I slept really poorly last night, cramped in that tiny bunk, with a room full of other people, most of whom didn’t go to bed until way after midnight. Getting up in the middle of the night to use the facilities was interesting as well. Luckily I managed to do so quietly and with no real issues.
When I finally got up in the morning about 9am, the first thing I did was make my way over to the window to look out and make sure my bike was still there.
Yep, that’s right, somebody stole it. I made my way down there to find the cut cable still wrapped around the lamppost. The other bikes, including the electric one, hadn’t been touched. Neither had any of the bikes locked up on rails across the street. Somebody came along and took my bike specifically, leaving those others, including a couple of much more expensive ones, alone.
I got the hotel to pull up their security feed and sure enough, you can see some douchebag walk up, cut the cable in about 5 seconds and ride off. As soon as I saw the video, I thought, “why the hell didn’t I take my front wheel off and up to the room?” Well, you all saw the room in yesterday’s picture...there wasn’t space for it. I already had to sleep with two of my bags in bed with me, which was no fun at all. I certainly couldn’t have fit a bike wheel in there. But I sure wish I’d tried (hindsight is great, isn’t it?).
What I should’ve done was ride away when the management told me I couldn’t keep my bike somewhere secure. I took that risk once before on this trip and got away with it, which I must admit emboldened me this time. I could’ve probably found another place, somewhere more expensive but willing to help me out, but I didn’t. None of this second guessing makes this really my fault...I mean, I’m the victim of a crime here...some criminal robbed me. But I made it easier by leaving the bike out on the street with a pretty weak lock right in front of a place where people are visiting from out of the country. Plus I wouldn’t be surprised if people working there were in on the racket, letting their thief buddies know that there’s a decent bike out there waiting to be taken. Well, the joke’s on them...now they have to deal with that broken spoke!
Anyway, so that left me stranded with all my gear (luckily I left none of the bags or anything else of value on the bike) and no way to get around. After filing a police report, which took about an hour and will lead nowhere but made me feel a little better, I managed to stuff the tent and bike pump into the backpack along with some other items, and load everything else into the three panniers which I then lugged about a mile to the Paddington train station. From there it was off to Southall on the Elizabeth line, whereupon it was another half mile walk to the new hotel, the Broadway Inn. By the time I got there about quarter after noon, they had a room available for me to get into so I dropped off all the stuff and set about trying to figure out how to get the the Safestore place as cheaply as possible. While eating lunch I ruled out a train since there weren’t any going near there, and discovered there was a Brompton bike hiring system in London where you can check out a folding bike for the day and return it when you want for only 10 pounds (plus a 5 pound sign up fee). So I went ahead and signed up, only to get blocked for over an hour waiting for my identity check to be completed. After about 2:30 I gave up waiting and started to walk, trying a new rideshare service called FreeNow that didn’t work out (their driver got within 1 minute of my location, then mysteriously turned aside and parked for 20 minutes before I finally gave up and canceled, then couldn’t find another driver again after that).
By the time that whole escapade failed, I settled on a Lime bike, which is a bike sharing system with electric bikes you just leave anywhere and the next rider can find them using an app. I located one about 10 minutes walk away, reserved it, and started riding. (I couldn’t just hire a bike at a shop because once I get to the storage place, I have to leave it behind because there’s no way to bring it along with the bike case and suitcase. Plus there weren’t any bike rental places around anyway.) I have to say, after doing 27 days of riding on a normal pedal power bike, an electric one is totally like cheating. I found myself purposely riding harder than I needed to just because I felt like I wasn’t doing any work at all. Plus the terrain was so flat, and there was no wind, so it was barely like biking, quite honestly.
Anyhow, the Lime bike got me close, but it has a maximum range from the zone the company operates in, and outside of there you can’t end your trip, so I had to back off a bit and stop about 20 minutes walk away from Safestore. That walk allowed me to get a few caches, so it wasn’t terrible, except my back started hurting, probably from (a) the terrible night of sleep and (b) not doing anything but biking for almost a month. By the time I got to the store I was hurting pretty bad. I feel better now, but I’m not happy about having to lug that case back to the train station in the morning! In any event, the Safestore people were great, I closed out my account with no trouble, and then tried using FreeNow again but was unable to find a driver (again). So I spent an hour on buses getting back to Southall and that was the end of the day. I could’ve gone out for another hour or two, or even taken a train back to London to try the Brompton (since by now they had approved me) but with the back hurting and me needing to be up super early tomorrow I just figured I might as well be done with London.
I did manage to take a few photos today, although most of it is pretty bland. We’ll start off with the security footage of the theft. I can’t get this to embed as a video, so if you want to watch it, click on this link. When you’re done, click the Back button on your browser.
Here’s what the lock looked like after the crime. These locks are apparently worthless as anything other than a quick opportunity theft. If the criminal comes prepared, as you saw on the video, it takes no time at all to cut through this. (Notice how he didn’t waste any time looking the bike over, either. He already knew it was there, so all he had to do was walk up, clip, hop on and ride away.)
So this is Paddington Station, nearest to my Hyde Park lodging. The place was really busy.
This is what it looks like inside. Sheesh, what a zoo.
Speaking of zoos, this place is also known for Paddington Bear, who has his own statue in the terminal. I managed to find a brief moment where it wasn’t surrounded by kids to get this photo.
And here’s my train. Off to Southall!
I managed to find a spot near the back where I had a row to myself, at least until I got to the next stop and more people piled on. This particular train goes all the way to Heathrow Terminal 5, which is where I need to be tomorrow morning, so I will be back on it again then, about 0720 if all goes well.
20 minutes later I got off in Southall and started the long walk to my hotel lugging all my stuff. By the way, you don’t even need tickets to get on these trains, if you have a contactless chip-enabled credit card (which I do). You just tap it on the gate and the turnstile opens, then when you get off and exit you tap again and it bills you for the distance you traveled (in my case it was about 6 pounds, far far less than the 30+ it would’ve cost for a taxi).
Here’s some of the town as I walked through toward my hotel. This part of London has a very high Indian population; I was definitely in the minority, not that anybody seemed to care.
After totally failing to get a rideshare (Ubers were going for the same prices as taxis so I didn’t go for that) I wound up on one of these Lime bikes. Wow, they sure do move fast with that electric assist!
And so the trip ended where it began, at the same storage place where I started all this four weeks ago.
Next I took the bus back, and here’s what it looks like inside, from the little cubbyhole off to the side where I could squeeze in with that huge case and stay out of the way of arriving and departing passengers. You can’t see the driver from here but he’s behind the stairs. Notice the little panel visible through the window there, and over to the left there is a yellow circle just above the orange rail. That’s where you tap your contactless credit card upon entry. There’s no corresponding tap when you exit; apparently you pay the same price whether you go one stop or 20 (in my case it was 25 for the first bus, then 9 more after I transferred to another one).
And there goes the bus after I got off the first one. The sucky part was I finally got to be on a double decker English bus, but couldn’t go upstairs because I had to hold onto that huge bike case. (sigh)
Finally made it back to Southall just before 7pm (all of that stuff I described basically took all day). There goes the bus I was on, and I just had a brief walk to get back to the hotel.
Speaking of which, here it is. But wait, where’s the entrance? Good question....it’s quite well hidden, isn’t it? You see the Nationwide bank there on the left, and to the right of the door there is an ATM? The hotel door is to the right of that, just barely visible underneath a small “Broadway Inn” sign, almost completely concealed by the awning and stall there on the corner. Not exactly the easiest place to spot.
And here’s my room for the final night in London...almost no amenities, but at least they have good wifi. Plus the people running the place are awesome. I think I was lucky to find this place as it was quite a bargain compared to the next cheapest hotel anywhere around Heathrow, and even better there’s a train I can take in the morning that only costs about 5 pounds instead of 30+ for a taxi. And this won’t be the first time I dragged that bike box on a 10 minute walk through a city in England on the way to a train station...I did the same thing many years ago in Manchester, back about 21-22 years ago. Wow, have I really had that bike case that long? I guess I have, and I bet I bought it just for that very trip.
Anyway, so there you have it, another Bikeabout completed...this one ending on a sour note, indeed, but I still got to see the whole country and experience all sorts of new and exciting things I never would’ve done otherwise. Will I do another trip like this one? Not if I have to tote around this much gear, that’s for sure. No more camping tours, unless someone else is hauling all my stuff. And my days of super long 70+ mile days are probably behind me, too, even if I have no stuff on the bike and few hills to climb. It sucks getting old!
Be sure to check back in a day or two for the wrap-up stats and final thoughts, but otherwise, thanks for following along. If you want to send me any comments or feedback, click here. Thanks for reading!