Saturday, May 29, 2010


Well, I took yesterday off from taking pictures and writing, so now it is time to catch up.


Friday morning I had my nice full Scottish breakfast (including haggis) and hit the road by about 9:30.† Google maps said my trip should take about 4.5 hours, but I was figuring on 6.† The first half of the drive was really beautiful, driving along the lochs in Scotland.† There was a lot of traffic, though, and sometimes the going was slow.† It was especially slow, with a narrow winding road, along Loch Lomond.† It was so narrow that when the traffic met one of the many tour busses on a curve, one or the other usually came to a stop, as the bus usually couldnít get around the curve without coming over into the oncoming traffic lane.† I wonder what happens when one bus meets another one on one of those curves.


Anyway, I enjoyed the scenery and the drive, although I could have done with less traffic and wider roads.† I finally got to the Glasgow area, which was about 90 miles into the 230 miles I had to go, and it took me over two and a half hours to get that far.† At that point, I hit the motorways, so I thought things would speed up.† Well, they did speed up, for about 5 or 10 minutes.† Then we came to a stop and I had stop and go traffic through Glasgow for about 20 minutes.


Finally that was behind me, and I was sailing down the motorway, using cruise control for the first time in days.† There was a series of warning signs about roadworks ahead, at Junction 8, but I had no choice but to plunge onward.† Well, it slowed down and again I had stop and go traffic for another 20 minutes, to go about 3 miles.† When I got to the roadworks, they had one of the two lanes closed off, and they werenít even working on it; they were working on a section of the shoulder, and the workers were separated from the closed lane by a barrier.† It was hard for me to understand the logic of closing one lane of the busiest route between Scotland and England, on the Friday afternoon of a three day holiday weekend, but that is what they had done.


After that I sailed along again, and I stopped at a couple of service areas to pee and to eat, in that order.† It had been a 3 hour stretch from Fort William to the service area where I finally got to relieve myself, and I was really busting for a leak by then.† I had been looking for a place to go for the last hour, but there just wasnít anywhere.† No fast food restaurants and no gas stations.† I could have gotten off the highway or motorway and gone looking, but I didnít know where to look.


The last frustration was in Carlisle.† I had to get off the motorway there and get onto a highway to the coast.† There was no way to do that without going right into the center of Carlisle on one busy road, and then out again on another.† My map shows a bypass is under construction, and that would have saved me 20 minutes of stop and go traffic.


So, I finally got here to my country hotel near the Cumbria coast, on the northwest edge of the Lake District, after 7 hours of driving, which was about 4:30.† At home, driving on the interstate highways, a 7 hour day is an easy one.† For me, yesterday was a difficult 7 hours.† I made one wrong turn in Carlisle, and that cost me 15 minutes, too, so I was partly responsible for how long it took.


Before I checked in, though, I thought I would explore the neighborhood, so I drove around a little.† I found a mini market at a gas station nearby, and they had some nice looking sliced ham in a convenient size package (something like 5 ounces of it), so I got it for my dinner.† I had oat cakes, ham, cheese, and some coconut cookies I got at the mini market as well.† Of course, first I had a couple of beers and some whisky, as usual.† I had intended to eat in the bar here, but the idea of another grazing dinner sounded better to me.


After my fine meal, I had a nice walk along a bike/pedestrian path that runs along the road out front.† We are out in the country here, and it was a pleasant 35 minute brisk walk, with a gentle hill to get the heart pumping a bit.† Very nice.


The Melbreak Hotel is okay.† The room is pretty big by British standards, I have wi-fi in my room, and the bathroom is modern.† There is a big flat screen TV, too, and I watched it a bit last night.† There is a cricket test match going on, between England and Bangladesh, and I enjoy cricket, so I watched the recap of yesterdayís action.† A test match goes on for five days, I think, usually.† A 45 minute recap of the day was enough for me, though.† I will try to catch todayís recap tonight.† I also watched a show in which people bring their antiques and collectibles, and dealers make them offers for them.† The people can either take the best deal they can negotiate with the dealer, or they can put their item into an auction.† I enjoyed it, although I donít think I would watch it very often.† I love listening to the various British accents, and a show like that had a wide range of them.


When I got online after getting here, I had an email from Travelodge.† I was booked into the Travelodge at Bicester for Tuesday night, but the email told me that there had been a severe fire at the service area where it is located, and the hotel had no water supply, so it was closed.† They offered me a refund (of the bargain basement advance purchase price I had paid) or they would re-book me into another of their hotels for no additional cost.† I went for the second option, and responded by email, as they asked.† Later in the evening, I got confirmation that I had been re-booked into a Travelodge in Oxford, which had been my first choice.† It is also located in a service area, with a Little Chef and a Burger King there.† It is only one night, and one Travelodge is much like another one, so it wonít affect me much.


I slept pretty well, and this morning I had the nerve to ask for the specific breakfast I wanted, rather than the standard ďfull EnglishĒ.† I had three scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, orange juice, yogurt, and tea.† It was excellent.


The forecast today was for rain all day, so I didnít want to go off driving around the Lake District, and Iím not sure I would want to do that anyway, on a holiday weekend that is the start of the half term school holiday.† It hadnít started raining yet when I was done with breakfast, although it looked fairly threatening.† So, I headed up the coast, to see what I could see.


There were places to stop, and I did, but it wasnít an especially great coast.† There werenít any waves, as we are on a big bay, and I like crashing waves at the beach.† There were a few birds from time to time.† Curlews, Oystercatchers, and even a little group of Sanderlings and Ringed Plovers, sort of mixed together some of the time.† There were lots of people out walking their dogs.† There must be a higher dog ownership here than in the States, or else the people walk their dogs more here, as I see them walking their dogs all the time.


As I made my way up the coast, through small towns and villages, I saw some signs for a Craft Fair in Silloth, which was the last town in the chain, and where I was sort of heading.† So, when I got to Silloth, I found the fair, parked my car, and wandered in.† It was in a tent, which was wise in this climate.† It still hadnít started to rain, although some scattered drops fell from time to time.† You can see Silloth and the Craft Fair in Photos19.


It was after noon by then, so I made my way back down the coast to Workington, where I had looked up the location of a McDonaldís, and I went there for lunch.† To my disappointment, they didnít offer the double Quarter Pounder with cheese at that location, so I had to settle for a single one.† Iím sure most of my readers think I am a real lowlife for frequenting McDís so much, but I like it.† This one was crowded as the dickens on a Saturday afternoon, so I went through the drive through and took my lunch to a place where I could eat in the car and look out at the sea.


I saw some more birds while I was there.† A pair of Goosanders, who flew away before I could get a picture; Pied Wagtail; Wheatear; and Skylark.† I got some pictures of the last one.† None of those were new, but it was still fun to see them, and I hadnít gotten any pictures of Skylarks before.


By this time it was pushing 2:30, and the rain had finally started in earnest, so I hit the Workington Tesco, which I had also looked up ahead of time, and got some provisions for still another grazing dinner.† I am out of cheese, but I got some chicken and bacon pasta salad and some grilled chicken breast pieces, and I will have some more oat cakes if I need them.† I like the taste of the oat cakes Ė they are flat and round, about the size of a coaster.† Come to think of it, they look like a cork coaster, too.


I was back here in my lonely room by about 3:30, and I processed my pictures from the day, and now I am writing this.† The pictures are not very exciting, and there arenít very many of them, but I will put them up anyway, in Photos19.


The weather is supposed to be dry tomorrow, but of course, I donít trust the forecast at all.† I will decide in the morning if I want to drive around the Lake District in the holiday traffic, or if I want to explore the coast to the south.† There is a good place to see birds a little way south of here, St Bees Head, but it is a 1.5 to 2 mile walk each way to get to the cliffs where you see the birds from.† I doubt I will feel up to a 3 or 4 miles walk, carrying my scope and birding bag, but we will see.† I would love to see it, if I could drive closer, but that doesnít seem to be an option.† It is too bad I am so old, fat, and out of shape, but that is what I have to deal with.† A 4 mile walk on the cliff tops would be really nice, if I was in shape for it.


Today was a relaxed, laid back day, and I enjoyed it.† Tomorrow promises to be the same, but it might start to get boring if I donít find someplace to go or something in particular to do.† We will see.† Maybe I will partially retrace my steps of today, if the weather is sunny, to see what the coast looks like in the sun.


And thatís the way it was, yesterday and today.