My race bib and number, and yeah, the race was not really 1000km but 1022km

I am not sure I was thinking clearly back on May 3rd when I first stumbled on the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (GVRAT). I was wrapped up the Covid crisis and certainly not thinking long term. It seemed to make a lot of sense to me, 635.7 miles between May 1 and August 31, that’s only 5.2 miles per day. I rationalized that the challenge would keep me focused during the hot, humid months of a Covid infected Tennessee and the only person I was racing against was myself. But on May 7th, the day I summoned my courage to log into the website and sign up, I did not realize how caught up in the adventure I would become.

The days started off easy, mostly three miles, five miles, even a few eight mile runs. I was excited to be part of an international group of 19,000 participants, all virtually running/walking across Tennessee and connected by one Lazarus Lake of Barkley Marathon fame and his facebook group that provided a platform for us, his “RATS” to share our successes and challenges. It was an upbeat, lighthearted group, all working toward the same goal. But beyond the excitement was a demanding race that required daily attention, no matter what. A missed day would result in a 0 and 5.2 miles that had to be made up in future days and I was already 31.2 miles behind because of my late start. It was a relentless effort, running and walking, no days to rest, no days to relax.

Running and walking during Covid with a triple folded bandana for my mask. This was good until it wasn’t which was when I discovered bandanas were more problematic than nothing at all. At that point I started carrying a mask.
The Calvary was summoned in mid June as the mileage piled up on my single pair of running shoes.
Gravel path in the Wildlife Management area near Ijams Nature Center. I walked this trail many times.
I wore my running skirts till summer heat took over and I turned to the lightest weight shorts and tops I own. Oh, and those lovely fingernails, nope not painted since the early days of the race.

During those first weeks of the race, I was constantly tired and unable to fight the urge to nap, sometimes for hours at a time. As a result John, who works full time, took over the household chores, cooking, shopping and offering encouragement and an occasional shoulder to cry on. He continued this level of support throughout the race. My life became running, walking, eating and sleeping and my body became stronger. As May slipped by, my mileage built. By the time the 31st rolled around, I was surprised to discover I had logged 49 miles walking and 123 miles running, my biggest running month in years.

The first hundred miles were completed on May 22nd for an average of 6.25 miles per day. Those were the early days of the race.
Loved hiking but as explained below, it just didn’t work for me.
I hike three times during this race. This photo is from the last hike on June 9th when John and I headed up and down Lumber Ridge Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was not a long hike, 7 miles but we realized that we could not hike far enough to keep up with the mileage I needed for this race. I also discovered that the trail pounding on my feet hampered my mileage efforts in the following days.

In late May, early June, John reminded me that we were scheduled to leave on an expedition to the Brooks Range in the Gates of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska in mid August. I had been so focused on my mileage that I had neglected to think through that. I scrambled to redo the math and discovered that my daily mileage had to increase to a minimum of 8 miles everyday to finish the race by our departure, meaning 56 miles a week for weeks. And so it did. By late June, the bush flight service announced they were cancelling the 2020 season so our trip was cancelled. Still, I held tight to my August 12th finish date.

I would like to say I took my mileage on the road to explore new areas but I didn’t. Everyday I pretty much followed one of two routes from the house and toward the end, extended the routes to cover nearby areas for added mileage. There was comfort in this sameness. My mind could drift, I could get home to let the dog out or just have a cool place to rest for a few moments. After a while, I knew how many miles or 10ths of a mile I had to travel to get home. As the neighbors took notice, several would stop me and inquire about the race, how far I had gone and how many miles I had left. I talked with neighbors I had never met and I appreciated their comments and support.

I was on this road daily. The trees off a moment’s respite from a sunny day.
Hot summer days along the boardwalk at Ijams Nature Center.
And yet another hot summer day.

As I continued to get stronger, I started to believe anything was possible, 8-10 mile days I got that, 12 mile days, no problem, yes even 15 mile days sprinkled in. The heat and humidity reduced me to walking. I spent 4-5 hours a day in the sun carefully slathered in SPF 50 yet roasting like a coffee bean. When July 4th arrived, I had only 136 miles to go. The race was coming to an end and I wasn’t ready for it. I began to mull over the BAT (back across Tennessee) option. I knew I couldn’t get another 635.7 miles in the time I had left but maybe I could achieve the 1000 mile pin. I mentioned it to John and shrugged his shoulders. He had been counting the days too.

There were days that the miles past 500 seemed insurmountable but I found that I could dig deep and see my way through.

The Race Across Tennessee officially ended for me on July 15th. I finished 635.7 miles in 71 days. ** I was so pleased and a little stunned that I had actually done it. John bought a chocolate-chocolate chip Anything Bundt Cake to celebrate and we ate the whole thing in 3 days. Meanwhile I told him I wanted to continue on and he said he agreed that I should. On July 16th, I signed up for the Back Across Tennessee race.

Finishing certificate for the crossing of Tennessee
It’s a fabulous medal!
Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Anything Bundt Cake

I was confident I could get it done. The worry that something, such as injury would stop me began to fade from the darkness of my mind. But 12, 13 and 15 mile days, seemed to drag on indefinitely. We were in the dog days of summer in Tennessee and everyday was the same, I woke up, dressed, walked for hours, ate and slept. I was hot and tired and I just wanted to be done. Poor John, he listened to my complaints day after day. Never once did he say, “well you signed up for this.”

Then, 8 days out from my projected grand finish, I got injured. I am not really sure what happened that day, it was not dramatic or memorable. I was in a hurry to get home to beat a threatening storm (I didn’t beat it) and likely increased my step turnover beyond my ability. By the time I arrived home, I was drenched and chilled. My foot and ankle radiated pain and swelling set in.

My feet are my weakness and they had already suffered a lot including broken and black toenails, skin worn off the sides of my feet and 3 yellow jacket stings on my left foot that blistered badly.

Over the next two days, I wrapped the affected area with an ace bandage and completed 5 very painful miles each day. But I continued to worry that I may have fractured a bone and the idea of being within 100 miles and not finishing wore on me day and night. In the afternoon on the 2nd day I took a trip to the doctor to be sure nothing more sinister was going on. He diagnosed tendinitis and sent me home with a prescription for Voltaren Gel and the advice to take it easy. I didn’t.

Almost done, I knew I could get there.

The next day I slipped on my shoes and continued. I would take time to heal post race but emotionally I had to finish this race. I had made a commitment to myself that I was determined to keep. After several 12 mile days and three back to back 15 mile days I reached the virtual 1000 mile finish line. On August 18th I ended the virtual race the same way I began it, by myself. Oh there would be another Anything Bundt Cake to be eaten but the satisfaction of completing this race was enough. I hadn’t given up on myself, not once, I stuck to it and saw this race to the end. I finished 1000 miles in 105 days. Only a few short months ago would never have considered doing something like this and that pretty much sums up how much I have grown.

Words this 67 year old lives by.
Finisher’s certificate for completing 1000 miles. I also received a little pin with the above map and 1000 Miles GVRAT listed.

So, here I am, a week and a half out from the finish and reflecting back. The rough edges of the most difficult days have already smoothed out. I can hardly believe I actually travelled that far over the summer. Would I do it again? Yep, as a matter of fact I have signed on to a team of 10 to participate in the virtual Circumpolar Race Across the World (CRAW) beginning on September 1st, 30,130 miles. Lucky for me, my portion is only about 3,013 miles or 12.5 miles a day for a gold (8 month) finish or 8.5 miles daily for a silver (12 month) finish. The math has already begun……

**the certificate days are calculated from the May 1st starting day. I started on May 7th.

Posted in COVID-19, Endurance, GVRAT, Hiking, Injury, Outside, Running, Summer, Uncategorized, Walking | Leave a comment

Weekend fun and food…

Well, sorta. As I write this, Tennessee is in it’s 5th day of reopening. Hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, retail, many restaurants, parks and outdoor venues are all out there with doors wide open. The weather is great and the masses are restless with pent up demand.

In this house we are resisting the urge to participate. You could say we are dragging our feet about reintegrating into “normal” life. The prevailing attitude is “wait and see”; wait 15 days and see how the pandemic is growing going. Maybe some hiking and other activities soon but meanwhile I have been keeping myself plenty active.

Over the past couple of months, I have made good strides with my running pace and VO2max. Regrettably the last seven days have been very lackluster (sigh) and I have lost a bit of my hard fought gain. The temperature is on the rise after what has been a cool, damp spring and I struggle adjusting. I know, I know, I live in Tennessee where heat and humidity are summer companions but I prefer not to accept responsibility for my performance, instead I will just blame it on a myriad of other things.

So, Saturday morning I got out for a later than usual run and it appears my heart was not in it. For some reason, I deviated from my neighborhood route and took the hilly, scenic one. I actually don’t mind this section of greenway as my legs have become noticeably stronger and I love the reward of running downhill, but today it got me. What was planned as a 4-5 mile run turned into a 3 miler at my slower March running pace. I was discouraged!

Running a section of the Will Skelton Greenway along the Tennessee River.
Heat, humidity and suntan lotion.
I seem to have my mouth open a lot when I run and hike, gasping for air most likely. As of recent, I have been working on breathing through my nose. For me it is not as easy as it sounds cause I feel like I am suffocating. But, like other things running, I am making progress.

After the run, I retired to the veranda to enjoy a cool breeze, an ice cold glass of water and to lick my wounded ego.

This is not a happy face.
This is a happy face! Watching birds and squirrels is grand.

Later in the afternoon I decided to go for a bicycle ride. After all, when the run fails, maybe the bicycle will be a success; I am a better cyclist than runner. Better that is when I cycle regularly, which I haven’t been doing.

I didn’t really want to tackle riding up the big hill we live on so I drove the bicycle down in the car and parked in a flat, shady area. My plan was to circle the main street numerous times and take a few side roads to break the boredom. My mental goal was 12 miles. Ha!! I should say here I haven’t been on my bike since early January.

My legs felt strong and the ride started out great. I wondered why I hadn’t been on my bike recently. Slowly I realized that I had picked the wrong day and time to be cycling. With great weather and shelter at home restrictions lifted, the neighborhood kids were out, lots and lots of kids. There was a gaggle of five girls on bicycles riding five across the road against traffic, a small group of three, unsteady girls riding their skate boards in the middle of the road, boys in the road with hockey sticks, little ones tagging along with older siblings. You see my problem here. The kids tended to scatter when cars appeared but could care less about a single bicycle making loops around the boulevard.

The ride became an exercise in speed up, slow down and hit the brakes. My inner Grinch came out and I knew it was time to give it up. People were rightfully enjoying this spring day and my attitude continued to deteriorate. After one last ride to the river, I loaded my bike on the car and drove the short distance home. Total miles cycled: 7.

On a bridge over a tributary of the Tennessee River.
Kayakers and paddle boarders on the above tributary of the Tennessee River. I counted over 30 people out on both sides of the bridge. Usual count, about 5….pent up demand.

Saturday night was about food. We had pizza dough thawing in the frig and I was looking forward to a good, homemade pizza. Unfortunately the dough was purchased at Fresh Market and turned out to be a do not repeat.

Prep started with rolling out the dough on a cutting board that was way too small. John, watching from the sidelines, suggested I move the dough to the granite counter top. W-e-l-l-l-l-l, even with flour, the dough stuck. Not a good beginning for the pizza.

In steps John for the rescue with a big spatula to help loosen the dough and transport it to a cookie sheet, also too small. I had in my mind that I wanted a rectangular pizza so we ended up transporting the dough again to a sheet pan with sides to contain the dough.

Toppings included hot Italian sausage, andouille sausage and low fat turkey pepperoni. We also included spinach, onions, mushrooms, Kalamata olives and mozzarella and Parmesan Reggiano cheeses. Olive oil was the pizza base.

I forgot to take a picture till we had already eaten part of the pizza.

The toppings were great but the crust was like a biscuit or, in our case, two biscuits. I am guessing I did not roll it thin enough. I wonder if the dough would have made two pizzas. Next time I will experiment with homemade crust.

With the pizza, I added a light lettuce salad with homemade white wine vinaigrette. Yum! We were stuffed.

Sunday morning I did not have the remotest motivation to run so I decided to ride my bike again but in a different location. As it turns out, this stretch of greenway was no better than riding in my neighborhood. No need to be lengthy here, miles before I threw in the towel: 7. I spent the afternoon reading.

Looks like I need to clean up my handle bars! Unused hardware and loose electrical tape need to be removed.

Sunday was another evening in the kitchen, this time sushi. John had in his mind that it would be fun to serve homemade sushi to his son and girlfriend this week. We needed a practice run. It has been a while since I made sushi at home, even longer since my sister and I took sushi making classes. I had a slight panic as I attempted to locate the rice recipe but it finally surfaced.

First step was preparing the “stuffing” for the sushi. We cut up such things as cream cheese, imitation crab, cucumbers, carrots and smoke salmon, While the rice cooked, I attempted to cover the bamboo mat in plastic wrap. The wrap did not want to adhere to itself which makes rolling the rice difficult. This was not a good start and I realized I was in a bit over my head.

With the rice cooked, we transferred it to a glass bowl and fanned (yes fanned) while adding a mixture of sugar-mirin. Now it was time to start the assembly process. Placing the rice on the nori and flipping was fine, but I couldn’t remember the placement of the ingredients on the nori sheet to make it roll correctly. Took a roll or two to get the process right.

In the end, the sushi was ok but I am not ready for sushi entertaining right now. These rolls were not as good as rolls I have made in the past and I need to do some reading, recipe adjustments and practice runs before inviting people over for sushi. That said we will have carryout pizza (good pizza) and salad with Daniel and Tess this week.

Posted in Bicycling, COVID-19, Food, Life, Outside, Running, Weekend | Leave a comment

Sheltering in Place

It has been a while since I last posted. Covid-19 has settled in to our country and like others we are “safer at home” or were until our mayor updated our status to “shelter in place.” It has been a journey.

In late February, early March I slowly began filling the freezer with meats, vegetables and our favorite coffee. John thought I was nuts but I just nodded and kept buying. Unfortunately I did not think through toilet paper and antibacterial wipes until it was too late. I had some chats with our local Publix employees and discovered the tp delivery schedule. For several weeks I set an extra early alarm on a designated delivery day to arrive before the tp and wipes were sold out. I never had to wait in line.

Beginning mid March, our neighborhood set up a series of window scavenger hunts for the kids. So far we have had banana, umbrella, W, hands and pac man days. I hung with them till the zoo animals started then burned out and dropped out. I jumped back in at Easter with hand painted paper eggs. This was not part of the neighborhood list but what I wanted to do.

Pac man day!

Many of our neighbors are outside throughout the day but scattered and no one seems to be getting too close to each other, just a friendly wave and a shouted hello. Our neighborhood book club held a zoom meeting in April and will do the same in May. We are reading “And Then There Were None,” by Agatha Christie. Restaurant deliveries have been added to the evening activities with several popular downtown restaurants/breweries parking at a designated neighborhood location on a designated day. Those who placed and paid on-line for orders, practice social distancing as the orders are handed out. This activity has been well supported by the neighborhood. John and I have participated a couple of times, a beer or two may have been included on our orders.

In mid-March the University of Tennessee closed. John continued to go in for another week or so but came home early everyday, fretting about a grad student or two that exhibited Covid symptoms (one tested positive, one negative). He finally pulled together a multi-computer – TV set up in an upstairs room where he can work with his microscopes remotely and help a few remaining grad students via phone or on line. The dog is glad he is home. We now call her the “upstairs” dog as she hangs out with him all day. I have had to do a little adjusting but am glad he is home too.

On March 24th, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed roads, trails and all services. The week before closing, 30,000 people from all over the country thought it was a good idea to show up EACH day in the park to hike and look at the wildflowers. While it may be an understandable decision on an individual basis, collectively not so good. Most visitors who go to the park go to the same places, Cades Cove, Laurel Falls Trail, Abrams Falls and Alum Cave. Social distancing, I don’t think so. The Park Service quickly decided that to keep their employees, not to mention the park guests safe, shuttering the park for 2 weeks was a necessity. The closure continued on, the park is now scheduled to reopen on May 9th.

Spring has pretty much come and gone in the garden even though we are going through the last of the spring series of Red Bud, Dogwood and Blackberry winters. Seems like we have had more rain than I remember in recent years and more high winds, but maybe I am just more aware this year.

Variegated Solomon Seal
Lenten Roses
Yard violets. Violets were my first and always favorite flower. I have trouble pulling them out of the garden. so usually I don’t.

As the weeks went on we slipped into a nice routine, dinner at lunch, lunch at dinner, many enjoyed al fresco on the veranda. The sun rose, the sun set and days went by quickly as we lived in a bubble. We worked in the yard, in the house and I looked forward to morning runs and sunset walks.

Sunrise through the kitchen window
Sunset from our backyard
Sunset walk with Katie
Sunset over the Tennessee River
This happened to me in early March, I have thoroughly enjoyed it!
I have spent much too much time going up and down this flight of 15 steps.
This has been my counter because I realized around 600 steps that this is incredibly boring, my mind gets distracted and I loose count. As of this week I hit 2100 steps up in a single effort (and 2100 steps down). My legs are getting noticeably stronger but this is worse than a treadmill.

My running has improved significantly. I am hitting times I could only hope for a few months ago (still very slow mind you). I ran over 74 miles in April, my highest mileage for a while. I have enjoyed the mornings out by myself. Improvement is very motivating.

Post run with a dogwood as my backdrop. The dogwoods are out of bloom now.
Running on the local greenway system
My car got washed a couple of times due to pollen but I have only filled it with gas once.

As of today, the governor has mostly reopened the state. Although Knoxville openings are regulated by the County Health Department, most things including retail, hair salons, restaurants and such have opened with distancing guidelines. My phone has been ringing with offices wanting to set up appointments-personal trainer, hair (I have decided to try a new color, my own…gray), eye doctor, massage therapist and so on and so on.

Honestly, I am not looking forward to “getting back to normal.” I have enjoyed my days uninterrupted by obligations. With uncluttered time, I focus on fitness and health. Money saved by not stopping here and there to shop has disappeared into a travel account and I have been happily planning a few adventures for 2021. While very frightening, sheltering at home against Covid-19 has offered me a glimpse into a different lifestyle, one I think I am going to try to hold onto for just a little longer.

Posted in COVID-19, Life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Smackdown Storm

A freight train blew through our neighborhood early this morning in the form of a hard hitting, smackdown storm. John and I were jarred awake as intense light flashed through the windows followed by a deafening clap of thunder. Then a powerful wind slapped against the house and the walls seemed to shake.

John jumped out of bed and began fumbling for a flashlight. Lights in the living room, dining room and bedroom, all attached to the smart lightening system seemed to simultaneously light up, pause for a moment then fade into darkness. The house became eerily quiet. Neither of us could grapple with what was happening.

I struggled to shake myself fully awake; I could hear intense rain and hail pelting the windows. Meanwhile, John and his headlamp were roaming the house. A yell of “water in the hall” sent me scrambling to find towels to mop up the seepage as he rushed to pull back the hallway runner. Try as we have, we have not been able to completely seal the front door. When a hard rain hits at just the right angle, water finds it’s way into the hall. Today it was coming in fast!

s!The beauty of a gas stove and battery powered candles when the power blows!
Hot water poured through the coffee maker! Yay for early morning coffee.
Reading Jill Biden’s book, “Where Light Enters” as we await the morning light.

Then, just as quickly as it came, the storm blew out. Everything was quiet again. Battery powered candles, coffee on the gas range, a good book and headlamps got us through the darkness. Just after first light, we walked down the street to the scene where the power outage occurred. The culprit, an old pine that had been hit by lightening. As it cracked and splintered, then splayed across the road, it took the power for several streets with it.

Old pine broke high on the trunk
Pine clutter everywhere with wires mixed amongst the branches.

Some 6 plus hours later, we are still waiting for power. A utility truck was spotted headed in that direction but that has been several hours ago. While we wait, the pup and I are sitting on the veranda as John contacts family and trys to sort through work issues related to a separate power outage there. The sun is out and has almost dried out the rain, birds are singing, most of the spring blooms are still intact and a stiff wind keeps the wind chimes ringing. What started out rough has become a lively day in the neighborhood.

Posted in Life, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Cleveland Way, Day 10, Scarborough to Filey

Planned mileage: 12.0
Actual mileage: 10.5

Accomodations: Abbots Leigh
Rating: Good

Dear Leslie and Mike,

Another mini update tonight.  WE ARE DONE! We have mixed emotions about being done, we have immensely enjoyed the scenery and each other’s company.  Being out everyday with nothing to do but hike is amazing.  The stillness and solitude, much needed.  John asked about every day, “is this what retirement is like?” 

On the other hand, I have struggled greatly with my feet and I need to find some answers.  Also 13 hotels with 13 very different beds and pillows is a lot of packing, unpacking and adjustment. We are missing washcloths, bedding, the ability to control the temperature in our room and a decent sized bathroom with water contols we understand.  Yet we have asked ourselves several times, “would we do another hike?”  The answer is yes. 

We did not take a cab to the trailhead, we walked from our B&B, on the left, to the boardwalk. My feet were ok on this day.
The seaside, tourist village of Scarborough. Residential is on the backside of the cliff.
There’s our sign and we know which direction to go!
Walking along the boardwalk away from Scarborough
One last look

Today was not a difficult day but our luck ran out on the weather.  We hiked 10.5 miles B&B to B&B and my feet did not hurt much, yay! Aside from 3 ravine drops and maybe 300 steps, we hiked on the cliff edge overlooking the ocean.  We hiked in a very light rain that was aggravating enough to wear rain jackets but didn’t soak through.  That was because a cold, fierce wind was blowing up and over the cliffs that dissipated the rain on contact.  The wind was blowing inland and the force of the gusts caused issues with our footing and stability.  John estimated 40 mph with higher gusts.  We required light wool gloves for the first time today.  

Windy cliffs. The surf was quite rough on this day and we could hear the waves slam against the rocky, cliff walls.
At times, the path wandered away from the sea and into forests and neighborhoods.
Through a lovely neighborhood
But it always returned back to the sea.
Through a gate and back to the cliff’s edge.
Steps up from a ravine
Through the fog, Filey appeared

We were looking forward to getting into Filey but have been a bit disappointed.  It is the most run down of all the seaside towns we have visited, although our B&B is nice.  I believe it is still winter season (sure does feel like it) and everything closes very early. 

Trail end
We had hiked 109 miles, actually 111.5 even through we missed the full hike to Scarborough
Coming into Filey, the pansies brightened an otherwise gray day.
Most of Filey looked like this, not the pretty square above.
Boots off for the last time

By the time we got out for dinner at 6:00 pm, all of the resturants were closed.  We finally found a little cafe and take away fish and chips place.  They closed the cafe just as we walked in so we left ( B&B’s do not allow take away in the room).  Lucky us, one of the waitresses ran outside and got us.  They served us while they were cleaning up the cafe….lovely people! The fish and chips wasn’t too bad either!

So that’s it for now.  Tomorrow we make our way from Filey to Scarborough to Leeds by train.  We overnight in Leeds and catch the 11:05 flight out.  I will try to be in touch tomorrow.


So this is the end of my journals for the Cleveland Way. Thank you for reading. The trip was amazing and a really great experience as a couple. While the issues I had with my feet were sometimes overwhelming, completing this hike was important to me. We learned somethings along the way and hope to put that knowledge to use in a similar journey, hopefully as early as 2021.

Posted in Cleveland Way, England, Hiking, Travel, Uncategorized, Walking | 3 Comments

The Cleveland Way, Day 9, Robin Hood's Bay to Scarborough

Actual Hike: We took the bus to Scarborough and walked back toward Robin Hood’s Bay
Expected Mileage: 14.0
Actual Mileage: 10.0
Worst Part of the Day: Wishing we had hiked instead of taken the bus
Best Part of the Day: Taking the bus and letting my feet rest (I know, I can’t have it both ways)
Bonus: AZ Turkish Restaurant (no fish and chips)

Accommodations: The Almar
Rating: Nice accommodations, lovely host and hostess
Date: Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Hey Leslie and Mike!

A mini update…we are in Scarborough tonight in a lively guest house with an airplane sized bathroom, i.e. I put my shampoo and conditioner on the sink and just reach out from the shower to get it (no room for it in the shower).

We had our first really lovely meal at a small, neighborhood Turkish restaurant, AZ. It took about 1 and 1/2 hours so it is almost bedtime. The food was amazing.

We did take the bus from Robin Hood’s Bay this morning, about 30 minutes (with stops) on a double decker bus.  We arrived at the Scarborough train station about 9:30 where we had some time before showing up to our B&B.

From the second level on a double decker bus as we waved good-bye to Robin Hood’s Bay.
This was my great disappointment for this trip, taking the bus. I did not want to do it but my feet would not take me where I needed to go on this morning so there really was no other choice.

 Our plan was to do some hiking on the Cleveland Way but my feet hurt so much I was almost in tears.  Walking the concrete promenade along the waterfront to the trail had us sitting down every few benches.  Neither of us had much hope for hiking.

The waterfront promenade.

Strangely enough after 2 Advil, a few minutes on the trail and using my hiking poles, the pain mostly subsided.  We did a 7 mi out and back hike plus around Scarborough for 10 miles for the day. 

Looking back toward Scarborough. The tower on the cliff is part of Scarborough Castle
Seagulls amongst the rocky shore.
Walking the Cleveland Way back toward Robin Hood’s Bay.
A nice bench for lunch.
Rape seed flowers. Rape seeds are used to make canola oil.
A welcoming makeshift bench to sit and watch the sea.
These beautiful seaside days are coming to an end.

Notes: I want to add here that John and I first visited Scarborough in 2000 on our first overseas trip together during our first year of dating. I had tagged along to sightsee while John was attending a conference at the University of York. We had an amazing trip! We had been dating about 6 months and everything was so new and exciting. We saw a billboard for Scarborough Fair and impulsively decided then and there that we would take a train to Scarborough for the day.

We walked from the train station to the beach where a lively beach scene was in progress. Fair rides were running, food trucks were everywhere and visitors were walking the promenade. We had so much fun strolling, peeking in gift shops and sticking our toes in the North Sea for the first time ever. The day was over too quickly and we climbed up the steep hill back to the train station vowing to return and spend more time.

So here we were, 18 years later. We had been looking forward to this overnight stay but we were experiencing a whole different type of trip. Scarborough was much bigger than we thought and a bit more grimy than we remembered and we had just walked 91.0 miles to get here. We don’t hold the same fondness for Scarborough as we did in 2000 but we look back at Boltby, Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay with those happy thoughts.

I think I am ok for hiking tomorrow, it is an easy 10-11 mile day and we may take a cab to the trailhead to avoid the concrete.  Can’t believe it is our last day on the trail. It has been a special trip!

That’s it for tonight, hope to update you tomorrow.


Posted in Cleveland Way, England, Hiking, Travel, Uncategorized, Walking | Leave a comment

The Cleveland Way, Day 8, Whitby to Robin Hood's Bay

Expected Mileage: 6.0
Actual Mileage: 7.75 from B&B to B&B

Accommodations: The Villa
Rating: Very Nice!
Date: Monday, May 14, 2018

Hi Leslie and Mike,

We have have finished our day and have settled in Robin Hood’s Bay though we are still waiting on our luggage drop at 5:00 pm.  Hard to believe we have only 2 days left on the trail.  Just a week ago we were starting out fresh. We have definitely put some miles on our feet, 7.75 today from B&B to B&B.   I would have to add the total up but it seems like we must be near 100.

Our hosts at No 7 Guest House in Whitby served breakfast at 8:30 sharp, no other option, so that is when we ate.  The host husband was a jolly type and he sat in the dining room talking to us and another couple and fussed with the fresh flowers in the room.  His wife was also outgoing and funny.  We were in no rush and finally got out the door just before 10:00 AM.

No 7 Guest House, Whitby (yellow building). We had a room on then second floor behind the wrought iron trim.

We had been dreading the 199 steps from Old Town Whitby to the Whitby Abbey and St. Mary Anglican Church where we were to pick up the trail but we have done so many steps that these didn’t even phase us.  We lingered at the cliff top so I could walk through the church (you know I have a crazy fascination with old religious sites) and we could view the Abbey ruins and the Old cemetery but after about 30 minutes, it was time to move on.

Beginning the 199 step climb.
I am most of the way up the steps at this point, looking back on the lovely village of Whitby.
*BTW, Whitby is famous for a stone called Whitby Jet, which is an organic stone naturally formed from fossilized wood. Queen Victoria was a patron of the stone and wore it exclusively during her period of mourning. As a person who collects jewelry for travel souvenirs, I was pleased to add a pendant of Whitby Jet to my collection.
*Another little tidbit, Whitby is also the setting for Bram Stoker’s gothic novel, Dracula
St. Mary’s Anglican Church
Caedmon’s Cross, a tribute to the earliest English poet whose name is known. Caedmon was a monk at Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey was once an Anglo-Saxon monastery for men and women, founded in 657 AD The piece of gothic abbey still standing was started in 1220 AD. I am always in awe of the ancient history and architecture in European cities.

The trail was much the same as the past few days, hugging the edge of high cliffs, watching soaring sea gulls and catching a glimpse of freighters far out at sea.  We hiked through pastures of sheep and cows, crossing through elaborate gates between pastures. A slight difference was the walking through ravines.  We hiked up and down ravines via steps in some cases and up and down via trail in others (there was not much walking around the ravines on this day). There were more people on the trail today than any day in the past. This is probably because two long distance trails merged about 3 miles outside Robin Hood’s Bay, Cleveland Way and Coast to Coast. Distance walkers mingled with a number of day walkers.

Some areas along the cliffs were separating and collapsing toward the sea. These areas were blocked off and the trail had been slightly rerouted.
Unknown ruin, exposed with the lower tide.
The trail followed a rutted farmer’s road
Sheep grazing trailside.

One of the most interesting sites was a lighthouse.  It seemed to be a modern lighthouse, not one that sat on a tall structure lile most we have seen in other places but was attached to the keepers house.  A huge black fog horn was attached to one structure and a light attached to another (I will attach a picture). We wondered, with the increased use of GPS systems, if lighthouses are still used as often.

This series of buildings is called the Whitby Fog Signal Station which accounts for the big black fog horn,.
The trail goes behind the light house perimeter wall.

Robin Hood’s Bay came in sight right on schedule, about 3 hours into our hike.  We struggled a little bit with our lodging location because the instructions were packed in my suitcase (whoops) but a nice, local lady found us looking at what information I did have and walked us almost here. 

Coming into town

The Villa is another very charming guest house. We have more space than last night but we are still tripping over suitcases. We have a window that opens (we felt suffocated last night as the window was locked) and a quick walk to the old section of town. The road to the old city is a very steep drop to the sea but since we did not hike as far today, we are ok with it. We did our exploring early and plan to stay “high” near our b&b for dinner (spoiler alert, we ate at a pub…fish and chips).

Our lodging for the evening, The Villa. We were on the 2nd floor, room with the 2 windows (on the right)
Our sweet bedroom
And decorative only fireplace.

Robin Hood’s Bay is an interesting village with many narrow alleys and stone buildings tucked amongst the alleys.  We are told it was built this way so bounty could be easily hidden and escapes made when necessary.

We walked the winding, narrow roads of Robin Hood’s Bay
While there is apparently no evidence for association with Robin Hood, by the 18th century, the secluded location made Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire’s busiest smuggling port. Locals built a maze of underground hiding places with passages linking houses. Later fishing took over as the mainstay.
Narrow alleys
The North Sea and Robin Hood’s Bay beach. We did make it to the beach to put our feet in the sea.

Tomorrow we are not sure of our plans.  We will walk out a ways and come back and take the bus or take the bus to Scarbrough and hike back a ways.

Btw, I laughed at your dream about finding me with cotton around my feet.  I think it was a sympathy dream.  But, you are not all wrong.  We are walking through and by big clumps of wool.  The sheep are shedding and wool is stuck on barb wire fences and along the ground on the trail.  John said that if I had been picking it up as we went along, you and Carol would have enough to spin for sweaters.

Couple of additional things I am trying to remember that don’t fit in anywhere:

1.  The air is not salty here.  I keep licking my lips expecting to taste salt and I do not.  We also don’t smell the sea in the constant, cooling breeze. We will miss the breeze when we return to Knoxville and it’s heat and humidity.

2.  On the list of things we miss, our sheets and blankets.  Beds here are made up will a fitted sheet and a comforter, no sheets or blankets.  There are summer wt comforters and winter wt.  Most beds are still made up with winter wt, hard to manage sleeping temps.

That’s it for tonight (luggage showed up at 6:30 pm).  Got to get ready for Day 9-by bus and foot.


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The Cleveland Way, Day 7, Staithes to Whitby

Expected Mileage: 11.0
Actual Mileage: 12.5

Accommodations: No.7 Guest House
Rating: Very Good, location is excellent
Date: Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hello Mike and Leslie,

Today is Day 7.  I think I was confused yesterday and we don’t want to repeat days (apparently in the title of the email I sent to Leslie yesterday, I said that yesterday was day 7)!  Staithes had a steady rain overnight. We woke to a heavy fog and a questionable weather forecast. We packed full rain gear and mentally prepared for the worst but the rain held off and we hiked under mostly cloudy skies.  

Soggy morning view from our second floor room at the Roraima House in Staithes.
We said good-bye to Staithes under cloudy skies with a seagull soaring overhead. As you can see, the tide was out.

Today’s walk took us 12.5 miles from B&B to B&B, mostly over cliff tops overlooking the sea.

Never got tired of the sounds of the sea rolling against the cliffs, the seagulls soaring in the air currents and the sound of wind rustling through the grasses.
This picture is a little dark but honestly, we hiked under gray, threatening skies most of the day and the landscape was at times dark and dramatic.
Sometimes the path wound around the ravines amongst the cliffs….
Sometimes the path dropped down around a ravine then a series of steps led us up to the next cliff.

Every few miles we would drop down near the sea and pass through a little fishing/tourist village with such names as Port Mulgrove, Runswick Bay, Sandsend and finally our destination, Whitby.  The villages were fun to walk through and in the case of Runswick Bay, our path took us across the beach and back up a cliff on the otherside.  We did a little beachcombing and picked up small stones for our rock collection. Lots of steps again today!

The path down to Runswick Bay
We were warned the shore at Runswick Bay might not be passable on during high tide on a stormy day but we obviously hit low tide. It was fun to walk in the sand and search for shells.
What goes down must come up on this trail and here is John headed up the steps out of Runswick Bay.

We saw more people on the trail than in past days. Most were up from a nearby villages out for a walk with their dog (s). The miles went by reasonably quick and my feet did not hurt as much till toward the end of the day.  Both of us were ready to be here about 2 miles before we arrived.  

Looking back on Runswick Bay
A proper English countryside estate.
Throughout the 10 days of hiking the path led us through farm fields. We saw many types of gates and crossings. This was an interesting crossing we scrambled over on this day. Beyond the crossing, the path continues on the right-side of the field. We were always respectful of a farmer’s property and appreciative that right of ways were provided for The Cleveland Way.
Seaside village of Sandsend coming into view.
Below the seawall at Sandsend
Sandsend is a charming village. We observed several hotels, restaurants and a golf course on the outskirts of the village. From here we walked along the road to Whitby. The tide was coming in so we could not follow the shoreline at sea level.

Whitby is the largest village we have been in since York.  Like the rest of the seaside villages, it sits on a hill with a steep decent or ascent to get to or from the water.

Arriving on the outskirts of Whitby.

Our B&B reminds me of some of the old hotels I have stayed in NYC, elegant but very small rooms.  We can almost touch wall to wall if we reach our arms out and forget leaving suitcases open, we couldn’t get around them.  However the shower is good and they have a set of the item we most miss on this trip, the washcloth.

View from the window balcony of our B&B In the distance on the hill are the ruins of Whitby Abbey.
Whitby is a picturesque tourist town!
A wide boardwalk follows the seawall from town to the sea.

Whitby reminds us of a Gatlinburg type town in the area around the water with arcades, ice cream stands and lots of people. The rest of the city appears to be a normal seaside village. We had fish and chips for dinner at a restaurant called Magpie Cafe.  This is my 3rd meal of fish and chips and I am over it!  Why do I think I like the heavily breaded, greasy, tasteless fish?  No more for me!!

We keep eating fish and chips….. I said “no more” but there will be more!
Our restaurant, The Magpie Cafe
The Whitby tourist strip crowded with people, ice cream shops, t shirt-gift shops and restaurants

Well, I can see from our large picture window in our room, the streetlights have turned on.The last of the pink sunset is fading on the horizon beyond the sea and Whitby is rolling up it’s sidewalks on this Sunday evening.  It’s about our bedtime.  Six miles tomorrow to Robin Hood’s Bay (yes that Robin Hood) and we then have to decide whether to hike the 15 mile day or take the bus.  Talk to you tomorrow…


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The Cleveland Way, Day 6, Saltburn-by-the Sea to Staithes

Expected Mileage: 9.0
Actual Mileage: 10.0
Best Part of the Day: This was the most beautiful hiking day so far.
Worst Part of the Day: The difficulties I continued to have with feet and as of this day, blisters around ankles.
Bonus: An amazing B&B

Accommodations: Roraima House
Rating: One of the best, favorite host and hostess (tied with Willow Tree on Day 1)
Date: Saturday, May 12, 2018

Hello Leslie and Mike,

We are in the marvelous seaside village of Staithes in the Roraima House B&B.

No problem with that SLOW sign 😉 , by this point of the day, we were not going fast.
Hiking on the North Sea section of The Cleveland Way from seaside village to village was reminiscent to hiking between villages in Cinque Terre, Italy, only the distance between the villages was much further and the treat at the end here was fish and chips. These seaside villages (in this case, Staithes) were full of history. We would have enjoyed having more time, and for me less painful feet, to explore the villages.

  The b&b is run by a charming couple named Jane and Jon Kirpatrick, she is from this area, he is from the US (Cleveland, Ohio). Long story about how they met but they purchased this inn  last fall from a retiring couple.   They are our best hosts so far (actually tied with the Willow Tree) and it is lovely to talk to someone who sounds just like us.  

Our adorable B&B was located at the top of a hill, which was a steep climb from the waterfront where most of the shops and restaurants were located. We were happy to discover the trail the next day began on top of this hill.

Our room, on the 2nd floor,  is large and airy with big windows overlooking the cliffs we crossed today.  We have a  big, cozy canopy bed and a huge bathroom.  It is a good place to rest and recover.

Comfy bed. In one of the posts I mention that most European beds are made up with a bottom sheet and comforter only. The comforters are winter and summer weight. Unfortunately for us the winter weight comforters were still in use so we slept hot….most nights.
We ate dinner at the Captain Cook Inn and Pub (photo from their website). A lady we hiked with many days who was also on an Absolute Escapes planned trip, stayed here and liked it. The Inn was located at near our B&B so we did not have to walk down and up the steep hill for dinner. A win for me.
Obviously we were not done with fish and chips on this trip.I remember this as one of the better fish and chips meals we had. The choices in a pub are limited and fish and chips was our best option.

We walked 10 miles today including the distance to our inn. The walk was very different from other days in that the North Sea was in sight all day.  But like every other day, the morning started with an uphill trek and in this case, the climb was 200 or so steps up to the top of the cliff.  Ouch!

Cliff walking
Windmill farm

We spent our day walking  along the cliff’s edge watching the sea gulls catch the wind currents coming up the side of the cliff.  So beautiful to see them soar.  The path was narrow and we often had to step off for local walkers and their dogs.  Two words to describe every dog we have come in contact with so far,  “well mannered”.  (This was the first time a door opened in my mind about getting a dog-John had been talking about it for years. We now have a dog and “well-mannered” does not come easily. I love our little girl but WHAT WAS I THINKING???)

We stopped here to eat lunch and look at the sea.
The views are endless
The acorn and yellow arrow mark our path. Glorious walking through sunny rapeseed fields

The scenery didn’t change much.  At one point we had to walk down off the cliff and go through a jetty at sea level. A little seaside village named Skinningrove sat on the otherside of the jetty, just before the next cliff we had to climb. It was very nondescript group of houses and other buildings but it had lovely clean, beachside bathrooms and a little food truck where I got a regular Pepsi for energy. Then, of course we had the obligatory 200+ steps up to the next cliff.  

Steps down the cliff. The trail goes through the jetty.
A traditional fishing coble, this particular boat was once owned by a fisherman from Skinningrove who died in the 80’s. The boat has been refinished and is a memorial to all Skinningrove fisherman who have died at sea.
The seaside village of Skinningrove. Yep, steps back up to the cliffs.
Looking back at Skinningrove, a village of only a few streets but friendly and Ohhhh, that Pepsi!

I am having a lot of trouble with my feet, mostly tenderness on the tops where my foot bends as I walk – struggling muscles and tendons I guess. Also some arch discomfort.  Took me a while to get warmed up today and I had a lot of starts and stops to adjust and fidget.  John who is usually pretty tolerant of my bad days walked ahead at times.  His knee is bothering him some but mostly only if he sits for long.  He is dreading the 14 mile day and keeps talking about a cab.  I have been against it until today.  Now I say maybe, I am not sure my feet will get me through the remaining 42 miles.  Tomorrow, an 11.5 mile day promises a few more uphill challenges and a potential high tide challenge.

Along with my foot issues,I am having  issues with my hiking socks, either a wool reaction (although I wear liner socks) or heat rash.  I have big welts around and above my ankles.  As long as I don’t touch them, they don’t itch.  Oh well, if it isn’t one thing, it is another.  

Guess that is about it for tonight, I have left some things out but I got most of it and some complaining in 😊 so I think I will call it a night!


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The Cleveland Way, Day 5, Great Ayton to Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Actual Hike: As Billed (we walked to our hotel from the trail)
Expected Mileage: 12.5
Actual Mileage: 12.5
Worst Part of the Day: Realizing that my feet are going to be an on going problem
Best Part of the Day: Reaching the sea
Bonus: A nice moderate sized grocery in Saltburn that provided the opportunity to stock up on trail foods

Accommodations: Victorian Guest House
Rating: Nice accommodations, lovely host and hostess
Date: Friday, May 11, 2018

Hey Leslie and Mike!

We made it, Saltburn by the Sea. The North Sea is just down a few blocks, oh and down a cliff from our little B&B.  But I am ahead of myself.

We started hiking this morning around 9:00 am.  One of the hotel owners, drove us from the village of Great Ayton to the parking lot where we ended our hike yesterday, a 4 mile drive. 

Looking back at Cooks Monument as we began our day.

Another steep climb to the top of our final heather covered Moor.

Our last hike up to a Moor. Both happy for our progress and sad to leave the familiar behind.

  We walked a mile or so across the top and came to the turn off trail for one of the “destination points” on the walk, Roseberry Topping. John says Roseberry looks like a Hershey Kiss standing alone in a field.  As much as we would have liked to hike to the top, it was an out and back hike of about 1.5 miles and we had a long day ahead.

Roseberry Topping

The views of the Yorkshire farmlands from the banks of the Moor were spectacular.  We could see lush green grasses with sheep scattered among the fields outlined by ancient stone walls. 

These views never got old.

Every so often large swathes of bright yellow flowers filled the land between the walls.  If we looked hard enough toward the horizon, we could see the North Sea and a water bound windmill farm with about 20 or so windmills twirling in the stiff breeze.  I wish I had the ability to write descriptives to give you a clearer picture of what we saw. So very beautiful. 

Off the Moors and headed to the forests.

All too soon (John says maybe not soon enough) we left the Moors, heather and talking grouse behind and spent the rest of the day in forests, farmland and walking through villages.

Checking the directions. We had just come out of the forest and crossed a very busy highway . We were headed up the embankment behind John. The trail is in the bottom right corner of this photograph.
Yep, sheep and farmland.

While it was slightly warmer today, the wind was…fierce.  Yes, fierce kept rolling off our lips. I couldn’t keep a cap on my head, John had his clinched down tightly.  Every once and a while our poles or our bodies would blow slightly off course.  It was that kind of day.  Sometimes the wind was warm, some times cool.  We wore long pants, layered shirts and lots of sunscreen.  The sun was in and out of the clouds for a while and then it was cloudy.

The trail was mostly well marked and we really only questioned ourselves a couple of times, specifically as we walked across the fields of Airy Hill Farm into the village of Skelton. The field marking was a little sketchy, especially along the farm access road.  “There’s your sign”  one of us would whoop as we spied the white acorn trail marker or wooden arrow sign post.  Unlike day one, we have figured out how to read our guidebook and have our map turned to the right section.  

The path to the village of Skelton

The last couple of miles today were long and a little painful, mostly through woodlands between Skelton and Saltburn then navigating our way through Saltburn to our B&B.  Including our walk through town, we covered just over 12 miles. Oh my weak feet!  

Coming into Skelton
Railway viaduct over Skelton Beck

Our b&b, the Victorian House, is a little different. It is owned by a lady in her early 70’s and her husband.  Our ensuite  room has an outside entrance next to her row house.  With the window and door configuration, we think it may have been a shop at one time. The room is nice, fairly comfy bed, large overstuffed chairs, kitchenette and tv. The water is on a pump system so everytime we turn it on, a pump starts running.  We are at a street crossroad and can definitely hear the traffic.

Our first seaside village, Saltburn by the Sea.
The weather was still too cool to be tourist season….lucky for us!

So Sue, our hostess, gave us this room on the first floor because of our luggage.  We are embarrassed by the size and weight of our luggage, me especially. While everything is underweight, it is WAY more than most people are having transported.  “I was going to put you on the 3rd floor,” Sue told us, “but your luggage is a bit heavy to carry up the steps…”  We are going to rethink our packing lists when we get home.Finally, while our feet and legs did not want to walk down the cliff to the seaside, we sat on a bench overlooking the sea, watching the surfers and enjoying the sights and sounds.  It has been a good day. We are 1/2 done today, 5 more days to walk, all by the sea.

We finally reached the North Sea! I had been waiting for this day! Even though my only trips to the ocean/sea over the last 20 years have involved backpacking or hiking, I love the sites and sounds of the sea.
Between too much wind burn and swollen eyes from too little good rest, we look pretty darn rough. I hesitated to post this picture but realized it was our reality on day 5 of this hike.



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