As we were packing up camp this morning, Mark, the owner of the Green Man pub (behind which we camped) came out to talk to us and we had a nice conversation about beekeeping. He even promised he would send us some of his honey!
When we checked our email at camp last night we were excited to receive a message that a couple living in the UK (they are from Australia) were cycling near us and wanted to know if we'd like to meet somewhere. We took a look at our maps, found a suitable site in our mutual routes and fired them an email letting them know we'd be happy to cycle the extra distance if they wanted to meet us. We quickly heard back that they would and adjusted our route accordingly. Cool!
We set off for Stratford upon Avon in the morning after a very light breakfast. Oops. Less than three miles into our ride we were both very winded. We still haven't totally adapted to our new life; it is funny how confused we get when everything is incredibly hard after not eating enough. Tara was quite irritable at the beginning of our ride and when she informed me that she was stopping to have a granola bar I jokingly told her to keep eating them until she was nice again. Quickly realizing what was up we had a good laugh and promptly ate part of our lunch to make up for our meager breakfast. With both of us feeling a bit less like ravenous beasts and more like ourselves we continued to Stratford upon Avon in the face of gusting headwinds and sidewinds that made it feel as though we were climbing a mountain just to maintain 5mph.
After much laborious pedaling, lots of ridiculous wind, a bit of rain, and fairly sour attitudes we arrived in Stratford, the home of William Shakespeare. The ride in took much longer than either of us had anticipated so we quickly located Shakespeare's boyhood home, locked up our bikes and bought tickets. We almost turned back several times, as we had had such a frustrating morning and our (Tara's) enthusiasm about Shakespeare was waning, but we decided that since we had come all this way to see the sites, we had better do it or we might regret it later. It was quite expensive and not all that fascinating but it was still pretty cool to walk around in a place where so much history was birthed. On our way out we met John, a cyclist with a mobile coffee shop attached to his bike. We had some hot chocolate and asked him loads of questions before heading on.
When we left Stratford we were greeted with headwinds so strong we had to work to go down hills! Feeling pretty bleak about cycling we decided to put our heads down and push through the remaining 16 miles as quickly as we possibly could. Tara drafted me for most of the ride as I pedaled my heart out breaking what felt like a wall of wind as best I could for her. When we arrived at our campsite a little more than 2 hours later we were both thrilled to be 'home'. No matter what we've ridden through (good or bad) our spirits are always high as we make camp and settle in for the night.
As I was making camp (while Tara made lunches for tomorrow) we would both get excited every time we heard any movement near the entrance of camp thinking it might be our cycling friends. Just after a delicious dinner of fried potatoes and garlic bread baked in our oven, they arrived. Oanh (pronounced 'wun') and Nic set up next to us and we shared headwind horror stories for the day. They had ridden north from Oxford and we felt sure they would have enjoyed tailwinds on the way but apparently their day was just as demeaning as ours. They were even hailed on briefly, something we've (thankfully) yet to encounter! Misery loves company though,and I think we all felt better being able to share our woes with others who clearly understood what it was like. Obviously our complaints are tiny compared to the grand adventure we're on but any grand adventure has its crappy days and this definitely had been one of them.
While Oanh and Nic made camp and dinner we talked about their cycle touring aspirations and shared ideas about gear and planning. It was really, really nice to talk to people who not only didn't think we were crazy but seriously wanted to do something similar. Before we left we had spent so much time planning and reading about others who had done things like this that we lost sight of how few people actually have or are. We have been on the road for over a month now and have spoken to maybe six cycle tourists, two of them being Oanh and Nic.