Getting there - Friday, 11 June 2005

Raleigh -> London

I box the bike up in an Amtrak box and fly out of RDU to connect in Pennsylvania for the flight to arrive Saturday morning in London. Having stayed at the Formule-1 in Paris, I've booked a room at the Formule-1 in Barking (eastern suburb of London) and pre-bought a train ticket from Gatwick airport to London Bridge. "Tower Bridge" is actually the fancy bridge most of us think of as "London Bridge". "London Bridge" is the relatively non-descript bridge just to the west of Tower Bridge. At Gatwick I discover I've forgotten two important items at home - my cycling shoes (Shimano SPD sandals) and the hex tool that I need to reassemble my bike, so I pop over to the "Evan's" cycle shop just outside of the train station and wait for it to open while i watch the double-decker buses, taxis, bicycles and pedestrians travel past. Quite windy and chilly compared to my home - a voice in the back of my head keeps saying "Winter's coming", though it's only June. The guy at Evan's can't tell me if this is typical weather for this time of year, because he's only recently moved here from South Africa. He sets me up with the tool I need, a new pair of Diadora shoes and socks and I'm on my way.

Garden behind Earl's Court Hostel
I cycle east through "Little India" stopping at the ATM machine to retrieve some "Pounds", or "Quid" as they're more commonly known. The cycling is going well enough (it's a trick to handle the intersections and roundabouts when you're unaccustomed to riding on the left), but about halfway to Barking I decide to hop the train ("District Line"). Right outside of the Barking Station is the "Spotted Dog" pub of which I've read. Riding across Barking toward the Hotel I happen upon a local cycling celebration where they supply me with a few maps and invite me to try some of the assorted styles of bikes.

There's an old Cathedral and then a bridge across a canal on the way to the hotel - actually one bridge across a lock and another bridge across a canal bypass where a brass plate is fastened to the brick wall: "Flood Control - Do Not Remove". Do they expect someone to casually dismantle the structure? The Hotel is as in Paris, but noticeably more beat-up. It'll do for the night, but the close proximity to a busy motorway isn't charming.

Pub in Barking

The Forester Arms for a Pub Lunch
Sunday morning, I've made arrangement to meet Roger Fretwell of the Central London CTC back at London bridge for a 60-mile ride through Ashdown Forest. About a dozen of us gather at the station, have our morning coffee and take the train down to "Three Bridges" in Sussex. On the ride down "JT" tells me about other rides in the U.K.. He was watching a documentary about the discovery of evidence of Female Gladiators on the BBC last night and suddenly recognized the excavation site as being right next to his home. Very pleasant ride through rolling countryside. The roads are narrow and the hedges come right up to the road here - it would be hot, but the roads are well shaded by trees. We stop for a "pub lunch" at "Foresters Arms" in Fairwarp-a very nice full meal with beer and a long break before heading back.

Earl's Court Hostel
Sunday night we move to the hostel at Earl's Court - it's closer to Heathrow and much nicer than the F-1 in Barking, though Padmini and I have to stay in separate rooms, having not made advance reservations. It's late and I'm ready for bed but I find one of my room mates is a young man from China excitedly scribbling away in a spiral notebook - he explains that he's traveling Europe before entering college. He'll be expected to study hard in college and then jump into forty years in some profession. After that, when he's sixty or seventy, he'll retire and once again get a chance to see the outside world.

George's Pub near London Bridge

Pub in Barking

Pub in Barking

Ready for the ride

I'm told this means "Bicycles Welcomed"

Our Pub Lunch Stop

This carriage was equipped with disc brakes!

The couryard behind the Forrester Arms
Different country, different cycling customs ;-)

I don't think I've ever seen "Beware" and "Sheep" on the same sign before.

People seem to drive out to these ridges, set up chairs and
simply relax and look at the English countryside.

...or eat Ice Cream!

Hedges right up to the edge of the narrow road.

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