We arrived at Heathrow and anxiously waited for our luggage – our fingers were crossed that the $2 shop Chinese laundry bags tied up with washing line had held up to the job and that the bike boxes were in one piece and and not spewing bike parts. A big sigh of relief as they all neatly glided out onto the carousel 🙂
Then onto the transfer bus to the Heathrow Ibis hotel and a desperately needed cup of tea. The room was very functional but also extremely small. The two large laundry bags and very large bike boxes filled the room entrance, which was pretty much the only floor space available, and blocked the room door and the access to the bijoux bathroom! We sat on the bed and surveyed the luggage mountain and the job at hand … the de-boxing and assembly of two bikes. Rubik’s cube-type manoeuvres were required to get anything achieved and this seriously taxed our jet-lag addled brains. But eventually we had the bikes in one piece and they looked just like they had in Eugene – we know this because we ended up consulting our photos when it all got too hard and weeping/sleeping seemed like the only solution. At last, after a trek to the local mini supermarket for a slap-up dinner of discounted sandwiches and beer, we fell into that blissful sleep that can only occur after long haul flights.
Next morning bright and early we set off for central London. It wasn’t long before we found the bits we had forgotten to tighten the night before. There was also the saddle height to get just right and the whole riding with panniers thing to get the hang of – this being the first time we had done it! And yes I know, you’re supposed to practice first and all that but we just hadn’t had the chance. So our practice run was Heathrow to central London. Luckily, sort of, we had found a cycle route along the Grand Union Canal for most of the journey so we didn’t have to wobble around on main roads but on the downside we did have to wobble around on a very narrow dirt track next to a large body of water. Thankfully neither of us ended up in the canal but I think it was more luck than judgement, and my constant praying and inner chanting “don’t fall in the canal, don’t fall in the canal, don’t fall ….”
As a side note: we acknowledged that this type of situation, the narrow dirt track and the pedestrian-sized gateways, was a prime example where the Brompton set-up with the trailers would have been a problem and the Bike Friday set-up was definitely better.
After going wrong a couple of times we ended up haring through central London at break-neck speed to get to Euston station in time for our booked and paid for train. We were both exhausted after our sprint and arrived at the station with seconds to spare and a gutting realisation that we were too late to make it to the platform in time. After a bit of marital bickering as to who’s fault it was, we realised that all was well as we had got the time wrong and still had twenty minutes spare! Yay! We climbed aboard and set about enjoying the picnic we had smuggled into my handbag from the hotel breakfast that morning, slightly squashed but entirely edible, and the flask of coffee we had made in the room.
Then on leaving the train disaster struck with only 2kms to go. My jet lag had kicked in and the station exit is on a blind corner. The Husband was on the other side of the road shouting “go now, go now” and the truck behind me was looming and obviously impatient. I set off, as instructed, but in the wrong gear and for a moment nothing happened … then the weight of the panniers kicked in and I fell sideways. However, the brain did not kick in and I did nothing except hit the ground! I realised in hindsight that putting my feet down would have been a good move. I arrived at our destination quite bruised and feeling quite stupid, and very much in need of the gin and tonic that awaited.
Since then we have been racing around the UK visiting family and friends, which has been absolutely lovely 🙂 We have cycled between the local folks and taken the bikes on trains to those living further a field. The cycling has been splendid but quite painful as our bodies are still in the ‘getting used to the exercise’ phase and I had another minor accident. This time I stopped to take off my jumper and clasped the bike frame between my legs as I usually do. But as I now have a water bottle on the down tube, the water bottle just came off and the bike yet again fell over. This time, however, I stayed standing … so not quite as bad apart from the fact that the bike scraped all the way down my leg and I was left bruised and bleeding yet again :-0
The bikes on trains part has not been too bad so far as all of the trains we have been on allow bikes free of charge. We get on with the bikes fully loaded and leave them that way. It’s been a bit of a squash and we have often stayed standing with the bikes but it has worked. I’ve also had my first puncture – a massive thorn – which was quite a surprise as I think we were about 5000kms in to the trip when that happened last time.
Anyway, notwithstanding these incidents, we’ve had a fabulous time in the UK catching up with everyone. A big thanks to everyone. Tomorrow we head off to Portsmouth, on a train that goes via everywhere, to take the overnight ferry to St-Malo. On Tuesday the cycling begins in earnest as we make our way down to Nantes where we are meeting Daughter No.1. She has spent the last year living in Berlin so I can’t wait to see her 🙂