What a Vacation
The non stop Delta flight left from Detroit Metro airport at 9:30 pm
on May 26th. Ron's sister and brother-in-law (Gail and Ray) followed
the couple to the airport so the Toyota could be driven back to Barb's
mom's place to save a fortune in parking fees. The bikes were unloaded
If you have ever heard their story of getting from Gatwick airport to Jim's place three years ago (four trains and up and down stairs with fully loaded bikes), you know how much Ron and Barb appreciated Jim picking them up at the airport this time and it was an easy two hour drive to Grundsburgh. The B & B which had been reserved for them was just one mile from Jim's at the other end of thei charming village. Lynn Underwood and her husband own two houses next to each other. Lynn's mother-in-law lives in the lower portion of the second house and up above was the Hofmeister's spacious room complete with bathroom. Breakfast each morning included conversations with Lynn's children Nicki 5, and Harry 3.
After four days of enjoying Jim, Sue and the boys, Ron and Barb started off on their bike adventure. In contrast to their last bike trip in England where they crossed England, Wales and Ireland and flew home from Shannon, they planned to bike in just two sections of England (East Anglia and the Midlands) at a very leisurely pace. At no time would they be more than 100 miles from Jim and Sue so if they got tired or lazy, Jim could come and get them.
Thatched cottage from somewhere along the way
The first day ended after a ride of a little over 30 miles. Long Melford which boasts England's longest village street and the prettiest church in East Anglia was quiet since it was a Sunday. The B & B, owned by Mrs Arlene Fisher was very comfortable. After getting cleaned up, they walked around a bit, and bought bread, cheese and cookies for dinner rather than waiting until 7 pm for the pubs to open.
The bikers were on the road by 9 am the following morning after attempting to visit the famous church (it didn't open until 10). It was a short 25 mile ride to Linton and the B & B owned by Ann and George Peake. Ron and Barb had stayed with them for two nights three years ago and have been corresponding ever since. They are lovely people and Ron said, "We talked like we had never been gone." They had remembered that The Crown pub had been their favorite eating place before so gladly returned there for dinner. It was sad to leave George and Ann the next morning. Barbara said, "When we were here before, I knew we would return, but this time, I am sure it will be the last time and it saddens me to know I won't see them again."
Cambridge was a short, easy ride from Linton and the couple found a nice --- but rather expensive B & B on the outskirts of town. It was more like a mini hotel and the room had a toilet and shower. After cleaning up, they rode the short distance to the town center, found the Tourist Information place and signed up for a walking tour. Martha, the tour guide was very knowledgeable about the city and college history and never stopped smiling. This world famous university city has rich examples of medieval and later styles of architecture. The University was established in the 13th century and the first college, Peterhouse, was founded in 1284. There are 22 colleges in the University, but probably the most impressive architecturally is Kings College founded in 1440 by King Henry VI. Work on the awesome King's College Chapel continued under Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII, and was completed under Henry VIII. During the tour, Ron and Barb learned that Evensong would be held in the Chapel that evening and they made a point to attend.
The all boys choir from the private boarding school there sounded like angels. But it prompted Barb to wonder what life must be like for such young boys away at a boarding school and absent from a normal family life. On Christmas Eve King's College Chapel serves its largest congregation when all over the world English speakers tune in to the BBC and listen to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
Wednesday was the day the couple were invited to dinner at the Mc Cambe's
in Comberton a short six miles from Cambridge so they spent a little time
walking around Cambridge again, sat near the town center and just watched
the many people coming and going on their bicycles, did
Ron and Barb were on their way to Ely and had traveled less than 10 miles when the heavens opened up drenching the couple. They found Mrs Welford's B & B in Cottenham to be a warm and cozy haven from the elements. Around lunch time though, they donned their rain gear for the only time during the trip and biked the mile into the village. At the pub, they enjoyed the special which was called a "hot pot" (like a stew) and before heading back to the B & B, visited the bakery and bought granary rolls (wheat rolls full of crunchy bits and pieces of wheat), then shopped in another small shop for cheese. That was dinner later. They had also picked up some reading material so just vegetated the rest of the day at Mrs Welford's B & B.
It was clear the next morning, but there was a strong northeasterly wind and that was the direction they were heading. They were glad that it was only 15 miles to Ely. It was easy to find a B & B. Mrs O'Loughlin was bubbly as she showed the couple the huge room with a window seat and pointed out the nice lounge on the next floor. It was in Ely that Ron and Barb decided that they had bitten off more than they could chew by planning to bike to the East Midlands too. So reluctantly, they phoned their friends the Eldridges and said they couldn't come and visit them. Ron and Rose said they would come to Ely on Sunday and the Hofmeisters agreed to extend their stay there.
The main point of interest in Ely is the Cathedral. It is a superb architectural achievement of the Middle Ages. Since this part of England (the Fens) is very flat, the tower of the Cathedral can be seen from miles away. The three days in Ely were very relaxing for the couple. One day they toured the Cathedral and learned all about its beginning (Norman --- 1100), changes by Henry VIII, and near destruction by Oliver Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell's house (from 1636-1647) is available for tours and houses the tourist information offices. They sell books and pamphlets on Oliver Cromwell and Barbara bought a few because she wanted to learn about this guy who was responsible for the Revolution and ultimately the beheading of Charles I.
The Great Ouse river runs near the town center and provided an enjoyable walkway, and places to sit and watch the many pleasure boats. The Eldridge family arrived around 11am on Sunday and they all spent the day near the river, enjoyed Sunday dinner and great conversation (see Interesting People). In the late afternoon, Ron and Barb attended Evensong at Ely Cathedral and again were impressed with the young boys choir and the organ that accompanied them.
Monday June 8th, the ride was from the flat Fenland to the very hilly town of Newmarket. Newmarket is the horse racing capital of England. James I was the first king to visit Newmarket, primarily because the hunting was so good, but it was his Scottish nobles who introduced racing to England and found the heath at Newmarket so ideal for the matches which were then run usually between two horses at a time. As Ron & Barb were nearing town, they remarked that it looked a lot like Lexington, Kentucky with all the stud farms so nicely manicured.
Tuesday June 9th, Ron and Barb headed back to Long Melford because they had read about two mansions they should have seen there and they hadn't had a chance to see the church either. They tried to get back into Mrs Fisher's B & B. She was booked but was kind enough to make arrangements with another lady (Sue). Barb said that the 25 mile ride back to Long Melford from Newmarket was one of the prettiest but very difficult because of the hills. She added that she enjoyed seeing all of the big homes and estates along the way. Sue was a cheerful person but her B & B left a bit to be desired. It was just a room in her very cluttered home. They took off to try to see Melford Hall and Kentwell Hall (surrounded by a moat and advertises that you can have tea in the old kitchens) but both were closed (only open on weekends). They did visit the church and spent the rest of the day in Sue's garden which was much more charming than the bedroom. They had to share the garden with children and chickens (in a pen) though. She was very helpful and fixed them tea several times and kept asking if she could get anything else. Breakfast in the morning was with the family amid folded clothes on the table. Very interesting.
15th century house and "the crooked house" in Lavenham
Wednesday, the couple had an enjoyable ride to Bury St Edmonds going through Barb's favorite village of Lavenham on the way. Lavenham has changed little since it was built in the 15th and 16th centuries. The houses clearly show what a late medieval town was like in this part of Suffolk. Ron and Barb had stayed at the Angel Inn in town 3 years ago. They remembered that the floor was so slanted that if they had laid on it, they would have rolled to the wall.
Bury St Edmonds is an ancient market town and the market was in full swing when they arrived. Nearby is the ancient abbey which has been turned into a lovely garden full of flowers. Ron loved the huge roses in the rose garden --- so many colors and so perfect.
Thursday June 12th Ron and Barb biked their last day although at the time they didn't know that. Their 18 mile ride to Thetford took them down narrow country roads, past fields of wheat, sugar beets and linseed. Thetford lies in the Breckland area and is bordered by dense conifer forests on three sides. Shortly after arriving and finding a wonderful B & B owned by Maggie Findlay (see Interesting People ), Barb experienced trouble breathing (she has recently acquired asthma). Instead of leaving the next day, Maggie took Barb to the doctor's office and the doctor prescribed steroids. They stayed a total of four days and Barb still didn't feel that she could bike so Jim was called and he came to pick them up.
Shortly after leaving Thetford, Barb said she felt better, but neither one of them were in the mood to bike anymore. They only shortened their trip by about 4 days anyway. They decided to just enjoy being grandparents.
One day Jim, Sue, Kristopher, Ron and Barb went to the Colchester Zoo, another day Ron and Barb took both boys for a long walk so Sue could have some time to herself then baby sat during nap time another time. And one day the couple took off on a bus from Grundsburgh. They went to Ipswitch where they caught a train to Norwich (a town they would have biked to had they completed their journey), walked the ancient Roman cobblestone streets, visited the magnificent Cathedral there, the Castle museum, the busy market, then caught the train back to Ipswitch just in time to catch the last bus to Grundsburgh.
The village of Grundsburgh is small. There is a pub, post office store
(post office, stationery, breads and some groceries), a small grocery store
(the size of a small party store), antique store/tea room and Mr William's
store that sells everything from duck food to screwdrivers. There's
one of those typical English phone booths near the village green, by the
fjord where the ducks hang out and every hour or so a double decker bus
comes through town and stops by the phone booth. And at 6 p.m. or so, the
cows from the farm, take up the entire road as they go through town traveling
from one pasture to the other. It is really a sight to see. And all over
England, milkmen still deliver milk in small glass bottles --- fresh every
morning. Women go to the store every day because refrigerators are
small. Dressed in skirts or dresses, they ride their bicycles to the shops.
The bicycles have wicker baskets attached to the handle bars. Most stores
will not give you a bag to carry your purchases home --- they expect you
to bring a bag or basket. Life is a lot slower in England.
"It seems so gentle", said Barbara. She's a gal who has always wanted
to go back in time. Perhaps that is why she loves it so. Ron said,
"It truly was a vacation because of the relaxing pace."
Three Families Brightened Our Trip
Janet and Brian Mc Cambe
They arrived in the park when it was still cold and because there was so much snow where the big trees were, restrictions had been placed on the size of vehicles allowed there. I didn't want them to miss the big trees so I drove them there in our old clunky Horizon and since I had been doing some of the tours there, I gave them a personal tour of those majestic trees.
Janet and Brain made us promise that if we ever got back to England, we would look them up. So I sent them a short note telling them when we would be there and when we planned to bike near their place figuring that we would spend a few hours visiting and be on our way. I had given them Jim and Sue's phone number in case there were any questions. Before we even arrived at Jim's, they had called and left a message that they wanted us to stay for dinner and spend the night in their home.
We arrived in the small village of Comberton a little early and were just getting ready to bike down a side street when Ron heard someone call our name. It was Jan. We followed her to their comfortable home nearby and were shown to their guest room. After cleaning up, we joined the family downstairs. The girls had events to attend so it was just us adults for dinner and Jan whipped up a gourmet dinner in no time. Best of all was the conversation which lasted until late in the evening.
Both Brian and Jan are from York (northern England) originally. Brian graduated from Leeds in Yorkshire and has a PHD in Neurophysiology. He is the Assistant Director of Research in Zoology at Robinson College in Cambridge. Robinson college is the newest of the Cambridge Colleges established in 1977.
Jan is a medical doctor specializing in palliative (control of symptoms) medicine. She graduated from London University and devotes her time to the Arthur Rank House (a hospice) in Cambridge.
We thank them so much for their hospitality and hope that we can be their hosts sometime here in the U.S.
The Ron Eldridge Family
Anyway, when we sent them a note giving our itinerary, they too called and left a message that we must spent a night with them. And we fully planned to do so until we realized that we had bitten off more than we could chew. Their town (Leicester) was too far away for our speed (or lack of speed) this trip. When we called to say we couldn't make it, they insisted on meeting us somewhere. We were in Ely, (the closest to them) so they suggested Sunday and we agreed to stay an extra day.
Rose is from the Philippines and came to England in 1972 to study. She met Ron one month after she arrived and in September of 1973 they were married. They have two boys --- Christian 15 and Christophe 11. Ron is the Associate Director of Human Resources for the National Health Service in Leicester and Rose is a staff nurse at two hospitals. She works nights for seven nights at one hospital then has seven nights off. On her days off, she works days at another hospital. In fact, she had worked the night shift on Sat, and didn't get any sleep while they came to see us (she said she dozed in the car during the two hour ride), and had to work the night shift again on Sunday. But she said she had the next week off.
They arrived in Ely about 11a. m. and we walked down to the river, found
a pub with a menu we liked, ordered the traditional Sunday dinner which
was delicious (roast beef, potatoes, two vegetables and yorkshire pudding)
and visited until about 3p.m. It is amazing how fast time flies when you're
enjoying yourself. We really felt bad that we couldn't have gone to Leicester
and spend more time with them. We thought about taking the train but Ron
had such bad memories of bikes and trains from the last time that we scraped
that idea. Leicester was a city I very much wanted to visit because of
the great Roman history there like remains of Roman baths etc. From there
we had planned to visit Sherwood forest but we are ever so glad that these
fine people came to us. We will remember our visit and someday maybe we
can treat them somewhere,
Jim & Lil and Barry & Maggie
Maggie and Barry Findlay have a comfortable old house with four bedrooms upstairs that they use for the B & B and they were very friendly. Barry has a landscape business, but was home recovering from a nasty accident with a rototiller.
We only intended to stay one night and be on our way. But something about the area (or me) brought on an asthma attack. At breakfast the next morning Maggie offered to take me around to her doctor. She explained that we were in the worst part of England for asthmatics. We went to the doctor and got new medicine and decided to stay one more night. By the way, because England has socialized medicine I was not charged one penny for the visit even though I was just visiting.
Saturday came and I felt no better but Maggie's rooms were all reserved so we looked around for another B & B in town. The one that was available, we didn't like so we were going to try to bike anyway, but Maggie and her parents (Lil and Jim) who live in a bungalow in their back yard, had other ideas. Lil and Jim had a room in their place that Maggie sometimes used for overflow so they insisted we use it. That room was really two rooms (bedroom and sitting room) just outside the garden and only a few steps from Maggie's sun/breakfast room.
We mostly laid around and read during the day, but in the evening after we came back from dinner, we all sat in the garden and solved the world's problems. Conversations ranged from what London was like during WW II (Lil was a teenager and remembered), to Jim's adventures in the army, royalty, their visits to the U.S., differences in both countries, similarities in the countries, taxes, history (theirs and ours) and on and on. Each evening the clock moved much too fast and we had to say "good-night" before we wanted to.
Maggie's three nieces live in Florida and each year around Christmas
time, the two couples go for a visit. We were pleasantly surprised to find
out that the town they visit happens to be Winter Haven --- Ron's mom's
home. Since we will all be there at the same time this year, we will
be sure to find them and try to repay a little of their kindness.
We felt like we became a part of their family for four days and we will
remember it forever.
I can't believe it---I'm actually rooting for Baltimore (It's true Uncle Mike) to beat Toronto in the American League East this year. Reason being, the spoiled millionaire Jack Morris pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Going to England this year? Tips on packing. Take two suitcases of money.
The pound now costs $1.91 compared to $1.56 in 1989. Inflation has also hit this lovely country. Bed and Breakfast will now average about $60 a night and meals even in the pubs are expensive. It's best to eat your large meal at noon in the pub at a cost of about $7 each. Are we complaining? Absolutely not; it's worth it.
It's a good thing we were biking --- gasoline exceeds $3 a gallon.
If we ever do settle down, I'm inspired to have lots and lots of flowers. I love the flower gardens that we saw in every little village.
Our English friends say they are impressed with the restaurant and shopping service when visiting the U.S.
Barb and I don't always agree. I happen to like Branson Missouri. It's like Las Vegas without the slot machines. Branson will be the new Nashville in time.
Did you know that full-timers look forward to winter, when the campgrounds are taken back by the senior citizens many of whom are full-timers?
I liked being a radio personality and thought we did a good job.
This time, we left the motorhome in mother's back yard, plugged into electricity, but kept the refrigerator on gas just in case the motorhome got unplugged for a little while. With a solar panel working and mom checking to see that it was plugged in, we didn't worry.
When we came home and entered the house, I knew we were in trouble. The smell gave it away. The refrigerator was off and everything was green, stinky and just horrible. I still don't have all of the odors out. Any suggestions?
We discovered later that we had gotten some bad LP gas and all our gas lines were plugged or sputtering. Never again will we ever leave the refrigerator on when we go on a trip away from home.
RON & BARB ON THE AIR
It looks like our book An Alternative Lifestyle is a big success. We are getting lots of orders and we even have a few publishers who are interested in re-publishing it for major distribution in book stores. One thing that has been suggested is that we change the title. We were so naive that we didn't think about the other lifestyle that often uses the same title (gays).
Back in Michigan, I listen to my old favorite radio station which is
WJR and I had the bright idea to contact the station and see if they would
like to interview us on the J. P. Mc Carthy Focus show which airs at 12:20
every weekday. WJR is THE radio station in the Detroit
Also on the program with us was Mitzi Gaynor touting her affiliation
with the cable channel AMC (American Movie Classics) and a former Miss
America who is now a veterinarian and talked about pet care. It was
a fun experience.
This 'N That
It seems so long ago, but on our way to Michigan, we stopped in Branson, Missouri, to catch up with good friends Wayne and Judy Richards from Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was good to see them again and we discovered that Wayne cooks up a pretty mean breakfast.
I do not like Branson. It could have been a neat place, if the city fathers had planned a little better. It is just too crowded. And trying to drive from one end of town to the other is impossible. It's a grid lock. There must be something wrong with me though because I am the only one I have come across that does not like Branson.
From Branson, we drove to Caulfield, Missouri, which is the home of Cloud 9 Ranch Coast to Coast Campground. We met long time friends Grant and Nancy Joy and spent four days with them. We shared a couple meals and went out to the big (?) town of W. Plains and ate at the Northfork Saloon and Steakhouse. It was quite rustic but the food was good. Nancy and I celebrated our birthdays (both in May) while there.
Ron had never visited the Arch in St Louis, Missouri, so we alsostopped there on the way back to Michigan. It was a nice clear day and the view was good. I am not too crazy about the elevator though. Looking up at the Arch from outside, I wondered why I went up. Scary!
All three of my boys are super cooks. I had no idea until this past year, when we have been treated to cooking by all three of them. In fact Mark and Jim like to do most of the cooking for their family --- even after coming home from work each night. I think Robert does too. And I don't just mean outdoor grill cooking. All three are gourmet cooks. So is Glenda, but she wishes her husband was like her brothers and cooked for her.
My newest grandson, James (4 mos old) is the best little thing. While we were there, he cut two teeth and was NOT a bit fussy. He smiles all the time and seldom cries.
Kristopher reminds me why God gives children to young parents. He is a very active 2 1/2 year old. He runs everywhere. And what a walker he is. We took him on a walk that was well over a mile long and he didn't get tired or complain.
Last time we were in England, few of the bed and breakfasts had showers. This time all of them did. But they are much different than ours. They're electric.
Most faucets in all the homes we visited have independent faucets for hot and cold. That makes it difficult to adjust water temperature for hand washing, dish rinsing, hair washing (when only a tub is available) and so on.
Last time none of our bed and breakfasts had TV and this time most of them did. Progress?? I like the rooms better without TV.
Laundromats are rather expensive in England --- at least when considering the weak dollar. In Newmarket, the washer cost L (pound) 1.40 which translated to over $2.60. There was no attendant and the washer I chose didn't work so I unloaded the machine and started again. So one load ended up costing over $5.00 and that didn't count the dryer which was equivalent to .35 for seven minutes.
If you ask to "wash up" in England, they probably won't let you. That means "to do the dishes". And if you ask where the "bathroom" or "restroom" is you will get strange looks. Ask for the "toilet", or WC (water closet). Many homes and most B & Bs keep the bathroom separate from the toilet. Two separate rooms.
In England, if someone asks if they can "Knock you up", don't be shocked. It simply means to wake you up.
I was quite impressed that not once but twice, I got free medical care in England. It wouldn't work the other way around, I'm afraid.
East Anglia in England is an area with many American bases. They are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the "friendly invasion" of our boys. Now the Americans are leaving the bases. It will have a decided affect on the economy there the same as bases closing here. Jim's base (Bentwaters) will close (be turned over to the RAF) next spring.
If you read the "letters" section, you noticed that I have parted with my organ.Yes, that means that the cabin in the woods may never be. We like this life.
As we were leaving the LBJ ranch, ranger Mary Jones, gave us a loaf of her Apricot bread to munch on, on the way. It was superb and her recipe is included in our collection.
When we were on the WJR Focus radio show touting our book, we met another guest--- movie star and dancer Mitzi Gaynor. During her interview, she mentioned that she lived in Detroit near where the studio is until she was 11. I lived in the same area of Detroit at about the same time, so after the interview, I asked her where she lived and what school she attended. We both lived in the same area and attended the same school (Tilden). We talked about the candy store across the street and hugged like old friends. Small world!!!
One of the questions WJR's Joan Siefert asked Ron during the interview was if he was any handier with the wrench. I was pleased to comment that he really is. In fact he successfully unplugged the propane lines to the water heater, and stove and I know when he tackles the refrigerator line, he will do a good job there too.
Ron doesn't look any older. I don't think I will handle the BIG 60 as well as he did. In fact, he seems younger than ever. Maybe it's the lifestyle. Or a younger wife!!!!
What do these English words mean?
1. REDUNDENT a) rebuked b) sick c) laid off
2 .LORRIE a) girls name b) elevator c)truck
3. QUEUE a) pool stick b) line c) goatee
4. NAPPY a) diaper b) thief c) costly
5. LOO a) subway b) toilet c) tube
6. MUM a) flower b) mom c) minimum
7. NICK a) cut
b) steal c) coin
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