It was worth it.
This year, we are bicycling around Switzerland with Katrin and Monika, and for a few days, with Angela and Maria. And hopefully a couple of my other Swiss cycling buddies. Last year I blew the blog. Couldn’t figure out how to upload photos using my Samsung. Without photos I figured there was no point in writing but of course I am sorry for that now. In preparing for this year’s tour I want to eliminate this technical excuse. This is a test, and a chance to show off my beautiful new bicycle, Wilhemina.
This time tomorrow we will be gearing up for our 2016 tour of the St Lawrence.
Although it has only been a couple of days I can’t recall where we stayed. I do know, though, that we took a train from Kendal to Crewe to avoid riding through the busy roads around Newcastle and Manchester.
Tbe Crewe railway station had a bike maintenance facility that we could not believe. Everything from
A high pressure pump to a pedal wrench, including a maintenance stand. Look at this:
We went needlessly out of our way for this “attraction”.
And then we spent a couple of hours riding on the towpath beside a canal, admiring the locks and the narrow boats. Bought the best shortbread in the world from this little stand.
And finally got a Lorry Turning sign.
In the middle of all this nothing, a mailbox.
Since we couldn’t follow the game we didn’t stay to see how it turned out but we watched for a few pitches. Cricket matches can apparently take days.
Took the obligatory photo of the marriage chapel/black smith shop in Gretna Green, and another of a bizarre statue across the road from it. We were here years ago in a car, on our way to catch the ferry to Northern Ireland and it really has changed. Guess 20 years or more can do that to places as well as to people …
The ride from Gretna Green to Bassenthwaite was pretty uneventful, though we did get directions from a man with the biggest border collie in the world. Much bigger than Zak!
The man recommended we stay away from the main roads and suggested a route that would take us through Dalston. In Bassenthwaite we stopped at a butcher/deli and got some food for our lunch. I asked the butcher where we should have our picnic, and he told me the views fro Caldbeck Hill couldn’t be beat so we went there. Getting there was also pretty spectacular, with rolling hills and big puffy clouds everywhere.
The Caldbeck Hill is a steep climb, averaging about 12 % for long enough that we were glad of our lunch by the time we reached the top. A good half kilometer is at least 15 %, which I would have found tough without bags. But the view was splendid.
This caught our attention.
We have no guesses about what it could be. Would love to hear some though.
This gallery/tea shop was a little ways off the country toad we were on but well worth the detour. The art was surprisingly good – quirky pottery and some exceptional paintings – and the bake well tart was delicious.
By now we were closing in on The Lakes District and Lori was exclaiming “wow” at 30 second intervals. We couldn’t stop for a photo every time she saw something she liked but we did get a few.
Keswick, which is where we spent the night, looks like a perfect place to live. Sports fields, walking paths, and lots of pubs and restaurants. Despite this we wandered for hours looking for a place to eat, and at last settled for mediocre food at a restaurant with pencil crayon portraits on the wall. The portraits, which I guess we’re done with Derwent crayons, were exquisite. The fish and chips were ok.
Our bed and breakfast was ideal. Bruce, the host, is a cyclist so we could use his pump, and that was a bonus. By the time we got back from town and dinner I was feeling lousy, with the head cold from hell. Remarkably I didn’t keep anyone but Lori awake, or at least that is what the other guests said at breakfast. I think they were being polite, but perhaps the rooms are just that sound-proof. Certainly the folks sleeping in the rooms around us tonight will want earplugs because I am still not feeling the best.
If you guessed that we missed the single turn we had to make in order to get from Abington to the Day’s Inn in Gretna Green, you would, of course, be correct.
The road we took was a B road so not very heavily traveled. It was also part of the traditional Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) bicycle ride, which meant that we met several cyclists. The first was within minutes of leaving the hotel. By the disgruntled way he talked about the wind I gathered that he had been fighting it for a while. We, on the other hand, had a fair tailwind and we took full advantage of that as the weather forecast called for thunderstorms in the afternoon.
The photos below are about an hour later. It rained a few drops but we didn’t need our pink gloves.
I haven’t got many other photos because there was nothing to see. This was by far the most boring day of our tour. I don’t know what the rest of the LEJOG route is like but if it similar to this then I don’t see the attraction. The only thing that this road had going for it was the lack of traffic. Otherwise the road surface was horrible and the scenery was non-existent. It wasn’t hilly and it didn’t require any navigating skills, so perhaps that is the criteria if you just want to ride from one end of the UK to the other, but for a tour it had nothing going for it.
We did almost beat the storm though. If we had not missed the turn-off we would have made it without getting damp. But we did miss the turn, and the extra 10 minutes we spent on the road were all it took. It wasn’t a thunderstorm but it started to hail without warning as we were about to turn back to find the hotel entrance. And just before we saw the last tourer of the day.
We got back on our bikes and it started to rain! Still we really enjoyed the day. The road to New Lanark was not very busy, and the scenery was grand.
New Lanark is a Unesco World Heritage site so we decided we would drop by and find out what makes it so special.
It is a village of about 200 people on the River Clyde. It was built in 1786 by David Dale, who was later joined by his son-in-law Robert Owen, a Welsh social activist. The cotton mills and workers’ housing formed an industrial village that was seen as the “epitomy of socialist utopia” and it’s success was evidenced by the fact that it remained operational until 1968.
The hill and crater like structure in the background fascinated me for miles. It seems that others were also fascinated by “The Hill of Fire”. Tinto Hill, as you can see below, has played an important role in various cultures throughout the ages.
Abington, which we reached using roads that do not exist on any maps, is the highest village on Scotland. At least that is what the sign said, but it seems hard to believe as it is only 275 meters above sea level. We decided to stop there for the night and tried the Abington Hotel. The very considerate and proper older gentleman at reception told me that he was very sorry but he did not have a room available. He went on to say that he would love to help but he had a girlfriend. I was shocked but then I thought no, I must have misunderstood because that would be very inappropriate. I asked him to repeat himself and was relieved to hear ‘I have a group in’. I grinned and told him what I had understood, and there was a hoot of laughter from the bar and a woman’s voice said ‘that is too funny’. He said ‘yes, I have a group in, and I also have a local woman who eavesdrops’.
I got us a room at Day’s Inn over the Internet and we stayed for a hamburger at the hotel.
When we got to the Day’s Inn, the manager was very friendly. Probably would have been anyway but in our case it was because he was Swiss and knew from my online reservation that I lived in Switzerland. Yann manages the Day’s Inn at Abington and Gretna Green, so we said we would stay there the next night. He gave us a very nice discount for the Gretna Green room and very clear directions on how to reach it. We had to turn once in 80 kilometers. Stay tuned to find out how we did…
We took the train from Edinburgh to Dunbar to pick up our bikes at Chris’s farm. He remembered that Lori wanted to pick up some fossils so he picked us up at the train station and took us across one of his ploughed fields in the Land Rover so that we could climb down to the beach and fossil-hunt.
This photo is especially for Chris, a real sweetheart!
As Chris was dropping us off at the railway station there was a couple from Germany looking at the tourist map. They were touring on a BMW and we’re looking for a place to stay. Acting as translator I passed on Chris’s message that he would escort them on his BMW to the Home Arms in Eyemouth, which is where we stayed. They were happy for his help, as they should be. He is an excellent tour guide.
We took the train to Edinburgh and then got another to Glasgow, got out a stop early and rode to Hamilton where we stayed in the stinkiest bedroom ever. The hotel was otherwise ok but the room was awful. On the bright side, the restaurant around the corner made excellent fish and chips, and the best ice cream I have ever tasted.