Long Itch

Day 129: Leicester to Long Itchington England, Saturday August 26th

That’s not a typo, we camped in Long Itchington, or Long Itch to locals.

Our day started with a simple breakfast in Leicester, followed by the making of beds and vacuuming the room. Stewart, the Airbnb host gives you a choice: do these chores or pay a £7 cleaning fee to his paypal account. Naturally, we went the cheap route.

Getting out of Leicester started out well. It took us little time to get on the cycle route by the canal. But then we missed the rail trail entrance and ended up having to haul our bikes up some stairs to get on it later. Good thing we’ve had so much practice doing that.

It was sunny and bordering on hot. We took cycle route 6 and 50 almost straight south on trail and quiet roads through quaint towns. Then we cut west toward Rugby to find the 41. We barely saw any of Rugby as the cycle route dropped into forest to follow a stream. It did come back up at south edge of town, where we saw some guys playing rugby in Rugby.

The route took us through a couple more little towns, and along the way we met up with an older gent out for a ride of his own. We rode with him for awhile and he told us it was his first day out in three months due to illness. He was a character, and I was happy to finally meet a cyclist who goes our speed! While we all laboured up a hill he chirped, “It’s only gravity.” He also helped us out with directions to Long Itch.

Another gentleman helped us find the local grocery store, and then we arrived at the Marton Rd Farm campground. Some of the online reviews made it sound pretty terrible, but it was perfect for us. Although there was only one working shower for the whole place, there were no lines when we needed it, right after getting the tent up. The field was flat and the grass was soft. There was a fence to lean the bikes against. And there werepicnic tables! Enough for everyone!

Deb and I shared a bottle of wine and had a cold dinner of “reduced” (discounted) food from the Co-op at our own table, next to our tent, in the sunshine.

The sun is setting much earlier on our campsites now, so we turned in pretty early.

Distance: 60 km

$

Glassholes

Day 120: Edinburgh to Bellshill, Scotland, Thursday August 17th

We were a bit worried about the uphill ride out of the city, but the route was pretty good and it was too early for the serious Fringe crowds to have formed. Soon we were back on the canals, riding west this time. We were heading back towards Glasgow, mostly on a different route, planning on heading south on the west coast.

We took cycle route 75 this time, and it proved to be scenic, but more challenging than the 754 that we took heading east. There were a lot of dirt paths, and the rain had made them a bit mucky and there were lots of puddles to weave around.

Sadly, there was a lot of glass on the paths near the towns we rode by. Coincidentally, my back tire went flat about halfway through the ride. We swapped in the spare tire and a new tube.

At Airdrie we stopped to get supplies and I exchanged messages with Allison and Aron (the visit seemed so short!).

A little farther on we lost the 75, and instead of backtracking we made a poor decision and let Google Maps guide us the rest of the way to the campsite. These Glasgow suburbs are crisscrossed with very busy roads, plus the big highways. We were struggling to find a safe route when my front tire went flat. As we were only about 3 km from the park, I simply re-inflated and hoped it would hold.

At last we found a way down into the Strathclyde Caravan and Motorhome Park, which has a field for tents. We chose a spot with a tree so we’d have a place to lean our bikes (no picnic tables to be seen), took nice hot showers and set up. We knew rain was coming, but it at least waited until we had eaten.

Distance: 80 km

$41

Go Ape

Day 111: Callander to Cobeland, Scotland, Tuesday August 8th

Route 7 took us deeper into the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, meandering around three different lochs. It was also very hilly, and on some rough terrain.

We rode past “Go Ape” where people were climbing through the trees and zip lining from platform to platform.

It was finally a nice descent into Aberfoyle, and then a great mile along a rail trail through fields.

After two days of punishing hills, when we saw tents by a bridge on the River Forth, we popped in to check out the site. It looked good, at least as good as the campground we had planned to stop at 12 km farther along. We checked in, and spent some time looking for a dry place to pitch our tent. It was a bright, sunny afternoon, but the area had experienced a great deal of rain.

We walked up the hill into Gartmore to go to the Black Bull for a couple of pints. The bar has a complementary shuttle back to town, so we got a lift back to our tent when we were ready to go.

Distance: 25 km

$62

Salmon Leap

Day 103: Crask to Tain, Scotland, Monday July 31st

We had a full Scottish cooked breakfast, said goodbye to Allen and our hosts, then climbed the hill away from the Inn. The rest of the ride was pretty much a long, slow descent to the Kyle of Sutherland, and then to Dornoch Firth.

We had light rain for the first hour, then we dried in the sun. In Lairg we ran into Allen again, but he was riding more directly south than us.

On a beautiful road following the Shin River, we came to a strange building, designed to look like a salmon. It was the Falls of Shin cafe and pavilion. The rain had stopped again, so we enjoyed the sun at a picnic table and had a snack. Then we walked down to the falls. I was just saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool to actually see salmon jumping…” when we saw the first leaping fish. We stayed for awhile, watching the salmon heading upstream to spawn, cheering on their efforts.

We had to tackle some stairs to get over the Kyle of Sutherland on a pedestrian bridge. We’re getting pretty good at this challenge, and it gave us a great view of the Carbisdale Castle. It also got us onto a very quite road for a nice stretch.

There was just a little rain left for us to wait out after we reached our campground, and the site had a nice porch around the facilities building. When it cleared we set up our tent, and rode into Tain.

I was able to get a phone signal by the Tesco, which was good, because it was my mother’s birthday. I talked to my parents for nearly half an hour.

Deb made hot water couscous, and we avoided the midges by hanging out in the laundry room, which actually wasn’t bad. Three other tents were set up after ours: a woman traveling by car, a young man cycle touring, and a couple with their big dog. Nobody seemed particularly keen to chat. There was a beautiful sunset, and we were the only ones up to see it. Probably because of the midges.

Distance: 68 km

$35

Wild Raspberries

Day 91: Dalgety Bay to Strathkinness, July 18th

We bravely booked a camping pitch, trusting Google Weather. Jan provided a great breakfast, and we got out by 10:30.

The route started out great, sticking close to the Firth, but when we got to Kirkcaldy, we turned inland, and uphill. And up more hills. Much climbing, much pausing for breath, some pushing.

The rest of the day was hills. We started to get worried that we would be arriving at the campsite very late. And there were no benches, or picnic tables, or even low stone walls to sit on, so we ended up eating our lunch standing up with our bikes. Deb did set hers aside long enough to pick some wild raspberries, though.

Mid-afternoon we felt we must be on the roof of Scotland. We were rewarded with some great views of the countryside, and the road was very quiet. Deb called the campsite to make sure we would be able to pitch our tent if we arrived after six (no problem).

We finally got to the top of the mountain, and enjoyed a long, gentle descent. But, of course, the day finished with a very, very long climb to the site. The climb wasn’t wasted however, as the Nydie Caravan and Camping site had views of St Andrews, and the sea beyond. It was very windy, but still a beautiful day.

After cleaning up, setting up our tent, and eating picnic-style (no tables at these campgrounds), we walked the 1.5 km downhill into Strathkinness and had a pint of real ale at the very nice pub.

We also ate the wild raspberries, and they were delicious.

Distance: 61 km

$38

Glamping

Day 89: Eyemouth to Musselburgh, July 16th

We wanted only to find a place somewhere along the Firth of Forth short of Edinburgh, and Deb discovered a campground with affordable trekkers’ huts. After booking however, we discovered that it wasn’t as close as she’d thought. After the ride we’d had the day before, this was disheartening. It wasn’t an unmanageable distance, but we had to make sure not to leave so late this time.

I fixed Deb’s flat and we got out at 10 am into a day that was mostly sunny, but had some strong, gusty winds.

Most of the morning was spent climbing a gradual, but very long incline. It ended with an excellent view of the sea, and then turned into the longest, best descent we’ve had to date. It went on, and on, and on, with mostly gentle curves, finally taking a short steep drop to end at a stream emptying into Pease Bay on the Forth. If only my GoPro mount hadn’t fallen apart!

Not long after we were riding through towns that are essentially suburbs of Edinburgh, sometimes on the road, sometimes on cycle paths, always into the wind.

The campground was simple, but nice, and we found that our little cabin was part of their “Glamping” area. It didn’t seem all that glamourous to me, though it was very clean and it did have a TV.

Distance: 80 km

$76

No Sleep ’til Breukelen

Day 80: July 7th, Gouda to Fort Spion (Loosdrecht), The Netherlands

Deb found an interesting campsite about halfway between Gouda and Amsterdam, located at an old fort. You had to have a special nature camping membership to tent there, but it also had a small “depot” you could rent without that added cost. We booked this mysterious depot, and Google Mapped our way north.

On the way we rode along a beautiful canal and then ended up riding along the Vecht river, past giant mansions, most built in the 17th century. We also rode through Breukelen, which the Americans decided to spell a little more simply when they named their borough.

When we got to the campsite, we found a nice little farmhouse and some ‘silky’ chickens. We weren’t sure where the fort actually was. Then the proprietor (groundskeeper?) arrived, and took us over a small bridge, across what turned out to be an actual moat.

He showed us the fort, which consists of several buildings on this small ‘island’. Our depot turned out to be a barrel-vaulted brick chamber right in the fort itself. It was formerly a machine shop and it still had a massive hook in the ceiling. Despite the heat of the day, it was cool inside. It very much reminded me of Fort Henry in Kingston, except brick instead of limestone. Both forts are from about the same era.

Fort Spion also has an Officers room, telegraph room, and gunpowder room, etc. which are now all part of an apartment available for rent (it looked great). Another chamber has been converted into a nice lounge for the tenters. When we thought it couldn’t get better, Martijn offered us fresh eggs from his chickens.

Deb and I were so happy with the place we were practically bursting. We showered, explored (meeting the sheep that are the Fort’s only permanent residents), and had a meal on the little patio in front of our super-cool fort Hobbit Hole. There was even a fridge where we were able to chill our grocery store beer.

We read our books and watched as the cycle tourers showed up and went to the tenting area on the other side of the fort. It would be a great place for that too, but we were very happy to have electric elements for cooking, plus plugs for all our gadgets.

Distance: 45 km

$77

Fables of the Green Forest

Day 75: July 2nd, Zwolle to Zeewold, The Netherlands

I woke up to the sound of magpies fighting over a bag of food scraps that we hadn’t hidden well enough. We still didn’t get up early enough to beat the rain. We frantically packed everything away, then took shelter under an overhang and had a makeshift breakfast.

Riding in the rain is much better than standing in the rain. We rode through Zwolle, and the sun eventually came out.

After Zwolle, we were surprised to find that the cycle route included a short ferry trip to Hattem, which turned out to be a very pretty town. Everything was closed because it was Sunday.

Later, we rode along the north shore of Lake Veluwe, until we reached Zeewold where we camped at the excellently named “Green Forest Campground”. We took a trekker’s cabin, which allowed us to charge all our devices. It had bunk beds. Deb took top bunk.

Distance: 60 km

$59

Tough to Zwolle

Day 74: July 1st, De Pollen to Zwolle, The Netherlands

It rained a lot during the night and it was still raining a little when we packed up and left the weird campground full of feral children.

The route was good, but wet.

I managed to get us a little turned around, so our route was longer than necessary. Google Maps to the rescue.

We rode to the outskirts of Zwolle, to another campground. This one had no trekkers cabins available, so we set up our lonely tent in a big field. Later we discovered that there was a restaurant deeper into the site. Half the building was filled with Bingo players; we sat in the other half and got a couple of oh so welcome draught beers.

Distance: 75 km

$47

Bring Your Own TP

Day 73: June 30th, Bad Bentheim to De Pollen, The Netherlands

We had a big breakfast, thanks to the kitchen in our room.

It was a bit wet and grey, but not bad, and we covered the last 10 km of Germany quickly.

The part of the Netherlands we rode through is apparently very popular for weddings. We saw a couple of brides, even though it was a Friday.

We found that often the cycle paths were better than the paralleled.

More rain to come, so we looked for a campground with cabins. We found one, and were happy to get it. It was cheap, but it also apparently hadn’t been opened up for the season yet: cobwebs and a grubby floor.

The campground itself was oddly empty. There seemed to be groups of wild children all over the place, and hardly anybody else. There was a bar (closed), a big lounge (locked up).

We had also read that most Dutch campgrounds don’t supply toilet paper. This was true here, but furthermore, there was no hand soap, hot water, or any way to dry your hands at the toilets. When we found the showers, we discovered the women’s section was locked, so Deb and I brushed our teeth in the men’s. No worries, because, like I said, there was hardly anybody around.

Distance: 50 km

$23