Home – or Just a Dream

I go up just after five, not able to wait until the alarm at six. I was already very organized so didn’t have that much to do, but also didn’t want to be in a rush at the last minute.

We managed to get all my things loaded fairly quickly and were on our way by 7:30. It was a good thing we left with lots of time to spare, as there were slowdowns and roadworks all over the place.
The only parking for an ‘oversize’ vehicle was the pickup/drop off area, so Colin couldn’t come in with me. Luckily the bike box had been paid for already and Colin also paid a porter to manhandle the bike in for me. Not quite ready to leave so suddenly there seemed more to say, but we had no time. A hurried hug with Mo, then one with Colin and I had to go inside.

The lineup to check in wasn’t too bad and the porter waited patiently with my large box and suitcase. As expected the bike box was too big for them to check directly so after being tagged we took it to the oversize luggage area. One again it was too big for the xray machine so had to be searched by hand. This is where the porter said goodbye and a security fellow took over.

He was ever so helpful, and as he led me to the manual security area asked if I had anything other than the bike in the box. I told him I also had the four panniers, two empty and two with my riding gear. As a supervisor looked on he took almost everything out and swiped it all with a wand – luckily nothing made it beep so we packed and taped it back up. The bike went on through while I now headed for my security check.

We boarded the plane on time, but were almost an hour late leaving due to queues for the runways. The flight was long and I got two movies and several tv shows in by the time we got to Calgary, where there was a snow storm brewing.
Since we’d left London so late I hardly had any time to catch my connecting flight – I ran like crazy, following a couple of others, and made the flight with time to spare. Once again we boarded ok but were late leaving, this time because of de-icing.

We finally arrived about an hour late, and once again Air Canada managed to leave my bike behind. They gave me a ticket and told me they would deliver the box when it arrives later, or in the morning. True to their word they delivered it around 9:00 the next morning, and are even reversing the fee paid for shipping.

It’s weird to be back home – the kitties warmed up to me pretty quickly this time and of course it’s wonderful to see Dominic. I had so many wonderful experiences and saw so many beautiful places it’s hard to believe it wasn’t just a dream.

Ready for What’s Next (?)

351F0BFE-A2DD-47F1-9340-835F695BE5DAUpon leaving our nice parking spot outside the Royal Oak we took the ‘scenic’ route back via Bath.
Over the next few days we took Mo for some nice walks, and another bike ride to Droitwich. I tested the electric assistance a bit more and can tell it will make a big difference on the hills. Once again I split off at Tibberton to follow the canal and trails back to the house.
One afternoon we packed up my beautiful Cannondale into a box ready for shipping home – I have mixed feelings about taking it home, but knowing that I have the beautiful new Cube over here now makes up for it. And it also means that I’ll have a great bike at home now to ride.
Colin planted some new grasses and flowering plants in his back garden and moved Mr. Buddha more to the centre.
With the work that had been done earlier the garden is so much more inviting, although with all of the rain we haven’t actually been able to enjoy it much.
It seems that after so many months and so many adventures that the present and the future are suddenly rushing upon me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the road I’ve travelled to get here, and where I’m going in the future.
We had a couple of excellent dinners over the last few days – roasted chicken, that I made soup out of later; roast shoulder of lamb, that also made great bunwiches that next day – lots of good food to remember.
I got pretty much packed up on the last afternoon, and we took it easy all day, only going out briefly for a few groceries. Mo has been staying pretty close to me – when I sit in the comfy chair in the living room there’s just enough room for her to lie right next to me.

Pickleberry, White Horse, Friends and Family

We got a nice early start the morning after the big race, leaving our little spot around 8:00 – there had been a ‘no parking’ sign put next to us while we slept, but we were ready to leave anyway.
The mist was lifting as the rising sun hit it – the trees and fields we passed were very pretty.
We got back to Worcester before noon, having time for a shower before repacking and leaving again for the south.

We went down to Bratton and headed straight to Pickleberry, where we parked in the overflow parking area for the night. Once again we hadn’t brought our bikes due to the forecast of rain.

In the morning we had our usual tea and breakfast, then waited for some of Colin’s friends to start appearing. A large group of them still meet once a week at the coffee shop, some on their bikes today, and more in their cars.
It was very nice for Colin to see the fellows – he’s known and ridden bikes with some of them for many years, and they seemed happy to see me again. We chatted with several of them for well over an hour before they started to leave one by one.
Since we had a couple of hours to spare we drove up to the White Horse and had a walk around. Apparently there used to be four or five of them in the area, and this one has been cleaned up and filled in with cement to prevent degradation.
It’s near the top of a very windy hill and can be seen for miles.
Sheep and cows graze on the hills, and the view is wonderful.
We watched as a storm moved in, but made it back to the campervan ahead of the rain.
Our next visit was with Colin’s very dear friends Mike and Sandra, whom I’ve met before. They were just as nice as I remembered, and Mo even came inside this time – I wasn’t sure Sandra was going to let her go when we left she fussed over her so much. Mike showed us one of his bikes – it’s very old and he’s been restoring it bit by bit.

Upon leaving from our visit we headed into Frome and walked around before choosing a little pub to have a beverage in. I got a local cider that was very tasty – not sweet or fizzy, but very refreshing. There was a large young dog that the owner had rescued – it liked to sit on one of the window chairs and watch the people go by outside.
Our final visit of the day was with Colin’s sister Joan and her husband Derek – we met them for dinner at the Royal Oak pub in Corsley Heath. I’ve met them before and they were once again very nice and welcoming to me – we had a lovely meal and visited for a couple of hours.

Elite Men get Rain Rain Rain

At one point in the night it rained so hard it was almost as if someone had turned a tap on, but by the time I got up it had slackened. I actually thought it had stopped but when I took Missy out for a little walk I found that it was coming down almost sideways as a very fine mist.

We found out that the route for the men’s race has been changed because of the amount of water at the bottom of two of the planned climbs, so to make up part of the missing 50 km they’re now going to do nine circuits of the last 14 km instead of seven. The race will be a little shorter than the original route, but we get to see them nine times!

The rain started in earnest again as we ate breakfast, so I’m not planning any long walks today. The campervan is snug and warm – the only thing we’re missing is the tv as we’re close to trees and the satellite can’t find anything. We do get updated commentary from cyclingnews online, and Anthony next door has a tiny tv in his vw van that gets a signal via an aerial rather than a dish.
Because of the unrelenting rain we decided not to put the flags up, with the exception of my maple leaf – I improvised and attached it to the bike rack with some clothes pegs.

We have more than one course marshall with us to warn the riders of the upcoming steep downhill and sharp corners.
One of them had forgotten his whistle so I went inside the campervan and retrieved mine – Colin had gotten it for me last year and it’s now attached to a Tour de France ribbon.
The rain never did quit so to avoid getting my camera wet Colin held the umbrella so I could stay dry while taking photos. The first couple of times the racers came around there was a breakaway that included Canadian Hugo Houle.
Each time the race by came there were fewer riders, as more and more gave up when they passed through Harrogate. At one point my camera stopped working – I wondered if the battery had died, but I had just put a fully charged one in so that couldn’t be the problem – actually the memory card was full! I’ve taken so many photos this trip I’ve filled up a card – luckily Colin had an extra one that works for my Canon, so I was ok.
After the shrunken group had passed for the ninth and last time we all crowded around Anthony’s van to watch the end on tv. Sagan had left it too late and a young Dane, Pederson ended up winning. Of the 197 riders that started the day in Leeds only 46 finished the race – a very brutal world championships!

Rather than waiting until the roads reopened and fighting the extra traffic we had already decided to spend another night in our little pullout and get an early start home in the morning.

Elite Ladies get Sunshine

It rained off and on all night, and at one point a bird (or something) tried to peck its way inside but gave up after awhile. And we now have a pet spider in the bathroom and I decided to let him live – he’s just under the mirror and mostly is staying in a corner so for now at least he’s safe.
After our usual morning tea I had a bit to eat then took a walk down the hill from where we’re parked. Right before the bottom there’s a sharp left bend, then a narrow stone bridge before a sharp right bend – perhaps a good spot to take photos from.
The elite women race today and will be covering the circuit three times, with the elite men tomorrow doing seven rounds.
The english bloke in the vw van next to us needed Colin’s battery jumper to get his van started – he thinks his fridge ran his battery out. We’re very fortunate that Colin’s van has not only two solar panels but also gas for the fridge.
Our friendly neighbour is a very keen cycling fan, especially the british teams including the dreaded team Ineos (formerly Sky) – I kept my mouth shut for once and didn’t even mention jiffey bags or huffy-puffies.
For a few hours the men’s teams were going by on practice runs – some of them three or four times around. I took a walk up the road just before noon – we’re not that far down from the extortionist cricket club grounds.
Just past the grounds is a sharp corner that the racers will be coming around, and straight ahead is the side road that leads to the village of Beckwithshaw. There were course marshalls there who told me that there was an nice little pub right across from the church and they do an excellent Sunday lunch, although you should book ahead as it’s very popular.
They closed the road to traffic right at noon, even though the race isn’t expected to arrive for the first round until at least 2:30. The sun was trying very hard to overcome the clouds and I’m optomistic that the race won’t be done all in the rain, although it is very windy.
I have been wearing my winter coat, and glad of it – I even had my icelandic wool hat on in the morning, although I’ve managed without gloves or boots. After we’d both had lunch we got our cameras and things together, said goodbye to Mo who had to stay behind in the campervan, and headed down the hill.

We intended to get to the stone bridge, but were thwarted by overly zealous course marshalls who told us it was an ‘exclusion’ area and we couldn’t go any further. We ignored them and continued on down the hill to the first corner right before the bridge.
We were then told by another marshall that we would be ok as long as we stayed just before the corner, but shortly after that another even more zealous marshall made us move. We ended up following another fan around the corner and across the bridge, which was where we had really wanted to be to begin with. We once again saw the photographer with the big hair that we’ve seen several times now going back to last year’s Vuelta a Burgos.
We found a nice spot just after the bridge and settled in, along with a nice british couple that had run the same marshall gauntlet as we had. We had a short wait before the first racer reached us – a lone Dutch rider quite a ways in front of the rest, with her lead growing each time they came by.
After the last rider passed we hoofed it back up the hill to the campervan and Colin struck up a long conversation with another brit – it turned out that they knew a lot of the same people and they had a good chat while I warmed up inside with Mo.
We had a lovely dinner of salmon, mashed potatoes and sugar snap peas, then another early night.

On to The Worlds in Harrogate

We had a few fairly quiet days, going out for one nice ride to Droitwich. We took what was supposed to be a back road that turned out to be quite a bit busier than expected due to roadworks on another route.
We ended up at a nice coffee shop in one of the main squares, sitting and visiting at an outside table with a friend of Colin’s. When I went inside to order our cappuccinos I was shocked by the cost – they were very large, but we’re not used to paying nearly so much.
Riding back I split off to ride the canal while Colin and Mo continued along the roads.

We had planned to leave on Tuesday morning to go up to Yorkshire in time for Wednesday’s men’s ITT at the world championships in Harrogate, but Colin started to feel poorly – he must have picked up a stomach bug or something.

We’ve contented ourselves with watching most of the races on tv, and I haven’t been for any more bike rides because of the intermittent rain. Mo’s feet seem to be almost all better – she no longer minces her steps when she walks, thanks again to Nova Scotia Fisherman’s Rescue Balm.
We got up fairly early on Friday and packed up, but at the last minute decided not to bring the bikes. There’s nothing but rain forecast for Yorkshire so we likely won’t be riding anyway.

I had a very good map of the race route for Sunday – all of the road races are using the same finishing circuit that ends in Harrogate, they just do it a different number of times. We followed part of the circuit, saw a couple of likely places to park, then went to find a store – which wasn’t easy.
Harrogate looks like a lovely town, but there was no where for us to park and half of the roads were closed for the races. We ended up going to the nearby town of Knaresborough where I spotted a Lidl’s out of the corner of my eye so we were able to stock up on supplies. We also took the time to have lunch in their parking lot before heading the few miles back to Harrogate.

Getting back the the area we’d chosen wasn’t easy as the gps kept trying to take us right through the town centre with all of its closed roads, so we eventually just headed south a bit towards Leeds before making our way back to the circuit.
We arrived to find the road still closed – we even saw the last few Under-23 racers pass. The course marshall wasn’t able to open the road for almost 45 minutes, and by then there was quite a lineup of increasingly impatient drivers behind us.
Finally we were let through and went straight to the cricket club that was right around the next bend. They were letting campervans park in their field but when we heard the price they were asking we turned around and went further down the road.
The was a small pullout area next to an old stone wall in front of a farmer’s field and with only one VW van there we had lots of room.

Bye Bye Fang, Hello Canal

After a very refreshing sleep and a lovely hot shower we headed to Droitwich so I could see Colin’s dentist about my ‘fang’. Luckily the root was intact and nothing had abscessed so she was able to just go ahead and repair it. It took about half an hour and she didn’t even have to use any freezing.

Originally Colin was going to give me a gyrocopter ride in France for my birthday but I chose instead to get my tooth fixed. It looks beautiful and I no longer need to be self conscious about the gap.
Leaving Droitwich we drove up to Solihull to meet Colin’s friend Kay for lunch. I’d met her last year in Italy so it was nice to see her again. We had a bit of a time finding parking for the campervan so ended up using the Morrison’s parking lot.

We went to a lovely Italian restaurant, Carluccio’s, and it was a good choice, and because the dentist hadn’t used any freezing I could do more than just eat soup with a droopy lip. I started with the tomato bruschetta and it was delicious – piles of red and yellow cherry tomatoes on crispy garlic toast topped with a piquant vinaigrette. For my main course I got the Chicken Milanese, which was very lightly breaded and fried to a crisp golden brown. Both dishes were excellent, and were washed down with a lovely Sicilian red.
After lunch Kay showed us where the Apple store was, then took her leave. The place was super crowded, and there was a lineup down the mall of people waiting to get a new iphone 11. Luckily we didn’t have to wait in that line, and there were lots of young geeks to assist us.
Colin already kind of knew what he wanted, so came away with an iphone – not the new 11 – and an ipad. The ipad is small, but not quite a mini. I was looking for a new keyboard case but had no such luck.
We stopped on the way home at a large ‘pc world’ but they didn’t have keyboard cases at all, and the fellow wasn’t really very helpful.

The next morning I rode my new bike for the first time and was it ever great! A friend’s little boy had a soccer game and we rode over – with Mo in tow – to watch. There were only a couple of small hills on the way but I tested the motor out and when it kicks in – wow – what a difference.
I can see myself in the Alps just racing up the Stelvio or the Galibier….well, maybe not, but at least I’ll be able to keep up with Colin and Mo now.
The soccer game was fun – they were playing a team that was one year ahead of them so Colin’s friend’s son, being his team’s goalie, got lots of action.
I got quite a few shots of him jumping, diving and lunging for the ball – he’s pretty good and directs his defencemen with confidence.
When we left the field I chose to get onto the canal path that is accessible right by the fields, while Colin took Mo back along a different route.

Oh! – the canal – how I’ve missed riding along it! There weren’t that many people to dodge, although I do wish we’d taken the time to put my bell on. I used the motor again at each lock, even though I could have done without it – it’s so easy to engage, or change the power. You can ride without using the motor, of course, but if you do use it there are four different levels of power.
In the afternoon we went out in the mini, leaving Mo at home watching a car race. First we went to another computer place in Worcester, that once again didn’t have any keyboard cases for either of us, although the fellow was quite helpful and checked with the closest other branch they had and told us they had some that would fit Colin’s new ipad but not mine.

We drove to the other store and Colin was successful, but as now expected I went away empty handed. Returning home Colin dropped me off while he went on to get some groceries and I went in to check on Mo as she’d been alone for awhile. She hadn’t been a happy little girl, and we’re a bit concerned that her tummy might be upset again.

We had a delicious salmon dinner with new potatoes and salad. No good movies or anything on so another fairly early night.