Backwards to go Forwards

Day 125: Maybole, Scotland to Peterborough England, Tuesday August 22nd

We got out fairly early; too early to say goodbye to Chris and Shaun, who were still sleeping. Julie-Anne helped us with our gear and saw us off.

We needed to get back to Ayr to get a train, but we decided not to go over the mountain on cycle route 7, opting for reasonably quiet “B” roads instead. It was much, much better. It also meant we rode through Alloway, with the Brig 0’Doon, and the birthplace of Robbie Burns.

At the train station, Deb got us tickets. It turned out to be more complicated than we’d hoped, as the train between Edinburgh and Peterborough that we were going to take had no bicycle spots available. We’d have to take an earlier train, which meant going to Glasgow first, then walking to a different station for a train to Edinburgh. These first two trains would have some room for bikes, but you can’t reserve a spot, which made us nervous.

The first leg went smoothly, we were the only bikes, and we got seats right next to them.

We pushed the bikes on the busy Glasgow streets and reached the other station with time to space. The next train came, and this time the only other bicycle was a folding one.

Edinburgh was simple, because we had reserved seats, and reserved spots for the bikes.

It was strange seeing so many places we’d cycled go flying past through the window. The feeling that we were going backwards would not go away until we were in Newcastle. It would have felt much better if there had been a train from Maybole going south, but everything goes out of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

We were very happy to get out of the stuffy, noisy, and rather smelly (a guy ate a tin of fish) train car. It was a ride of only about 2 km to our Airbnb, and we immediately appreciated the warm air.

On the doorstep to greet us was Selma the cat. Hannah, our host, welcomed us and got us settled. Her husband Keith rode home from work not long after we arrived. They were great and we talked for quite awhile. Hannah is Swedish, and had an interesting perspective on the area and England in general. Their house was very nice too, and they made us feel at home.

Distance: 17 km (bike) Lots more by trains

$

On the Mysterious Lack of Ponies

Day 98: Lerwick to Kirkwall (via ferry), Wednesday July 26th

Our B&B graciously allowed us to leave all our gear in their breakfast room while we did the tourist thing.

The Shetland museum in Lerwick is very impressive. We easily filled a few rainy hours checking out the displays. My favourite exhibit involved folklore, and Deb really liked the recordings of people telling stories and talking about life in the Shetlands.

I thought it interesting that there was so little about the oil industry: just a single alcove with an old video. Fishing and knitwear are more romantic, but the Shetland Charitable Trust, which is funded by oil taxes, is all over modern Shetland, including the great museum.

There was also nothing about ponies. Baffling!

Upstairs, there is a nice cafe with views of the harbour, but, as they were out of scones (!) we simply had a pot of tea.

It was finally time to board the ferry to the Orkneys. We loaded and rode in the pouring rain. I stupidly didn’t use my wet-weather footwear and my shoes soaked through.

We watched as we sailed away from the islands, passing the Knab, then we bought bowls of hot leek soup to warm up.

The crossing was pretty rough. We had to move out of one lounge because the sound of a man being violently ill was having a deleterious effect on my stomach.

We arrived safely in a blissfully calm and clear Kirkwall at about 11 pm with just a bit of light still in the west. We rode on silent streets to our hostel for the night and took the last two bunks in a pitch black six bunk room. I used the illumination of my phone screen to find my way around.

BrEnter

Day 86: Haarlem to Newcastle-on-Tyne, July 13th

Our Airbnb host, Dorien, provided us with an excellent breakfast including espresso and those chocolate flakes that the Dutch love to put on peanut butter. I thought it was interesting that the Dutch were really into peanut butter, whereas we rarely even saw a single jar of it in other European grocery stores (it’s all about hazelnut spreads).

We talked more to Kate, the girl from New Zealand, and as we packed up we exchanged info. Now we have a place to stay if we want to go to Middle Earth.

It was a short and pleasant ride to the ferry docks in IJmuiden, and we had time to stop for a traditional Dutch lunch: Herring with pickles and onions.

The boarding process was really efficient, and we discovered that our little cabin had an ensuite shower/toilet (which we had not expected).

I felt a little melancholy as we sailed away; it was a feeling that I couldn’t shake for about twenty-four hours.

Distance: 15 km (plus overnight ferry)

$306

Baltic Break

Day 31: May 19th, Rostock, Germany to Gedser, Denmark

Herr Singer had good wifi, and he made us a fantastic cup of coffee in the morning. We found a relatively cheap room in Gedser, Denmark, so we booked our ferry tickets for the afternoon and set out.

We had time to stop at stores and lay in supplies in anticipation of expensive Scandinavian days ahead. We also could not resist hitting a brewpub patio for a very hobbity break before the ride to the port.

Rostock’s ferry port is several kilometres away from the city centre, but it’s a fairly nice ride. The five other cycle tourists there ahead of us were all at picnic tables around a snackbar. We sat and chatted with a young German couple from Nuremberg on a week-long ride.

Standing at the railing of the ferry leaving Rostock, Germany

The ferry itself was very new and impressive. Lots of comfortable seating with plugs and even USB ports. Duty-free shops, and (my favourite part) self-cleaning toilet seats. About two hours later we rode off into Denmark.

And about 400m later we were at our room. It was a simple setup, but we had a private washroom, and even a small kitchen. Sadly, we were never able to get on their wifi. Gedser, the southernmost place in Denmark, is very small; we walked around, washed some clothes, had a hot meal, and even watched one of the DVDs the hosts thoughtfully left for us to enjoy.

A small apartment interior

Distance: 15 km (plus the ferry crossing)

$159

Sailing

The car return was straightforward and, it being in a multi-level parking garage, there was plenty of room and shade for the tricky bike re-assembly. We got some bemused looks, but nobody questioned what were doing. In fact, I’d guess we weren’t the first people to pull bikes out of a rental car at the airport.

Deb with the bikes in the car rental return lot at the Ft. Lauderdale airport.

We had a fairly good idea about how we could ride to the port, and the weather was clear and hot. We did have to tramp across a patch of grass which turned out to be  bit of a swamp, so Deb started out with soggy shoes.

I actually quite enjoyed the ride. It was shorter than we’d anticipated, and we had no trouble getting through the security gate at the port.

Waddling about the boarding area on our bikes was a chore. We annoyed some other passengers, and several security people. “This is a first,” one gentleman told us. Some expressed doubt we would be allowed through. More than once we were told that our bikes would not be allowed out of our cabin. Finally we were waddling through the ship’s huge atrium. I stopped to get a bit of video of Deb, and a couple stopped to ask me many questions. Deb got ahead of me and (of course) ran into the one and only Princess crew member to give us a hard time. He shouted at her about how she was breaking the rules. He refused to believe that we had contacted Princess to get permission. He said she should not have been allowed to board. By the time I caught up to her, it was all over. It’s probably a good thing I missed the excitement, because I likely would have lost my temper. And, as it turns out, the rude officer was the Captain. 

The bikes are safely stored in our “closet area”, more or less out of the way. It’s now our fifth full “at sea” day. I’ve spotted one cargo ship, a couple of birds, and what might have been a whale. Otherwise, it’s lots of sky and water. We’ve had no trouble filling our days: taking full advantage of our drink package and packing on some extra belly weight that I’ll probably regret when we’re riding.

Tomorrow we finally reach our first port: Ponta Delgado, the Azores.

Distance: 7 km (car return to the ship)

April Fools

On March 31st we finally began the real journey. The bikes were already in the back of my parents’ car, but we had to fit our gear, plus three people around them to cross the border. It was a tight squeeze for me.

The border guard didn’t seem at all surprised by our strange arrangement. We were at the Buffalo Airport car rental desk in no time (thanks, Mom). It was cold and drizzling as we transferred everything, except my mother, into the Dodge Charger. It fit pretty well.

Our stuff in the rental car.

We were on the road by 11:15 AM. It rained all the way to Virginia, but we didn’t run into much construction or any other problems.

Where would we stop for the night? It’s about 21 hours of driving time to Ft. Lauderdale, and we had a hotel booked for April 1st. After dinner (Cracker Barrel), the rain finally let up. We kept going. And going. Eventually it seemed to make more sense to keep driving, with frequent stops, than to get a short, and expensive nights’ sleep. We did nap briefly in a restaurant parking lot in Florida as the sun came up.

April 1st was hot and sunny. We reached our hotel almost exactly twenty-four hours after we rented the car. We had to wait for our room, but shady loungers by the pool were a big step up from car seats.

Tomorrow we return the car, reassemble the bikes, get to the port, and (hopefully) get them into our cabin. A couple of big hurdles remain, but about ten hours of sleep comes first.