Brand New Kicks

Day 157: Southampton England, Saturday September 23rd

Our alarm was set to get us going fairly early today, for we wanted to get through some Charity Shops before Will and Susanne arrived from London. First store, first score: Deb got a little handbag, just big enough to hold her camera and phone.

We made note of some potential stuff in the other stores in Woolston, but there was nothing perfect, so we resolved to come back Monday morning if we found nothing better.

We walked over the big Itchen Bridge and into Southampton proper, then explored for awhile, basically at random. We did stumble across a few more Charity Shops, and Deb found a cardigan. At a second-hand place called the Beatnik Emporium Deb purchased desperately needed replacement sneakers. At another place I found a good sweater (and that’s me done).

It was sunny, even hot in the sun, and we soaked up some rays while waiting for Will, Susanne and Harriet to arrive at their hotel. Harriet, now almost four, was shy around us at first, but not for long. What a sweetheart!

We walked to the Platform Tavern for lunch, then explored the old town, catching up the whole time. Will has been purchasing some mysterious, wonderful old negatives, and had brought some of the most fascinating prints. Deb was enthralled by them, and they discussed copyright law, preservation, and archival research.

We explored the town some more and stopped at a cafe. While the rest of us finished up, Susanne and Harriet took a ride on a ferris wheel on the High Street. Later, Harriet guided us around a nice playground.

Dinner was at a good Mexican place (Deb and I didn’t know you could get good Mexican in the UK, and we’d been craving it). The hitherto tireless Harriet finally ran out of gas, and Susanne took her back to the hotel. Will, Deb and I hit the Titanic pub. It wasn’t tacky, it was actually a nice place.

The break from routine (eating at odd times, etc.) triggered one of Deb’s nasty migraines, but it was getting late anyway. We agreed to meet for breakfast, and returned to the house of pug. We had to step over Buffy the cat to get to our room.

Distance: 0



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.



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)


The Needles

Day 153: Freshwater to Newport England, Tuesday September 19th

Our Airbnb came with an amazing breakfast. We had omelettes and beans, fried tomatoes and toast. Our host served and stuck around to chat while we ate. A couple of the Springer Spaniels hung around too. Before we left we had some fun playing with the dogs.

Taking our host’s advice we rode to Totland Bay on the island’s west coast before leaving the area. We locked up the bikes and walked the path along the shore. It was mostly sunny and we got decent views of the Needles: three chalk islands that rise out of the sea.

Our ride for the day was mostly on the section of the coastal route we rode when we got off the Yarmouth ferry. We did have a nice rail trail for the first couple of miles to Yarmouth that we hadn’t been on yet. Just as we arrived at the edge of Yarmouth and joined the familiar coastal route road, we ran into a couple also out touring on bikes but going in the other direction. We talked for a minute, exchanging tips on what to see and where to ride. They had just visited an alpaca farm, and noted that the animals like to spit. We passed on that one.

With less gear weighing us down, and knowing what was coming, we found the hilly section before Cowes to be much less difficult on our second try. We stopped just before the waterfront ride going into Cowes and had half pints of ale at a pub with a view of the Solent.

After Cowes we were back at the beginning of the Red Squirrel Trail. Again, a very pleasant rail trail ride to Newport where we were reunited with our camping gear. Our host Brenda and her husband helped us get all our stuff upstairs, and there we met the famous Mr. Cleese: a super sweet and handsome feline.

Our room was great and the shower was intense. It was also affordable enough that we felt we could hit a pub for dinner.

At the Hogshead they had a burger and pint deal, and even better, the cask ales were on sale for a festival. We took our time and watched some cricket (and made some progress towards understanding what was going on) and then most of the Leicester City vs Liverpool FC game. Leicester won.

Distance: 35 km