Freshwater to Cowes and return 35.8 miles
We headed down to breakfast with no clear idea of what we'd do for the day. We had looked at some of the cycling maps and some of the island attractions and had the vague idea of cycling to Cowes and to Osborne House, the summer home of Queen Victoria.
We asked our young host about the ride while at breakfast and he told us he used to do it daily when he worked in Cowes. His best time was about an hour. He had to get back to the kitchen for the other guests. We were going to ask him the exact route he took but he was busy so we decided to follow an island cycle guide that showed a route over minor roads.
We were off by 9:30 in perfect weather and quickly rode the cycle path to Yarmouth. Once there we turned east on A3054 with the plan to turn north in about four miles on minor roads that would take us north through the towns of Shalfleet, Porchfield, Northwood and Gurnard before entering Cowes. The first part of the ride went quickly, the small rollers on A 3054 were not a problem and the traffic was light. We made good time to the turn off. Traffic became almost non-existent on the small roads we were now on and the scenery was very pastoral with farms and fields all around us.
As we neared the coast we started encountering hills again, big rollers that caused us to walk our bikes more than a few times. The weather was not too hot for walking and we weren't in any rush so we weren't too concerned with the slowness of our progress. We entered West Cowes along the waterfront and saw the Solent full of sailing craft of every description with a good sprinkling of power boats maneuvering through the tacking sailboats. The air smelled of salt and diesel, a smell that's almost universal at any port and the colors of the boats and all the traffic made for a very festive feeling. We rode along the waterfront promenade and watched teenagers swimming in the water, entering and exiting the sea in the special steps and cutouts in the sea wall.
Cowes was such a pretty seaside town that we opted for an early lunch. We found a cafe with outside seating facing the harbor and ate our pizzas and drank our cokes while watching all the traffic and the hordes of tourists that were visiting the town. Jeanette was in the mood for some dessert. We found an ice cream store selling Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, imported all the way from the US. Jeanette just had to have a double Cherry Garcia. Since we were in a pedestrian only area, we walked the bikes toward the ferry that crosses the River Medina that divides West Cowes from East Cowes.
When we arrived we found that there was some problem. We could see the ferry on the far side of the river but it seemed that it should have been on a return trip from the amount of time we waited. Finally someone came out of the ferry office and announced that there was a problem, the ferry was hard aground and wouldn't be able to operate for another 12 hours, at the return of the tide.
All the waiting customers were up in arms. How could we cross the river? The waiting vehicles turned around, they could drive south to Newport and then back to East Cowes, a trip of about 14 miles but do-able. The foot and cycle passengers were not so lucky. Suddenly the harbor captain arrived in a small boat. He had arranged a small boat ferry for cyclists and pedestrians and had enlisted four of the harbor's water taxies into service. We waited in line and then, when it was our turn, loaded our bikes and ourselves in a water taxi with about 12 other people. The ride across the river was less than five minutes.
We unloaded and were cycling again and within two miles were at Osborne House. We spent three hours touring the house, and in doing so, saw the room and bed that Queen Victoria died in. We also saw her many tributes to Albert, her husband, of whom she was obviously proud of and a lot of memorabilia of her nine children.
The tour over, we headed back to the boat crossing and waited our turn to cross the river, this time boarding with a group of costumed 20 year old boys, dressed as pirates, ready to cause chaos and disorder through the streets of Cowes. Jeanette said she had enough of the minor roads identified on the island cycle map. She wanted to take the cycle path from Cowes to Newport and then just ride A 3054 straight to Yarmouth. It was a good decision. The path to Newport was easy to find, flat and scenic. Once at Newport, Jeanette turned west and rode like the wind. The road was practically straight and almost flat the whole way. Traffic was light. In no time we were at the cycle path in Yarmouth and rode the final 2 miles to Freshwater, passing older couples out for early evening walks and parents and kids out for some evening play.
Once back at the Forge, Jeanette headed up to the room to relax and I rode through town to a fish and chips store I had seen for a take hom dinner. We already had a bottle of wine we had purchased and when I returned with dinner we sat in the back yard, sipped our wine and downed our fish and chips. The Hampton Court Flower Show was coming on TV in a few minutes so we headed up to the room for some TV and an early bedtime. It had been a great day.
Total milage 35.8