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London-June 20, 2000

June 20th, 2000 · No Comments

My Larry was leaving today on an evening flight to Denver. He was able to get a ride from Denis and Katy to Heathrow, solving the problem of how to get to the airport with all his stuff. For me, it was to be the first day on the ride alone without my best friend.

The ride out of London turned out to be alright, even without the police escort we had hoped for. I rode with Larry Dolinsky who volunteered to be my ride partner. It was nearly 3 hours before we felt as though we were out of London, it is a huge city. We lucked out leaving, the traffic was going the opposite direction. We followed the DRG closely, only missing one important turn. Of course we knew we goofed and easily corrected the mistake.

Our route was going to Winchester, home of the famous Winchester Cathedral. After exiting the excitement of the city and the heavy traffic, we dropped off onto less busy streets.

Larry Dolinsky’s rear rack fell off of his bike. He stopped to repair it by threading plastic tie downs through the rack and around his seat post. He also attached his saddle bag with bungle cords. While he was doing this I made a mental note that our bikes were really starting to look pretty bad. Others are now noticing because later that night someone was telling a story about a stranger asking them why we all bought “old bikes” for such a trip! We all had a good laugh.

Larry fixed his bike (sort of) and shortly there after my troubles began. I rode out of the city in my 52 gear (the big one), once in the country the hills started up. As soon as I shifted down trying to get into “granny” gear, the chain locked up and I couldn’t even force it loose. Larry and I had to take the rear tire off of loosen up the gears. It was a mess.

Lucky for me, Joan, Larry’s wife came along in a car, we packed my bike onto the bike rack and she took me to a bike shop. I explained what had happened the to “mechanic,” he asked me to return in an hour and he would fix it. Joan and I found a great cafe to kill time. When I returned the guy told me the three things he did to fix it, I paid him and left. Big mistake…. I never test rode the bike, since I was so far behind the group, Joan offered to give me a lift to checkpoint so I could catch up.

At checkpoint I got on my bike to ride, got barely a mile out before I discovered the bike was still skipping, the chain fell off and it was a mess. I put the chain back on and rode back to checkpoint. Jason the TK&A mechanic was there. He worked on the bike adjusting things and told me it was way out of adjustment. He had me ride it to be sure it was OK, and it was at the time.

Joan once again volunteered to take me as far as where ever her Larry was, then I could cycle the rest of the way. So that’s what I did. Another mistake.

I got no further than the first big hill when the chain jammed up and skipped again. Jason had told me the next time it happened to check every link for a “frozen” link, that was what was messing the bike up. So I did, I happened to have some wonderful surgical gloves in the panniers, so I put them on to avoid getting my hands dirty beyond recognition, and proceeded to check every link, twice. I found nothing. I even checked to be sure the little pins were all in the chain. They were all ok, but my bike was still not sounding good.

The sag wagon came along, I jumped in. Enough of this nonsense today. We were still about 35 miles from Winchester and it was nearly 5 o’clock. Along the way we picked up cyclists who were done for the day. It was so interesting to ride in the back seat and watch others try to navigate the DRG.

The English countryside is so difficult to navigate, at least where we were supposed to go. The roads are not what we would call roads, they are actually horse paths, but cars can go on them. The road is generally bordered by very tall hedges, on each side. As you travel along the only time the scenery changes is when you pass a house without hedges in the front or a road. It is very easy to get lost. The DRG does not tell you the name on the road to be on, it gives us mileage from point to point and either a left or right. One interesting instruction said to turn right at the cute little cottage at the fork. Well, if you are lost there are lots of cute little cottages at the fork!

We came to an intersection, not knowing where we should go next. As we were there two other groups of riders came, each from a different direction. The fourth direction had a local person come along. It was hilarious, we riders were all following the same instructions, but were on 3 different paths. The local asked us “why are you on this road?” We started to tell her, we were on a year long trip , she said but “why are you on THIS road?” Apparently this road was known for being one of the better roads to travel!

The sag wagon arrived safely at the campground in Winchester. I was glad to be done with the bike scene today. My next challenge was to put the tent up, by myself without my Larry.

We camped at a municipal area near the city’s ball fields. It was a beautiful location next to a park with a canal going through it. I choose a spot facing the canal so I could watch the ducks swim with their babies. It was a great setting. The tent went up rather quickly, I didn’t pay to much attention to the tightness of the fly, it was very windy and I was worried about getting to dinner.

It was a good thing, I hurried over to dinner, because when I got there, several of the male riders were calling to Britt-Simone’s attention that there were still at least 10 riders on the road that hadn’t eaten and there was not enough food left to feed who all was standing there. That included me. I find it so curious that this problem continues to occur. There have been 247 people who are supposed to eat every night, even though we have significantly less than that number, we are continually running out of food!

The lovely ladies of Winchester found more food for us. When the bread pudding disappeared it was replaced with fruit cup, when that disappeared it was replaced with watermelon. These women were obviously worried about getting us all fed. I went to personally thank them for their efforts, and the lady apologized to me, stating that they were given a wrong number as to how many would be eating that night. Shar who was also thanking them made them feel better by saying, “we cyclists have been known to eat twice our body weight in food, so please don’t feel bad.” It was a consoling thing to say to a vendor who was obviously upset about not being able to provide for us hungry folks, but still why weren’t they told?

Tags: British Isles · England · world travel