A GREAT BRITAIN PUSH BIKE TOUR
In early August, twenty Knickerbikers met up in Windsor (near London)
to participate in a cycling adventure in England, Wales and Scotland.
Thanks to Priscilla Moxley, we had reservations at a dozen youth hostels
and B & Bís spaced along our route; it took us through some of the
most scenic parts of this sceptered isle. She also recommended a number
of sites to visit along the way. Link to last summer's Push Bike Tour
in England: http://www.geocities.com/mjvjr/PushBike/PB540.html
Although we desperately wanted to, we didnít fully believe Priscilla when she said: "I always have fair weather on my tours." After two weeks, though, we were believers! Sure, there were some sprinkles, and of course we had overcast days and headwinds, but the weather was more friend than foe. On one memorable day, just when we needed it the most, strong tailwinds pushed us uphill alongside a field of heather!
Good fortune was not limited by the weather: one day, a lone cyclist appeared from nowhere and offered to show us a scenic, traffic-free way to our dayís destination. Traffic-free if you didnít count the occasional tractor, anyway. We couldnít detect any wings under Johnís club jersey, but itís still not clear how he knew that we had no clear idea of where we were headed.
Thatís not exactly accurate; we had maps and we had map sessions, discussing possible routes. Of course, one of the map aficionados, your editor, became lost early in the trip and led a few folks an extra 20 miles to Winchester, making a 70+ mile ride on a hot, humid day.
We walked through castles, cathedrals, abbeys and a magnificent Minster. We met England folks in pubs and had tea with a famous Scottish author in his home. We spent our nights in a wide variety of accommodations, ranging from lovely B&Bís to rustic hostels.
One hostel, St. Briavels, was a 13th century hunting lodge of King John. The remains are classic castle, complete with moat, round turrets flanking what was once a drawbridge, crenellations, and little narrow vertical slits that archers could use with advantage. A medieval banquet is served every Saturday night, so we shared the salt with an English band of hikers. The costumes we wore befitted the period, as did the fare and the complete lack of utensils. We were called on to entertain the "lord" (one of the hikers) by telling jokes or singing songs. Some of us even were taught Morris Dancing!
The hostel in Melrose was a magnificent Georgian mansion with a grand staircase. It had been turned into a military hospital during the World War II, and now had dorm rooms, a washer and non-functioning dryer, and better-than average showers. The bunk beds, duvets and sleep sacks were standard issue, however.
The last day of the trip was a fitting celebration of the successful trip. After having tea with Nigel Tranter, the Scottish author, we gathered for dinner in Edinburgh, where the Festival was in full swing. The "Royal Mile" between the Castle and Holyrood House (palace of Mary Queen of Scots, and others) was rife with more buskers (street performers) than we knew existed on the whole planet. The energy from the throngs was intoxicating! Think of a type of street performance you have seen anywhere, and it was there: Andean musicians, bagpipers, high-wire acts, jugglers, men in costumes seemingly made of metal or stone, mimes, political activists lying in the street covered in red dye, unicyclistsóyou get the idea.
Our dinner menu, complete with "Knickerbiker Bike Tour" printed at the top, forced us to choose among four savory starters, four main courses, and three desserts. Your editor chose the Prawn & Langoustine Bisque, the Escalope of Turbot, Buttered Spring Cabbage & Poached Egg, and the Pistachio Nut Creme Brulle. After awards were given to each of the participants, we waddled up the hill to the castle to view the Military Tattoo, which is a display of bagpipes, dancers, singers and dramatic lighting effects on the castle. The evening was capped by a fabulous display of fireworks booming overhead.
The group gave Priscilla a little porcelain box with this inscription from an Edinburgh lad, Robert Louis Stevenson: "Travel for travelís sake. The great affair is to move." Well, we moved and traveled and had a wonderful time!