Monday, 13 July 2009

I'd rather be riding my bike...

Not surprisingly, my lofty goal of writing every day on my bike trip came to nought, as, quite simply, there were a lot more exciting things to do. So, here I am on the 1530 back to London, from Edinburgh, in 1st Class (I paid the extra £25 b/c Coach was packed and I really didn’t want a shitty end to an otherwise fab trip). Speaking of, we just pulled into York and a very loud and obnoxious group of American tourists (incl kids) just piled on. Oh Canada…

Anyway, tourists of no, the trip was excellent. I took the 0800 to Newcastle on Thursday morning (a city that seems to be full of strange people with pinched faces). Headed off west on my bike. I had the choice of the coastal or inland route – I chose the inland. Day 1 was about 70 miles, most of it through Northumbria. I spent quite a lot of time and energy cycling up the moors. I’m going to launch a campaign to have them renamed ‘mores’, b/c there is just more, and more and more – one false summit (and dashed hope) after another! Anyway, I crossed the Cheviot Hills into Scotland… I had no idea that the Cheviots were the remnants of an old Rockies-style mountain range. The road seemed fairly well determined to experience every last inch of the remaining height. I’ve never quite understood the attraction in this country between road and steep hill. The border itself is kind of a funny thing – heading into Scotland there is a huge sign – ‘Welcome to Scotland’ – in English and Scottish (or perhaps Swahili? Not sure…), as well as a parking area and helpful informative board where you could read all about how the Border towns bravely resisted the bastard English until they lost, got put on reservations and given blankets and casinos, or something like that (it was all in Swahili – what do you want?). Heading towards England, on the other hand, there is a small sign saying ‘Welcome to Northumbria’. God bless regional identity!

From the summit it was a long and welcome downhill into Jedburgh, through replanted forest (bad sheep!) into a town so cute I just wanted to squish it. I arrived just in time for a march and piper’s band. Apparently, this marked the beginning of the Jedburgh Festival – an ancient tradition dating back to 1947, celebrating the fact that they didn’t have one before. The highlight, which, unfortunately, I missed, was the firing of the cannon 4x at 6am on a Saturday morning by a young, unmarried man, after which the brave townsfolk take to the hills on horseback to survey the bounds of the common land, of which there apparently isn’t any, and bill the council for any discrepancies, or something like that. And my God the tourista family is so loud and Midwestern – I just want to crawl under the floor.

After my lovely breakfast (served at Scotland’s oldest continuously running hotel), I headed north once more. I’ll give Scotland something – the weather may usually be crap – but the place is just gorgeous. Over hill, over dale, up a few grades that merited climbing gear, and 55 miles later, thanks to the wonder of my legs and satnav, I pulled onto Doug’s street and discovered that he and his new beau, James (and he is a beau!) were across town drinking a bottle of wine in the park. Oy! Anyway, we met in town – I got myself a sandwich and sat on Princes Street, gawking at tourists. Our action packed first night consisted of a tub of Ben and Jerry’s each, wine and Alien 2. Just about my speed… Oh, and a geriatric cat named Eddie, who spent most of his time stepping on someone’s nuts or stomach…

I slept on the worst aerobed known to mankind (I mean, really, who puts a built in pillow on an aerobed?) and had to hear some amount of slap and tickle in the next room. No matter – we had a yummy breakfast at one of Doug’s local haunts, saw his ex (they are all still friends – how nice yet how odd), then I cycled off to Queensferry to see the Forth Bridge. I wanted to cycle across, but it was too windy – I had visions of myself being blown hundreds of feet down into the Firth. Not nice. Only 30 miles that day, which is probably good, as I need new brake pads – they are squeaking something awful. Hard to look cool and manly when you come up to a traffic light screeching like a banshee… We went out that night to one pub and one bar. The pub was cosy but empty, and the bar was having ‘bear night’, which meant it was mostly full of guys who had never been to a gym in their entire lives. I felt very fit.

And then it was today (or rather, at this point, yesterday) – fattening breakfast at the Blue Moon (the waiter I bagged there 13 years ago seems to have moved on – pity). We had a brief visit to TKMaxx (as one does) and then it was southward bound (in so many ways) ever since. And they just won’t shut up – but I’m getting a good (or at least entertaining) potted history of Britain on the way. And I do still love Edinburgh – a lot. I could live there again without a fuss. Hmm.
Oh God – I just wandered back to steerage – drunk people and people sitting on the floor (clutching my pearls, dearie!). They are now reading aloud from some guide to London. How exciting. Ooh, and someone’s eating potato chips – all the wan on the other end of the car. Fat cow – moo!
So, that about wraps up my time at work today – suppose I’ll go to the gym. It was just back to the usual blah-ness, London traffic and stupid London cyclists. I’m already cooking up my autumn trip – thinking the Rhine… Very practical.

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