England by pedal bike: The trip where despite the hills and rain, nobody cried (and we considered that a success). Part Two!

A million years ago, I posted a first installment of my UK bike trip.

We left off in beautiful bath, in which as I stated before, we didn’t get too many pictures, but is a reminiscent mix of Harry Potter and high society. Like, magical and unaffordable all at once.

We hopped on to the Railway Pathway, a 13 mile stretch of paved path linking Bath and Bristol. While it was quite straight and, as one of our hosts claimed “bloody fucking boring,” we enjoyed the break from roads, cars and roundabouts.

We arrived in Bristol and were greeted by our CS host who led us up hills and past Banksy street art to his flat. We stayed for two nights and played tourist for what I assume is the genuine club-hopping, bridge-sighting, card-playing Bristol experience.

This was totally Sis’s time to shine as I fell prey to much too young British men offering me far too many shots at the bar. Thankfully, being the capable adult that she is, we navigated the Bristol streets under the cover of darkness and drunk and got home in one piece.

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Bristol has a bridge over a gorge.

When it was time to say good-bye, our host took us to the outskirts of town (over the bridge crossing the gorge, our memories are like 85% sure) and we were off. Although it was slightly off route, our intrigue had us headed in the direction of Cheddar Gorge. Chedder? Like the Cheese? And let’s be real, what exactly is a gorge if not just a giant hole in the ground? FILLED WITH CHEESE? We had to see.

As with most of our biking days, it rained on and off, and somewhere in beautiful cider country Sis’ back rack snapped clean in two. Thankfully we were able to macgyver it into place with the help of a few bungee cords, and then left our bikes at a shop in Cheddar to be repaired as we took a tour of the village. Once in the village it was all we could do not to ask passersby “Excuse me, but where is the cheese gorge?” because apparently this was not as obvious as it could have been. But, since nobody else looked lost and we didn’t want to be those dopey Canadian cyclists, we wandered until we found its entrance, got a sadly underwhelming peek and headed back to get our trusty steeds.

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Bike what now.

We camped that night at what we soon learned was a typical British camping field with tents and RVs all lined up beside one another. We moved a little slower the next day and due to some creative map interpretation, accidentally found ourselves in Bridgewater (based on our own experience and chats with other Brits, it seems about equivalent to our Hamilton).

The day after was equally long/hilly/rainy and Sis was starting to feel a little bike tripped out. Thankfully that day saw us finishing in Dulverton which is just at the entrance of beautiful Exmoor National Park (Sis’ request that she would regret while we spent the better part of the next day climbing mountains).

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Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

Our Dulverton hosts were a couple of young guys who’s parents were away and seemed all too eager to invite our drenched, sweaty selves into their home. Well, kinda. I pitched our tent in the back yard while Sis was terrorized by the giant and curious chickens (“all of my greatest fears are being challenges today”). But! Fresh eggs and warm showers? No real complaints.

We took off early the next morning and got to see Exmoor in all of it’s very hilly glory.We biked, walked and cried our way through the park, reached its highest elevation, and then careened down to catch our first glimpse of the ocean.

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THE OCEAN

And this isn’t the end -I swear we did more. More biking. And even more squishing our bikes on to planes, trains and automobiles. 2017 promises to be a big year for biking so it is my goal to have this and my other past trips spewed on these pages and archived away for future emergency nostalgia. You know, to make space in my little head for the big adventures to come.

♥ ♥ ♥

 

 

 

 

England by pedal bike: The trip where despite the hills and rain, nobody cried (and we considered that a success). Part One!

Last summer my little sis and I did something pretty cool. It was one of those last minute here-goes-nothing kinda things, and for me, the wicked result of a series of disappointments interesting life hiccups.

So we meet at the Montreal airport and have to face the typical shit-storm labyrinth associated with bringing a bicycle on an airplane. Like seriously airport guys, with the exception of Porter Airlines (who seem to have a well oiled system and an endless supply of Steam Whistle) this is not brain surgery: Bike goes in bag, bag goes on plane, everyone is kind to one another. /Rant.

Alright, REWIND a moment and let me provide a little context. This happened to be my first ever overseas bicycle trip. This also happened to be Sis’s first ever bike trip. I was recovering from a broken foot. Sis hadn’t owned a bicycle since training-wheel days. And we hadn’t traveled together since we were shit-disturbing children. Context is everything.

Ready for take-off.
Ready for take-off.

ANYWAY, since flying to England means time-travelling into the future, we arrived there at 6am (or 1am our stupid sleepy time). Also, since a good night’s rest is for the weak, we had planned to reassemble our bikes and make the 60km ride to Reading that day. Nothing a couple of dozen coffees can’t fix.

Unanticipated Challenge #1? Finding our way out of Heathrow Airport. Since there is only one way out and it’s designed for those fast moving vehicles with motors, Sis and I played chicken with the cars until some nice airport employees threw our bikes into the back of a truck and drove us out of the compound and into freedom.

A cheater start, but then we were off- wobbly and powered by cheap caffeine, we were off.

We caught Bath Road (appropriately named as technically we were on the way to Bath) and headed West. This took us through places named Slough and Maidenhead. We got caught in rain, got a little turned around and were baptized by fire into the roundabout-heavy, high-hedged and narrow-laned left-sided experience that is cycling across the UK.

Upon arriving to Reading we were so very warmly welcomed by our first host and soon-to-be best mate in all of England. Here we rested our weary jet-lagged bodies for two nights.

“You guys wanna see my swords?” says the strange man we met in a foreign country.

Day #3 saw us leaving Reading and getting hopelessly lost. We took a detour off of our trusty Bath Road to visit Stonehenge and got caught in circles of nameless streets and towering hedges and had our first brush with scary-fast A grade roads. The sun was setting by the time we hit Hannington  (as my sister fondly describes it: The village in the middle of nowhere surrounded by walls of hedges) and we were fall-down happy to find a pub that would meet all of our immediate needs (food, drinks and camping in their back yard).

The next day had us waking up in Hannington to a pot of tea and a parade of hounds.

You thought I was joking.
You thought I was joking.

So we took the next logical step and hitched a ride with our new best mate to Stonehenge. And then proceeded to break into Stonehenge.

We got this close and snapped a pic before we were politely asked to get the fuck out.
We got this close and snapped a pic before we were politely asked to get the fuck out.

 

Our saviors with a motor then kindly dropped us off at our next destination after snooker and a pint. Day 4 and only 2 day of biking (4 days of rain). We were killing it. We crashed in Devizes with a lovely couple from warmshowers and in the morning we were back on the bikes for what we expected to be a leisurely 50km to Bath.

The road to Bath was predictably less leisurely than we had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, despite the on-and-off rain, it was a beautiful ride following the Avon canal which was full of adorable longboats we can only surmise were full of hobbits. Parts of the route, however, saw us cycling through rubble and fields, particularly tricky for Sis on her shmancy road bike. All that aside, Sis happily remembers this part of our trip as the day with lots of downhill,

So quaint it hurts.
So quaint it hurts.

We made it to Bath with more than enough daylight to spare. Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures, but believe me when I tell you that this city is gorgeous. Like, totally worth the google image search. We crashed with another warmshowers host (who offered us the standard cup of tea upon arrival despite it being a zillion degrees out and him being smack in the middle of carnival prep). Sis and I spent the night consuming the standard unholy amount of pub food and drink. The we helped the carnival folks fasten CD’s to a fishnet until bedtime. Standard Bath experience, I’m sure.

Avon Canal
Avon Canal samsies

 And that concludes part one of our trip. Stay tuned for part two: Bristol, Brigdwater (I know, I know) and beyond!

Breathe in, breathe out.

Anyone who knows me a little more than a little knows that I have a very attainable dream of cycling from Montreal to Gaspésie.

The dream.
The dream.

Beautiful coastline cycling through some of Quebec’s most scenic spots. (Psst. I also heard whispers that there are tailwinds the whole way).

Magical, right?

Unfortunately my plans last summer were botched following a break-up and a real fear of setting out solo. On the bright side, it was replaced with this fabulous adventure to the far reaches of our east coast. This summer’s trip was also redirected following a long-distance relationship shuffle, and again I was stuck with the prospect of striking out on my own. I’m sure there’s a moral in here somewhere about trip-planning with lovers, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Then again, maybe not.

ANYWAY. That combined with THIS:

Yes, THAT'S a broken foot.
Yes, THAT’S a broken foot.

And I was all “Well to hell with any fun this summer.” So I applied for a Vipassana (because 100 hours of meditation and 10 days of silence is anything but fun). However, as you might be surprised to hear, Vipassana spots are booked solid until something like November, so that was a no-go.

So I did a lot of sitting, a lot of breathing and played a lot of chess.

But lo and behold the universe works in mysterious ways because my lovely sister (and newbie cyclist) was like:

“Let’s bike England.”

And I was all:

“When do we leave?”

Get ready England.
Get ready England.

Stay tuned for the adventures of Malorie and Audrey in Return to the motherland: Which way to the pub, mate?

***

**England is not by real-true definition our motherland, but we lived there long ago for some pretty formative years of our lives. We even developed accents and started using words like rubbish and fancies. We also have a squishy spot for British comedy**