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Monday, October 5, 2009

Cottonwood, AZ

Monday, October 05, 2009

Cottonwood, AZ

Imbibing in a herbal tea and Cinn-a-bun in Old Town Cottonwood at The Orion Bread Co. I decided to stop in Cottonwood to scout out a campground for the pending Guy Camping Trip. This consists of my Son and his sons, my son-in-law and his sons, and me. Once a year we get together for a fun camping trip some place in AZ. This year the winner could be Cottonwood’s Dead Horse Campground. Happily there are really no a dead horse’s however there is the Verdi River.

Oh! Back to the Bread Company and the Cinn-a-bun which is quite good. I like thick doughy bread which this is but, not overly sweet, lots of raisins = very filling. This place even looks like a bakery! Lots of pounding of dough in the background, Flower bags lying around, even a bread cutting machine to slice the fresh baked bread. Smells of yeast, dough and baking bread waft through the air. Very restful and relaxing to set here looking out at a fairly empty street.

After Cottonwood I’ll that 89A up through Sedona to get back to Flagstaff. It is time for some mundane things such as oil change and car wash. That about as far as today is thought out. There were some other things but, they do not come to mind. No racking my brain for them for now maybe they will resurface later in the day. There are very primitive painting’s hanging on the wall that can be purchased. However, it would surprise me that anyone would pay $250 for something that looks like it was painted in kindergarten.

My bun is done, tea gone cold as I type time to find the campground then head down or rather in this case up the road. See you on the other side.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Picken In the Pines

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Flagstaff: Fort Tuthill Amphitheater

4th Annual Picken in the Pines Festival

Sitting in a booth as a volunteer for St Mary’s food bank having no clue what to do. How did I come to be here you may ask? Maria, the food bank volunteer coordinator announced at the Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors meeting that she needed people to help at the festival booth. Since I was sitting next to her at the meeting and there were no other takers the rest is history as they say. Arriving promptly at 9:30am as told I find the canopy at half mast not other volunteers seem to be present.

After raising the canopy the booth is now open for business. There is a five gallon water jug, with tickets in it, hiding behind the table. After placing in on the table two people walk up and want to enter the drawing. O.K. here are the raffle tickets how many do you want to fill out. “We’ll take the two for $5.00” says he. Oh! There is a charge for the tickets? Yep there it is on the front of the jug. So he hands me a $10.00 bill which requires change which by dumb luck I happen to have. After writing for about an hour Maria arrives and the day gets better. After a bit her boss Eric arrives and we have a nice chat.

The music has been going on for about an hour people have been filing in filling the area by the stage that has a cover over it. Along with the people clouds have begun to float by becoming thicker and grayer. The sun keeps us warm until it is swallowed by the clouds turning it cooler. We have coffee to keep our hands warm, tap our feet to the music to keep them warm. During a walk about the grounds a fellow says to me “Think It’s going to rain?” “Seems like it’s trying real hard to do that” is my answer. He laughs then a few steps later a few drops fall followed by big drops, the hail, big hail, lots of hail.

I arrive back at the booth the dark green grass now covered with white hail. Water runs off the building around us causing puddles to form with floating hail in them. Most of the crowed has attempted to get under the covered part of the stage area. Others seek out shelter under vender canopies like ours. As the thunder rolls through the trees along with lighting strikes we can hardly hear the music. The announcer has to remind some spectators not to stand under the trees. The musicians play on as the rain lets up but, the clouds take a long time releasing the sun.

The sun returns along with its warmth. Sitting in the sun I watch people attempt to avoid walking in the puddles. It seems funny to me that sometime today they may have stood in a shower not avoiding the water at all. Now it seems to some to be avoided at any cost as if it contains some hidden danger. Some however just splash through it some seems to actually enjoy getting their feet wet especially the children. Ooops I fell in the puddle Mom really I did with a sly grin on their face. I watch Marie with a group out on the lawn playing Hakie-Sackie as she sways to the music. All is good until the sun again closes over the sun with what seems like no intention to release it again today.

Having ridden my bike here it seems a good time to head for home as the distant thunder begins to rumble. I’m thankful for my GoLite rain jacket and oil sealed hat which have kept me dry and somewhat warm. As the rain begins to fall again I’m safe inside my house. Tomorrow I’ll ride again to the fair grounds for the third day of the festival hoping that the sun, music and friendship will be warm.

Sunday, September 19, 2009

Flagstaff: County Fair Grounds

Arrived before everyone else and set up the booth and immediately began selling raffle tickets. The sun is out the sky is blue with a few drifting white clouds. There is a small crowed when the first group takes the stage. They sing several hymns which are appropriate for a Sunday morning. The bands begin to play the crowed begins to flow in. Several young women appear each carrying about 10 Hula Hoops of assorted colors and sizes. Shortly after the grass hill in from of the booth is filled with children of all ages attempting to swing the things on their hips.

There is much laughter and when the young children can’t get them to swirl around their hips they chase after them as they roll down the hill. I see an friend from long ago and wave. Deanna is a wonderfully sweet person who seems to be immune to aging. She still has the same brilliant smile youthful face as when I worked with her twelve years ago. There are several people here today that I have interacted with during my time here in Flagstaff. We wave or chat depending on the moment.

Eric the head of the food back arrives with the “bank” so I can make change then is off on errands. He tells me there are tags in the “bank” for volunteers who have not shown. If there is someone I can call they can get in for free. I call a few friends but they are not home or involved in home projects. More tickets are sold more bands play, people sway and tap their feet to the music. It is warm the sun is bright causing many people to come to North Country’s First Aid booth for suntan lotion. Several little ones are brought in with swollen, angry red bee bites.

The day goes by softly it is great to do something quite different from the usual and allow relaxation to over take me. Lunch is a cold draft with a braut with all the fixings in the shade. I’m almost lulled to sleep by the casual surroundings. Time come for me to head home because the dark clouds are filling the sky. The sun has been swallowed again giving way to a cool breeze which sends most of the crowed heading to their cars. It has been a soothing weekend I’ve made new friends, done something for the community and gotten a little exercise. This is a good thing!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

England 2009 - Part X

Wednesday, May 17, 2009
Awoke to rain, dark skies, scratchy throat, and runny nose so went back to sleep. Slept until 10am then got up had breakfast, took a shower then went back to sleep. Finally roused myself around noon to get dressed and ride into town. It looked as if the clouds were going to break up so after purchasing some bread and lunch meat when to have a relaxing lunch with the ducks. I shared my lunch with some baby ducks, and one brave Drake who eat out of my hand. It began to tinkle so PUB Time I thought and headed in that direction. I proceeded to spend the rest of the day in the Pub drinking tea with lemon and talking to people online.
Several asked where I was riding to which I answered “Nowhere.” Then felt guilty as if I were letting everyone down by not doing some adventuresome, aqueous ride on dangerous roads or wet narrow paths. Just writing about doing nothing but everyday stuff was not why they read the blog, was it? Would they not be wondering why my Blog reported the mundane? My thoughts have been wondering why also. Reviewing the reasons for my initially wanting to come to England and ride brings to the fact that they had all been accomplished. Well, all except the trip to Austria and this will be coming up shortly.
The first year was the search for the Arthurian Way so to speak, next was to find Merlyn and then the air field my Dad flew out of during the war, then to attempt to get to Austria by bike riding through part of France, and now this year touching the places my family started. All goals will have been met then what? No more rides, no more Europe, no more? This year, thanks to my new bosses, money has no plagued me as an issue. So far more has been spent this trip then any of the previous three, and probably more than the first two trips combined. What is the reason for coming back again next year?
Mark stated “You push yourself to hard. I don’t know understand why you do that.” After thinking about that the reason seemed to be answered by one word “Passion.” Now this surprised me as I have always wondered what I had a passion for if anything. So now I have a passion for riding longer and longer, further and further, and harder and harder. The exhilaration I have experienced when seeing a goal come in to sight after hours of hard riding while your brain is telling you “you are not going to make it” is hard to explain. Then get up, do it again, begin to build endurance and each time it has given me back part of myself that I lost, or had not know was there. In riding there is just me, the bike and the world. My struggle is with me to do more than before and keep doing more. The only way to find out how far you can go is to attempt to go there. Never once considered this to be passion until the question was asked. I guess I need to rethink my idea of what passion is?
I’ve had people tell me I’m passionate about things confuses me because I don’t see my idea of what is passion in myself. For many years I thought that my passion was to be the champion of those I perceived as the underdog, or to right some things I believed to be wrong. I was fooled in to believing that appreciation for my actions would follow, it did not. I found myself standing on the hill fort, which is claimed to be Camelot, looking down as I allowed my imagination see the fields full of those who were once thought to be friends. And, clearly understood what it must have felt like for Arthur’s dream to be destroyed by the jealous who wanted to take over. Arthur knew he would not rule this forever nor did he want to. He wanted to set something in place for those he cared about then let them run it. The interesting thing about this is that my goal has always been that once achieved I too wanted them to take over. But, for some that was not acceptable as what I had put together was acceptable to them, it had to be torn down, me along with it, in order for it to be constructed in their perceived better way.
People who I thought were friends turned into betrayers. In family therapy there is the Triangle which is made up of the Savior, Persecutor, and the Victim. These roles are traded from time to time and anyone who attempts to help the victim can become yet another triangle attached to the first. I have taught this over and over, yet find myself succumbing to its siren song time and time again. The savior turns into the Persecutor of the Persecutor which turns the Persecutor into the Victim and the Victim turns into the Savior. This is seen time and time again when Police answer domestic violence calls. The Police (Savior) quickly become the Persecutor, allowing the Persecutor to become the Victim, and the Victim(s) become the Savior turning on the police. A therapist not paying attention can find themselves pulled into this game very quickly. However, when the word “friend” is used CYA is not necessary right?
That’s what Arthur thought, but it was his “friends” who destroyed him along with what he had built so they could show how much better they were then he. They succeeded because he trusted his “friends” and was left empty when he found he could not. I believe I could trust people who reported themselves to be friends and found out over time they were not. Yet I will try again with the hope that this time there will be a real friend who will stay at my side much like Mark and Gary.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I picked up the mail today

Usually my first stop upon leaving the house is to pick up my mail. I pick it up from silver sentries standing at attention beside the main road I must use to start any adventure. I peeked in and at first thought the box to be empty, but stooping a bit lower brought into view what looked like junk mail. Amids the flyer's is an envelop which at first glance look as if it came from my bank in England. However, the envelop, as it came free of the junk mail, had a neat, tight, hand written address on it. The last part of the envelop to be freed from the junk mail showed that this letter came from Austria.

"OH MY GOD!" My new family was writing to me! I looked on the back and was stunned, my mind began to create all these pictures!

Summer of 1963

I own a Forest Green 1951 Chevy convertible with a white top. The top is not longer the original canvas, but a brand new vinyl from Rayco. I have had it for three years and treat it with TLC. It gets washed every weekend then polished with Blue Coral wax and sealer, the top is about a year old. The upholstery is real leather died green to match the car. I have put new green carpet in to replace the black rubber. Twin mirrors mounted way up front, twin power aerials adorn the back fenders. The wheels are narrow white walls with silver spinner hub caps locked on.

The sun causes the paint sparkles each time it emerges from the shade as it cruses down N-9 in Upstate NY on its way to Canada. The top is down the tank is full and I am driving my grandmother and my aunt to Montreal. We are going there to visit my grandmother's sister who has just had a baby. My grandmother's sister and her husband have been in Canada about four years now having migrated there from Austria. Her name is Rosie and my uncle's name is Joe. They hope to come to America as some point, but it is now difficult to immigrate do to the new immigration laws.

My aunt Elsie is in front with me, my grandmother in the back both had donned kerchiefs to keep their hair in from blowing about. It is a warm summer day with pale blue Sky's filled with puffs of white clouds. We are driving through green pastures, broken by forest covered mountains or tiny towns. N-9 was the north - south route through NY before the NY Thruway was built. Many summer were spent traveling this road as we headed to Lake George for vacations. It is a two lane road with passing strip that are taken advantage of as much as possible.

My car is quite heavy for it's 90 horsepower straight six engine. So timing is everything as I drop back from the car I'm going to pass, see a passing strip coming up zoom forward gathering momentum to zip passed, then on down the road arm on the door, radio singing away. My Aunt Elsie is the best even if there is a 10 year age difference between us, but you'd never know it. She calls me her older brother even though I'm younger. We have spend a lot of time together over the years doing allot of talking. She is married and currently has three sons who are home with their dad, my uncle Red.

The baby is about three weeks old at this point and we are all anxious to see her. In the trunk, along with our suitcases, are gifts for her and her parents. Uncle Joe does not make much as an upholsterer and they share a two bedroom apartment with another couple. We wonder were we will all sleep upon arrival. I know we will drink Schnapps, laugh, talk, and eat allot. My grandmother will buy all the food and anything else they need. She is not rich, but is willing to give her sister what she can not afford. I think she does this out of guilt as she refuses to sponsor them for entrance into the U.S.

As a sponsor you are staring that if they can't find work you'll pay for them until they do and they will not become a burden on the state. So her sister and family stay in Canada and have only been able to visit us once. This will be my fourth trip to them, the first one as driver. My grandfather could not get off work for the week we are staying. Passing through customs is simply showing my drivers licence, my grandmother's green card, and my Aunt's birth certificate. That's about ten minuets and we're on our way. I'm surprised that no one is complaining about the top being down. So I hope they are enjoying this as much as I.

We arrive in Montreal wandering the streets until we find where they live. It is not the best of neighborhoods with groups of adolescents blocking sidewalks, smoking cigarettes and talking loudly in French. However since I am dress much like them with a cigarette hanging from the corner of my mouth and a pack rolled up in my white t-shirt sleeve I'm given the accepting nod. When I pulled out my black leather motorcycle jacket they were impressed. Although it was to dam hot to ware the thing I put it on to approving looks. The only thing I did not do was pull out my comb and run it through my hair. In those days Vitalis made sure my hair did not move.

We climbed up several floors of wooding stairs attached to the outside of the building reaching the rooftop apartment. After much hugging, tears and laughter we were introduced to Elfie my grand niece. It was not cool to hold babies, but I did for a bit and wondered why anyone would name a kit Elfie. We spent the week, at time I just drove around Montreal to escape the heat and crowd in the apartment. My Aunt Rosie and Uncle Joe spoke little English and mostly German. We managed to have several conversations as they too were close to my age.

A couple of year later they came to visit us on Long Island. By then I was married, owned a home and the Green Chevy convertible was long gone replaced by a Mercury Comet with four doors. Uncle Joe and I talked about Austria as they had come to tell us of their move back. He told me I must come to visit and see the nice house they had there. There was much crying as they climbed into a borrowed car and headed home never to be seen again. There are a few letter's and cards from them to my grandmother, but no more contact. Until now!

The letter I held in my had was from Elfie. I have been reunited with my grand niece. She has written me and I will write her back. She wants to know if I'll be coming to Austria again, see blog, and come hell or high water I will return next year.

Monday, August 17, 2009


There seems to be an idea, as shown by the flood of self-help books, that a person can write a book which will cure a specific set of ills or, for that matter all ills. All you have to do is read enough books, specifically applied to a particular problem, and a cure is sure to be effected. This leads me to the belief, there may be an assumption afoot, that it is possible to lump groups of people together under one generic cure all.
The assumption that one book can be a generic cure for all those who read it is the ultimate oppression of the individual. It seems to display just haw well the socialization process works to limit individualism and effectively destroy creativity. has the process been so successful that it has produced individual non-individuals? All of whom can be grouped together by specific symptoms, given a label for the dysfunction, and treated by one "fix you right up" cure.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

England - Part XII

England 2009 – Part XII

May 18th to May 21th

So much has happened since my last post. Hopefully what has happened has stayed in my head so it can be written now. I have to back track a bit here to wake up the memories. On May 21st, using the train and tube to go from Salisbury to Stanstead Airport in order not to have to get up at 4AM on the 22nd. Most of the days between the 18th and 21st were spent in Salisbury doing the small stuff. Doing small stuff like resting, reading, riding, walking, Skyping, sleeping, and window shopping basically killing time until it was time to head to Austria.

May 20, 2009
Salisbury to London

Today is tourist day! After purchasing a train ticket it’s off to London with my bike in tow. Yesterday I purchased two tickets one for the trip from Salisbury to Gatwick, and one for my trip today. I’ve purchased a reservation for myself and my bike. It seems the train system is getting sticky about just showing up with a bike to board a train. So if you don’t have a reservation the conductor does not have to let you on the train. Now if you have a fold up bike no problem, fold it up, put it in the luggage rack, and your good to go. On this trip I’m hoping to see Parliament which is not far from London Waterloo which is at the end of this trip. I and my bike find our spots and off we go for a ride through London town.

This is one of the few trips that my ears have not be accosted by the screaming of some child. Now don’t get me wrong I like kids, however children here have a pension for screaming at the top of their lungs for no reason, or if their parents use the word “NO” which they seem not to use to often. Any way I’m in a quiet car and many of the older travelers make sure it stays quiet. You are not even allowed to talk on you cell phone. Ahhhh nice and quiet, enjoy the scenery, just a nice relaxing ride to get ready for tonight’s adventure. Tonight is Stonehenge night!

Upon arriving at the London waterloo it’s off to the lift, down to the street, and over the bridge, where’s the bridge, I can’t fine the bridge. Oh there’s a bridge one works just a good as another. Having decided to go to the Tower of London first because it is further away off we go. I have a general idea of where the bridge is so heading it that general direction. After riding about ten minutes there is a bathroom in the middle of the sidewalk, well not in the middle, but the entrance is and you go down stairs to where the bathroom awaits. Now after about another five minutes I stop and think to myself I should be there by now! Oh there it is right across the street.

Now you might ask how one misses the Tower of London? Well the Tower way have been overwhelming at some point in history but now it is quite small compared to the building around us. I feel a bit prissy so I just stand in the road a bit staring at a guy in a Jag who has just beeped at me. It appears he thinks I’m taking far too long crossing the street. After glaring at each other I move out of the way and get my first look at the Castle in which the Tower of London sits. You can’t see the Tower from outside as it has been dwarfed by building added to the castle over the years. I plunk down 14 Quid to get in and stand around waiting for the Yeoman tour to start.

There is quite a lot to see at the Tower so by 5pm I’m rushing through the last few exhibits. I’ve seen the Crown Jewels, the Bloody Tower, where Ann Boyle and Mary Queen of Scotts lost their heads along with quite a few others. Then there are the different rooms that long term visitors to the Tower have need kept in. So when I’m finished it’s time to head back to Salisbury and Stonehenge. On the way, this has happened on most of my trips, I come up on a huge throng of people blocking the road way. I managed to become part of a march against the atrocities happening in Shi Lanka.

Back in Salisbury by 8 pm, have dinner, and will not get the nap I’d hoped for. Ten pm finds me waiting for the bus which will take me to the Stones. The bus does not stop, what the…, next bus come along and whizzes by. Now having read that the buses will stop at all regular stops I’m wondering why they are not stopping. Shortly I’m joined by a young couple as another bus zips by. Finally a bus picks us up, we pay our 9 pounds for a return trip in the morning and off we go. The bus stop is about ½ a mile from the entrance to the Stones which has to be walked.
We are lead across the road and on to a field which is pitch black. The sign points toward the Stone duh! It is almost possible to see the ground so I follow the people ahead of me hoping they know where they are going. On we walk toward the lights that have been set up around the Stones. Many of those lights directly face me they do nothing to light up the path, but do manage to blind me from time to time. Up a hill now down a hill someone hands me a plastic bag when passing through a gate. What am I suppose to do with this pick up cow shit? Almost there, the Stones are surrounded by lights some of which have different color lasers attache which dance on the Stones.

Reaching a check point I’m asked if I have any sharp objects on me or grass bottles. After indicated I do not I’m told to have a good time. The path to the Stones is lined with food booths offering a wide variety including vegetarian. It has the atmosphere of a carnival. I get closer to the Stones and pass through police officers who have formed a ring around the outside of the stones. I am now among the Stones, well almost. There are people everywhere who have picked out a spot of grass, thrown down their blankets and in the dark are almost impossible to see. Stepping gingerly through them I reach an opening which allows passage in to the courtyard between the Stones.

It is packed with humanity! Squeezing through until I can move forward no I’m in the center of the Stones. To my left and right are groups attempting to dance to the beat of drums which are all around me. The stones in the courtyard are covered with people some precariously perched on rounded edges. I’m holding claustrophobia at bay just barely. The fumes of marijuana float in the air as joints are passed from lip to eager lip. This is not what I had expected at all. It appears that the job tonight is to get as high or drunk as one can possibility get. Shouts go up now and then when the drums have reached some climatic pounding finally only to start a new.
I escape from through a narrow entrance in time to see someone who has managed to climb to the top of a set of Stones which is not allowed. The crowed is cheering him on has he dances to the drums and makes daring jumps from stone to stone. The police arrive and order him down and they are booed, he attempts to find a way down and the crowed begins to chant “Jump, jump.” As he inches down his legs are grabbed by the police and he is pulled to the ground which is the cause for more booing. I walk around to the other side and attempted to get into the courtyard again on that side. There are more people pushing to get in and I think that it is amazing no one has been crushed yet.

Surprisingly I find a free spot under one the Saracens put down my plastic bag and sit with my back to the stone. I meet Hanna and friends who are well on their way to a great high. I now look around me and find that I am very close to the Alter stone which is covered with people hanging on to each other so as not to fall off into the crowd. People are swaying to the beat of drums plastic bottles of cider and other mixes are passed to friends. People stumble by who are in so credibly intoxicated I have to wonder how they can still walk. There are the young, middle aged, and very old pushing to get in to the center if only for a short stay.

These people are dressed in a variety of outfits. Long black robes, long white robes, summer flowery dresses, shoes have long disappeared, and jeans, and dress pants, business suits for both men and women, some just shorts. A few have baby buggies with babies in the pushing through to get to the center of the courtyard. The children stare open mouthed at the pulsating course of humanity that surrounds them. A woman lies across me then gets up and tells me how we are all as blades of grass. I wonder what grass she is talking about. She sits on my lap awhile looking for a specific paper to roll her joint in. After achieving her goal of rolling the best joint ever she sucks it down in about three minutes.

She is off in search of her mate who has the rest of her stash. A woman sits across from me protecting something wrapped in a blanket. After awhile her son of about five wakes up and wants to go home so they pack and leave. Guards wander through the throngs to protect the stones, the there is not much they can do. Another man has climbed to the top of a stone to sway to the beat of the drums. Some stand on stones and dive in to the crowd who catch them and float them across to the other side. The noise of people shouting is continuous as is the beating of the drums. From time to time the area I’m sitting in becomes packet with people attempting to enter the courtyard and leave it.

Now a young man in a military or school marching band outfit stands about me rap-a-tapping on his snare drum. He beats out something from a football game and the people are aroused by it. Another girl sits on the ground by my legs them falls backward over the snoring contently. Her legs stick out into the “path” and people are tripping and stepping on her. I attempt to pull her out of the way, but she is a dead weight. Guards come by and ask me if she belongs to me? I tell them she does not and they drag her upright then guide her away. Time and time again she attempts to sink to the ground to sleep. The sky is becoming lighter to the cheers of the masses. Sunrise cannot be far off the reason we are all here to see the Summer Solstice, the rays of the sun aliening with the great stones on the longest day of the year.

May 21, 2009
Salisbury to Stansted Airport

After packing what I’d be taking with me in one pannier and dropping off the rest of my stuff with Wendy and Nigel it was off to the train station. My bike was chained to the post next to Mark’s prior to climbing aboard for a pleasant ride to good old Clampton Junction the busiest station in England. From there, after switching trains, it was off to a station I had never been to before called Vauxhall where I was to catch the “tube” to Tottenham, then back on the train to Stansted. The whole trip went off without one problem which was amazing. For those of you in Phoenix think old terminal one, New York think McArthur, California think Ontario in the 80’s that is Stansted Airport. At Stansted it took a bit of doing to find the shuttle bus for the Holiday Inn Express where I’d spend the night. It was a pleasant enough place, nice rooms, free WiFi, free breakfast, and a good, but rather pricey dinner.

Off to the airport to board Ryan Air to Graz, Austria. Confronted with a long line makes me glad I’ve arrived early. Check in was easy this is too good to be true. Then things got interesting! I was quickly reminded of flying Southwest Airlines in the early days and why I don’t use them any longer. I had paid 6 pounds to be one of the first on board, no assigned seating, my first clue that this was to be a bare bones trip. The gate opened and the “Priority” passengers were check in and sent down the galley way, which I thought would lead to a waiting plane, it did not. I led to a closed door behind which we waited for the aircraft to arrive. There was no air-conditioner and very little moving air, but I’d be the third person on the plane.

We are allowed out to cross the tarmac, then climb up a rolling stairway to get on the plane. The plane is full the weather in Austria is not good so we sit. When the plane takes off it is about an hour and a half late, but we are on the way. Now if you have flown Southwest Airlines, it has been quite a while for me, and understands what “no frills airline” means. Let me tell you that they have nothing on Ryan Air. Everything is extra, oh yes they offer cheap fares, but make up for it in charging you for anything extra. I asked for a coke and paid about $2.00 for a 4oz can that was just north of warm. I glanced at the “in flight menu” gagged at the prices which were right up there with upscale restaurants. We landed in Graz, Austria, well bounced into the airport would be more like it. Down the stairs, across the tarmac, then on to customs which consists of a 8 x 8 booth with two men inside.

I step up to the window and hand over my passport to a young man who says nothing. He looked at my passport swiped, looked typed, looked swiped, then finally smiled and said “Welcome to Austria.” Now there is a line behind me as I reach for my passport he says to me “Do you know how to search for relatives in the U.S.?” He seems not to care that there are half a plane of people behind me, but I became quite aware of their presents. I answered affirmatively and told him to start with the Latter Day Saints website, then He did not understand so I hurriedly wrote them down on a piece of paper handed it to him and move on to collect my bag. While waiting for the bag I thought there was more I could give him why didn’t him one of my cards. I pull out one of my cards, walked back to the booth, walked in front of the next person and handed him my card. “Email me and I help you find your family.” When back and collected my bag, entered the Airport proper to wandering back and forth for a bit trying to figure out where the railroad was.

I knew there was a rail station very near the airport just not how far or where. As I wandered who should I run into but the customs person. We talked and he wrote down his email address and asked what I was going to do in Graz’s. I explained that my trip to Austria was to find family which I had located, somewhat, through internet searches. Then explained that Graz was a starting off place, but would be heading further west. “A place to stay” he asked? “No, looking for a hostel which is supposed to be in Graz or to pitch a tent.” He walked me to the information booth, they spoke a while, she typed on a keyboard, out popped a paper which she handed to him. He pulled out is cell and began to call a number on the sheet. They had spoken in Austrian so I had no idea what he was doing.

What he was doing was make me a reservation at the hostel which was not far from the train station in Graz. He writes on the paper, hands it to me and explains that I have a reservation at the hostel and how to get there from the train station. He then says I’ll take you to the train station. We talk some more and I discover he is actually a Police Office and was currently stationed at the airport. We walk to a garage get in his car and drive to the train station. He takes my bags out of the car and carries them up the stairs to the platform. Then he buys my ticket to get from the airport to Graz and we stand a chat until the train arrives. He tells me that the next time I am welcome to stay with him and his family so he can show me around Graz. He asks when I’m returning and I tell him Friday, “Ah I don’t work Friday so I will not be able to see you.”

There have been many times in my life that during something I’m experiencing I must step out of myself and look as if a camera recording the action. This was one of those times! I am amazed to watch myself in a foreign country befriended by a policeman who has just gone amazingly out of his way for me. I have been off the plane for less than an hour and I have a new friend who talks to me as if he’s known me all his life. Safely on the train, headed to a safe place to sleep and eat do to the unselfish act of this man. It feels as if this was some fantasy, daydream and I’ll soon wake up as this just does not happen. I’m happy and know that this trip was the right choice at this point in time.

I exit the Bahnhof, train station, and find myself in a plaza filled with buses and trolley cars. I knew there was a bike rental shop in the train station but decided to bus instead. A short bus ride later I was checked into the hostel, private room, and had met my third Hanna of the trip. Before leaving the train station I’d been given a print out of bus service to Gussing the town of my grandparents. In the morning I’d bus to the town and see what could be found. All in all a good day, and great start for this adventure. The hostel has free WiFi so I hook up talk to a few people, write for my blog then head to bed, Oh but first a sample of Austrian beer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

England - Part X

Thursday, May 11, 2009

Weather: It has been raining on and off since Sunday. The sun was out this morning, with a clear, clear sky around 6am. By 10am huge dark clouds filled the sky, by 11a the rain started coming down. First a light drizzle then a steady shower which lasted about one hour.

Plans almost completed for my trip to Austria I’ll write more tomorrow on the plans for travel.

Sunday, May 14, 2009

Done, yep done plans completed and now just wailing for takeoff. Not sure what I’ll do from now until take off maybe some day trips to London, local bike rides, maybe some bus rides? I talked with the managers of the campground, Wendy and Nigel, about my plans and they have offered to keep most of my gear in their garage until I return. How nice is that? So I’ll leave here at 6:45am on the 22nd on train to Stansted Airport. From there I’m flying Ryan Air to Graz, Austria where I’ll check into a Youth Hostel for the night. In the morning I’ll take a bus to Gussing, Austria, my grandparent’s home, which will be about a 2hr ride. If there is a place to stay there I’ll stay there spending 2 ½ days there, then return to Graz to fly back to England on the 26th. I’ll stay in Salisbury until the 28th, then train to Crawley to spend the night so I can get hotel transportation to the airport for my return on the 30th.
That’s the plan, at least from the 22nd to the 30th. Now the 21st is a whole nother story. I’m going to be a Stonehenge with about 30,000 other people for the summer solicits. It should be a very interesting, very interesting indeed. It is the only day of the year that the stones are not roped off. It may be impossible, but I have five hours to attempt to get to touch them. The last bus leaves the campground at 1am and the first bus there is at 5am. So I’ll dress warmly, bring some food, and have been warned by Wendy and Nigel to stay away from the “Wacky Tabaccy.” The other day as I rode up to the gate to the campground Nigel approached me saying in a serious tone “I need to have a word with you.”
Shit, what did I do now! I thought. “I want to talk to you about the coming weekend. We have a lot of campers coming in who head down to the stones. We’ve never had any trouble here, but we want to offer you to put anything valuable, like your passport or wallet in our safe for keeping.” Now how great is that! I thanked them profusely and told they that I never went anywhere without my passport and wallet on my person. But I am going to approach them about keeping the computer over night, probably not a good idea to carry that around, and maybe leave everything but my driver’s license with them also.

So the rest of the day nothing much else happened just small stuff. The small stuff the stuff you don’t write about, day to day things like showers, going to the toilet, walking, sitting, reading, washing dishes and talking. The stuff everyday is made of but not paid much attention to. It’s just not important, yet without it not much of anything else might get done. When home there is no writing about washing the floors, turning the lights on or off, putting a screw in or taking a nail out. They just don’t rate a line unless something gets attached for the sake of a story, but they are only back ground noise. How many times do you put a can of food away and write someone about it. “Hey did I tell you I put a can of peas on the shelf today?” Or “I only used six squares of toilet paper this time instead of 12” not that anyone is counting. Just did small stuff today.

Monday, May 15, 2009
Salisbury – Bournemouth – Swanage - Salisbury

Popped into the bus station, picked up a flyer showing a picture of a castle, turned to the gentleman behind the counter and said “I want to get there!” “Oh yes we can do that in fact I’ll tell you how to go and it’ll be a nice day out for around 25 pounds” said he. He brings out this laminated sheet with pictures of the castle and town, piles on a couple of brochures and says “let me explain.” He draws me a picture, writes down some names, sells me a bus ticket and I’m off for my nice day. I get on a Double Decker bus, sit on top, but inside so as not to get my head sunburned for the first leg of my trip to Bournemouth.

Upon reaching this town I’ve been told to change buses for a very ride, including a ferry crossing that include, to Swanage. Now I’m at the sea side and I’d compare Bournemouth to San Diego, kind of looks like it. There is this beautiful park next to the bus stop and in the middle is the Bournemouth Eye. Not quite like the London Eye, because it is a huge helium filled balloon with a carriage under it that looks much like the basket of a hot air balloon. Now I figure out it’s filled with helium or some lighter than air gas as I watch it rise into the blue sky. It is hooked to a cable that is let out and has it is the balloon rises into the air. It sways around up there for about 10 minutes and then is hauled back down to earth.

The bus winds through back roads and one has to wonder who laid out these routes. We are now going up and down some very steep hills, on a narrow rode with cycles, their legs winding away as fast as they can go, heading up also. The buses creep along behind them until it can pass, and makes me very glad that I’m on the bus not on the bike. These riders are barely making it up the hill with one small pannier on their bike, I grimace thinking of going up with all four of mine. We pass through small coastal town similar to those that border San Diego. Our ride ends at the steam rail station which will take me to the castle. There are several steam engines at the station, because today is a Steam Day, barely sending puffs of white smoke into the air.

I have a Cream Tea in a set of old rail cars that have been turned in to restraint while waiting for my train. Several old diesel locomotives pull in and out not attached to anything. I’ve boarded the train and am sitting very comfortably in peace in quite eating an apple when the silence is broken by a high pitched sequel. A quite noise little girl has climbed aboard yelling and squealing in a very high pitch egged on by her parents who are both going “chug-chug-chug-chug.” To which she responds quite briskly, loudly, and in a pitch that could break wine glasses. For the next ten minutes, as the train heads toward its destination I’m serenaded. My mantra is She’s just an excited child, she’s just and excited child repeated over and over in my head.

We arrive at a castle that was begun in 1100 by William the Conqueror, added to in the 1200 and 1300 centuries and order destroyed in the 1700’s by Parliament. Yes it was deliberately destroyed so it could not be used again in the English Civil war. It is huge and amazing to think how it was built stone by stone and after 1000+ years is still, somewhat, standing after being blown up by gun power charges. One tower which had been blown off its foundations, slid about four foot down an embankment, reportedly running over two men as it did still stand upright. I touch the old stones climb around a bit then head back to the station for the train.

Whilst waiting for the train the conductor comes over and informs us that our train is going to be late. About five minutes later he tells us the steam engine has decided not to move and they have to bring a Diesel on line to get us, the train will now be about 30 minutes late. Checking my timetables it seems I’ll not get back to Salisbury until 9pm if all goes well from here out. Upon the trains arrival I do my best not to be in the same car with the screaming kid. Try as I might they move into only three seats ahead of me, and I begin my mantra. At the Ferry we have to wait for a real ferry to go by taking all the time in the world. I’ve now missed the bus that would get me back at nine; maybe I’ll get back at 10. The bus from Bournemouth to Salisbury is a 1 ½ hour ride all of it with a screaming baby on board. No mantra this time as the kid is screaming for his “Da Da” because mother has said “no” to something.

Wednesday, May 16, 2009

Today is more small stuff today, just more small stuff. Eating a Roast Pork lunch, then a cream and blackcurrant jam pastry, a cup of coffee, a shower, a bike ride into town, buying some grapes at market, printing out my plane passes for Austria at the library, just small stuff. I did find while at the library the census sheets from 1930 which shows most of my family living and working in New York City

The Travel Trailer/Caravans are not all that big. The biggest may be 20ft long so instead of awnings they have tents attache which make the thing twice the size. Kind of a slide out with grass. The are usually pulled in or backed in to the space, which must be 6 yards apart, then they put locks on the wheels and hook up the electricity. There are no other hook ups in these campgrounds. Water must be brought in or hauled to the camper, waste must be rolled away to the dump site. Sounds like fun? Most of these people dress as if they are going to work. Most to the women ware skirts or dresses, the men slacks, polo shirts and some even ware ties.
I'm heading out one day and there is a new camper setting up his caravan. The car has detached he got a remote control in his hand. It takes a minute for me to see that the caravan is moving by itself. How freaking lazy can you get? In stead of pushing this thing, which would be like pushing a grocery cart with food in it, he positioning it with a remote control. The wheels must have drive motors on the to turn it and move it back and forth. I look at him, look at the camper moving around, look back at him and shake my head. He has a grin on his face like he just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

England - Part IX

England 2009 - IX

Thursday, May 4, 2009
Delamere to Oxford

After making breakfast it’s time to pack up as the train leaves at 11:45am and its now 9. The old train station at Delamere has been converted into a café so I have a tea and wonderful piece of pie. Three train changes and four hours later I’m back in Oxford and after a bit of riding around I find the campground on the edge of town. I’m tired so again I get some groceries from a local market, have dinner and sleep. I have some plans about tomorrow and I’ll let them fester overnight. I can return to Birkenhead via Wales, or return to Salisbury in time for the closing night of the festival, which I’ve attended for the last three year.

Friday, May 5, 2009
Oxford to Reading to Salisbury

It’s about noon before I’m up and on the way, yet still somewhat undecided as to where to head next. I’m riding the bike path along the Tames toward the Oxford rail station when I come upon a map of the Bike/waling path along the Tames which ends in Reading and hooks up to the Kenneth and Avon Canal I’d ridden earlier. It is a bit of a twisty route to get there, but from there I could head anywhere. Hmmmm ride the Tames path to Reading then catch the train to Salisbury. I could be there by around 8pm I think. Sound like a plan so off down the Tames Path toward Reading with no idea how far the ride is.

My head tells me it was 19 miles from Newbury to Oxford and Reading is parallel to Newbury add in a bit for the twisty part so call it 25 k that’s doable. The nice gravel path becomes narrow dirt then grass or some mixture thereof. The only time the path turns to nice gravel is when there is a town or lock. I ride check the maps along the path, O.K. seems to be going nicely. The path slowly becomes an obstacle course of endurance, problem solving, and awareness. The first obstacle that presents itself is a gate. These gates are like half a revolving door, you have to swing the gate away from you get in the space provided then swing the gate past you and then you exit the other side. They are made for one person at a time to fit though, but not a fully loaded bike.

This means unloading the bags off the bike, putting them on the other side of the gate, then lifting the bike over the gate, then getting through the gate, and putting everything back together. After looking about a bit the gate gods have blessed me with an opening in the fence. The path goes from wide grass filled fields to a narrow weed choked path. It is now raining, on goes my handy rain jacket, the panniers and back pack are covered with rain covers. Passing through a normal gate, that just opens and lets one ride though, the next obstacle presents itself. A herd of about twenty cows are congregating around the next gate under the trees that grow there. I wait in the rain hoping they are just going to hang out for a bit then move on. Nope! I approach they look up but do not move. I move closer more look up still not moving. “Shoo” does not seem to work, I’m now about three feet away. Pointing toward were I would like them to head “Go no get down the road, scoot, go, go.”

They seem scared to death of me and I surely don’t want to start a stamped. Several boats pass by, I wave, they laugh, and I smile. “Go on not get” as I edge toward the gate and they seem to get the idea. They actually trip over each other to get out of my way. The head cow is moving away from the gate and most are following her, but some decide they need to smell me. Go ahead I used deodorant this morning. A couple of more “Shoos and I’m through the gate. The path is mud now and the grass is slick with rain my back tires slips and slides making it hard to keep balance. After passing though a gate I see no sign of the path, nothing it’s gone. Back through the gate through the wood and weeds I see the top of a lock. Heading in that direction I find the path, if you want to call it that, completely overgrown with weeds.

Swooshing through the wet weeds I find the lock which needs to be crossed in order to follow the path. The walk way is about 2ft wide so it takes some doing to get me and the bike across without falling in. locks are really deep, really, really deep. On the other side I faced again with one of the half a revolving door gate. I look around for another escape route, but find none. I looking at the gate getting ready to unload the bike, and really look at the gate. Duh! I lift the gate off the hinges that hold it place it out of the way and walk though with my bike, then put the gate back. There are cows all around me as I ride on toward a walking bridge that leads back to the other side of the river. On the bridge is a note which says “Cows have new calfs. Stay far away from them”

Over the bridge I go and promptly lose the path again. I’m sure the sign pointed this way. After parking the bike I trudge back over the bridge the marker points under the bridge not over it. Back to get the bike then on the way again, still raining, keeping away from the cows, there seems to be a town ahead. There is a very busy roadway on my left which seems to be where the Tames Path is taking me. Sure enough I’m at another gate, which does not come off its hinges, and I have to unload. Riding up to a round-about the sign directs me straight ahead to Reading. From here on it will be the road for me with only 15k to go. I’m down to 13k and there is a sign for a campground. After some consideration I ride on, the rain has stopped, there is a bike lane so no riding in the road. You have got to be kidding, is my back tire going flat? No just seems to need some air. After pumping it up and riding a bit more there is another round-about and the sign indicated Reading is 12k ahead, it also indicates Didcot is off to my right. Looking to my right there on the sky line are the two reactor chimneys that are right smack next to the rail station.

I know this because I’ve been to Didcot before on the way to Wales. The hell with Reading it’s off to Didcot which is a only 7k away. At the next round-about I see a railroad station sign pointing down the road. Well that’s got to be closer then Didcot so I follow, it is, however it is an unmanned station. There is a machine where I buy a ticket back to Salisbury then have to figure out which platform I need to be on and it’s a roll of the die. There are no lifts so it is unload the bike take the bags up the stairs, then back down for the bike. The indicator states that the next train will be there in about 15 minutes. Young couples come on to the station joking about getting on a train going in the wrong direction. Could this be an Omen? On the train a sweet voice announces that the next station is Didcot and then Oxford. Yep and Omen!

I going in the wrong direction, so upon reaching Didcot and detraining and after a discussion with the conductor I’ll soon be heading for Reading where I’ll change for a train to Blasingstoke, the change again for Salisbury getting there around 8pm that will work. Boarding the train at Reading I tie up my bike, put my backpack in the luggage bin, and then sit to relax a bit while reading all the papers that have been left on the seat. “Next stop Blasingstoke” I’m ready to get off the train in a flash, check in with the conductor get to the correct platform and I’m almost “home.” I’ve been trying to call my mother for a few days now so I try again and finally get her on the line. After hanging up I think I’ve got 30 minutes to kill I’ll read some. Then it hits me like a ton of bricks, as I look about for my backpack to get my book. NO BACKPACK!!! I’ve gone and left the bloody thing in the luggage compartment on the last train.

The backpack has my computer in it, not much else of value, just the computer. There is an information desk handy so I explain the situation telling the agent that my backpack, “Rutsack?” “Yeah Rutsack” I say on the train that is now bound for Southhampton. He takes down the information, makes two calls and says “All we can do now is wait to see if they find it.” I sit and think about what I’ll do if they can’t find it. I could call the credit card I purchase it on and see if there is coverage for missing items. Other than that there is nothing much else except to buy a new one and get on with life. It’s about five minutes to the time when my train is do at the station The telephone rings, the agent answers, I wait, he hangs up slowly turns to me and “Well you are in luck they have it at Southhampton Central station. If you get on the next train and take it there you can get you rutpack and let’ see, yes, you can get back to Salisbury by 12am.” Déjà Vo! This happened last year after returning from France I reached Salisbury at midnight.

Off to Southhampton Central which will take one and a half hours, get my rutsack, and wait an hour for the train to Salisbury. Upon arriving I retrieve my rutsack, the settle into wait for the train to Salisbury, now I can read my book. Unloading from the train in Salisbury the back tire has gone low again so there is no riding and I head immediately to the White Heart hotel, same as last year. Tonight there will be a long hot shower and a warm bed.

Saturday, May 6, 2009 (The 65th Anniversary of D-Day)

I get a free breakfast with my room and it is quite a lay out. Almost everyone in the dining room is dressed quite nicely; there are even some with jackets and ties. Now it is time to change the tube on the bike then head to the y where I’ll spend night. Walking in to the registration desk, Liz is behind the counter and greets me with a big smile and wave. We chat for a bit, but there is a big group checking in and I leave to set up. It is nice to be greeted like that after a long eventful trip. My older set of panniers has taken quite a beating on this last trip and so has the bike. It is market day and you know how I love to go to the market, also get some coffee.

I buy a new rear light for my bike since the one’s I’d purchased at Poundland did not last very long indeed. After picking up the things needed to repair the bags and bike I head down to the pub for some time Online. Then it’s time for the Salisbury Festival Finale, which I’ve attended every year. It is not a pleasant evening, the skies are full of dark clouds that have blocked out the sun most of the day, and the wind is blowing which drops the tempter even more. I arrive at the Cathedral in time for Evesong and join the small gathering. I just love to hear the organ and the choir in this beautiful Cathedral. While listening to the music in my mind’s eye I run through different dress that people attending this 750 year old choir have worn. 1200, 1300, 1400, each year attempting to see what they looked like as the worshiped here. Wondering what they talked about, and how during much of that time there were on chairs so all had to stand during the service. 1700’s when many of the grave stones in the floor were still new and readable, which many no longer are.

Salisbury plain saw much fighting in its time and was part of the staging area for U.S. troop for D-day which is today. I visualize U.S and English service men along with the locals praying here before the invasion. The service is over and it is time for the Festival, but not one is around. I find a seat on a bench near the stage and wait. At first I think the things been canceled, silly me, slowly they arrive, and they fill the field. Out first are the blankets and carpets to sit on, next the wine, then the chairs and food. Sitting huddled together all making believe it is not as cold as it is. They drink cold beer, wine and champagne, waiting for the music and fireworks. Hugging and kissing of friends, children running about with painted faces, food passed about, and laughing, and lots of laughing. The roped off area for dancing is empty, but I know it will be soon filled no matter what music is playing.

The first two bands are from India, the last band of the evening will be from Austria. Indian band number one is Indian music jazzed up, they have a couple of dancers, and a singer there O.K. Between the bands are two “Comedians” who attempted to be Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and Martin and Lewis with a little Houdini thrown in, they suck. The second band is called Kismet and they put the party goes in high gear. They have a drummer how’s beat get feet tapping, head bobbing, and bodies swaying. Now this is not to be confused with a drum set you see with most bands, they had that also, but he had one drum which he played at both ends. He played and danced and sang with a driving beat that had the dance area filled with clapping, jumping bodies. At one point he the back got almost all the audience up, young and old, and clapping and jumping up and down to this hypnotic beat.

He had the audience signing in Indian, having no idea what they were saying but what the hell it was great fun. Now singing, clapping, jumping, and whirling in place the beat drove them on. I can guarantee that no one cared about the coolness any longer, and I jumped, clapped and swayed with them. All the while hoping my rudsack would not disappear from its hiding place under the bench I’d vacated. This lasted for an hour and I’ve yet to see many bands that could equal the energy this group put out; just amazing. The last group was 17 Hippies from Austria who kept the crowed on the dance floor with more traditional rock music. The crowed was thinning; I headed back to the Y before it got to dark. I did not need to see the fireworks as they would be anti-climatic to the bands of the evening.

Sunday, May 7, 2009

Today I spent four hours attending services at the Cathedral. I don’t go to church much anymore, only when dragged by my kids for some reason or other. Kevin and I had recently gone to a service that was one of the reasons for my lack of attendance. We had a nice discussion on the way home about what had been presented there. I got here to listen to the choir and the organ, especially when then have the full choir it is quite magical. The minister sermons here have made much more sense to me then some of the drivel I’ve heard back home. Then thinking that this was the church that Henry VIII created when he broke with the Catholic Church, and Elizabeth I restored after Bloody Mary’s reconciliation.

Monday, May 8, 2009

I’ve moved to the campground and have the spot that Mark and were given when we first arrived. I’m sleeping a lot as if the tiredness of work has finial caught me. Today I slept until noon and did not want to get up then. When I did get myself up and dressed I was fixing some things on the bike when I notices something off with bikes peddles. Yesterday I could no longer shift into high gear, and in looking around today it seems that the front sprocket seems to have moved away from the bike. I did not have the tools to take it off so I went to town to get a second opinion. Behind the front gear are two rings that hold in bearing the crankshaft ride on. One of those rings had come lose and was forcing the off the crankshaft. The bike shop said I’d have to leave if for the day and see if the rings could be screwed back in. If not the bike was then considered unfixable, or not worth fixing.

After diddling around town I returned to find that the Bottom Bracket had to be replaced to the tune of 51 pounds, ouch. So next year a couple of new rims, along with a new chain and I’ll have a practically new bike, kind of. It is amazing what a difference the bracket makes. I can tell that most of the last ride was so hard do to the ring coming out.

I’m still working out how to get to Austria and thing I’ve almost there.

Tuesday, May 9, 2009

Slept until noon then checked out train schedules and plane schedules, looked at maps getting close.

Wednesday, May 10, 2009

Talked with the Nigel and Wendy, campground manages, and told them what I wanted to do. They told me I can’t leave my tent unattended for more the two nights, so leaving it for a 5 day is out. However, they did offer to keep it in their garage for me so all I’ll have is one bag. So the plan is to train to Stanford, fly to Graz, stay at a youth hostel there, train to Furstenfield, then bus to Gussing. I’m still checking out bus systems in Austria and hostels, but it’s looking good. I’m going to try to leave England by Sunday, returning the following Wednesday the 16th. Since the summer solstice is coming up I’ve booked my camping spot for the week before I head home. So this year I’ll be a Stonehenge, alone with 30,000, other crazies to witness the rising of the sun, and hopefully get to touch the stones themselves.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

England 2009 - Part VIII

England - VIII
Monday, June 1, 2009

I decide to spend another day in Oxford doing not much but writing along with some TV watching. I’ve think that tomorrow I train to Delamere so I’ve purchased my ticket, which reserves a place for me and my bike. I eat dinner at the Y, write a little more ant then prepare for the journey. Now I’m thinking of leaving some stuff here, but think better of it.

Tuesday, May 2, 2009

Moving on means taking a train to a place called Delamere Forest, which according to the ticket I’ve purchased will take three train changes adding up to 4hrs of travel. When traveling by train there is always the change of ending up at a station which requires you to cross the tracks as explained before can be quite nerve racking. Or, there is no “subway” or “lift” and the bike plus everything else needs to be dragged up and down stairs, which means no less than a 20 ft climb. None of the above happened, this trip, and all trains were made in a timely manner. My scheme is to train to Delamere Forest Campground which is supposed to be right next to the train station. From there I would take a train into Birkenhead to look for relatives and such on a day trip.

As the train pulls into Delamere Station the campground is visible through the trees. After checking in up goes the tent everything in my scheme worked out as planned. There is a small store down the road where a few things for dinner are picked up. After dinner it is time to meander through the forest. Now this is a forest a few feet in from the road sunlight is completely blocked by the trees. The dense undergrowth means if you try to get off the path you’d best have a machete. The only sound is the whisper of the breeze moving through the branches. Tree branches are leafless until high up where once again they can find sun. Paths bound as to cycles on what seems to be a daily work up.

My path leads to a lake, as I come closer the noise of the birds is astonishing. It is difficult to get close to see what kind of birds these are. At first they sound like the ducks on the ponds behind my house, but once they come into view they look more like coots yet they are white. The air swarms with these avian and their “song” blocking out any other noise. Further down the path, with thankfully less noise, is a sign featuring “Go Gorilla” path. Upon inspection of the path there is a high ropes course that one gets trained to use then can spend as much time has they like acting like Gorilla’s swing through the trees.

Sometimes realizations come at the weirdest times. I’m suddenly struck with the realization that I’m about in the midpoint of England. From here I’m not far from the Lake District, nor Scotland, nor Ireland however I’ve locked myself in with a nonrefundable ticket with a two day return. Of course there is always lose the money, buy another ticket, or just ride out from here. Tomorrow I’ll head to Birkenhead see what I can see much like puss-in-booths. There are always decisions aren’t there?

Wednesday, May 3, 2009
Delamere to Birkenhead and back

It’s a short ride to Birkenhead on what seems a local train line. I walking today as I’ve been told over and over this is a rough area and I’ve left the bike at the campground. Hyper vigilant I’m off the train to find the bus terminal but, run into this huge market and I’ve got a thing for markets. After roaming around a bit and getting directions to the “Town Hall” it’s time to do some research. At the “Town Hall” the records I seek have to be “dug up and sent over which could take 24 hours or order them online.” Silly me for thinking an in person visit would get me what seek faster.

From the Bus station its bus 407 to Birkenhead and Bermuda Road last know residence for a family. The bus driver drops me off then picks me back up “Might as well ride as we’re going in the same direction.” I’m dropped off at number 34 and I’m looking for number 37 now how is that for service. Looking at house numbers 37 is nowhere to be found. At the end of the block is a pub, what the heck I need a lunch break and maybe there will be someone inside who knows the people I’m looking for. The pub is very large and well lit reminding me of the one in Salisbury. There is a room filled with people, very loud people, all of whom are dressed in black. After finding a table I approach the bar to order “Wake?” I ask. “Yep what table you sitting at?” Since he seems not to be too talkative I order return to my seat and dig out the papers I’ve brought with me.

When done eating I approach two older men who have been drinking at the bar. They tell me no luck on the name but am curious as to how they are pronouncing Cooke. Across from the pub is a Post Station, once inside the lady tells me she doesn’t know them but walk up Bermuda Rd “you’ll find them.” So off down Bermuda Rd I go and still am having no luck in finding number 37. I spy two older men chatting on the other side of the street. They say “the bungalow down there is it.” They all look like bungalows to we, but off I go wondering where they are sending me. See the number run just a bit odd and 37 happens to be across from 12, go figure. After knocking on the Cooke residence door and receiving no answer its back to the bus stop. Approaching the bus stop I’m being waved at by one of the men from the earlier conversation. He wants to know if he’s “gone doffed in the head” or was that the correct house? I assure him he was correct, no one was home and I’m on my way home. He invites me in for a cup of tea, but the bus is coming so it time to head back to the station.

Again I’m mentally kicking myself for not allowing enough time. Spending time with the older man would have enriched us both. On the train back there is time for me to pick up some groceries in Chester which turns out to be quite a large town. Here is how to find a grocery store without asking directions. Wait until you see someone walking with a bag with the stores name on it and start walking in the direction they came from. Soon much like a line of ants you’ll be able to follow the bags back to the store, and it works every time. However, finding one’s way back to the starting point may prove to be a bit more difficult. Back at the station I notice these two guys painting the roof of the train station about 30 feet up. First I think using a brush, don’t see that much. Looking at the roof I notice there are a lot of freshly painted panels. Then it dawns on me that these two men are painting the entire roof of the station by hand. How totally cool is that?

Monday, June 1, 2009

England – Part VII

Friday, May 29, 2009
The Barge Inn to Newbury

Today I rode the canal in a new direction. Some is familiar because Mark and I rode it in the opposite direction only a week ago. Once I pass Wilcot it is all new, however the path gets old really fast. It is narrow at times crumbling into the canal with only inches of slanted dirt to ride on. The scenery in parts is quite beautiful dense forest land filled with mystery. Miles of field slop up to meet the blue horizon with puffs of white clouds slowly appearing here and there. Each field seems to be a different color green, some are dark with plowed earth, others a swaying yellow carpet. Canal boats decorated with multitudes of designs and colors are docked to floating along. As each pass we say “Good morning” with a smile and a wave.

I’m passing a boat that is just heading out wave as I ride by. I stop for something then catch up to them again, we wave and laugh, this happens three more times, it is an unspoken joke between us now. A lock stops the fun as I ride on with no such inconvenience, I think. Looking at the canal something is off, the water seems lower, and the sloping, muddy bottom is being revealed. Some had joked about me falling in, which he said “would not be much of a problem since the canals are not deep.” Now I could see this was really true and my fear of falling in and going 40ft straight down was something my mind had created with no bases. However, the slippery mud and slop of the sides could still be very dangerous.

A man approaches and tells me someone has left both locks open up ahead causing this part of the canal to empty and the part below to flood. “Not good going for a push bike.” He tells me. Great now what I think, he tells me there is a road that goes around to the next lock and all will be good there. The road actually takes me to one of two 1800 pumping stations that move the water back up to be used again. Each as two steam beam engines, still working, built in the 1800’s. Two or three days a week the engines are powered up to pump water to the top of the canal, but not today. I ask one of the caretakers how far the next lock is to get me back on the tow path. He points me in down to where I’ll need to go to cross over. He fails to tell me that part of crossing over means walking one railroad tracks.

Now I had to do this once before and it is a bit nerve-racking. When you reach the gate there is a red and green light, no yellow, to tell you if it’s safe to pass. There is also a phone which you use to call someone somewhere who’ll tell you if a train is emanate. Then you have to quickly open the gate get across the track open another gate and get off the track. Trains doing anything for 80 to 100 miles an hour don’t give you a heck of a lot of time to do this. O.K. safely on the other side I find that the tow path has been blocked so now I have to go back across the tracks again. How much fun can one person have! Finally back on the tow path and riding there is a realization that I’m not going to make my goal, not even close. The ride, which is not over yet, has been draining emotionally and physically.

The tow path ends at a tunnel leaving me looking up a very steep hill with steps in it. There is no way I’m going to get my fully loaded bike up there so I’m set to unload everything and carry it up one at a time when an angle appears. From around the bend at the top of the hill comes a giant walking toward me, followed by his wife. We talk for a bit about an abandoned rail line he is looking for the she says “How you going to get up there?” After explaining my idea of dragging each piece up the hill she turns to her husband “Help him carry it up. NO?” He looks like he could carry me and the bike up the hill we go up seventeen steps. I’ve got the light front end; he’s got the heavy rear. I thank him profusely he says “Not to worry” and is gone.

Prior to this I had picked up a hitchhiker I named Larry who was a snail. Now Larry really didn’t have his thumb out for a ride. Stopping to allow some tow path walker by I spotted Larry on a leaf, picked him up and put him on my handlebar bag. Nothing happened for awhile then he stuck his head out and started to explore. He was wandering about while I road down the path for awhile it looked as if he were studying the map. Then he made this really long stretch, there was more of him then I thought, and moved down the side of the bag. I stopped to take his picture and he look, obligingly, in to the camera. I had forgotten about Larry upon arriving at the hill and looked for him once the giant and I reached the top of the hill. He was gone probably brushed off by the plants on the narrow path. So long Larry it was good to meet you.

On and on riding for 6 hours Hungerfor is finial reached. No campgrounds, no Pubs, no inns ride on to Newbury another hour away. After 7 hours I’ve ridden 52 Kilometers and have no place to stay. I have scoped out several places that look promising along the canal. After picking up some food for the morning I head back to a Lock where I’ll set up camp for the evening hoping I don’t get chased. It is really a half camp only the bear necessities, tent, rain fly, sleeping pad, and blanket. It is quite cool sleeping next to the canal and finally have to use my sleeping bag warmer.

Saturday, May 30, 2009
Newbury to Oxford

I’m up and packed by 5am and ride into town to see about getting some information. Of course nothing’s going to be open until 7 or 9, checking the information office tells me they will not open until 10a. There is a town map which shows the Oxford Road or A34. So I figure if it heads north it will take me to Oxford. Since waiting until 10am is a waste of good riding time I’m off to follow the Oxford Road. This is really hilly country, and the hills are packed in quite closely. The road manages to steer clear of a 4 lane highway at time pretending it is going to connect but does not. Upon reaching a section that does connect I bravely walk my bike along thinking the A34 will again return to a sedate country road.

After about a mile I figure this is not going to happen anytime soon. The wising by of Lories, cars and buses I’m getting a bet nervous that if I stay on this road I’ll have to walk to Oxford. I’m heading north and come across a “By Way” sign that points along a dirt road heading West. Heading east on a dirt road between green fields having no idea where I’ll end up. There are deep ruts in the road which make it almost impossible to ride so it is a combination of the two. The “By Way” is intersected by a “Walk Way” heading north and south. The rules are you can ride a bike on a “By Way,” but you cannot ride or walk a bike on a “Walk Way.”

I’m not quite sure who’ll catch me out here, but you never know so I continue on. The “By Way” comes to a road which is heading north, off I ride. It is now 9am and I’ve been riding for about three hours already. My odometer tells me I’ve ridden 21 kilometers already, Oxford is suppose to be 19 Kilometers north of Newbury; this is going to be a long day. The road which was heading north is now heading east and back toward the highway. Being up higher on the hill I can see the path that took me west below, now I’m parallel to it and heading East, might as well have stayed on the highway. There is a wide spot in the road so I stop to cook up some breakfast with my new cook set. I’m off again and do eventually end up back at the highway which I have no intention of getting back on.

There is a road heading west which will take me to Wantage which I vaguely remember for a map as being south of Oxford, but I am heading north again. At Farnborought I ask a lady leading a beautiful horse the way to Oxford. “Go up to Farnborought, at the top of the hill, then down in to Wantage.” Off I go up and up and up when she said up she meant up. Up here is not necessarily really high, but it does mean steep as in 12 to 18 degrees. I finally reach Farnborought and follow the sign to Wantage. Now when she meant down she meant down, I’d doing 28 to 38 kilometers an hour coming down this hill. Upon reaching Wantage I see a sigh telling me that Oxford is only 17 miles away looking at my odometer tells me that I’ve already ridden 30 kilometers. I’m told to take the A338, which I’m on, straight into Oxford, but stay off the A420.

Choosing no longer to ride 30 kilometers to get 2 kilometers it will be straight north no matter what. So I do ride on the A420, well walk as close to the side has I can get. It is now 3pm and a sign states that I’m 4 kilometers from Oxford. Riding into Oxford 10 hours and 50 kilometers later with an average speed of 8 miles an hour leaves me exhausted. I know where I am, recognize the street and head right to the Y, as finding the campground could take a bit. My butt is just a bit sore and I have no reserves for dilly dallying around looking for a campground that I might be able to remember from two years ago.

Dinner is at a restaurant, The Jam, I hope was still in business from my last visit. They offer good meals, low prices, and don’t allow you to use their free WiFi as long as you wish. I Skype Mark and chat for awhile talking about the twists and turns in everyday life. I attempt to reach my daughter but have no luck so send her and my son an email. Check in of Facebook, answer some emails then create a map of my travels for my blog. My body is slowly regaining its energy and I’ve been wondering why I push myself to make such long arduous rides. There will be no answer tonight unless some message come to me in my dreams.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Today is a day of rest, no bike riding, nothing more strenuous then putting something food in my mouth. To that end I buy a ticket to a city tour bus riding it enough times to be able to repeat the tour speech by heart. I did get off once to take a nap, then back on for a couple of more rides. The bus was a Double Decker with the top down for taking in the sights whiles listening to the guides point out thing of interest to them. There is a cool breeze, warm sun, blue skies with puffs of white cloud floating makes for a very lazy day. I do not quite understand why most of the cars have the windows closed to such a beautiful day. Yet the bikers abound pedaling briskly along seemingly oblivious to the cars and buses within inches of them. There are pole boat, and canoes on the river Tames, along with sun bathers on the grassy slopes. The outdoor cafes tables are all full with people chatting, laughing along with eating and drinking in no rush to be anywhere.

Dinner is at The Jam again for yet another fresh lamb burger with some wonderful crispy fries. Online again to answer emails one of which is from the Roy, who I met on the train last Sunday. He has tracked down my grandfather’s and grandmother’s birth records along with several other relatives. It looks as if he has gotten my grandfather dead on, but is off on my grandmother. I’ll write him tomorrow to see it he can dig up some more, how very nice of him to do this for a stranger. After dinner I check in at the rail station to see about a ticket to my next destination which will be Delamere.

At the Y I chat with Hanna, one of the women who work the front desk, while doing laundry. She is from the Check Republic working in the UK. We have a nice chat about traveling and then needs to tell me she is well balance after I tell her I teach Psychology. Then it is a chat with a gentleman who is in the same dorm room as me. He is here from Buffalo NY and thinking for moving to the west coast. I’ve not decided if I’ll move on tomorrow so I’ll sleep on it.