Dear Friends and Family,
Some of you told me I should blog. You were right.
This post will be huge, and then I will be caught up. I intend to post a short post every day or two from now on.
Where do I start? I already sent a couple of e-mails to about 75 friends, I guess I’ll start by pasting them here:
End of my first week. Camped once. Bike is superb. Saw Stonehenge.
Pubs are great, all with fires to warm up by. This one here is from 1270. Original fireplace and beams. They all have clever names like “Crown & Rose” or “The Bell”, so that pictures on their signs could serve the common man, who could not read. The food is good, despite the stereotype.
I stayed with Warm Showers people twice and they were great. It’s getting dark as I eat my roast beef dinner by the fire here in Odiham. (O-djyum). I don’t have a place for the night yet. Rooms upstairs are expensive. It’s been sunny or partly so, temps in the twenties days and teens at night. Rain is forecast in a few days.
Three hours later:
Yee-ha! While I was finishing that last sentence a fellow from a pleasantly loud party at the next table asked, “Is that a mandolin?”
Richard, a retired banker who picks an old Martin, his wife, and another couple just returned from Australia today. Now I’m in the hall of an old (1500) home in a section of town where the streets are too narrow for cars. They are all too tired for music and went to bed. I’m on my own in this old manor. A church bell just tolled seven times. Dickensian. I think I’ll explore.
40 miles to London tomorrow. I’ll enjoy a long sleep; I’ve been up late last few nights.
Then a few days later I posted this e-mail to a few close friends and family. Now that my ego has mended I can share it with the world:
In a suburb of London I finally got snagged by a car door. Going fast on the flats, and I almost avoided it. Without panniers I would have been ok.
I’m somewhat of a mess. Face first on the pavement, I put my teeth through my lip in two places (teeth hurt but seem undamaged). Broke my nose. Several knuckles with no skin left. Pulled a right calf muscle badly, and my left ankle is the worst of it, swollen and throbbing and, for now at least, I’m not walking.
Imelda the door opener, her three Catholic-grammar school kids, husband Dave, and Romanian au pair Aura are nursing me. I’ll be here a few days. Haven’t even seen the bike; it’s in the garage.
If I can’t walk tomorrow I might visit a hospital. They tell me it’s free. Many would get stitches for this lip, but I would just as soon wear my scars proudly.
It would be surprising to get to Hong Kong without a mishap, so I’m happy to get it over with in an English speaking neighborhood. Last time I hit a car door was 1974. Time to change my dressings already (it’s five hours since I kissed the macadam). I’ll keep you all posted.
I will not include a photo here.
Following up three days later:
I’m walking and talking, pretty ugly, and happy to have met this
family. I feel right at home. Imelda, the mum, is making me well.
Little Orlagh, eight years old, sings to me. Imelda is pure Irish and
her voice is a major factor in my speedy recovery. (“You Romps are
made of pretty sturdy stuff, it seems, to my way of thinkin'”) The
bike was spared frame damage, the wheels were less than a quarter inch
out of true, and no gear was damaged. The handlebars, tape, and one
brake cable will need replacing, and some scuffs on the pedal and
brake lever will remind me to be careful passing parked cars. We went
to town to get bike parts and the folks were horrified to see my face.
SJS Cycles, who sold me the bike, is sending handlebars no charge,
and Imelda wouldn’t let me pay for the other parts. I’ll be here a
couple more days. The ankle is better. I’m alone here right now but
the kids will be home from school soon. They are teaching me to speak
I’ll keep you posted.
The night before I left that wonderful, amazing family I met Kay, Aura’s boyfriend. As all men do when they get together, we started talking about cell phones. Turns out he’s a buyer for a huge cell phone retail chain here in the UK, and he offered me a phone, since mine won’t work on the European system. His workplace was what I imagine Google’s looks like, with 1500 sharp-looking colleagues living the life. Kay really fixed me up. But more than the phone or the workplace, I will always remember that Kay, a busy executive, made me feel all the while that I was doing him a favor.
The forty flat miles to London kicked my ass. I got a bed at the Youth Hostel and slept twelve hours. The next two days I wandered around London, busking in Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus. I believe that my ugly face and scabbed up knuckles put people off; I only made fifteen pounds all together. A pound is about a dollar and a half. The kilted bagpipe guy was raking it in.
Leaving the tourist area and finding an old-fashioned spit-and-sawdust pub, I met Martin and Lucie, their son Joe, and their friend John, who owns 14 Bikes http://www.14bikeco.com/ . I slept at Martin and Lucie’s house after keeping them up late. Next morning, a Saturday, Martin and Joe (13) both on cool single-speeds, and Joe’s friend Leo and Leo’s dad Alan (cool dude on a folder with a sport coat) brought me on a super ride through London, down to the Thames, over the Tower Bridge, and more, mostly on great canal-side bike paths. Alan’s an artist, and we twice ran into world-famous London-based artists. Great ride, fellas.
Then I wandered around seeing the sights and looking for a jazz club where I could listen within sight of my bike (I had been warned about London bike thieves). I wandered myself into exhaustion and wound up spending a week’s budget on a fleabag hotel room and an excellent pasta dinner.
Next day I left London for the east coast, cutting through heavily ethnic neighborhoods, prosperous suburbs, equestrian estates, and finally the sheep-dotted countryside, spending half my time on interstate-like A-roads and the other half lost in the ridiculously charming lanes and villages. Another hospitable pub, working class and family style, and another night in a warm bed, thank you Martin and Samantha.
I’m bound for the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland, staying with Simon Commercial. I don’t tend to use last names here, but Simon’s has a history. His great-great-grandfather was abandoned as an infant on the streets of London. When the sisters at the orphanage asked where he came from, the answer was, “Commercial Street.” I’m staying in the 400-year-old stable behind his 500-yerar-old house. I’ve never seen a more tasteful re-purpose. Simon is a cyclist and aviator, and a beer enthusiast. His wife lives in a house a few miles away, an arrangement I kind of like. We stayed up so late that when he went to bed and I got on his computer to make ferry and hostel accommodations for tomorrow, I forgot it was already tomorrow and I booked for the next day. So I’m staying here all day while it rains, doing laundry and creating a blog.
There, I’m caught up. Tomorrow I leave this magical island on a nighttime ferry. Future posts will be from my phone, so you know they will be shorter. I’ll take more pictures. Thanks for visiting. Please leave a comment. Cheerio.