(written by Dave) (written 12 Sept, posted 13 Sept due to lack of internet access)
Today we find ourselves beyond Hope, completely beyond Hope. It is not that we’ve given up hope, it’s just that we found a campsite that was just beyond Hope and decide to ride there. We didn’t know that the campsite was beyond Hope until late in the day when it was too late to turn back. We are now really beyond Hope. In case you hadn’t figured it out, there is a small town in the far west of England called Hope. When we started this morning, we had not planned on riding this far but Nancy and I combined in making some mapping errors so here we are at the Old School Caravan Park in Shelve, completely beyond Hope.
We had a rather pleasant ride today. While we do enjoy the comforts of the nice hotel beds, having TV in the morning is not exactly conducive to riding, especially when the weatherman keeps saying “if it’s not raining now, it will be soon.” The morning’s forecast was for heavy rains and neither of us felt overly motivated to ride another day in the rain. Perhaps the hotel chains pipe in special weather reports to get people to stay another day because by the time we got up and out, it was fair and dry. On second thought, that hotel / weatherman theory probably has nothing in it, most guests aren’t overly worried about riding their bikes in the rain.
So, with dry roads and a wee bit of blue sky, we headed south along the England / Wales border. The roads were very quiet and we had very little traffic. On the map it looked like a straight line from Chester to Shrewsbury but there turned out to be more turns and junctions than we had anticipated. Our maps were not good enough but as with many days in the past, our iPhone and Google maps made all the difference. We only got lost once, when I misread the phone [editor’s note – Dave neglected to mention that this resulted in us riding down a relatively steep hill, which we then had to ride back up. He won’t live that one down for awhile].
The roads were decidedly rural with lots of farms. We had a slight headwind but being rural English roads they were almost all lined with tall hedges, which did a nice job blocking the wind. We passed a farm called the A&I Crowther Farm. It looked like A&J when we road past quickly. Nancy used to work with Anita Crowther (Hi Anita!) who is married to Jeff. So, the A&I Crowther caught her eye and we pulled over for a photo. Just as we were leaving the farm Nancy spotted something even more remarkable. Right next to the road was a baby cow and mother. The baby could not have been more than a couple hours old. The mother was still standing over the birth fluid and the baby clearly could not walk. They were right on the side of the road (behind a fence) and didn’t know what to think of us. The mother probably trusted humans as she was a farm cow but to the baby everything was new. The two of us, in our day glow vests on these weird looking bicycles made the mother a bit nervous. Should she run away, charge or just moo? She seemed anxious so we didn’t linger as we didn’t want to cause her to move away from her knew calf. She didn’t need us adding any more stress to her day.
We passed into Wales at least once today, maybe twice. There was only one sign for returning back into England, no Wales signs either time we crossed the border. We only knew that we were in Wales because the road signs had added Welsh to the normal English writing. Welsh is a weird language – it kind of looks like English except that they randomly replace perfectly good vowels with unusual consonants. For example, school becomes ysgol. I already spell badly enough, riding here is not going to help me at all.
We eventually made it to Shrewsbury right about lunch time. Shrewsbury is famous as being the birthplace of Charles Darwin. We stopped at Shrewsbury Coffee House and had great sandwiches and coffees. We contemplated staying in town for the night but Nancy had located a couple campsites only 6 and 9 miles further down the road. It was still early enough that so we decided to push on. The forecast was for morning showers and it had been dry so far. Surely it wouldn’t rain in the afternoon.
The first campsite was at a fish pond and was not the one that Nancy thought was the best. So, we decided to ride the extra three miles. When we reached the town where thought the site would be, we pulled over to look at the map. Nancy had spelled the town name wrong and I then entered this incorrectly into Google maps. Garbage in, garbage out [editor’s note – actually, that is not accurate. I did have the whole complete correct address (including the town name) but the heading for my entry had the town spelled wrong. Dave neglected to keep reading (as he is wont to do) and use the whole correct address. But, okay, I guess it was a mutual mistake]. We were not in the right town and we had another 6+ miles to ride. Our new destination was 3 miles just beyond Hope. We weren’t the only ones making mistakes today as by now it started to rain – so much for the forecast that we saw on TV. We could have gone back the 3 miles to the fish campsite but “let’s turn around and go back 3 miles” is not a sentence in the LWOP vocabulary. Once ground is covered, it should not be recovered. We soldiered on in the rain.
It was mostly uphill to the town of Shelve. It is not really a town. I think it is just the campsite. We were a little wet but pretty darn happy when we saw the sign for the campsite. We pulled in, got registered and started to set the tent up. By now the rain, which had seemed to be about to lighten up, decided to really bucket down. So, we had our first rapid pitch tent job in the rain of the entire trip. Sometimes we can “discuss” tent location and direction for what seems like hours. I’m sure that this is quite entertaining to fellow campers. Today, we had the tarp down and outer tent up in about 3 minutes. The past year and half worth of training really paid off. Well, at least it paid off for Nancy as she had the inside jobs of putting down the tent footprint, inner tent, as well as, unpacking the bags, inside the relatively dry inner tent [editor’s note – wow, what a lot of work I was doing while Dave was out fussing around with the tent…]. I, on the other hand, had the job of putting the tarp over the tent, unloading the bikes and bringing Nancy the bags, all tasks which were clearly outside in the pouring rain. I think I got the short straw today as by the time I was allowed in the tent, I was beyond hope [editor’s note – Dave fails to note that every morning while I drag all of the bags out of the tent and work outside the tent in the cold he is safely and warmly ensconced inside the tent packing the sleeping bags, the sleeping pads and his things, which all seems to take an inordinate amount of time.]. Well, I guess that we were both beyond Hope. While Nancy headed to the showers, I made myself busy inside the tent and tried to warm up; outside it stopped raining and the sun came out – what timing.
Due to our mapping error today, we have short days Thursday and Friday. We are not sure of our destination tomorrow but Friday we are staying with a Warmshowers host in Monmouth, Wales. We will not be able to make that Tour of Britain start line on Friday but because we’ve made the extra miles today, we might actually get to see the finish. I’m not sure where it finishes relative to Monmouth but we’ll figure that out tomorrow. The forecast for the next two days is dry!