Saturday May 30
Today was another of those days where I’m grateful for the opportunity to meet wonderful people!
I was up fairly early again, so I set off at 5:30 for a morning run along the promenade of Weston-Super-Mare. It felt like I had the town to myself because there was no one around, it was quiet and empty and I ran happily (despite the wind!) along the seafront. I could have just kept going and going, because it felt so good to be running and it was just good fun, but knowing we had to set off, I stopped at 7km and headed back to the hotel. After some packing and organising, we went off to the dining room for the second half of our B&B accommodation and were once again served with a full English breakfast. I had the no-meat version and Steve tucked into the whole nine yards with sausages and bacon and the works. I have to say, I would much rather be in our tent and cooking my own breakfast because I’m a bit over the ol’ full English! The baked beans, great…the tomatoes and mushrooms, terrific…but who ever invented hash browns as a breakfast food!? I haven’t eaten hash browns before so my introduction to them has been eating them for breakfast, which is just like having to eat chips or fries for breakfast and it’s bleugh! I now have a very firmly ingrained traveller’s mindset of not wanting to waste anything, so I eat what I’m served which means eating those awful chunks of fried bleugh and this morning even my precious baked beans were served over fried bread. Not toast, but fried bread. I’m having trouble coping with all the fried! Oh well, we cleaned our plates and I guzzled two pots of tea to try and wash away some of the grease. As we were sitting in the dining room, I was watching the waitresses bringing out the breakfasts and asking people about their choice of tea and coffee and so on and it struck me just how utterly pleasant they all were. Every one of them was so helpful and polite and gave a smile and welcomed people walking into the room and gave a cheery goodbye and wished people a good day as they left. It was all so pleasant and cheery!
Now full from our hearty ‘Full English’, we returned to the room to finish packing and then loaded up the bikes and we were off. The weather pattern continued and after yesterday’s rain, today we had sunshine again! We stopped in the town to sort out a phone sim and then called into a bike shop to get some tape to repair our battered and torn handle bars and for me to get a new helmet. My helmet has been broken for a few weeks and I haven’t been able to tighten it properly. After the ride in the wind yesterday, when a truck went past me and my helmet blew right back over my head and was only being held by the chin straps, I thought enough is enough, time for something safe and secure. I found a helmet in the bike shop that fitted and stayed in place when I did a few test jiggles of my head every which way, so mission accomplished. The man serving me asked where we were from and when he saw our bikes, he asked about the trip. He made some suggestions for places to go, then brought up some routes on the computer and brought us behind the counter so we could have a look at the maps. Then he filled our water bottles for us and gave us a huge handful of energy gels! We don’t use energy gels at all, but if we ever need to, we now have a full supply! That was so nice of him! He asked if there was anything else we needed or anything he could help with and we thanked him and set off again. What another nice, friendly, helpful person!
We walked the bikes up the footpath and stopped at the kerb, ready to walk across the street, when a gentleman approached us and commented on our load and asked where we were going. We told him briefly what we were doing and where we were from and he chatted to us about some places we might like to go. Then he said, “I wish I’d met you earlier, I could have bought you a coffee and a bacon buttie to help you on your way.” Wasn’t that nice! He was so friendly and was another person who just approached us on the street and stopped for a chat and to offer assistance. Needless to say, I’m loving it!
We rode on, along a busy road, heading for Clevedon, via Wrington. Today we were meeting up with Steve’s cousin Ghislaine, who he was yet to meet and had planned to meet up in Wrington before going on to Ghislaine’s home in Clevedon. The ride was a busy one, but we were on cycle paths beside the busy road, so at least we weren’t completely in the traffic and the sun continued shining. When we rode into Wrington, we found it to be another utterly charming and delightful little village.
We found Ghislaine, her brother Michael and his wife Rosemary, doing some clearing and work around their late father’s house and Steve finally met some more of his extended family. What wonderful people! They paused in their work to offer us lunch and Rosemary had made the most sensational kale salad, which I had to restrain myself from just completely inhaling! It was deeeelicious!! We sat outside in the sunshine and enjoyed nice food, pleasant conversation and got acquainted with our newly found family. Steve and I then went for a stroll through the village, which was lovely and then we left for our final 16km ride onto Clevedon. The day ended with Ghislaine’s gracious hospitality that included a nice meal, more good conversation and a comfy bed. We were very grateful!
It was a really nice day. It was nice to ride in sunshine again and we met some lovely strangers and some wonderful family. The people we meet as we travel really do make the trip that extra bit special. I don’t know what people think when they meet us! We are finding though, the world is absolutely full of lovely, friendly, helpful, encouraging, wonderful people! Put that on the nine o’clock news for a change!
Sunday May 31
Well, the weather is nothing if not consistent! After yesterday’s sunshine, what did we have today? Yes indeedy, it rained! It rained over night and was still raining and blowing this morning, but it was a great day because we spent a lazy day at Ghislaine’s house, just relaxing and enjoying the rest from the weather. I said to Steve, “We’re in a house! We’re sitting on a couch!” It’s been months since we actually stayed in a house and the experience was noted! It was lovely! We sat with Ghislaine and pored over maps, to look at where we might go next and which direction we might take and we tapped into her local knowledge of the best places to see and where the most scenic rides might be.
Ghislaine then left because she was entered in a charity walk back in Weston-Super-Mare. From then on, there’s not much to report because Steve and I just enjoyed sitting in a house! By the afternoon the rain had cleared and while the wind was still ferocious, it was at least not wet, so we went for a ride into the town. The TV series Broadchurch, starring David Tennant was partly filmed in Clevedon, so we rode around some of the sites from the series and had a look around the waterfront and town. Clevedon also has one of the last remaining Victorian piers left in England.
So that, as mundane as it might sound, was our terrific day! We absolutely embraced the opportunity to be back in a home and feel quite civilised for a day! Super dooper! Oh, we’ve also had the chance to weigh ourselves and see what all this cycling has done to the scales. The results are: Steve now weighs 104kg, so he’s lost about 12kg since we started. I lost some weight too, but not that much! I weighed in at 42kg. I guess now we know why our clothes are a bit looser and why Steve’s trousers fall down and why I have a few more bones showing themselves! We’ll see how things progress though, because our riding has slowed down since we arrived in England. We no longer have deadlines or dates we have to meet, so we’re taking our time and doing some shorter rides, which means not quite as much burn from the bike each day, so the scales may creep up again!
We plan to head towards Bath next and that may be very appropriate given the weather forecast…more rain! We may arrive in Bath completely drenched and looking like we’ve just had one! For now though, we have enjoyed being welcomed into Ghislaine’s home and been grateful for its warmth and cosiness and Ghislaine’s company. Once again, it’s the simple things that count. Those things mean so much and we are very thankful and grateful when they come along. Lucky us! Happy Days!
Monday, June 1
First the weather forecast! The Met Office issued an extreme weather warning for rain and damaging winds! We sat up late deciding what to do and checking the Met Office weather site constantly. It seemed we would have a window of a few hours Monday morning before the woeful weather struck, so we decided to power pedal the 50km to Bath, where we could hunker down for a couple of days if necessary and wait for the wild weather (which seems to be following us everywhere!) to pass. We said goodbye to Ghislaine who had been such a gracious host, thanked her for giving us the luxury and comfort of a real house and home for a couple of days and then got off to an early start to power our way to Bath.
The morning was grey and the air was chilly and the wind was strong, but we managed to set a pretty cracking pace. The blue raincoat was again back in action! At the end of all this I think I’ll have it framed or erect a monument in its honour in recognition for its tireless work and devotion to duty, or nominate it for an Order of Australia for services to cycle touring or donate it to the National Museum for Fashion Catastrophes or something! That blue jacket has worked hard all trip!
We tackled some leg burning hills along the way, but the scenery was again, gorgeous!
The countryside was just beautiful and the only thing that tainted the enjoyment somewhat was the feeling of rushing. Knowing we had that “extreme weather” chasing us, we didn’t want to take it too slow, or stop for too long, so I probably didn’t take in my surroundings as much as I normally would, because I was feeling “head down and focussed” on the task at hand, which was to get to Bath ahead of that “warning worthy” weather! We rode under an old train line and the beautiful big, imposing arches spread above us. They looked quite majestic standing on their carpet of green fields and set against the grey sky.
We also passed through some absolutely gorgeous little villages, just picture perfect and utterly lovely. The village of Pensford was a classic example, it just took our breath away as we rounded a corner, to see the brook running through the village and the stone cottages and the church, all together creating a chocolate box scene.
We didn’t quite beat the weather. As we were crawling up yet another hill, at a snail’s pace, the rain decided to come down! We couldn’t exactly rush to find shelter, because we were travelling slightly vertically at the time! We continued our slog uphill, now a slightly soggy slog and stopped at the top. Steve quickly reached for his raincoat and then we huddled up against a hedgerow which, along with the oak tree above us, actually gave us some very nice shelter from the sideways rain. We stood beside that nice hedge while we waited for the rain to pass and had a quick snack – a muesli bar for Steve and a rice cake and Marmite for me, just as the sun started to peak through the clouds and the rain eased. That was as far as elevenses went today, no time to really stop and a bit wet to have a sit-down elevenses anyway, so it was a standing elevenses under an oak tree, beside a hedgerow, at the top of a hill, in the rain! This is the life of a touring cyclist!
The rain eventually eased and we motored along once more. We then took a slight detour into Corston, just for me to satisfy my need to go to a place with the name from a BBC crime drama! Being the Midsomer Murders fan that I am, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the town where Inspector Barnaby lives and works! I know they spell it differently in the TV series, but the Corston we went to was quite near a village called Midsomer Norton, so I figured it was a good enough match!
While we were in Corston, the rain again came down and it poured. We took shelter under the awning of the village store and Steve went inside to find a snack, soon emerging with a tray of caramel slice, which he began devouring immediately and enjoyed immensely. While he was inside I poked my head in the door to have a look. I saw the security guard and do you know what…he was asleep on the job! Have a look..
I though that was a terrific sight…the village store’s cat fast asleep on the balls of wool on the shelf!
We decided the rain wasn’t going to give up anytime soon, so there was nothing left to do but just ride through it, so off we went, into the cold, stingy rain and raced the final few kilometres towards Bath. We finally entered the city, to be greeted by a…hill…then another hill…then another one…then we discovered that our hotel was perched right on top of a …hill! The Romans sure loved their hills, because Bath is full of them! We checked into the hotel, a little wind blown, wet and bedraggled, but they welcomed us nonetheless and found a cosy indoor spot to store the bikes and then we could hit the shower and warm up and feel a little more human again.
We wandered off into the rain for a quick roam around Bath, which looks like a beautiful city, but we will explore more tomorrow, even if the weather is “extreme”! I enjoyed today’s ride again, even if it was a bit rushed and the weather was awful. More than once I said to Steve, “Isn’t it beautiful, isn’t it pretty” at the different places we saw and the quaint little villages we passed through. England just keeps delivering such perfect scenes and I just love it. Oh, and today was also the first day of summer! It was marked with a 10C temperature, rain, wind and an extreme weather warning, but…summer is here! Come on sunshine, you can do it, this is your time, the gig is yours, it’s your time in the spotlight! Come on…take centre stage! We’re waiting to applaud your arrival!