Naked Bicyclists, Drippy Showers, and the Perils of Planless Peregrination

Godzilla with a planner
The author planning a trip.
When it comes to travel, I’ve always been a bit of a planner. Okay, I’ve always been a giant, monster-size devour-the-world sort of planner. Picture Godzilla with a day organizer, and you’ve pretty much got it. I’m not proud of it, but I really know how to put the “anal” in “analysis.”

So when my younger daughter and I decided to take a trip to England, I eagerly fired up my laptop to start monster surfing and asked where she’d like to go first.  Her response? “Can’t we just drive around and stop when we feel like it?”

Imagine crickets chirping in the distance.

However, I’m a very literal person, and technically the answer to that question is “yes, we can.” So I made the minimum arrangements required to get two people to England and back—plane tickets, first hotel (there was NO way I was getting off a transatlantic overnight flight without knowing where I was taking my luggage) and . . . well, that was it. I felt naked, I felt afraid . . . and I felt like I was having an adventure.

And sure enough, the unexpected started happening right away. That first day in London,  we walked toward the theater district to see if we could get some last minute tickets (which we wouldn’t have needed to do if I’d made the arrangements in advance). As we stood below the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, a crowd began gathering along the curb, and we joined them, standing on tiptoe to see what the fuss was about. Far down Piccadilly, the street was filled wall to wall with a pack of bicyclists. How exciting—a bicycle race through London! We decided to watch, and as they drew closer I noticed something odd. Even though it was rather chilly, quite a few of them appeared to be shirtless. Seconds later, I realized quite a few of them also appeared to be pants-less. And as we were engulfed by the wiggling, jiggling, flopping participants of the British leg of the World Naked Bike Ride, I realized three things: clothing is not just for warmth, I will never look at a bicycle seat the same way, and some images can never be un-seen.

Sketch of Janice watching naked bikers

Each day was like that. In Salisbury, we found a 15th century inn with an award-winning restaurant and checked in. Now, admittedly we were tired and hungry and unwilling to go further or we might have hesitated before taking a room directly over the pub. The dinner was truly magnificent, ending with a cream-filled swan floating in a lake of chocolate, but when we returned to our room, the paper thin walls meant our beds might as well have been tucked behind the bar. Did they move us? Well, yes they did. To a room with a shower we couldn’t use because it “drips a bit into the room below, love.”  However, if we had not stayed in that inn, we would not have risen at the crack of dawn, and we would not have been at Stonehenge when a procession of Druids arrived to celebrate the summer solstice.  I’ll just state for the record that British Druids apparently use the same tailor as the Ku Klux Klan, and that regulation Druid footwear seems to be Nike high tops, which for some reason detracts a bit from the solemn dignity of the occasion.

Honestly, it was the best trip ever. The unexpected bonuses of discovery far outweighed any moments of discomfort. So . . . did I throw away my planner?  I did!  But only because I finally learned how to use my smart phone. However, I’ve loosened up (if only a little), and more importantly, I’ve learned to look for and appreciate the moments of serendipity that always arrive when things aren’t going exactly to plan.

[images created by the author and her daughter]

Janice Hamrick is the winner of the 2010 Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. Born in Oklahoma and raised in Kansas, she now lives in Austin, Texas, with her two daughters.


  1. Kathy Waller

    I’ve complained loudly about the behavior of Austin bike riders, but I won’t do that any more.

  2. Josh

    This is certainly one more adventure and to see naked cyclists is just a lifetime memory. I probably would never have been able to, only if I was on my best fat tire bikes. But it is not exactly. In general, I agree with the idea that the best rest is obtained when you do not plan it especially and it turns out cool spontaneous walks.

  3. scooty

    ha ha, great writeup

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