From Pluto to the Sun, and NGPAR

May 29, 2008 in England, Europe, Travelogue

We woke early this morning and downed our “bloat-meal” in record time. We were actually packed and on the bikes and rolling out of the campground at 9:42 a.m. Why is that special? It is the first morning we’ve gotten out before 11:00 a.m. this whole trip! Why the rush? The threat of our first “big” day of riding: almost 40 miles. We were all excited. We agreed last night that we felt ready to take it to the next level and ride hard for the north.
We could not have had a more exquisite day. The wind finally died, so it was calm; the weather was balmy; the roads were flat… what more could we ask for? We stopped for lunch in a lovely little town with a great playground for picnicking and struck up conversations with a series of folks. Two sets of grandparents were cycling from York (where we were going) to Shelby (where we’d just been) and back for the day. It was from them that we learned that we could cycle through the whole solar system on our way to the campground on the Trans-Pennine Cycle Route. How could we resist?
One of the things we’ve grown to love about the forward-thinking British is their cycle ways. London is just full of them and almost every major town we’ve been in (and a good share of the less major) have had designated cycle ways off of the main roads. We love it! It supports us in our commitment to the NGPAR philosophy… No Grandchild Put At Risk… we have five of those with us, keeping them all safe is a big job! Especially if you’ve met our boys! This particular route runs all the way to the east coast of England and is a pure joy to ride. The surface is paved. The countryside is perfect. And, it’s flat… at least the section we rode today is flat! The children hooted and hollered and tried hard to cycle ahead to be the first one to find the planets, which were arranged in a scale model over a six and a half mile stretch of the path. Our grandparent friends had been right, a lovely ride and “turn right at the sun” took us straight into York and a fabulous campsite that we weren’t expecting, right along the river.
Waiting for us were two of the funniest characters you’d ever want to meet. Two young men, with the idea to cycle from Edinburgh, Scotland to London, England in five days. That’s a long way! Especially on bikes that look as though they’d come from the second hand store with broken rear axel and bottom bracket, borrowed tents, popped therma-rest and nothing but a rucksack bungee corded to the bike to carry the whole mess. Needless to say, they gave up two days ago. They’ve been riding trains instead and spending their evenings at the pubs. It was with equal amusement that we greeted one another. They were amazed by the “military precision” as the long haired, blue eyed one put it. We were amazed they’d made it this far. Gabe, on the way into town to buy supper, whispered at me out of the corner of his mouth, “Mom, didn’t they think about ANYTHING before they left?” “Yes. I’m sure they did. They’re young men with no kids to look after. They’re having fun.” He looked at me dubiously. It didn’t seem fun to him.
Our new friends have gone off to the pub with a cheerful, “The whole of York’s our oyster! We’ll try not to wake you at three in the morning when we return!” To which I replied, “Thanks, we’ll try not to wake you at seven when we get up!” The dishes are washed. The camelbacks scrubbed out and refilled with orange squash (a weird, pretend-a-juice mixture that you reconstitute one part squash to four parts water). The kids are showered and in bed. We’re tucked into our little tent with Meg (for some strange reason we could only have two tents at this site, so she’s camped in with us.) The rain is falling, yet again, but the barometer on Tony’s watch says sun for morning… it is only right about half of the time. We’ve got cookies and chips (make that CRISPS) and brand new books that we bought for 50p off of the reject shelf in the camp store. Life is good.