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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.

England Part VI

England – Part VI

Wednesday, May 27th

Thursday, May 28, 2009
Salisbury to Pewesy

Wednesday: I was going to head out today, and then decided not to! Every time I woke up during the night it was raining, and it was still raining in the morning. Had breakfast at the Y and found out the group is from Brigham Young University in Utah. They had studied English Literature and were now going about visiting the author’s home towns. This is the second group I’ve run from the U.S. touring England after Authors. The last group were here going to the home towns of Poets. Chatted with Alex a little then headed over to Hafords for a new tube. Oh I didn’t have a flat so to speak, the patch I’d put on came off so doesn’t count.

After Hafords went to Millnets and purchase a camping table. Mark checked at REI and let me know that they wanted $39.00 for it. I purchased it for 9.99 pounds which is about $12.00 much better deal. Picked up a few thinks at Tesco’s then headed back to the Y to pack. I’m moving back to the campground today and this is a good time as the rain has let up. Tube changed, bike packed, I head across town to the campground in a drizzle. Have to figure out how to put the tent up in the rain, thinking while riding. At the site I’ll put down the ground cloth, the put up the poles, then cover with the rain fly, then put the tent in and set it up everything will be nice and dry; should work.

It does and once set up it is decision time! Pub or not to Pub that is the questions? Pub wins out and I’m off just in time to order dinner and get online. My friend Gary in now on Skype and we chat for awhile, then I try to call Mark and my daughter, no luck. Then my sister called and filled me on the happenings at home. So now it’s time to get some rest for the ride tomorrow.

Equipment check:

Used my new pots today, along with the new table, and three legged stool Mark and I found at Poundland. We have been looking all over to a stool/chair to use when camping now we each have one for a buck and half. Pots worked great, no sticking, heated evenly, and seemed to get things cooked quicker than my old titanium set. I have a new stove this year also, a Coleman with an igniter on it, no matches for me. It has a larger burner on in so the heath is spread out more for even cooking. I picked up a new set of utensils which are a fork/spoon combo nested in a spatial, but it does not work very well. The sptial is straight so hard to get under the edges of the eggs.

The tent is new also, has more room and less weight than the one I had last year, but I’ve yet to use the extra porch, which means I’m carrying around an extra 1 ½ pounds. The bike is holding up, mechanically, and here’s hoping I’m not plagued with flats like last year. Both sets of panniers are holding up and I have more pack room then I need. Although I have a netbook which only weight 3.9lbs the addition of a “camelback” type bladder keeps my backpack heavier then I’d like. I may bury the netbook in one of the panniers tomorrow. My new sleeping bag requires me to have two liners which bulk’s it up to the same weight as my original one so have to rethink that one. I do like my netbook, light, long lasting battery, finds and connects to hotspots without any problems. I’m use to the key board which is just a tad scrunched. This is one of the best computer purchases I’ve made in a long time.

I am now at the Barge Inn back on the canal not far from Wilcot. I’ve traveled 30 kilometers in 4 hours so I was done riding by 3pm. The campground is right next to the canal, were boats are tying up for the night. The bathroom is a one of everything, but clean. It is 8pm the sun is shining; the weather is not too hot, not too cool a beautiful riding day. I am in crop circle land and there is a great deal of talk about when they are going to start appearing. I hear the people at the bar having conversations about the way’s and wherefore’s of them. If you’ve not figured it out I’m in yet another Pub and every other customer has a dog lying patiently by their stool.

It is quite a busy place with the locals and boaters filing in and out. Jazz and 60’s music has been playing since I arrived. Several families are coming in so I’ll probably heed to vacate the four place table I’m now occupying. I’ll walk the canal for a bit then get some rest for my ride tomorrow.