I cycle 53 miles today after a sketchy nights sleep on the ferry. France is very pleasing. The ground is dry, the sun is shining. There is good village planning with a few miles of farmland then a village. Seems like this is the way the world is supposed to be.
The terrain is rolling, up and down and up and down. I don’t mind, I consider the hills to be a lift, I lift my bike and gear to the top. The descents are easy, not regrettable. It’s the rhythmn of cycling. I practice cycling slowly, pretend that Leslie is in front of me, try to back off from stress and strain and speed. The headwind and hills keep me in the lower gears today.
I left Bath with great memories this morning the 12th of November. The plan is to take backroads and cycle about 50 miles to Salsbury, which puts me in position to cycle into Portsmouth tomorrow and catch an overnight ferry to France.
I notice I am passing a few miles from Stonehenge. Ahhaaa, so that’s where all these tourist busses are going. I decide to swing by.
The road runs right past Stonehenge, you can simply drive by and take a look if you please. I lock my bike in the large parking lot. You have to pay 30lbs? (overheard, not verified) to go inside the fence that surrounds the stones.
I don’t like the tourist vibe, can’t get past it. I skip paying admission and poke my camera through the chain link. So glad that Richard and Diane suggested Avebury.
Stonehenge and tourism.
I chuckle at this unlikely mash up of different cultures, a stone age monolith visited by busloads of tourists seeking something special. The tourists speed recklessly past me as I cycle on to Salsburg. Did they get what they came for? Or are they still hungry, hungry for something they can’t name?
The YMCA hostel allows me to camp in their yard. Yippeee, my own room and only 7.5 lbs, not 17.5. It’s the best of both worlds, the facilities of the hostel and the pleasures of sleeping peacefully in my tent. A walk into Salsbury for groceries surprised me with this McDonalds.
It looks like a club! Where’s the plastic clown? I saw a Pizza Hut in Stratford Upon Avon that was equally stylish. I rather like the European versions!
In the morning I went to the town walk and got some pics of the stream that flows through.
And then went to the amazing Salsibury Cathedral. I was in time for a sermon, and to hear the pipe organ play. The base notes were so resonant they were almost like ships horns.
Can you find my bike, Griboulle?
Gorgeous inner courtyard.
I’m editing this from the Portsmouth ferry to France terminal. I’ll be in St Malo France tomorrow, Monday the 14th. I’m nervous to be in a country with a foreign language. I’ll have to learn a lot quickly. I might just camp close to town and walk and shop and get my cultural bearings for a day…
I’ve cycled 1038 miles in Europe this last month. Anyone interested in trip costs, daily averages, etc?
I spent the day exploring Bath and was very gratified. It is beautiful with knooks, pedestrian streets, unique and beautiful shops and history and bustle.
The town is centered around a natural hot springs that the humans have known about and been using for ever. The Romans built a bath there, and there is rich warm Bath Abbey. I could spend a week here, but a day and a half and two free town tours is enough to get a good sense of place and history.
The entire town of Bath is a world heritage site, sharing that honor with Venice. (Umm, Italy, not Florida or California)
Bath Abbey has a long history. Those are angels climbing a ladder to heaven, and descending too, one headfirst.
Interior of Bath Abbey
The pews were crafted by Irish craftsman who carved this pagan Leafman into the ends of two of the pews.
A touching memorial to two peoples love. Notice there are no dates, implying love is eternal. “Their love was disinterested” means that it was not about money or property… A lovely docent singled me out and showed me these cool things which I would have otherwise missed.
Lovely musical angels.
The whole band.
This odd carving has an interesting story. He got beheaded once and rather than get a new head the church decided to carve a face out of what was left of his beard.
Naturally the new city was built on the old. Here we look down past the present 1700’s era buildings to an original Roman gate into Bath.
This river is also Avon. But it is a different Avon than the one that flows through Shakespear’s home town of Stratford Upon Avon. Turns out the old name for river is Avon. This bridge was build for a developer who asked the architect to “make the river go away” so he could develop the land that he held on the other side and rent it to Bath tourists.
Here is a pic of the bridge. When you are on it you can’t tell that it is a bridge because of the shops on each side. Very clever. You can cross the river and not even know it is there.
When the society women and men came down to bath they were carried in carts like this one by two men. The streets were muddy, not paved. They were transported home in the same manner. They bathed with all their clothes on. After bathing they were sent home to rest. The bedrooms were often circular shaped so that the cart bearers could turn around close to the bed! And the women had their hair plastered up with horsehair and beeswax and powdered with lead to make it white. The carts roofs all came off to allow for spectacular doo’s.
Yeah, all this really happened.
Magnificent semicircle of homes, built as rentals for upper class in the 1700’s. Now these places sell for over 5 million pounds. That’s 7.5 million dollars. And they sell quickly when they come on the market.
So many interesting homes.
The Roman bath ruins were not discovered until the 1800’s during a street repair. They were excavated until about 1980.
This is what I paid to see. A working Roman drain, still carrying off extra water from the hot springs to the Avon river. Lots of old coins and stones were found in the drain.
Me in the baths.
What a lovely city. That’s Bath Abbey in the background.
Avebury was believed to have been built about 3500BC. It is an enormous ring of stones, with two inner rings and a large deep dike and diggings surrounding it. There are two ancient stone entries, both standing, and miles of stone lined ancient roads leading to other sites. Through a myopic lapse in foresight, a village lies within the largest stone ring, also called Avebury.
I walk through Avebury, touching each ancient stone. Through the cold wet rock I feel the warmth of ancient peoples hands. The Herculean effort required to build this, the vision required to conceive this, especially nearly 5000 years ago when an individuals world view would have been more limited overwhelms me. I am deeply moved.
The Moat. It was once nearly vertical, quite deep and completely white, as the underlying rock is limestone.
The stones were systematically broken up and dismantled for buildings, pushed over by early Christians, and buried by farmers.
Often my feelings come to me as songs. This one by George Harrison kept playing:
The B&B that I stayed in last night served a bountiful breakfast. I ate till 9:00. Today was as cold as it’s been, the road was busy. Finally I got tired of it and took a chance on a quiet country road, one of the white ones. I was rewarded instantly by peace and quiet. I propped my elbow in the pad of the drop bars, and rode with my head resting on my palm through quiet farms and old villages.
This village of Chedworth had cottages and this pub from the 1600’s. It was quite peaceful, as if time had settled it.
Apartments or row houses go way back.
I felt I saw Old England.
It is so dark today I only ride till 3:00pm. It just feels too unsafe, my lights are on all day. I only ride 43 miles, the constant up and downs- I walked three hills, the weight of the bike, the short days, all contribute to my inching pace. I am hungry for some dry warm weather and sunshine, but fret over how long it will take me to get south.
A rest day at my hosts and new friends Diane and Richard has topped off my fuel cells. I am ready to spin like a Rolls Royce turbine. Since Diane and Richard were going for a long ride, they escorted me to my turn off.
“Oh, so this is the legendary English Countryside!” Richard has told me which color roads on my map to take, and which to avoid. He has advised me to cycle looking to town names for directions, not so much road numbers. I get lost once and am looking at the map when a pelaton of 40 cyclists envelop me. One asks if I need directions. I say yes, and they all stop. I am thoroughly directed.
Small English towns with names like Ticknail, Smisby, Ashby de la Zouch, No-Mans Heath, and Atherstone roll past.
My breath puffs like a locomotive. Lunch is a tangerine and bananna bread that Diane somehow found time to bake. The cold turns to ice mist. A pheasant bumps off a car.
An old farm building pulls me in. The Earth is slowly singing it home.
This human was melodized over 200 years ago.
Long forgotten monuments to their owners memory stand like playing cards.
I pedal into Manchester the 2nd biggest city in England, pushed and pulled in the squeeze of traffic, diesels fuming heads turning past Muslim and black homes in uniformly eroding brick row houses deep into the heart of Manchester in the downtown jewelry district where my hostel has left the light on.
But they are full. My fault. It is Saturday in the city. The cheap rooms go fast. Hold on, a phone call comes in. There is a cancellation. A double room. It costs 65L.(About $95) Some cracking gets the price down to 49L, their booking computer won’t accept a lower price. Plan A: Plan better so I don’t end up in big cities on the weekends. Plan B. Don’t go to big cities. I don’t know how to enjoy them.
I leave the hostel early in the morning after a nice chat with a few young people who admired what I was doing.
It takes half an hour to find my way out of Manchester. The road I chose is direct, an alternate to the freeway, and leads through the business areas of many towns. Fumes, rain, wind, and the ups and downs of the hills of the Peaks area wear me out. I have to dig deep. I call Diane and let her know I am struggling a bit and might be late, and she gives me good advice. “Just keep going”. So I do, counting off the kilometers, and congratulating myself on each one. A lot of self talk. Even though it is only 1:00 my headlight is on, as it is quite dark.
English commercial zones.
Diane meets me at the Quad where I am having a hot tea, and we ride up the bicycle path to her’s and Richard’s home. I am so relieved to be have good company, and a place to settle. Diane has prepared a 15lb lasagna and we eat half of it. Then she makes an apple crumble with pudding and I eat a large bowl. We talk about the places she and Richard have cycled, and I get to look at pics of their adventures.
We talk about different cycling routines for different conditions. Like getting up very early when cycling in hot climates and only riding till noon. Like riding through a city in the middle of the day when camping, and ending at a city when hosteling or hoteling. We talk about the need to be flexible and to adapt to changing surroundings. Good stuff, I soak it up. I enjoy the camaraderie after a couple of rough days.
In the morning as I am getting packed to go, Richard tells me it is predicted to rain and hail. He asks if I want to rest there a day. Relief floods me. I spend the day doing bike maintenance and relaxing in their comfortable home.
The address of the Hostel is plugged into my GPS. I arrive at 2:00PM and the address is smack in the middle of a bunch of row houses. I knock on the front door. Maybe someone else has had this problem before. Two white poodles start barking. The house alarm goes off. Neighbors open their doors to see the strange sight. I decide to leave.
A few safe miles away I reset the GPS. Two locations with the same name? Yes, That’s the problem. I head towards the 2nd address, 14 KM away. I climb a long steep hill into the wind, and arrive in another residential neighborhood. Damn.
I am quite tired, and haven’t stopped to eat all day. It is cold, and I have been battling headwinds.
I meet a cyclist walking his bike up the hill. He tells me I need to go into the city center, about 8 KM away. He gives me rough directions and I head off. It is dusk and I am not sharp.
I stop and ask at an Indian food takeout and get more directions. I dig deep and find power and sail into Manchester. I am tired, it is pitch black, the city is a roar of traffic and pedestrians. I decide to dive into the first hotel I come across. It is a Travelodge. I am quoted 74L, about $110. I might have a little energy….
A couple of queries and I meet a guy who knows where a hostel is. He sends me in the right direction. A stop in a open late bike shop steers me right again. Hey, It’s the hostel I was trying to find! They have a bed. L17. I check my mileage, 106KM.
I get the bike squared, and go out to shop for groceries. The first take out I come across is too tempting to pass up, so I have a vegi kabob. Finished in 5 minutes, I continue to the grocery store and come away with a frozen pizza, milk, and breakfast stuff.
Claudia my host on the Isle of Mann wants me to point out that it doesn’t always rain on the Isle of Mann. When I was leaving on the ferry this morning I snapped these pics:
Douglas, Isle of Mann
The little castle is mostly underwater during high tides. It was built there for people who were shipwrecked within the harbor to cling to until they were rescued. That’s the story.
Today I am disappointed in humanity. I guess I was hoping to find a higher level of society, sorta like the BBC is to news, here in Europe. Instead, in the supermarkets I see sensationalist tabloids, on the telly I see adds for attorneys – almost every other commercial- who promise no fee unless they collect and show happy people with their checks. And finally if you take every cliche about touristy beach towns, make it in 3d, throw in Las Vegas and the circus you have Blackpool.
Not surprisingly, it is very popular. My hostel is full, so I find a hotel and head out for some fish and chips.
I am heading south through England working to get down to France, then Spain and Portugal, where it’s warmer and sunnier. There is a headwind so going is a little slow. I’ll have a better attitude tomorrow.