Cycle Tourists Anonymous

Tuesday, June 16

Today we attended a meeting of the Melbourne branch of a cycle tourists support group, but I’ll get to that later!

After beginning to feel the symptoms of “city fatigue” from a day spent in Birmingham and staying in Nuneaton, which was really just a big town, but still lots of traffic and noise, we set off pedalling this morning and it was wonderful to find that after only 5km, we were back in the countryside. I pedalled along and actually found myself going “Aaaaahhh” in a sigh of bliss, as I looked again at the hedgerows, fields, trees, green and stone walls, passed horse riders and listened to the…quiet! It was so nice to be back to the quiet country roads and riding through trees and countryside again. The first amazing thing was that by 9 o’clock I was in a t-shirt! Amazing! Riding in short sleeves first thing in the morning, that’s how warm it was. It was wonderful!

Aaaah, back in the countryside!
Aaaah, back in the countryside!

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We zipped along, making pretty good time, so after 20km decided to stop in a little village for a quick pre-elevenses snack, which became “tenses” at 10 o’clock.

"Tenses"
“Tenses”

We sat in a little park and my attention was soon drawn to a lady across the street who seemed to be making frequent trips back and forth to her car, which was parked on the street with the motor running. Then she seemed to be standing next to the back door for quite a while. I didn’t want to stare, but I wondered what she was doing. Then I saw that she had a coat hanger in her hand.

“Oh dear,” I said to Steve, “I think she’s locked herself out of her car and she’s trying to break in with a coat hanger. Do you think you should go and offer to help?”

Steve was a bit reluctant, not being sure if he would be able to do anything to help, but then I saw there was a fella next door cleaning his windows and he wasn’t doing anything to help! That was it, I said we should do something! Steve hopped up and crossed the street and asked if he could help. Then he asked me to get the tools from the pannier and I went over and the two of us offered to do whatever we could. The lady introduced herself as Rose and explained that the car’s locking system was a bit “funky” and this had happened before and her husband had been intending to fix it. Unfortunately her house keys were in the locked car and there was no way to get into the house to get the spare car keys either! She was so nice and calm and was happy for us to do anything to help.

“Don’t worry about the paint work!” she said, “I’m over it!”

She rang her husband for advice and his proposed solution was to “break a window”, so Steve set to the task with renewed vigour in an attempt to break in before a window had to become a casualty of the situation. We tried with a coat hanger, then Steve suggested a screw driver, so Rose went next door and came back with the daddy of all screw drivers which she used to jimmy the door just enough for Steve to get the coat hanger down behind the door and into the back of the car. Then with a swift manoeuvre from Steve…CLICK! the lock was unlocked and the door was open!

“Oh thank you so much, that’s splendid!” said Rose and she quickly hopped in the car and sped off to make her 11 o’clock appointment in Leicester!

So that was our little interlude in our “tenses” snack time!

We pedalled on through some lovely scenery, along tracks and trails and then stopped in the little village of Ravenstone and sat on a bench beside the road for our official elevenses.

Elevenses
Elevenses

Off we went, pedalling along through little towns, then came to the much larger town of Coalville. We walked through the busy shopping area, where Steve found a bakery and I found  a green grocer so we had some supplies for lunch and then we were off…busy town…we were outa there! On we pedalled along the country lanes. We came across a few of the barriers in the path again. At least the centre partition in these could be swung back and forth, which gave us a bit more room to manoeuvre, but it’s still hard yakka lifting the bike through that narrow space.

That's a big bike to squeeze through that little space!
That’s a big bike to squeeze through that little space!
Right...first get lined up...take the bike to the far end of the space...
Right…first get lined up…take the bike to the far end of the space…
...Humph! Lift the bike up to turn it around at get out of the way of the centre barrier...
…Humph! Lift the bike up to turn it around at get out of the way of the centre barrier…
...swing the centre barrier back around so I can get out...
…swing the centre barrier back around so I can get out…
...and out we go! Another path barrier successfully navigated!
…and out we go! Another path barrier successfully navigated!

We rode on and continued to see some beautiful scenery and lovely features of the countryside and its villages.

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We soon came to our chosen campsite of the day, just a 50km ride today. The site was at a place that offered camping and fishing and we pedalled in to see quite a few men in their camp chairs and multiple fishing rods sitting quietly around the carp pond. The campsite was also in…Melbourne! How ‘bout that! We are staying the night in a little piece of home! We checked in and were shown to our pitch, in a quiet field under some trees and sat down in the beautiful sun for some lunch. Then, it was almost time for the meeting of the support group!

We have been following the travels and adventures of a couple of fellow cycle tourists from Western Australia, Will and Jen, who also write a blog. They began their travels shortly after us and have been to many of the places in Europe that we have, and many more as well.  They’d been in touch with Steve to say they were now in England and we were trying to coordinate a meeting. It turned out they were hiring a van in London and were going to drive up to meet us at the campsite! As we sat in the field having lunch, Steve was texting Will to let him know we’d arrived and then Steve quickly stood up with a smile and a wave, because…they had just pulled up! We greeted each other with hugs and hand shakes, and although we had never met before it was like a meeting of familiar faces and friends! Will and Jen pitched their tent beside us and we all settled in to get acquainted and chat about our travels. That’s where it felt just like a meeting of a support group for touring cyclists! The fact that we were four Australians and we were meeting in Melbourne, was all the more appropriate I thought!

Our cycle tourists' support group!
Our cycle tourists’ support group!

We sat and chatted and it seemed that no matter what each of us said, we all felt we could relate to every situation. It was like being part of a group of individuals who were all there for the same reason and sharing their similar stories…Cycle Tourists Anonymous!

“Oh, the hills!” 

“Wind! I can’t stand the wind!” 

“I’d take a day of hills over wind any time!”

“Haven’t the people been wonderful!”

“Aren’t the drivers patient.”

“So many things have changed for me…what I’m prepared to eat, where I’m prepared to sleep, the standard of bathrooms I’m prepared to use…you just get used to things! The things I thought I’d never do, I now do all the time!”

“What sort of Apps do you use to navigate?”

“GPS…don’t get me started on Dave, that %$#@! GPS” 

On it went, back and forth as we all shared our journey and life lessons along the way. It was so nice to meet them and to feel so connected because we were all sharing such similar experiences, riding the same highs and lows, facing the same challenges and ticking off the same sort of amazing moments. We chatted over a cuppa, checked out each other’s “campers food” as we prepared our simple but tasty meals over our own little stoves, then finally disappeared into our respective tents to rest up before our adventures continued. We’ll be pedalling on. Will and Jen are almost to the end of their tour and they are now doing some driving to see some more of England before it’s time to head back to Oz.

We had some extra visitors at our campsite! A couple of ducks kept popping in to say hello and hope for some treats. We've had horses in our tent, so a couple of ducks were no problem!
We had some extra visitors at our campsite! A couple of ducks kept popping in to say hello and to search for some treats. We’ve had horses in our tent, so a couple of ducks were no problem!

It was another terrific day…perfect weather…countryside…meeting some locals…meeting some new friends…just some more memorable moments from the treasure chest of moments that we are collecting. Golden moments! It’s all just gold! Perfect, shiny GOLD!!

Wednesday, June 17

After yesterday’s beautiful warm, sunny day, the morning dawned…grey! What a surprise! Grey, chilly and a bit of drizzle! Oh well, another regular summer’s morning here in England. We sat with Will and Jen and chatted over breakfast, before saying goodbye, wishing each other well on our travels and hoping we are able to catch up again somewhere in Australia.

Steve and I pedalled out of the campsite, past the men getting an early start on their day of carp fishing. I have to say, I don’t quite understand the attraction of sitting beside a pond, with four or five rods in the water, waiting for a fish to decide to attach itself to a hook and then be thrown back again. It looked so nice and relaxing and peaceful, the way they all sat on their little chairs among the rushes and irises on the edge of the pond and just sat there, staring at the water. It’s the fishing bit I don’t get. Wouldn’t it be nicer to sit there in that nice peace and quiet and read a book? Or sit and have a quiet chat? Or…something!? Sitting in that lovely spot in the quiet would be so nice, the sitting and looking at four fishing rods, just seems like an unnecessary addition to proceedings! Each to their own and I’m clearly not of the fishing mindset!

We rode into the village of Melbourne for a closer look. What a lovely little place. Nice quiet streets and rows of shops and certainly a far cry for the hustle and bustle of the city of Melbourne back home!

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We continued riding along and followed the national cycle network route that took us along cycle paths, through trees and round the back of towns, which was nice. We also had some time riding along the canal, one of our favourite places to ride, and exchanged greetings and “Good Mornings” with people on the boats. We did end up on some busy roads, but they were bearable and short lived. We stopped in a lovely park in Derby and had elevenses beside the pond, exchanging smiles and “hellos” with the multitude of dog walkers that strolled past. The day hadn’t warmed up any and the wind was really picking up. Grrrrr, darn wind!

Elevenses
Elevenses
The National Cycle Network has given us some lovely routes and today it even had lovely signs!
The National Cycle Network has given us some lovely routes and today it even had lovely signs!

Off we went, following our route and then eventually stopped in another park, this time in the town of Long Eaton, to have some lunch and decide on our next move. As we sat there, the wind was now really strong and it was blowing our lunch off the table. But…while we were sitting there cursing the wind and adding another layer of clothes, behind us in the park was a children’s water park, with splash pools and fountains and there were lots of kids in there…in bathers…getting wet…and laughing! Like I’ve said before, they are hardy folks over here and the weather does not deter them! This hardy spirit is obviously developed very young, because those kids were having a marvellous time, completely oblivious to the fact that it was cold and there was a gale blowing all around them! I’m so impressed with these people…and so embarrassed by our wimpiness!

With the wind blowing as it was, we decided to just ride to Nottingham and find somewhere to stay, which we did. We rode into the city, past Trent Bridge oval where everything was in full swing preparing for the first ball to be bowled today in the England vs New Zealand One-Day cricket match. Despite being in Nottingham, we saw not a glimpse of the sheriff! How disappointing! No one was swinging from trees and marching gallantly about in tights or gesturing in a dastardly fashion while riding white horses through the streets! So we’ve ridden through Loxley and not seen Robin Hood and now we’ve ridden through Nottingham and not a Robin or a Sheriff to be seen! I’m most put out! I’d have even been happy with an animated sheriff, galavanting about, because I will admit, you can keep your Russell Crowes and Errol Flynns and Kevin Costners, I think the best Robin Hood of all time has been Daffy Duck! The chemistry between Daffy and Porky Pig’s Friar Tuck is unmatched. What class..what method acting…Daffy owned that character! He is, in my opinion, the class act of all who have portrayed Robin Hood over the years! What a star!

Riding into Nottingham
Riding into Nottingham

We found a campsite, after just 49km of riding, pitched the tent behind some trees to try and get a bit of shelter from the wind, and then… it rained! Oh you beauty! Thanks for that! The day is complete! At least it’s not too cold.

Tomorrow we’re going to ride on to Sherwood Forest and continue our search for some merry men. What are our chances do you think? Will we find any cheerful gangs running about in tights and funny hats? Will we see plundering from the dastardly Sheriff’s men and riches being taken from the rich and given to the poor by Robin and his band of merry men? If so, will he send some of those riches our way, as deserving and poor travels that we are? My eyes will be peeled as we pedal through forest and woodland!

Prithee, O travelling clown, couldst thou directest me to Robin Hood’s hideout? I wouldst fain join me up with his band of jolly outlaws.

Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!

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