When we woke up in the morning we quickly realised the same routine of the past and so, packing our sleeping bags, sleeping mats, tent and clothes away, both a little bit sweaty, and stinky, we smiled to each other and pushed our bikes out through a green field and back onto the road, happy, happy to be riding towards the coast.
It was beautiful weather, the sun was out all day, and I was sweating, profusely. A moment later and we're racing down a hill lined with giant pine trees and I'm freezing, shivering, and then the road heads upwards through tall everglades and its not to long before the tiny goose bumps on my arm have disappeared, sweat running down the sides of my face. By now I'm sure you've guessed it, down again, teeth chattering... it was one of those days.
In the evening as we got nearer and nearer to the coast we started getting excited about the world championships in Melbourne (mostly Geelong), so we found the most budget motel in Lincoln City, and tired from the longest day we've spent in the saddle for a month, wheeled our bikes into the tiny room and collapsed onto the bed.
After a whole lot of searching we found a French telecast of the race online (occasionally we could just make out some Aussie voices in the back ground), and spent the next few hours riveted to the tiny picture, desperately hoping that one of the attacks Cadel was in would succeed.
The sofa bed was so comfortable... we slept longer than planned. We said bye to another great set of hosts (and a terrific dog!) and headed to the bike shop to buy Sam a new tyre and get a puncture repair kit that actually worked!
A long, late lunch was enjoyed... and then it was time to head out of Portland. Despite a wrong turn early on, we were soon on the 99W road towards the coast.
But it wasn't the glorious return to biking I'd expected. The bike seemed so much heavier, my legs so much weaker and the hills so much harder... two and half weeks without touring was a long time! It felt like riding through mud, it was so hard to get any rhythm.
As the time to camp came upon us, I felt like crying. I wanted a shower, but there wouldn't be one tonight. I needed a bathroom, but a group of shrubs under the cover of darkness would be my bathroom.
Luckily Sam was better able to readjust to the nomadic lifestyle, and he found us a perfect camping spot amongst some trees next to a hospital. It was our first night camping in America and, unsure of what to expect, we reassured ourselves that we couldn't have picked a better place in case of attack from bears or people with guns.
Great news, Black Diamond has given us a new tent.
They are sending it express post.
Distance- Riding around Boston
Wow, what a beautiful city Boston is, gorgeous parks and ponds, friendly (sometimes) people, heaps of nice basketball courts and tennis courts, and nice bicycle paths to cycle on (the roads suck!).
Anyway, Mari and Jen have been absolute champions letting us crash in their super cool pad in Jamaica Plains (although sadly I'm yet to meet a real life Jamaican) while we wait for Black DIamond to get back to us about our tent.
Most of our readers already know all about the problems we've been having with our tent, but in case you haven't already heard what's been going on with it, here's a short explanation of the saga. (And just a small note to Black Diamond in case they are reading this- we had 400 hits on this site yesterday, double the daily average, so thanks for logging on everyone!!!)
Before heading off on a year-long cycle trip around the world, I purchased and tested a number of tents – the Black Diamond Hilight, Black Diamond Skylight and BD Bibler Ahwahnee, Nemo Tenshi, MSR Elbow Room and MSR Hubba Hubba. Some of these we tested in the backyard, others we tested at places like Wilsons Promontory and Phillip Island (both places in Australia).
We decided to take the Black Diamond Bibler Ahwahnee, which we found to be well designed, and we thought (and still think) possibly the only true four season tent (useable in Summer) on the market.
Unfortunately for us the quality of workmanship has simply not matched up to its fantastic design.
About two weeks ago, whilst cycling across Ireland, our Black Diamond Bibler Ahwahnee tent began to let in water through the fabric. Now, even under light rain, water enters directly through all external surfaces of the Todd Tex fabric. All seams were sealed correctly and no water is penetrating these areas.
After a little research, I found that the problem with this tent has occurred for other people. Here is an example-
Prior to the leaking, we also had a major recurring problem with the state of the eyelets either side of the tent that the awning pole is meant to sit in. The first time I set the tent up in the lounge room the pole was extremely difficult to get in, but I figured that it might have been intentionally made that way so that when the fabric stretched with use, the pole would fit perfectly. Well this never happened and it is still a constant struggle to put the pole in.
Now I have to use electrical tape on a recurring basis to hold in the eyelets to prevent them from completely falling out of the tabs (this has happened a few times). I tried a few different ways of making a permanent fix, like using glue, squashing the eyelets down tighter against the fabric and taking the tent to a number of different repair shops to see if they could permanently fix it, all to no avail.
We had not taken the tent to Black Diamond to see if it can be fixed before now because I haven’t been able to. We’ve been cycling around the world for the last eight months, so we usually need it. It is also difficult to provide an address, particularly one for long enough to have the tent sent overseas.
Now that we’re in the US (and it is leaking badly– which we can’t live with) we’ve posted it with the receipt of purchase (it is still in warranty) to the Salt Lake headquarters. We are desperately hoping for a speedy resolution and return as we aredue to continue our world tour through America and into South and Central America.
Our first reply from Black Diamond expressed disbelief that the tent has problems, and hinted that we have misused it in some way. Here are some quotes:
‘Frankly I have never heard of this fabric leaking as you are describing.’
‘I have not known the Todd-Tex fabric to leak unless it has been damaged by mildew or contaminated with some type of oil.’
‘Please give me as much information as you can concerning the life/use of this tent that may explain why it has started leaking.’
‘Please understand we just don’t hear this. Something unusual has to be going on.’
The problems listed were not caused by misuse. and it appears that Black Diamond are aware of this but unwilling to accept it. When you spend a small fortune on a tent and it is the only home you have, you look after it well.
We wash, with water, the tent occasionally, and always make sure it has dried before packing it up and riding each day. And according to online reports at least two other serious cases of this kind of leaking of Todd Tex fabric have been reported to Black Diamond.
Having also purchased the Black Diamond Orbit Lamp, two BD Icon head torches, two other BD tents, the Skylight and Hilight, and a host of BD clothing, all of which had been fantastic (we'll do reviews on some of this stuff over the coming weeks if anyone is interested), this makes us think, and hope, that what has happened to us with this tent is a one off incident.
We still believe that Black Diamond makes fantastic products, and would consider purchasing many of these items again if the customer service meets what you would expect from one of the most integral and well known global out door brands.
Keep checking back and we will update this review as soon as we here back from Black Diamond.
Yesterday it was sunny.
We rode a long way.
There was a lot of hills.
We had some lunch.
It was good, half a chicken with mashed, roasted, boiled and wedged potatoes, carrots and cauliflower.
But Shanna ate most of that, hungry little animal. And Shanna had something else too, but I don’t remember what it was because I don’t care.
Then we rode to a beach.
It was near Courtown, where a ship that left Liverpool with 328 Irishmen bound for great new lives in America sunk. Not one of them lived.
And so then, being dense, and being Australian, we decided to swim in the Irish sea, Saint Georges Channel, the bit of water that separates Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, from the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Wales, (and Northern Ireland).
Yep, confused myself there too.
And after I’d swum in the Irish sea my nipples were stinging, because it was really, really cold.
So then we set up the tent near the beach.
And then we went to sleep.
But then I woke up because my sleeping bag was wet, and it wasn’t from incontinence, I stopped doing that three years ago.
So then our tent was flooded again because it is no longer waterproof.
So, at 2am I got out the tarp and covered the tent, and mopped up the water.
But then it got really, really windy.
So then I thought we were going to get blown into the Irish sea.
But then I was so tired that I didn’t care if we got blown into the Irish sea or not and so then, I just fell asleep.
But then I woke up again because I had to take a whiz.
And then I was scratching a lot and going crazy, and that was because I had fleas.
Probably still do.
We slept well, the best sleep we'd had for ages. Our legs felt like they might have actually recovered a little.
One our way up the big hill out of Tramore we stopped in a snack shop. While the lady made us a smoothie she asked questions about the trip, and commented that it was like talking to celebrities... 'Wow, I can't believe it,' she said 'I'm talking to celebrities, wow, your like superstars or somethen.'
'More like or somethen,' I replied.
But now Sam thinks he's some kind of superstar... It was hard to drag him away from such a beautiful little town, where we had a good nights sleep, and people think he is a celebrity.
It was another day filled with amazing scenery and constant hills. I wonder (constantly out loud) if Ireland actually has any flat roads, it seems we're always going either up or down.
While we ate our rolls with ham outside a supermarket in the middle of nowhere, rain started to fall and the temperature plummeted. We put on our jackets and set off again, only to peel off the layers a couple of kilometres down the road in the hot sun. It's like that constantly. The weather changes in a moment from hot and sunny to cold and rainy. It certainly keeps things interesting.
One of our favourite moments of the day was stopping at a beautiful graveyard by the sea, and seeing the ruins of Tintern abbey across the boggy river. We stopped to sit on a bench in the sun. Wait, now the bench is in the shade...
Late in the day we found the perfect camp site in an open field by the road. We camped under a huge old tree and slept peacefully, despite our fears it would rain.
Special mention: to Sam for taking such awesome photos every day - usually from the seat of his bike while he's riding!
Yesterday we left Pontypridd.
Thanks Juanita and Lex for your hospitality, it helped us out heaps.
...And thanks Shanny for the lasagne last night and the pancakes this morning, they went down a treat!
After having caught the train back from London the day before we stayed the night in Ponty', and then we left, on the way to... on the way to the ferry terminal in Swansea, were our chariot (a big boat) awaits us.
With only about 70k's to ride to get to Swansea I was keeping an eye out for a good place to free camp for the night, and it didn't take long to find the perfect spot. With a small stream running over smooth rocks and a large field, trees and a big old beautiful bridge, we figured we were set for anything, and if it rained, (which it did) we decided the bridge would be perfect cover.
After checking out the hiking tracks nearby we crashed in the tent about 9, or just after sunset, and layed on our little sleeping mats wondering about what our new destination would have in store for us.
Weather- Our best day in the UK yet, warm and sunny!!!
Our mission for the day was to navigate through the heavily populated section between Liverpool and Manchester, so as to return to the countryside, somewhere near Wales.
It wasn't the funnest' day ever- the roads were busier, there seemed to be more hills, and although the roads were usually very well signed, maybe better than anywhere else in the world we've ever cycled- the pavement almost always marked with the road number we wanted, we often found ourselves bouncing over the roads like ping pong balls from bump to bump.
We made it through Preston, Chorley, Wigan, Warrington and almost down to Whitchurch, stopping to camp in a field about 6km from town when we ran out of daylight.
Before finding this field, we'd asked at a few farms if we could camp in their fields, as we had stumbled into a part of England without camping sites... we hadn't seen any signs all day, whereas every other day we see them every 5-10km.
We had expected to easily find a campsite but rode the last 40km increasingly worried about where to stay. And when our requests were denied we became even more worried. I wasn't feeling well (a little sooky actually...) so our pace was slower than it should have been. Since we didn't quite make it to town, we dined on our emergency packets of 2-minute noodles for dinner. But at least we had them! And plenty of water.
The field was full of plants that made our legs itch, so before falling to sleep in our grassy field we scratched and itched, hobbled and crouched, and hopped and scrambled in our little tent. Sam took the low side and slept a little uncomfortably in a ditch, but we were safe and dry, and dreamt of the green greeniness of Wales, a real country we'll enter tomorrow...
After last nights strange encounter with a caravan park surrounded by quick sand- 'aye, don't you watch the news, an asian family died jus out ere wodda bin four a fiv year ago!', and our struggles riding through the hilly lakes district, we decided to have a bit of a day off.
Last night, as it was getting dark we saw a sign that said 'camping 3/4 mile away.' And when we finally got to the supposed 'camp site' it was too late to turn back and look for somewhere else.
It turned out to be a camping experience like no other. We wont easily forget the open fires that burnt well into the night and the broken down shower block from hell. But at least we were so exhausted that every time we were woken up during the night we easily fell back to sleep.
So this morning, after being unable to find internet for a couple of days we rode into Lancaster and spent time relaxing in the sun, updating this blog feasting on cheap food to recharge and working out how we'll get to Cardiff.
Around 5pm we left, after a nice chat with some friendly people, and began cycling towards Preston. We didn't get far.
Its amazing how many friendly waves we get here from cyclists, almost everyone says hello, quite the contrast to the uber cool cyclists in Italy and France.
Our sleeping bags had been infested with bugs... at least that was the theory... at nights we've been feeling itchy and Sam woke with a funny bite on his foot... so we spent a few hours washing the sleeping bags and putting them through two cycles in the dryer. It meant we had a late start to the day but hopefully it was worth it.
On the road at Gretna Green we spent some time chatting to two English guys from London who are cycle touring this weekend. Both interesting and friendly guys; it was nice to stop and talk about cycling adventures. We also saw the old blacksmiths shop where English runaways have been getting married Las Vegas style without need of witnesses since the 1800s... I'd read about people eloping to Scotland so it was interesting to see how close to the border of England this place was.
Back in England, and despite some morning rain the sun is shining again. We go through Carlisle and then continue down to Penrith, where we buy some Indian for dinner and eat on a bench in a church graveyard, cold wind blowing furiously... on our way out of town we see the ruins of an old castle on the hill.
We make a turn and head into the Lakes District. It's evening and the sun is low... we can see the well known craggy hills in the distance and our first lake below us. In the cool evening, the wind behind us, we fly down and up the hills, past the lake and past sheep and cows. There are fences along the road restricting access to perfect free-camping sites, every bit of land seems to have been fenced and sold to farmers in this National Park. We stop at a real camp site but it's full.
We keep riding, both tired and cold and eager to stop, but where? Finally I see a little embankment in some trees. We push our bikes up and find a great spot - our view of the lake that we'd hoped for obscured, but well hidden and quiet, Sam shoo's away the cows and we prepare to sleep.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia