While cycling the Southern coast of the Isle of Wight was pretty (& hilly) and happening upon a nifty luminated carnival parade in Shanklin was cool, I was still struggling to be motivated to both write and engage back fully in my experience. Sometimes in life a change up is needed…and at my five month point on the bicycle, it seems I needed it more than I realized. That change up came in the form of my new cycling companion, Steve. Thus far my “mate”, as the fine feather English folks might say, has been a really good thing. I am much more inclined to explore when I have someone to explore with. A good example of this was on the Isle of Wright when I actually did some mountain biking for the first time on my entire trip. I love to mountain bike. I am specifically touring on a mountain bike so that I could check out trails, but it turns out that this is not an activity that I much do on solo. The Isle had some great trail riding. Steve, Steel and I spent 2 down days on the island just having some fun…which included mountain biking along the beautiful rocky coast. It’s such a treat riding around on Steel without all of our gear! It was hard to leave the Isle due in no small in large part to our awesome German campground neighbors who generously offered up coffee and toast (you must understand – toasted bread is like a major treat when camping!) with homemade honey!
Our first night off the island, we ended up staying with Rog and Dee…the super cool couple that cycled around the world, that I met back in Germany when I ducked into a pub from the rain. I totally forgot that they lived in England…so it was just by chance that I saw that they were in route as I looked at the Warm Showers site. Another solo woman cyclist, Fiona, originally from Australia, was staying with them too that night. She was just launching on het first extended cycling tour, and heading the opposite direction of us. It was really great to get to see Rog and Dee again and lots of time was spent laughing at the stories from their awesome adventure. Of course that only served to make me want to cycle around the world too! Dang it!
The next day (way too late in the day) Steve and I were off to London. We fully intended to cycle there in one day. However, after 8 hours in mostly rain and increasingly hilly terrain, we called it a day and slept at the “Oven Ready Rabbit” farm/campground. Unfortunately, having no oven with us, we opted for a much less exotic ramen noodle concoction.
Anticipating that it would be an easy 40 miles ride to Steve’s friend’s home in London, we moseyed a bit before getting on the road. We thought we would arrive by about 6 p.m. but it ended up being after midnight! None-the-less, the ride was lovely through the English country side –mostly one lane roads lined by 15 foot hedges on both sides. Cycling across London’s Tower Bridge at night, all lit up by blue lights, was beautiful. Thank goodness Steve’s friend, Osama, was a very good friend. He received us warmly despite the day and half miscalculation of our arrival time.
More nifty English firsts with Osama. He provided my experience with crumpets (like really really good one-sided English muffins), and a proper preparing of scones – which implies about a 1/2″ of clotted-cream (think butter meets heavy whip cream) smothered in jam. As decadent and delicious as the scones were, the toffee sticky pudding was the to die for dessert item -some sort of moist cake-like base covered in caramelized toffee and topped with heavy whipping cream. “Previously seen as health food,” Osama assured us. Osama explained that there are at least 5 different other amazing pudding varieties that we should try. I think I might make it my personal mission to do so…ya know, just so I throughly comprehend British culture. This time in London, I actually went into London. Osama and his friend treated us to a 3D Imax movie experience, at the largest movie theater in the UK (another first), and then strolled London after dark. The next evening we were on for a culinary first for me. Steve and Osama grew up in Nigeria and so they we were curious to try a local Nigerian restaurant. The buffet was stuffed full of lots of unknown rice and mystery meat and fish dishes. It was a sensory experience as both the food and live music seemed exotic, and other worldly, as the smells and sounds filled the small, modest space. Only 1/2 a disco ball was attached to the ceiling as it was far to low to hang a whole one.
After several days of packing on probably twenty pounds, we rolled out of the comfort of Osama’s home for Scotland…bring on the Fringe Festival!! I can’t believe I’m going!!!!