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06/17 England -- Martin Mill to London

Today's route was listed as 125 Km's, but many riders said it was close to 100 miles. It went through Canterbury on the way to London. It was Lisa's and my turn to drive, and we wanted to visit Canterbury. We discussed, should we ride there, visit, then ride back? Should we drive there, visit, ride to lunch, then ride back? Or??

We decided to drive first. When we arrived at the cathedral and parked, we spotted a bicycle store across the street. We didn't find any unique bicycle jerseys, but we found two other things we couldn't live without -- another bicycle rack (but this one I assembled and made sure it fit on the car before we bought it) and a different Camelback for Lisa. (It's smaller and lighter.)

Then we walked into Canterbury and found it to be a pretty interesting little town. We walked around a bit, shopped a little, had lunch, then went into the cathedral.

The cathedral is one of the more beautiful that we've seen. (It's claim to fame is primarily that it was the site of the assassination in 1170 of Sir Thomas Becket who was an archbishop and a thorn in the side of the King. By the time we finished the tour through the cathedral, it was time to go pick up Joan and Larry.

The route today was unusual. The DRG had eight pages, and the route had 187 sections of less than 1 mile and only one segment over 2 miles.

(For those of you who have never followed a DRG, that means MANY, MANY TURNS, one right after the other -- no time to either pick up speed or see the things you are passing. For example, on Highway 1 in Baja, or TC Highway 2 in Chile, the DRG's were one or two pages -- they just said, "get on the highway and ride")

However, as has become a trademark for TK&A, the route covered many secluded, hidden, and beautiful country lanes. Of course, for the car, that meant very slow going. Nevertheless, we picked up Larry and Joan in a timely manner, then headed directly for London on the autobahn.

We got in by 7 o'clock and found our lodging. We each had separate dorm rooms at the Queen Mary and Westfield College.

As we pulled into the campus, we saw Marty, a long time biking friend of Larry's and Joan's, standing on the sidewalk. (Larry had emailed and called his wife Ann and found out that he was in London -- due to leave today. He had stayed over to see Larry and Joan.)

Larry, Joan and Marty invited us to join them for dinner in London. The choice was Chinese. To get to Chinatown, we took the tube to Soho, then we had to walk through Charing Cross and through Leicester (pronounced Lester) Square.

What a madhouse!! The crowds were almost like being in Times Square on New Years Eve. LOTS of celebration, LOTS of whooping and hollering, LOTS of wildly and crazily dressed people, LOTS of disco bars, gay clubs and sex clubs.
So what was all the celebration about?

Being a soccer referee, I might assume it was because of the England vs Germany soccer match that England won 1-nil. Or, it could have been because it was the Queen's birthday. Or, most likely, it was just because it was Saturday night.

Well, we got through the crowds and chose a Chinese restaurant. Our decision was based upon two things -- first, it was full of Chinese patrons; second, several patrons coming out said they had excellent food. (Our personal evaluation was that the food was very bland.)

After dinner the crowds had gotten even thicker and wilder. We fought our way through as we checked out a few theaters on the way back to the "tube".

The tube, also called the Underground, is even more fascinating then the Paris subway (which puts the New York subway to shame.) Very complex, very intricate -- but very easy to use. Unlike Paris and New York -- which charge one fare for any ride -- the London subway charges by zones. 3pounds70 (about $5.75) for an all day ticket in Zones 1 & 2 -- which covers most of downtown London.

We got back about 11:30 -- and ran into a group of Odyssey riders just heading out. (They're the wild and energetic youth of our group, I guess.)

Love to all, David and Lisa


06/18 London, England

I got up early -- and went back to bed. I got up again and just made it to breakfast. On the way out, I checked to see if Lisa was up. She was still sound asleep, buried in the bedsheets.

I brought some coffee back for Lisa. She was still sleeping so I crawled back in bed with her. We got up again about 11:30.

We headed for the tube and took it to the Tower of London where we took a tour with a Yeoman Warder (more commonly known as a Beefeater after the picture on the Beefeater's Gin bottle.) The tour was excellent.

The tour gave a lot of history about the Tower -- who lived there, who was imprisoned there, who was executed there, etc. The Beefeater gave us several pieces of information good for a trivia game. For example;

Q. How many towers make up the Tower of London?
A. 20 There are 13 outer towers, six inner towers, and one central tower.

Q. How many towers are called "The Tower of London"?
A. None. Each tower has a name, but none are called the Tower of London.

Q. Where did the term "severance pay" originate?
A. In the Tower of London's 900 years, it was used for many things, from housing royalty to housing condemned prisoners being readied for execution. Execution in those days meant being led to the top of Tower Hill, laying your neck on the chopping block, and having your head cut off with a sharp ax.

Now, as you can imagine, if the executioner either mis-swings or uses a dull ax, the results could be quite messy, painful and slow. As expected, it was in the best interest of the prisoner that the executioner was skilled, and that he used a sharp ax. Therefore, it was the practice for prisoners to bring a few gold coins in a pouch for the executioner -- "to insure good service" so to speak. This payment has come to be known as, severance pay.

Enough already.

We saw the crown jewels of England. (Actually, they're on several crowns.) Spectacularly beautiful! (And as Lisa said, if they sold just one of those crowns they could probably feed all the hungry people in England for at least a year!)

Before I leave the tower, I must tell you about Stas. In the line to purchase entrance tickets, I was behind a young boy. It looked like he was with the woman in front of him, except that he had his own ticket money in hand. Well, she finished her transaction and left.

He walked up to the window and asked for a ticket. The cashier asked if he was with an adult. He immediately turned to me, explained that he needed to be with an adult to get in and could I .... I said of course and patted him on the shoulder. The cashier gave him his ticket, then took care of us.

Well, he stuck right with us for the whole tour. We felt like we had an adopted son for the day.

He told us he was 11 years old, from the Ukraine, that he was here for a month attending an English language school, and that he had one week to go. He was with a group of students who had come on a bus and, apparently, were turned loose in London for the day. He had a small backpack that had, he said, his jacket, in case it got cold, and some snacks, in case he got hungry -- and, of course, a map for the underground.

At first we were concerned that an 11 year-old was on his own in London. We thought maybe he was lost or had even maybe run away from his group. But after talking to him, we ascertained that he was OK.

We took a picture of him and me next to the Yeoman. When I showed it to him, he beamed. We asked for his address so we could mail him a copy next year. He tried but couldn't remember it, so he just wrote down his name and phone number. We're going to try to call his mother (who, he assured us, could speak English) to tell her what a delight he is and to get his address.

By then Lisa was starving so we found a restaurant and had a very late lunch. Then we headed for St. Katherines Pier, where we caught a boat for a ride up the Thames to the Parliament area.

So we headed for the "underground" station to catch a train back to the college. We had dinner with Bill from Florida and Ken Anderson. After dinner we sat in the lounge of our dorm and talked to many riders as they came wandering through.

A primary discussion was with Larry about future ferries we had to take arounf the British Isles and to and in Scandinavia.

Another primary discussion we had was what we would do tomorrow on our anniversary. (High Tea is high on the list!)

Love to all, David and Lisa


06/19 London, England

Today is our anniversary so we did some special things. First we slept in, then had a late breakfast.

Our plan was to take a walking tour, get theater tickets, have lunch at an Indian restaurant, sightsee some more, have high tea, then go to the theater.

We started our walking tour at the base of what they claim is the world's largest Ferris wheel. We didn't get the diameter, but it holds 800 people and takes 30 minutes for one revolution. And, it cost L15 (~$22) per person!

We got as far as the tower of Big Ben and the Parliament building when we realized we should get over to the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square. We took the tube, walked over to the booth and got in line.

I went up to the info board to see what was available today and ran into Joe and another yellowhead. They were well up in the line and offered to buy our tickets for us. We ended up with tickets for Spend, Spend, Spend (which we had never heard of, but had received rave reviews.)

Then it was time for lunch. Lisa had spotted an Indian restaurant (in an info book) that sounded good, so -- back to the tube. (By the way, we've heard that since English food is notoriously bland, your best bet is to go ethnic, and Indian is supposed to be particularly good here.) We found the restaurant, but the cost was L16 (~$25) per person for lunch. Too much! But, it turned out that the neighborhood was full of restaurants. We had a fine bowl of Gazpacho and salads.

I don't think I mentioned the weather. It's been hot, hot, hot!!! In the 80's and 90's. Dripping, hot weather. In the Underground, the lower the tube, the hotter the train.

Well, we resumed our walk at the Westminster Station. We got as far as the Parliament Building, realized that both houses were about to meet, and decided to go in. We waited in line for 45 minutes, then went in to the House of Lords chamber. We were allowed into the "Strangers" (or visitors) section.

The House of Lords chamber is another Gothic beauty. It contains the gold plated Royal Chair of the Monarchy, and the royal scepter. The meetings are stately, quiet, orderly -- and DULL. We watched for awhile, then went over to the House of Commons.

The House of Commons is a more lively place. Deputies and Ministers shouting across the room at each other. Booing and hissing the speakers from the other side. Cheering and hooraying the speakers on their side. Both wild and entertaining. It was hard to believe this was the real government -- seemed more like a "Saturday Night Live" spoof.

We left the commons at 5 o'clock so we could make an afternoon tea at the Kensington Arms Thistle Hotel. We just made it. We had tea, an assortment of tiny sandwiches, scones and pastries. It was not as fancy as I had expected. Sort of run of the mill, but we both enjoyed it anyway. (Actually, it was probably good that it wasn't too fancy. We've heard that some of the High Teas adhere to strict dress codes -- jacket and tie -- and we just don't have that kind of thing on this trip!)

We left there and caught the tube to Picadilly Circus and the theater. We saw a musical called "Spend, Spend, Spend." It was based on a true story of a woman in the Liverpool (poor coal miners) section of England who won a big payoff on the lottery and what happened in her life for the next 30 years. Really fun and interesting. Good music too.

Then we headed home in the still quite warm nighttime air.

Love to all, David and Lisa


06/20 London, England

This morning it was overcast when we got up. We hustled to the Tube to meet with Richard and Jane and some other friends for a picnic in Queen's Gardens. We were to all meet at the Paddington Station and go together from there. We got to the Paddington Station and found that it was a huge, spread out, intermodel transportation station that included several regional train lines.

Anyhow, we never found our friends, and it had started to rain, (more normal for London, we are told), so we made a new plan.

We tubed over to Leicester Square and bought half-price tickets for "The History of America, Abridged." Then, another tube to an Indian restaurant (the Neel Akash) in the Kensington area (a very nice residential area) our long awaited buffet lunch. (It was REALLY GOOD! Finally we had some food in England with flavor.) Then back to our campus to change clothes and go for a run along a canal that we spotted alongside our building.

We were a little tired so a quick nap was in order. Unfortunately, we slept thru the alarm. That put us a little behind -- but not to worry, we'll just cut our run short.

We packed up our laundry and dropped it on the laundromat on the way to our run. We had to be back in 30 minutes so we decided to just run 15 minutes up the Regents Canal, a small canal that runs across Northern London, and back.

We ran on the towpath along the canal. It was very quiet and peaceful, and quite beautiful. We passed a few locks -- small of course since the canal was only about 20 feet wide, and obviously hand operated.

About 10 minutes out, we found that we were running between the canal and a big park. There was a map that showed a canal running along the entire South side of the park, so we decided to turn right, run around the park back to the canal, and then turn left back toward the laundromat.

Good plan -- we thought.

We ran around most of the park, cut thru a bit because it was time to head back, hit the canal, and turned left.

We passed several more locks. At one of them, an older lady was hand-operating the locks to transport her boat through. Quite a sight! (but no camera)

Then we realized something was wrong! We passed a sidewalk cafe and asked some folks where the Mile End Road was. "Back that way" they said -- of course they were pointing the way we had come from.

Bottom line, the canal we were following, (and that showed on the map), was a SECOND canal. The park was, in fact, bordered by TWO very similar canals.

Well, we ended up running a little more than an hour. Needless to say, that tightened our schedule a bit.

I headed for the laundromat to put the clothes in the dryer. In the interest of time, I paid the attendant 2 quid to do it. As he and I got the clothes out, we found that they were soaking wet -- the washer hadn't spun them dry. He said it was because I chose the cold water wash!*?? Anyway, he said, 30 minutes and another pound would do it. I paid him and headed for the dorm.

We showered quickly. I grabbed the laundry bags and ran to the laundromat. More bad luck. The attendant was in the back room having dinner dryer had stopped, and the clothes were still wet.

He put some more coins in and said to pick them up later -- he's open 'til 9. Of course that wouldn't work for us. We had to leave for our 8 o'clock theater by 7:15. But what choice did I have but to leave them?

I hustled back to the dorm, got Lisa, the theater tickets and the passes for the tube, and we headed over to the cafeteria for a quick bite of dinner.

We ran into Larry and Joan. Larry had lots to tell us. (He had been working all morning arranging transportation for us and our car from Ireland to Norway.) He said he had spent lots of our money today and wanted to tell us about it. We thanked him profusely for going to all the trouble, but we couldn't talk now because we had to run to the theater.

We ate very quickly, then ran to the laundromat to get our clothes. We stuffed our clothes into our laundry bags and hurried to the tube to take us to the theater. (Yes, we took our laundry bags with us to the theater. Tacky, huh?)

Our big hope now was that the train not be unduly delayed. It wasn't. We made it with minutes to spare

The show, "History of America, Abridged," was a quick witted, irreverent spoof on the history of America. It ranged from the discovery on up through Bill's and Monica's affair. It was done by three guys who called themselves The Reduced Shakespeare Company.

Their primary show is a 90 minute irreverent spoof on Shakespeare called, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged." They present that show five nights a week, and this one on the sixth night. It was interesting to see that kind of show in a British theater. Some of the jokes were at the expense of the Brits, and many were "in" jokes that seemed to go over their heads. But the majority of the audience did seem to be American.

Take the tube back to the dorm, sort the clothes, pack up for tomorrow, and hit the sack.

Love to all, David and Lisa


06/21 England, London to Winchester

After taking care of some business this morning, we got a lift out of town, hopped on our bike and rode. Once outside of London, the route, became suburban, then rural. We rode past beautiful homes -- many VERY "English," many very beautiful.

The route took us on many very narrow, two lane roads. Occasionally the roads were barely ONE lane but were still TWO WAY. Many were bordered on both sides by tall trees and thick bushes. A few were overgrown with the trees and bushes so that we rode through tunnels of greenery.

We stopped in a very typical English Pub called "Leathern Bottle" in the village of Godalming. Had a vegi-burger (very American -- NOT very English) a tuna sandwich and tomato soup.

We had to have the rear wheel trued at Check Point, then we hopped on the bike and headed out.

More narrow, tree covered and bush shrouded roads. At one of the barely-one-lane-wide, two-way roads, we were racing down the hill -- a car was racing up the hill -- he took the hillside -- we took the gravel shoulder -- and we're both still going. Whew!

After many, many miles of such narrow roads, we got to Winchester about 6:30. We had a fantastic dinner at the town hall, got a bed and breakfast for the night and checked in at 9:30.

Love to all, David and Lisa


06/22 England, Winchester to Bath

This morning the four of us toured the 900 year old Winchester Cathedral before heading for Bath. It is reputed to be the most beautiful cathedral in Europe. I can't disagree. It has a very high Gothic-style ceiling in the 556-foot long cathedral (the longest medieval building in Europe).

There are at least 12 different chapels -- each quite original in architecture and decoration. The original Norman architecture remains in the transepts (the cathedral is designed in the shape of a cross -- the transepts are the cross arms) and crypt (essentially, the basement).

The cathedral contains the tombs of Jane Austin and several English Kings, along with several other treasures. It IS extraordinarily beautiful.

A unique discovery in this 900 year old cathedral was an exhibit of drawings, sculptures and writings of local schoolchildren. All were on the theme of their hopes and dreams for the 21st century.

The drawings were exhibited in the Nave. In one of the transepts, there was a display of sculptures done by the students, books of their writings, and computers that were connected to the www.

Students were manning the computers. They were set up so that visitors could pick any of the student's writings and send it to anyone in the world. (I sent one to Mary.) We were told everyone who receives a message will also receive a lot of info about Winchester Cathedral. (I wish I'd had everyone's address with me.)

When we came out, it was raining, windy and had grown colder. We wanted to see the downtown of Winchester before we left, so we walked down High Street, the main drag. It had been "pedestrianized" recently, so was quite nice for walking. There was not much about it that was uniquely English, though. Just a nice pedestrian mall area.

We went back to the car and Installed the new (replacement) bike rack on the car. We were afraid the old one was too quickly dying.

By the time we finished, the rain had stopped and started again, so we drove to Stonehenge. At Stonehenge the winds were gusting and blowing cold with mixed rain.

We parked and went to the entrance. We were all hungry so Lisa and I had a spinach and cheese pie and some coffee. Joan didn't want anything there so they had a piece of fruit.

Then we went in. They had wonderful audio-phones that told lots about Stonehenge as we walked around it. The huge stones stacked in an orderly manner were truly impressive.

We had a unique experience when we were there. There was a large group dressed in white robes in the center of the stones. It turned out they were Druids in the midst of a ceremony celebrating the summer solstice. It was a very non-active ceremony, though, so we really couldn't see what they were doing.

Because it was raining and blowing and cold -- and because Joan was so hungry she couldn't stand it -- we drove up the road a piece to find some food for her. Then we headed back down the road to Bath.

We arrived at the check-in about 4. We had to find Arthur to find out where the B&B, was that he had arranged our lodging. He left us a note saying the "Pennsylvania Farm" was our destination and that it was just up the road.

We drove there, met a less than pleasant owner but got into "our" farm house anyway. ("Our" farm is a separate, two-story farm house just up the road from the main house. It's a charming, little house with a kitchen, living room and bathroom downstairs, and four bedrooms and a bath upstairs.)

In the house we met Ginney, Bill from Florida's wife, who is meeting Bill here. She will be shadowing the ride for a month and getting together with Bill whenever possible. A delightful person. She teaches with Bill in a Special Ed school.

We had dinner at the campground. As we were finishing dinner, Bill came riding in. We waited for him and gave him a ride to the B&B.

I made tea in the farm kitchen. I found loose tea but no teapot, so I made it in a coffee press. (I made it a bit strong.)

We all sat in the living room and chatted for awhile before going to bed about 10.

Love to all, David and Lisa


06/23 Bath, England

Today was a layover day, and we went on an "easygoing, level, touring ride" with Arthur (from England) and his bike club friends. When asked by one of the riders if there were any hills, they said, only a few at the start."

The first thing we did was climb a hill that had half of the riders walking. (We rode, but it was tough, even by Odyssey standards.) Unfortunately, the first 15 miles of the ride were on terrain like we've been riding since we left London -- narrow roads bordered by hedges, sometimes crowned by trees (making then dark tunnels), usually gravelly, sometimes wet and muddy, always very steep. We had to walk a climb for the first time on the Odyssey. (But I have to admit, it was probably due to my not being able to shift a gear.) But, many, many good and experienced riders walked up some of the hills -- and down some too.

The views through the gaps in the bushes were great though -- rolling meadows with low mountains as a backdrop.

The ride ended with ten miles along the Kennet & Avon Canal tow path leading into Bath. Of course, it was relatively flat, and, quite scenic. Besides having many clear views across the meadows, we saw many canal boats moored along the sides. They were all about 6 feet wide and 40 feet long with a cabin over most of it's length and windows along both sides. Many were painted bright colors. A few were pretty old and dogged. Most of them were lived in.

We followed the canal into Bath, then out to the camp. We left a note for Larry and Joan, then drove back to the B&B to leave our bike and get some film. We returned to camp, left the car with a note for Larry and Joan that we were going to town and that we'd see them at 6-6:30 for dinner. Then we caught a bus to town.

We went to a restaurant in the oldest building (1680) in Bath called Sally Lunn's. They're called the "quintessential English tea house" and they're known for the "Sally Lunn Bun." (Looks like a giant hamburger bun. But tastes heavenly!)

After lunch, we went to tour the Roman Baths. The complex, designed to take advantage of the natural hot springs, were built, modified and expanded between the 1st and 5th centuries. The remains are remarkably complete.

After Bath, we went back to camp for dinner, then back to our B&B.

We tried yesterday and today to e-mail my niece, Jennifer, who lives in this area, to see if we could meet. No luck, however. The e-mail addresses of both her and her boyfriend are no longer valid.

Love to all, David and Lisa


06/24 Bath, England to Cardiff, Wales

It was overcast and cool this morning. We got off to a late start.

At breakfast, we found out from Gary and Gloria that they had obtained a bike route map that had some local routes. Their car group was going to skip the TK&A route and do one of the bike routes in the Cotswolds, a reportedly very scenic area for hiking. They invited us to join them. We did.

We left their B&B about 9:30 and drove to the Berkley Castle in the Cotswolds to start the ride. Gary, Gloria, Matt, Valerie, Roma, Sandy, Lisa and I all set out under cloudy skies. The route took us through fairly flat dairy cow pastureland to start.

About noon we stopped at the Rorty Crankle Steak Barn at the Tudor Arms, Slimbridge, Gloucester for lunch. I had cauliflower-stilton soup.

Right outside the inn was a canal with a hand-operated turn-bridge. As we rode up, a man was turning the crank that operated the bridge and let two boats through -- a canal boat (just like the ones we saw yesterday) and a pleasure boat.

We crossed the bridge after it closed, then rode along the tow path for awhile. Then we turned and started hitting hills -- and WHAT HILLS! We had the first hill ever in our entire tandeming career that was too steep for us to ride up. We rode quite a few more hills as we continued through the Cotswolds.

At one point, Lisa and I were riding along, with Valerie and Mat when we realized the rest of the group was not behind us. We stopped at the top of a long hill. Valerie went back to look for them but no one was in sight, so we carried on on our own. We were rewarded at the next intersection with a directional sign leading us to Berkley. We followed the signs and got back to the car around 5. The others were there already. They had taken the turn just before where we stopped. We loaded up and headed for Cardiff.

We got to our hotel(?) about 7. (We only got lost once on the way.) After checking in, we went to the gear truck, got our gear, and headed for dinner.

We parked in the parking lot outside The Welch Institute of Sport about 7 and went in for dinner. It was a good dinner, though they were slow. We came out about 8:30 and went to the car.

WHAT A SURPRISE WE GOT!!

THE CAR HAD BEEN BROKEN INTO!!! ALL of our bags were missing (including ALL of our clothes, cosmetics, shaving kit, book bag, itinerary, car rental info, auto registration, bike bag with Pocketmail, translator and purse containing my passport and International drivers license) along with Larry and Joan's bike bags -- including his Pocketmail device, his recorder and his camera.

All we had left were the bike clothes and sandals that we had on, our bike shoes and helmets. EVERYTHING ELSE WAS TAKEN!

We immediately went into the Institute and reported the break-in and theft.

Everyone here in Cardiff was extremely helpful. The security at the Institute called the police. The Police Constable came and took a report. He was very helpful and sympathetic. (Unfortunately, he was called away in the midst of taking our report due to a nearby "rumble."

The security folks at the Institute were EXTREMELY helpful. Ian and Ian, the Security Supervisor and Security Deputy, respectively, couldn't do enough for us. They called the police. They called a glass company and convinced them to install a new window in the car on a Saturday night. They helped us contact Peugeot, the car lessor. They helped us contact the auto insurance company. They helped us get the bikes from the campground and stored them for us in their office. They led us to the glass installer. And they spent HOURS helping us fill in reports.

We got back to the B&B around 2 and crashed (and felt like burning.)

Love to all, David and Lisa


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