Cycling Britain-Day 14: Good days, bad days, & 70 miles in 1 day

1 August 2011

Miles: 70, Miles actually progressing forward: 63, Average 9.7 mph, Spent the night: Youth hostel (University dorms) in Carlisle

When I arrived at Colin’s campground last night, not the actual name but I don’t remember the real name, I was just happy to find a place to stay. This morning, being surrounded by sheep poo and the traffic from the nearby road made me respect the value of having a cozy place to wake up to. I can’t dwell on this kind of thing too long, though, since that takes time away from the work that needs to be done in the morning, having breakfast, organizing, packing, and folding my tent, while trying to keep the poo off it. I also wanted to charge my laptop, another constant challenge. Fortunately, Colin was out exercising his dog, throwing a ball in a field. I talked with him and his dog for bit and asked if I could pay something to charge my laptop. He told me to just plug it in, some where in the garage. I plugged it in and let it charge while I finished packing.

While I loaded up my bike, I thought about the “No Windfarm in _____ county” sticker that Colin had on the door to his store. I sincerely respected that he was concerned about the effect a windfarm would have on his business. My sister Sue and her husband Marty own Shing Wako resort in Minnesota (, little plug for Sue there. 🙂 Anyway, they have given me even more respect for the challenges of small business, like resorts and campgrounds. So, if a windfarm would reduce Colin’s income, I can see why he’d want it somewhere else. Of course, there’s a “but” coming. But, where?

We can’t pretend that China and India aren’t using a lot more fuel or that little fuel-consuming gadgets are increasing. My favorite one to pick on is the motorized blowing machines that have taken the place of a broom. And, I mentioned the Hummer and big toys like it in previous descriptions. Renewables clearly won’t replace all of our power needs, but it might give us a much needed diet from oil. I wondered if there was something I could say to Colin. My bike was fully packed, so I wheeled it over toward Colin to say goodbye, and maybe something else. We chatted for a bit again, told him it was good to find a place directly on my cycle route, and added, “I don’t mean to be dis-respectful in anyway because I have sincerely appreciated your hospitality, with letting me pitch a tent when that isn’t the rule, with letting me charge my laptop, and everything else. But, in the spirit of civil discussion, I would like to add that if a windfarm went up around here, I would pay to stay, largely out of respect for the people who chose to build the farm nearby. I know everyone doesn’t see things this way.” I expected Colin to be a little defensive, but he replied by saying that a friend of his has a windfarm in the next county. He also added that windfarms do no good when the wind doesn’t blow, but that we did need to do something about energy. I thanked him again and peddled off.

A few miles later, my mood went down a little. It’s difficult not to appreciate how good this trip has been, but we all have ups and downs, in any situation. The sheep poo was on my mind a little, then it drizzled for most of the day, then I pushed my bike in the drizzle, and then, I came across areas that are impressive to see yet barren. Maybe I call them barren because of growing up in Minnesota, with a lot of lakes and tress. At one point, the trail became barely noticeable, as shown in the picture. In another few miles, I had another low tire, and a couple miles after that, I heard the distinct sound of metal-on metal from my front wheel. The brakes needed to be changed, right there. At least a brake job on a bike only costs about £20 ($35).


One good sign for the day was that I covered more miles than I ever have before. When I changed my brakes, I knew I would pass the 50 mile mark. I also reserved a night in a hostel, so I could relaxed in a place and with people I always enjoy. I felt better when the hostel was 15 miles away, in Carlisle. I came up a long gradual hill. I didn’t have to push my bike, which was also satisfying. I also looked forward to the other side of the hill, where I could coast. There was no other side. It just kept on going up, sometimes gradually and sometimes not. I began to lose patience, especially since the drizzle was now  a full rain. I yelled at the hill, “Come on, this can’t be the top, give me more, give me more!” It did. And then, it did it again. I stopped yelling. I would get to Carlisle with enough time to do some much-needed laundry, fix the leak in my front tire, and hopefully find a place to stay for the next night.

Carlisle was busier town than I expected. My sat nav directs me right to a hostel, but the rain was coming down so hard I was having a tough time seeing through my glasses, since they were full of water drops. Finally, I was within a couple of blocks of the hostel, and there was a police road block. The police directed me around the road block, about a mile. I went around and came to a different side of the road block. Apparently, some guy was on the roof of one of the buildings, and they were trying to talk him off it. I was tired, hungry, had a pannier full of smelly clothes, and stuck outside in the rain. The answer, of course, was go to a pub.

 I found one about a quarter mile away. I just wanted a meal, and hopefully approval to bring my bike inside while I ate. My 4 panniers do not lock, so I like to see it when I’m in a larger town. When I asked the barmaid for a meal and a place to put my bike, so older guys having a pint, or more, became very interested in my trip. The barmaid told me they don’t serve food but there was a pub nearby that did, the “Museum Pub.” The guys having a pint each started suggesting she make a me some sandwiches and asked me which town I came from. I responded that my memory goes when I’m tired and that I’ve passed through hundreds of towns in the last few days. Maybe it was just dozens, but accuracy also is not one of my strengths when I’m tired. The barmaid told the guys that sandwiches aren’t a proper meal, and the guys started firing out the names of town that I might have been in. It seemed to become a competition among them. I told them I couldn’t remember, asked the barmaid how close the other pub was, and the guys kept on firing out names of towns. Finally, she said the pub was about a mile away. One of the guys said that I had already cycled 60 miles, so a mile wasn’t easy, still trying to get her to make me some sandwiches. She replied “If he’s cycled 60, one more mile won’t be that hard.”

 Somehow, that phrase has stayed with me. I wanted to ask her about the last time her round body had exercised for 7 hours, in the rain, and then go again for only a mile more. I decided to look for the other pub.

On the way, I saw a hill coming, so I wanted to confirm I was headed in the right direction. I asked a woman on the street if the Museum Pub was nearby. She said it was just over that hill. I unconsciously replied, “They’re always over the hill.” She then told me there was one just around the corner that served food. She was on the way there right now, to work.

 I found this other pub, got permission to bring my bike inside, and sat at a table, in my wet, smelly, cycle gear. This was no ordinary pub. It was a nice pub, where people were wearing clothes that were quite different than mine. Some women had dresses, and guys were in formal ware just short of wearing a tie. Right.

I ordered my food, gobbled it down, headed for the hostel, and saw no police line. The hostel is actually a university dorm in Carlisle, with a nice bed, desk, and other goodies, a far cry from the sheep poo surroundings of the previous night. It would have been a good place to relax, write, and refresh. I spread out my gear, so it could dry, including my tent—draping it over a closet. I had a shower and fell asleep.

 As Mick Jagger says so well, “You can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.”

5 thoughts on “Cycling Britain-Day 14: Good days, bad days, & 70 miles in 1 day

  1. Have been enjoying reading your travels, Steve….Be safe, Love from St. Anna, Nancy

  2. What great progress 70 miles in one day perhaps its because you were eager to get away from the sheep poo thank goodness it was not cow pats and the stench that goes with them.Best wishes and be safe.

  3. Reading Pat’s comment made me think of the “poem” that my aunt taught us as kids:

    Birdy, birdy in the sky
    Dropped some whitewash in my eye.
    I’m no baby, I won’t cry,
    I’m just glad that cows don’t fly!

    Great stories, Steve. And what beautiful pictures. The one of the sheep standing by the road was really nice.

  4. Everyone is so anti-poo 🙂 Having grown up on a farm, the thought of it just makes me nostalgic!

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