Over the River and To the Pub

15 Jun

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I wake this morning ready to hit the road. After a traditional English Breakfast I walk the path through The Forest (say hello to Hansel and Gretel) and head to the Forest Leisure Cycle Centre. I’m helped by a fellow Ginger (that’s a redhead in England) who gets me all set up with a bike, helmet (should I choose to wear one) and backpack loaded up with a lock and tire repair kit. This is not like my home town of Detroit. The only reason to use a lock here is so someone doesn’t mistake your bike for theirs. As for the tire repair kit, I’ve never actually used one but, as I can change a tire on a car I figure this can’t be much more difficult than that. We go over possible routes for me to take over the next two days. I choose the Villages, Views and Vales route today. It’s a 15 mile route along country roads passing farms and pubs (I definitely see villages and views, not sure what vales are but I’m sure I see them somewhere along the way).

As I not so confidently head off down the road and out of the village center there are a few things to get used to. The most obvious is that the cars are driving on the wrong side of the road. I stop and put on my helmet as I suddenly treasure those brain cells that have stuck by me for this long in my life. Before long I notice another glaring difference. In the U.S., the first time you get a bike with hand brakes you are taught to always squeeze the right one first as the left one controls the front brake which, if applied first, will give you a spectacular view of your rear end as it travels at high velocity over your head as well as the handlebars. ALWAYS SQUEEZE THE RIGHT BRAKE FIRST is what I was taught. Aah, but here in the land of ‘let’s be different and drive on the opposite side of the road than the rest of the world’ the hand brake situation is also unique. Yup, you guessed it, left first. I’ll spend the rest of the day with my hand hovering over the left brake as a reminder to ALWAYS SQUEEZE THE LEFT BRAKE FIRST.

I ride on out of the town square to find myself on a beautiful country road. The weather is overcast but the famous rains seem to be holding off. I spot what looks like cattle ahead. Not unusual given the amount of farms around here. But, as I approach I realize these are the famous wild ponies of the New Forest. The New Forest has approximately 3,000 of these wild ponies roaming freely throughout its approximately 219 sq. miles. If you want to know more of the history of these ponies, please go to history of New Forest ponies. I stop and take photos unsure why wild horses are photo worthy yet horses kept at many of the ranches, horseback riding companies and Native American groups I’ve met in my travels are not.

Back on my bike I travel another few minutes before coming upon a proper Englishman driving a proper horse and carriage. I stop to take the perfect photo and, as I pass by, take a peek to be sure Queen Elizabeth has not had the same idea as me and run to the Forest to escape the madness of the Jubilee in London. Alas, it’s just the proper English driver riding quietly to a farm.

I continue on and notice race route signs appearing every few hundred yards. Wait, am I in a race and nobody told me? Suddenly men in very tight spandex shorts are zooming past me. Now, this is a view I could get used to. But wait, I look to my right and am suddenly distracted. My first pub of the day. It’s 11:00am and I’m on vacation. Time for my first ale, lager, bitter (whatever, just give me a drink!) of the day.

The sun has decided to peek out from behind the clouds so I grab my lager and sit outside at a picnic table. I pull out my iPad (very handy this thing is) and begin to write. I cannot think of a better office for the day.

I finish my drink and move on to discover more enchantment in the Forest. I soon discover that enchantment sometimes smells eerily similar to cattle manure. Or, to be more specific, pig manure. Yes, there are quite a few pig ranches around. Still, the scenery is beautiful, the feeling is peaceful, and I am happier than a pig in. . . well, you know.

I not only ride past farms and pubs, but also beautiful trees, flowers and more wild horses. I soon find myself entering the village of Bransgore where I come across the Three Tuns Inn (also known as a pub). It is a thatched roof building (you, know, the kind you only see in photos or Robin Hood movies) and was built in the 17th century. I walk in, hungry from my ride and thirsty from. . . who am I kidding? I just want a drink. I step up to the bar and, as usual, express my indecision as I have never heard of any of these beers. Again, the man next to me offers to let me try his (sharing is caring). I taste it and order it. I have yet to find a beer here that I don’t like. You should know, the beer here is served at room temperature and has a much higher alcohol content than any in the U.S. There is an old joke comparing American beer to having sex in a rowboat (I’ll let you figure out the punchline). I also order a nice, juicy burger as my ride has given me license to eat hardy.

By the time I have finished my lunch I have ended up in a conversation with four men in their early to mid-fifties. I ask if they live here and they answer yes, they pretty much live in this pub. Better than subsidized housing, I think. They buy me a pint and I think, this place definitely feels like Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

I spend a few more minutes speaking with a couple of women who, with their husbands, have escaped Jubilmania in London to spend the weekend at their second home in the New Forest. Before leaving, I take note that, in honor of the Diamond Jubilee, the town will be gathering at the Three Tuns Pub for a Garden Party tomorrow afternoon. Yay, my first Garden Party. I hop back on my bike and head into the center of the village to explore.

Exploration takes about 10 minutes as there are all of five shops in town. I wander into the second-hand store to search for a raincoat (odds are I will eventually need one). While I find nothing to protect me from the inevitable English rains, I do find a really cute black evening bag. Water never hurt anyone, but a girl needs a cute bag to carry her lipstick in. Sold!

Back on my bike and uphill back to Burley. Really, after stopping at pubs and drinking lager and ale throughout the day? Who designed this route? I climb the hill and coast back into town where I reward myself with a cream tea (somebody must explain to me what this clotted cream stuff is made of because, however unappetizing the name sounds, this stuff is yummy!).

I run back to the hotel to shower and change and it starts pouring rain. The rain breaks just long enough for me to trudge my path through the forest for dinner and a pint (yes, another) at the local pub. The pub is crowded beyond belief and must be holding more people than live in the town. “Reservation?” they ask. I, with my most pitiful face and my sweet American accent say, “No, but I walked all the way over in the rain and it’s just me. Do you have a corner?” The young guy at the bar is not impressed and I am relegated to sitting outside at a table under an umbrella hunched over trying to keep the rain from going down the back of my pants. After a few minutes the young bartender’s supervisor comes out and starts flirting with me. I flirt back! Bingo! Inside table is mine.

After a nice bowl of hot soup and glass of room temperature ale (this is beginning to grow on me) I head back up the path to my hotel to rest before another day of riding and my first garden party. Read about the adventure in “I Went to a Garden Party”

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3 Responses to “Over the River and To the Pub”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Rail Journey South | My Own Adventure - October 30, 2013

    […] I head up to bed for an early night. Join me tomorrow when I go biking on the wrong side of the street in “Over the River and To the Pub” […]

  2. Wine Country Jamboree | Drop Me Anywhere - May 26, 2014

    […] and then bike from there. Hmmm, not as simple as riding between pubs in the New Forest in England (click here to read “Over the River and to the Pub”). The man working there has pointed out the spots to park, take a ferry and the two wineries on a […]

  3. Ireland, I Adare You | Drop Me Anywhere - August 10, 2014

    […] me of my trip bike riding through the New Forest in England (interested? You can read about it in Over the River and To the Pub). A few minutes later, I step off the bus and meet up with Peadar. In the car are my two favorite […]

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