False Start

When we went for a long weekend to Shropshire recently in search of the White-faced Darters at Whixall Moss, we opted for a different approach. Normally when travelling avec Guillaume, I bring him round to our house where I give him a swift-ish wash and brush up and load him up with clothes before setting off. Since he was already reasonably clean and we didn’t need very much loading up for a long weekend, for Shropshire we just took everything we needed in the car and set off from the Champ de Guillaume [Guillaume’s field].

For this Norfolk expedition, since the Champ de Guillaume is 10 miles closer to Norfolk than our house, we decided on the same approach. On Friday, I loaded the car including sticking our hardly-used-this-year-because-of-the-crappy-weather bikes on the roof bar bike carriers. On Saturday morning we loaded the final stuff – camera bags, food bags etc. and set off to collect Guillaume. Eventually, we hit the road with Guillaume in tow and the bikes atop the car looking as though we were heading for France. However, as planned we ended up in Norfolk three hours later. That fooled Guillaume! 😀

This morning, Francine stared at our OS map and planned a cycling route which we might manage hopefully before the advertised rain hit. It was still windy but what the hell – at least Norfolk is flat. It was then that Franco realized his calamitous mistake. I had a set of house keys with which we’d locked up as we left home, I had a set of keys for Guillaume to keep him secure on site (or at least as secure as a caravan can ever be), I had a set of car keys with which we’d driven up here. What I categorically did not have were any keys to the bike carriers. Our bikes were securely locked to their respective carriers mounted atop our car on the roof bars. The roof bars were securely locked to the car. Francine produced her spare set of keys containing a car key, two Guillaume keys and a roof bar key … but not the bicycle carrier keys. Bother, or words to that effect!

I had my tool kit. I examined the bike carriers but, alas, could see no way of disassembling the bike carriers. The bikes were locked to the carriers and the roof bars were locked to the car but the bike carriers were not locked to the bars, so at least I could remove both bikes still locked in their carriers.

After the air cleared, we listed our options:

  1. Live with it.
  2. Phone a lock smith.
  3. Phone neighbour Liz and get the keys – I knew exactly where they were -mailed to our campsite.
  4. Drive the 250-mile round trip home and back to collect the keys myself.

Evaluation of options:

#1 for two weeks in an essentially flat Norfolk was decidedly unattractive.

#2 seemed possible so we hoofed it to the campsite management and secured the phone number of a supposedly mobile locksmith. Could I get a mobile signal chez Guillaume? Absolument non! I walked as far as Ludham Bridge where I secured an intermittent signal. I managed to phone the mobile locksmith on my mobile phone. He was now retired. Brilliant! I trudged back.

#3 was going to be difficult (see #2). Also, the earliest the keys might arrive would be some time Tuesday. What if they didn’t arrive? What if they were never seen again? Our bikes would be firmly fixed to their carriers forever, albeit off the car.

P1030044 Useless Bike#4 it was then. I unfastened both bike/carrier combinations, discarded them on the grass near Guillaume – let’s face it, the bike carriers would stop anyone nicking them – and departed on my solo 250-mile round trip at 11:00 AM.

I got home at about 1:55 PM, collected the irritatingly small set of all-important keys and was back on the road by 2:00 PM. I knew where I was going – A14/A11/A47 etc – but I was using Sally Satnav for convenience. Good job, too, as it turns out. I’d just left Cambridge behind on the A14 when large illuminated information boards persistently announced, “A11 NORTH CLOSED”. Bollocks! Now look, there’s only one road into Norfolk and it’s the A11. How can you close it? What now? Sally, however, seemed to be aware of this major disruption and routed me via Bury St. Edmunds and Thetford to get back on the A11 apparently north of whatever the problem was. Incidentally, with whatever the major issue was behind me, the A11 was now blissfully quiet. I got back to Guillaume at 4:25 PM. Thanks, Sally! You earned your money today.

See what happens when you break your routine and do things a different way? Not a good idea. I only just remembered to bring Guillaume’s key at the last minute. Pity I didn’t remember the keys for the bikes, too. A 250-mile round trip may seem a bit daft but actually, the day was going to be iffy and any other solution, though saving the time and effort, would almost certainly have been more expensive than the £40-worth of diesel I used.

_MG_0502_MG_0514Francine used my 5½-hour absence constructively by going round some of the gardens in nearby Ludham, which was having a gardens open day. While I was driving back and forth, she found a few Odos (for some reason we’re having a hard time identifying them) but, more importantly for her, she added a new orchid to her collection: a Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa).

On her way back to Guillaume from her gardens tour, a phone signal must have appeared from somewhere approaching civilization and Francine received a text message from neighbour Liz (as in #3 above). The message read, “Have I just seen Franco? Is everything alright?” Francine called and explained to the amusement of everyone.

It’s good to have vigilant neighbours. It’s also good to have all the keys you need with you. Had we been in France as usual, #1 may have been our only reasonable option. 😉

Posted in 2013 Norfolk

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