The weather was supposed to be sunny all day today. Tyler and I packed up camp with high hopes in spite of the overcast skies. In the midst of packing, Pete and Reinette stopped by to say goodbye before driving off in their little car to go exploring the surrounding areas. It was a little sad saying goodbye to our new friends but I'm sure we will see them again soon. We will be passing by their home in Sheffield in a week or so and they've offered to put us up.
Goodbyes said and hugs given, we kept packing and it occurred to me how much I loved our campground. It was such a great place, and we stayed there longer than we've stayed anywhere so far on our trip. Three whole days! We had just finished packing when massive grey clouds rolled in and it started raining lightly. It's a good thing we decided to go mountain climbing yesterday!
We rode off in the rain and I found that I was briefly terrified of biking. Somehow I had been fine yesterday after the accident, but today I was scared of falling and every scrape and bruise reminded me of landing on the pavement. After a few miles I felt like myself again, and we were off.
We had some beautiful riding—the terrain was just rolling enough that our momentum from the downhills sailed us easily over the uphills. We biked on curvy roads between mountains, along lakes and forests. On craggy mountainsides, little waterfalls trickled all the way down to meet the side of the road. It reminded Tyler of Glacier National Park in Montana and it reminded me a little bit of the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. We biked along the A591 (pretty much the only road we could take) and it was beautiful and manageable despite being a busy A road.
A very easy eight miles later, we arrived in the quaint town of Grasmere. We did some grocery shopping and went off in search of the famous gingerbread I had when visiting the town a few years ago with my college friends. Tyler wandered around and bought a book to read, and then we both found the tiny hole-in-the-wall Gingerbread shop that has been there since the 1800s.
Right next to the churchyard where William Wordsworth was buried, in a space not much bigger than a bathroom, a woman dressed in old-fashioned clothing sold us a package of six gingerbread bars wrapped in waxed paper. The gingerbread was good but not amazing—a little hard and dry like a cookie, sort of moist in the middle with little flecks of ginger.
Gingerbread in hand, we rode on towards Ambleside. When we arrived we took the opportunity in the (slightly) bigger town to mail the package we're sending to the kids (Tyler's little brothers and sisters) and to hit up the ATM. Tyler purchased another book at a bookshop, and then we were off again.
As we neared the town of Windermere the traffic became horrendous. We have become used to the very narrow, curvy roads so that wasn't the problem; it was that people were either driving WAY too fast (really, are you trying to kill someone?), or traffic was completely backed up due to roadwork.
The rain began falling faster and harder, and hills seemed to crop up out of nowhere constantly. I was feeling very annoyed at all the traffic either whizzing by at breakneck speed around blind curves, or at a standstill, right by the side of the road, leaving us very little room to squeeze through. Once we tried crossing the road to follow a cycle path that was on the right side of the street, but as usual, the path abruptly ended with a sign saying "cyclists dismount." We made the perilous trek back across to the left side, and continued our journey.
I was pretty frustrated and disheartened by this point, not to mention I was completely soaking wet, as somehow, we both forgot that we had perfectly good rain coats we could have been wearing. My jeans were wet up to the calf, and even my normally ultra-dry Keen shoes were starting to give in to the rain. I would have given anything to be triumphant and dry at the top of a mountain, like we were yesterday.
As we left Windermere we were greeted with more hills and massive touring buses splashing water on us as we headed in the direction of Kendal. I wanted to give in to the pummeling rain, but of course there was nothing we could do except carry on as fast as we could until reaching a campsite. Tyler encouraged me a bit and we set out again. A few drenching miles later we decided to call it quits when (like a beacon) we saw the sign for a campsite.
We were able to cook, eat at the picnic tables, and then clean our dishes together inside. This amazing concept (also known as a kitchen) is something I will never take for granted again.
We desperately hoped that it would be a nice campground with hot showers and most importantly, a dryer. We were in luck, for it turns out that it was a 5-star campground with free showers and relatively inexpensive washers and dryers. They even had a little "backpacker's unit"—a log cabin structure with the usual dish-washing facilities, but also picnic tables and a metal counter to cook on with our camp stove. We changed into dry clothes and set about making dinner.
We didn't really have a proper lunch so we were both really hungry. It was so nice after a day like today to be able to cook indoors. Tyler made sandwiches for the next couple of days while I prepared dinner-—thick, piping-hot potato and leek soup served over a few slices of cheddar cheese. We were able to cook, eat at the picnic tables, and then clean our dishes together inside. This amazing concept (also known as a kitchen) is something I will never take for granted again.
Dinner finished, Tyler took the opportunity to do a really intensive chain-cleaning. While I am writing this, he is taking our grimy chains entirely off the bikes and washing them in the sink with a scrub brush and soap.
I cannot wait to take a really hot shower, get completely warm and DRY, and settle in to our tent to read my book.