Hello Again!

7/6/18. Well, it has been rather a long time hasn’t it?

Looking back at the blog, it seems we left things hanging somewhat last August with us expecting to have to resort to calling in the bailiffs to evict our tenants. In fact we did call them in but, luckily for them, the tenants moved a few days before a team of beefy men turned up on the doorstep and so we were able to get into our own house in the middle of September – almost 5 months after the end of the tenancy.

Thankfully our worst fears of the state of the house were not realised and there was surprisingly little damage, especially considering the obviously low ethical standards of the individuals.

We settled back in to living in one place easily and, as autumn and winter progressed with the typical British weather, even Stephen’s enthusiasm for cycling diminished. (Christine’s had evaporated into the distance at the first sight of the cold and rain!)

In December the arrival of Reuben Miles Smith meant that we became grandparents for the first (and, hopefully, not the last) time. We couldn’t be happier! We have been to visit him (and his parents, of course) in Bahrain twice. Here is just one of the many photos we have.

And here’s another because he’s just soooooo adorable!

While twiddling the pedals over the previous two and a half years on the road, we had been contemplating what to do when we returned and had pretty much decided that the time had has come for a move. With the kids all gone, the house was far too big for the two of us, much though we loved it, and so we put it onto the market in mid November.

But where to move to? Having small but well dispersed families meant that we had a pretty much “blank sheet of paper” – which was exciting but slightly overwhelming as the range of possible locations was wide. Once we received an acceptable offer for the house we embarked on a road trip through the southern Midlands from Cheltenham to Rutland seeing many lovely places in a part of the country that neither of us really know.

In the end we found a house just to the west of Worcester and the purchase is proceeding at the moment. In the meantime we have completed the sale and so are homeless again.

And guess what that means!

Yep. We’re off on our bikes. We have been staying with Christine’s parents in Taunton since the house sale (apart from a quick blast of grandson sitting in Bahrain) but will be heading off in the next day or two (we are still “flexible” in planning our trips!) along the South Coast of England (to fill in two gaps of our Round the British Coast jaunt which has been on hold for a few years) and then heading towards Lake Constance where we have a family holiday planned for early July.  It is the intention to add a few posts while we go, so do check back here (assuming you enjoy reading these ramblings!).

Update on Our Plans

8/10/16. Hello there. Long time, no write.

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!

Before
Before

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.

After
After

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.

Almost Ready! (We hope!!!)

The last few days have disappeated in a curious mixture of panic, activity and waiting. Strangely, in some ways we are more nervous about going than when we left in April even through there is far less packing of household “stuff” to be done. This is probably because turning round and going home to get or do something that we have forgotten will be much more difficult this time. Flying half way round the world seems much more final than simply cycling off up the hill!

Anyway the bikes are boxed and everything (apart from a few clothes) is packed. This is the sum total of what we are taking with us for a year or so!

All our worldly goods for the next year.
All our worldly goods for the next year.

This was the scene that greeted us yesterday morning and shows why we are off!

Time to head South.
Time to head South.

(It all melted very quickly.)

 

Tickets Booked

The need to be out of the house by (potentially) 27 November meant that we have less than three weeks to get ourselves sorted and gone. As a result we went into Full Action Mode (otherwise known as Hit The Panic Button) on booking the flights to New Zealand. Although we have flown with the bikes many times, the additional weight of the camping equipment and other “stuff” made choosing much more complicated to get the excess baggage costs down to a reasonable level. In addition, travelling one way only seems to make life more “interesting” (and expensive!) for some inexplicable reason. As a result we high tailed it to a London travel agent to help sort out the options and stop our heads spinning.

So we are now booked on Air New Zealand to Auckland via Los Angeles on 24 November which is a weight off our minds. Now for everything else!

We’re Off Again!

The news is that Christine’s arm has improved significantly, thank goodness.  She doesn’t have the full range of movement (yet, at least) but it is good enough for us to contemplate travelling again.  The intention is take it easy at first, probably making “day trips” initially so that Stephen can carry the reduced amount of luggage.

As we have let the house from early December, we intend to make a start in the second half of November.  As mentioned previously, we are avoiding the impending winter weather and heading for the southern hemisphere – New Zealand to be precise.  This is where our daughter, Eleri, is currently living while on her own travels around the world so it will be great to see her “in the flesh” (as opposed to on FaceTime) for the first time since early April.

We’ll be updating the blog on a more regular basis from now on so keep coming back. (Assuming you are interested in seeing what we are up to, of course!)

Camping Out – Sort of

Last night saw the start of the camping (perhaps more “glamping” at the moment if truth be told) after we dismantled the bed in preparation for the removal men arriving today.  We spent the night in our sleeping bags and camping pillows on futons on the bedroom floor.

Preparations are still “progressing” but we keep on coming across things that we hadn’t previously thought of.  However, it all seems do-able – just.  Today is going to be slightly traumatic as the removal men are going to be taking all our bikes other than the ones we will be riding and Stephen’s pride & joy which is going for a holiday chez Sally and Marwood.

Some Good Progress Made

The last couple of days has seen some significant progress being made – and it was needed!

The big relief was getting the electrical system in the house checked and OKed following a few instances of the circuit breaker tripping over the weekend.

The spare bedrooms are now all cleared and the removal men booked for next Tuesday.  We got rid of the 12 year old Volvo that has done over 200,000 miles and which was showing its age!

And we had a shopping expedition to Kingston to get new sleepingbags, mosquito nets and sandals for both of us.

Oh boy!

We are both now (as of yesterday) officially RETIRED – or at least UNEMPLOYED!  Reality is starting to dawn.  No income (difficult for two accountants!) and a BIG plan with limited preparation.  Yikes!

But, being a resilient and flexible couple, we will cope – perhaps with a few “bumps in the road” which we will muddle our way through!

We had a lovely meal at Toby Tobin’s Dining Room in Reigate last evening to celebrate.  Christine has been to Taunton to say “au revoir” to her parents and Stephen has been enjoying his new new-found freedom with a bike ride (no surprise there, then) and pottering about at home doing sundry little jobs that move things a little bit further forward.