I should explain that while I have over the last two years commuted regularly on bikes be they Boris, Brompton or road, I am a complete beginner when it comes to cycle touring.
Some slight experience was had in a 2010 London-to-Brighton sponsored ride which took me 10 hours, and included three flat tires before i'd left the M25, a slipped chain and eventually a complete breakdown of the bike meaning I entered Brighton on what felt like an undersized girls clown bike kindly lent to me by the race mechanics. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of my abilities...
Nonetheless the first day's ride despite the early morning delays was nothing short of a delight. A watery sun pierced the late morning fog and glimmered of the Tyne forcing me to ride along singing cliche's happily.
A quick detour to Heddon-on-the-wall to see the Emperor Hadrian's demarcation of the extent of Rome's control justified my decision to go north to go east and with a last shout of defiance at any marauding Scotsmen I was off - following the river Derwent south through forests along dirt tracks and generally feeling alive.
The trail was long, the surface muddy - sucking at my tires and draining my legs but made it to the small market town of Consett covering 20 miles in a little over three hours.
It was at this point I made a fateful decision: Rather than head directly south towards my target of Bernards Castle I veered west along what looked sure to be a delightfully scenic b-road.
A map, a map, my kingdom for a topographical map... this seemingly innocuous route took me straight out of the plains and up into the uppermost reaches of the North Pennines. Having made it, panting over the first hill, I descended at pace into the next valley with the sun beginning to droop in the sky I made it about 1k along the next hills ascent before jelly legged I all but dropped from the saddle onto a helpfully situated hay bale to catch my breath and decide my next move. One aborted attempt to carry on over the hill later I had turned around to head back to a BnB sign I'd seen at the foot of the hill.
My low mood as I haggled over a price to pitch my tent on their lawn was mirrored by a precipitous drop in temperature. I begin to question my ability to see through the fanciful dream of of cycling the world. Bleakly I considered what failure might feel like. How could I show my face to family and friends after announcing with such self-importance that I was off. Job quit and savings blown on a bike and kit; was there a conceivable way back? A brief assessment of the merits of riding into an oncoming car the next day to provide an adequate excuse for not going on were interrupted by the sound of barking.
Looking up from my worries I was greeted by the excited faces of no fewer than 15 dogs (Pointers as I would later discover) running toward me snuffling and sniffling around my camp. Their owner, a mysterious Irish dog trainer named Dennis, was quick to take pity on me and invited me to his caravan for a cup of tea.
It is remarkable what a few cuppas, good conversation, the company of a pack of grinning dogs and perhaps most importantly a plentiful supply of hot cross buns and biscuits can do for your mood.
It was only at this point that I realised a banana, a breakfast bar and two chocolate bars had been my only food since 05:00 that morning. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I had read about the bonk but not experienced it! Hear I was questioning my trip when i should have been stuffing my face.
Lesson learnt I awoke the next morning feeling much more positive and excited about taking on the hill who had so easily bested me the previous afternoon.