We are definitely getting better at this new way of life with each passing day. This morning we both had showers, made french toast, and packed up camp in the space of 1.5 hours and didn't feel rushed at all! Our average speed is increasing and our distances along with it. We've covered about 360 miles so far or roughly 20 miles a day if you exclude the stoppage for work last week. Hopefully we can get that up to 30 or 40 miles without too much trouble in the coming months.
After breaking camp we hit the road around 9:30 AM and headed to the Vindolanda Roman ruins. It wasn't all that interesting at first but we both got excited when we talked with Allison, a very friendly woman who was working at the archeological dig site. She explained what everyone was up to and the surprising (to us) fact that most of the people on the job were volunteers. With the exception of the site manager and a few students everyone working had paid about £50 to participate in the dig for a week. Allison told us about how exhilarating it was when she found her first Roman coin and how much fun it was to be poking around in the ground at things which had laid untouched for centuries. They've been digging for 40 years and from the sounds of things it'll take another 200 years to unearth what they currently think remains. Wow.
On our way out we went to the museum and watched an informative video that explained why Vindolanda is such an important site. It is the home of the oldest written Roman records discovered to date. The process by which they unearth the paper thin documents from the ground and prepare them for reading was incredible! They basically sift through chunks of mud by hand looking for pieces that peel apart. When they find one that opens they pull the 'paper' from the mud between the halves and put it through a several month treatment process before photographing it with infrared cameras and translating it. All to find out about a centuries-old birthday party invitation! Cool job.
With the ruins behind us we departed around 12:00 PM with the intention of riding 25-35 miles into Carlisle or the nearby town of Brampton. For the past few days we've been on Hadrian's Cycleway and we've yet to see any of the actual wall! We were both simultaneously overjoyed and disappointed when we finally did. It was much like every other stone wall in the English countryside except a bit darker, a bit wider and a bit older. Nevertheless we were excited and snapped some photos before carrying on.
I've been coaxing Tara to go a little faster for several days now. We've been talking a lot about how to make things work so we cover decent amounts of distance and still feel like we're enjoying ourselves. Our main issue is simply the large gap between our levels of physical strength. It takes a lot of communication to stay together (near each other on the road, not in the relationship!) as I can often absentmindedly pull ahead leaving her behind. Today was great. I spent a lot of time giving Tara tips on different riding positions and how to use them to help with climbing hills or working out cramps. We had absolutely beautiful weather for most of the day save for an hour or two that threatened to rain heavily.
Towards the end of our ride I saw a sewer grate that said Cumbria on it and I realized we had finally left Northumbria! We both felt incredibly accomplished as it seemed like we were in Northumbria forever (and due to work, we sort of were). We stopped briefly to talk with one of the locals who was doing a bit of gardening and he gave us some tips on places to see in the Lake District. Most of them we had already planned to visit but it was reassuring to hear someone from the area confirm our places of interest.
We arrived at our campsite only to discover that it was closed. Grrr. Feeling frustrated I immediately started looking for a place to free-camp. Tara found what she thought was the old campsite clearing and we decided to set up camp in the corner. It was fairly visible but I have a lot of faith in the apathy of most people on this planet. Sure enough we weren't bothered even though there were a lot of park visitors.
Tara prepared a hearty dinner of sausage and leeks followed by grilled cheese while I put together our sandwiches for the ride tomorrow. I am sure these journal entries will seem incredibly repetitive when we read them in a few years but I'll say it again: we are really getting the hang of things. We are able to complete all of the tasks required to take care of our basic needs earlier and earlier each day. I am sure we'll have loads of spare time once we get this down to a science!