A TOURIST IN OUR OWN COUNTRY - WASHINGTON DC TO SOMERSET

(See the ARC on TV -Thursday 12th August 2004, 8pm UK Channel 4 - see
below).
With Intrepid safely on dry land, we set off to Dulles Airport - only our
flight was 8am and Deltaville is 3 hours south. So I had my usual night
watch (2-7) driving, waiting for mile long trains to pass crossings, then up
an incredibly full Route 66 - real nose to tail massive trucks and cars
60mph full - from 3.30am to 6am - to Washington DC and Dulles. If that road
traffic is anything to go by the American economy is alive and well, or just
travels at night. We were certainly glad there was no accident or we would
have missed our flight. We had prebooked the National Express Coach from
Heathrow direct to Bath (29 pounds for 2 people) 2 hours so someone else
drove then at midnight we 'broke into' our garage (the lock is broken) with
a 6 inch screwdriver I had inadvertently taken in my hand luggage not
check-in (and which
passed straight through all the airport security!) at Bath to collect our UK
car and arrived at my mothers at 1am, 23 hours (if you ignore the 5 hours
time difference) from when we set off.

I took my mother caving in Cheddar Gorge (there is a very good
underground trail, she is 85 and caved very well) bought local Cheddar
Cheese actually made in Cheddar and was impressed by the quality of care in
the NHS and Somerset Social Services.
We then drove up the M5 to Derby to see my brother John, his wife Sarah and
boys Christopher and David - but UK traffic
was as bad as US -except here it blocked for miles and the radio was full of
other blockages. In Derbyshire we walked along miles of old canals went to a
muscular multicultural good natured hip hop festival in Derby (funded by the
EU!) where David and his troupe hiphopped impressively then inspected the
organic vegetable business
which Sarah is running (its at the classic start-up phase
deciding on revised  business models, and whether to expand or downsize)
then I belayed John and David on his newest sport rock
climbing. This has really taken off in UK thanks to indoor climbing walls -
but there is a world of difference between that (even with difficult
technical moves) and the practical business of putting in protection points
on real rock so that if you are leading and fall off you are held by the
rope attached to a pin in the rock (which you cant do on practice walls).

We came south via Melton Mowbray where we bought traditional pork pies; and
Stilton where we failed to buy a real stilton cheese (because we should have
bought it in Melton where they are made - they are called Stilton rather
than Mowbray because Stilton is where they were first sold - it was the
local coaching stop 100's of years ago) to West Peckham in Kent where our
house is. Because we are away so often, the house is rented, but the recent
tenants had been a problem - we had to go to court to evict them - however
the agents (FPD Savill's) were very good and we spent a hectic week
organising remedial work with them, and frequenting the Swan which does
excellent food (eg 30 pounds for 4 people for lunch). It was very good to
catch up on local gossip and meet West Peckham friends - including our first
au pair Claudia from Austria who came to West Peckham as a shy 18 year old,
married a talented teacher (Martin) and was on her way to Wales from Belgium
where they are now. Sailing is good fun, and we meet lovely people, but
there is no substitute for wonderful long term friends whom we have known
for years, rub along with,
and who have been through all the feuds and travails of village (or work)
life. Peter and Helen had kindly offered the use of their house, and we
enjoyed balmy evenings on the green in front of the Swan, and heard from
many of the transition of a Kentish village
towards a 2 tier community (or was it ever thus?). Our new tenants (Hilary
and Jean-Claude) move in on 13th Sept.

Interested in seeing the ARC Transatlantic Sailing Rally on TV? UK Channel 4
went
with yacht Serefe on ARC 2003 (one we did), and its being shown on Thursday
12th August at 8pm. (We might have volunteered ,  but we were in the Med at
the time and they had to show preparations in UK). I haven't seen it but it
should be interesting - we were yacht 205 in case you spot us.

Then back via Dai Williams, good friend and world expert on depleted uranium
weapons, and career counselling (really) to our niece
 Tara who had twins 1 month ago. I am biased but Harvey and Aiden are
delightful,
and already gaze around with a confidence and curiosity that is full of
promise.

 From 14th Sept we are in Edinburgh for the Festival for a week, then 3 days
Lake District and thereafter mostly London-ish
until 9th Sept, before flying back to USA to walk the Appalachian Trail with
James, and put Intrepid back in the
water (having avoided hurricanes we hope) early October. We would love to
see
everyone, we are doing our best, do let us know if our itinerary fits you at
all and we havent arranged anything yet.

We are starting to get quite a lot people interested in the Pacific so if
you want to sail a part of the Pacific with Intrepid let us know. You pay
the cost of your flights and about 7 pounds/day towards food, but otherwise
its essentially free. See www.intrepidofdover.co.uk for timing.

Best wishes,

Andy and Nicky Gibb.

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