Wednesday 28th April. Stoke-on-Trent, England
It was a shame to say goodbye to Matt and Allie this morning, but now that I'm back on the road after three months in one spot, I'm motivated to keep moving. There's an excitement returning to this project that hasn't been there for a while. Walking through Oxford on Tuesday was like exploring a strange country for the first time. I hope that excitement filters through to my updates. Regarding the website, I've finally found the time to implement some of the changes I'd been working on. Maybe you've noticed the new look journal page and index page, no? I'm also revamping the Not So Savage Files and will be adding to the British pubs page as I travel.
The Challenge Steve page has been tweaked, today another challenge was successfully completed, and a new challenge has been issued. If you're thinking of sending me a challenge, now's the time. You can see my itinerary in the column on the left.
It was lunchtime before I got away from Oxford. The internet cafe made quite a penny from me again, and also I had to buy a fuse for the plug on my new CD/DVD drive. Can you believe that the replacement unit doesn't even work? I figured the fuse in the plug must've been blown, but replacing it did no good at all. Ho hum, back to Tottenham Court Road when I return to London. I'm becoming something of a regular on that street.
First priority was the Winston Churchill challenge. The challenge to have my photo taken at Churchill's grave had been issued months ago, and I'd found that the grave is in St. Martin's Church in Bladon, just north of Oxford, in fact only £1.50 away by local bus. From where the bus dropped me, it was about a one mile walk into Bladon. Luckily the rain had mostly eased, and it was quite pleasant. The cemetery was practically deserted. I don't know why that surprised me, I guess I expected busloads of tourists. A couple walking their dog were kind enough to snap a couple of shots for my challenge. I was chuffed with myself, and when I reached the highway again, I realized that I hadn't even noticed the heavy pack on my back! Then it was time to test my luck, and stick out my thumb.
My first ride today, as with the very first ride of this trip (hi Chastity!), was nothing if not a good omen. Barely five minutes had passed when Simone, a gorgeous law and sociology student from Oxford, picked me up. I should have taken her photo for the website, but I didn't want her to think I was a perv. Simone wasn't going all that far but from where she dropped me it wasn't much more of a wait before a guy in a pickup stopped. He gave me a lift to Chipping Norton, then ten minutes later picked me up again and drove me to Moreton-in-Marsh. Have you got your maps out, or am I just wasting my time trying to remember all these crazy place names?
I should've mentioned that I'd headed off from Oxford without really organizing a place to stay tonight. My potential host in Northampton hadn't replied, and my host in Stoke-on-Trent wasn't expecting me till tomorrow. Oh well, let's just see how far I get before I worry about that. The thought of where I was going to stay soon disappeared as I was distracted by the picturesque little towns we drove through. This area is the north of the Cotswolds, and strict planning regulations have maintained the villages in their old world style. They're beautiful, I regret not stopping in Stow-on-Wold, especially since I later read in my guidebook that there's a backpackers hostel there. Perhaps I can take a small detour on the return to London in a couple of weeks, and enjoy the Cotswolds in hopefully better weather.
From Moreton-in-Marsh a local farmer took me as far as the M5 motorway at Worcester. Now I stood a chance of scoring a longer ride. The first car to pull over was a big late model Mercedes, and at first I didn't think it was a ride, but sure enough. The driver was a retired lady who loves to travel, and in fact had just returned from a trip New Zealand and is teaching herself Spanish in preparation for a holiday in Peru. I recommended the Spanish in Ten Minutes a Day book, part of the best language learning series I've ever seen. Of course do I have to remind you that any purchases you make at Amazon (books, cameras, clothes, Viagra, anything!) can earn me a commission, which goes to ensure the continuation of this project and this website. You just need to follow any of the Amazon links on this site, like the ones on my favourite books page.
Believe it or not, the service station where the Merc driver dropped me was the same exact spot where I was stuck trying to get a lift eight years ago, when I was hitching around the UK in the middle of a blizzard. At least this time it wasn't sub-freezing, but the rain had gotten quite heavy again. I found a dry-ish spot under the overpass and probably half an hour went by before a semi-trailer emerging from the service station flashed its lights at me. In I jumped, and here I am. Stoke-on-Trent. My host here in town is away till tomorrow, but I found a cheap B&B that's only a few pounds more than a hostel, and includes a cooked breakfast. I'll be looking forward to that too, since all I've eaten today is a bowl of cereal, and a falafel. I've spent the last five hours in bed working on this website. Now I'm tired, and so I bid you all 'Bimpi Indah'!