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  • Friday, November 28, 2014

    My Week with Megan and Chris

    (Photo: Megan, Chris, and Izzy at Abbey Castle)
    Although this trip was spontaneous and never properly planned, I knew of one stop I'd make since day one, visiting my friend Megan from Indiana, her husband Chris from England, and the new addition to their family, Izzy. What I didn't know when I left four months ago, was just how much I'd love being with someone from back home again, a familiar face who comes from the same place, knows some of the same people, gets my American references, and understands my cravings for American food.

    (Photo: Izzy)
    In addition to them taking me to their favorite restaurants, for the six days I stayed with them, Megan cooked anything I was craving. She even made buttermilk biscuits, something that is sadly missing from the British Isles.

    (Photo: Meg and Izzy from atop Abbey Castle)
    The following Sunday, we went to Chris's parents house for lunch. I loved everything about it, his English family, the traditional English meal, a roast with potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire pudding and spotted dick covered in custard for dessert (It's a thing, look it up).

    With their English accents, dialect, and slang, I could have sat back and listened to their conversation for hours, which at one point got onto the subject of the Rosetta spacecraft's comet and the comet's size relative to Borg cubes.

    (Photo: Me, Chris's mum and dad, Chris's sister Caroline,
    Meg, Izzy, and approximately 20% of Chris's head)
    I actually didn't expect to stay much longer than the weekend, but when asked if I would be staying until Tuesday, so I could go with them to their favorite chippy (fish 'n' chips shop), I couldn't pass up another opportunity to spend time with this family.

    Thank you all for everything. This was the highlight of all my time in England.

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    My First Days on a Bike

    Two hours after sunset, the forecasted rain finally started to fall. I stopped on the side of the road to peer over a stone wall to see if the field on the other side was suitable for a tent. 

    A series of shorter stone walls divided up the land into sections. The hoof-tilled mud and the scattered cow patties meant cow pastures. An open gate on one meant I’d likely be left alone and untrampled.

    The issue was getting the bike over the first wall, which was five-feet high. I dropped my gear onto the other side and used the stones that jutted out to climb on top. I lifted the bike on top and balanced it on its side. I hopped down, feet sinking into the mud, and then pulled it the rest of the way over. 

    It was initially very strange to pull away on my bike and not feel the pack on my shoulders. I'd have this split-second feeling that I forgot something important, like when you realize you don't have your seatbelt on when driving. When setting up camp, I had to get used to the fact that all my gear wasn't in the usually places. I didn't realize how much I had gotten used to a routine.

    The next morning, I looked up and saw a herd of cows trudging toward me through the mud. That open gate I thought led outside, only lead to an adjacent pasture. I held up my hands and gave them a, “Woah," then a "Good morning, fellas. Please go away.” They looked at me briefly then ran back to where they came from. I have to say, commanding twenty tons of stampeding animals like a Jedi feels pretty good. 

    I've never seen an aqueduct before, so had to stop for a photo

    Here is the view from the top.


    Cobblestones are not the best surface to cycle on, but I loved this little hidden pathway in the city. I walked along side my bike and shared my cookies with the ducks.

    Some days, cycling through England isn't all that different from hiking through it.

    I know I'm not seeing the more remote English countryside on this route, but that was on purpose. I wanted to see the English towns and meet English people.
    But whenever possible, I take the scenic route.

    A lot of my route has been on repurposed disused railway lines

    I had to stop for a photo. Doctor Who fans will know why.

    Thank You Derek, Melissa, and Vonda!

    I want to take a step backward in time and thank a few people for helping me decide to buy the bike. First, the people at Keswick Bikes for letting me hang out in their shop all day while I debated with myself. They weren't pushy at all and didn't seem to mind how long I was in there. They spent a lot of time answering my questions and gave me a lot of good advice. 

    Also Vonda, from Peru, Indiana, sent me a donation so I could get a roof over my head, a shower, and a real bed some night. I used it on that cold and rainy day in Keswick to warm up and give myself the night to contemplate my decision to cycle rather than continue walking.

    Also, to my cousin Derek and my step-mom Melissa, who made the decision a much easier one. They offered to contribute money toward the bike fund if I purchased it. Actually, in the case of my cousin Derek, he also demanded that I pretend to win the Tour de France like Pee Wee Herman in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Although, truth be told, that was going to happen anyway.

    Thank you all!