Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 57--Destined For Birmingham

As I wrote yesterday, the route from Stafford to Burntwood is not developed. So, my plan was to use the Garmin to work my way south without going through Birmingham. I put in Penkridge, and started riding. It took me through a very nice park that had very little traffic. I got the idea that it used to be some military place. There was a German Military Cemetery. Anyway, it was a nice route. The only problem was that it didn't take me to Penkridge. Or, at least the way it was having me go was way off course. 

I came into a town just as all the school kids were going to school. While waiting to go the wrong way, I snapped this photo of the crossing guard.
I thought I was supposed to turn right, but really I was supposed to go straight. Fixed that.

While I was turning around, a lady asked me if I was lost. I showed her where I was trying to go (Penkridge). She said I was quite abit off course. I told her I was trying to avoid Birmingham. She suggested going to Cannock. I went there, but due to the Motorway and the super busy "A" roads, I was unsuccessful getting from Cannock to the next town. I could have done it, but the Garmin kept taking me these long circuitous routes to avoid the busy roads. Problem was, there were too many busy roads. 

So, since I couldn't seem to go where I thought I wanted to go, I decided to try and pick up Route 5. It appeared that 5 went through a town called Brownhills. I went to Brownhills, but could not find any route signs. So, I headed for the next town on the map that the route went through, Walsall. I was riding on the busy roads (because they had the signs for the towns), but that meant little possibility of finding the route, because it doesn't use busy roads. Such a conundrum! 

As I was riding along, out of the blue, there was an arrow sign that said, "National Cycle Route Coalpool". So I went back to the Coalpool intersection and turned there. Soon I saw my first Route 5 sign! Question, as always, which was the way I needed to go? A couple of gals walked by. I asked which way was to Birmingham. They told me, so from there I was good. The route was hardly on roads all the way into Birmingham. The signs were very good. I did some more canal riding.
This canal was not nearly as busy as the Trent and Mersey Canal. I didn't see even one boat until I was almost into Birmingham. One thing I did not like about this canal route was some of the paths under the bridges had "speed bumps".
They were so bumpy, I had to walk Betsy. Also there were frequent bridges I had to go over for side canals.
Coming up to a bridge.
At one point, the route diverted to the other side of the canal. The path was not as good. I don't know why it did that, because later I came back to the other side. I could see the other side the whole way and it looked fine to me. This photo above was taken from the center of the bridge. You can see Birmingham in the distance--getting closer!

I followed the canal into Birmingham before the route left it to go into the city center.
Here's where the boats were.

I don't have any photos of the city center. There wasn't anything special, but also, I was having to keep my eyes peeled for the route signs. Fortunately, they were very good. Usually, after passing one sign, I could look ahead and see the next one.

I had kind of gone through the heart of Birmingham when a guy came up behind me on a bike. He asked where I was going, I said I was following Route 5. He said he would go with me as he knew the way. Perfect! His name was Peter, and he rode with me for quite a distance. It was great because I didn't have to slow down to watch for the signs. We made quick work of the rest of Birmingham. Before we parted, I took his photo.
Peter works part time (he's a retired police officer) at The Green Bike Company. He's got some plans for touring, and has done a bit already. He was definately my hero for today! Thanks again, Peter!

Back on my own, I continued to follow the route signs. I've learned that if I don't see a sign for a short while, I've probably missed a turn, or misread a sign. Now I go back to the last sign, and look again. 

The route from Birmingham to Stratford-on-Avon was not the most direct route. Not even close! It was, however, mostly on bike paths through parks. There were also some real Sly-Dog paths. But the signs were always there.

I started to realize that this was going to be a pretty high mileage day if I actually made it to Stratford-on-Avon. I was right. By the time I got to the Caravan Park (Stratford-on-Avon Caravan Park Racecourse--yes, I'm camping at a horse racing track), it was 8:00 (I'd left Stafford at 7:30) and I had gone 85.5 miles. No wonder I'm a little tired! I think without all my zig-zagging to try to find the route this morning, it may have been about 10 miles shorter.

Tomorrow I want to spend a little time in the this, the land of Shakespeare, before heading to Oxford. I'm not sure if I'll make all the way to Oxford tomorrow. We'll see...

For all my attempts to avoid Birmingham, going through it was really okay. Meeting Peter was great! I guess it was destiny that I should go through Birmingham afterall!

Here's a parting shot from today. I've had sheep on the path, but here there were horses on the path.

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