To Plymouth - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

May 21, 2024

To Plymouth

Where we’re coming from

Before moving on to the second phase of the tour let’s pause for a quick recap of where we’ve just been for the past three months.  For all the detailed changes we made along the way, the overall shape of the journey was reasonably close to the vision we set out with.  Some highlights and some not so high ones:

  • Pretty much writing off our experience in Mallorca due to illness;
  • An excellent extended stay in the city of Almeria where we holed up to avoid the rains and witnessed thrilling Semana Santa processions from the window of our room;
  • Biking beneath the incredible snowbound Sierra Nevada Range on our unplanned ride through Granada to make up for lost time;
  • The enchanting historical towns and unforgettable wildflower displays of Extramadura;
  • A welcome but too-brief visit with our friends Susan, Suzanne and Janos;
  • A series of outstanding stays in northern Spain, all the way from Ávila to Santander;
  • No lost articles that we can remember;
  • No significant mechanical issues;
  • One flat tire;
  • Three hacked credit and debit cards;
  • Two bike shirts destroyed by a clothes dryer;
  • A new bike shirt and long sleeved jersey;
  • 96 new bird species for the year, including 27 lifetime firsts.
Spain, 2024
Heart 6 Comment 2
Rich FrasierThat’s 3 months well spent! Kudos!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Rich FrasierIt was well spent. It’s such a diverse country! We enjoyed getting to see. New corner of it in the last few weeks.
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1 month ago

Where we’re going

And as long as we’ve got you in suspense for a minute, let’s keep you there a bit longer for a quick preview of what we’re planning for the next three months.  There have been a number of changes to our plans since we first published the overview maps back at the start.  In general, the modifications have been intended to work us further into a base-centered, age-appropriate approach that includes more and longer multi-day stays and shorter, easier travel days.  The overall shape is roughly the same though - 90 days that take us north through Devon and Wales, with a train connection to Yorkshire and then another back to Lincolnshire where we’ll catch the ferry to Holland in late August.  Many of the details and bookings have changed though, with the itinerary now looking like this:

England and Wales, 2024
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The thumbnail sketch:

  • May 21-June 5: Plymouth to Taunton.
  • June 6-24: Train to Newport, and then bike through eastern Wales to Shrewsbury;
  • June 25-August 9: Train to Skipton and then bike a circuit through Yorkshire and around, returning to Skipton;
  • August 10-23: Train to Lincoln, and then bike to Harwich;
  • August 24: ferry to Hook of Holland.


Our ship kept to its schedule and we arrived in Plymouth at 3:30, British time - it’s an hour earlier here.  Our room is three decks up from the bicycles, and there’s only one small elevator down to the car decks so we want to head down as soon as we can to avoid the rush as well as the stairs that are the backup alternative.  We packed up and left our cabin an hour earlier and are just waiting for the pre-arrival announcements.  

It’s a pretty simple problem, but we fail the test.  We hop on the elevator with a pair of other bicycle travelers, but when we get to the car deck we’re all turned back by a gruff gate guardian.  Apparently the only folks allowed below yet are special classes - folks with pets, and members of a tour group apparently.  It wasn’t easy getting into the elevator and there’s the thought to just stand in the crowded stairwell for the next half hour as long as we’re down here but we decide against it and take the next elevator back up.

A half an hour later we’re back with the same couple waiting for the down elevator.  It comes, and there’s barely room for the four of us to squeeze in.  But then the elevator goes up, not down - and stops at the fourth floor, where a disappointed crowd waits and sees they can’t also squeeze in.  The door closes, and we continue up - to the eighth floor, and then the ninth, repeating the same scenario.  And then down - stopping again at the eighth, the seventh, the sixth, the fifth, and the fourth.  The same disappointed folks stand waiting at the door.  Nobody gets off, no one new can get on.  Tedious for us of course - it’s the craziest elevator scene I can remember - but maddening for those waiting, no doubt.

Finally we reach the car deck, and can only just manage to squeeze between cars to get to the front of the ship where our bikes are waiting.  By the time we get there the ship is docked, the ramp is down, and they’re just about to begin unloading.  I have to walk across the front bus in its row to get to the bikes, crossing just before it starts driving off the ship.

We fall in with the other bikers - a group of about ten of us, all waiting for the OK for the bikes to disembark.  While we’re waiting a couple I don’t recognize approach us and start chatting - they’re a couple Rachael met the day before yesterday in Santillana: Liz and Martyn, from New Zealand on an extended European tour.  And they also know the couple we just rode down and up and down again on the elevator with: Carolyn and Peter, returning to Cornwall from their Camino ride from Salamanca to Santiago.  It’s an upbeat social gathering, and before we’re all greenlighted to proceed to customs for our passport checks Caroline assembles us for a group photo.

Liz and Martyn in the center, Peter and Caroline on the right, and two other anonymous biker dudes.
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A merry band chats while we wait for the customs check.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesDespite a bit of effort, I have never been able to clearly pin down who developed the Camino logos, much less if anyone own them. Could one put out a line of Camino themed panniers, for example, with impunity? It's interesting (to me, anyway) because this must be one of the most successful marketing schemes around. The fact that it is a perhaps equal blend of sports and religion makes it extra unique.
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4 weeks ago

And then we all bike our separate ways.  Our four new friends go to the parking lot, because Peter and Caroline have a ride waiting there and have taken the kiwis under their wing for the night.  And we bike two miles to our B&B at the Barbican, reminding ourselves constantly to bike on the left and remember which way the traffic is coming from.  We’ve done this transition a few times now but it’s always unsettling at first.  If we can just get through the first two days alive, we’ll be fine.

Our B&B is a mild disappointment when we get there.  For one thing, the room is tiny!  We had more space to spread out in our luxurious cabin on the ferry.  The bigger concern though is the bikes - they’re in a secure driveway enclosure in the alley behind the house - but it’s open to the skies, and rains are due to arrive in the next hour or so.  There’s nothing to cover them with, and we can’t access them without troubling our host about it to at least cover the saddles or maybe wrap the drive trains in laundry bags.

So that’s a worry, but a problem for later.  For now, we head right off to the waterfront for a fish dinner.

The room is too narrow for a table, so Rachael’s taking her morning coffee on the throne.
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In the Barbican, the historical port area of Plymouth (where the Mayflower set sail from and Sir Francis Drake departed with his fleet to do battle with the Spanish Armada).
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The view from our table: a herring gull pacing on the roof of the car just outside the door.
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It starts raining while we eat - just a shower at first, but coming down hard enough eventually that we time our short walk back to the room to stay as dry as possible.  Fortunately for us and the bikes though it stops earlier than expected - soon enough so the bikes end up fine fortunately, and soon enough so there’s still time for me to go out again and walk up on Castle hill for a look Smeaton’s Tower, Plymouth’s famous lighthouse monument.

It’s of course a much too brief look at Plymouth, a famous place dripping with history.  We were here for a couple of nights just two years though when we left England to sail for Brittany, so it’s nice to have memories refreshed.

The Royal Citadel overlooks Plymouth Harbor, as it has done for nearly 500 years.
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The upper layers of Smeaton’s Tower, relocated here as a monument from its original position on the Eddystone Rocks as the third in the series of four lighthouses erected there.
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Today's ride: 2 miles (3 km)
Total: 1,631 miles (2,625 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
Mark BinghamEvery time I see you type the phrase "age-appropriate" regarding your travel plans, I laugh to myself. Considering your physical conditioning and health, I think the two of you might be in a completely ]different category!
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Mark BinghamThanks, Mark. It’s an ongoing adjustment rethinking what sort of travel experience works for us but we’re doing fine with it. For several decades we said we were saving the low lands for when we are older. Feels like we’ve arrived.
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4 weeks ago
Diarmid HarrisPity you'll not make it north of the border, next time maybe.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Diarmid HarrisDiarmid! Thanks for checking in. I trust you and your wife made it to Bilbao and home safely. And yes, next time for sure. We’re having quite a good time in the UK so far, so it could be sooner than later.
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3 weeks ago