Back to the Once Brewed hostel for our Full English Breakfast (£2.30):
...hot porridge - not a favorite of mine,
...small hot Roma skinless tomato,
...buttered toast with marmalade.
The English do like their meat, eggs and tomatoes for breakfast.
Dense opal fog hung to within 20 ft. of the ground. During breakfast we pored over our maps, spread out between breakfast trays and tea pots. Today's route included the high hills through the Pennine mountain range. With the fog and rain, views would be nonexistent. To ride hills because they were there was not my idea of a good time.
With a revised itinerary, we returned to our campsite: pack and catch a train bound for York. It was a democratic vote - two to one for the train ride. I think Earl felt coerced.
After breakfast we confirmed youth hostel accommodations in London. Good! That's a relief. An assured place to stay. As flexible as I like to think I am, there are occasions when I like knowing where I will be. Particularly in a big city.
[As I write, it's 10 a.m. - Once Brewed. Again I am snuggled in my tent. Tent-bound time is to delight in found moments of relaxation and contemplation. Wind gusts grab and shake my nylon and aluminum home. Rain pelts down, finding shortcuts to the ground through the seams. I am appreciative of the stakes fastening my free-standing tent to the ground. I pitched the tent entrance directly into the wind. A mistake. It should be rotated 180 degrees with its lower tail into wind. In a nearby tent, a woman softly sings - a wistful song with words I cannot hear. She has a clear, bell voice. Her music is uplifting and reassuring, with undertones of thanksgiving.]
The high wind blew drops onto my tent and it sounded as if it were still raining quite vigorously. Tracy said he spent some time snoozing. I heard Earl doing the same. By 11:30 a.m. the weather tapered and we implemented our new plan - a dash in the drizzle to the Bardon Mill train station five miles down the road. The acrid air reeked of burning coal and pollution. Near the station, we passed Bardon mill - long since closed. The whole town was closed, even the local pub.
The next train was due at 2:08. We found shelter from the elements in a damp dingy stone-enclosed waiting area. I was beginning to feel consuming weariness...deep into my very core. I wanted to continue cycling, but I didn't. I was tired of the rain and hills.
Earl boiled up a pot of tea, and we created cheese and tomato sandwiches from our accumulated provisions. Two young German hikers joined us under cover, eating and smoking. At precisely 2:08 the train pulled in. Often three bikes were not allowed on a train at the same time. Fortunately the conductor was sensitive to our plight and she allowed us to put all bikes on board. Cost for this leg: £3.40.
Bikers have a special magnet that draws one to the next. We sat with a university graduate student who not only was an incessant bicycle tourist, but also a racer. Comparing observations about the roads and routes through the Pennines, it appeared that our decision to catch a train was wise. Long steep climbs were the norm on our road not travelled.
The trip was winding down. I was not happy about that. It has been fun and flown by. Past days were blurry. Although large cities boast of tourist sights and everyday amenities, the small towns and villages have had a warm charm and hospitality not found elsewhere.
The train drew into York. Here the air was clear and warm, the sun inviting. A delicious change from the fog and chill of Once Brewed. We walked along the old Roman city wall, through the ancient city gates toward the Youth Hotel. En route we passed dusty bookstores - one serving vegetarian meals in the back; inviting looking Indian restaurants; and, of course, tea rooms. Along one street, which in any other city might be called a long wide alleyway, was the York Youth Hotel.
The desk clerks, eyes attentive to the t.v. and Wimbleton, were more interested in who was winning and less interested in registering us. Eventually we got their attention, and they got our money.
My room was £8.40 for 6 beds in a locking room. There was something slightly disagreeable about reorienting my thoughts to locks on doors. It signaled a change in attitude, not for the better. So far there were only two of us in the room. My roomie was a psychologist from Sweden, about my age, with two children in their late teens. She was hiking and BritRailing alone around the countryside.
A shower! First on my agenda. The sweat and grime of the past day and a half must go. The showers were downstairs, around corners of this convoluted building, and in a small bathroom. Not the nicest facility, but first class compared to the camping area at Once Brewed. The needle sharp streams of hot water massaged my neck and shoulders. It was good.
We walked York, the center of which formed the nucleus of an active oddly configured medieval town. In the Shambles, an area in the middle of old York, small streets went every possible direction, one rarely parallel or perpendicular to the next. Tracy was city guide with his uncanny ability to correctly navigate unfamiliar territory. Shops ranged from tacky tourist traps to interesting businesses befitting a university town. Upon spotting a bakery, we opted for our afternoon pastry. Tracy and I had no will power whatsoever when it came to pastry shops. At Earl's urging we stopped for ale at the Roman Bath Pub (he was as drawn to pubs as we were to pastries). The pubs we have been in have all been smoke-filled...some more than others. Non-smoking activists have fertile territory in Great Britain. This pub was less smoky, so I was able to spend time enjoying people-watching, chatting, and drinking my Guinness. (Guinness on tap is infinitely better than the bottled variety we get in the States. It's much smoother.) There iwas a homey friendliness in each pub we have visited. Spontaneous conversation erupted easily amongst both tourists and locals.
At dusk we strolled - by happenstance - directly to York Minster Cathedral, a stunning place! A huge cathedral! The amazing stained glass windows were breath-taking: a west-facing heart shaped rose window through which the evening sun cast colorful streaks along the nave floor; long narrow panels of gray-green glass in complex geometric patterns along the north side. We didn't spend time gawking as we made plans to attend the Evensong service tomorrow at 5 p.m. The suggested visitor donation of £1 was a tourist's bargain.