwm mine coal washery entrance, along the front of which is an old section of the canal. You'd have to know it was there, because it's hidden by reeds, and overgrown with weeds. I had been cycling through really heavy rain, and enjoying the ride immensely, as I passed the entrance I heard a squeeking, some sort of distress call, from an animal, as I cycled it got louder, then I knew it was coming from the reeds on my left next to the hidden canal. I stopped parked my bike next to the road as quietly as I could, stepped over the low fence, and crept towards the reeds. As I approached the squeeking stopped, but then I heard anothe squeeking back towards the entrance, the reeds were above my waist in front of me, and I carefully looked over them to see what was happening, keeping as still and silent as I could.
To be honest, I thought I had stumbled across a family of mink on the move, a female transporting her kits to a new location, which was tremendous the first time I saw it, oh a couple of years back, whilst riding my first bike, the Raleigh Chiltern along another stretch of the canal. Getting back to this present scenario, I watched and waited hoping to catch a glimpse of something, within a few moments I was rewarded, with the sight of something swimming through the water, submerging and rising between the reeds. It was far too big to be a mink, but the same colour as a rat, but again much too large an animal, almost immediately it dawned on me, that this creature was, an otter. It continued purposely, on it's course, disappearing into the reeds on the bank of the canal directly opposite me, then reappeared with a smaller version of itself, swimming alongside, submerging , diving in and around the weeds, swimming now towards another squeeking, further along to my left.
The waist high reeds in front of me hid me from this pair completely, as they swam slowly and quite leisurely, and I was able to follow their progress, padding gently through the grass, which fortunately had just been cut. I followed them this way for about 15 yards, only at most about 7-8 yards away. At this point I was rewarded again when another otter cub, came out of the weeds on the far bank to join them. All three of them, a mother and her two cubs then swam on almost as one , undulating in and out of the water and weeds, till sadly I could see them no more.
This whole episode lasted a maximum of 10 minutes, but it was a brilliant experience for me, and I couldn't wait to tell Elizabeth and the boys about it. I feel very priviledged at having been able to view wildlife such as this, the opportunity came simply because I was riding my bike, if I'd been driving by in my car, like everybody else, I would not have heard the squeeking of the otter cub, and so missed it all.
To some of you, such a sight/experience might be somewhat more commonplace, but otters have only recently started to return to the local rivers, as these have become cleaner etc.. I knew there were otters around these parts because sadly, I had seen a very large specimen, presumably a male,dead at the side of the dual carriageway I used to travel, in my car, to and from work, about 3 years ago. But now I have seen an otter and two cubs, which means they are, hopefully, established in the area, great news indeed.