Whedonesque

Day 156: Portsmouth to Southampton England, Friday September 22nd

The last real ride. The road gods smiled on us and granted our wish: sunny weather on our last day of serious riding.

Our pod-people hosts were in their kitchen when we went down to make tea and toast. We got a, “Good morning” then, “We’re off, have a good day.” And they were gone. Kenco watched us get ready and saw us to the door.

We rode cycle route 22 north out of the city, but discovered that it had been rerouted away from the water’s edge. We switched to route 236 in Cosham, which took us to Fareham. This was all suburban, with no real green breaks, but much of it was on separated cycle paths. Next the 224 took us south, back to the Solent. All this effort (about 3.5 hours of riding) and we found we could see the Spinnaker building at Portsmouth harbour again. It was unfortunate, but the short way, along route 2, involved a stupidly expensive ferry, and we were in no hurry on this day.

Now we were on route 2 again, the cycle route we were on all along the south coast. This time we headed west. The “Lee-on-the-Solent” section was very nice. We stopped at a small monument dedicated to the Canadian soldiers of D-Day.

Actually, the route was very nice all the way to Warsash, giving us a little bit of everything (almost). There was gravel, there was river-side, there were country roads, etc. In Warsash we found (with some difficulty) the tiny pier where an on-demand ferry took us to Hamble. It was the cutest little pink ferry boat, and we were the only passangers for our crossing. £3.50 for both of us and our bikes.


The route remained very good all the way to Woolston, the neighbourhood in Southampton where we had booked our last UK Airbnb. Once again, we were greeted by a pug: Xander. Paul, our host, gave us the standard tour, then said, “I’ll leave you to it.” Oh well. I did mention the pug, right? There’s also a cat named Buffy. Paul likes the same TV shows as us, apparently.

Woolston is a bit run down, but in a way that proved good for us, because there are lots of Charity Shops. There are some things we hope to purchase before the cruise to New York. There’s also a couple of grocery stores.

We did a big load of laundry in Paul’s machine. We’re still not clear on why driers are so rare here, but there was a drying rack in our room.

Distance:

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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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On the Wight Side

Day 149: Brockenhurst to Cowes England, Friday September 15th

We had a chat with Kathryn, our host, in the morning. She was getting ready to take five dogs out for a walk.

Instead of following the (unmarked) national cycle route 2, we decided to head south the 10 km to Lymington, and take that ferry to the Isle of Wight. This meant more riding on the island.

The ride to Lymington wasn’t bad, but the town itself had too many aggressive drivers for me. We went straight to the ferry docks and purchased tickets.

It’s a forty minute crossing, and it was so smooth that we didn’t even have to tie off our bikes. We took seats in the lounge and watched the boats as we crossed the Solent.

There’s going to be  a classic car show on the island, so there were a lot of really cool vehicles with us on the ferry. When we arrived in Yarmouth, we stood with our bikes and watched them all go by, chatting with a ferry worker who turned out to be a big Rush fan.

Yarmouth is a pretty little place. We found a grocers and picked up some lunch.

The coastal cycle route is well marked, and they even have the signs with the colours reversed to show the clockwise vs anticlockwise directions.

It started out fairly easy, and very nice. Quiet roads, countryside, and some views of the water. When we got close to Cowes it started to rain, it became busier, and a lot hillier. It smoothed out at the coast, and we enjoyed the ride into town. To get to our Airbnb we had to go back inland, and steeply uphill, but the shower passed so we didn’t mind doing a little pushing.

We were Janette’s first guests, but she’s a grandmother and a nurse – and so very good at making people comfortable. She and her cute granddaughter Millie gave us the house tour. We were even invited to join her for dinner, and of course we said yes.

Deb and I walked back into town. We bought a bottle of wine and a chocolate cake, and when we came out of the store it was spitting rain. We decided to save exploring for tomorrow.

Janette had made a delicious shepherd’s pie. Home cooked food!

Distance:

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