We have done this before, but it was a long time ago.
One of the things we had in common when we started dating was biking. In (I think) 1990, we had a group of friends who were planning a two week vacation in England – they were going on a canal boat trip for a week, then a week in London to sight-see and see Phantom of the Opera. Carolyn and I liked the idea, but spending a week on a canal boat did not appeal to us. So we decided to do a bit of bike touring and meet the rest of the group in Worchester. We planned to fly into London, take a train to Bath and start there.
Even though we had never done anything like this before, we decided to play it by ear. The only things we planned ahead were making a reservation for the first night in Bath and ending up in Worchester after a week. We would pick a destination each morning – the proprietors of the B&Bs were very helpful with suggestions for things to see.
We’d ride through the morning and early afternoon and find a B&B when we got to our destination. Then we’d shower and change into “walk-about” clothes and take in our surroundings. The next day was lather rinse and repeat.
We landed in London 5:30am on a Monday, assembled our bikes at the airport and set out for London by tube – and promptly discovered that bikes are not allowed during rush hours when we got kicked off the train at Earl’s Court.
We eventually made our way to Paddington Station and took the train to Bath. It’s a short 90 minute ride, but we fell asleep and almost missed our stop. We spent our first day in England touring the Roman ruins and trying to get our body clocks adjusted to the new time zone.
Our first mission Tuesday was on behalf of a coworker of ours who had gone to school in Bath. She asked us to take a picture of the water tower – she had painted her name on it and wanted to see if it was still there. So we rode our bikes up to the University of Bath. And I do mean up, turns out it is on top of a serious hill. When we got there, the guard wouldn’t let us on campus. When we explained that we had to take pictures of the water tower he looked confused – evidentially it had been torn down years before. Sigh.
Our goal for Tuesday was Cirencester, on the way we went through Malmesbury. As it turns out, I’ve visited Malmesbury several times since then working with a company located there. Life is full of interesting coincidences.
On Wednesday we rode to Oxford the end of the ride was wonderful, it was a long downhill into Oxford a relief after fifty miles of riding.
Unfortunately, that meant that the first thing we had to do on Thursday was ride uphill. That was the beginning of what we call the “Day from Hell” – it seems that every tour has at least one day like that, when nothing goes right. Our goal for the day was Broadway, but between a number of wrong turns, and towns without any place to eat, it was a miserable day. Things got better when we got to Lower Slaughter – a pretty little tourist trap in the Cotswolds. Then they got even better when we got smart and bought an ordinance survey map at a bookshop in Stow-on-the-Wold – that’s a topographic map showing where all the hills are!
(By the way, Carolyn hates every one of these pictures of her. And she thinks I look really young in these pictures, but that she hasn’t changed a bit.)
Friday we decided to go to Warwick where we were told there was a nice castle – I love that sort of thing. On our way we stopped at Stratford-upon-Avon and had a lovely time doing Shakespeare tourism.
Arriving in Warwick, we found a hotel where we left the bikes and went to tour the castle which was right next door. We had a nice early dinner at the hotel and went back out and checked out an interesting World War II museum. When we got back to the hotel afterwards we decided we were still hungry and had another nice dinner (and got a few questioning looks from the same server we had for our first dinner). That’s definitely one of the benefits of bike touring – all you can eat and no guilt!
On Saturday we rode to Worchester, which, while spelled the same as Worchester MA, is not pronounced at all the same, and met up with friends to take a train back to London for the rest of our vacation.
All in all, we had a terrific time and discovered a love for bike touring.
So, no we’re not totally crazy, we have done this sort of thing before. But I guess 250 miles in five days isn’t really the same as 2,300 miles in fifty seven days. So maybe we are just a little bit crazy.