(written by Nancy)
Our first night in England went off without a hitch – the afternoon rain we had was over by the time we finished dinner and headed back to the tent. There were quite a few tents and caravans in the pub camping ground but all was quiet once it got dark.
I had found some information online about a route from Harwich into London so we at least had some general idea about where we wanted to head. And, we did pick up a map at a service station yesterday so we had some ability to figure out where we might be and where we needed to go, between the road signs (wow, seems amazing to be able to read these) and our map.
Our first goal for the day was to get to the city of Colchester where we knew there were several mobile phone shops. The roads were okay – not too busy but none have any shoulder at all and are relatively narrow so the cars seem close when they go by. Traffic is polite but they seem to drive awfully fast. That plus riding on the left side and trying to reorient ourselves to our mirrors on the right side of the helmets meant we really had to pay attention to what was around us. The road was pretty flat though, winding through mostly wheat fields and forests so the scenery was nice.
Colchester seemed quite large but Dave had checked google maps last night and he navigated us right to the pedestrian shopping area after one stop where we got some directions from another cyclist heading out for a morning ride. The pedestrian area had all of the major stores plus many more – bookstores (!), cafes, etc and we found at least 4 phone shops. No luck at the first one (3, which said no tethering unless you had a contract, which would have worked because it was cancellable but could only be purchased with a UK credit card), but we found a sim at the T-Mobile shop that seems to be a good deal. I think we have said this before but mobile phone providers seem to work quite hard to be as complicated as possible and England is no exception. But anyway, we did get one and it seems to work.
Right across the street from the T-Mobile shop we spotted a Starbucks store so decided it was time for morning tea – no matter that we had covered barely 25k. We don’t have much mileage to cover to get to London so why not take it easy and enjoy it? We had an order of fruit toast – something we haven’t had since we left Australia, I think. After that pleasant stop we hit the road again, making our way through several small villages until we got to the town of Maldon, which sits on a river leading out to the North Sea.
We had talked about going to Chelmsford today but after some research last night we could not locate any campgrounds in the area that would take tents. There seems to be a bit of a bias against tents in this area so while it may look like there are several caravan parks in an area it takes a bit of searching to find ones that will actually take tents as well as motorhomes. Hopefully that will not be the case elsewhere along our route. We did find a couple online that were in Maldon so decided we would check them out and stay if they looked okay. Dave searched for hostels online also – he found a homeless shelter and a halfway house – hostels may not be an option either.
We picked up some groceries and headed to the Osea Meadows campground – actually, it’s called the Osea Leisure Park, clearly more posh-sounding than campground. The camping area is decent, though we could not get power as you must have one of these funky plugs that caravans use. We had this same problem last night but thankfully could charge things in the restaurant while we ate dinner. I think we’ll have to pick up one of those adapters as I suspect it may be an issue in other campgrounds (assuming they even let us low-life tenters in). Often you can at least use power points in the amenities block, but both yesterday’s and today’s campground have no open plugs anywhere. Actually, that’s not true – Dave says he saw one at the amenities block behind a fence and is planning to climb the fence to get to the plug if he has to. I will studiously look the other way if he does that – not good to get arrested on our second day in the country….
As we arrived relatively early Dave took the opportunity to clean the bikes and put on the new chains that my sister brought over with her. So now we have two new shiny bikes with new chains, ready for the next leg. Dave is really excited about his new blue Rock & Roll chain oil that my sister brought over – we had run out of the other bottle we had and he couldn’t find it anywhere in Europe so thanks Andy for getting it and Gretchen for bringing it over! And the most exciting thing is – we have an English paper to read!! I know this probably doesn’t seem like much to all of you out there, but it has probably been over a year since we have had a whole paper to read. That is one of the things I really miss – sitting with a cup of coffee and a nice thick paper to read.
Tomorrow we will ride into Chelmsford and go to the train station to see what our options are. We are not too excited about trying to get through London city on the bikes so we will see how far we can get on the train and go from there. Hopefully we won’t spend too much time circling the London streets! We are planning to spend a couple of days in London, where a friend and former GE colleague has graciously offered a spot to rest our heads. Lots of things on the to-do list, including some concentrated time planning our route from John O’Groats to Land’s End and our transportation up to the start.
It’s windy here at the campground – I suspect the wind blows here most of the time. It was warm this afternoon as the sun was out but now some cloud cover has come in and the temperature seems to be dropping. I think it will be an early dinner and early night – though not, of course, until we have read a few more pages of the paper…