United Kingdom 2005
Being an early riser and knowing that breakfast will not happen til around 8 AM, I have some extra time this morning. Guy is still sawing logs, the room is small, so I decide I will take a stroll to see what the town is like. I quietly slip on my clothes and shoes and ease pass the sitting room and out the door.
NineOaks is at the edge of the village, so I quickly find a narrow lane that would take me toward the center of it. As I quietly walk along, I see a street sign attached to an older house. I live on Charlotte Pike in Nashville, Tennessee and the coincidence is striking.
A few of the Scots are out and about, and we just exchange nods of the head as if I have lived here all my life. The main street of Moffat is a little more spacious than most of the small villages we have been through. Most villages in the UK just pave around the corner of buildings and figure the drivers will have to sort it out. But Moffat has a nice pull-off and a bit of a plaza.
The cool morning air is refreshing and it feels good to get out and stretch my legs. But breakfast is soon to be served, so I head back for the feast. And what a feast it is – eggs, sausage, English bacon (which we would call ham), fruit, toast and excellent hot tea. Guy is not much of an egg eater, so he passes his eggs to me and I gladly relieve him of that burden. Mrs. Jones is standing ready, taking great care that we have what we want. When we finish up, I ask her –
“Do you like sweets?”
She says with a grin, “Why, yes I do a bit. But I have to be careful.”
I just nod, and say “I'll be right back.”
I have packed a load of GooGoos on this trip specifically for BritSToc, but this dear lady is going to get one. I retrieve one of the sugar bombs from my stash and proudly present it to her.
“This is a special treat only made in Nashville, Tennessee. I want you to have it since you have been so nice to us.”
“Why, thank you very much” she says, a bit astonished.
“My pleasure and I hope you really enjoy it.”
We gather up our belongings and bid Mrs. Jones good-bye. She has been an excellent hostess and NineOaks goes down as great place to remember. As we pull away, a group of school children come walking across the lane, led by a sort of absent minded professor. This observation is solely based on his appearance – twill jacket, wrinkled shirt and roughed up shoes. But he is quick to stay after the children.
“Everyone keep up now, keep moving” he urges them.
Guy asks one of the young boys straggling at the back, “Y'all on the way to class?”
"Yeah" he replies.
"Oh man that sucks" Guy adds.
"I Know" he draws out in his Scottish brogue.
The procession finishes, and we head for the outskirts of town to gas up. The town is beginning to come to life, as storekeepers are opening shop, and pedestrians begin their morning patrol of the sidewalks. We pull in the first petrol station we see in town, and I quickly fill up and pay the price. I do a quick calculation and look over at Guy –
“Well buddy, that was a $30 fill up!”He just rolls his eyes and continues to pump. I saw an old cathedral on the way to here, so I mount up quickly to get a quick shot. I love the architecture of the old cathedrals in the UK and this is a fine example.
When I return, David is in a conversation with a gentleman that is also a Pan rider. He is quizzing David about his windshield and how well it works compared to a stock one. Guy wanders out with some fine cherry muffins for later. Before we leave, David tells us –
“We need to stop on the way out and get a picture of the town sign for Moff.”Moff's given last name is Moffet, which has one letter different from the town spelling. But both of his parents are from Scotland, so there probably is a connection.
Soon we are off on northward on A708, a sweet bit of narrow twisty, hilly road that will take us by Loch Mary and the Scottish Border lands. But we have to be careful, for it is lambing season and the sheep are out and about on the road. One thing you learn rather quickly is to appreciate the dynamics of the ‘Scottish Traffic Jam'. If momma is on one side of the road and baby is on the other, you had best not try to come between them unless you want some wool and mutton on your handlebars.
A little further along, I notice a flock with one little black lamb standing by itself, as if it is an outcast. Having been in similar situations myself, I capture the moment.
We make great time, carving up the slender ribbons of pavement on the STs. Finally David pulls off at Loch Mary so Guy can catch up.
Together again, we head back south on B709 toward Davington, a village with an interesting sign that lets you know that 42 accidents have occurred on this roadway. As if to re-enforce the point, a massive green lorry appears and consumes the entire narrow road in a downhill bend that Guy is approaching. Fortunately, he finds a farm pull-off and gets to safety. As we move along, we notice a sign that points to Lockerbie, where Pan AM Flight 173 met it's tragic fate. It seems surreal to be in the area where that sad event occurred after hearing and reading so much about it. Finally, we arrive at an unusual destination that David has told us about – a Tibetan Monastery in the Border Lands.
It is very beautifully decorated in their tradition and they also have a tea room, so it makes for a good place to take a break. We quietly enter the building and carefully peer into the prayer room, amazed at the handiwork of the craftsmen. After surveying the grounds a bit, we head for the tea room where I snag a very good brownie. As we sip our sodas, we talk about the day and where we're headed. Our next destination is to meet Colin McConnachy in the Lake District at Stavely for lunch. The quietness of the place is very enjoyable, but we have to keep moving. Following David's lead, we soon we arrive at the M6, a major motorway. We are only on it for short time to Penrith, where we turn on A592. This will take us into the Lake District over Kirkstone Pass – the highest pass in the Lake District. The pass is named for the church shaped stone that is nearby - ‘Kirk' is the Scottish name for church. It's an enjoyable ride as we ascend up the narrow road. There is an old inn at the very top that was originally built around 1496 – just after Columbus was checking out the New World.
|That is one thing that really distinguishes UK history from US history. Our sense of ‘old' would be considered ‘new' in the UK where they have walls still standing built by the Romans. The elevation is slightly over 1400 feet and the view of the junction road is quite amazing. It is appropriately called ‘Struggle to Ambleside' and looks to be quite a ride.
But we are heading to Windemere, so we will have to leave the Struggle for another day. The Lake District is a favorite resort area for many in the UK and on weekends it can get very busy. Many folks have caravans (recreational trailers in the US) to escape the cities and enjoy the beauty of the area. After working our way through some lovely but crowded villages, we finally arrive in Stavely. Colin is another UK Pan/ST rider and a super nice fellow. His lovely wife is also a rider, and she has her bike today. We have a delightful lunch at Wifs Café which is close to his office.
His business requires trips to the USA, so we laugh about the differences between the two countries, driving on the proper side of the road and such. Before we leave, he brings us a small package of mementos to take with us, which included a Paddington Bear keychain and a Union Jack – something you seldom see flying in the UK Before we pull out, David tells us –
“We have about 300 miles further to Exeter which will be motorways.”
Compared to where we've been, it will be almost anti-climatic – but as it turns out, not without a challenge or two. We come to roundabout and I zip through, knowing where we are headed. I check my rear view mirrors and Guy is nowhere to be seen. So I find a convenient place to turn around and go looking. Sure enough, he's sitting off on one of the spokes like a little lost lamb. He figures out he is lost and has to come back the wrong way on one of the ramps. He sees me, so I just enter the roundabout, make the loop, and he jumps in behind as I pass. Soon we are back on M6 and we find our spot with David in the lead. He stretches out the legs of his ST1100 and I gladly follow suit on my ST1300. Before long I notice that Guy is out of sight behind us. I roll off the throttle a bit, trying to be like a rubber band with David on one end and Guy on the other. It's a tough balancing act to keep the rider in sight in front of you and the rider in sight behind you. Guy seems to be falling farther and farther behind. At the rate of speed we are traveling, it is not long before we pull into a service area for gas. Guy comes up and tells us
“Look, I don't mean to hold y'all up but I can't do 90 for 300 miles on the VFR. I gotta a 1300 and an 1100 at home, I know how they feel at 90 mph."
David says “Well, then take the point, that way you can set the pace.”
“Can we stop every 100 miles to break the trip up?” Guy asks.
We agree, and then we are back at. Before long, we are in the Birmingham area where M6 junctions with M5. This area reminds me so much of the US northeastern rust belt that has taken such an economic hit in the passing years. It is not designed to be beautiful, but functional. But sadly, a lot of the function has been captured by cheaper economics in areas out of the country. The traffic in the area is fast and furious, but well behaved. We stay in the left lane, which is the slow lane, behind Guy and make good time. As we promised Guy, we stop about every 100 miles so he can do the VFR butt dance. We finally make it to the Michaelwood service area for another stop. Guy grabs some muffins and we sit down in the Burger King dining area.
David tells us “According to my GPS we are less than one hundred miles from our destination. When we get close, I'll take the lead and bring us in to Peter's place.”
Peter Mallon and his lovely mate, Miss Fiona, are hosting the official BritSToc ride. They have worked it around for us, including many sights that they think would be of interest to us ‘Yanks'. We polish off our food, and get back to the business of M5. After poking along for so long, Guys decides to take off, and for that we are thankful. He tucks in and invokes the VTEC and is off. We give him the running room, thankful that someone finally strapped a rocket to his butt. The VFR is quick, but it's pretty easy for the ST1100 and ST1300 to keep him in sight. When we near the Exeter exit, David takes the lead and guides us straight to our destination. There is quite a collection of Pan riders at the house so we just make ourselves at home.
Miss Fiona has two lovely cats that imperially observe us from the stairway, but I show them proper respect and greet them first before the humans. One of the great things on trips like this is to meet people that you have only corresponded with. Most motorcyclists share a common bond, so it's easy for us to swap war stories of our riding experiences – other than the Brits trying to understand Guy's improper English. It's getting late and it has been a long day, so we finally head to the motel. After 450 miles in the saddle, I am ready for a good night's rest, looking forward the sights, sounds, and experiences of another part of the UK.