Staggeringly Good

Day 155: Newport to Portsmouth England, Thursday September 21th

Our island getaway was over. We said goodbye to Brenda and Mr. Cleese and took the rail trail (cycle route 22) north and east to the Fishbourne ferry. It was simple, as we had followed this exact path the day before, only this time we had all our gear.

A wind turbine factory on the Medina river

There were a few small hills before we found the dock, but nothing too difficult. We arrived with plenty of time to catch the noon ferry. As Deb went into the office to get us tickets I talked to the only other cycle tourist waiting to board. He was from Portsmouth, just out for a few days on the island. I liked that when he noted my rather unorthodox riding gear (kitty bins, sandals, etc) he didn’t react with amusement, or bemusement, instead he told us we made him feel like a fraud.

They let us riders board first, and we simply leaned our bikes against the closed ramp at the other end of the boat. Getting on first also meant we snagged a sweet table in the lounge with a great view.

The crossing was smooth and there were plenty of sailboats to look at, as well as the other (faster and more expensive ferries) going to and from Ryde. It took less than an hour to reach Portsmouth, where we disembarked first, but stopped to figure out where to go next.

We took a quick turn around the harbour to see the HMS Warrior (1860), Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured battleship.

Trying to reach our Airbnb was a bit of a chore. Without a handlebar mount for the phone (did I mention that mine failed and ended up in the dustbin?) we had to stop repeatedly to check our location. It started to rain lightly, which didn’t help, but we did arrive before getting too wet.

Our hosts weren’t home, but we had instructions on how to get in. We were greeted by their proxy: a pug named Kenco. I have admired pugs for a long time, because their faces, and the noises they make, make me laugh. This was the first pug I have actually met and interacted with, and I was not disappointed. What a sweet, goofy, fun dog. It followed us around as we moved our bags, and it loved the attention we gave it.

Our hosts came home before we were even done dripping on their carpets. We met them very briefly, got quick instructions on the shower, and barely saw them again. We’ve had similar Airbnb hosts, but these guys were particularly puzzling. In my head I flipped the script: an English couple shows up to stay in my house on heavily loaded bicycles – I think I’m going to be curious about them. Their dog was, anyway.

They went out, leaving us with Kenco and their little pool table that was missing one ball. That pool table serves as a good metaphor for their whole house. It looked impressive at first glance, but when we looked closer there was something off. The bathroom was all modern designer, with a freaking TV in the wall over the tub, but the big shower head was caked in scale, the fan vent was completely clogged with fuzz, and the mirror over the sink was dirty. The couple were young, and our theory was that neither one had ever had to do anything for themselves before getting married and moving into their own house, so it was slowly degenerating. PlusI always wonder about people who have no printed reading material anywhere in their home. Like they’re pod-people or aliens pretending to be humans.

Discussing our Airbnb hosts and their homes was a favourite pastime for us on this trip.

When we went out Deb acted as map girl and tour guide, and took me on an interesting walk though the neighbourhoods and a really interesting old graveyard, and finally to an industrial area where we arrived at the real destination: the Staggeringly Good Brewery. Not just a great name, also excellent beer and all with dinosaur-themed names and labels, which instantly endeared them to me. StaggerSaurus, anyone? How about a ThaiRannoCitrus? They were playing good music too.

There also happened to be a gigantic grocery store in the neighbourhood, so that was where we went next. Back at the Airbnb we heated up our pies and played with the dog some more. Our hosts were in their backyard hot tub. It was weird.

Distance: 15 km (plus ferry)

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