I awoke at 5:30 to the sounds of drizzle on the tent. By 7 it was merely dense wet fog. We opted for a second cup of tea rather than pack up. A wise choice. It was pouring!! I was glad we weren't caught riding in this! So, a sip of tea, some reading and some writing. Whee!
[As I write, it is 8:30 a.m. It is pouring rain and we are tent bound. Perhaps it will pass quickly. I must admit, I rather enjoy this enforced quietude. It provides a nice change in the daily routine of waking, eating, and riding, an excuse to just be lazy in the tent...an opportunity to be treasured and acted upon.]
This was an inauspicious day. The rainstorm didn't persist, but the threatening clouds lingered, so Tracy and I walked downhill to town while Earl read in his tent. We bought a pastry, and stopped for tea at the Sun Kitchen where we chatted with other tourists who had discovered this heart healthy restaurant. I was drawn to the small old hardware store. Dark and worn hardwood planks squeaked under my feet as I perused supplies necessary for rural England living. At the TI next door, I gathered only a few informational materials as every ounce still counts.
At 11:30 a.m. the weather cleared and we broke camp. It was an absolute given that within five minutes of getting on my bike, I would have a steep hill to climb!
Riding gives me considerable opportunity to reflect and contemplate. Not unlike an alert hypnotic state, my thoughts turn inward while appreciating the scenery passing by. During today's moments of thought, I wondered whether two weeks was long enough for a trip like this, or if three weeks were much too short. I was beginning to experience a comfortable cadence with the daily effort and my biking abilities. Each day my muscle strength increased. Not, of course, in comparison to Tracy and Earl. I'd never be able to keep up with them.
[As I write, it's 9:30 p.m. - camped in a farmhouse's "front 40" at the town of Once Brewed along Hadrian's Wall. Earl is snoring in his tent, and cattle are mooing loudly. It's difficult to determine which is louder. The wind whistles about me; the tent fly flaps. Smells of wet grass and damp earth hang heavy in the humid air.]
Our TI regroup was Cambo - a wee village nestled along an avenue of tall hardwood trees with wide overhanging canopies. I breezed through, not seeing the guys, their bikes, nor any sign of a city center nor tourist information kiosk. After two long blocks downhill, I retraced the route UPhill. At the general storeTracy and Earl were seated next a long gray stone wall banked with hot red, deep pink and tall blue flowers. Quite an attractive scene. An artist might have called it, "Bikers with Flowers" in the bland titling of still life paintings.
Next meeting place - Chollerton. En route, we passed through the village of Colwell, a house or two by the side of the road. Camera ready? Click.
At Chollerton our route paralleled Hadrian's Wall, seen off in the distance. The road steeply serpentined as far as the eye could see! 'Round and 'round went my lowest granny gear. My knees twinged.
This was God-forsaken territory. No wonder the Romans stopped marching. The mist was ghostly translucent - looking as if one could pedal off the world's edge. If these were the moors, I wouldn't want to live here. To date, I prefered Scotland.
Stone walls traced property lines, as stones were the area's cheapest building material. Fences. Walls. Buildings. Those stones must breed. Where did they all come from? Tracy has written an "Ode To A Stone," commemorating them.
Sheep grazed intently. Cattle strolled about. I stampeded the herd when I passed, startling the lead cow, her head through the wire fence grazing on the greener grass by the roadside.
Up hill. Down hill. Up hill. Down hill. Heading west into the lowering sun. On to Once Brewed and the youth hostel....
Full...of 60 eleven year olds on a school outing. The hostel wardens sent us 500 yards down the road to a farm house - where the owners sold tenting space on their front 40 acres for £1.50/person. "Hey Maude, move the sheep, mow the pasture, and build some toilet facilities, the hostel's been sold out for weeks."
I didn't shower "en campground." A quite large black spider, with a highly complex structure from which it viewed its domain, had web rights to the shower stall. Invading its territory suddenly was not high on my list of things to do. Bare-wired light bulbs dangled over the bowl and shower enclosure. Institutional green paint layers peeled off the mildewed walls. The water reached lukewarm at best. I was feeling scummy but this was scummier. I opted for a sponge bath.
We returned to the hostel to fax reservations to the York Hostel for Friday and Saturday nights. A "No Vacancy" reply crawled out of their fax machine. A problem to be solved later. We booked space for breakfast the next morning and left.
The Twice Brewed Inn, within a pebble's throw of Once Brewed had bar meals - £3.25 for an acceptably tasty "Lancaster hot pot." A couple bike touring from British Columbia ate at the table next to ours, sampling the same meal. We compared riding notes over dinner.
[As I write, it's 10:15: The wind howls. Time to sleep. Tomorrow's route across the high passes through the Pennines will be difficult riding. I maintain, next time do a loop trip. One country. Down sleeping bag (light weight!). Down will stay dry with creative plastic bag use and a good tent; even with all the rain there have been no problems with dampness. Bivy tent. Cut weight!! ]