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Torquay and Dawlish, Saturday 20 July 2013

August 18, 2013

‘Checkmate!
Dennis Bell of Torquay’

Bad Losers on Yahoo Chess

‘If you would come with me to Dawlish
I’d be like Stadler’s caddy for ya’

Prag Vec at the Milkweg

Pissed off in StarcrossDevon is the proud home of five Biscuit Destinations, and we’re reunited with Richard Clarke and David Davies in a bid to bag four of them.

The stamp of Clarke is very much on this tour, which means that everything  has been planned with a frankly terrifying degree of meticulousness, and that we’re going to eat in establishments that serve you ‘amuse-bouches’.   Not only that, but his parents are kindly letting us stay in their Sidmouth residence.

I arrive a day later than the rest of Team Biscuit, who’ve spent a day wandering around the Clarke family seat,  amusing their bouches, and being abused by hostile bike shop staff, who demand a £2 RNLI donation for the privilege of using their pump.

When I arrive in Sidmouth, they’re all waiting by the side of the road and it’s instantly made clear to me there’s little time to waste on pleasantries because we have to catch the 12.40 ferry across the Exe to Starcross.  Despite Dawes and me both having new bikes, none of us are able to make it up Peak Hill out of town (to be fair, it’s very steep – look), so there’s some humiliating dismounting before we make any progress towards Exmouth.  Upon our arrival, we struggle to find the ferry terminal (a familiar tale) and only just make our crossing.   There’s no problem getting our bikes on although one of the ferry staff is as odious as a Bogus Official and making unpleasant comments about the weight of his teenage assistant.

After Dawlish, where we bag our first destination, our route more or less sticks to the coast.  The views aren’t bad, but the assurances of childhood Devonian David Davies that the road is flat lead us to question his powers of recollection.  At Torquay, self-styled jewel of the English Riviera and home to ungracious online chess player Denis Bell, we wander round looking for the seafront without success, to the point where we start to doubt that the town actually next to the sea at all.   But we can reveal that Torquay’s claims to be a major coastal resort are not an elaborate hoax, and we’re soon eating whelks and ice creams at an overpriced café on the seafront.

The mood darkens when it becomes clear that we’re not going to be able to make it to Totnes for the Bickering Fair, or to Newton AbbotDawlish to see them weigh in, without risking being late for our dinner reservation (made several years in advance by Richard).  After some intense discussions, fine dining wins out over Biscuit Touring, and we resolve to get a train back to Starcross for the Exmouth ferry.

Unfortunately, on arrival at the terminal, we’re informed that we can’t cross with our bikes because they’ve already let some other cyclists on, and blah blah blah, insurance policy, blah blah blah, more than my job’s worth, etc, etc.  It’s health and safety gone mad.  All we can do is leave our bikes behind to pick up tomorrow.  The bloke we saw abusing his employee earlier is particularly unpleasant about it all, taking much delight in telling us that he can’t guarantee our bikes will still be there in the morning.  He deserves his own couplet in ‘Breaking News’.

So we make the crossing without our bikes, noting how much room for them there would have been for them.  At Exmouth, we take the natural step of locating a tavern, and therein discussing means of physically harming those who have crossed us, before getting a taxi back to Sidmouth.  All of this means at least that we get to the Salty Monk in time for our booking.  The amuse-bouche is very good – a minty soup thing in a teacup.

Bikes behind barsOn arrival at Exmouth the next morning (having shelled out for another cab – they’re getting to like us at  the taxi company), the good news is that our bikes haven’t been purloined.  The bad news is that they’re behind the locked gates at the terminal, so we have to sit around waiting for our friends on the ferry before we can retrieve them.

At last it’s time to leave all this unpleasant ferry business behind us.  Having dealt with the puncture that’s mysteriously befallen my rear wheel overnight (foul play?)  there’s a very nice ride along cycle lanes to Honiton station to get the train back to the ferry free by-ways of London.

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5 Comments
  1. Jonah Varc permalink

    That hill out of Sidmouth is indeed viciously steep, so pushing a bike up it is pretty sensible I think. A couple of years ago the Tour of Britain went up it and watching them on TV, I naturally assumed that they’d really struggle rather than pedal up it ludicrously fast.
    I drove up Coffinstone Hill on Dartmoor last year and decided to leave my bike chained up at the Youth Hostel as I knew I’d never cycle up it and again thought the TdB would really struggle….
    Chapeau mes braves.

  2. scandieandy permalink

    Harman, Harman, Harman. The plural of amuse-bouche is amuses-bouches. How can I big up this project when such schoolboy errors occur?

  3. Andy permalink

    Gentlemen, I’d like to use an image of you on a 2014 HMHB-themed calendar. Rather cheekily, I already chose one. Can you get in touch to discuss, please? We met briefly at the end of the Cambridge gig, or was it the one before?! There’s a copy of said calendar in it for you.

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