United Kingdom 2005
One thing that I have really come to appreciate is the traditional English breakfast, which is a lot like what I am used to eating – hen fruit and pig meat. Generally it includes an egg or two, a slice of ham (they call it bacon), some pork and beans (at least that's what they taste and look like to me) and some type of bread and jam. YEO Farm Bed And Breakfast is no different, and the table setting is simply gorgeous.
The owner of the house is up and about, so I ask him –
“Just how old is this house?”
“Well, we believe it was built in the 1400s. We are still discovering interesting things as we renovate it.”
To think that I spent the night in a house that could have been built before Columbus ever landed in the New World is pretty amazing. But then the British sense of ‘old' is once again far outdistances ‘old' in the American sense. Before long, Nick, Tim Granville, his lovely wife Miss Dot and Guy wander down and we are seated for the meal. Miss Dot asks Guy –
"Did you sleep well?"
"My arm is sore."
"Throwing shoes at Uncle Phil."
I could tell she is sorry she asked the question as I am trying to constrain my laughter. As Guy explains his nocturnal habit of launching tennis shoes at me to keep me from snoring, I have to add –
“Yes, but I sure slept soundly. Besides that I gave him fair warning before we ever left the States.”
Everybody gets a good chuckle out of that one. We finish up our delightful meal, then gather our belongings to head for the Blackcock Inn. The plan is to meet at 9 AM and go for a ride, but the weather does not look very favorable. As always, I have my foul weather gear, so I'm ready to ride rain or shine. One thing I've learned on the road – if you focus on the weather you will not do much riding. I figure what it is, is what it is, so you just enjoy the variety of the experiences and ride on. The weather in the U.K. can be especially tricky, being surrounded by the ocean. We take the short ride down the lane to meet the rest of the group at the campground. You can tell by their gear that this is not the group's first foul weather rodeo.
Seems as if they had a bit of snoring music themselves. Bob McNeil, who I have come to love dearly and is quite the distance rider, did a complete concert in four part harmony. Bob tells us –
"I dunno, but I slept just fine."
Miss Fiona says that they got the camcorder out and were doing it like the "Blair Witch Project", capturing the sounds coming out of his tent. Of course, Guy has to try to get some sympathy –
"Look here baby, I know y'all were in a scuffle, but I had problems of my own."
Before we can head out, the rain comes in as a nasty little drizzle.
I make a mental note to be extra careful, since we will be passing through farming country. Rain on animal manure in a curve can make things go sideways pretty quickly, as I learned in the hills of Tennessee a long time ago. It's nice just to ease back and get lost in your thoughts. The roads are curvy but the rain keeps us at a slow pace, so it is rather relaxing for me.
There are breaks in the rain, but it sure looks like it has settled in for the long run. I notice as we pass through the villages that Saturdays are about the same as small towns where I come from. Folks get out and about to do their business, see old friends, and generally just putter about. We finally make our way to Dunsten, which has a fascinating castle on top of the hill.
Peter, our ever fearless leader, tells us –
"We'll get something to eat here, then head back."
Some of the folks decide to head on back to the pub to watch a major soccer game going on today that involves Manchester United. The rest of us wander into the restaurant call “Cobblestones” and are quickly seated. The scones (what we would call biscuits) are excellent and we all enjoy just being out of the weather.
Knowing I need to get something for my wife, I asked Miss Fiona -
“Did you see any place on the way in that I could get something for my honey?”
“Yes, just up the street there was gift shop.”
Since this was the last day of riding together as a group, I go up to the server and ask her to let me take care of all of the charges for the group. She is grateful because it makes much easier for her, and we transact the business quickly. Then I make my exit to check out the shop. It has some very unique pieces. I find a cute little cat figurine and I know that's just the ticket. My wife loves her cats, and it will fit well with her other cat stuff. I rejoin the group, and we leave the village for the moors of England.
For some reason, I have always assumed that the moors were some swampy, dark place, suitable for the filming of a horror movie. I always associate the “Hounds of the Baskervilles” and such with the area. Am I ever surprised when we arrive.
It is just wide open farming country with lots of hills – just like where I grew up. Beautiful, serene – and it makes me a bit homesick. Here I am, thousands of miles from home, and yet I could just as easy be looking from the hills of Tennessee – except for the sheep. I see another little black lamb in the midst of the flock and add it to my pictorial collection.
It is a fitting end to the days with our friends. We again pass down narrow country lanes with high hedgerows. I'm really glad there's no oncoming traffic because there would not be much of a place to move over.
Before we get back to the house, Peter takes us to nearby fuel stop so we can all gas up for our departing rides tomorrow. It's a $40 plus dollar fill-up for the ST1300, something I still cannot quite get used to.
Although we only put in 65 miles for the day, it's not the length of the ride that determines the joy of it. We return quickly to the home we are staying in, get our gear off, and head for the pub. We will be going our separate ways in the morning, so this is our last evening together as a group. The weather has taken a really nasty turn, so the warmth of the pub is even more inviting. When I go in, I see the pub's own resident cat. It does not take me long to become friends with her.
We all order our meals and as we wait, there's a local group that is trying real hard to create some music. I turn to Moff –
“Well, as we say back home about music, if you can't be good, be loud. And they certainly are loud.”
Moff just grins, hatching up a plan of some sort I can tell. We finish our meals and I pass out the mother lode of GooGoos that I have been hauling around for the entire trip. My bags will be somewhat lighter now that I have accomplished that mission. GooGoos are something that are unique to the States and have never been exported to the U.K. to my knowledge. When we finish our meals, Peter presents Guy and me with a memento book, “From Devon With Love”. All of the group has signed the inside cover.
Guy makes a little speech, thanking them for their many kindnesses, and I second his words. Then Moff springs into action to execute his plan. He has talked to the leader of the group, and has set it up for me a play a set. On the spot now, I brush off my failing memory, and come up with a few songs for the assembled crowd.
They don't throw eggs and actually applaud a bit, so I am greatly relieved. The keyboard is shorter than normal and quite springy, but I settle in. I do enjoying playing the keyboard, and this was no exception. After I finish, Hound presents me with a ‘special program' that reads –
“Uncle Phil Derryberry – International Keyboardist at the Blackcock Inn”.
I get a great chuckle out of that one but I guess it is kind of true. Soon I realize that tomorrow will be a long ride into the harrowing streets of London, so I bid farewell to the group and head back to the farmhouse to get some much needed sleep. Guy follows close behind me, in the hopes of getting to sleep before I do, but the best laid plans of mice and men go astray – to borrow a line from Robert Burns. Before he can get the lights out, I'm out like a dead man. The tennis shoe barrage has no effect this evening, so he finally surrenders and heads for the sofa in the parlor. At least one of us will get a good night's sleep again.