Friday, July 9, 2010

The best laid plans of ... travellers

As I mentioned in my last Post a few away-commitments have been affecting my ability to get much cycling in this week. I have been in Manchester during the back end of the week. Of course I let the train take the strain and I did half consider taking a bicycle with me. In the end I chickened out. Partly because I would be pretty busy and so there would not be a lot of time to spare, partly because I was staying in the middle of Manchester and I did not know whether there were any interesting routes nearby and also because I was not that well prepared.

Travelling with a bicycle intending to cycle requires a little bit of planning. In this case I would have had to work out on what train routings it might have been possible to take a bicycle and what the booking conditions would have been. I use the National Rail Journey planner. As far as I can see it does not seem to bother pro-actively assisting anyone wanting to travel with a bicycle.When I cycled from Hull to Cambridge I ended up using three different train companies to get from Cambridge to Hull - all had different approaches to carrying bicycles. I ended up having to buy tickets and then booking a cycle space on the one train it was possible. Unfortunately that train got cancelled after I had started my journey, I enjoy train journeys - but the hassle really takes toe fun out of the journey. (One of the trains was also delayed and I was not sure whether I would get to Doncaster in time to catch the last train to Hull.

I could have taken my Brompton - in fact I would have taken my Brompton in this instance. The trouble is that it also adds to the stuff I carry in addition to some clothes and my laptop, camera and the stuff I needed for my meetings. I would also need to carry some clothing for cycling in - sandals, cycling togs including a waterproof jacket, gloves, GPS speedo. I know I don't need it all - but tracking my journeys is part of the enjoyment. Not to mention the benefit of a GPS in being able to find my way in a strange town if I get lost. So in the end I decided to travel light. That decision also meant I took my smallest pocket camera (Sony DSC W200) to take pictures.

It was a shame though. I don't know Manchester very well - but have been travelling there every year for the last few years and it is a great place to visit. One of the places I stay is the Palace Hotel - it is convenient for getting to my meetings and it is opposite Manchester Oxford Road Railway Station. I should have checked before I left - it turns out that Sustrans 6 runs very close by to the hotel and gets out into some countryside quite quickly - oh well perhaps next time.

I used to travel for my work a lot - I could easily leave it until the last minute and then pack all I needed for a two week trip around the Far East just before nipping off to the airport. I only occasionally got it wrong. I did once turn up in Japan to be picked up by the Japanese gentlemen who ran the operations there to find, apart from the socks I was wearing I had no socks with me. As we had a tight schedule after picking me up from the airport he dropped me off at a department store (we were in his car) and then drove around the block until I showed up. Parking is a bigger nightmare in Tokyo than even Cambridge. Now I only speak a little Japanese and I certainly do not have the vocabulary to buy socks. I found my way to the men's department and as I was unsure what my shoe Japanese shoe size was I resorted to a few words and some sign language and took my shoe off and pointed to my sock. You have to remember I had been on a 15-hour flight so it was not a pretty sight smell . We compared feet sizes and the Shop assistant showed me some socks and I bought a packet of 5 pairs that were in a sale. They weren't cheap, but those socks went on to do good service.

This trip started badly as I set off for the station I forgot my jacket and had to pop back for it. The train journey was uneventful. For a variety of reasons I chose to go via Ely - there is a direct train from Ely to the Manchester Oxford Road Railway Station and although the train does meander a bit (technically the tracks meander - the train just stays on the rails) you end up travelling through some picturesque countryside and also through what seem to be back gardens.

The first time I got my camera out to take some pictures I discovered that the battery was flat and the spare battery was flat as well. Not good planning.

So the only pictures I have were taken this morning on my mobile phone whilst waiting to catch the train home. The station did not seem very busy until a train pulled into the station and the loads of people got off - it was a very well used commuter station.


You see - when there were no stations the station almost looked deserted.


The station had around 5 platforms though - to be honest I did not really check that out as my train was leaving from Platform 4.


The route is picturesque and includes stopping at Chesterfield - a town famous for its church's crooked spire. You pass quite close by the church and I was on the right side of the carriage - unfortunately at that point for some reason I was trying to check my email and had connected my phone to my laptop - so I could not use it to take a picture. The mobile phone signal seemed a bit patchy on the picturesque route as well.

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