United Kingdom 2005

Day 04

May 16


Guy is still snoozing off and on, figuring he has lots of time. Once I wake up, I can't just lay there and wallow in bed, so I am quietly up and at it, sorting out the last few items. I get my shower and shave out of the way so Guy can use the one-holer when he does get up. We wander down to the main dining room for breakfast, which is included in the price of the room.

  I always go for the ‘fully cooked' English breakfast – a couple of fried eggs, bacon, some great hot tea, toast, jam, and pork and beans- at least that's what they remind me of. This type of breakfast is pretty standard fare in most hotels and B&B's where I've stayed and it suits me well. Brewer's Inn, run by Miss Calley, is a nice place, nearby the rental shop and offers the same fare.

Guy goes for his usual foo-foo stuff – juice, fruit, cereal and croissants. I guess it's just the difference between a country boy and a city boy and what you was raised on. Since Guy is on his ever present quest for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he hits up the young lady serving us –

“You got any peanut butter back there in the kitchen, babe?” he asks.

“I don't think so but I will check” she replies.

She has no luck in her search, so Guy has to settle for just jam and toast. He will soon finds out that peanut butter is not made the same or rated the same in the UK as it is in the USA. We finish up and head back up to the room to get our riding gear. Although it's just a couple of blocks up the hill to About Town Motorcycle Hire, we will need it for the short ride back to get our luggage. Guy looks up from packing –

"Dang brother, I don't see us getting out of London till 1 or 2 PM."

"Yeah I know, it's gonna be a long day."

400 miles or so in the USA is something you can do before lunch, but over here it will be an all day journey. I've driven in the UK before and had my roundabout training in Milton-Keynes, but this is a whole new experience for Guy. Fortunately for us, Tim Granville, a local STer, has graciously offered to let us chase his taillight out of London and on to the main road we'll be taking to Scotland. Getting us in and out of London is the only part of the trip that concerns me. I could get myself in and out probably okay, but we'll have a hard time trying to keep together and reading the road signs as a team. David Whitley, another STer who lives near Edinburgh, will be waiting this evening for us in Scotland, so I don't plan on letting him down - so we will get there one way or the other. We take the short walk up the hill and do not have to wait long before Mike, the owner of About Town, arrives and opens up.

Of all the rental places I contacted, Mike was the only one who took an interest in our adventure and e-mailed me back in a timely manner. He has been extremely helpful with a lot of things, including connecting me with Brewer's Inn.

Now Guy has to make the big decision – does he rent the BMW KLT1200 gunboat or the VFR? One look at the heft of the Beemer and narrow road just outside the door, and he goes with the VFR as I predicted he would. We fill out our part of the paperwork and then it comes time to make the deposit. All Guy has is an American Express that has a large enough credit limit to cover it.

It never occurred to me or Mike that Guy would not have a Visa or MC with a sufficient credit limit. Mike explains tactfully – “Since I refund the deposit if you return the bike undamaged, I don't take AMEX. Their fees are far too high when compared to Visa or MC and I end up paying them both ways in the transaction.”

Fortunately for Guy, he has an Uncle Phil on this trip with a credit card with a very large limit and a kindly heart – otherwise Guy would be headed back to Alabama without a ride or else trying to float a loan at the local bank.

“Mike, I understand. Just put both deposits on my card and if he crashes the VFR, I'll take it out of his hide” I tell him.

With that out of the way, we finish up and go over the bikes. Mike is very thorough in this procedure and we are both appreciative. He also warns us that the left lane back to Brewer's is a bus lane with cameras, so don't use it – unless of course you want to pay for a traffic ticket. Tim pulls up with perfect timing and a GPS equipped ST1100.

He is a splendid fellow that I will come to appreciate as we get to spend more time together later. We bid Mike and his crew good-bye, carefully avoid the bus lane, and survive our first short ride in London traffic – all of about 200 yards!

We rush upstairs to get our luggage, and I pay for the room on the way out. I manage to get all of my stuff in, yellow river bag strapped to the seat and my USA flag properly positioned. I squeeze a quick shot of the rear entrance of Brewer's and we're off.
  We head out following Tim's careful lead, amazed at how such a multitude of 18 wheelers (called lorries in the UK), bicycles, scooters and cars are fit in such a small space with no mishaps.  
  The nice thing in the UK is that they allow lane splitting (called filtering) like they do in California. In this kind of traffic, it sure gives the advantage to motorcyclists. As we move along the A roads, we come to the first of many roundabouts. I follow Tim right in and out and so does Guy. But on the second one, Guy cuts off a Peugeot and gets a big British honking. This will not be the last time Guy has trouble with a roundabout.  

We finally break free of the London hustle and bustle and are on our way north toward Scotland. A light drizzle starts to fall and a chill settles in. I think to myself –

“I'm glad I brought my warm gear – I bet I'll need it pretty soon.”

Tim has gotten us to the intersection of A14 and A1 where we pull off into McDonald's for a quick burger and good-byes. Guy is almost taken out in the parking lot as he comes in the wrong lane. Hopefully he will get driving on the proper side of the road down before there is a funeral.


This is where Tim will leave us and we are on our own. We dismount and place our orders for burgers and such. Tim opens his wallet and has this ‘oh know' look on his face.

“I don't have any money with me” he exclaims with a look of embarrassment.

“Don't worry Tim, I've got you covered, buddy” I say with a grin.

It is the least I can do for him after all he's done for us. We munch our Micky D's down and I have to reflect that it tastes about the same as it does in the USA - or Brazil for that matter since I have eaten at one in Florianopolis. We wander back outside, gear up and say our good-byes. I thank Tim again for his kind service and look forward to riding with him later in the week. I lead us out onto A1 north toward Scotland. We make good time, slowing down at the various speed cameras. I really like the speed camera approach instead of the ‘hide in the bushes' they use in the USA. If you get a ticket from a speed camera in the UK, you just ain't paying attention. They are clearly marked and you are warned in advance, so no appeal, no court - just pay the fine.

As we motor along, I can tell that the lack of wind protection on the VFR and proper warm clothing is taking its toll on Guy. I tried to tell him to pack like he was going to New England in the fall, but it is obvious that he neglected that bit of friendly advice. I motioned him over to the shoulder to see what I can do for him before hypothermia sets in.

“I've got some warmer gloves and a vest for you. You look cold.”

He responded “Brother, I am.”

Of all of the places to pull off and park, I stop the ST1300 right beside a storm grate. I am so concerned about Guy that I did not pay attention. I warn him –

“Watch out. Don't drop your keys.”

Since I had corrective surgery on both hands, sometimes they just let go of what they are holding involuntarily. No sooner than the words leave my lips, it happens – a nice clean drop right through the grate.



Guy shouts out “We're screwed.”

I'm more frustrated than anything else at my own stupidity, but I ask the Lord to help us and He does. The grate is dry and we can see the keys. I grab a long bungee cord and go a'fishin with a steady stream of autos whizzing by at 80 mph. Guy comes up with a stick but it doesn't help. Finally I snag them and Guy is able to reach them with his small hands.

“I guess the Lord knew you needed a little more time to warm up, so He delayed us a bit” I say with a grin. I came to realize a long time ago that all delays are divine delays and for a purpose.

Soon we are back on the road and we knock down another 100 miles before needing gas. We get plenty of roundabout practice on A1, often queuing up to the entrance, just like we know what we are doing. When we stop for fuel just south of Newcastle, Guy rings up David on a land line. He is already waiting for us at the Stagecoach Pub. At Newcastle, we leave A1 for A69 which is a little more to our liking. We are traveling through the country now with lovely small cottages and farms. We kick back on the speed, as the sun is getter lower on the horizon and road is getting narrower. We finally reach A68 which takes us to an area called the Borders with rolling hills and valleys. We stop at the Scotland line for a calendar shot.


The landscape has a melancholy nature to it as the sun slowly sets, but it somehow seems like home to me. Could it be because some of the the blood that flows through my veins comes from the McPhersons? It is as if I belong here and this is just a homecoming for me. This is the site of Hadrian's wall - built by the Romans to keep those pesky Scots up north where they belonged.


We tarry for just a while, but we've got to get a move on since David is waiting on us. It is dark when we finally arrive at the Stagecoach Inn to meet David. Unfortunately, the pub is already closed so we followed Dave (in his car) into Edinburgh. In our tired condition and in a strange city, it is nice just to follow a set of friendly taillights. He guides us to the Premier Inn, where we stash our gear, change clothes and jump into his car for a search for supper.

Guy pipes up -"Cut the heat wide open brother, its cold."

David, who is used to this climate, just laughs and turns it up. About the only place open locally at this late hour is an Indian restaurant on the river. It is very good and we spend time getting to know each other a little bit. We finalize our plans for tomorrow and hit the sack around midnight after a tough 430 mile day. At last we are here in the land of my ancestors, a place I've wanted to see for a long time.