Saturday, June 25, 2011

If Alnwick is pronounced an' ick, how do you say Alnmouth?

Our tentative plan was to meet in front of Arie's hotel at 8:45am. If either party didn't show, the first party should leave alone with the expectation that (born from our experience over the last four days) we would meet again down the road.

Ramona and I made it out of our hotel in good time after a breakfast of poached eggs with kippered herrings and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. We were late for our rendez-vous because we need to do a shop at the Co-op (yeah!) and the local bakery (double yeah for proper donuts). Ramona did some inspired navigating that put us directly back on the North Sea Route.

Arie warned us that the first few miles would not be... smooth. Some gravel, some mud, and along cliffs, no less. Well, at least it is beautiful and there's no rain.

We saw lots of sheep, and some horses. And at one point we stopped and Ramona went up and over the hill on the ocean side to find...

the beach.

We chatted for a while with the farmer whose sheep we were riding with and whose land the path passed through. He managed to tell some off-colored jokes as well as demonstrate his worldliness - all-in-all a nice break and chat.

Hi sheep.

This is hairy vetch.

This is hemlock (I think) with one of the only bees (and is that a proper bee?) that I saw in over two months in the UK. Cell phones? Fungus? GMO pollen? It is eerie to not see bees...

For a break we stopped near the Bamburgh Castle. Coming in on the road it looks like this:

Wow. We had a coffee and snack in town, and then rallied on. It turned into another very big day, although the morning went incredibly slowly. Recovery from the previous day was needed.

But despite exhaustion and a very slow start, we made it to Alnmouth, where we thought Arie might be staying. All afternoon we'd had glimpses of a cyclist up ahead, too far off to catch, wearing a red jacket. He/She was our Arie, as we hoped to catch up. However a kilometer out of Alnmouth we did catch up with a woman in a red top. Just ahead of her was her husband, with their toddler on the bike. Same person all afternoon?

We asked whether Alnmouth had places to stay. They let us know there was an art festival going on, but they seemed to think that we'd get a place anyway. But each time we asked, we were turned away.

After the fourth or fifth hotel/b&b, we arrived just outside of Beaches. Before I (Ramona) went inside Joshua headed down the street to another hotel. As I stood there, the owner, Donald came out to stand on the street. He chatted with a woman who passed by, and I overheard that they had been on vacation for a couple of weeks. After his conversation was concluded, I asked if he had space and indeed he did. He hadn't been in to take the calls for reservations, he'd been on vacation in Northern CA and southern OR. Hi Donald! Thanks! We loved our purple themed room, the rubber duckies and other bath toys on the edge of the tub, and the fantastic breakfast of fresh berries and yogurt. And poached eggs and toast and yum.

They were full for dinner that night, so we went down the street to have a beer and nachos (who can resist?). After a couple of rounds Joshua went ahead and had a half pint.

First Sunburns of 2011 - Alnmouth to Budge

In the morning we had more steam, and after a 50 mile day we were within 50 miles of Newcastle. If we went all the way it would mean two nights in Newcastle, and a full day to recover, do laundry, etc.

The day went smoothly and quickly. More castles.

The sea and the sky and finally Tynemouth.

When we thought we were very close we stopped for a bite (fish & chips) and a couple of beers. We called Budge and missed him. Then after beers we tried again and it turned out we were still a good 7 miles away. As time ran out he gave us the name of a bar, and said to call if we hit the center of town with all the fancy bridges. Which is what we did. He came to meet us, took us to his place, and then we went out for some dinner. Riding without gear!

In a neighborhood called Byker!

One favorite bar where we left the bikes locked up.

Hey look! Budge!

- rolling post

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