30/10/16. Later today we will be getting on board this beast for the next two weeks.
We will be leaving Southampton to cross the Atlantic in 7 days before spending a week visiting a number of islands (St Kitts, Sint Maarten, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Haiti). We arrive in Fort Lauderdale (just north of Miami) on 14 November. While on board we will be “offline” as wifi is ridiculously expensive but we will see if we can hook up when ashore to post an update or two.
The last few weeks have been spent very pleasantly visiting family and friends in and around Oxfordshire, Bristol, Surrey and Hampshire and girding our loins about us for the next stage of our travels. Although we are not exactly going off the beaten track, we are both experiencing a degree of nervousness – more a case of “What have we forgotten?” than “What is going to happen to us?”
This afternoon we walked to Long Wittenham (using the National Cycle route 5 which goes within 200 yards of the house – and, yes, walked because Christine Is waiting for her pet mechanic to reconstruct her bike!) to visit the Pendon Museum.
This museum has three large models of parts of Britain as it was in the 1920s and 30s. They are not representations of actual places but use copies of real buildings which are not necessarily grouped together as in reality. They all have working model railways at the heart of them – which sounds “anoraky” but honestly is not! The detail on the models and their surroundings is just stunning – a bicycle upside down having a puncture repaired, vegetable patches with rows of plants, washing hung out to dry, rabbits emerging from a warren, birds in the trees, even a mirror (made from real glass) 2 millimetres by 2 millimetres behind the bar in the pub.
If you are in the neighbourhood of Didcot and Abingdon then this is well worth a visit. www.pendonmuseum.com
The main reason for us returning to the UK was to join the celebrations when Christine’s sister, Lynn, married her long time partner Clair on 30 September at a ceremony at Rookery Manor, near Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset. We went down with Alaric and Annabelle and had a wonderful time. The brides were both radiant and managed to remain centre stage in everyone’s attention despite the competition from their 21 month old sons, Luke and Harry.
We are both fine (thank you for asking) and enjoying ourselves on a strange combination of taking it easy while filling our days. Looking back on what we have been up to, in some ways we haven’t done a great deal but, on the other hand, we don’t seem to have had much time sitting around. It has been very pleasant.
We have been back in the UK for almost three weeks now and have based ourselves in Didcot with Alaric and Annabelle. After a fortnight we seem to have frightened them out of their home as they have taken themselves off to Hawaii for 2 weeks leaving us to house-sit for them! (Actually, Annabelle had to go for work – a tough life, huh? – as she is presenting at a conference and they decided it was too good an opportunity to miss. So Alaric went too and they are staying for an extra week.)
We have also spent time back home in Surrey staying with and meeting friends (Christine & Jim, Jay & Tim and Charlotte & Martin) which was lovely while also fitting in some necessary “running repairs” – doctor’s visit to get a prescription for Christine’s tablets, dentist for a filling for Christine and eye tests (and new glasses) for both of us.
When The Doctors (they are both PhDs) return from the Pacific we will take ourselves off for a couple of days at a time to visit Stephen’s sister Nicky and family and also the newly weds, Lynn and Clair (separate post to follow re The Wedding). We will then spend our final week near Southampton with Stephen’s other sister, Jo and Steve.
Which brings us on to our future plans!
If you follow Christine on Facebook or Twitter you will have seen that we are off to the “land of the free and home of the brave”. With the house now let until the end of March, we will be taking a two week “repositioning” cruise from Southampton (hence the stay with Jo & Steve!) to Fort Lauderdale at the end of October and will then spend five months riding around the southern states.
Originally the idea was to cycle right across to California but research on the recommended route revealed that the 8,000 feet pass across The Rockies can be blocked with snow in April so we figured that it was unlikely that we would get through in February. Therefore, we expect to only go as far west as Texas before heading north (only for a little bit – we don’t fancy getting involved with the Mid Western winter weather!) and then east again towards the Carolinas. We have another cruise from Fort Lauderdale back to Southampton booked for the middle of April. (These repositioning cruises when ships are moved from one area to another at the end of a season are a remarkably good value way of getting around the world without flying.)
Because of visa limitations we cannot stay in the States for the whole five months – the maximum stay is 90 days. So we have flights booked from Houston to Costa Rica for mid January for a 10 day “holiday” away from the bikes (which will stay with a Warmshowers host near the airport).
In a break with our normal “seat of the pants” approach Christine has started planning routes and stops for the first few days in Florida. This will hopefully mean that we can arrange more Warmshowers stays as this works better if you can give people more notice than we are able to normally, (as you will have gathered, our lack of planning means we often only decide where we are going to spend the night that morning.)
Not long after we arrived in Didcot Stephen turned Christine’s bike upside down to look at where the stand had detached itself and to his horror found this!
For the benefit of the uninitiated, those holes are not supposed to be there!
Frantic phone calls and emails with pictures to framebuilders around the country followed and, eventually, we found someone in Coventry who could replace the two holey tubes in the time available before we are off again. On seeing the pictures, several of them said they hoped we hadn’t been riding the bike in that state. Oops! Christine has only ridden more than 2,500 km since the stand broke!! Yesterday we went back to “bike hospital” and picked up the mended frame which now looks as follows.
With her bike “hors de combat” Christine has not been riding but Stephen hasn’t let that stop him exploring the Didcot area. He has been mighty impressed with the variety of countryside around – quiet, leafy lanes in the Thames floodplain to the north and east, steep, leg-burning slopes of the Berkshire Downs to the south. However, he did manage to fall off and cut his knee quite badly (slightly gory photo here) when riding along The Ridgeway, an ancient byway running along the crest of the downs.