- Anatole France
Morning in Robin Hood's Bay. I stretched, yawned, and looked out the window beside my bed. Then I yawned and stretched again.
Soon enough, we all three hooked up Darby got her own room here, as I'd made this reservation months ago, back when her modesty was still intact and descended to the main room for breakfast. This was cooked by Frank a bearded, pony-tailed, slightly rotund, soft-spoken, lovely man who just didn't seem all that much like the keeper of a B&B (even in his apron). Actually, it turned out that this wasn't even his first B&B; and his skills bore that up, when he cooked us a mean breakfast. We were particularly knocked out by the array of preserves on the table, from the shop across the way. (Fig and rhubarb jam! Yum!)
He also provided us with good company, after the food hit the table. Turns out Frank did the C2C himself in 92. Even more impressively to me, he did the famous bicycle ride from Land's End (the southwest corner of England) to John O'Groats (the northeast corner of Scotland) eight years ago. He had a framed photo of him and bike at the endpoint.
We went back upstairs to pack up for the trip home. It was very strange to be emptying out, rather than filling, my hydration sleeve in the morning! On our way out, loaded up, we signed Frank's guestbook (he was strangely insistent on it), effusively praising the joint; and then headed out toward the bus station at the top of the town having realised we were going to miss the next hourly bus by about 5 seconds. (Robin Hood's Bay has no train station, so we were taking a coach to the next town over, Scarborough.)
Thinking we couldn't possibly catch the next bus, we took it fairly easy. However, we discovered that there was a bus stop that was on this side of the station but along the route to Scarborough. So in fact we managed to catch the bus by 5 seconds. Good luck, good start to a travel day. As we got onboard, the driver wanted to know where we were from. We told him we were Americans, but to try not to hold it against us.
Driver (eye glinting): "We dislike all foreigners equally."
Me (under breath): "Including Londoners, no doubt."
Ah the north.
In Scarborough, we were pummelled on the cost of single train tickets to London, buying them as we were on the day. I hadn't pre-booked the return journey, since I didn't want to totally lock us in to getting to the end of the path at a certain time. But I didn't reckon on the absurd price difference. Lesson learned.
And before we knew what happened, there we were, back in civvies, back on the streets of west London. As we walked around lovely, leafy Kensington, I continued to snap shots, to no real conceivable purpose. I guess I just had to ramp down from the deeply ingrained habits of a very intense two weeks.
As it would turn out, I found I've had a bit of trouble re-acclimatizing to civilian life: work, routine, public transportation. (Work.) Much of me rebels, fitfully, demanding to be back out on the trail, revelling in the freedom of nomadic camp life . . .
But, nonetheless, as the three of us had gambolled around Robin Hood's Bay on the last hiking day, savouring the sea and the sun and the sense of celebration of having finished, I realised one thing very clearly: that the trip had been absolutely everything I had hoped for it. I was completely happy with how it had turned out. Darby had originally told me that she had made the commitment to come along in large part because she had spent years reading Fuchs dispatches and being jealous. For her part, Darby asseverated that she "would do it again". And of course Mark was very happy, as well that it was finally all over.
I owe Mark George Pitely and Darby Suzan Kimball a great debt of gratitude. They made the trip.
Now: back to the grind . . .