Pondering the Possibilities for 2016


Ah, the good ‘ole days!

I’ve spent quite a few evenings in the past month pondering possible walking routes for 2016. In fact I’ve spent the better part of three years (!) sifting through various itineraries, often settling on a particular idea only to discard it a few weeks later. Despite the setbacks planning an adventure is an activity I’ve enjoyed since I was a 15-year old daydreaming about my first trip to Europe.

I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last 35 years but despite a couple of significant down-sizings I still have a handful of guidebooks that inspired me all those years ago. I’m featuring some of them today as well as a photo of myself taken during my first backpacking trip through Europe in 1983 (care of my travel buddy Scott). It’s taken 30+ years but I think my ‘look’ is back in style.

Back in ’83 Scott and I planned our 6-month adventure with military precision. We never expected to follow our itinerary to the letter but surprisingly we weren’t far off. One of the main reasons for all the planning was that we were on a strict budget. We didn’t manage 84-cents a day but we did keep to $15 a day excluding our flights and a pair of two-month Eurail Youth Passes. In the process we must have stayed in nearly 100 hostels. We only began ponying up for cheap hotels when we reached Italy and Greece and if I remember correctly we found a room in off-season Santorini for about a buck each. Incidentally I read today that Ryan Air is offering €5 flights to Athens so who knows what the future will bring.

Eat your heart out Hipster types

More Hipster than Hippie? I’ll let the Millennials decide

While I’m no longer a starving student I’m still careful with my cents and pence and with the Canadian dollar tanking I’m more conscious of it now than I was in 2010. A 4-5 month stay in the UK is a significant investment and so I need to build some flexibility into my itinerary. At this point my plan is to spend most of the time in Britain but if the Pound becomes too dear I may need to head to the land of the Euro.

With this in mind I’m hesitant to plan a LEJOG-style walk from point A to point B. This was never a requirement of course but I do admit there is something magical about walking 1000+ miles without using any other form of transportation. One prerequisite I do insist on is that I cover new ground, with the possible exception of one or two short sections I walked in the 1990’s. With this in mind I’m seriously considering doing a collection of Long-Distance Walks in England, Wales and Scotland, some of which could be linked together to create walks of 3 to 4 weeks in length.

In addition to the flexibility this approach provides it also ensures that I spend the bulk of my time in walking country and less time walking between Long-Distance routes. One disadvantage is that a series of walks lacks the focus of a continuous walk. Will it be tougher to keep going if you don’t have a carrot dangling from a stick? I will likely set myself a different objective, perhaps walking a minimum of 100 days or a certain number of miles. I’ve mulled this over quite a bit and would be interested on your thoughts.

A Blast from the Past

A blast from the past

Cheap and Cheesy

I decided it was time to rename my blog and so I dug deep into the archives and chose Ramble On. Back in the late 90’s I ran a short-lived walking tour company called “Mind the Gap Tours” and I published a walking newsletter called Ramble On. I enjoyed the experience but it was a hell of a lot of work and quite frankly I made more money selling mindthegap.com to a London Advertising agency than I did running tours!

I hope to post once or twice a month and will update other pages over the summer. My Links page needed immediate attention and it now includes all the 2013 long walks I’m currently aware of, including a 7000-mile coastline walk that is now underway.

Sod it! 2014 it is.

It's been one of those weeks

It’s been one of those weeks

It’s been three years, almost to the day, that I set off on my End to End walk. I can honestly say I never felt healthier, both in body and mind, than I did in April through June of 2010. I missed my nomadic lifestyle almost immediately and by late July I was back in Canada and back on the treadmill, paying down the mortgage and piling on the stress.

My plan, as recently as several days ago, was to keep my nose to the grindstone until 2015 and then take a 6-month leave of absence. But I had one of those weeks … I’m sure you’ve had them too … where something had to give. It’s at times like these that one is forced to make decisions and I’ve decided that my health and well-being outweighs everything else. Assuming my leave is approved I will, about a year from now, be making my final preparations for another very long walk in Britain. It will be about the best 50th birthday present I could give myself.

In the meantime I will enjoy the planning, training and anticipation of another adventure. I’m also looking forward to following the blogs of those setting off in 2013 and will be updating my links page within the next couple of days.



Doing Our Bit

It’s now November and with less than six months to go I’m a bit behind in my preparations for next Spring’s walk.  That said it’s not a LEJOG and so the logistics will be a lot easier to work out.  I’ve been very busy on Historypin and preparing “Doing Our Bit“, a Remembrance Day tribute video which I’ve embedded below.  I was in possession of some fantastic old photographs and felt that this would be a great way to share them.  Seeing those young faces stare back at me makes me wonder what was going through their minds as they boarded the steamships bound for Vancouver, their first step on the long road to the Western Front.   I hope you will find it a poignant reminder of their courage and sacrifice.



In my last post I mentioned I had made some progress in the search for my great-grandfather Herbert.  Unfortunately the death certificate I ordered listed the occupation of the deceased as “Engineers Fitter”, a poor match and so this plus a small discrepancy in age led me to the conclusion that this was a false lead. Nevertheless I’m optimistic the British Postal Museum and Archive will shed some light on what happened to Herbert after he left the army in 1924.  If their Herbert Clifford is my Herbert Clifford then his last known whereabouts will be Windsor in 1938 … and Windsor is smack dab in the middle of my proposed walking route.

News from Blurb.com: If you’ve been thinking about publishing a book through Blurb then you may be interested to hear that they’ve now added eBooks to their list of publishing options.  At the moment the eBooks are only viewable on Apple IOS devices (ie. iPhones and iPads) but I’ve been told an Android version will be available before long.  The eBook option provides an inexpensive alternative to the pricier paper versions.  I’ve just added an eBook version of End to End in 2010 to my Blurb bookstore for $4.99.  If you’re contemplating purchasing any eBook through Blurb I suggest you ensure you’re running the latest version of iBook (Apple’s free eBook reader). Also, be aware that currently all Blurb eBooks appear as a two-page spread in landscape mode and so some zooming may be required to read small text.

In London

March 27, 2010 Victoria, BC to London
Weather: Cloudy, occasional showers B&B: Kathy’s (Pimlico)

The 9-hour flight from Vancouver to London was pretty smooth and I managed to cat nap for a few hours. We were more or less on schedule however as we began our descent into Heathrow our pilot was informed that there was nowhere to park. We did the airborne equivalent of circling the block a couple of times before finally touching down. Unfortunately there was still nowhere to park and so we sat for 30 minutes until they gave up and bused us in to Terminal 5.

Once inside the shiny new Terminal 5 things moved ahead at a much better pace. I’m not sure if this is normal or if it was due to the BA Strike. Either way there were more immigration officers than there were non-EU passengers … a very pleasant surprise after my last few arrivals into Terminal 4.

I’ve spent the last 12-18 months planning this LEJOG and so I’ve chatted with a lot of other long-distance walkers about this 1000+ mile walk. It’s easy to forget that for 99% of the population this strikes them as an extremely odd thing to do, and this 99% includes Her Majesty’s Immigration Officer. The conversation went something like this:

HMIO: “How long will you be in Britain?”
Me: “102 days!”
HMIO <concerned look>: “Hmmm … that’s a very long time … what will you be doing?”
Me: “Walking”
HMIO <raised eyebrow, the concerned look deepens, potential nutter flag raised>: “Walking? For 102 days?”
Me: “No, No … I’m only walking for 91 days”
HMIO <sigh, concerned look deepens, smartass nutter flag raised>: “Where are you walking for 91 days?”
Me: <concerned expression now crosses my face>: “From Land’s End in southwest England to John O’Groats in northeast Scotland”

At this point she calls over her supervisor (no, really) and I’m thinking I should have lied and said I was on a 102 day shopping trip. Fortunately all she wanted to do was confirm her next day off … could I have been the straw that broke the camel’s back? When the supervisor left she sighed as much to say “if only you had lied and told me you were on a shopping excursion, but you didn’t and now I have to ask you even more questions.”. I decided to be more careful with my answers.

HMIO: “What is your profession?”
Me: (after carefully examining her face to see if I could figure out what she wanted me to say): “Business Analyst?”
HMIO: <sigh>
Me: <sigh>
HMIO: “Do you have the money to support yourself while on this walk?”
Me: Yes!
HMIO: <smile>
Me: <smile>
HMIO: “How much do you have?”
Me: <hmmm … 102 x daily expenses + 10% contingency + my lucky number, rounded to the nearest thousand is…>: “1 Million Dollars!” (actually I didn’t say that but I really wanted to).
HMIO: <hmmm … his figure / 102 + 10% contingency + my lucky number, rounded to the nearest thousand> “Yes, that seems right”.
Me: <smile>
HMIO: “Do you have Medical Insurance?”
Me: <smile> Yes!

I produced the required medical documentation from my neatly organized portable file folder and I could see she was dead impressed. The end was in sight for both of us and our relationship grew by leaps and bounds. She scribbled madly on my landing card and handed me my passport with a smile, “Enjoy your walk”. Whether she muttered “you mad b&$%##” under her breath we’ll never know but I’m not bothered, I’m here and my luggage is too.

After navigating around some tube closures I found my way to my B&B, the same B&B I’ve been enjoying for the last 21 years. After a quick shower I hopped aboard the #24 bus with the idea of heading up to Charing Cross but the ambiance of The Albert on the Victoria Road beckoned and I stopped in for a quick pint (Fuller’s London Pride).

A quick bite to eat and it was back to my B&B to organize my kit and to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Killing time in YVR

I decided to take advantage of the free wireless offered at Vancouver’s airport to add a quick blog update.  I must admit the new international terminal is a pretty nice place to kill time in.

The first leg of my journey, the 15-minute flight from Victoria, is complete. One of the disadvantages of living on Vancouver Island (although they pale in comparison to the advantages) is the need to fly to Vancouver to start most international journeys.  The flight itself is not a problem but the wait between flights is often long … almost 4 hours in my case.

I want to pass along my thanks to J.P. who gave me the heads up on the rail strike in Britain.  I was completely oblivious to it as I was busy stick-handling my way around the British Airways strike.  Fortunately I will have completed my rail journeys before the strike (currently scheduled to begin April 6).  I’m looking forward to relying on my feet to get me around beginning April 4 … fingers crossed they don’t walk off the job too.

I’ll be off before the milk is

Good Beer Guide - mobile editionYes, it’s true.  By the time my recently purchased 1-litre carton of milk expires I will be quaffing a pint of a different sort somewhere in London. And finding the perfect pint is now that much easier with the addition of my most recent iPod Touch app: Good Beer Guide – Mobile.

Weighing in at exactly 0 grams it passed the ‘Pack Scrutiny’ test with flying colours.  Good Beer Guide Mobile includes description, location and contact information for over 4500 CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) recommended pubs in Britain.  Most pubs include a mouth-watering description of the beers on offer, an example of which is Sharp’s Doom Bar:

Faint aroma of flowery, spicy hop leads to fruit and malt in the mouth, with bitterness running through. The bitter finish is long with some sweetness and dryness.

You can search by address, postcode or tube station.  Better yet click “Near Me” to find recommended watering holes based on your current location.  Apparently the closest CAMRA pub to Victoria, BC is the Busta House Hotel in Brae in Shetland, a mere 4251.8 miles away.  It’s described as a “rambling mansion house on many levels, dating from 1588 with numerous later additions, sympathetically converted to a country house hotel”.  The review also mentions it is “said to be haunted by the ghost of a young lady, Barbara Pitcairn”.  Sounds excellent although it is a bit off-route.

I mustn’t forget to thank the cabin crews at British Airways.  Their decision to strike over the next couple of weekends has thrown a wrench into my travel plans (and those of thousands of others).  As of tonight it’s unclear as to whether my flight will be cancelled however I decided to avoid the chaos that will occur if it is and have already rebooked my flight.  I now arrive a day earlier than originally planned and the countdown clock has been readjusted accordingly.

Last but not least I recently added a page dedicated to my great-grandfather.  From time to time I will add to his story and include a link from my blog when I do.