Sunday, October 19, 2008

Misc Musings

I was going to write a lengthy post about my struggles with headaches, but I spent yesterday afternoon with friends who have a five day old daughter and something about being around a child that young makes me not want to talk about my problems. Hopefully I'll have a photo soon of me with little Sophia.

So instead, I'll give you a post written a week ago about a cycling trip from April.

I’m trying to post more regularly on my blog, which I’ve been neglecting lately. I want to return to the original theme of this blog, which was travel. Hearing a Welshman speak this morning, I was reminiscing back to my trip in June 2007 (chronicled in the archives here), when I went to Wales and went part way up Snowdonia. That got me thinking about other adventurish travel I’ve done lately and so I’m writing now about a bike trip I went on in May 2008.

Hikers on Snowdon

I was in England for a week for the King’s Singers 40th anniversary concerts and I’d flown over with frequent flyer miles. I spent several days in London, then went up to Cambridge. I had a few extra days and I decided that I wanted to visit Oxford. Knowing, however, that I’m not a huge fan of anything “touristy,” I wanted to do something more off beat. The year before, I’d rented a bicycle at the Youth Hostel in York and spent an hour winding up and back part of the National Cycling Route. Somehow, when I lived in York I only rode my bike on the roads and sidewalks. To Sainsbury’s and back. To the train station. On miscellaneous errands. The discovery of the National cycling paths was amazing to me. So between that and reading in my guidebook about the Cotswolds, I decided to go on a cycling trip (one day) around the Cotswolds.

Cycling Path north of York

I started off in Moreton-in-Marsh. Why? you ask. I’m sure this sounds ridiculous, but one of the composers we frequently sing here at Plymouth is Ian Kellam. At the end of each of his compositions is the location the piece was composed in. His hometown is Moreton-in-Marsh, so I felt I had to start there.

My guidebook (Let’s Go Britain & Ireland 2004) was slightly out of date, but I was hoping that the cycle rental they mentioned was still in business. The shop was a toy shop on the high street (main street, to you Yanks ;)). I had to wait my turn, but I was the only renter at the time. They spent a long time with me helping me plan my route and drawing it on a laminated map with dry erase markers. (See route here: GMap Pedometer)Then I went to the back and they fitted me with a bike. They loaded the basket with a raincoat, a bike pump, and bungee corded the map on top.

The Toy Shop in Moreton-in-Marsh

They said that the shop closed at 5. But if I came back later, I should just come in the back and ring the bell. And the bike wasn’t fitted with lights, so if it got dark and I still wasn’t back, I could call them and they’d come pick me up. I could also call if I got lost or something broke.

One thing that hadn’t really occurred to me was that the Cotswolds is a hilly area. Very hilly. I started out and less than half a mile from the bike shop I realized that this was WAY out of my league. The hill was probably the smallest possible thing that could be classified as a hill. The lines on the topographical map were quite far apart, as opposed to many of the other hills on the map. But I made it to the first small village and as I kept biking down the road, past sheep and horses and gorgeous vistas, I realized that I was not going to die/pass out/fall off a cliff. I had decided that I could make it and gosh darn it, I would.

Batsford Church


Hiking with Sheep

The Cotswolds is (are?) full of small towns. Town might be too fancy a word. Village? Smattering of houses? I went through, probably, a dozen villages, of which only one had multiple shops.

Small village of Ebrington

With bike and gear in the metropolis of Chipping Campdon

One village had a fete happening and men were wondering down to the town centre in top hats and women in fancy dress and ribboned and flowered hats. Bells were pealing.

Heading to a fete in Draycott

I had to walk up several steep hills, but, as I coasted back into Moreton-in-Marsh, I was pleased. The shop was almost dismayed that I was back so early. They checked, double checked, and triple checked that I was really done. I was ready to be back on the train though. (Or, er… I would have been if I could understand train timetables.) I went to a small tea shop for tea and scones, bought some postcards, and then waited at the train station for about an hour until the train came to carry me back to Oxford. I was bruised and marked with grease stains on my legs and hands. They took a few days to come off, but were well documented in my self portraits.

This reminds me. I really should buy myself a bicycle soon. As in, before the snow starts falling…


Simon said...

How did I miss this post? It makes me want to go back to England SO BADLY.

Katie said...

I don't know how you missed it. If you use Google Reader it tells you about every new post. Then you feel a need to read 150 blogs a day. It is dangerous.

Also we wouldn't miss England as much if we had a benefactor who would give us $2500 every other month or so for a 4-5 day jaunt to the UK. And that's relatively cheap for, say, Bill Gates.