Since we left the small seaside village of Staithes our adventure has taken on a decidedly laid back feeling as we slow things down on our way to Harrogate and our date with the Tour de France. We made arrangements to stay in Harrogate long before we decided to do this trip so it was always going to be an interesting logistical conundrum to fit the two things together. The best we could predict back in April was that we would be somewhere between Edinburgh and London on the east coast around early July and we would find a way to get to the Tour somehow. As we approached the English border it became increasingly obvious that we were ahead of schedule and the simplest solution was to slow down and ride directly to Harrogate.
Suddenly the driving force behind our daily routine has changed from making progress around the coast to ensuring we don’t get too far south too soon. The emphasis has been on filling up the time rather than eating up the miles. It’s been very relaxing to spend a couple of nights in places and have a day playing tourist rather than cyclist. To take time to absorb a place and to get to know the people around us has been lovely and we have even managed to catch up with some friends.
After spending a night just outside Scarborough we next camped at Flamborough Head where we had a very special visit from Pauline and Steve. They had always intended to try to come out and meet us somewhere on the east coast but I managed to give them even more reason to make the three hour each way trip by losing my wallet. It’s a complicated story but the details don’t matter, just the amazing act of kindness of both them and our friend Les who also played a part in the wallet re-unification act. It was strange but great fun to hook up with more folks from home and we spent a few hours walking the coastal paths and having a pub lunch before waving them off again and returning to our small tent and our nomadic life with just each other for company.
Actually we don’t just have each other most of the time as we are constantly meeting people who want to know about our journey and to share their own stories of adventure with us. We mostly meet them on the campsites we stay on. The bikes act as a magnet of curiosity and the conversation invariably starts with the question, “how far have you travelled?” Of course it’s great fun now because we can answer, “today or since we started in April?” This usually grabs their attention and has led to some great exchanges. I especially like it when it turns out that they have done something spectacular of their own and our journey brings it all back for them.
From Flamborough we finally left the hills behind and had a very easy ride down the coast, pushed along by a gusting tail wind. Just beyond Withernsea we found the best campsite of the whole trip so far. Mike and Kath run the Elm Tree Farm site which caters for a very relaxed five caravans and two tents. During our stay we only had two neighbours apart from the extremely vocal blackbirds and the ever present acrobatic swallows that constantly swooped around the tent. Perfect weather and a great village local all helped to make our two night stay a real joy. Unfortunately the tyre I had fitted to my bike a mere fifteen hundred miles previously had developed a serious flaw so we spent our day off taking buses into Hull and back to buy a replacement tyre. Maybe it was the sunshine or just our chilled mood but contrary to what we were told to expect Hull was a pleasant surprise. We located the bike shop after a bit of a trek and took another bus back into the city centre from where we strolled to the old town gawping at some splendid public buildings along the way. The county courts in particular are spectacular with their multi columnated frontage and huge roof top statues.
After a pub lunch we toured the Ferens art gallery. Those Dutch masters knew a thing or two about painting didn’t they? Some of the 19th century British work took a bit more effort to appreciate but the Game of Patience by Meredith Frampton captivated us both instantly.
Speaking of art, we have dropped in on a few galleries on our travels and in all cases the resident artists have been fascinating to talk with. We particulalry enjoyed chatting with Mike Oxley in Craster and admiring his dramatic seascapes inspired by the beautiful Northumberland coast. Mike has been a keen cyclist himself in his time and he was very interested to hear about our experience. I love these brief but always enjoyable meetings that bring us into contact with such interesting and talented individuals.
We are now close to York and I am getting excited by the prospect of experiencing the Tour de France for real after years of watching it on the TV. But before then we have two more meetings with friends to fit in so it looks like the tent will be getting a well earned rest for a few days. We are looking on the next few days as a brief hiatus in this journey so we look forward to being back in touch as we pick up our route again on the Humber bridge. I do hope it isn’t closed.