Wrong way!

Posted by on 11, Feb 2022 in 2022 - USA, Tilly the Tandem, UK

Wrong way!

It’s not often we head off in the wrong direction form the word go. But following Taffy breaking down the night before departure in a desperate act to stop us leaving her we had to shorten our first cycle day to allow us to arrange repairs.

We usually get Taffy ready for storage the night before departure. Empty the tanks, tidy up etc and then we are ready for the off the following morning. But when we came to start Taffy the brand new starter batteries died completely.

After much faffing about with drainpipes and guttering we managed (with help from Andrew at the campsite) to empty our tanks into his septic tank without moving and set off late just after lunch leaving Taffy awaiting recovery for repairs.

Taffy will be towed to the garage on Monday – again thanks to Andrew and Barbara for being there to supervise this for us and hopefully the damage will be minor. Possibly a visiting squirrel we heard recently having a bit of a nibble under the van. Maybe he enjoyed a bit of wiring loom.

Anyway, off to Ipswich station first, train to Witham and then a very short ride to our first Airbnb for the night on a blistering cold day. A very leisurely start!

Where are we heading this time? That would be telling, but for now we are taking a leisurely trip down to London.

Tilly’s glad to be back on the road and I can certainly feel the stresses of the last few weeks evaporating as we cycle….. Or is that sweat? Probably not in this weather. It was so cold for our first day I had to arrange my scarf into a balaclava as my face was getting so cold it gave me a headache. Not sure why we are doing a winter cycle tour…

Our first proper day of cycling started after a great night’s rest at a fabulous Airbnb, that will almost certainly mean that everywhere we stay from now on will be slightly disappointing however good it is! It was amazing!

The average speed of cars in central and inner London is less than we manage on a fully loaded touring tandem. So at one stage accelerating to 50mph in his ferrari after the lights and whizzing past us just ended up being repeated again and again by the same driver until eventually he got left behind at a queue and we sailed on merrily on the wonderful embankment cycle path, which had far more cyclists on than the road and was moving faster too. Wrong mode of transport for central London, but he did have a car that went broom broom a lot.

It’s always hard for the first couple of weeks on tour, but then your legs adjust and you settle into it. This year we’ve got the added complications of having to cycle in winter gear. This may sound irrelevant but we find it much harder than just cycling in our shorts and sandals.

The cycle through Essex was nice and our 2nd night was, as expected disappointing. And that is so unfair!! The accommodation and owner were great, but it just wasn’t up to the night befores standard. ????

The weather for our ride into London was forecast to be horrendous. Torrential rain and very strong winds too. Not what you want on your 2nd day. We spent ages getting into our wet gear, making some heath Robinson gloves out of bin liners for our hands only to walk out of the door and the rain stopped instantly!

The wind unfortunately didn’t. And naturally it was against us all the way. It was like cycling a brick through treacle and some of the gusts that hit us side on felt like someone actually shoving the bike. Good job the treacle kept us stuck to the ground. It didn’t really relent at all either. We’d thought that once we got into the city that we would be more protected, but the sneaky little bugger just whipped round the buildings from different directions.

Still, it meant we stopped for refreshments at the Tower and the Albert Memorial and the sun came out to keep us warm whilst we sat there. Very nice.

There’s always stories about cyclists vs cars in London, but we found most drivers were OK. The thing we did notice though was that we, despite carrying 4 panniers, a cool bag and a tent we moved more quickly than cars once inside central London. A poor lamborghini was giving it all of the throaty revs and manic acceleration for 50 metres then stopping and we kept passing him and eventually left him way behind us.

The average speed of cars in London drops annually and we averaged, even with out snail like pace more than a car. As a cyclist said, cars should give way to bikes in central London and stop holidjng us up!! ????

We arrived at our next Airbnb very tired and were very pleased we’d gone for a rest day, where naturally enough there wasn’t a breath of wind for our walk down to the river and brief visit to Kingston before spending the rest of the day resting our legs.

Leaving London we followed the Thames to pick up the 223 cycle path – The Downs link. This is an old railway line so provides a relatively flat and easy cycle through the downs – one of our least favourite places to cycle, because in case you didn’t know we suffer from Hillphobia.

It also holds the national bog racing competition and Tilly faired very badly in this sinking down 3 or 4 inches at times as we pushed her though the worst bits. We lost count of the times we had to get off and push, probably 40 to 50 times and we eventually rolled up with the chain sticking to the cogs and the chain tensioner clanking. We had to ask for a hose to wash her down and then planted some spuds in the debris.

The BnB wasnt near anything with both pubs being closed so we had brought a camping freeze dried meal, which our host was horrified at thinking it sounded dreadful. It was actually really really nice and we felt very stuffed after. Highly recommend them as an emergency meal.

The next day she made sure she fed us up with a huge breakfast that just meant we also sank into the mud with Tilly, but werent hungry when we sank. But fortunately the path improved and we approached Shoreham, tackling the last unsurfaced section on foot as it was just a load of boulders stuck together with mud and proved a challenge to walk on let alone cycle.

But we had reached the coast and the lovely smooth cycle path along the seafront where we sailed past the miles of slow moving traffic on the road below the sea wall. I’d hate to see that road in July. The wind had naturally changed direction to give us both barrels but with a nice smooth tarmac below Tillys mud encrusted wheels we flew along – OK we ambled may be a more accurate description, and then got waylaid by a chip shop.

Our BnB lady was standing on the doorstep as we arrived having seen us turn into the drive and was gobsmacked we’d cycled from Ipswich so promptly took a photo of us for her Instagram page. Stars! Her BnB room was fabulous (we weren’t disappointed in this one!) and we forced down a medium Dominoes pizza between us and about a gallon of drink.

Despite using 2500 calories a day by the evening we really don’t want to eat, we’re not hungry and have to force ourselves to eat something. Mind you, one of the ready meals we got from the coop I can’t imagine anyone ever eating without being forced to, it was awful!


  1. Hillophonia!! We are founding members of that club!

  2. Lovely to meet you on this cold Gosport morning. Happy travels
    John and Caroline

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