Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 66--Part 2--Holland!

Remember the couple I met at the ferry terminal in Harwich? Well, I did see them on the boat, and as we were getting ready to disembark, I asked if they knew of a camping place. Roy knew of one nearby that was on the way they were going. He said him and Leslie would show me. Cool! 
Coming into Hoek Van Holland Port 
Does anything about this photo make anyone else nervous? I heard a man behind me say, "I can't watch!" At one point, the guy was holding two kids!

Open sesame! (That's Roy and Leslie)

As we exited the ferry, Leslie was having problems with her chain. We stopped and Roy fixed it, getting his hands thoroughly greasy in the process. I gave him a Grease Monkey Wipe to clean his hands. We continued on out of the Port area.
Woo Hoo!

Now I go back to riding on the right, kilometers, Euros, and I lost an hour (back to 9 hours ahead of home). Also, no more English as the primary language. 

I got to Camping Hoek van Holland (cost 12€), set up my tent, took the bags off Betsy, and went in search of a grocery store. I finally found a Lidl store and replenished my food.

I was lubing Betsy's chain when another gal came into the tent area on her bike. She is Olga, from France. This is her first bike tour. She is also going to Amsterdam tomorrow, so we are going to ride together. We are going to follow the Coast to Haarlem. Haarlem is only about 10 km from Amsterdam. It will be fun to have another gal to ride with.

Now I'm off to bed. Here's what I'm listening to from my tent.
Pretty nice goat house!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 66--Patience is a Virtue

I got up at 5:00 this morning. I left Greenacres Caravan Park at 6:30. Using the map the gal drew for me (although the bike route signs also went the same way), I made my way the Port, arriving at 6:45. 
Check-in started at 7:30. There was already a line, but I just cycled up to the front. The kiosks opened about 7:15, and I cycled up to the window only to find out the ship was fully booked. I was able to purchase a ticket for tomorrow. I spent an extra 4£ to have a Flexi-ticket. I asked the man if there was a cancellation, or if someone doesn't show up, would I be able to get on today. He said it was possible, but unlikely. That's why I purchased the Flexi-ticket. He said to come back at 8:15, and he would be able to check if there was a cancellation. I went over to the waiting area and sat down to wait. 

A couple came up on bikes. They were from Birmingham. I told the gal I had cycled through Birmingham! I told them I was waiting to see if I would get to get on the ship. As they were getting ready to go check in, they said, "See you on the boat." I said it was unlikely. 

As I was waiting, I was making a plan in my head. I would cycle back into town, get some groceries, ride around the town a bit, then go back to Greenacres for the night. I wouldn't have to get up so early tomorrow morning because the ship didn't sail until 10:00, and I had my ticket, and knew where to go. However, Karma being the way it is and all, when I rode back over to the guy in the kiosk, it turned out there two spaces available! The guy felt bad for charging me the extra 4£, but I said it was the best 4£ I'd ever spent!

Boarding Pass in hand, I cycled to the ferry. Curiously, when I got on the car deck, there was loads of room. But, for these types of ferries, it's not about the number of cars, it's about the number of passengers. You can't remain on the car deck during the sailing. So, even if your car (or bicycle) fits, you may not fit. 

This ferry has 11 decks. The decks above Deck 9 are all cabins. If you sail at 11:30pm, you must reserve a cabin. Here's a photo of the model of the ship.
The Stena Britannica

Here's some views from the deck.
The Lorry Deck
The deck to the left of the Lorry Ramp is the deck Betsy is on.
Betsy tied to her spot. The two bikes other bikes are the couple from Birmingham.

There are multiple restaurants and caf├ęs on board. There is a cinema showing "How to Train Your Dragon 2" and "Malificient". You have to buy a ticket though. There's a Teen room, and a Curious George room for the small tots. The wifi is free. Don't have a computer? No problem! There's an Internet Room too!

So, I'm going to sit back and enjoy my ferry ride to Holland! 

Day 65-- A Drowned Mary Poppins

Today I got a new comment on the Da Brim. As I was leaving Dobbs Weir, a guy in a car yelled, "Mary Poppins!"  I could have used Mary Poppins' umbrella later on!

I knew I had a number of miles to cover if I wanted to get to Harwich. I had planned to not pick up NCR 1 until Chelmsford. It was quite nice just riding the road, even though there was a fair amount of traffic. The only part that wasn't so nice was a section they were chip-sealing. The cars were pretty good at not shooting rocks at me, and giving me lots of room. There was too much loose gravel near the side (there is no shoulder), so I had to ride fairly out into the lane. 

I made the 23 miles to Chelmsford pretty quickly. Although there wasn't much to photograph today, I did take this one of an interesting sign.
I'd say it's not much of a secret if they put it on a sign!

I used the last of my fuel this morning, so I thought I would look in Chelmsford for more. I was walking around the shopping area, and was just about to give up when I saw a shop called Blacks. It was an REI type outdoor place, so I was able to get more fuel. This should be the last fuel I have to buy.

In Chelmsford, I picked up the Sly-Dog Route 1. This lady I talked to outside of Blacks said that Route 1 went everywhere. She was pretty spot-on about that. I think if I could see an overhead of the way the route goes, it would look like one of those Family Circus comics where the kid has to go someplace close, but takes the most serpentine way to get there. Of course, what that does, is add miles.

After doing one of the route's special little trails, I came out to a road. A short distance along the road and the route sign said to turn onto a Bridlepath. But, there was also a road alternate. With my previous experience with Bridlepaths, I took the alternate. It turned onto a nice quiet lane. I was enjoying this way, when I started feeling some rain drops. It was quite pleasant as I was pretty warm. started raining harder...and harder...and harder still, until I was soaked. But, I wasn't cold. It rained so hard that my glasses were useless, so I took them off. Then I had to go even slower because my depth perception is not so great without any glasses. As I was climbing up this little ridge, I could hear thunder, and see occasional lightning. I've learned how these storms are here. It pours, but doesn't last long. Sure enough, soon the rain stopped. I put my regular glasses on, as they were dry, and continued riding. Slowly, I dried out. The storm had created a few puddles. This one was more like a lake.
I had to walk Betsy. I apologized to her because she had to wheel through the water, whilst I walked on the side in the grass (it did get a bit squishy for me too).

I was still fairly wet when I came into Maldon. Since I had only had a small pita for lunch, and I saw a Subway, I decided to take my wet self in for second lunch. Also, it had free wifi, so I was able to post yesterday's blog (the wifi at Dobbs Weir had been blown out in a storm).

Continuing on, I had a bit of trouble picking up the route again. I finally found it again in Wickham Bishops. I was riding along, when I noticed the wind picking up, and some serious dark clouds. It was starting to remind me of Scotland and Ireland. I was mostly dry from the last deluge. Not for long! Again, it just poured buckets! I was thoroughly re-soaked. I passed a guy who was standing under a tree waiting it out. I was already too wet to bother. 

So it's pouring, and the route takes one of it's oh-so-fun trail diversions. At least, from what I could tell amidst the running water, it was sort of a paved path. I came to a sort of a gully where I had to ford a large puddle. There was nothing to do but just ride through it. I couldn't get any wetter. The trail went sharply uphill after the puddle. There was so much water and debris running down the hill that I had to walk "upstream". At the top, I continued riding, but through puddle after puddle. The rain had lessened, so at least that was good.

 As I got closer to Colchester, I really hoped to be able to take a short cut, and avoid Colchester. I was at an intersection when Jim, the guy waiting under the tree, caught up to me. I was trying to determine which way to go to not go through the center of Colchester. He actually rode with me, and got me headed in the right direction...sort of. His way would take me onto A120. When I got to it, it was a very busy road. In fact, it looked like a motorway. It wasn't, but I didn't really want to ride it anyway. I ended up coming into the edge of Colchester. I got on a road that roughly paralleled A120. I put Harwich into the Garmin. Not long after I was following the Garmin, I picked up Route 51. Sweet! Route 51 would take me to Harwich! I turned off the Garmin.

51 was very well signed. It was not too serpentine of a route, and didn't take any "special" roads/paths. Still, it was longer than the "car" way. 

Just on the edge of Harwich, I saw a caravan park that allowed tents. I pulled in. The guy came out and said the ferry was just a 15 minute ride. He said they get lots of one-nighters catching the ferry. It is mostly mobile homes with a small space for tents. The potty shack and shower is in a mobile home. Let's just's seen better days. But, the shower was hot, even if I could barely turn around in it. There's no toilet paper, so I've pulled out my emergency roll.

The ferry is at 9:00am. The gal in the office kindly (without even asking) drew me a map to the port. 

Now I think I'll hit the sack. I'll get up earlier than usual, but it's a 6 hour sailing, so I can sleep on the boat.

Total miles for today: 81 (the car way would have been 67)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Day 64--Who's Driving This Tour Bus Anyway?

I'm seriously beginning to think that I am not the one determining where I go! Someone is driving this tour bus, and it's not me! 

Yesterday, as I was coming back to Crystal Palace from London, I saw a sign that said 4 1/2 miles to Greenwich. I had wanted to go to Greenwich, but I didn't want to ride another 9 miles to get there and back. I thought, oh well, I'll put that on the "next time" list.

Last night I Google mapped the route to Harlow. I figured I'd probably go further as it was just 33 miles. In fact, I planned to go ahead and go to Chelmsford for around 58 miles total. I was somewhat surprised that I wasn't going to be going on Route 23 back into London to NCR 4. I didn't really look too closely at which cities I would be going through (my mistake). When Google gives turn-by-turn directions, it doesn't mention the towns (sometimes you can tell by the street names, but not always). 

I took off this morning after talking with the couple from Holland that were camped next to me. Really nice family. I followed the Google route with some difficulty as it was hard to find the street names on the roads. Heaven forbid they should tell you what street you are on, and there is no logic as to where they place the street signs for the cross streets (if there is a sign). I had to backtrack a couple of times, using the Garmin to get me to where I should have turned.

I finally picked up NCR 21. I was on it before the Google directions said I would, but I knew I would eventually need to. Guess where it took me. Greenwich! Surprise surprise! I thought in my head that I must have absolutely no sense of direction, because I would swear Greenwich was in the opposite direction from Harlow. But, I was also pleased, because I got to go to Greenwich afterall! 

At the Cutty Sark,
I asked two cyclists where the Prime Meridian was? They told me how to get there (up on the top of the hill in Greenwich Park). On the way, in front of the Maritime Museum, I saw the largest ship-in-a-bottle I've ever seen. 

I climbed to the top of the hill and found the Observatory and the Prime Meridian (curiously, I crossed it going up the hill--something I didn't know until coming back down...and crossing it again). I parked Betsy, and went to have a look. Here's some photos.
The ball drops at 1:00 (noon, standard time) daily (it must go up first, because it wasn't 1:00).
The 24 hour clock.
The part accessible only if you buy a ticket.
Also only by paying (I took the photos through the fence).
The place where you don't have to pay to straddle the Prime Meridian.
A Prime Meridian selfie.

As I was admiring the view from the top of the hill, I realized I was looking at London.
I also knew which way I would be going from Greenwich (I'd seen a NCR 1 sign--what I would follow to Harwich). Wait a second! I still had to go through London? I had already come about 15 miles and I wasn't even to London, let alone through it? So my sense of direction wasn't totally off afterall. I have no idea why the route went to Greenwich, other than, whoever is driving this tour bus knew I wanted to go to Greenwich! It's freaky!

I returned to the Cutty Sark. From there I got to go through a tunnel under the Thames. There was a lift to go down (pedestrians use stairs), then I walked the .2 miles to the other side.
Above ground entrance.
The tunnel under the Thames.

I continued following NCR 1 signs. I was on the towpath of Regents Canal to Victoria Park where I switched to the Lea Canal which went to the Lea River. 
Fountain in Victoria Park.

The route was typical NCR stuff. Towpaths, trails, bumpy name it. Here was a very low tunnel under the railway. 
Had to duck through this one.

And here was some stairs!
Okay, so they weren't horrible, except right as Betsy's rear wheel would need to come up, the front wheel would also have to go up the next stair.

I finally saw a sign for Harlow. Since the route is not signed between Hoddesdon and Harlow, I thought I'd just follow the road (it was a "B" road, so not so busy). When I got to Waltham Abbey, I looked up camping. Nothing doable was coming up by Harlow. There was one in Lea Valley Country Park. I saw the sign from the road, and decided I would call it a day there, even though I didn't get to Harlow. I followed the camping sign. It took me to Lea Valley Park Farms--not a camping place, more of a farm amusement park. I asked the lady where the camping was. Turns out it was in the Country Park, but up the river at Dobbs Weir. Curiously, I was back on NCR 1 (although I think I took the shorter way). The route went close to the Caravan Park, so I just followed it there. 

Dobbs Weir (not sure what, exactly, a "weir" is--something to do with the river, I'm guessing) is a great place. The wardens are really nice. I've got a nice spot with ripe blackberries behind my tent (I know what's going in my breakfast tomorrow!). When I went into the reception to get something to supplement my pasta, the guy just gave me the can of tuna I was going to buy. Very nice!

So, although today was strange, it was a good day. I'm not even going to say where I'm going tomorrow. I'll just have to see where the Tour Bus Driver takes me!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 63--On a London Mission

Now that I had a sense of London, I went about my second day with a much more organized plan. I even wrote it out! 

I started out by riding in to the city again on Route 23. As I was getting ready to go this morning, a family asked me how it was to cycle into London. I told them to take 23, and they would have no problems. Not only is it well signed, but it's even marked on the road.

Because I was a little earlier today, there were definately more cyclists. I have to be careful, because I tend to zone-out, and start following the cyclist in front of me instead of watching for the route signs. I almost missed a turn! 

This time, once I got to CS7, I continued off 23 on my own route to get me to Hungerford Bridge. It's really a pedestrian bridge alongside the train bridge over the Thames. There are actually two bridges on each side of the train bridge. They are also called the Golden Jubilee Bridges.
To the left is the train bridge, and on the other side is the other pedestrian bridge.

I had to carry Betsy up a few stairs to get to the bridge, then I walked her across. The bridges came to Charing Cross--a train station, and tube station. My purpose for going that way was because Charing Cross is just a short distance from Trafalger Square. 
Trafalger Square

I wandered around the Square taking photos. 
The National Gallery and one of the four lions at the base of Nelson's Column.
Nelson's Column
The biggest cobalt blue rooster I've ever seen (to give you an idea of the size, see the pigeon?)
One of the "Performance Artists". He appears to be sitting in mid-air. 

I decided, since The National Gallery was free, I would go in. First I found a bike rack to lock Betsy. Then I found the toilets. Then, because it was a good time for a mid-morning snack, I went across the street to a cafe.
My maple almond pastry.

After all that, I went into the Gallery. Although it is free, they ask for a 4£ donation. I didn't have to pay it, but I thought that was reasonable. 
This is the only photo from inside as photography is not allowed in the gallery rooms. 

The National Gallery is not overwhelmingly huge, so I felt I got a good look at the paintings that interest me (mostly the Impressionists). Because I couldn't take photos, I bought 5 postcards of 5 paintings I saw. I exited out the Sainsbury Wing because I had parked Betsy just outside those doors (I felt pretty smart noticing that!). 

Next up on my itinerary for today was Piccadilly Circus. This is the Theater District. I saw "Wicked" was playing. 
The big screen (like in Times Square).
The Criterion Theater

From Piccadilly, I followed Regents Street, walking, as I was going the wrong direction on the one-way street, to the Duke of York Column. Here I had to carry Betsy down some stairs. I got onto Horse Guards Road and rode by the Horse Guards Building and Parade (the buildings also house the Old Admiralty Offices, the Household Cavalry Museum, and the Scotland Office).

Right next to these buildings is #10 Downing Street. Of course, you can't actually go on the street itself, but I could get a photo through the fence.
#10 Downing Street (Maggie's old house)

I rode along the south side of St. James Park on Birdcage Walk (I love the names of the streets here) toward Buckingham Palace. When I got to the palace, I noticed people were all lined up along the road. First I thought it was a line to maybe go in the palace, but then I noticed it was on both sides of the road.
Then I thought, I wonder what they are waiting for? I guess I'll wait too. Pretty soon, I heard drums and music. It was just after noon, and time for the parade of the guards (don't know if that's what it's called, but I'm calling it that).
It was interesting, because there were two groups. One went this way, and another went the other way around the traffic circle. As soon as they had passed, the traffic continued through the circle as if nothing had happened. Good timing on my part to get there just in time to see the parade!

Here's a shot of Buckingham Palace
There are several gates each named after a country belonging to England. This is the Canada Gate.

From the Palace, I rode along the "Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Walk" between Green Park and the Palace Gardens on my way to Hyde Park. 
The Wellington Monument
One of the Gates into Hyde Park (the Apsley Gate)

I rode along Rotten Row (such a name!) to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.
It was packed with kids playing in the water.
I can't help but think she would have liked it that way.

As it was nearing 1:00, and I saw there was a cafe near the fountain (The Lido), I decided to have some lunch. It was a nice place on the lake (Serpentine Lake). 

There were lots of people in pedal boats on the lake. There was a small swimming place, but most of the lake is for boating (non-motorized).

I just looked at the map, and realized I could have continued on into Kensington Gardens, and to Kensington Palace (maybe next time). Instead, I rode across the Serpentine Bridge and through the park along the other side of the lake. 

At the end, there was this gate.
I think it was the Queen Elizabeth Gate.

I worked my way back toward Westminster. Along the way at the Stable Yard Gate, there were these two lads guarding the gate.

One would think they would be quite warm, and that chin strap would get very annoying. Also, that's a mighty sharp looking knife on that rifle. I think, however impractical the uniform looks, they mean business!

As I got closer to Westminter Bridge! I got a photo of the front of Westminster Abbey (only the back yesterday).

From there I went across the Westminster Bridge, and worked my way back to Crystal Palace. This time I followed 23 the whole way back. 

I had a much better sense of where I was today. I find I do pretty well riding in the city. I can tune out all the cacophony of noises and just pay attention to the traffic and the signs. I think riding in London would freak some people out, but I actually enjoyed it.

Tomorrow I already know how to get to Route 4, so I should have no problems getting out of the city. Also, I have determined I am still ahead by a couple of days. This allows me to take three days to get to Harwich. And, I can go to Amsterdam! I won't take a day off there, but it's not too many miles from Hook van Holland to Amsterdam, so I will have some time to look around. Woo Hoo!

Parting shots for today...
First, smiling, but then I thought I should play the part.
I should have pulled my chin strap over my chin!