This was hardly the best-prepared of bike trips. I finished working about a week before I left, after nine months of dashing back and forth across the country to London and barely seeing home. During that week Dgym and I went on a mini-break to Winchester to check out the area as a potential place to live, and of course pay a visit to Ralph the wetsuited penguin at nearby Marwell Zoo.
I cycled to Winchester and back, an approximately 130 mile round trip, to test out both me and the bike after so many months apart. We did OK and had a particularly lovely time crossing the New Forest.
The day of departure arrived, Monday 31st August, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed. It wasn't exactly a positive start - I was already looking forward to spending lazy autumn days at home when I got back, and wondering why I was doing this at all. At least there was an answer to that question: after a crazy few months, I really needed to reboot my brain.
The packing was somewhat last minute, but at least well-rehearsed - my packing list hasn't changed much. I wasn't sure about the mini-pump (a Topeak Roadmorph) as the Schraeder end had given me some trouble a while back, but a quick deflation and reinflation showed the Presta side worked just fine.
I left mid-afternoon, surprised by how light the bike was. I hadn't packed less or got any stronger - I think it had just been a long time since I'd carried those kind of loads.
I stopped half way to the station to take my first photo of the trip, a perfect blue sky textured with several different types of cloud.
The train reached London and I crossed an unusually quiet city to get to Liverpool Street (Notting Hill Carnival was happening on the other side of town). I almost made it without needing a map, but went horribly wrong right at the end and ended up at Old Street.
This being the UK on a bank holiday, it would have been too much to expect the trains to run as normal, and I would like to thank the Sail Rail people for not bothering to inform me that I was actually booking a Sail Replacement Bus ticket. And we all know what the policy is for carrying bikes on replacement buses (If you don't, it generally involves hoping the bike will conveniently dissolve into thin air).
Fortunately, National Express' drivers are a good deal nicer than their policies and, after some discussion that I should perhaps follow the coach or be towed on a rope, my bike was stowed away into the vast underbelly of the coach. It looked like I was going somewhere after all...
After a long coach journey with the world's most annoying squeaky children, we arrived at Harwich ferry port. I boarded, and my bike was tied up on the car deck. I foolishly decided to carry all my panniers up onto the ferry, forgetting what a pain they are to carry all at once, and dropping water bottles, tickets and bags left right and centre. Fortunately the nice ferry staff picked up what I dropped and helped me to my cabin.
The cabin was a pleasant surprise, one of the nicest I've seen on board a ferry - the decor was good, and the bathroom didn't look too much like a ferry bathroom. I sat in bed eating the sushi box I'd picked up in London, and fell asleep easily after that.