We joined Ted this morning for cereal and toast while watching some early morning TV—the raw inside scoop on fire-fighters and EMTs. We cracked jokes about British television while they helped an old man who was having some difficulty breathing. After breakfast, we heaved our bikes out the front door and set off. As we were saying goodbye, Ted pointed us in the direction of a cycle path running along a nearby canal. We jumped at the chance to take a flat, car less route leaving Leicester. We picked up the path easily and followed it for five miles or so through woods and fields on our way out of town.
About halfway down the cycle path I spotted a circus tent in the distance. We stopped to investigate and as we walked up I was filled with memories of when the circus came to Bunker Hill, the small town where my (maternal) grandparents live. We had spent hours watching elephants heave huge support poles up for the the tents. It wasn't nearly as exciting here but we did get to see some pretty haggard camels.
On the way back to our bikes, after having climbed gingerly over and under several fences, I decided it was time I learned how to hop a fence. Tyler is fearless when it comes to hurling his body in the air and it looked like fun so I asked him to show me how. He happily obliged, laughing and saying it was easy. It is amazing how terrified I get when I have to fling myself in the air. I was the same way about learning to tumble and roll in Arnis! After some encouragement I finally hopped a low fence (hooray), but I still need lots more practice.
Back on the road again, we cycled through more ridiculously beautiful countryside. We followed fairly quiet A-roads, or B roads winding through the middle of nowhere. The terrain is getting flatter and flatter lately and it reminds me a lot of home. Despite dealing with a massive headwind all day the picturesque countryside made for wonderful cycling.
There were lots of long stretches in our route today that didn't require navigation/communication so we decided to dig out our iPods and listen to some music. We popped in our earphones and rocked out for most of the day. While listening to Paul Simon and Lucinda Williams, I was filled with that exhilarating "school's out, summer is finally here!!" feeling. The air was filled with the scent of freshly cut grass and blooming purple lilacs and I spent several hours basking in hundreds of memories evoked by the springtime smells.. Fort-making in lilac bushes as a kid, running barefoot playing whiffleball in college, and motorcycle-riding with Tyler through the Minnesota countryside to name a few. Spending hours like this, feeling my legs pump up and down, listening to music and watching the Cotswolds go by was heaven on earth.
Around noon we wheeled our bikes on to one of the many "public footpaths" to have lunch. We've seen these signs everywhere and I wasn't expecting anything special. To our mutual surprise, right off of the highway was a totally secluded woodland path. We set up our walkstools and had a relaxing lunch. A nice change from our usual sandwiches, we had wraps with turkey salami, onion, and what might be mozzarella or maybe provolone cheese (we bought it at a middle-eastern grocery store in Leicester and had no idea what the package said) all wrapped up with butter and some salt. They were WAY better than our boring ham & cheese. YUM!
We arrived at camp after about thirty miles of cycling and set up in a nice little clearing behind a pub called The Green Man. There weren't many many amenities, but we don't need much. We were thrilled to be the only people at the campsite, and even more thrilled when the kind owners told us we didn't owe them a thing for the night. Thank you! After settling in by a little stream and petting the owners' cat, Charlie, we went to the pub to read our books over a pint of local lager. Afterwards we took a walk to the grocery store where we bought a frozen pizza (for £1.50!) and a couple of other staples. Pizza turned out to be a fantastic idea. We baked it in our little oven and it was DELICIOUS; we will definitely be doing that again!
Tomorrow we head to Stratford Upon Avon, where we'll see Shakespeare's home, then cycle on a bit further to our campsite. Another wonderful day!
Here is a picture of a little old lady we rode by who was cycling along with a huge smile on her face: