Monday, August 29, 2011

Cycling - Thirn to York

Day 5 of cycling ~ 44 mile day, 297 total.

Today was another shorter day.  Had another cooked breakfast to get ourselves going - eggs, toast, bacon, tea, and juice!  Nice and easy trip through country roads to York.  Near York we ended up on a cycle route that dropped us down in the middle of the city.  Wandered around for a bit, visited an internet cafe / pub called "the Evil Eye."  Stayed with a Spaniard named Alvaro hosted us for the night, but not until later.  Ended up waiting outside near his home until Ike needed the toilet we made our way back to town, only to return after Alvaro told us his house was unlocked.  After he arrived he made us some really delicious tea and chatted for a while.

Pretty bridge where we indulged in some donuts

Buildings turn to brick from stone as we get closer to York

We're on the right road!!

Two separate water gauges.. hopefully the closer one never needed to be used

Cycling - Hawkshead to Thirn

Day 4 of cycling ~ 72 mile day, 253 total.

Today was another longer mileage day.  Starting in Hawkshead we took the ferry across Lake Windermere  and headed straight east for the Yorkshire Dales.  The hills coming out of the Lake District were about as large as any I'd want to ride on a bike.  I thought to myself, "if the hills in the Yorkshire Dales are anything like this...I'm in trouble," because I knew we were destined to go through the Dales in a single day.  Fortunately they weren't anything near as hard as the ones coming out of the Lake District.

Ferry across Lake Windermere

The Yorkshire Dales

Lots of narrow bridges

First blue sky we've seen all trip!!!

These sheep seemed to think we were going to feed them and came flying across the field bleating at us. They stopped about this far away when they realised we weren't the farmers they thought we were.

Classic telephone booth.

Pretty bridge for railroad tracks.  

Coming out of the Yorkshire Dales we must have hit some sort of tailwind or something because we started making great time.  Most of the day seemed to take a while, and we took a couple wrong turns off of cycle routes, but nothing disastrous (at least in hindsight).  We had thought we were going to arrive late in Thirn, but ended up getting there about when we had originally planned, even after some detours. Lots of 17 to 20% gradients through the course of the day, but the east end of the Yorkshire Dales was flat in comparison.  The countryside near Thirn was a walk in the park compared to what we had been doing.

Family we stayed with in Thirn.

So here's the story with the family we stayed with in Thirn.  Another contact through couchsurfers.  This time the chap who set us up was actually in somewhere in South America.  I think Montevideo, Uruguay.  But he still offers up his mom's backyard for us.  His mom didn't know we were coming until we knocked on the door - hadn't checked her email yet.  At least his sister had seen the email before we arrived, just hadn't relayed the message to her.  Still very happy to lend us their yard, as well as a huge portion of lasagne, chips, strawberries and cream, and tea.  Their main business was breeding labradors for grouse hunting.  Nice family & quality breeders... not some puppy mill, but people who really cared about the dogs they raised and who they ended up going to.  Met a very sweet blind lab who they had kept.  Lots of friendly dogs on this trip.

Cycling - North Dykes to Hawkshead

Day 3 of cycling ~ 46 mile day, 181 total.

Words just can't describe the day we've had.  Cycling through the Lake District was simply beautiful.  It was a nice short day compared to our 85 mile jaunt through the rain the day before.  While it was cloudy, it really didn't rain on us much except for short downpours.  Had a wonderful lunch of bread, tomato, brie, olive oil, salt/pepper with some chocolate milk.  Also found the only nettles within a 100 square yards of me.  That's talent.

This was RIGHT before we took a wrong turn and went down a very very very long hill.  Smiles of ignorance...

Yummy lunch

This picture just doesn't do the area justice.  The colours of brown and shades of green were so vivid.  Old stone walls everywhere.  Just gorgeous.

Behind Thrilmere Reservoir.  We took the backroad on the advice of Jane from the day before.  Great advice as we had a very pleasant ride and beautiful views with the lake and mountains.

Again, just gorgeous. I didn't make it up this hill... my granny gear didn't go quite low enough.  I tried for part of it, but lost it after the next turn or so.  It went on for about 1/2 mile.  Isaac did make it in his granny gear, to which he was quite proud.  He said he'd never seen a gradient that high before on any road he'd cycled.

Maize the dog.

Our hosts in Hawkshead.  David and his wife Sarah.  David was one of the Bridge Builders courses I helped run earlier in the year.  They fed us dinner and a cooked breakfast!  Wonderful way to start the day.  Also got to sample some Kendal mint cakes, another regional food.  Basically mint and sugar - YUM.  Their sweet old dog Maize couldn't get enough attention from us, which we were glad to give her.

Cycling - Abington, Scotland to North Dykes, England

Day 2 of cycling ~ 85 mile day, 135 total.

So today started off cloudy threatening with rain.  So we wore our rain gear from the get go, but it didn't shower on us until around 2pm.  Packing up  the camp gave us a good idea of how Tolken meant for hobbits walking through bogs to feel in LOTR as we were greeted by almost invisible midges.  Very annoying little buggers...  Thankfully that was the end of them as once we were on our bikes they couldn't keep up.

My arm also thankfully looked a bit better and by better I mean didn't look worse.

Pretty countryside

There's cows in the background I swear!!
A church along the way

Leaving Scotland behind us... well not really.

As we tried to leave Scotland it told us no! and made us backtrack after we didn't find the road we were looking for.  So we went by this sign twice, just once in each direction.  Eventually we made it to Carlisle at which point the heavens opened up and really drenched us.  Still another 20 miles or so to North Dykes at which point I definitely didn't feel like riding anymore.  

Upon getting close to North Dykes we took a road which we thought would be a shorter route...well everything in that area was up and down hills and we definitely hit the largest hill of the day at about mile 80.  Not fun, but showed me I had more "left in the tank" than I thought since I was still able to get up it.

Sheep in the fields

Family we stayed with in North Dykes

So we stayed with a family through couchsurfers which turned out to be great.  They fed us a lovely supper (after they got home - they left the door unlocked for us since they were out) complete with sticky toffee pudding for dessert.  YUM!  They had a daughter who was away, another couchsurfer visiting as well, their son and his friend who was staying the night.  A lot of energy from their boy until he eventually crashed in front of the television.  World travellers and avid cyclists.  Jane (our host) had taken their kids (age 5 and 7 or 8) out touring on bikes earlier in the year through rain and cold.  Those kids are going to be able to handle anything when they get older!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cycling - Glasgow to Abington, Scotland

Day 1 of cycling ~ around 50 miles total

Unfortunately, the good weather I enjoyed the day before had left and we were left with a 95% chance of rain for the entire portion of the day.  I had gotten some camp fuel at a local outdoors shop the day before, but we stopped in again so Isaac could check for some Scottish maps, no dice, so we relied on my i-touch which I had downloaded a UK map.  This app is simply amazing.  You pay about the equivalent of 10 US dollars and can download super super super detailed maps.  As in, it will tell you there's a poultry farm along a highway if you zoom in far enough.  Really quite incredible and saved our butts loads of times.

Before getting out of Glasgow I decided it was time to get in touch with the locals and meet the road as well.  In the pouring rain I was signalling, getting use to riding a loaded bike (there's a HUGE difference), and hit a water puddle/dip in the road that sent me into the back of a car, whereas I promptly hit the pavement quite hard on my right forearm.

Two week's later it's still slightly swollen and nicely bruised.  I'm talented like that.  Isaac was pleased to get to use his medical kit for the first time (and not on himself).  He patched me up with some superglue stuff and 4 ibuprofen later we were on the road again.

Peanut butter break

Scottish countryside

After getting out of Glasgow we cycled south close to the main motorway, but on less major roads.  Got some nice cycle trails at times, but it rained pretty much non-stop until we needed to set up camp.  We wrestled our bikes down a bank off the road and camped in the woods at a spot a local guy from a grocer recommended where no one would bother us.  It was very near a high river, good thing it wasn't a couple of rainy days later or we might not have wanted to camp there.

Our camp setup

After splendid meal of cheap pasta, sauce, and cheese made partially inside the tent (on a camp stove) we slept quite cozily while it rained through the night.

Glasgow - start of cycle adventure

So I took the earliest (and cheapest) train I could out of London (5:39 am train from Euston) to Glasgow Central.  It took just under 5 hours and dropped me into the centre of Glasgow where I cycled to Paul's house (person from courses I've taught that offered me to stay at his/his wife's place in Glasgow).  The plan was then to meet up with Isaac (my cousin) in Glasgow for the day and leave the next morning.  Unfortunately, Isaac was only able to get the afternoon ferry, getting him to Glasgow quite late (10pm ish). So I went out into Glasgow for the day on my own.  I found a pipers festival was going on so beyond visiting the local Cathedral and the Centre of town, I saw a lot of bagpipers playing, which was very enjoyable.

Isaac ended up catching a ride to Glasgow instead of cycling and gorged on food Paul's wife Ester provided him with.  Very generous folk.  We then began to prep for the next day of cycling.