Im writing this as I'm flying into London for the first day of my solo UK bicycle vacation and sky is bright red. Very beautiful!
My 1937 Raleigh Golden Arrow 3 speed is boxed and in the baggage hold. When I arrive at London;s airport,Heathrow, I will go through Customs and find a information booth to locate a train or bus to take me south west to a town called "Totness". I have plans to stay at a bed and breakfast for two weeks , do day trips around and shoot as many photographs as possible.
I have with me my 1950 Kodak Stereo camera that shoots slide film for stereo slides to be viewed with a special viewer. I also have my Sony Cibershot 5 mega pixel digital camera with enough memory to shoot about 1000 photos of various sizes.
The trip is a dream come true for me. Something I have been wanting to do now for over 30 years. Having no commitments and alone for the most part, I now have the time to myself to do exactly what I want to do.
I have never done anything quite like this before. Going to England alone and riding My Dream Bicycle will be great experience no matter what.
The Bicycle was found about 4 years ago, on the side of the road and being thrown out. It was in a large row of trash that looked as if they had cleared out a building. There were desks, lamps. chairs, boxes of trash and two bicycles. The one that caught my eye turned out to be nothing really worth taking , but behind it sat a Raleigh Golden Arrow. I knew exactly what it was haveing owned two others, the first found in the early 70's. I had actually had dreams of finding another Arrow like this in the trash but waking in the morning and finding it was only a dream. This time it was for real.
The 1937 Raleigh Golden Arrow as found
The Golden Arrow, Restored
The bike was covered in dust. The special bars called "Lauterwaser" bars were upside down with the grips in the center. This was perfect because the exposed part of the bar when set up correctly had been protected for years by being covered with rubber grips and upside down. The seat had been replaced with a very large leather spring saddle that was better suited for a upright ride. The Golden Arrow was designed to be low and long and not an upright style bicycle at all.
The old saddle
The Lauderwasser bars as found
Over the next month and a half, I totally dismantled the bike and rebuilt it to how it was originally designed.
I used the bicycle for special occasions and nice days that were dry as to not ruin the cotton cord tires that were completely unavailable if I ever needed a replacement.
In July I came to my senses and switched the rims to 700c and now can actually use the bike for what it was intended for. Real riding. I now have a bicycle that I feel comfortable riding long distances on. It was truly one of the best things I have ever done!
Vacation time for me over the last 15 years has always been a joint effort with someone close. This year would be easy to make plans for me and me alone. This is how I came up with the idea of riding in the UK on my Golden Arrow as I have always wanted to do from the very first day I figured out that a British Bicycle was truly a wonderful bicycle to ride. The feeling is incredible and the freedom of the "go anywhere machine" is truly one of the best bicycle experiences any one can have. Its only appropriate that the bicycle be enjoyed in the land it was designed in, "The Mother Land!"
The switch over from Heathrow to the train to Totnes was easy, Far easier then I expected. I took a bus from the airport to Reading and then now on the train to Totnes. The train is crowded and the folks look like the salt of the earth. Very comfortable. Its not what I expected and brings to mind that the fear of unknown is always unknown fear. Its easy to fit in and go with the flow, and now I'm on my way!
The countryside is quite beautiful. It is the perfect day and very different then what I expected after having more then a few customers at Wheelwork's, the bicycle shop I work at, tell me that I should expect rain. I an totally equipped with full rain gear as well as wool clothing for the worst of conditions.
Im on the train with a group at a dining table. The two across from me are doing a cross word puzzle and the gal to my right, hasn't said a word.
Im not really sure how long the trip to Totnes will be. We have been traveling now for about 1/2 hour in the train through mostly farm land.
I will be staying on a working dairy farm in Totnes. It sounds great. I was told by a fellow in the bar in Halifax, Canada last night at the switch over that If I liked hills, I wont be disappointed.
So as it turns out the guy across from me at the table, doesn't know the gal he's chumming up with. Im not sure if he even knows her name and all along I thought he was her Dad or uncle. He's drinking Gin and she, tea. They are both very friendly. He's from England and she is from South Africa.
We have made a few stops and the view out the window is getting hillier. Still farm land.
The flight last night was good. The food bad. And the flight attendants very friendly. I had a long conversation with one of the gals when she asked If I was coming to the UK to ride. I had to tell her all about the dream come true and show her photos of the bike from the palm that I am writing on now,
All is good for now. British cash in my pocket and on to Totnes.
They said its another hour to Totnes so I went to the dining car and got a Bass ale and a cheese burger. The view out the window at the moment is all farm land, very hilly and quite beautiful. I can think of a few people that would love this and wish they were with me for the adventure to come.
The older man with the gal doing the cross puzzle got off the train. He was quite chummy with the people at the station as he walked off, using his hands to talk and making a couple smile. Im not sure if he knew them as well.
I have no phone service here and so far haven't got the WiFi on the palm to receive my emails. I only hope that the B+B will allow me to use there's so I can keep in touch with the people at home that are thinking about me.
It now looks as if I will need to leave Totnes a day early so I can make my flight. The time traveled from the airport has been 4.5 hours and I haven't even arrived yet. My plan now is to go back to Reading where the bus dropped be off and spend the night with the bike boxed and ready to fly.
I am missing my flight itinerary so I will need to go on line at sometime and get it. I do however remember that I need to be at Heathrow at 11:00 am on the 31st of October as to make my flight. Not to worry now, The day is two weeks from now and all is fine.
The train has just now come out to the shore. Very beautiful, rock cliffs every once and a while we go through a tunnel and back out to the water's edge. The sky is partly cloudy but very sunny. The view is spectacular!
I think I have chosen the hilliest town in England. The photos will show.
I met a cab at the rail station and went up to the B+B. And up it was. Much nicer then I thought it would be. Fantastic view off the front lawn.
Great Court Farm
The view of Totnes Center from Great Court Farm's front lawn
The Home is very cozy. The women running the B+B is a little stiff but very nice. I dropped by things and had the cab take me down town to his favorite pub, or public house ,as I found out yesterday. Beautiful spot by the canal. Very clean and very nice. The pint was delicious. Classic British Bitter. 2.30 a pint which is about what we pay in the US, in that the Imperial pint is actually larger and a true pint. That must piss off the Brit's when they go west.
I walked around town checking out shops for the rest of the afternoon. My last stop before using the phone and heading up to the B+B was another Pub, The Royal 7 Star, that has a October Fest going on where they give you a card for 10 pounds and you can get 5 pints. A savings of about 5 US dollars. Cool! Save money by drinking beer!
I returned to the B+B and asked to use the Internet to check in. The host wasn't to excited about that but allowed me to use it.
I went to my room and napped. I woke around 8:00 and stayed in my room reading and looking at maps and planning my trip.