Heathrow – Oxford


According to bicycle physics, after every bicycle high, one may expect an corresponding opposite low; and England did not disappoint.

In dulcet BBC tones I hear: “This is your captain speaking. There is something broken at Heathrow. We are in a holding pattern. Our revised arrival is 90 minutes late. The weather in London is cold. It is raining. The forecast for the rest of the week is much the same. Welcome to Britain.”

In reality it was much worse….

I had had an “altercation” with the Geneva Swiss Miss post official which left me huffily boarding the plane with my packed package unsent. I debark at Heathrow seeking an English post office.

Here we see the Heathrow ambulance service: touring bicycles!

Seriously, this airport is so vast, bicycles are the only way to cover it.

Step one: assemble the bike using my special IKEA tool.

The post office is apparently in Terminal 4. This is so far away, it is in a different time zone. Amusingly, the first 3 people I ask for directions do not speak English. The next few seem directionally impaired. I implore them: “Which way is Termnal 4? Which direction is London? Which way is north?” Each answered with a sheepish shrug.

I cast my lot to highway signage. After trial & error I am almost at Terminal 4 when I am presented with this. Here is the bike way, a tunnel under the runways for ~2km.

Just as I go to enter, it becomes apparent that it is simultaneously a one lane “car-way”

Here is the end of the tunnel.
2 km.

Traffic at airports is typically impatient and appears not fussed about collateral bike damage. I ride a fast as I possibly can.

The UK post office was infinitely more reasonable. After explanations on the various permutations about the weight/cost/air charges and I remove a crucial 100gm and the package is discharged. I eat the offending 100 gm of chocolate en route (sorry Annaliese).

Outside the airport, things take a turn for the worse. Sadly England does not provide a baggage delivery service like Swiss rail. After much deliberation, the (not unexpected) conclusion is that I will have to carry everything with me. The big pack on my back. The little pack on the handlebars. Onwards.

If you are riding a bike in England, and you hear the word “A4”, do not proceed. It is a horror stretch. I have not been on a worse road. Ever. I consider myself a Google victim. The maps do not show (1) the crappy roads, (2) the deep pot-holes, (3) the blocked drain grates, (4) the suicidal traffic, (5) the passing double decker buses splashing water all over you.

I am too preoccupied feeling sorry for myself to take pictures, this is the high point of the trip.

I last until Oxford, when it became clear that I am not going to make it before the 8pm sunset. Onto a train.

Amazingly, the trains in England actually work well. Bikes are free, there are on-line updates of connections, impressive. Why didn’t I do this at the beginning?

However the ticket collector at Leamington Spa train station cannot tell me how to get to Kenilworth. He advises me to consult a taxi for directions. I get the impression the English have an awareness limited to a 2km radius. Anything further you need to go through some sort of travel agent.

On the up side they do have large coffees. Seen here to be almost bigger than my computer. (Never drink anything bigger than your computer.)

I arrive. Wet. Cold. Wasted. Far more pathetic then epic.

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2 Responses to Heathrow – Oxford

  1. Wendy Riley aka yr mother says:

    Brilliant Mark! I travelled every inch of the way with you! (That’s why I feel stiff and cold!) Actually have been to Bega today. It was good but there has been more storm damage along the road. Atom Bomb? Climate change?

  2. Jonathon Riley says:

    Don’t worry Mark, if you look carefully at the bike tunnel photo, you can just see a light at the end of the tunnel

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