” I tell you what, shall I scribble out that zero in the brackets? ” I had been given two places that are on the database of my insurance company, and this was the closest. Since we had arrived here my sinuses had been complaining. It was starting to feel as if I was being pinned down by a woman wearing stilettos. She had got one foot on the floor, but the other had the heel right on the bridge of my nose. We were trying to help the girl at reception make her first international call.
‘ There are too many numbers! ‘. We were trying and failing to get across the concept of telephoning somewhere outside the USA. ‘ It should be like that, ‘ and of course she was pointing at the telephone number of where we were staying. ” This is a number in the UK, England and not anywhere near Baltimore. ”
If she had been a dog in a previous life she would be a Spaniel, that is 100% certain. ” You need all of those numbers, you can’t take any of them off the front or the back, that is the number “. I was starting to doubt that I had used that very number less than an hour ago. For the tenth time, she tried again to dial the number.
To be honest it dawned on us then that it may not be Spaniel girls fault. ” I think your phone will not accept an international number “. ‘ I’m dialling 9 for an outside line though ‘. She was smiling, still eager to do a good job and try again. ” We had the option of coming here or John Hopkins, what would you do? I asked her ” We went to John Hopkins Emergency Room. All I needed was antibiotic nose spray.
$200 for the consultation and $70 for the meds. I could have scored crack cocaine faster and cheaper. The little bottle of clear liquid with the spray pump is more expensive than the single malt 12 year old whiskey that is on sale at the liquor store next to the pharmacy.
Air Malta had treated the bikes well on the flight to London Heathrow. We handed them over to left luggage for a night and went to see Virgin Atlantic. ” Do we have to book them in? ” Virgin Atlantic are our favourite ‘ flying with bikes ‘ airline, and part of the reason we are transiting through London. ” Just turn up and a bike bag up to 23Kg is free “. Richard we love you.
With most of the day to play with, we booked into a hotel and joined the crush of humanity that is a tube ride into central London. You have to stick to a bit of a plan if you arrive at the British Museum or it is a bit like the panic of facing a near empty car park. The choice paralyses you, and you will probably end up in the bookshop or cafe. ‘ A History of The World In 100 Objects ‘ is possibly the best podcast on the WWW. All of the objects are in the museum, including my favourite – Minoan Bull Leaper and we had to see it.
Virgin Atlantic took the bikes for hand delivery to the plane and we had enough time to relax, drink half a cup of coffee and spill the rest over the departure lounge floor. Also enough time in duty-free to get the first inkling that someone had cloned my credit card.
Washington Dulles airport USA and the horror of immigration. No matter how many times you have checked on the WWW about ESTA requirements and the validity of the visa you have sitting in your passport, the guy at the desk is judge and jury. We have given ourselves 3 days ‘ wiggle room ‘ this time in case our outward flight is delayed.
We are in. Welcome to the land of zip-lock bags and switches that you flick up for on! Welcome to tumble drying on a summers day, welcome to the best customer service in the world. Welcome to some of the best cycling in the world.
Within 48 hours we are more pleased than I would ever admit to, and getting our sleeping bags laundered. We had pushed the envelope of acceptability on this one, and run up over 500 sleeps on Esther’s bag. It may be as much as 800 sleeps, which is truly disgusting and possibly a record. You need an industrial sized dryer and nerves of steel washing down, and we had one of those. It teaches you to never let your down bag get wet.
My credit card had definitely been cloned. Possibly on Sicily by some Mafia crew, or possibly Malta. We had only used the card over the counter about 3 times this month when we ran low on folding cash. More than three years on the road and always dealing with cash withdraws from the safest looking ATM’s, and now we have let our guard down.
We are in a good place. N0 what am I saying here, we are in a great place and this could have been a disaster in the depths of China. The snow falls and we take the dog long walks. You can settle down and wait the short amount of time it will take for your scant knowledge of the American Civil War to be found out. I think I could write about half an A4 page on the war. Esther, as a German and from the former East by way of excuse and apology could write her knowledge on a postcard. There would be lots of room left for the address and stamp and kisses at the bottom. In her defence, she knows rather a lot about Marx and Engels.
We know almost nothing about the battles, but then why should we. I can sit on my bed at home and see the wood where Mary Queen of Scots surrendered to the English forces, and the history of Europe changed forever. There is the site of a Roman camp if I look slightly the other way. There is only so much room for history and I have not even mentioned ‘ The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh ‘, which is just a bit further over. If Clint did not feature in a film about it, then I do not know about it, sorry.
The winter is a long one here. We have learned the phrase – Polar Vortex, and drop it into conversation over coffee like meteorology graduates. Animals are finding it hard with day after day of sub-zero temperatures. Our nemesis from previous cycling here has paid us a visit.
If you think about bears and camping, then you must consider Raccoons as an equal adversary. Our panniers have been holed, clasps undone and jerky and cheese stolen by Raccoons. Never ever underestimate them, and certainly try not to let one bite you. They are fearless, cunning, smart and undeniable cute. Do not drop your guard even for a moment. I know we will be outsmarted again, but at the moment it is us looking out the window from a warm room. When humanity finally presses the button and sends us into oblivion it is predicted that only cockroaches will survive. I think you could add Raccoons. Some how, some way they will be there in the smoking rubble, that is a given.