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Thursday, August 03, 2017

July 10th: Oxford to Reading

You can't visit Oxford and not at least see the University grounds, so our first order of business was to ride to the University grounds and at least look at the grass. It was brown, indicating that they'd have a fairly dry summer so far, even though the forecast kept threatening rain!
My initial thought for the day was that we'd ride to Reading or Wokingham. When scouting out places to stay, I'd looked as far ahead as Sandhurst, but the forecast was calling for rain on the next day. While I wouldn't trust any long range forecast for weather in England, this one looked fairly solid. If it was going to rain, you want to be in a big city. If the weather was nice, however, country houses were usually cooler, quieter, cheaper, and much more bike friendly. Balanced against that was that Bowen was still obsessed with duck for dinner!
After leaving the University grounds, Komoot did a great job of routing us along side streets and even city parks to lead us out of town, but the at the science park dumped us right onto A4674, another unpleasant main road with a lousy sidepath. I looked on my device for alternates, but sure enough there was no alternative. I did spot a quieter alternate once we'd gotten to Dorchester on Thames, but Komoot was already planning to take us there, so we just bore with the noisy highway until we exited.

Near Wallingford, we resumed the noisy A road, but I spotted a bike route sign and grabbed it, riding into Wallingford at a side street. Once in Wallingford, Bowen said he was getting tired, so I asked an adult leader of a group of uniformed school kids if there was a city park. They directed me to it and Bowen happily played there for a good half hour before being ready on the bike. It was obvious that the day before had worn him out, so I confirmed a booking in Reading rather than Wokingham or any place further on. 

Past Wallingford, the bike route now took us into the Chiltern Cycleway, and became shaded and pretty throughout! At Checkerdon, Bowen started getting hungry, and we doubled back a bit looking for a signed village store only to be told that the store had been turned into a house! We were told to head over to Stoke Row for food, and given the choice between the bakery and the pub, Bowen went for the pub, the Cherry Tree Inn. The weather was a little windy but nice enough to eat outside, though the food was not great, with the pulled pork sandwich being too dry.

Having been so fortified, we finished the ride into Reading, which started behaving like an English cycle path once we got into the vicinity of the town: irrational twists and turns, terminating into a city park path that was gated by a staircase! "This is not tandem friendly! Hmph!" said Bowen in a huff. If only I had a video camera for that little remark --- he looked so cute as he said that!

We were a little too early for our AirBnB, but no matter: on the River Thames we found a playground with a Zipline!
It was very warm, and I was glad that we had put on sunscreen earlier in the day. When Bowen was done with the playground, we rode the last few minutes to the AirBnB, where our host, JF greeted us with surprise: "I didn't expect your son to be 5 years old!" We told him about our situation and he graciously agreed to let us decide the next day whether we were going to stay in Reading for 2 nights. I put Bowen through the shower quickly, and then we headed out to look for ice cream.
Reading had a huge downtown shopping mall full of stores, including many well known ones from the USA. We had ice cream and then Bowen decided he wanted to see the new Spiderman movie. We paid exorbitant English prices for the movie, and then Bowen wanted to walk out after an hour. I actually was enjoying the movie so I persuaded him to come back in with me after visiting the bathroom to finish watching the movie.

After the movie, we walked back, using the Tesco along the way to buy breakfast. Bowen suddenly needed to use a bathroom, and we stopped at Kings Chef, which was actually reviewed quite nicely on Google, so we bought takeout duck noodles, spicy fried rice (which turned out not to be very spicy), and string beans. On account of my speaking mandarin to the cashier, she threw in some spicy duck wings as well.

After dinner, Bowen was tired, and said he'd rather have a zero day the next day. I told him we were expecting rain anyway, so we would very likely stay 2 nights here. "Yippie!"

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