Daily Archives: June 7, 2022

A nice relaxing train ride

First dear readers, you’re going to want a little back story. When we arrived at Heathrow back in April we decided to keep luggage handling and missed connections to a minimum so why not keep everything on rails? We spent an hour on the tube to King’s Cross station, where we’d catch a train all the way to Sheffield, then pick up a cheap rental car. All things considered, an excellent plan. Not as comfortable as you might imagine, nevertheless it worked very well until an unintelligible message delivered at breakneck speed (people of Europe, please slow down) came over the intercom on the train. We’d been talking to a nice young man who reacted negatively and stood up frowning.

“Here, I’ll help you with all your bags, we’ve been terminated!” he said.

The loudspeaker continued to emit garbled noise and our friend could see we were spent and uncomprehending. He told us to stay put and he’d find out what to do. It turns out there was a jumper down the line and we were going no further on these tracks. We were rerouted to another train and our friend and another young man helped with our luggage, got us settled, and stayed with us until they were sure we’d be alright.

After a long day of traveling we finally made it to our destination and come to think of it, we nearly always do.

Four weeks later we planned the reverse: return the rental car and hop on a train. On paper it looked easy.

Car Return Day found us approximately one hundred miles away from Sheffield with a nice relaxing plan. My goodness, things were going swimmingly. With over 2,000 miles driving under my belt I expected nothing less.

Full English in the morning, easy car drop off, Uber to the train station with luggage, coffee and a Danish, and soon we were relaxing in our reserved seats on a clean and comfortable train. We were heading north to Glasgow and our campervan, soaking up the scenery as it glided by.

Somewhere before Manchester I heard a familiar message over the loudspeaker. The train stopped and out we tumbled with all our luggage onto an elevated platform cold enough to be New York in January. Another jumper, incident under investigation and the tracks to Glasgow were closed. What are the odds? Two trains, two jumpers. Our fellow passengers shrugged. I guess it happens a lot.

They must teach their loudspeaker announcers how to garble any message but we think we heard “platform 9.” The magical thinking was that, sure we’re going North to Glasgow but York, in the wrong direction, has a bigger station and you might have a better chance to catch a train maybe all the way to Glasgow.

Just as our feet hit the platform in York a railroad employee yelled, “Passengers to Glasgow, please hurry to platform (garbled.) The train is about to depart.”

It’s a large grand station. We tore off with the rest of the dispossessed Glasgow passengers, gasping as we dragged our luggage. Up the stairs and down the stairs and we might be heading for platform 9 and 3/4 for all we knew.

Finally Marce ran ahead and found the bloody thing. I didn’t care any more. I chucked the luggage into the train and climbed aboard as the thing started to move. Wait, we’re going East! Not North! We were heading East, all the way to the coast, then north following the sea, stopping at every small town up to Edinburgh, then west to Glasgow. And no cushy reserved seats.

I’m a little unclear about the rest of the trip. Something about an Uber, a Travelodge and a room that looked like it had been robbed of most of its furniture, dinner out of a vending machine in the lobby, a bed.

Tomorrow we pick up our new home and that’s all I could think about.


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Another different Memorial Day

Sue and Mark Owen of Macushla and the crew of Escape Velocity celebrating our arrival in New Zealand with a bit of bubbly. November 2015.

It was almost time to return our rental car to Sheffield. On the way we wanted to meet up again with our friend Mark in Yorkshire. Since our campervan is already in Scotland, we’ve decided to explore northward rather than return to England, so this will be our last opportunity for a while.

Coincidentally, the best day to connect was Sue Owen’s birthday. Sue was taken by breast cancer four years ago. Jack and I last saw her in August 2016 when we met in Auckland for an Ethiopian dinner before they traveled for what was supposed to be a few weeks’ family visit in England. Sue never came back.

We first met the crew of Macushla at a cafe in Charleston, South Carolina. They were drinking coffee and reading the paper at a communal table when we sat down with our pastries. Jack nudged me and whispered, “I think they’re cruisers, too.”

We were new to the liveaboard life, and we learned they had been at it for 12 years already. We were in awe.

Our friendship deepened during a season in the Caribbean as we bonded in that way you do when your worldview and personalities mesh perfectly. We crossed the Pacific together in 2015, with more special times in New Zealand. So many of our best cruising memories include these two.

It is Mark’s tradition to visit Fountain’s Abbey on Sue’s birthday, a place he told us was very special to them. We were grateful to be included this time, to talk about Sue, to be in a place she loved, and to celebrate her birthday. We were joined by Sue’s sister Hazel and it was wonderful to finally meet her. We’d heard a lot about each other during the years we cruised with Macushla.

Fountain’s Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ruins of a 12th century monastery on 70 acres in North Yorkshire along the river Skell. It is stunningly beautiful and peaceful. We could see why Mark and Sue loved the place.

The four of us walked the path around the abbey, Jack and I snapping photos of the changing views, all of us grateful for the weather.

We came to a place overlooking the water, and Mark and Hazel lead us to a bench with a breathtaking view. This is where Sue’s ashes are scattered, they told us. She’d wanted the water view. We sat for a while, and thought our own thoughts.

As we get older, and especially living a nomadic life, it’s hard to meet new friends and maintain the kind of social circle more stationary people enjoy. I’ve been fortunate to have forged strong bonds with a few very special women whose friendship I treasure, even when years go by before we see each other again. Sue Owen was one of them. She was beautiful, kind, funny, quirky, generous, passionate, and one of the best storytellers I’ve ever known. I miss her.


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