When friends at Christian College discussed this great award for Petie, Christianís French instructor, and her suggestion about our coming over, several said, "Sue, travelís an important part of their education; you must take Nancy and Walt and go with Petie and Jimmy next summer." Nancy would be almost 15. Walt and Jimmy Davison were friends, age 12. Chub was excited for us but in a new job and couldnít get away. There would be time for the children to help me teach one session of swimming classes on the farm before the trip, and we could do an extra class to boost our trip money.
When our Vandalia friend, Jean Cronan, heard of this plan, she said, "Great! Take the boys and me along. Weíve been saving for a trip to Al Bloomís." Al was an exchange student from Germany.
"He would be great help to us with languages, on the continent," Jean said.
Two Davisons, three Cronans, three Gerards - we were a manageable size group and good friends. Ann Clark was our English guest, a sort of farm youth exchange for a month one summer, and she begged us to come to visit her familyís Sussex farm some day. We set a date and rented bikes Cronans and Gerards would arrive and 10-pedal the south back roads to Sussex before the Davisons were out of school in the north of England.
Weíd rent bikes, stay in youth hostels and also see Ann Clarkís family and farm. Chub urged us to make the trip. I began by inquiring about rental bikes by mail at Londonís Lester Wards Cycle Co.; they asked for the name, height and inseam measurement of each rider. I got that information from Jean Cronan, and the rental shop recorded it but took no down payment.
Before we left home, the Cronans and Gerards went on a weekend cycle trip, a "practice run" together for a weekend. In the next week, we booked our passage on The Ryndam. Plans and packing then consumed us for weeks before a smooth trip on a "glassy sea" for most of the crossing, and we arrived in England a day early. It was a beautiful evening, and we were anchored in time to enjoy an eerie night sky, an unusual full moon lighting against a big background of emerald green!
Using the current International Youth Hostel Handbook, I had reserved space in a few British youth hostels by mail. Each day, we women put the membersí kitchens in ship shape and filled the bike water bottles while the fellows pulled weeds from flower beds and topped up the air in our bike tires. The fellows secured our bags in place on our rented bikes. We soon realized that the youth hostelsí evening meals were not expensive and they were quite good. We all then ate the hostelís suppers and visited with new friends as we ate.
More about youth hostels at a later date.