It was quite a transition from swimming at the beach and attending Simone and James’ island wedding on Saturday to setting out on Monday morning from Beijing on the BC tour to London. Great to meet up with old friends from the NZ tour and others. Sigitas led off in single file into the Beijing commuter traffic to Tiananmen Square for photos with Beijing TV and radio. With frozen hands and feet we continued on to the Polish Embassy for interviews, great media coverage and enthusiastic good wishes for a successful tour. Next stop was the Danish Embassy which was a favourite – hot coffee waiting for us and a most interesting discussion with the Danish Ambassador about cycling and wind generated power and how they are attempting to influence the use of bicycles for commuters in Beijing as the motor car becomes so popular in China.
The group is ten now with two from Lithuania, four from Poland, three from New Zealand and Maj from Sweden. The first few days were relatively flat cycling but probably quite challenging for our bodies unaccustomed to 6 hours in the saddle. We have been fortunate with weather, fine, cold as any sun fails to make it through the smog. People have been very friendly and helpful. Food has been excellent – most of us becoming reasonably proficient with chop sticks. The first week I really thought Brian might fade away before my eyes but hunger has helped his coordination. Have travelled over several passes in recent days, many tunnels some long and pot-holed. Cycled long wide plains surrounded by majestic mountains and alongside frozen rivers. The highlight of most days is the Chinese banquet which we all share for lunch. It’s always a surprise what turns up as none of us has any Mandarin.
Yesterday we went by local bus to Shanhaiguan (the eastern end of the Great Wall touching the sea.) No tourists about perhaps because it was snowing. A lot of confusion on the way back when we changed buses and eventually found we were riding in the wrong direction. The cities are heavily populated and cover large areas. What would we do without the GSP!
We spent 3 days in Seoul a city of skyscrapers in an older tourist area close to the Palace last occupied in 1920s. Most of the group visited the North Korean border, the demilitarized zone but we visited the local hospital for medication for the bug I’d been carrying for 5 days. Seems to have been effective as we have just completed 8 days cycling & arrived in Busan yesterday.
Leaving Seoul was always going to be a huge challenge on the bike. However we teamed up with Bill K. who had visited the Olympic stadiums the previous day & turned out to be quite an accomplished guide. We travelled mainly downhill through steady morning traffic & were able to get onto shared pedestrian pathways which were congested at times. When we neared the bridge (one of many) we took an elevator one at a time to the next level. Then pushed our bikes up steep ramps to the next level where we were relieved to find a cycle lane across as traffic was heavy. Still can hardly believe the extent of the high rise which extended the length of our ride of 55km. Once off the bridge we were close to the Olympic Stadium & village where there is a wonderful cycleway along the river which goes for miles. Had arranged to meet the rest of the group on the Olympic bridge but as they didn’t show up we decided to head off.
Stopped for lunch at an excellent Japanese restaurant when we were cold to the bone & unsure we were on the right route. The staff took a lot of interest in us, photos, maps examined & assured us we were only 10km from our destination. Four bowls of miso later & some very tasty sushi dishes we pushed on with renewed energy. We spent a couple of hours in the Korean Traditional village. Attended a traditional wedding but unfortunately no wedding breakfast. Finally met up with the rest of the group who had visited the Polish Consulate, had ridden an extra 20km finding their way out of the city & had had various gear break-downs. It was icy cold so we were happy to hear we were staying in a Sauna Complex nearby.
The Sauna experience in Korea is indeed a culture shock for the foreign tourist. Nobody speaks English but check-in was efficient. Issued with keys we discarded our shoes & men & women parted in different directions. Unbeknown to me my two female comrades had gone out to the Supermarket. I entered the women’s sauna section & was a little startled to find I was the only fully dressed person. Even the women selling drinks, snacks & toiletries were naked. I finally figured I should undress & head for the sauna room. Women showering, sitting on low stools scrubbing every part of their anatomy, steam rooms, spa pools of varying temperatures & a large cold swimming pool with overhead showers & massage jets. We slowly worked our way around the different stations feeling thoroughly relaxed by the time we left. Donned our regulation pink shorts & tshirts & went to the sleeping floor. Joined the men in their brown uniforms, Koreans & BaltiCCyclists together. We collected a rattan mat & a small block-like pillow, slept soundly for several hours before waking to a symphony of snoring in the early hours.
Will not bore you with blow by blow accounts of each day but they have been most challenging. Our Korean driver Clint has been most enthusiastic in his hunt for a variety of accommodation & restaurant experiences. Most of the trip has been through mountain ranges & large wide valleys. The weather has been generally fine but we we cycled one day in rain with snow in the morning. On our second day we cycled 95 km & arrived tired & cold to a campsite with no facilities other than a toilet. As Brian & I were struggling to erect our new tent I had a melt-down & declared I was too old for this lark. We managed to cart all our gear inside the tent & limped off (about 300 m) to a restaurant. It was astonishing the effect a beer, some rice wine & a large selection of dishes can have on one’s temperament. One of the waitresses was able to converse in Russian with some of our group. Originally her family were from Korea & in the 1920s they were banished by Stalin to Uzbekistan. She is working here but calls Uzbekistan home & most of her family are there. Back to the tent where amazingly we slept very well snug in our new sleeping bags. In the morning Brian sat up & caused not water but icicles to drop on us. I think there is a tacit agreement that we should delay more camping until Japan.
Next day another 100km & arrived in a mountain resort where we stayed in a large Youth Hostel. They insisted we must be at dinner by 6 pm. Realised why when we were stil eating & 300 teenage students arrived en masse. It was all very orderly & everyone queued patiently which seems the way here. One of Clint’s sayings is: ”All young people must look after their parents, especially in their old age”. How true!! The main purpose of this visit to Jacheon was to visit a shrine built a few years ago for $4million. A gigantic statue of Buddha in gold set in a large park with many traditional buildings & was most impressive.
Next day headed off alone & took a wrong turning for some 5km into a National Park. After realizing we were up the creek as the road petered out we back-tracked & ended up with a Police escort to the main road. It was another day of hill climbing & exhaustion – 110km. We stayed in a traditional village where the same families had lived for 600 years. It’s a very large property with dozens of buildings & a lot of land. We stayed with a family & had 2 rooms for 13. Slept on mats on heated floors. Most Koreans sleep on the floor but most buildings have under-floor heating. Wake up feeling a little toasted.
It rained all day, one of the few on the trip. The next night was spent in a comfortable alpine lodge but still on floor mats & surrounded by wet smally clothing. Brian cooked a meal for 7, comfort food & a change from the spicy Korean dishes. We awoke to snow falling which looked very magical out the window but was in fact wet & cold for our steep descent to the valley. Rained all morning & we had challenges with directions. The maps don’t show much detail as 1cm is covering about 10km. Thought we were lost as the road grew more & more narrow but after a very steep climb we descended to a village & eventually out to a main road. Brian has had to stay at the back with me most of the trip as I cannot keep up with the big athletic men & the 2 very fit younger women in the party. Stayed the night at our driver’s family Guesthouse in the city of GyeongJu. His sister made a lovely chicken dish for all of us. We were supposed to do the city sights by night but sadly we collapsed into bed.
The next day was a doddle 60km visiting a Buddhist temple and enjoying a Korean Martial Arts display & a woman dancing in traditional costume. That was a top class performance. Another night at a sauna with a special massage which mainly involved vigorous scrubbing of the skin, slapping & pinching of pressure points. I slept like a baby. (ie not Harper & Luca)
Today we are in Busan. Brian & I were first to arrive by several hours. We tested the subway which was state of the art from the city suburbs.
Looking forward to Japan where we have some challenges finding a driver. Two new cyclists joining us including Bob from Cardiff.
Shimonoseki to Hagi
The group had met up with a young Japanese man when they were apprehended by the Police. He was called in as an interpreter. He decided to take a day off work & guide us to the next camp site. This made the trip much easier although we were cycling with 5 bags as the car is so small & some peoe have huge packs & only one pannier. Nice countryside, groves of bamboo, small villages with well-kept tiled roof houses. Lots of vege gardens, trees in blossom. Visited caves.
Stayed high above the town in a Forest Camping ground. Kenji stayed till late in the evening before riding home about 50km. It rained steadily all night but luckily stopped when we got up.
Steep climb to an Observatory with all our bags loaded where we met high winds which almost blew my bike over. Continued on over a high plateau before descending to wards the coast. Stopped for Japanese lunch of udon noodles, rice cakes & green tea. Ladies working in the cafe fussed over us although they weren’t sure what we were ordering.
Entry into Hagi was easy following a river & riding through an old part of the town which was busy with tourist groups. Had arranged to meet by a bridge beside the coast where Vaidas found a „campsite” a public reserve with toilet and a canal running inland. The Polish men immediately set about building a fire with large logs. We tried to suggest his would draw attention & may bring the Police to evict us. However they thought we were spoil sports & continued with the fire. No Police, quiet pleasant camp but so cold we went to bed at 7pm.
Hagi – Tsuwano – Nichihara
Nice scenery of forest back – drop to villages. Big downhill ride finishing with a good climb to another Observatory. One wooden cabin which the Lithuanians quickly nabbed. One toilet which stank, a small kitchen which we took over, a lounge with seats for 6 & a large sleeping room. Bill arrived at 10pm after a gruelling 14 hours back to Fukuoka to swap our car for a miniature truck. Japanese lunch of udam noodle soup, suchimi & green tea.
Nichihara to Tsuwano
Rode all day with Bob gradual climbing & long downhills. Had a great lunch of pancakes packed with cabbage, eggs & cooked tipunyaki style at our table.
Reached the famous Kintaikyo Bridge built originally in 1608 but since reconstructed in 2003. This is a masterpiece of Japanese wooden architecture. It is composed of five connected wooden arches & is 193m long. Not a single nail was used in the original construction. The bridge is adjacent to Iwakumi City.
Received sketchy instructions on how to reach our campsite close to the Yasake Dam. A flat ride for about 10km, then take route 176. This climbed steeply as all our campsite venues seems to but no sign of the dam for about 15km. Through long tunnels, over high bridges & always climbing. Finally Sigitas arrived from the opposite direction & confirmed another 5 km & took off in search of Maryla who had been left high & dry waiting for him at the bridge. Finally Bill fetched them in the truck. The camp was sparse, toilets with cold water, covered area for cooking but no facilities. Brian made tomato soup with tofu & broccoli, not the greatest culinary dish but hot. Retired to the tent just before it started to rain with a vengeance, thunder & lightning for much of the night. Some tents got lown out & some had had to move under cover as tents let in water. Our Taj seems to be doing the job now that we are learning more about it.
Next morning it was still raining steadily when we were called for map meeting at 8am. Left about 9.30 for a relatively short ride & boat ride to the island of Miyajima a very popular tourist retreat.
It was blowing a gale. In fact a tornado warning was put out & the boats stopped running for 2 hours. We had lunch in the town & great gusts of wind were upturning tables. Rode out a few bays to our campsite. It was a public holiday so nothing open except toilets with running cold water. Such a cold wind that we made dinner in the tent & were in bed before 7pm.
Next day wind had dropped & campsite looked idyllic right on the beach. Lots of deer on this island, only a nuisance if people feed them. Our rest day was a visit to the Peace Park in Hiroshima. Caught the boat across & a train into the city. The Hiroshima Peace park is a lovely green space with a museum commemorating the atomic bomb being dropped on the city & killing over 100,000 people.
Spent a hour reading of the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s & how they forced people from China & Korea to live in Japan & support their war effort.
Returned to the island about 4.30 & cycled about 5km along the foreshore. Bob & Brian were keen to go to a bar & I met Maryla who was looking for a Japanese bathhouse. We rode for 1/2 hour looking & had almost given up when we were directed to a hotel. Although it closed at 5pm to the public they allowed us in & we spent an hour soaking & scrubbing & applying moisturiser. Met up with Bob & Brian for a meal of pancake, egg, cabbage concoction which is quite tasty. Returned to camp about 9 pm.
Left at 8.30 am for our tripl out of Hiroshima. Caught the ferry across & cycled a fairly busy road using the footpaths most of the way. It is slower but safer & totally acceptable to pedestrians.
After a couple of hours we were still in the city but had cleared the centre. Had a brief coffee stop. Asked directions & continued on climbing a pass to the town of Kumano famous for its calligraphy brush industry. Finally reached the coastline town of Takehara an Edo Samurai town where they have preserved 120 houses along the main street & often use them in Samurai productions. Decided to stop for a meal as it was 4 pm & we had another 40+ Kms to go.
Darkness fell at about 6.30 before we reached Onomichi. The directions to our camp were a bit vague so we spent some time at the Railway station asking the way & establishing no one we knew was around. Started out on the final 7km to find that the road got decidedly steep & once again we were climbing a mountain. At the top we went for help to an office which was still open at 8 pm to be told only 1km further up. To everyone’s surprise we arrived in camp at 9 pm the last but for 3. I think there were wagers out that we would be tucked up in a hotel. It was 10 by the time we pitched the tent & had a hot shower so we were pleased we had eaten at 4.30.
Back to Onomichi but it was all downhill. This day was probably the most enjoyable to date as we took a route established in 1998 which connect 7 islands by some impressive bridges to get to Imabari. We caught a ferry to the first island as the bridge has no cycle lane & is considered dangerous. This didn’t deter most of the BaltiCCycle group. The whole route is marked along the roadside so it’s impossible to get lost. The bridges cover 20km with the longest to Imabari being 6.4km. The whole route is about 80km. It follows the coastline quite a lot but at times goes inland. There are many ports, boat building & a fair amount of industry on these islands. Strong sea currents around the Seto inland sea. To our delight our sleeping-place Sunrise Itoyama Cycling terminal was adjacent to the great Kurushima-kaki yo Ohashi bridge. It came with hot showers & spa which was wonderful after a day head winds.
Next morning had a great breakfast carrot soup bacon & eggs. Very friendly waitress took photos of us & gave us Japanese bean filled nougats to take with us.
Left the coast & crossed Shikoku along the river. Easy riding following the railway but traffic heavy. Moved to quiet village road with Maryla & Sigitas until we finally reached the group at Kamojima Railway station. Bill had found a sleeping place by a baseball pitch with basic portaloos.
Left Kamojima after 20km ride by ferry for Wakayama 2 hours resting up after an exhausting week. Crossed river by bridge & hit the right road leading us out of town around the coast. Some young girls told us the camp was at the top of a hill so after a strenuous climb we found a hotel & watched the sun set. Biked back & set up tent. Hot shower & washing machine was welcome.
Next morning Brian led us on a wild goose chase before having to back-track some 10km. Ride was flat til last 23km which took 21/2 hours to climb to Koyasan high in the mountains. This is the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. First settled in 816. We were lucky to arrive at the temple as a pilgrimage was visiting so special ceremonies & concert taking place.
At 8 pm we rode out of town a few km to a park with toilet facilities & good lighting. Rained during the night so lots of wet gear to pack up.
Long downhill ride in light drizzle. When we reached the first town the rain got steadier & the day became a battle with the elements. 110km to Yoyo a small town between Nara & Kyoto.
Visits to Nara & Kyoto
Caught train to Nara where it was a easy 20 minute walk to the park of temples, shrines & National Museum. Lots of Japanese students visiting & the most foreign tourists we have seen on the trip.
In the temple containing one of the biggest Buddahs in Japan there is a column with a narrow hollow at the base. Many of the school children line up to see if they can fit through. I had a go & easily slid through on the shiny stone floor.
Next day visited Kyoto by rail. The central Kyoto station originally built, has been rebuilt. It is several storeys high, full of restaurants, dept stores, subway & rail trains. It is teeming with people commuting & travelling all over Japan.
Caught a bus to the canals where cherry blossoms were at their best. Temples on almost every corner.
Tday’s ride 110km to Matsusaka the home of the best grain-fed beef in Japan. Road towards Uji was mostly along a river & very picturesque with the blossoms but large trucks demanded total concentration on the road.
In Uji a shogun promoted cultivation of green tea in the area. Tsuen tea has been served since 1160 & is still sold in the oldest tea sop in Japan. Had lunch in Iga-Ueno a castle town. It was home to the Ninja, the most feared spy of Japan’s feudal time.
Weather cleared & alto still cold 11 degrees it was much more pleasant riding quieter roads, lots of blossom, paddy fields. Met Kiwi guy at a convenience store who lived in the area. He told us the motorist in an accident with a cyclist is always found guilty. Explains why drivers are so courteous here.
Sun set & still searching for our camp ground. Met up with other cyclists who had found a local to guide us in her car. It was the next road but hen an uphill ride for 15 mins. Arrived 7 pm.
Set up tent & went for shower. Turned out to be full Japanese Incense bath house. Wonderful back massage from the jets.
15th April back brakes failing so travelled in car with Bill. Sunday so little chance of finding a bike shop for the new brake pads. Auganius switched front pad to back but still need hydraulic oil. Free camped at above a dam surrounded by trees in blossom & looking out to a wind turbine. Arrived as sun was setting. Brian was in shitty mood as had missed turn-off to camp & annoyed about poor servicing from Giant in Auckland. A friend of Sigitas, Manu (mad old cyclist), joined us in the morning to guide us to the coastal port of Toba. A group provided lunch of Miso, rice cakes & small desserts for us although Bill & I never found them.
Note from Kawaguchiko near Mt Fuji to Kamakura
The 4 Lithuanian men & Maryla arrived back safely from climbing to the top of Mt Fuji. It was out of season, covered in deep snow & they climbed unguided through the night. They had found the station where people usually stay overnight was closed but instead found some emergency boxes which they climbed into & slept till 1 am. They climbed with crampons but no ice axes & two people had Leki poles.
We noticed when they were in NZ that they seem to have no fear of danger in mountains. Although weather down by the lake was overcast with showers it was fine at the top & they did get photos.
Having returned at 4 pm they were up at 7 am preparing for the day’s cycling to Kamakura. Bill was returning from Tokyo with a friend of Sigitas’ called Takayama. A young man Katsu arrived by train to guide us to Kamakura. They announced it would be 140km & we were ready to leave at 10 am. Visibility around the lake was poor although quite a few fishermen standing in small dinghies will their lines out. Pedal boats in the shape of swans & then out of the mist emerged a tourist boat with a large swan head on top. Not much traffic so cycled around the back of Lake Yaksmanaka whjich was pleasant. Climbed for 3km and then had a very steep descent for 7km. It was a nice change not having to worry about directions & being led along back streets through small towns.
A couple of short stops through the day at convenience stores for food. At 4 pm Katsu announced we had 40km left so I suspect they said 140km when it was actually 104km, a welcome mistake.
Followed a new cycle path along the coast for about 15km. Lots of surfers out trying to catch some small waves.
Arrived at the Peace Headquarters in Kamakura at 6 pm. We were escorted to the local bathhouse several blocks away & asked to be back by 7.15 pm for the Peace prayer ceremony. This took about half an hour as they had flags for 194 countries & we all took turns to hold a flag up.
A wonderful meal was served of a delicious soup, potato croquettes, broccoli salad, rice balls, fruit & sweets.
Slept on mattresses on the floor, very similar to staying on a Marae. Takayama had stayed the night & in the morning at 6.30 am he cycled with a group of us to the town shrine. When we returned the ladies had returned & prepared a great breakfast for us. One of the men suggested we all sing our National anthem & wave our country’s flag. Bill is a most unenthusiastic singer but somehow we struggled through God Dfend NZ & to our disgrace couldn’t offer the Maori version. Bob who is the lone Scotsman gave a great rendition of a Scottish song protesting about the wrongs done to Scotland. Not sure whether the Japanese picked it up but they are too polite to comment. The Japanese group sang with real commitment & then performed some Taichi-like movements.
This organisation exists in other parts of Japan, Germany and other countries.
Takayama guided us in his car into Tokyo via Yokohama. As it was Sunday traffic was not too heavy & without the worry of navigating the ride was more enjoyable. Came via a huge Theme Park which seem very popular in Japan, some large central parks. Passed a couple of groups demonstrating in the streets. Shopping areas packed with young people.
Visited the onsan for bath time & then had an excellent meal of sushimi, tuna, an egg concoction & caviar on squid.
We stayed in Takayama’s grand-parents house for 2 days packing up for our flight to Los Angeles and relaxing. Takayama took countless photographs of us and was a wonderful host.
Takayama’s mother sent breakfast for us. We had scemona, pickled vegetables, kasheawatchi in vine leaves & kareota (a sweet). These people certainly reinforced our feeling about the Japanese people as friendly and generous.
Los Angeles to Death Valley
Arrived from Tokyo and had a 30 hour stay at Geneva Beach near a large marina. Visited the bike shop & assembled our bikes with no time for sight-seeing. On Friday morning a Polish film crew arrived to televise & interview the Polish cyclists in our group. They filmed us leaving town along the beachfront route to Santa Monica. The tidy beachfront houses were a stark contrast to the rather shabby retail area close to where we were staying. Even on the beachfront Parade there were signs of homeless people among the joggers, roller-bladers & surfers.
We left the coast and climbed up into the suburbs of Beverley Hills & Hollywood. We stopped at the Avenue of the Stars (messages from film stars in the pavement) where a Police Woman moved us on & attempted to banish us to the back streets. Some street vendors selling tour passes & food took a lot of interest in our trip & made quite a fuss of us. It was a long ride through suburbs (about 60km) to clear LA city & eventually reach Lake Castaic. Our van eventually caught up with us at 9pm after a drama gaining insurance cover.
Set out in front of group & climbed a couple of long hills before realising we’d missed a turn-off & had to retract for 3/4 hour. By now temperatures had soared & it was 3 hot hours before we reached a small township & one shop. Cooled down with cold drinks, sandwiches & ice creams & set out again to knock off some more Kms. Had a wonderful downhill, wind-assisted ride of 10km to realise we had turned right at the wrong intersection & had to back-track again. Six of us had made this mistake. Got out to some large open plains & were assaulted by a fierce cross wind. We still had 35km to ride. Eva who had only started in LA was struggling with the wind & called up Yever our driver to come & meet her. Brian & I felt it was a waste not to fill the truck for the last 30km while Bill punched on. He was into camp at 10pm & the last arrivals were Natalia & Wojtik who found McDonalds but struggled to find the camp until 1am.
Woke the next morning to find thousands of wind turbines in the nearby hills & dozens of 747s seemingly abandoned in fields near the airport. California City (a small low – economy town) was our last chance to shop before heading out into the Californian desert . There have been some big climbs & some thrilling downhill rides. Some of the scenery has been like a moonscape, mountains, sand-dunes & gravel flats.
DeathValley, Las Vegas & Route 66.
Our trip through Death Valley to Furnace Creek was an endurance test where temperatures soared to 100 farenheit most days. We quickly realised that we needed to consume litres of water each day & start soon after sunrise. There were long distances between towns and little to no shade to stop in. Many towns along the way are today Ghost towns with few if any people living in them but many of the buildings still standing as if in a time warp. One town with 12 inhabitants had an opera house, hotel & tea rooms. A local woman had her final performance there early this year & from photos she was not much younger than the buildings.
The country opened up into wide expansive desert valleys with mountains in the background. One day riding to Paramint Springs we were entertained by the US Airforce training in their jets. Parts of the landscape resembled the moon huge barren boulder filled landscape. I’ve since been told that astronauts trained here before taking off into outer space. The National Park campground in Furnace Creek was disappointing with no shade & gravel to pitch the tents on. Brian & I opted for a pleasant hotel room nearby for the night. The intense heat prevented us from much sight-seeing preferring to use the hotel swimming pool & catch up with Internet. We left at 6am just in time to see the sun rising at Zabriski Point over some very gnarly rock formations.
It was surreal arriving out of the desert into Las Vegas. We camped one night north of the city in the hills & beside an iconic hotel reminiscent of the Puhoi Pub & a favourite with the Bikies from Vegas. We cycled down Las Vegas Boulevard which has replicas of every international icon. The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the canals of Venice, the Pyramids of Egypt. you name it it’s there.
Grand Canyon, Monument Valley
We took a roundabout route to the Grand Canyon to avoid busy roads but still had to use some motorways. Our first day out of Las Vegas took us to the Hoover Dam built over the Colorado River in the 1930s. Since September 11 terrorist attacks a bypass road has been built with an impressive concrete & steel arch bridge which extends 450m high above the dam. A million tourists visit the dam each year. After cycling 90km we descended 8km to Willow Beach on the Mohave Lake popular with boaties. We weren’t very happy to hear that the camp ground was 2 miles uphill in some clay banks. Several cyclists came in in the dark.
Arrived at Peach Springs home of the Navarjo Indian & from where they operate tours to the Canyon. Slept in a Gymnasium which was about 20m from a railway track. Trains were coming through every 20 mins at one stage but somehow we slept well.
As we got closer to the Canyon the number of camper vans increased hugely though traffic was well-behaved. Worst offenders are buses used as campers that tow a car on a trailer & don’t allow us any clearance driving you off the road. We were enjoying a relatively leisurely ride on a straight road when a gust of wind hit me from the side & lifted bike & moi into a ditch. Another scar below the knee but healing well.
Loved the Grand Canyon visiting most of the Southern Rim by shuttle buses that run free all day. Walked down a short distance into the Canyon on the Bright Angel trail. The rock faces are dramatic. The next day when we cycled out we continued to get stunning views of the Canyon right down to the Colorado river. The history of the park is well documented back to the time of the Hopi Indians & the settlers who came in the late 19th century to mine and made their fortune setting up tourism.
Just when we thought the trip may become boring we entered Monument Valley large open desert filled with towering monuments, sand salt buttes. Our camp was set in this dramatic amphitheatre but unfortunately it blew a gale and the red sandy ground stuck to everything. The ride out to Bluff continued through this rock carved countryside. There we had our first grassy campsite for many days & the next day entered a well irrigated valley. Barren land suddenly gave way to green grassy paddocks and life-style block. We were invited to a school field day by local people. The 20 students at the school are Ute Indian & white Americans. Families have fought to keep this small school going & had just had a 5 year approval. We met a couple who had live in NZ in the 70s & helped start up a commune near Takaka. Turned out they had been in the film we watched with Lynette & Ken „Dirty Old Hippies”. They now run permaculture gardens with their daughter & her family. Camped in a paddock owned by Dorothea an interesting matriarch who had settled in the area in the 70s. Next morning she took us on a tour climbing huge boulders and looking down into a canyon. She had many stories about breaking in the farm with the help of many strapping Cowboys. She too had her daughter and grand-children living & working on the farm.
Now at Mesa Verde where we cycled 7km up through the park. Today we toured in the van another 30 miles to visit cliff-hung Pueblo houses built in 12th century. There are about 20 places where archeologists have uncovered villages and restored them.
California – Kansas
Well a lot of ground has beencovered but not much time found for writing. The landscape since we entered Colorado has changed dramatically moving into green pastures, rivers and mountains. Just like John Denver’s songs.
Camped one night beside a white water river at Priest Gulch on the Dolores river. Bill had the beer chilling in the river when we arrived. The next day we rode to Telluride surrounded by steep forested mountains and cliffs and in winter a popular ski resort. The town appeared to be flourishing with festivals on most weekends of the summer.
We had a long ride with a steep climb over the Dallas Divide to Ridgway, John Wayne country and the setting for many westerns. Our stay was in Montrose, one of the larger towns we had been in since Vegas. The group were visiting Black Canyon the next day but as the camp was well shaded with lush grass, a pool and cabins we opted for an early rest day.
We met up with the group at Elk creek after one of our toughest rides into a head wind and climbing the Cerro Summit to 2541 metres. We were blasted by cross winds as we cycled down to the lake. So bad was the wind we sought refuge in the boat marina restaurant and ate dinner before reluctantly moving to the campsite. It was Memorial weekend so many campers around. There we were buffeted by high winds while pitching the tent which eased about midnight. The rest day was cancelled on account of the wind and we continued to Sargents a one horse town at the base of Monarch’s Pass. Over night temperatures dropped to -7F. Our rest day was spent inside the restaurant as the only other cool place was a large teepee.
It was a 2 hour steady climb to the top of Monarch Pass where a cable car took us to the summit at 13000 ft. There was a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains many of which are taller than Mt Cook. After this 10km climb we had a very fast downhill to Salida. We have found that by leaving the main highway which has all the fast food chains we can find the old towns few blocks away with a variety of small shops & good eateries. After a fast ride through a canyon, some large ice creams & a break we took a small side road & immediately encountered a stiff head wind & a gradual climb for 20 miles. Although Brian got grumpy with yet another hilly ride he had to admit that the scenery was worth it. Suddenly we were in the Waikato ( green pastures with cattle). Our camp at hIllside looked out to the mountains we had left & was not really a camp site. Rod & Pammy who rented the adjacent cottage invited us to use their bathroom for showers and kitchen. They were celebrating their first month of marriage & seemed excited to be hosting us. Janek was Master of Ceremonies & introduced everyone as his English improved through the evening. In the morning they were up to check we all had what we needed & handed out Sport drinks.
Have crossed into Kansas yesterday & past 3 days since Pueblo have been very flat, dry & arid. The other night we arrived in a small town called Ordway to find the RV Park was closed. Some locals referred us to a NZ woman who has lived here for 17 years & opens her house to cyclists. Brian & I got the guest bedroom & the others a cabin & her lounge floor. She had sailed with her children in the Pacific for a number of years, met an American & settled in Ordway. Three years ago her house & barns burnt to the ground in a major fire through the area. At the time a couple of fire fighters died. Gillian has rebuilt & has an extensive garden & orchard growing. She told us how the area which was once quite fertile is becoming a dust bowl since land owners sold water rights to large Corporations. Camilla, a Country & Western singer was staying at Gillian’s & entertained us. She was a very Interesting lady with lots of stories.
The next night we camped on a town green beside the Court House. I wondered why the Sherrif kept driving by but must have been patrolling the town which he could circle in 5 minutes. He came with pistol on his hip to tell us the Court building would be open until 9 pm for us to use the restrooms.
Yesterday left at 6.15am to avoid the strong winds that blow from about 11am. Saw hare, deer & one live rattle snake & all was going well till Brian got his first puncture. He realised that the tyre was completely worn & was a bit sheepish that he hadn’t really noticed. Anyway we fixed the puncture & he did make it to the big town of Tribune, pop.750 where he has been able to buy a cheap replacement until he can get a good tyre couriered. It was Saturday & a town Gala happening. Vintage cars from around the region up to 100 miles away. We pitched our tent & then discovered there was a tornado warning out. At about 5pm we decided to drop the tent although most of the others left them up. A BBQ dinner was being held across the road in a hall so we had dinner & frequently took a look outside at the fork lightning & strengthening wind. Four of us slept in a nearby school gym but the rest camped. The gale was over within a couple of hours but pity help them if it had been closer. The Fire Brigade were called out to several barn fires from the lightning.
Last week four of our group went home having travelled from LA. Natalia, Wojtek & Ewa from Poland and John from Ireland. All people we have cycled with previously so it was very good to catch up with them. Natalia always looks like she has just walked out of the Beauty Parlour even after riding 100km & once we heard the locals in a shop saying „Model!” she also makes a habit of passing most of the men except Janek. Big John makes Bill K. look small and moi a midget. He is quite famous for breaking bikes & on this trip he managed to break one pedal & a chain in a week. On the other hand he is very helpful & spent hours cleaning our bike chains with a nifty gadget he’d bought. Another time Brian & I found ourselves on a very busy highway with trucks thundering by & I was struggling in the gravel on the roadside. John came along & said, „I’ll ride behind you a metre out so the trucks will give you a wide berth”. What a guy! We all lived to tell the tale.
Recently it was our 100th day cycling which we celebrated in the small town of Rush Center, Pop. 170, two liquor shops & two burger bars. Yeva our driver brought a big chocolate cake to celebrate & Janek was as usual very dangerous with the vodka bottle. We 're half way across the States but still a lot of miles to go.
Thanks to those people who continue to write and make our day when we find wifi at our daily coffee stops. Coffee does not have the status it does in NZ. Have found 2 excellent cafes in six weeks. The usual fare is filter coffee.
Taking a rest day in a small Arkansas town called Eureka. The 6am starts are catching up with us.
Two Nights and a Day in Jail
Although the vast flat wheat plains of Kansas have been tedious riding at times with straight roads stretching for 10 miles & beyond and strong winds from the side we have found the people of Kansas County friendly & helpful. Traffic has been light except for the few days when wheat harvesting meant we shared the roads with huge combine harvesters. The whole process from tilling the soil to planting, spraying & harvest is done by enormous machinery.
Several times when camping on small village greens local people have arrived with water melon, stopped to chat & make sure we are fine. There has not been a single official camp ground in the past two weeks except the forest park at Toronto Lake. In the small town of Hudson pop. 120 we were met by some senior members of the town. The wind was getting up so they insisted we stay in their community hall which had highly polished floors, bathrooms, kitchen and dining room where we set up our bedrooms. One lady arrived with two freshly baked loaves of bread. Towns over 300 pop. usually have a swimming pool so a shower & a swim at the end of the day are a hit with the cyclists. Sadly there are many country towns that are dying where the shops have all closed & less than 100 people live there. Law & order don’t seem to be a problem. Certainly we have felt very safe in our rather public camps. Every town however small has a Sherrif who is elected by the community.
This morning as we crossed into Missouri we saw a sign that read,” Littering offences may earn a fine up to $ 1000 or a year in jail.” Maybe a little punitive. Along all the Highways are signs saying that individuals or community groups sponsor litter collection.
Since arriving in Missouri the roar of V8 engines revving loudly is a common sound. Our camp outside the Court House in Hartville had a steady stream of these petrol heads passing till late at night and resumed before we departed at 7am. V8s and Christian Churches are at every corner, strange companions. A man on a rotunda in town this afternoon reminiscent of Billy Graham was preaching from a microphone to no audience. We have also seen women from the Mennonite sect who are easily identified in their long skirts and bonnets. They usually farm the land with little use of machines and sell produce to the local community.
Two American & a young English cyclist are camping with us tonight. As the Americans are traveling west we have been exchanging stories but don’t like theirs much, steep hills & fierce mountain dogs.
It turned out that there was only one day of steep climbing which we all handled after 110 days in the saddle. Many cyclists we have met spoke highly of the Cyclist accommodation in Farmington Al’s Place set up especially for cyclists to relax in on their Trans-American Trail Adventure. The building was used as a jail from 1880 to 1996 but has recently undergone a major make-over. Air-conditioning, wi-fi, fully-equipped kitchen & laundry.
Blue Grass, Bible Belt and Heat Waves.
Crossed from Missouri into Illinois by crossing the Mississippi River to Chester. This was the home of the creator of Pop-Eye the Sailor man and figures of him are dotted around the town. We spent the afternoon at the local community pool as temperatures were in the high 90s. Most of the pools we have visited are fitted with diving boards & slides but not designed for training. All have young life guards.
Rail track running between the river and main road when we first left town and dozens of trucks and trailers queuing to load. Cycled along the Levie Rd. following the Mississippi. No traffic at all just views of cornfields, an occasional farm house and glimpses of the river. Our route occasionally crosses motorways but generally the roads have very light traffic. Today I saw a rattlesnake weaving across the road and nearby a small turtle. The heat of the road attracts them but often they are casualties. Stayed at Little Grassy Lake campground with many American families who move in for the summer. Most of them come to fish catfish. It was pleasant until the evening when sand flies arrived and had quite a feed of us new-comers. We were surprised at the amount of traffic around the camp until we realised that every time someone wanted to use the restrooms 200 m away it involved taking the car out.
Temperatures seem to be increasing by the day. Apparently it is unseasonably hot. Very happy tonight that we are staying in a large open plan house with lots of fans working. Missouri is real Bible Belt country and some of the Churches have kindly adopted the Cyclists on the Trans-American route. The Methodist Church in Marion offered us the run of their 3 storey complex with commercial kitchen and ice- maker at our disposal. The following night in Sebree we stayed at the Baptist Church complex where they use a centre for Youth as a Cyclist’s Hostel. The Pastor’s wife invited us to a superb meal in the manse which she prepares whenever cyclists arrive. There were nine of us there that night. Earlier we attended the Sebree Purple Opree Bluegrass jam session. The resident band were late 60s-80. Many of the audience took their turn on stage & the oldest was 88. I saw one woman who had been dancing sit down & quickly swallow a pill to recover her breath. Pop corn and puddings were on hand.
During the day we met a family group of tandem cyclists towing trailers. They were cycling from Yorktown to Oregon! Two families with 9 children ages 8-15. They were amazingly confident and friendly & all appeared to be having a great holiday. I think they had a strong trust in God looking after them. One family were moving to Africa as missionaries.
Our rest day this week was at Rough River Dam State Park. We found a comfortable hotel room over-looking the river which lifts one’s energy much faster than having a rest day in a hot tent. My bike got its first puncture in 120 days since Beijing – a metal strip I picked up outside the hotel. Most of the group went out for a couple of hours on the river while Brian & I had a very lazy time swimming, reading & surfing the net.
Some of our route can stretch 20-30 miles without a food shop. Small town America offers but one menu in its Diners or restaurants – deep-fried food, burgers, very basic salads and creme pie. Oh I forgot the real favourite „Biscuits and Gravy”. This dish is actually scones smothered in a white sauce. It is sad to see the large number of very obese young people but not surprising given the diet on offer. This morning we had cycled 3 hours, stopped outside a store with little signage & a lot of junk lying about. No sign of being open. I tried the first of a double door & it opened to a hardware food store. The owner was most welcoming, made us ham & cheese sandwiches ( thick slices cut from the bone), had a visitors’ book for cyclists full of praise for this man & gave us free Popsicles as we left. Life is full of surprises.
The rolling countryside of Kentucky has been some of the easiest & picturesque of the trip. Many of the large farms seem to have been sub-divided into life-style blocks. Houses built among old Oak trees and an acre of neatly mown lawn. Have been travelling through Abraham Lincoln territory with many Museums and Parks with old homesteads lived in by the Lincoln clan. Liz, Aiden’s wife from Ireland has joined us and is coping well with the cycling and managing Aiden. The biggest challenge for her is coping with the record high temperatures that have hit Kentucky. Forecast five days over 100F, so the Walkers will be on the road by 6.30 am.
Two days of temperatures reaching 111F were enough for us to escape the next morning even though it was a rest day and ride off at 6 am to find the nearest hotel room. 64 Kms over hills in the Appellacian Mountains and 6 hours later we found the Guest house Inn, air-conditioned with a cool indoor pool.
We slept for an hour. Thunder storms during the night and severe wind storms in nearby counties.
Our last two days in Kentucky have reflected the hospitality and honesty we’ve encountered across the States. Brian has been testing honesty by regularly leaving his wallet lying on counter tops in country stores. I had given him several warnings but to no avail. On Sunday morning we had been eating breakfast in a small Diner when he noticed he didn’t have his wallet. Checked his front bike bag – no wallet. Staff helped us search the shop – nothing. He even said he’d need to call the Police when I went out to his bike & found it sitting on the back rack of his bike. It had been there for an hour.
Our last two days in Kentucky have reflected the hospitality and honesty we’ve encountered across the States. Brian has been testing honesty by regularly leaving his wallet lying on counter tops in country stores. I had given him several warnings but to no avail. On Sunday morning we had been eating breakfast in a small Diner when he noticed he didn’t have his wallet. Checked his front bike bag – no wallet. Staff helped us search the shop – nothing. He even said he’d need to call the Police when I went out to his bike & found it sitting on the back rack of his bike. It had been there for an hour.
Virginia, Hill Billies, Wild Dogs – Howdy
Yesterday we arrived at a country cycle hostel situated up a very steep driveway. Shortly after we arrived a car drove up and beckoned us over. The people had seen Brian’s wallet fall from his pocket onto the road as we left a store loaded with groceries. They had guessed we were staying at the Hostel and tracked us down. The only country we’ve found such honesty was Saudi Arabia and they cut hands off for theft there.
When we arrived at David’s Haven for cyclists in Hindman he greeted us with a tray of iced tea at the top of his driveway. He has an alarm on his driveway which alerts him to cyclists arriving and he whips out with the drink tray. We arranged our own dinner but he served huge bowls of ice-cream and a cognac before we retired. Breakfast was cereal, pawpaw, bananas, apples, grapes, two large helpings of cake and coffee. We left before 7 am and arrived at the very small town of Look-out to stay with a Baptist Church group. A group of young people from Idaho were visiting for the week to run a summer camp for the local children. We spent the afternoon in the air-conditioned gym watching basketball coaching, story-telling and games. The community Facilities here are run by Pastor Greg (CherokeeIndian), his wife Alice, son and a team of locals. One of the key people is Rita who looks after the kitchen & often feeds hungry cyclists. The group from Idaho invited us to share the gym with them and join them for dinner. Exceptional people!!
July 4 th celebrations were a bit of a let-down as we were staying in the very small town of Council. The expected Fire Works extravaganza did not happen where we were but that may be good as the heat wave & lack of rain would have presented quite a fire risk in this heavily forested area. Charlie from North Carolina, a Professional Photographer whom Ieva, our driver, had met, arrived with special cup cakes to celebrate Independence Day. Sigitas & Maryla arrived with a giant water-melon & a large chocolate cake and we all sang Happy Birthday to America.
Climbing out of the Apalacians has not been all that difficult as the forest scenery has provided very welcome shade and distraction from the tough climbs. The rewards of course are the great descents after each climb. A bit like child-birth, the pain is quickly forgotten.
On our way to Damascus we experienced a storm which brought lots of large trees and branches down on the road. We were lucky as we could see the storm coming and sheltered in a Diner for about an hour. One of the cyclists had a tree fall across the road 50 m ahead of him so sought shelter with locals. Thousands of people have been without power as a result of several storms coming through. We were lucky as we could see the storm coming and sheltered in a Diner for about an hour. One of the cyclists had a tree fall across the road 50 m ahead of him so sought shelter in a house. Aiden & Liz from Ireland were also caught in it and a little traumatised when we met them. They continue to have more adventures than most of us. Liz saw two black bears among the trees and insists it wasn’t the ornamental one I saw in a garden. Then they were almost arrested when they were apprehended by the Police for cycling on the motorway by mistake. The luck of the Irish! The Police called a tow truck to deliver them free of charge to our motel. Liz does have style. The day before she stopped the traffic and demanded some people tied their Alsatian up before she proceeded. Most of us accelerate and get the hell out of it.
You may wonder how we are managing in these temperatures often above 40C. All small towns have air-conditioned libraries with wifi so they are a more popular stop than the Diners or Fast Food outlets selling very ordinary food. Libraries were built in country towns when often children had to travel 20 miles to school. Today many of the schools in small towns are closing down and children are being bussed 10 miles to school. Hopefully the libraries will survive. Thanks for all those emails that keep us going.
As we get closer to Washington DC we are seeing motorways and large towns for the first time in months. We still follow the Tranz-American Cycleway for a few days and believe that Washington has some good cycle paths. We are meeting my cousin Heather and husband Jim who are driving all the way from Holland Massachusetts to spend four days together.
Next news will be from Ireland when we cycle from Dublin on July 20 th with 30 people to London.
Dia is mhuire dibh!
Flew into Shannon where we were met by a very nice Irishman whose Gaelic dialect had us all guessing. A couple of hours scenic drive to Portmagee was very picturesque but during the trip everyone regrettably fell asleep from exhaustion. Ireland is 5 hours ahead of Washington DC in time so our 7.30pm flight for 5 hours effectively meant we lost a night’s sleep. Two days of sunshine the first for the summer according to locals. Unpacked the bikes to find the back derailleur on my bike was in pieces. No luck at the local bike shop so had to order online with a delay of several days & delivery to Cork. I was offered a bike by a local man, a fairly rusted child’s bike. A short time later Irish Liz who cycled in America with us rang to offer me her bike and she would send through to Kenmare.
Visited Skellig Michael an early medieval monastery settlement on steep slopes of a rocky island 12 km off the South East coast. A good work-out climbing 640 steps to the stone buildings. In the afternoon we had 50 km to ride along the Kerry Coast, very scenic but a little painful on the legs as the bike seat was rusted in & couldn’t be adjusted. Very relieved on arrival at Kenmare.
It was a misty ride to Toon Bridge over the hills where we met Liz & Aiden. We cycled to McCoom passing the large Lake of the Iniscarra Dam. Had a cider at the Pub there before riding to Cork. Arrived at the Cork University Apartments & 5 minutes later were called to ride into town to meet a group of Polish cyclists. Cork had a Cycling Festival on for a week with an art exhibition with a bicycle theme displayed in the shops. We spent an hour at the Apartments before taking a taxi to a party Liz & Aiden had arranged at their local Parish hall. We were entertained by some young Irish dancers who tour the world & were very professional. We had a wonderful buffet meal. One of Liz’s helpers was an 85 year old nun who had made all the cakes. She had won an award for Person of the Year in Cork this year. We were all given a lesson in Irish dancing which was quite hilarious.
We were invited to breakfast at the Cork County Council where John Lynch (our organiser) had just retired as a City Engineer. From the top floor of the 16 storey building we had a wonderful view of this very pretty city. A couple of Irish women we had met at the party the night before had said they were keen to cycle with us. As we rode down a busy town centre Mary & Regina shouted out to us from a corner cafe. They accompanied us for the rest of the day acting as guides and Regina gave Brian a wonderful account of the history of the towns. We stopped for a great afternoon tea & were joined by most of the BC group. These two most generous & flamboyant ladies insisted on picking up the tab. School teachers in Ireland must be well paid! Hope to meet up with some of these wonderful people we’ve met in Ireland to repay their generosity.
No camping in Ireland as John thought it was too big a gamble given the weather. We stayed in Gaelic Football clubs, a Curling Club and In Dublin College apartments alongside hundreds of young Italian students on holiday courses. John led us on a great tour around Dublin. Warm sunny day as we visited Trinity University, the National Museum and St Patrick’s Cathedral. Dublin was packed with young tourists.
We arrived at Holyhead by catamaran from Dublin crossing a flat calm Irish Sea. We cycled about 5 km to the Blackthorn Farm Campsite on the island of Anglesea in mid-South western Wales. A cool 15C but beautiful views to the coast and nearby beach town of Treaddur. We cycled down there to watch the Olympic opening ceremony at a Hotel & faced a wet, dark ride home at midnight.
The next day we visited the Italian style village of Portmeirion built between 1925 and 1975 by a Welshman Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. It is one of the main tourist attractions of north Wales. On our way to camp we passed through Gwynedd an attractive village and home of Harlech Castle. It was built by King Edward 1 in the 14th century & is built on a cliff close to the Irish sea. A steep ride down to Shell Island a windblown seaside camp site where we camped with hundreds of Welsh holiday makers doing their best in very inclement summer weather.
The next day we joined the Welsh National Cycle Network which covers 250 miles. We crossed the Menai Strait via the Menai Suspension Bridge to the mainland. We revisited Caernarfon Castle which sits prominently overlooking the strait. The next two days we climbed some serious hills mainly on cycle paths or narrow back roads a car’s width wide. One has to take care not to brush nettles along the roadside which leave an itchy welt for a few hours.
Despite all the miles of cycling we’ve done this year we were pleased to reach the downhill section which brought us through the coal valleys to Cardiff. Welsh scenery is lush and beautiful in the countryside and wild flowers along the roadside compete with private gardens teeming with colour. Despite all this we are starting to feel ready for some home comforts. It’s amazing to me that the camping & cycling lifestyle is only just waning. Just hope I can hold out to London.
Crossed into England on another showery summer day. The Caen Hill Locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal are a set of 29 locks that have a rise of 237 feet in 2 miles. It is not a place I would choose to take a canal boat but it is a big tourist attraction. We crossed the Salisbury Plains through an Army Tank Training Ground. Luckily most of the Army were busy helping with the Olympic Games. Nearby was Stonehenge the prehistoric monuments set in a circular pattern. We joined crowds of tourists for a short walk around the large standing stones. A bit under-whelming but they date back to about 3100 BC. That evening we received a shock to hear that Maryla had to leave the tour for her Aunt and God-mother’s funeral in Poland. Maryla has been with us since Beijing and with Sigitas has been responsible for the planning and daily maps all the way to Washington DC. We wish her all the best in her new job in Wroclaw and thank her for all the work she did on the tour.
The next day we cycled through the very pretty old town of Bradford-on-Avon. It seemed a shame not to have more time to enjoy. Stopped in Bath to visit a laundromat in a very nice part of town – The Circus. I don’t understand why British camp grounds have washing machines but no driers, given the unpredictable weather. Cycled around the town and then joined the canal path, a slow muddy trip passing the many long boats moored by the bank side. Most were homes for the owners judging by the extensive roof gardens and equipment on board.
As we were nearing London we came through Eton and passed by Eton College and the rowing course used for the Olympics. Eton was packed with tourists especially around Windsor Castle. By now we had reached the Thames River and enjoyed cycling along its banks with rowing and kayaking squads working out on the river. We reached Hampton Court with its beautiful buildings and gardens set on the edge of the Thames. We camped that night in the Hockey grounds of Subita.
We have arrived!! Yeh!
Well yesterday we reached Tower Bridge in London with a Police escort from near Hampton Court. Five Policemen with bikes and jackets in bright fluoro led us past the tourist sights, along the Thames, stopped traffic in busy streets to keep the group of 30 together, had lunch with us at the Wet land Centre and brought us safely to the hub of London Tower Bridge.
Brian & I were interviewed by ZB Radio and I believe it aired last night on News Talk (caught by Margaret Newcombe). Another journalist from Fairfax took some photos and interviewed Bill, Brian & me. By this time we had lost the group but when we caught up with them at a bar got a wonderful surprise to find Sue & Don Evans waiting for us.
It was difficult to galvanise ourselves into cycling the final 15 km to Blackheath Rugby Club where we are camping for the final few days of the tour. Enjoyed another stop in Grenwich packed with tourists watching the Olympics on big screens and finally felt part of the Olympic crowd. We enjoyed four days of the Olympic atmosphere visiting Hyde Park to watch events at the Olympic Park, watched the marathon and the closing ceremony on a big screen in a nearby park and a Pub dinner on the last night with Sigitas, Bill, Carlotta, Horst, Nijole and Raimonda.
Now a week later have met up with several friends in London. We collected a rental car & have driven to the Midlands to spend the weekend with friends from many years ago. We will tour around for a week before we move into the cottage we have rented in the Cotswolds. Quite pleased to have traded the bikes for a car for the present time.