I basically wrapped my bike in a sheet of plastic meant to protect a floor from paint. I duct taped some of my camping gear to Steel and wrapped the whole thing in the plastic (took the air pressure out of my tires, and my pedals and handle bars off) and checked it. Unbelievably the ticketing agent at British airways didn’t flinch. Steel arrived in great shape minus a broken spoke which I blame on me for not securing stuff better. I was met by Vinny, a friend of a friend, who turned out to be a heck of a nice guy. I mean he flipping picked me up at the airport at night in tiny sports car not exactly designed for more than two people transport. So how do I repay this kindness….well, I promptly leave my checked bag behind and proceeded through customs, after doubling back and waiting, we arrived to his very nice homestead…and then I promptly tracked mud and grease across his new beige carpet! Yep… I know…I suck! Both accidents of course, but really at this point, I am best kept out back…perhaps in a nice barn?! The black stuff pretty much came out of the carpet…but I think of Vinny as yet another person I owe in life. I swear I’ll continue to pay all these kindnesses forward.
Holy…Vinny had a spare room with pretty much the world’s most comfortable bed and FOUR pillows. I stayed for 5 nights, but really he’s lucky he ever got rid of me! I spent the first couple of days just getting my bicycle fix and acquiring needed items…like a new tent and a stinken compass! Finally! It was fun hanging out and experiencing Vinny life. I got some writing done and I was going to depart on day four, Saturday, but “they” were calling for severe storms, so I stuck around one more night. Not only did he show me around, but other little things felt luxurious too…like one evening we watch a movie. Shoot…I have not watch tv or a flick in over five months!
Where to? I’m thinking to head to Scotland but I also need to get some serious writing done…and now there is the potential of joining up with another cyclist I met on this journey. Turns out, Steve, the American I met in passing back in Austria, and I are once again ending up in the same place…that being England. My thought was to ride out to Stonehenge and check that out, and then park it somewhere for a bit and focus on writing, and then meet up with Steve in the south of England whenever he arrives. Well, I got to within 5 miles of Stonehenge and I just could not find a reasonable route off the darn freeway. I tried twice and ended up circuling neighborhoods before I aborted and just started heading south to the ocean.
Now armed with a compass and a map (the first time on my trip), I had fun just going for different routes…that is until I discovered that England is flipping hilly! I have no idea why, but I sincerely thought England was flat. It’s not only hilly, but the scenic country roads (at least the ones I randomly chose) came with severe assents and desents. I was exhausted after only 50 miles and parked it at some ridiculously priced campground…$18lbs…like $25US…but whatever, I showered, nibbled, and passed out. I wild camped the night before in some nice English farm field, so it all works out.
The next day, it was a lovely easy ride down “pony road” through the New Forest to Milton on the Sea, where I scored a campground for $6lb a night. It’s less than a mile to the nice little non-touristy town that has a community center with computers, inexpensive coffee, and homemade baked goods. Score! The best bonus was meeting Dee. A tall, toned, 60 year young woman, who also enjoys bicycle touring and is a professor in Maine, but her mom lives in Milton on the Sea. We immediately hit it off and I ended up joining her and her brother for lunch at their family home, where I got to try some proper English stuff like, Marmite…sort of a salty brown spread that you put on bread. She’s has me jazzed on trying a “milk tea”, so I am going to do that soon. Off to the Isle of Wight to explore and await my cycling companion. I’m both excited and nervous. It would certainly be nice to have some company, but I’ve never cycled with anyone before (not more than 2 days anyway). All part of this here adventure…