A young bearded man in the bike workshop turned out to be preparing to cycle to Australia.
“It gives the ultimate sense of freedom.” said Owen, whilst munching on a cookie. “The fuel I use is…this…” taking another bite. “whatever I put in.” Breaking into a hamster cheeked smile. “I’m from Australia originally and I got planes over here. I’ve been here a while and I’d like to go back, but cycle back, and explore the planet we live on along the way.”
I nodded in wide eyed admiration. “When are you leaving?”
“Hopefully on Thursday but my wheel’s still not finished so we’ll see.” He showed us the bike frame. “I’m going up to Iceland, through Norway then down through Russia.”
“Wow.” Said Sama. “You’re taking a shortcut to Australia then.” Laughing gently.
Owen smiled, picking up a tool, and began to twist the spokes on one of his wheels that was in a clamp.
Walking out of Oxford to the North West, we joined the River Thames and strolled along past Port Meadow common. It often floods in the winter and some parts of it still had mini lakes visible. Much of the land, and buildings of and around Oxford are owned by Oxford University, but Port Meadow has been common land for hundreds of years. We hadn’t gone far along the river before we came to a tree that Sama declared good for climbing and promptly shot up.
A little further on we saw signs to Alice’s Wonderland. It was certainly somebody’s wonderland – a winding pathway of leafy archways to a seventeenth century thatched pub with a huge weeping willow in the garden. We decided to go down the rabbit hole.
My first solo expedition was at the age of 19. I decided to cycle from Naphill near High Wycombe to Wendover, staying in B&B’s along the way, since I wasn’t very fit and couldn’t cycle far in a day. Unfortunately, I’d only gone a mile down the road when I needed the toilet, so I stopped in a pub. I felt too guilty to use their loo without buying something, so I bought a pint.
Another two miles down the road, I needed to go again… as I was passing another pub.
An hour or two later I’d only gotten as far as Princes Risborough and was so drunk I couldn’t go any further! I called round for a B&B and went to sit in the station to sober up before I could go check in.
Sitting in a fuzz on the station bench I was somewhat confused to see a much loved ginger haired second cousin get off the train. I’d completely forgotten he lived there.
“Alright Eve! What you doin’ ‘ere?”
“Well I was on my way to Wendover, but I’ve had too much to drink.” I said smiling up at him. He cheerfully sat down next to me and we began to catch up on the intervening couple of years we’d missed. He told me about his recent solo adventure hiking in the wilds of Scotland when he’d nearly died falling off a cliff and been saved by his walking stick.
“Always have a walking stick with you.” He told me sagely.
“Eve?!” Called Miranda on her way through the pub garden. “Did you want a drink?”
“Erm. No… thankyou. Might cause too many stops. Um, a lemonade would be lovely, thank you.” I said slowly.