Cycling Britain-Day12: Biggest Surprise Yet, and wonderful generosity
44 Miles, Nearest town: Sabden
In the description of Day 11, I mentioned a fun story on Day 12, a couple of times. It happened late in the day, so I’ll get to it in a moment. First, some things about the morning. They’re less interesting, but since this blog is also for my own record, I’m describing them anyway.
I woke up around 2am thinking it was far too cold to sleep. I worried about that for a while and then remembered that a mummy sleeping back, like the one I have, is made to really seal yourself in. So, I tightened up some strings to keep any cold air from getting in, and in no time, I was toasty warm. One complication from a cold night is that the tent will be full of dew the next morning, not good packing a wet tent. Fortunately, the sun was bright in the morning, and most of the day. I packed my tent last, so the sunlight could dry it off.
My bike was fully loaded, so I said goodbye to the German family camping next to me and peddled forward, only to notice my front tire was almost flat. So, in 4 days, I’ve had 4 moderate bike problems, 2 flats on the back tire, the rear tire coming loose, and now, a flat on the front tire. I pumped it up and hoped for the best. My current flat tire rule is pump it a couple times before taking precious time to change the tube.
There’s still a project at work I need to finish, which requires a couple of hours of net access. I passed by a pub and hotel with a wifi sign, so I stopped off there, for a couple of hours. As I mentioned before, we all need to take care of our day job. I finished my work and peddled on.
Some end-to-enders I met a few days ago warned me about the area near Slaidburn, which I’m approaching. The terrain definitely has changed from the flatter farming land in the northern Wales area to some big hills, again. The hills are a little easier than before, but still, if I had my choice…
The day was almost familiar, since the hills and country side reminded me a little of Devon. The hills do make for some outstanding views. Around 4.30 pm, I started looking for a place to stay. I couldn’t find anything with my computer or sat nav, so I fell back on my favorite backup plan, stop by a pub and ask. I’ve found that just a brief mention of cycling end-to-end gets people’s attention, and they’re keen to help. I feel like I’m having my brief moment of being a celebrity. The guys in the pub didn’t know of campsite, but the barmaid did. I broke out my laptop, started my sat nav mapping program, and she pointed to where the campground was. Or, the more simple description was “in the next town, just over the hill.” Right.
I pushed and peddled up a long hill and came to the very cozy town of Sadben. I asked someone walking nearby for directions for the caravan park and was there in no time. One problem showed up. There were no tents or campers, just mobile homes.
At least, I think they’re called mobile homes. I’m referring to the big ones, that stay put for a while. In the US, they’re often abbreviated to “trailers”. A couple of retired ladies were sitting on their front deck. I asked them if they thought I could pitch a tent here. They said probably not. That was tough news to hear. It was about 6.30pm; my legs were shot, and I really wanted a shower and a meal. I asked if I could at least talk with the manager. They responded with something like, “You could try. The warden’s trailer is just over there, but I know what she’ll say. There really are no tents here.” I responded with something like “Can’t hurt to ask.” Then, we seemed to cycle through the last few comments a couple of times. Finally, I thanked them and peddled to the warden’s trailer.
As American readers know, we don’t really use the word warden very much. The most common use I know of is the person who runs a prison. This place was certainly no prison, but that use of the word was on my mind when I knocked on the warden’s door. The women who came out was neat, friendly, but you could tell she had experience running the place. I’m not being critical at all, but she had an appearance of someone who you don’t ask silly questions to. I can’t blame her. Managing any kind of business means you have to take a lot of requests from the general public, requests that are often more surprising than realistic. Anyway, I apologized for interrupting her evening and explained my situation, suspecting the answer would be a polite but firm, “sorry.”
She pointed to the grass in front of us and said, “You could put your tent up here if you’d like, or you could put it back there. We don’t really have a shower or toilet, though.” I sincerely thanked her and said that I would be no trouble, just wanted to make supper, get some rest, and keep cycling. By this time in the evening, I was happy to forgo a shower. The warden then told a neighbor that I would be camping nearby, just so the neighbor wouldn’t worry. I thanked them both.
At some point, I asked what her name was. She told me it was Pat. She asked me a very practical question. “So, why is it that you’re cycling across the country?” I told her that I enjoy endurance sports and that the British countryside was wonderful. Pat replied that this countryside is some of the best around. I agreed. Then, Pat really surprised me.
“Hold on for a moment. I just thought of something.” She walked back into her trailer, and I thought I heard some keys. I started to wonder if some surprising generosity was coming up. “Just follow me.” We walked to a nearby trailer. As Pat unlocked the door, she told me. You can stay here for the night. It’s empty. I couldn’t believe her generosity and trust in someone she never met. She showed me around the inside of the trailer and said there was no heat or hot water. I didn’t mind at all, still amazed by the chance to have my own place for a night.
I had a shower, put on some clean clothes, and relaxed on the couch, almost in disbelief. Then, I do what I always enjoy doing at night. I write about the trip, back up my photos, and GPS data. In this case, I still paused with a little more disbelief a couple of times. I appreciated having my own space all the more because I’ve been living in a tent or bunkroom for almost 2 weeks. I also thought of the people who used to live in the trailer I was in. It was very neat and cozy, which really reminded me of the trailers my folks stayed in when they went to Texas every winter.
Of course, I also thought of how this cycle trip has become so much more about people than cycling, the vast majority being very good people like Pat. I suspect Pat is reading this, so I want to say once again just how much I appreciated your generosity.