August 5 – York to Liverpool
Talk about flying by the seat of our pants! I think today’s round of changed plans and on-the-spot decision making just about takes the cake. I reckon this is gold standard for us, as far as starting the day with one plan and ending it completely and totally NOT to that plan. Even for us, I reckon today is a pearler. Prepare to enter the minds of a couple of flip-floppers who turn making things up as they go along, into something worthy of standing on a podium with a national anthem playing.
We did some research last night and after that, our original plan changed just a bit. That’s nothing new, we do that all the time, this was just a tweak to the original. The original plan was to continue along the Trans Pennine Trail to Liverpool, where we would catch the ferry to Ireland, possibly via The Isle of Man. We then received some invaluable local knowledge from a reader and fellow cycle tourist who told us that, although most of the TP trail was well surfaced, parts of it could get a bit messy if there’s been rain (thanks so much Mary, your contributions and offers of help have been hugely appreciated)! With that, we decided we might need to have a bit more of a look at the route we’d planned. One of our cycle route apps said, of a section of the trail “on parts of this route it may be necessary to carry your bike.” Well that wouldn’t be happening! We then watched some videos online of others riding the route we’d planned to take and the trail did indeed look very, very off road in places, with rocky tracks and in parts not much of a track at all and of course, over the Pennines, very hilly too. After all the rain we’ve been having, we started to think it might be a bit tricky. If we were on ordinary, lighter bikes, no probs, but add our weight and load and things get a bit more interesting. So we tweaked the plan. We decided last night we would continue along the trail, then head towards Sheffield, hop on a train and just jump over the hairy sections of the trail and then pick it up again at Stockport and ride on to Liverpool. So…that was the plan we set off with this morning, heading along the route, in the general direction of Doncaster, which may have been a pit stop on our route towards Sheffield.
We were greeted this morning with…rain. Again.
“It’s pouring out there,” said Steve with a case of the glums. The weather is really quite deflating the big fella. It’s not bothering me so much because it’s not cold. If it’s cold and windy and rainy, that tends to take the shine off things, but so far it’s been warm and muggy, so adding soggy is bearable. Also, having a steady diet of British television and English literature all my life, I am a self-diagnosed Anglophile, so I tend to love it all regardless! At least by the time we set off this mroning, the rain had reduced to drizzle and we pedalled off, in our red and orange fashion statements, for a lap of the racecourse to meet up with the cycle path again.
As we pedalled along, the drizzle stopped and the sun came out! You little ripper, that’s what we like to see. Don’t be shy, out you come, you are very welcome! So along the path we tootled, with the sun, heading back towards Selby, where we would turn off and head in the general direction of Doncaster as part of our route to Sheffield with our new adjusted plan.
As we rode into Selby, a group of people walked past us and one of the women gave me a beaming smile and a “Have a good trip.” Then a man in the group stopped to chat with us and we told him about our trip.
“Where are heading for today if you don’t mind me asking.”
“In the general direction of Doncaster,” I said, “and we’ll see how far we get.”
He made a face. This was the exact same facial expression we received when we told another man we were headed for Goole a few days ago. Having now been to Goole, I understand the reason behind that facial expression. Now, here was another person giving us a face when we mentioned going to Doncaster.
“It doesn’t have to be Doncaster,” I said, “just somewhere in that direction. Is there somewhere else you’d suggest? A village?”
“Well…ummm..no, no, look Donny is, well…umm…it’s alright, it’s…well it’s an OK stop for cycling isn’t it. You’ll just be moving from the rural north of Yorkshire to the industrial south and areas are a lot harder up and more industrial.”
“We like local knowledge,” I said, “if there’s anywhere else you’d suggest.”
“Well, look…Donny is…well, it’s just been a bit ill served by the twenty-first century.”
The more he spoke, the more I was starting to think our onward route may not be particularly scenic or pleasurable.
After gathering some elevenses, we stopped in the same park we had used a few days ago, but in a different spot because there was a bench in the SUN! I was hoping this fact may help with Steve’s disagreement with the weather.
“I’m starting to wonder about Doncaster now,” I said, “maybe we should find somewhere else to stop.”
“I’m losing the love for it all pretty quickly,” came the reply. Oh dear. I think Steve has a variation of SAD. Not full blown “Seasonal Affective Disorder” but I think “Seasonal Adjustment Disorder” has set in. Moving from the hot weather and all but perfect cycle paths of “the continent” to the changeable and unpredictable weather of The British Isles, along with some tricky paths, has left Steve with a bit of the glums.
“What will help you feel happier?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Do we keep riding on?”
“I don’t know. There’s a train station here.”
“So where would you like to get a train to?”
“If we get on a train we might as well go all the way to Liverpool. I know you don’t like trains though.”
So there we were at elevenses, all of a sudden having a discussion about making a major change to plans, totally out of the blue. I think this was setting a new benchmark even for us. We went back and forth talking about what to do, knowing that if we decided to keep riding, the time was ticking away and we were faffing about and wasting riding time.
“The station is just around the corner,” said Steve after a glance at the map.
“Well, we could go and ask about the bikes,” I said, then at least we’d have some more information.
We pedalled down the road, into the station and Steve went in to the ticket counter. He soon appeared holding a handful of tickets.
“Oh, are we going?” I asked.
“Yep, Platform 2 in twenty minutes.”
Right, that means action stations because we had to get over the tracks to a different platform, which meant going up a steep flight of steps with a cycle rail beside them and then down another steep set of steps on the other side. We pushed the bikes up, then Steve eased them down and we were on the platform.
“OK, I’m not quite sure what we’re doing now,” I said.
“We’re going to Liverpool.”
“And then what?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are we staying for a night and going on or more than one night, or…”
“I don’t know.”
We will accept the gold medal for pants flying right here and now! So, we got on the train and started to figure things out from there. It looked like getting on and off The Isle of Man was going to prove difficult, so we started looking at going straight to Ireland. As the train rocked and rolled, we tried to figure out exactly what the new plan was. We didn’t have anywhere to stay in Liverpool, we didn’t know how long we needed to stay because we didn’t know where we were going after that.
In the end, we arrived, pedalled off towards a hotel to ask if they could store the bikes and at least get somewhere to stay.
That got sorted, we had somewhere to hang our hat, or helmet as the case may be and then took to the laptops to figure out our next plan of action. So…here we are…we are in Liverpool. It looks like we won’t be going to The Isle of Man and will get the ferry to Belfast to begin our Irish adventure, just a little sooner than the original plan, but that’s OK. We’ll continue to figure things out and get ourselves a new plan. Again!
So…there you go, that’s what it’s like cycle touring with the likes of us! Plans are made and plans are changed in the blink of an eye. It really is part of the adventure though. We left today having a rough idea of where we were heading, without knowing exactly where we’d be at the end of the day, but didn’t for a second think it would be Liverpool! Yet here we are! That right there is the “Steve & Heidi Special” – the approach to touring that is one surprise after another and many of them of our own making! Many fellow cycle tourists, or just tourists in general, are probably shaking their head, rolling their eyes and tsk, tsking at our approach to travel, but…flying by the seat of our pants is just what we do. Today just took it to a whole new level of winging it! Oh well, we shall fly on with these wings of gold!
Distance ridden: 26.2 km
Time in the saddle: 1 hour 49 minutes
Weather: rain, the drizzle, then grey, then sun, then eventually about 21C
Time spent procrastinating: Ummm…don’t go there!