United Kingdom 2005
Well, this is the day that marks the beginning of the trip back to London. Everybody knows it's back to the grind of the daily routine after this. Breakfast passes quickly and quietly as we all have to gather up our stuff and get the bikes packed. I go to settle up with the master of YEO for Guy and me, and to my horror find out he does not take credit cards. This is the first time I have encountered this situation along the whole trip. I have purposely run down my cash stash of pounds since we will be leaving the UK shortly. Guy has done the same, so here we stand. As I try to figure out what to do, Tim comes to my rescue –
“Don't worry, I can cover it. You can just settle things up when you get back” he kindly says.
“Man, thanks a bunch, Tim. Just let me know how to get the money to you and I'll do it!”
With that matter settled we all go out to finish up packing the bikes. Moff, who will be guiding us back into London has arrived. He lets me sit on his red ST1100 (just like my RedBird) and once again, I get a little of that homesick feeling.
With everybody packed, we say our last good-byes and Tim, Miss Dot and Hound are on the road.
We ride back to the campground to say our good-byes to the rest of the group. It always amazes me the bond of friendship that happens when people invite you into their lives. We've only been together for a short while, but it's like leaving your best friends behind. Finally Moff tells us –
"Come mates, we need to get along."
One of the last things I really want to see is Stonehenge, and Moff has planned a stop for us on the way into London. Stonehenge is a place that I've seen pictures of and read about, so I'm really excited at seeing it for myself. We follow Moff down the country lanes to A361 in the cool, damp air. Along the way we make a necessary stop and I can't help but notice the view. It is one that could only appear in the UK– a modern Safeway grocery store with an ancient castle turret standing guard in the background.
Soon we make it to M5, a typical British motorway, with Moff in the lead, me following and Guy bringing up the tail. I can tell that Guy is getting cold, so I keep my ever watchful eye out for him. I sure don't want him to crash on the last ride of the last day. About the time we get to Taunton, the rain really begins to pour. Once again I am glad that I packed for the weather, and am sorry that Guy did not. I'm sure his hands are probably freezing and I figure I've got an extra set of raincovers somewhere in my gear. We leave the motorway for A358, then A303 and the traffic picks up. It seems as if London is a traffic magnet that the closer you get, the more cars seem be drawn to it. But before long, we pull into the parking lot of Stonehenge and I am simply delighted.
Moff tells us –
“It used to be open with no fences, and you could walk right in among the stones. But now they charge admission to get in.”
We decide that the lines are long, and really all I want to do is to get a good look at it. We wander over to the fence, where the view is fine. Being my height, it is easy for me to get a great shot over the fence.
I am still amazed to this day how small the whole thing was compared to how big I thought it would be. Somehow in my mind, I got the impression that it covered quite a lot of area and the stones were 50 or so feet tall. It would have fit comfortably in my large front yard and would have been dwarfed by many of the trees on my hills. It is still amazing place to be and to see, and to listen to the various explanations of exactly why and how it was built. But the weather is showing no sign of letting up, so we head back to the bikes. I dig out my raincovers for Guy, and once again live up to why he calls me ‘Uncle' Phil.
We follow Moff as he heads for M3, another motorway. The nice thing about the motorways over here is that there are the excellent service courts along the way. We exit pretty soon to grab a bite of lunch. Guy heads for McDonalds (the last place I would pick), and Moff and I head for the Kentucky Fried Chicken. It ain't quite the same as it is in the homeland, but I already know that McDonalds would be the same tasteless mush (I've eaten at them in several countries) so I figure KFC will work and enjoy the English version. We do our last fuel stop, then it's back out and amongst them. The closer we get to London, the heavier the traffic becomes. Once again, I am very thankful that Moff is guiding us in. Trying to deal with the traffic and find our way back to Brewer's Inn would be a major challenge. Soon we are off the motorway and in the City of London – small streets overflowing with buses, lorries, scooters, bicycles, cars and any other thing that moves under power. Moff starts to ‘filter' (in California you call it lane splitting) and we just follow suit. Just as we squeeze back in, a fire truck comes flying down the street toward us at full tilt. I am just thankful that we got tucked back in before we became an ornament on that shiny red truck! Finally we arrive at Brewer's Inn, thanks to Moff's excellent guidance. We have done over 1800 miles and probably have seen more of the UK that most of the folks that live there. Moff is kind enough to take our picture.
We stash our gear back in our rooms, and grab an outside table so we can spend some last minutes with Moff. We had talked earlier on the trip about him coming over to the US I remind him –
“The Holler Hotel is always open, and you will be more than welcome. And it has been rumored that I know a good road or two …” I say with a grin.
But it's time for him to have to slip back into the real world of work and such, so I give him a last hug and he's off. I tell Guy -
“You know buddy, we can't do a left turn back up the hill to AboutTown. We need to figure out a way to get the bikes back without a bunch of hassle. Let's just wander up the back streets and see if we can figure it out. Besides, the walk will do us good.”
So we strike out and I sort out an easy route around the block that will put us right at the shop without any trouble. Along the way, we see a lady out tending to her very small front yard. This is an area that is mainly rowhouses, much like you would see in Boston. We exchange pleasantries, then I ask her a question –
“As you can tell, we're not from around here. Do you mind if I ask how much would a house like this cost?”
“Well, if you are lucky you inherit one. The houses around here sell for around $1 million pounds.”
I do a quick calculation and my mind does a flip. For a small 2 story rowhouse and a front yard not big enough for my dog, $2 million? Give me my Holler and my 30 acres any day of the week. I thank her and we continue our stroll past the shop and down the hill to the pub. We spend the rest of the evening sorting out our gear and getting packed up for the trip to the airport via bus and train. We do supper in the pub and talk about many things as we usually do – the experiences of this trip, when we might return and just life in general. But it's time to hit the sack, so we finished up and wander back upstairs. Guy flips on the idiot box, but as is my usual custom, I'm out like a light. I know that tomorrow night I'll be sleeping in my own bed in my beloved Holler.