The People…It’s Just the People

Time to move on, despite the fact that the view out the window looked exactly the same as it had yesterday, the day of the mighty storm. The poor breakfast TV weather presenters had that apologetic tone of voice again, as they demonstrated their choreographed arm movements. “There’s a front crossing from the west (left arm sweeping across the body in a graceful arc) and will make its way eastward throughout the course of the day.” (beautiful flourish of a nicely toned arm). Carol was wearing a nice shade of fuchsia this morning, which coordinated very fashionably with the bright blue of the weather map, showing all that rain still blanketing most of the country.

Off we went, setting our coordinates for the river crossing ahead of us. Of course we had some hills to start the day. “Come on legs, wake up! This is your time to shine, not shirk! Move yourselves!” Up we went, along roads and some cycle paths, with the day becoming increasingly muggy and warm, despite the wind and grey skies. The roads we were on were generally quiet, which was nice, so it was quite a nice ride under the clouds, in the warm air and along the roads of Kent.

I like the thought of there being a "'car whisperer' out there, keeping the traffic nice...and...caaaaaalm!
I like the thought of there being a ‘car whisperer’ out there, keeping the traffic nice…and…caaaaaalm!

The path presented us with some more barriers, but we see them now and think “barriers, schmarriers! You are no match for us!”, we can navigate barriers now, in a twinkling!

Through we go...
Through we go…
...we have our barrier strategy down to a fine art now
…we have our barrier strategy down to a fine art now

We were on the NCN Route 1, following the route markers that guided us very nicely. Then I saw a route marker I didn’t like the look of…

P1100839

…we don’t like rough surfaces! We certainly don’t like a picture of a mountain bike on a rough surface hill! C’mon NCN, we are not mountain bikers, we have touring bikes, with a weighty load and we’d like a rest from slipping and sliding and bumping up goat tracks thank you very much. Now be kind!

As it turned out, the path wasn’t really rough at all, just an ordinary unsealed path, no real holes or rocks or bumps, plus it was flat, so all was well!

No need to worry about this path
No need to worry about this path

Well, all was well until…Steve got puncture number five. I was riding his back wheel along the path and I heard his tyre go. There was nothing that should have caused a puncture, especially to his top of the range tyre, but it had indeed suffered its fifth puncture. Needless to say, Steve wasn’t a happy pedaller! He can’t believe that this fancy brand of tyre has been so unreliable, and today he did grump and gripe about having to stop and fix it yet again. Off to the side of the path, unload the bike, flip it upside down again, take the wheel off and tube out and search for the hole. Steve patched it, pumped it up and was just putting it back in place, when I heard an unmistakable sssssssssss. “It’s still hissing!” I said. Steve put it to his ear and agreed it was indeed deflating before our ears and eyes. Some more grumbling and venting was undertaken, while I dug around in a pannier for a replacement tube. Steve changed it yet again, put the wheel back on and we were on our way.

Puncture number 5! The big fella was not happy!
Puncture number 5! The big fella was not happy!

We wheeled along the river and into Gravesend, where we pulled up at a “caff”. Steve bought himself some elevenses and we sat and had a pre-voyage snack.

Elevenses
Elevenses

A short pedal down the road and around the corner and we were at Gravesend Pier. We walked the bikes along the gangway and onto the sturdy little ferry, which would carry us the short hop, skip and a jump across the river to Tilbury. It was another nice little chug across the water, just us and two other people. As we were about to get off, this couple started chatting to us and asked us about the bikes and I told them briefly what we were doing. “Good luck to you. Travel safely and take no prisoners!” were their parting words to us. I just love the locals!

Tooting across to Tilbury
Tooting across to Tilbury

We took to the roads and paths of Tilbury, heading on towards a destination to stay for the night. As we rode along a path, a young man came walking towards me in his baggy trousers, baseball cap, elaborate neck tattoos, pushing a pram with another young man beside him. He stopped and put his arm across the front of his companion to stop him and pull him off the path, where they stood to let me go by.

“Thank you,” I said as I pedalled past.

“Tha’s oright swee’art,” he replied.

You have to love the people here, you really do! I just love the people we come across. I rode on with a big grin again.

Time for a Sainsbury’s sustenance stop, so we pulled up beside its familiar orange sign and Steve went inside to find himself some lunch, while I waited with the bikes. As I waited, a man walked his trolley past me and asked how far we were travelling. “You’re well loaded up there.”

I told him how far we’d ridden and what we were doing, as his wife walked up to join him.

“Did you ride through the centre of London on those bikes?” he asked.

“Yes we did,” I said.

He and his wife smiled and raised their eyebrows. “That’s brave.”

“Yes,” I said, “that was a day for the adrenalin!”

“Where are you going for winter?” they asked.

“South!” we said, “we’ll arrive in Holland and then chase the sun south.” 

“Do you camp?”

“Yes,” I said, “when the weather lets us. When it cracks up, like it did yesterday, we seek solid walls.”

“Good plan!” they agreed.

They wished us well and a safe onward journey and I smiled at yet another delightful chat with some locals. I’m so going to miss that. The friendly, chatty people have been such a highlight.

Our destination for the day was only a few more kilometres away now. Steve had consulted the weather reports and the forecast was for more storms, as the front made its way east. We didn’t want to risk the damaging conditions of yesterday in our little tent, which is sturdy and gutsy, but doesn’t need the challenge of battling a storm if it can be avoided, so we were heading for solid walls again.

The nice people at the hotel in West Thurrock welcomed us and let us keep the bikes in our room, so after some creative manoeuvring of our loaded bikes into the elevator, we were in our room and settled in. We went for a walk to get supplies and as we were on our way back, the clouds darkened and the first drops of rain hit our heads. We stepped up the pace a bit and made it back to shelter before the rain really came down. We sat and looked out the window and Steve commented, “I think it was the right call!” Yep, it was pouring and not nice out there and it wouldn’t have been nice under nylon.

Another short riding day, only 35km. We have nine days to ride to the ferry that will take us across to Holland; nine days to cover a  distance that we could ride in two days, so we have some time up our sleeves. This means we can stop short if we have some weather woes, or we can take time to look around places if we like. I hope we keep the time up our sleeves, so we can enjoy our last few days here at a relaxed pace. It was a fairly easy ride today, mostly off road which is always good and the added bonus of those interactions with the people that just put a huge smile on my dial! It’s the people. It’s still the people. The places have been lovely, the scenery has been gorgeous, but the people…well, the people have just been the icing on the cake. They really do create the highlights. Just people. Ordinary people that give us special moments. Thanks folks, you’re gems and you leave us with diamond memories.

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