The first hour of my trip went exactly as expected. I woke up a bit before my alarm, had a shower, breakfast, pounded some coffee, and danced around to Hall & Oates as I sorted the final details.
My bike and I were out the door in record time and were smoothly cruising down the streets of London toward King’s Cross, where the real journey would begin.
The plan was to take the District line to the end of the line (there is a Zone 6, people!), so I could start my journey in the outskirts of London in Upminster, an effective way to shave 15 miles or so off the total journey. However, to my dismay, I quickly learned that all the useful portion of the line to me was closed for repairs. After faffing about on the Circle line and dabbling in some DLR action, I realized I would be much further ahead just biking. So off I went, non-challantly adding an additional 10-20 miles onto my journey for the day, sure it would be no problem, because it was only 8:30 am and my legs were fresh, and the sun was bright!
One of the great moments of the morning was globbing onto the tail of a few cycling groups, and crashing their party at a coffee shop. There was a literal throng of cyclists, so I joined them for a cup of coffee (but mostly to enjoy the beautiful scenery – Such pretty bikes! Such pretty people! So much swooning).
A few hours, wrong turns, and big hills later, my optimism had fizzled a bit. I hit a pretty significant hiccup when my data stopped working. My printed route maps assumed at Upminster start, I was way off so they were useless, so I was relying on completely on Google maps. I struggled along, using road signs, before I realized my ice cream levels were critically low, and I could use the pitstop to take advantage of McDonald’s free wifi. Unfortunately, because this is how the tech gods operate, my devices refused to connect. Most enraging. I was able to enlist my pal to map my route and send me some screen grabs so I had something to go on. Armed with new information, I confidently set off.
Only to immediately make the wrong decision and entering the “multilane carriage way” (aka highway). These were some of the more terrifying miles I rode, with cars whizzing by and little room for error on the narrow shoulder.
After that harrowing segment, I had to stop for a daffodil selfie.
Thankfully, more of the trip looked like this:And sometimes it looked like this: And the times Google tells you to ride along the A12, it actually looks more like this, which is pretty ok.My “plan” was simply to “camp on the foreshore of the River Stoud” however, I had not anticipated that much of the river was protected by large farm properties, which would mean hoisting myself and my stuff over a series of fences, through assorted livestock in order to reach the bank. After several failed attempts, I finally found an access road and public foot path that would lead me to the river. It was pitch black by the time I had wandered up down this tiny country lane to find an camping spot that didn’t seem super illegal.
My relief about finding a spot was temporarily overshadowed by the growing realization that setting up a new tent for the first time in the dark is not the best idea… I also learned that I have not really gotten better at setting up tents over the years, I had always just bought better tents, that are super easy to set up. Even though she is pretty, this cheap darling was a pain in the butt. I eventually succeeded, by gently coaxing the poles through the long sleeves of nylon, as they insisted on separating and generally being unruley.
Now it was time for a gourmet dinner:
The wind was howling around (and even under!) the tent, so I warmed up with a few sips of whiskey, like a proper gentleman.
It was a fitful, FREEZING night for which I was not prepared. But my bedroom sure looked good in the morning.Yes, those are cows hanging’ out on the right.
The rest of my ride to Harwich went smoothly – I scared many morning bunnies and was stared at by dozens of sheep and a handful of horses.
For the last 7 hours this has been my home. It has been exceedingly pleasant. In a few moments, I will be arriving in Holland!
I have a few prettier pictures of this leg of the journey trapped IN my DSLR, but for now, I will just share iPhone snaps. If there are any gems, I will share them later.
Of note, with the various detours and re-routes of today, I am pretty sure I cycled an accidental century today – my first 100-mile day. I am quite proud of myself, despite my struggle-o-meter tipping to “high” during several parts of the day!
See you on the other side of the North Sea!
This is the first part of my London <-> Holland challenge “Pedalling for Mental Health”. More details can be found here, and it you can, donate to support this great charity! Thank you!!!