Wolverhampton

I put myself in a sort of difficult situation at the end of my last post. If you read it, you’ve probably spent the last several days wondering if I did in fact die trying to make it to Chipping Campden. Fortunately, that is not the case. However, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t achieve the alternative, either – I never made it to Chipping Campden.

I have been saved from literary hypocrisy by the fact that I used an asterisk on my ultimatum – to indicate that it’s not entirely true – and then forgot to put the little thing at the bottom that explains why I’m lying to you. So from now on, the asterisk means that I never actually intended to follow the Cotswold Way to its end. Instead, I made my way to Tewkesbury, then Worcester, then just north of Kidderminster (love that name) and finally to where I am currently, which is Wolverhampton.

I’ve also been making an effort to do a little bit more planning before I start my walk each day, for several reasons. First and foremost, I’ve now met up with my friend and fellow european traveler Alex Klonick, who will be walking the middle leg of the journey with me, and it’s a little bit more difficult to find a cheap twin room than it is to find a cheap single. Secondly, accommodation has become more and more sparse as I’ve headed north, and at this point if you don’t have somewhere lined up by around noon you could get yourself in trouble.

I now know this from experience.

But first, a quick explanation of the events of the past few days. From Cheltenham we headed north for a short walk to the town of Tewkesbury. By short, I believe I mean roughly 14 miles, but I’m having trouble using google maps in the libraries here so I don’t know for sure. In Tewkesbury we managed to find lodging at the Abbey Hotel. We originally booked a double room – it was the cheapest – but the owner took pity on us and gave us each our own double for the price of one.

The next day dawned rainy and grey, but we made an early start bound for Worcester. Because I just couldn’t get enough of water for the day, for the morning we followed a footpath along the edge of a river. My running shoes, dry and warm at the start of the day, were soaked within about five steps. The day turned a little bit brighter, at least metaphorically, when we found one of Britain’s greatest rarities, which is a road with a sidewalk. We were able to follow this road the rest of the way into Worcester, which didn’t make for a very interesting day but we made excellent time, arriving in Worcester just after 2 PM.

In my first encounter with really terrible luck on this trip, a massive horse race happened to be taking place in Worcester that day, and the town was completely full. We spent hours wandering around, but the search was ultimately fruitless and we had to bus back to the Abbey Hotel in Tewkesbury, whose owner now probably thinks I am the most incompetent hiker ever to hit the trails. At least we didn’t have any trouble finding the place.

Again he must have taken pity on us, because the next morning he offered to give us a ride to where we had left off in Worcester, which we gratefully accepted. That turned out to be the end of my good luck for the day, and I wish I’d known it. Instead, I trusted to luck and wandered into Cookley (A small town just north of Kidderminster) confident that we’d be able to find a place to stay. Not seeing any B&Bs on the walk into town, I walked into a local pub and asked if they knew of anywhere in town. Sadly they did not, and the nearest was miles away, which is a pretty big deal when you’re on foot. I was just gathering myself to call the Abbey Hotel yet again when a friendly enough looking man at the bar said he’d put us up for the night for a meager amount.

I’m going to take a short break from the narrative here to explain something. At the end of a six hour day of walking, you really are in very little control of your actions. If it gets you closer to your destination, or allows you to sit down, typically you do it without giving it the consideration it deserves. This is why my budget has been broken on so many occasions, and it’s also why I accepted the offer from this guy in the pub.

In immediate retrospect I should have just continued on to somewhere more reputable. This guy’s house, though I have seen dirtier in college, was not, shall we say, well looked after. To make matters worse, the more we talked with the guy the more something seemed to be a little strange about him. And the crowning glory of this absolute disaster of an evening, there were no locks on the bedroom doors. I considered all of these facts in the utmost detail as I lay in bed while the sounds of Dave (our landlord for the evening) watching TV at ear-shattering volume drifted through the walls. I made a few phone calls to friends back home to take my mind off things, and then consoled myself with the thought that it was only a cheap place to sleep, and that the sooner I fell asleep the sooner I could wake up and be on my way. At around 10:45 I drifted off to an uneasy sleep.

At 12:45, I was woken by a very loud noise. Dave was now snoring loudly in the room next door. I’m a light sleeper these days so I was a little annoyed by this, but I was just drifting off to sleep once again when the snoring, which was growing continually louder, culminated in a very loud, very angry sounding groan and a yell of “F— off!” through the wall. If I had to choose one word to describe myself at that time, the word would be ‘alarmed’. I reached over and slid my backpack in front of my door as a sort of makeshift lock, then laid back and listened to the process repeat for the next two hours. I spent most of the time staring at the door, waiting for it to inevitably be kicked in by an angry British man coming to throttle me in my sleep, but it never happened. I eventually fell into an uneasy sleep at around 4 AM, woke again at 6:30, and high tailed it out of there.

I still don’t know whether Dave was just a little bit crazy, or if he just had a bad case of talking in his sleep, or what, but I don’t really care. The last words I ever heard (or hope to hear) him utter were “Hmm.. ooh, lovely! Lovely!” in what sounded like a very sincerely pleased tone. I’m not sure if I would have slept any better if he’d been doing that all night, though, either. Regardless, in delayed hindsight I’m glad I stayed there for two reasons. The first is that it makes for a hell of a story. The second is that I now have an iron clad reason never to ever do it again.

This has been a fairly long entry in the hopes of making up for my lack of updates recently. I’ll update the map when I get the chance to use a computer with a mouse that can run google maps. This is easier said than done. I also am uploading a bunch of photos to Picasa, and I’ll post a link to that on the Pictures page. For now, it’s time to make up for the sleep I didn’t get last night.

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4 Responses

  1. Alex,

    Ahh….to be young, footloose and foolish again!!!

    Your Dad told me of your summer project and passed along your blog so I could live vicariously through your journey. Are you having fun yet? Sounds like you are getting some interesting material for your book. Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to accept lodging from strangers…… especially strangers that you meet in the bar?
    Life is for learning and experiencing. You are living life. I wish you well in your travels. May the road rise up to meet you.

    The Beia’s (Logan Hills)

  2. Alex, just got through reading about some of your exploits…sounds fascinating. I only wish I were young enough again to join you. My guess is that this will be among the most vivid and memorable adventures of your life (including your encounter with “Dave”). I understand Marty plans to join you early July. Promise me you’ll go easy on the old man! Wishing you all the best of good fortune and luck on the remainder of your journey. Fondly, Michael Bucci

  3. Alex – Did you miss school the day they taught you not to talk to strangers – much less bunking with them for the night?! I hope “Dave” isn’t reading this blog as he may be insulted to know his sanity was being questioned by these two American men that had been hiking for days on end….. Now who is the crazy one?

    Loved the post – keep them coming!!

    ps – The Wings lost last night – final game on Friday!

  4. Dear God, please tell me you took pictures of Dave’s house. Seriously, if you didn’t, take pictures of someone else’s and lie.

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