Tuesday 25th June 2002
I set off from Chesham, and within 50 yards notice the chain guard catching badly on the front sprockets. The plastic was distorted and broken in several places. This was probably from transporting the bike in the van recently. Unsure whether this was a bad omen for the whole trip I tore half of it off and threw it in a skip further down the road. Despite this looking a little unprepared I had actually taken some care in getting the bike ready for this trip. This year I was sporting a new strong back wheel and a trailer to spread the weight bearing.
I cycled on to Hemel Hempsted using 3 maps that I had printed out from the OS website to get there. I had one puncture on the way due to a large piece of swarf. I changed the tube for the spare, worrying that I might be late for the train. As it would turn out, this would not be the problem.
The man at the gates at Hemel Hempsted station was very helpful but there were no lifts or ramps to get to the platform, only a disabled chair lift, so I had to carry bike and trailer separately up a set of steps to get to platform level. As I was there in good time I wanted to get an earlier train to Milton Keynes Central so that I would have plenty of time to catch the next train. I wanted to get the earlier 10:19 train at HH rather than the 10:36 that I had been recommended. Unfortunately the even earlier 10:06 train had broken down just short of Watford and that service was cancelled. This had in turn delayed the 10:19 and the 10:36. I ended up on the 10:36 at approximately 10:52.
I arrived at Milton Keynes Central station at the same time that my next train was due to leave, so taking things very easy and slowly I found the lift to the walkway. I also found a very helpful woman member of staff who took me in the lifts to platform 5 where by good fortune the Preston train had also been delayed by 16 minutes so I was in time to catch that - it arrived within 1 minute of me getting to the platform. I was told to go to the wrong end of the platform by the station manager, so had to rush back to the correct end to get the bike on.
Arriving at Preston, by even further good fortune I discovered that the XX:51 had been delayed to XX:54, and was just approaching as I got to platform 4. Once again I was told to go to the wrong end of the train by members of staff and had to rush along the platform to the correct end of the train (this time cycling as I had the trailer and bike coupled together).
Eventually I arrived safely at Carlisle and cycled to Dalston Hall for camping where I stayed at the end of last years trip. Here I met two Dutch lads who had cycled from Newcastle over the last 2 days, and were off to the Lake District and then up to Scotland. Had a couple of beers in the Manor bar. Talking about Europe etc. with Dutch lads and a caravanning couple from just north of Preston.
Wednesday 26th June 2002
Started with Weetabix for breakfast today, deciding to try this rather than porridge which I had been eating on last years trip. I bid farewell to the 2 Dutch lads as they packed up and left for the Lake District. They both had quality bikes and equipment - Ortlieb and Vaude panniers, good bikes and an early Bob trailer. They showed me how it could stand upright on its own when turned full to one side which I had not seen before and which I have not been able to achieve with mine - probably due to the larger wheels. They said than the trailer was designed for 26" wheels, and mine were 700Cs. Could not help notice the huge amount of luggage they managed to fit on to these two bikes.
So, into Carlisle in the afternoon to the Tourist Information Centre. I bought a touring map of south west Scotland where I would be cycling over the next week or so, and I also asked about Hadrian's Wall and the best places to see it. I was advised to cycle up through Brampton and towards the centre of the mainland - away from the west coast which was where I was planning on cycling, so I would be adding a day or two to my trip. To add to this, the area was not on the map I had bought so to save £5 for a Landranger map for one days cycling I traced the route on to the back of the bag. Popped into a rather large cycle shop to get the Headset tightened and also bought a cheap cable lock to add to my D lock and 6ft coily cable.
In the evening I cycled into Dalston again for food, listened to folk on 2, paid some attention to the bike - brake adjustment, front wheel tyre removal and re-fitting, mended earlier puncture from yesterday, removed the remainder of the chain guard which was still on the bike, readjusted front tyre nice and evenly on the rim.