It seems that we’ve been doing 14 mile days for weeks on end. Please humor me while I repeat that until this adventure took off, Lauren had never walked more than 5 miles at one time and never more than twice a week. She’s been cranking out high mileage days without complaint. I am amazed by her resilience.
I start my day with a handful of Motrin as they are my new best friends. My calf is screaming at me as we descend the stairs to breakfast but I know from experience that it will loosen up and feel a little better after I’ve moved around a bit. We linger over breakfast longer than we should but I had the option of a “French Breakfast”, which was genoa salami, ham, brie, sharp cheddar and a nice blue with crackers, grapes, apples and a croissant. This is by far my favorite breakfast yet and I don’t want to rush. Once I’ve licked the plate clean, we hobble upstairs for the last minute packing. I rub Icy-Hot all over my calf as I’ve done several times during the night and we set off.
The minute we step outside the Old Brewery Guesthouse, the rain comes crashing down. I don my rain pants (a promotion from Frogg Toggs), rain coat, knit hat and gloves. The wind is whipping about and we are cold at the outset. Our boots aren’t quite dry from yesterday but there’s nothing to be done but laugh and remind ourselves that we’re on holiday. I smile knowing that this is a dream come true. Lauren sets off in quiet way, following her dwarf.
Within minutes, it feels like it’s raining inside my pants! The condensation is building and these pants aren’t breathable so it can’t escape. In spite of the nasty feeling similar to having pissed one’s pants, I realize that these pants are keeping my calf muscle warm and pliable – the best possible thing for it. In fact, I probably pulled/tore it because I was wearing cotton pants that were soaked through and I was very cold. My muscles were tightening up and I probably just overextended it to the point of a small tear. Now that it’s raining inside my pants, the muscle is warm and moist and flexible. I will have to live with a soggy bottom for 14 miles. I’ve suffered through worse no doubt so I try not to complain.
This is a good time to point out that you’ve not read anything about blisters, have you? Knock on wood, we have somehow escaped the doom of blisters, which is probably one of the biggest reasons people quit this walk. Our feet and our hiking boots have bonded and aside from the unavoidable discomfort after a long day on our feet, we can’t complain. I don’t know how we escaped the blister disaster but I am very glad indeed.
As we cross Richmond Bridge, which crosses the Swale, we have a breathtaking view of Richmond Castle. Or at least, what’s left of it. Its pouring buckets (sideways) but Lauren and I are staring at the falling down castle walls wearing big grins on our faces as buses and trucks and such cross the bridge on their way to do important work things. We are in our own little world of castles and knights and dragons and completely unaware of the noise around us. Until Lauren’s dwarf breaks the spell and reminds us of the challenge ahead. (Who invited this guy anyway?)
After a couple of miles, we realize that we’ve taken a wrong turn. Blame the dwarf. Because I don’t have a penis, I don’t mind asking a stranger for directions but the dwarf doesn’t want to listen to the stranger and although the stranger probably sends us off in the right direction, the angry dwarf doesn’t agree. We cross mud hole after mud hole and off to our right, we can hear target practice going on at the nearby military base. Excellent. We encounter more unfriendly cows with their calves and have to take the long way around a shit-filled, boggy mess of a pasture. My Dad would never have let our cattle stand in such filth and I curse this farmer’s name under my breath and hope that it rains inside his pants harder than its raining inside mine, although at the moment I can’t be sure that’s possible.
After some serious doubting on my part that the dwarf can actually read a map, we accidently bump into the Coast to Coast route again and he claims victory. Knowing how dwarves can turn on you, I let him celebrate while I pop some more Motrin.
After about four hours of walking, we realize that we’ve only actually covered about four miles of the route. Between missing a turn and taking detours to avoid angry cattle, we’ve made no progress. Lauren’s dwarf angrily announces that if we don’t start moving quickly, we won’t arrive in Danby-Wiske until 8pm. I kindly remind him that he doesn’t need to wait for us and that he’s more than welcome to go at his own pace because we are doing the best we can. He insists that he won’t let us go on our own because today is a tricky day in terms of navigation. I give him a shrug and we’re off again.
We bump into a town named Cattrick Bridge and Lauren and I tell her dwarf that we’re leaving the route to find a pub in which to warm up. We find the Bridge House Hotel and tuck into lasagna and burgers and pints. I don’t take off my rain pants because I’m afraid my calf will cool down and tense up. Lauren is using the hand dryer in the Ladies Room to dry out her clothes….at least until she blows it up from too much continual use. We can’t delay any longer so we pay our tab, put our wet clothes back on and again we venture out into the deluge.
As always, after a couple of pints, I need to find a tree. We see a sign that the local church offers refreshments (via an honor box) for walkers. Lauren and I figure that if they offer refreshments, then they must also have a lou. We head for the church. Quickly. The dwarf stays outside the gates of the cemetery. Further proof that he is in fact a dwarf, if you ask me. We enter a dark and deserted church. It’s cold but dry inside. There’s no head to be found. Desperation sets in and we both pee in the cemetery. I made sure not to pee near anyone’s headstone and Lauren peed on the cornerstone of the church. Definitely not my proudest moment but we were desperate. The dwarf is shaking his head when we rejoin him at the gates. He’s disappointed in my mothering skills again but I don’t let it bother me. Dwarves eat their young, don’t they?
Immediately after this Norman Rockwell scene, we cross a stile into a pasture with cattle at the far end. No sooner do we enter when they begin to stampede in our direction. They are butting heads and kicking and snorting and running straight for us. I tell Lauren to turn around and get back over the stile. I attempt to follow her but my calf won’t stretch far enough for me to get my leg that high. The dwarf can’t wait for my fat ass to get out of the way and jumps the fence, landing right on his….well, his junk. Lauren mentions how that’s gotta hurt and so on and again, he shakes his head at our frank manner of speaking. The field was actually made up of 16 or 20 bulls, probably less than 2 years old, each with something to prove. We hung around for awhile but they wouldn’t move and were just waiting for us to try to cross the paddock. We gave up and looked for an alternative route. An hour later, we found where the path would have come out. The dwarf was steaming from his hairy ears and getting more frustrated with every moment.
We pressed on and the details are too boring to post. Suffice to say that it was a very long and tedious day and the town simply wouldn’t come into view. Those damn Brits with the signs about the town being only ¾ mile away…then the same sign would appear 2 miles later. We finally arrived in town and I’ve never been so happy to see a B&B. We parted company with the dwarf and Lauren and I headed to the Old School House where we were to pass the night. Upon knocking, we were welcomed into a converted garage turned drying room. Our hosts were Frank and someone. They insisted on stripping us down the bare minimum and putting all of our wet, muddy things in the wash. (This would be the first time we’ve had properly cleaned clothes in almost two weeks.)
As we walked through their living room, we met two other couples staying there for the night. We said quick hellos (not very nice no doubt) and hobbled upstairs. We each took a long, hot shower. It never felt better to stand under a very hot waterfall of water and sort of fall asleep.
We dressed again and went a few doors down to The White Swan Pub. The two couples we had just met at our B&B were there and we went over to apologize for seeming unfriendly. They understood only too well and told us not to give it another thought. The dwarf was already seated with a beer (he was camping behind the pub) and Lauren went over to his table and gave him a big hug. We sat down with him and ordered dinner and before long, the Aussies and Mic Dundee were seated behind us. Everyone had suffered a long day but now all was well. By the time we left the pub at 8:30pm, Lauren and I knew all but two people there! How amazing is it that we can be in a different country, in a strange village and know 90% of the pub clientele? I love this walk.
We got “home” and before crawling into bed I decided to rid myself of a pint or two. Our bathroom was not en suite but next door. Our innkeepers assured us that this lou was just for me and Lauren because everyone else had an en suite. I didn’t turn on the light and didn’t bother to lock the door. (Remember that the two other couples were still at the pub and the innkeepers were downstairs.)
As I sat on the commode, recycling my pints, the bathroom door opened. I assumed it was Lauren so I wasn’t very worried. Then I realized that it was actually a man who’d walked in and was standing next to me while I was on the john! I screeched and he said something similar to “Oh, dear. I’m gone. I’m gone, don’t worry.” Well, the truth is that he wasn’t gone. He was standing next to me! I guess he felt better after having explained that he was gone and went on to ask me to close the bathroom window when I was done. He then touched me on the shoulder and bade me goodnight.
What just happened? I was so embarrassed but what could be done about it now? No sense locking the barn door after the horse gets out.
We had barely crawled into bed before the rain came down worse than ever. We fell asleep listening to it bang against the house. I hoped to slip out of the house in the morning without seeing the gentleman who’d been in the john with me.