Today was a little walk to Wigan, only about 17 miles. Unfortunately there was no real scenery to speak of along the way, to be honest. The walk was a continuous join-up of towns and villages with a very accomodating footpath the entire way. I did have the option of walking through a parkland forest after Bamber Bridge but it would have added an additional 4 miles. I also had a chance to pop in and see Sue Ryder’s house, but couldn’t for the life of me remember what she was famous for, so I decided to give it a miss. The impression today’s walk had on me was merely loads of newly built, identical brick detatched homes, which always reminds me of the Stepford Wives. Characterless with manicured lawns, and….just ewww! I guess they looked pleasant enough for those that like that sort of thing, but they were all within spitting distance of the M6, which would put me off immediately. I can’t even stand walking next to it.
I discovered this morning that the upper straps to my bag which bring it flush to your back against the shoulder straps had loosened quite a bit yesterday and was the cause of the aches in my lower back, hips, and neck today. In good working order the weight of my backpack, a Lowe Alpine Osprey, can barely be felt as the weight is managed all on your hips and even flexes with your walking gait, that is, as long as it is tightened and fitting properly. Lesson learned.
A friend of mine had mentioned the fun I would have today people watching in Wigan. If truth be known, I think on my way here I have passed by at least 20 tanning and hairdressing salons, and that seemed to be just in one satellite town, so I think I had an inkling what I was heading into.
On this journey I had high expectations of providing a daily GPS map of my progress. I bought a Garmin 64st in hopes it would cater to my every need, which it does, but it sucks battery power like you wouldn’t believe. I was under the impression that it would mark my progress even while ‘off’, at least that was how it was sold to me. I tinkered with all the settings and discovered by the time I reached Inverness this wasn’t to be the case. To keep weight down I only brought my iPhone and the GPS with me. I bought and fitted a chip from Ordinance Survey with a 1:25 ratio of the entire United Kingdom, and let me tell you, this has been invaluable as it has all the toepaths and forest trails etc. you could wish for. In order for the GPS to track your progress it needs to be in standby mode, and this is the power sucker, even with the ‘battery saving’ option. I bought state-of-the-art, lightweight solar panels to accomodate my battery charging requirements, but it was a constant struggle to keep things charged – rain being only one of the factors. I decided after discovering there were gaps in my progress tracking, and mixed with the lack of compatibility with my iPhone (Garmin discontinued the bluetooth app to connect) that I would abandon it altogether. To be frank, it was taking all the ‘fun’ out of the journey and I was feeling a bit enslaved by it. When I venture out again on another perilous journey I will rethink the entire process. I was constantly looking at my mileage and how long it would take to arrive at my next destination, but since dropping this practice and only using it as a pathfinder (turning it on only when and if I need it), I find I am much happier and the device has been on the same full charge for 2 weeks now.
I’m now at my limits of my route planning and have several options ahead of me. Apart from people watching the many chatacters on the streets of Wigan, accompanied by my good friend, Mr. Guinness, I shall endeavor to find my next plan of action as far as Bristol .