During our last few weeks before finally flying out we managed to squeeze in one lovely final weekend of camping in Hayling Island with best mates Pat and Dave before we shipped Camel with all the kit.
The highlight of the weekend was cycling up the Puffing Billie Cycle track all the way round to the outskirts of Portsmouth and then watching Dave play solo Pooh-sticks on the way back
(not weird at all, check out AA Milne, if you have not had a British upbringing). The wind put paid to our barbecue in the evening, but it was a hoot watching the team trying to use Pat’s new courgette sharpener to produce courgette based salad- Pat sharpening, Dave cutting, Tim holding the bowl and me laughing like a drain- I do like to be encouraging.
The following day, we went to our chum Roy’s BBQ, and wobbled home merrily on our bikes with Daughter in tow (brilliant evening!)(The food and company were outstanding and I didn’t know cocktails came in those sizes).
Roy kindly gave us two tickets to go to Goodwood festival of Speed, which was great fun
and I got to sit in this lovely old AA Landy.
We also saw the model of the car that will attempt to break the land speed record; the aim is to get over 1000m.p.h. and it needs an aero-engine and rockets to achieve it
I was a little concerned that some of the super car manufacturers were falling on hard times
We were also unexpectedly invited to the ball at my old place of work (the delightful Lavant House school) which was fantastic and so lovely to meet many of my old colleagues and friends. It has been a bit of a whirlwind time.
As I am writing this, Camel is finally underway to America. We took her to our incredibly helpful garage, Paul Brothers, where they drained her of oil and diesel and then they got someone to take her to the depot in Totton to be loaded into the container.
We were a bit worried, because, when we measured her final packed hight, it was only 1cm lower than the estimated height of the containers doors. But, sure enough, our lovely agent, Julie sent us a photo of her safely in the box.
We knew we had two clear weeks after waving camel off, so we decided to do a couple of things to while away the time. Our Best Man, whom we had not seen for YEARS asked us to dinner, so we thought it might be fun to cycle there. Seeing as he lives in Bristol, we thought it would be a great week-long adventure.
The first two days were pretty good and not too taxing, as we had done such things before (although, not for quite a long, lazy time). So it was 40 plus miles to Southampton, along the coast, via Portsmouth and the Gosport ferry
and the wonderful Pink Ferry at Warsash, where you stand at the edge of the river and they come and get you.
We stopped for a lazy lunch in Portsmouth and then made our way to Southampton with not too much strain. The ride to Salisbury the next day was fine and we were there in time for a late lunch.
The third day was the biggie, and unfortunately, it was the hottest July day in recorded history. We ran out of water by about 11 am, but were not too worried, as there were bound to be pubs around. We were in Wiltshire, after all. There were actual hills on this part of the route (Sustrans route 24) but all the pubs were shut. I started debating with myself about knocking on a random door, but I thought they might run us off with a gun.
Suddenly, the route took an unexpected turn. We were directed right through the Longleat estate; it was amazing to look at the fabulous views as we swooped down the winding drive towards Longleat House.
You are meant to stay on the cycle path, but we were so desperate for water, we snuck through to the kiosks where we bought 4 bottles of water and some ice-cream. We were challenged by the security guard, but he kindly agreed to let us rehydrate, as long as we promised to go away afterwards.
About ten miles later we stopped for lunch at a pub and the kindly landlady just kept bringing those jugs of iced water. The final haul into Bath involved an absolutely vile hill at Woolverton, but once we had got to the top of that, it was down hill along an old rail track all the way into Bath. The last few miles were amazing as we cycled through the famous Bath Two Tunnels, each two miles long and totally eerie.
As you approach the first tunnel (feeling as if you could evaporate, because, up to then it has been like a furnace out there), despite the fact that it is totally out of sight, you know something is happening. The temperature starts to drop and it almost starts to feel as if you are being plunged into a deep freezer. Then you see the tunnel, and it is quite foreboding, as, at first, it looks totally dark. When you enter the tunnel, however, you realise that there are lights at regular intervals. The temperature is many degrees below that of the outside but after about 50m you start to hear music. Yep, they are piping classical music into a deep dank dark tunnel just outside Bath. It is hard to describe the feeling of cycling through a two-mile long tunnel, with very little light, in very low temperatures listening to snippets of classical music and hearing very little else. It was either spooky or spiritual, but the drips of cold water down my neck did tend to restore my focus.
When we got to Bath (50 plus miles and 6 1/2 plus pints of water each later) Tim decided that I looked so ill that I was not safe to cycle through the city. A two-mile bike push ensued, but we did eventually locate our refuge for the next night. The best sight was…..
Bath is an amazing city and we had (sensibly) decided to spend two nights there and we were really looking forward to a lovely peaceful day. That all evaporated when I read my emails. The American shipping agent was about to take a day off for the 4th of July celebrations and he needed some forms filling out agent before the end of the day. Of course I could not fill out the power of attorney form on my iPad, so we tracked down an internet cafe, printed the form off, filled it in and then scanned it in and sent it off. Phew! Off to watch the Minions movie (suitably daft and a whole lot of fun). When we came out there was another form to fill in and back to the internet cafe for some repeat stress with printing filling and scanning. AAAAAAARGH!!!
In passing there were a couple of mysteries
A new style of graduation robe? (nah, advertising for Reactolite lenses)
The next day we cycled to Bristol along the lovely cycle track and stopping for a loo break at this unusual toilet
and slogged our way up to Clifton (having a really nice time at the suspension bridge and observatory)
Where we came across this cheeky chappie
and saw this nut job
and then on to spend a delightful time with our best man and his wife Mike and Dee. It was great to meet up with our old friends, and to get to know their wonderful adult children. After being treated to a blow out meal we wobbled our way to the station and were relieved that we could get the bikes onto a train back home.
The next day (after some hurried washing and drying of clothes) we took off on the motorbike to Bruges and hove up at the hotel de Barge, an interesting hostelry to say the least.
I was feeling great and pretty relaxed until our American agent sent me an email asking if we had checked whether it was legal to drive a right hand drive car in the USA. (he is a specialist in raising my stress levels; ‘are you sure you can bring your car to the USA’ ‘I need this form now’). I was pretty sure it is OK to import your own car into the USA for your own use, but I didn’t stop trembling until I had checked it out on the internet. Apparently the post office in the US use right hand drive cars (clever- they get out on the kerb side).
So (since the stress monster seems to have calmed down a tad) we have spent a lovely couple of days wandering around the beautiful streets of Bruges,
drinking the beer,
everyone gets beer here
enjoying the food and hoping the Camel is enjoying her sea voyage to New York. She should be there next monday and then will be shipped by rail to just south of Portland, where we will hopefully go and pick her up, carrying a big can of oil and another of diesel.