Crossing the Channel: Country Numbers Nine & Ten

May 25-28

Our wi-fi signal for the past several days has been too weak to upload photos, so we finally rode into town today and found a strong enough signal to upload enough photos to do some catching up on the blog. So here goes…

It had rained every night, and a bit during the day, for the past several days, and we once again found ourselves quickly packing up a damp tent to try to beat the rain out of Omaha Beach. Today would be a 250 mile ride to Calais, to catch the Eurotunnel train under the English Channel to England. We ducked in and out of rain clouds all day, and had a bit of wind, though nothing like Croatia. The countryside was mostly green rolling farmland, dotted with the occasional town which inevitably had a large church spire towering over the residents.

We arrived at the entrance to the Eurotunnel train early enough that we were told we could board an earlier train, saving us about an hour of wait time. We proceeded through immigration — due to Brexit, you have to stamp out of France and stamp into the UK before getting on the train — and were directed down to the queue. Glancing up at the board, it became clear that the earlier boarding had already taken place, and we were now lined up in our original time slot. Oh well…what else did we have to do?

The time came, we boarded the train along with about eight other motorcycles, and took our spots. It’s only a 30 minute crossing, and there’s no place to go, so we stood by the bike and chatted with a few other riders until we pulled into Folkestone on the UK side of the English Channel.

We rode another few miles to our Folkestone campsite, which was a nice grassy spot overlooking the channel. We set up next to another rider on a Suzuki V-strom who was from Cambridge and was headed to France the next day to visit family. After stowing our gear, we hopped back on the bike and rode into Folkestone to find a bite to eat. It’s not a big place, and it was maybe 8pm, so most places were closed. We eventually found a Fish & Chips shop which turned out to be quite good.

In the morning we again scrambled to pack during a break in the weather, and headed south towards Southampton. Riding through the small village of Bells Yew Green in Turnbridge Wells, I spotted The Brecknock Arms pub, and decided it was a good time to stop for lunch. While today was only 160 miles, the route was entirely on narrow hedge-lined roads through small villages, and took all day.

I took a photo of a couple of sayings scrawled on a blackboard inside the pub, but I’m going to keep it and add it to a “British Humour” blog post coming up in a day or two.

We stopped at the Tesco in Lymington for gas and supplies, and so I could use the restroom (gotta get used to saying “loo”). Finding the loo out of service, I told Diana to go ahead and do the shopping and I would ride to the next petrol station to find a working toilet and be right back.

Easier said than done. According to the GPS, the next petrol station, a Shell, was 3.5 miles away. When I arrived there, I found a chain link fence around an empty lot, the station having been completely torn down and under new construction. So I check for the next petrol station on the GPS, which turned out to be another nine miles away. Too far! I entered the coordinates for our campground, and found it was less than a mile. So I selected that route, and was steered down a dead end road to the local garbage dump. Enough already! A quick dip off the side of the road and into the trees…

Twenty minutes later, I returned to pick up Diana and the groceries, and again entered the coordinates for the campground. Since we were coming at it from a different direction this time, it took us a slightly different way, avoiding the dead-end garbage dump road. This time we navigated down a small road to a gated foot path, where Garmin announced “You Have Arrived!”.


I pulled my phone out of my pocket and entered the coordinates into Google Maps, which said I needed to go another two hundred yards to the entrance to the campground. Amazingly, as soon as I hit “Go” on my phone’s directions, the GPS switched to the same location and told me to ride another 200 yards down the road.

So helpful, Garmin. Glad you could get it right, with the help of a mobile phone.

We checked in and were told to pick any spot in any of the three large fields. In order to gain some shelter from the wind, we chose a spot along a large hedgerow, which is what the other campers were doing.

This is one of three huge grass fields that during the summer would be packed with motorhomes, travel trailers, and tents. But we’re here early, before the season really starts. So we picked a spot up against the hedge with the other four campers. That’s our tent in the middle.

We enjoyed dinner on a picnic table that happened to placed between two buildings just enough to block the wind. While cooking dinner, a car pulled up and a woman jumped out and rushed up to Diana and said “Reception?”.

Reception had closed an hour or so earlier.

A bit confused, Diana replied, “It’s up at the entrance.”

“I know that”, the woman said. “I need gas (propane) for our caravan.”

Diana just shrugged and said “Sorry”, as we had no idea where she could get a bottle of propane at 9pm in Lymington. The woman was obviously upset that Diana wouldn’t get up and go get her a propane bottle. She eventually huffed loudly and said, “Well!” and stormed back to her husband and their car.

We have no idea why the woman mistook an American tourist in a campground for an employee, but it was amusing nonetheless.

The next morning (Friday) we rode a short ten miles to the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum. Sammy Miller was a motorcycle racer, primarily in the 60s and 70s, who competed in both roadracing and trials events, and won a huge number of races and championships. Sammy is in his late 80s now, and still putters around the museum and workshop. He has a tremendous collection of motorcycles, many with historical significance, and several early British marques that even I had never heard of.

Sammy Miller’s Motorcycle Museum, Tea Room, and Crafts Stores. A nice little stop that I’ve tried multiple times to reach, and finally made it.

A small number of the regional, national and international championship trophies that Sammy Miller won over his career. There are three or four of these cases full of silver cups.

There are way too many interesting motorcycles here to show even a small percentage of them, so I’m just going to pick a couple. This one is a 1935 Scott Inline Three Cylinder, 1000cc Two Stroke. Not something you see every day. Or ever.

1912 Verdel 5-Cylinder radial 750cc. Looks like an airplane engine.

After an hour or so at the museum we headed towards Bristol and then just north, cutting in and out of Wales to claim our 10th country of the trip, to Lydney, a small village about half way between Bristol and Gloucester. Once again, we found that it didn’t seem to matter if we were going 50 miles or 350 miles in a day, the amount of time required to cover the distance was always about the same. In this case, it took us two hours to go sixteen miles through Bristol. (At least it wasn’t raining — finally!). Afterwards, we learned that a combination of it being a holiday (“mid-terms” — sort of the equivalent of our Spring Break) and a nearby Ed Sheeran concert caused a huge backup of traffic on the motorways, mostly because they don’t have overpasses on the motorways here; they use roundabouts — the larger ones with traffic lights — which at a certain level of traffic becomes sheer chaos and stopped.

Sheephouse Camping would be our base for the next several days. I had an appointment at the local Yamaha dealer Saturday morning for an oil change, something I normally do myself, but disposing of the waste oil is a bit more of a problem here than many other places. So Saturday we were up early and headed back into Bristol. Fowler’s Yamaha is also a dealer for just about every other brand of motorcycle, and is so large that the first two floors are full of bikes and accessories, and the third floor is KTM on one side and Harry’s Cafe on the other side. We had a great Full English breakfast at Harry’s while waiting on the bike, and by 10am we were looping all over Bristol in search of Banksy street art.

Banksy’s “Girl with a Pierced Eardrum”, a take on Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. Note that the “earring” is an alarm siren on the building, hence the pierced eardrum.

This small Banksy piece is on the front wall of a house. Called “Rose in a Mousetrap”, it has been framed to protect it from vandalism.

“The Mild Mild West” is an early Banksy piece poking fun at the police’s attack on local rave parties.

“Well Hung Lover” was vandalized a few years ago by some idiot with a paintball gun, but is still one of the more popular Banksy pieces in Bristol.

After scouring the city for several hours in search of Banksy art that either had been covered over or had been removed and preserved or removed and auctioned off, we headed back to the campground for another evening.

Unhappy with The Queen’s Show, but happy with the Queen show.

May 29-May 31, 2022

I was startled awake at 5am on Sunday morning by Diana saying “Oh Sh*t!”

“What’s wrong?”, I asked sitting up suddenly in the tent.

“Look at this!” she said, and handed me her phone.

For the past two years, we had made plans to attend the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll Festival after watching a documentary on Netflix called We Are The Champions. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch. Every year on the Monday after the last weekend in May, the event is held in Brockworth, outside of Gloucester, at the steepest grass-covered hill short of a cliff that you can imagine. Contestants line up at the top of the hill, and a large wheel of cheese is rolled down the hill, after which the contestants run, tumble, fly, spin, flop and otherwise crash to the bottom of the hill chasing the cheese. No one actually catches it; the person that manages to fling the remains of their body across the finish line at the bottom first wins, and the wheel of cheese is awarded to them as the trophy, sometimes in the hospital, hopefully not post-humously. It’s incredibly entertaining to watch, but very painful to experience for many.

Well, in our case, after watching the movie, we immediately looked it up and put it on our calendar, and booked three nights at the Sheephouse Campsite to cover our time in both Bristol and Gloucester. We also booked a house sit in Manchester to begin the evening after the Cheese Roll.

Until the morning before the Cheese Roll, when Diana looked it up again. For the first time in history, they had decided to postpone the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Festival for one week due to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration. At which time we would be on the Isle of Man.


Oh well. Congratulations to the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee. But please don’t mess with my Cheese Rolling Festival again.

No Cheese Rolling Festival for us this year. (Post Note: Here’s a video I found with some clips from this year’s Cheese Roll:

I texted our homeowner in Manchester where we were supposed to arrive the next day to sit her two cats for a couple of days. She needed to leave early the next morning, and agreed that it would be great if we could arrive a day early to meet the cats and learn the routines. We packed up and said our goodbyes to Tim and Miriam, the owners at Sheephouse, and headed north, in and out of the rain. It was an unexpected 230 mile day, but less traffic than in Bristol, so not too bad.

We arrived at our house sit in Failsworth, Manchester and met Jen, the homeowner, and two great cats, Luna and Neville. Luna was much more open and curious, quickly making friends. Neville was very shy, and spent his time under Jen’s bedcovers. For two days we would check on the lump in the bed, raise the covers and have a chat, and leave him some food next to the bed, which he quickly devoured once alone.

Luna. Great cat to just hang out with.

Luna liked to hang out in the window and watch both outside and inside.

She also liked to lay on my riding jacket, with a “I always do this” look.

It was Sunday night, and we needed to find some dinner. The grocery stores were all closed, as were most of the restaurants. We found a Chinese Food take-away place that was cash only. At this point we still didn’t have any cash, but fortunately there was an ATM at the end of the shopping center, so I grabbed some cash and walked back to the Chinese place. We ordered some food, and when it was ready, we took the bag and went outside to sit on the short wall and eat (the place is take-away only, just a counter to order, pay and pick up your food). While outside, the woman who took our order came out and said “What are you doing? My husband saw you out here on the video camera. Come inside!”. We walked back in, and her husband appeared from the kitchen with a small table and passed it over the counter. There were two chairs at the end of the counter and they made a small dining area for us. Other customers — clearly regulars — came in and looked at us quizzically, as if to say, “We never get to eat here.” One even pointed to the table and said “All you need is a little candle in the middle!”.

Time Gap. Highly recommended. Be sure to call ahead to reserve the only table, which is usually leaning against the wall in the kitchen.

The food is nothing special really, just good chinese take-out. But it’s extra tasty when you’ve been cold and wet all day.

In a cheap Chinese take-away, in a small Manchester suburb, another great memory was made.

The following evening, we had another coincidental event. We had watched another documentary before leaving home on the rock band Queen with Adam Lambert as their “new” frontman. We thought it would be great to see them in England, but when we checked on tickets in London, we found that this was a concert that was delayed since 2020 due to Covid, and the tickets had been sold out for two years. So I wrote it off and didn’t think about it again, until we booked the house sit in Manchester. For some reason, I happened to look at the concert dates again, and found that they were doing two shows in Manchester, and one of them corresponded to when we would be there. A quick search for tickets found that a few upper level seats could be had, and we quickly grabbed two.

So on our second night in Manchester, we took the train from Failsworth to Victoria Station and had dinner at an incredible Indian Street Food place called Mowgli. Small plates of tapas-style dishes that will forever change my view of “Indian Food”. I’m missing it already.

These are called Yoghurt Chat Bombs. They are crisp bread puffs filled with chickpeas, spiced yogurt, tamarind, coriander and mint. When you bite into them, they explode in your mouth. I could eat a couple dozen of these. One of the best things I’ve had in a long time.

The rest of our meal at Mowgli.

After dinner, we walked back to AO Arena, which sits directly above Victoria Station, and watched Queen with Adam Lambert perform their greatest hits for two and a half hours straight. Much of the audience was our age or older, but everyone was a true fan, and at times the entire arena was singing louder than Adam Lambert. It was a great event.

Visiting Rock and Roll History in Liverpool

June 2, 2022

Jen returned home to Luna and Neville, and we headed the short 40 miles to Liverpool for the night. The next morning we hopped on the Magical Mystery Tour bus for a two hour tour of historical sites related to The Beatles. Our tour guide Neil was humorous and very informative. We saw Ringo’s birthplace and childhood homes, George’s childhood home, John’s childhood home, Paul’s childhood home, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, the Cavern Club, and more.

George Harrison’s childhood home at 12 Arnold Grove. This house was bought a couple of years ago by a US fan who has turned it into a B&B rental.

One end of Penny Lane, at Greenbank Road. At the other end the road changes names, and that’s where the bus shelter and barber shop from the song are located. Even though it isn’t technically on Penny Lane, it sounds better than “On Smithdown Place there is a barber showing photographs”.

This Penny Lane sign is about a hundred yards up from the Greenbank Road end. It’s almost gone now, but just below the Peace symbol is where Paul McCartney autographed the sign during an episode of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke.

Not a great photo, as it’s taken through the screen from inside the bus, but this bus shelter is where The Boys would meet as it was sort of a central location for them to catch the bus into downtown Liverpool. The bus shelter has been rebuilt since, but it is quite literally “in the middle of the roundabout”. We looked behind it, but couldn’t find a nurse selling poppies.

This is the barber shop from Penny Lane. Although the name has changed, the interior still has photos of the boys getting haircuts. Note it even says Penny Lane on the window, although it’s actually a block north of where Penny Lane changes to Smithdown Place.

Strawberry Fields was a Children’s Home when John Lennon wrote the song. It still belongs to the Salvation Army. The iconic gates have been replaced with painstakingly accurate detailed replicas.>

This is Paul’s childhood home at 20 Forthlin Road. Paul wrote over 100 songs in this house by the time he had turned 19, and the band rehearsed in the living room. Paul’s mother died when he was 14 years old, and he later had a dream in which his mother appeared and calmed his fears by telling him “Let it be”. Suddenly I understood the lyrics to the song much better.

The Cavern Club. Made ultra-famous by The Beatles, but many, many other bands have played here also.

After the tour was over, we loaded up again and headed north, another sixty five miles to Morecambe, which is on the coast just a few miles north of Heysham, where our ferry to the Isle of Man will leave from. We checked into our two bedroom apartment on the third floor of a typical British row house, and waited for two of our Polish friends, brothers Marcin and Lukasz, to arrive. They had left Poland just three days earlier, riding long days across Europe to meet up with us.

Marcin, Pat, & Diana across from our place for the night in Morecambe, just north of the Heysham Ferry Terminal.

They pulled up about 8pm, and we helped them unload and relax for a few minutes before heading out to a Wetherspoons, which Lukasz described as “McDonalds for Alcoholics”.

Wetherspoons has a ton of locations all over England, with a large food menu, and reasonable prices on food and drinks. Lukasz calls it “McDonalds for Alcoholics”. We drank to that. And no, this is not our table, but the one next to us. We ran out of room on our table…LOL.

A Bit of Humour

June 8, 2022

Time for a quick travel break (and a bit out of order) to insert a random post with humorous photos. Some of these are intentional British humour (intentionally spelled the British way), and others are amusing solely because we’re American, and find it funny even if the Brits don’t.

This may be a lot more common here (and Ireland) than some are willing to admit. But obviously others aren’t hesitant to point it out.

Just a couple of sayings off the board in the Brecknock Pub

“Guacamole?” Just call it what it is. I’m still not sure about the “1 of your 5 a Day = 1/2 of a Pot” thing.

They’re serious about hand sanitization here.

There are several Wildlife or Safari Parks around; the one near Liverpool is called Knowsley Safari. So while in Liverpool, we hid in the bushes beside the road for over an hour trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive hybrid Humped Zebra that’s known to be seen crossing the road here. Then someone explained that the crosswalks are Zebra Crossings, and since this one is raised like a wide speed bump, it’s a Humped Zebra Crossing. Now I want to paint a camel black and white just to prove them wrong.

They are REALLY serious about their hand sanitization here.

Isle of Man TT

June 3-10, 2022

We left Morecambe early in the morning for a ten minute ride to the Heysham Steampacket Terminal, headed to Douglas on the Isle of Man for the annual TT motorcycle races. We and Lukasz, Marcin, Michal (another friend from Poland), and Glen (from Australia) had planned this trip for 2020, but of course Covid canceled that. Glen and I had actually bought motorcycles in Ireland in 2020 in preparation for the trip; the last I heard, Glen’s bike is still sitting in Ireland (he’s never even seen it in person) since he wasn’t able to be here with us in 2022. I was lucky enough that the dealer/distributor in Ireland was nice enough to refund my purchase price since the bike hadn’t even come out of the crate yet, and was in high demand. Our ferry tickets rolled over from 2020 to 2021, which then rolled over again to 2022 when the 2021 races were also canceled. Unfortunately our lodging reservation did not roll over, and we were left to find alternative lodging for 2022, which can be difficult in a normal year for the TT, as most lodging is reserved two to three years out.

It rained during the night, and we awoke to light rain. We packed and rode to the terminal, where we joined the queue to check in; there were several hundred bikes ahead of us, along with a few cars and a couple of dozen bicyclists and pedestrians. While sitting in line, the rain picked up. By the time we check in and lined up in one of five lines of motorcycles to board, it was raining fairly hard. We sat in line in the rain for just over two hours before finally boarding the ferry. Everyone was still in a good mood, as this is normal weather in England, so nobody was really surprised. Somehow we checked in ahead of Marcin and Lukasz, but they lined up in a different line, and ended up boarding long before us. We were actually one of the last twelve or so motorcycles to get on the ship.

Waiting in line to check in at the ferry, before the rain got heavy.

On board the ferry, headed to Douglas. This is one third of the width of the bikes in the ferry, plus the second level (you can see more bikes upstairs on the right). There are usually between 350 and 500 bikes on this ferry per crossing.

We docked in Douglas about two and a half hours later and rode straight to our campground in Laxey, just north of Douglas. We would camp here for the next seven nights; Lukasz and Marcin would stay five nights before heading back to England and Wales to meet Michal and his family at a friend’s place in Cardiff. We set up our tents on the Laxey Association Football Club’s pitch, then rode up to Creg-ny-Baa to watch the Supersport qualifying.

Tents cover the Laxey Football pitch. Our home for seven nights.

The pub and restaurant at Creg-ny-Baa is a great place to view the races. They have grandstands set up entering and exiting the corner also.

Panoramic shot of the corner at Creg-ny-Baa. Riders come down the hill, round the corner in maybe 2nd gear, then accelerate all the way to top speed down the straight towards Douglas.

Saturday was the first day of races, and we headed to Douglas to watch the morning Superbike race from the Grandstand area. Diana and I excused ourselves for a bit of the morning as we had an appointment in Douglas for the past two years that was finally happening…

Simon was a riot, and we had a great time at Manx Tattoo. You can tell from Diana’s expression just how painful it was.

Diana’s first tattoo. She’s very happy with it.

The Isle of Man has been a special place to me for a while now, and the country’s triskelion emblem on their flag is very identifiable with the Manx.

Afterwards we met up with Marcin and Lukasz at the Grandstand in time to watch Peter Hickman win the Superbike race. For those who may be reading this that aren’t familiar with the TT, it’s a 37.7 mile course run on public roads around the northern half of the island. The roads are closed to public transportation during the race obviously, as riders reach speeds of just under 200mph. It takes the top riders about 17 minutes to cover the 37.7 miles, averaging over 130 miles per hour through small villages, past stone walls, and over the mountain back down into Douglas. Coming from the point of view of a former roadracer (on tracks, not streets), it’s terrifying just to ride the roads at normal speeds and think about what these guys are seeing (and not seeing) as they fly past at three to four times the normal speed limit.

Over 40,000 people attended this years TT. A large percentage of them are on motorcycles. The races are typically run every other day (Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday), and usually begin between 11am and noon. Spectators begin lining up alongside the road before 7am to claim their favorite viewing spot. The roads are closed an hour before the races begin, and open again after the last race ends. This means that, for the most part, you pick your spot for the day and stay put. There are ways around between locations but it’s still best to plan your day; we did one day “inside” the course, and a couple of days “outside” the course. However, in the process of moving between spots inside the course, we discovered that there is a way “under” the course at one point that allowed us to get “outside” while the course was closed.

Unfortunately, the Saturday afternoon sidecar race was canceled before the first lap was completed when a French team crashed just beyond the start, killing the driver (it was originally reported that the passenger had died, but it has since been changed to indicate that it was the driver that died, with the passenger suffering severe injuries). This was the second fatality this year, as a rider was killed earlier the prior week during qualifying. This is a terribly dangerous event, and all of these riders know it going in. The race has been run for well over 100 years now, and is still incredibly popular. Michael Dunlop, one of the top riders now with 20 race wins, has lost his father, his grandfather, and his uncle to this racing. No one understands the cost more than he does.

We spent most of Sunday wandering around Douglas, visiting the pit area and the vendors. The sidecar race was shortened and rescheduled for Monday afternoon, and the other races on Monday were also shortened by one lap to make room for the added race. In the evening, Lukasz & Marcin magically produced a bottle of Soplica (a Polilsh quince liquor), and Maciej, our chef from the campground (the Laxey Football Club provided breakfast and dinner at an extra charge), who also happens to be from Poland, joined us for a round of shots.

Maciej (everyone calls him “Magic”) prepared some great meals for us and the other campers at Laxey AFC camping during TT week. When he found out there were two guys from Poland camping there, they struck up a conversation, and by the end of the week, we all left as new friends. In fact, Magic invited us to stay with his family when we are in Poland.

On Monday we rode to Ballaugh Bridge before the roads closed, and watched the morning Supersport race from there. Riders here scream down the road from Kirkmichael, slowing as they approach the humped bridge, then leap across the bridge (on roadracing bikes!), landing well clear of the bridge and accelerating hard again.

As we parked our bikes for the morning race, a woman walked out of the house beside us, and nicely mentioned that we shouldn’t block the farmland access drive next to her house. I asked if she was Kenny’s wife. She looked startled and said “Yes”.

Six years ago I had met Kenny at Ballaugh Bridge. He is a course marshall here. Kenny is 80 years old now, and has been a course marshall for the TT since 1958.

This photo of Kenny and me was taken in 2016 when I was here on my 250. I saw Kenny from a distance this year, but due to some changes to the spectator area at Ballaugh I wasn’t able to get to him to say hi or take another photo.

I joked to Kenny’s wife that she could expect me for lunch, as six years ago Kenny told me that he lived so close that he could walk home for lunch between races.

We watched Michael Dunlop win his 20th TT race, then rode up the mountain via the backroads to watch the sidecar race from Snaefell.

These guys go by so fast that I just got really lucky and caught the Birchall brothers, winners of the sidecar race, with Marcin in this photo on top of the mountain.

The last race of the day was the Superstock race, and we rode back down to Douglas to watch from Bray Hill. Unfortunately, the race was postponed for a couple of hours, so we decided to ride back to camp, then up to Creg-ny-Baa via the backroad and watch the Superstock race from there.

As Tuesday was an off day for the races, we did a “tour” of the island, first visiting the Fairy Bridge…

This small bridge is known as the Fairy Bridge, and local folklore says that you should always greet the fairies as you cross it. TT Racers have taken to crossing the bridge and greeting the fairies for good luck, but others have taken to placing tributes and memorials to lost loved ones at the bridge.

Then riding the course up to Ballaugh, and veering up to Jurby to the Motor Museum.

There’s a bit of everything in the Manx Motor Museum.

A wall of motorcycles. There are also two elevated platforms full of early motorcycles. Below them are everything from a Japanese funeral hearse and flower cars, to military vehicles, and…

Even an unmanned space capsule.

Displayed inside the capsule are three Haynes Repair Manuals, for owners of Saturn V rockets, NASA Space Shuttles, and Lunar Rovers. I assume that, like other Haynes manuals, they give you suggestions on how to get around using the factory-required special tools, substituting things like 2×4’s and baling wire.

In the parking lot of the museum we spotted this bike from Italy. Where we carry water bottles on the back of our panniers, this one had a large bottle of wine. And why not? It’s cheaper than water there! (The bike also had three helmets locked to it on the right side; I’m hoping this was just doing a friend a favor, and not three adults on it, but hey…Italian.

We left the museum and took the backroads to Ramsey, where we again jumped on the TT course and rode up and across the mountain. Leaving Ramsey the road is limited to one-way traffic on the mountain, and there is no speed limit, even for those with no common sense on the wrong type of motorcycle. Sport bikes were passing us at well into triple digit speeds, while we rode along at a modest 75 to 80 miles per hour. It’s common for the local authorities to close the mountain road several times during the off-days in order to pick up the pieces and riders who exceed their skill levels. One gentleman from Germany in our campground joined that group. Fortunately he was not badly injured, but what’s left of his bike will be going back to Germany on a pallet.

Over our last TT dinner together at a small local Italian restaurant just down from our campground, we already started discussing plans to meet back at the Isle of Man for the 2024 TT Races.

It rained most of the night Tuesday night, and Marcin and Lukasz packed up early Wednesday morning to catch the ferry back to Heysham. We said goodbye in between rain storms. Due to weather, only one race was completed on Wednesday, with the second Supersport race postponed until noon on Thursday. Then it rained again Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and the race was again postponed. So that’s all the racing we’ll see this year.

Tomorrow morning we catch the ferry back to Heysham, and will spend the day riding the Yorkshire Dales before heading south to meet up with Michal and family in Wales on Saturday.

Here’s something you don’t see everywhere: Trust. In two different locations in the campground, people just plug in their phones, tablets, and computers to charge them, and walk away, leaving them for the day/evening.

UPDATE: Sadly, we learned that a father/son sidecar team were both killed in the Friday sidecar race. This brought the total death toll of 2022 TT racers to five.

Tan Hill, The Cat & Fiddle, and Snowdonia

June 10-12

On the last evening at the Isle of Man, we caught the electric tram from Laxey into Douglas and wandered the promenade for a bit.

One big difference between June at home and June on the Isle of Man: it’s 55 degrees F here and damp. Diana doesn’t do cold well.

We rode the electric tram from Laxey to Douglas. I wish I had thought to take a photo of the actual one we rode, because it was Car Number 1, built in 1893. It and Car Number 2 are registered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest trams in the world still in operation on their original lines.

They’ve obviously been restored but are very accurate to their original build.

On the Promenade in Douglas is this life-size bronze statue of the three Gibb brothers, or the Bee Gees. I’ve always thought of them as Australian, but it turns out they were all three born on the Isle of Man.

We caught the last tram back to Laxey and had a few hours sleep before packing our tent and gear at 3:30am Friday morning, as we had to check in for the ferry at 4:30am. At least it wasn’t raining this time, although everything was covered with a heavy dew.

We made it to the ferry and lined up with a couple of hundred other motorcycles. The boarding process was a bit smoother than a week ago, and we were able to grab a couple of seats and settle in before the ferry even left port. Since things were going smoothly, I decided to beat the crowds and get some breakfast.

Then the ferry left port. And things got interesting.

I was still standing in line when we left the harbor for open water. This was my third round trip on the ferry to the Isle of Man, but the first in heavy seas. We were all suddenly grabbing for seatbacks, rails on the walls, other people, anything we could find to remain standing. I made it to the breakfast bar, put the food on the tray, and managed to more or less hold two cups of coffee under the dispenser. Now the real challenge: using both hands to hold the tray, the plate of food, and two cups of coffee while dancing back and forth across the aisle, intermittently running forward between the left- and right-rolls of the ship, trying to end up against a wall rather than in someone’s lap when the ship started rolling the other way. I somehow made it back to our seats intact and without wearing breakfast. By this time Diana was looking a bit green and wasn’t really interested in food any more. I sat down about the time the cabin employees began passing out the barf bags. I noticed a lot of people moving quickly towards the toilets and towards the exit door to the outer rails of the ship.

Oh well…time for breakfast!

The seas settled down after the first hour or so, and we arrived in Heysham around 8:30am. Most riders disembarked and headed straight for the motorways to get home. I had other plans. We headed to the Yorkshire Dales to ride a loop that I had found online…some great twisty roads into high meadows and grassy hills, lots of sheep, over Buttertubs Pass and eventually to the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England at 1732 feet above sea level.

It’s hard to concentrate on the roads with this scenery.

Nothing on top of this mountain besides the Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest pub. They serve an excellent burger.

From the Tan Hill Inn we rode back down to Hawes and then past the Ribblehead Viaduct to Cragg Hill Farm, a working sheep farm where we camped for the night.

Ribblehead Viaduct

The next morning we were headed to Wales to meet up with our friends Michal and Patrycza and their daughter Roza, from Poland. They had driven their SUV with a pop-up tent on top to Wales to visit another friend and meet up with us. I can’t remember if I’ve told the story about how we met before, so here’s a quick version:

In 2014, before leaving on my first round-the-world ride, I met an Australian couple, Glen and Leeanne. They were riding North America on a Triumph Tiger, and they had invited me to camp with them in Llano, Texas as a way of showing me their gear and setup to give me some ideas for my own trip. While camped on the bank of the Llano River that night, two other motorcycles pulled in and set up camp next to us. The next morning, I noticed the two late arrivals had odd license plates, and I asked where they were from. It turns out Michal and Lukasz were from Poland, and were touring the United States in one-month sessions; each year they would take their vacation time, fly to the States, and pick up their bikes where they had left them the year before. They had been from Chicago to Alaska to Southern California and were now headed to Florida on the third summer of their travels.

There’s a lot more to this story, and I’ll fill in more details in a later post, but this is basically how I met Lukasz and Michal, and later Patrycza (“Pati”), Lukasz’ brother Marcin, and Marcin’s wife Ela.

So, fast-forward back to today. I had another destination in mind and more twisty road riding to do before heading to Wales, so we left Cragg Hill Farm in Horton-in-Ribbelsdale and headed south. I had fully intended to spend a few hours riding the scenic, narrow, twisty backroads of the area, but before I realized it, our GPS had directed me to the M60 motorway and straight towards Manchester. In the end, we did get to ride about ten miles of good road up to the Cat & Fiddle Inn.

The Cat & Fiddle is another “destination” spot for bikers due to the roads leading to it. There are definitely better roads to get there than the way we went, but we did get to enjoy some of it. The place was fully booked this day, so we got some take-away coffee and muffins and stood behind the building and out of the wind with the others. While the Tan Hill Inn is the highest pub in England, the Cat & Fiddle, which is about 33 feet lower in elevation, is the highest distillery in England.

The wind was blowing fairly steady and it was about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but seemed colder. We headed back down to the motorway and continued on toward Snowdonia National Park in Wales. This is a beautiful area, with lush green hills, some covered in nothing but grass, while other areas are heavily forested and with clear streams. We met up with Michal, Pati and Roza at Bryn Tyrch Campsite outside Capel Curig in Betws-y-Coed. (Yes, I’m listing all these names because the Welsh language looks and sounds so strange to us. All of the signs here are in Welsh first, and English second, and there is no similarity to any of the words.)

Our campsite the first night in Wales with the Soroko family.

In case you were wondering about the wording on Michal’s slide-out kitchen drawer in the back of his SUV, Michal, Lukasz, and Marcin are part of a well-known AC/DC tribute band in Poland called Jary.

The next morning we rode a couple of miles up the road to a staging point to hike up Mount Snowdon. You know your country has a serious hiking/trekking problem when the parking lots in the middle of nowhere require advance reservations. I dropped Diana off with Pati and Roza and followed Michal back down to a lower point to find a place to park his SUV, then ferried him back up to the staging area where we were able to find enough room to tuck the bike into a parking space that wasn’t really a parking space.

Looking down the valley on our hike up the hill to Snowdon.

The trail is mostly a climb over boulder steps, and 5-year-old Roza handled it with ease. We hiked a little over two hours up, had lunch, and headed back. On the way down, hikers headed up were congratulating Roza on a job well done. She’s pretty amazing for her age. Michal and Pati spend a lot of time with her outdoors, hiking and riding bicycles.

Five year olds tend to have a lot of energy, so a little off-trail extra rock climbing is no big deal.

This was our first time to meet Roza, or Rosie as she’s called in English. Michal spends a lot of time speaking to her in English, and Pati in Polish, and she responds likewise. She learned much of her English by watching Peppa Pig on television, so she speaks English with a British accent, though it wasn’t as noticeable while we were together as it seemed a year ago when we were video-chatting on Skype. Michal says that’s because she’s now watching Paw Patrol. This was Rosie’s first time interacting with native-English speakers, and Michal and Pati weren’t sure how she would do. We were concerned that she might be too shy around us to feel comfortable speaking English. It turns out none of us had anything to worry about; she took right to us and her English was great.

More of Cymru

June 13, 2022

Cymru, is how Wales is spelled in Welsh. You figure it out. I can’t.

After our hike, we moved about a half hour north towards Conwy, to one of the nicest campsites — if not the nicest — that we’ve experienced in the past six weeks. While the camping pitch at Cfen Cae Campsite is typical for Europe, in that it’s just a large grass field and you pick a spot to pitch your tent, the barn was anything but typical. The washrooms (another British term for bathroom) were like a nice full bath in your home: nice shower, toilet and sink all in one fairly large room. And there were four of five of these. And they looked like they were built yesterday and cleaned a few minutes ago. Also in the barn (yes, it really was the old stone barn, but converted) was a washer and dryer, a microwave and kettle, sinks for dish washing (including liquid soap and sponges), and a full “honesty shop” with everything from sundries to food and drinks. Many of these niceties were available in the campground on the Isle of Man as well, so perhaps it’s just how nice and clean and new looking everything was that made it special.

Some of the Honesty Shop items for sale in the old barn at Cfen Cae Campsite. On the left is a fridge full of water, soft drinks (“fizzy drinks” here), cheese, butter, yogurt, etc.

Once again, how well do you think this would work in most places around home? Yes, there are definitely areas of the States where you could do this. It’s just refreshing to see it.

The midges (small, incredibly pesky gnat-like insects) were also non-existent here; they were pretty bad at our last camp. It wasn’t cheap, at £20, but then most official European campsites aren’t. Still, it’s a lot cheaper than a hotel room, and with more amenities than many hotels.

The next morning we packed up and rode to Conwy, a small walled city on the northern coast of Wales. It’s known as Britain’s best-preserved medieval town. We walked around the town on top of the wall, then dropped down to the harbor for a walk along the shore.

A view of the Conwy Castle from atop the old city wall. The castle, and the 1300 feet of walls, were built in just four years, from 1283 to 1287.

In Conwy, along the harbor, is the smallest house in Great Britain. It measures six feet across by ten feet deep by ten feet high, and has a bedroom on the second floor and a living area and modest kitchen area downstairs. It was lived in during the 19th century but the city deemed it unfit for habitation in 1900 and it has been a tourist attraction since not long after that.

We left Conwy and headed north towards Chester, England, which was founded as a Roman fortress in the 1st Century AD. It’s known for its’ Roman walls made of local red sandstone. We took our time riding smaller roads from Conwy to Chester, and arrived fairly late in the afternoon, so we didn’t see much of the town. Michal and family had arrived earlier and unloaded their bicycles to ride into town. We arrived at the campground and set up camp beside them. While standing around waiting to pay the owner of the horse farm for camping, a gentleman approached us and asked about the bike. We ended up having a great conversation with Donald and his wife Yvonne. Donald is from Scotland, with that great accent, and Yvonne is originally from Brazil, but has been in Scotland long enough to have also acquired the brogue. They recently bought a home in the Chester area to be closer to their son, and are living in their RV while the home is being remodeled. We could have talked with them for hours. Part of what we enjoy most about traveling the way we do is meeting people like Donald and Yvonne.

Diana with Donald and Yvonne. This is what traveling is truly about!

Tomorrow we head to London for a couple of days.

One-Day Tour of London on a Budget

June 16, 2022

I’m not a fan of big cities. I managed to avoid nearly all of them in the year I rode around the world. But we were about to skirt London and had a couple of days, so we decided to do a quick sight-seeing tour.

There is nothing cheap in big cities, especially when it comes to tourism. Our budget doesn’t allow for nice hotels. As I’ve said many times, every dollar we save today means we can continue traveling for another day. If we over-spend now, our trip comes to an early end, which neither of us want.

So here’s where we compromise: in order to see the sights of an expensive place like London, we stay in very modest lodging. For example, the Holiday Inn in Regent’s Park, London is £417 a night ($515.00) right now. That’s two weeks worth of camping.

We subscribe to the “we’re only sleeping there” idea, which means as long as the room is clean (and the bike is safe), it will do. That’s how we ended up at the Bridge Park Hotel in London. This place has without a doubt seen better days, and it’s sort of a mix of hotel and hostel. You can get a room with a shared bath down the hall for £66, or you can get a room with a private bath for £75. Even cheaper on certain days. There’s no lift (elevator). The paint isn’t pretty, and the furniture is dated. But the bed and bath are clean, and there’s a relatively safe parking area for the bike.There’s also an attached bar and kitchen with some decent food. The neighborhood might look a bit rough, but a lot of London does.

We said goodbye to the Sorokos in Chester, and headed to London. The hotel ended up being not far from Wembley Stadium, which with its large arch is an easy landmark. We checked in, carried our gear to the room, and walked to lunch before laying out a plan for the following morning.

I didn’t realize how close our hotel was to the Ace Cafe until we started looking on Google Maps for a place to eat lunch. It turned out to be a one mile walk. For those not familiar, the Ace Cafe is a historic place for motorcyclists, as this was basically a truck stop on the outer Ring Road of London in the 1950s and the Rockers would gather here on their motorcycles at night.

The Ace Cafe was closed for a time, then bought and restored and re-opened as a motorcycle gathering spot.

Center left: 2RideTheGlobe joins the legend of the Ace Cafe.

The next day we were up early and walked to the Underground to catch the train to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard. Since the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee had just recently taken place, they were still in the process of tearing everything down from that celebration, which made accessing the front of Buckingham Palace a little more tricky. We ended up standing at the fence across the street, as the crowds had already filled the area directly in front of the palace. This limited our view of the actual events, though we did get to see the Old Guard and the New Guard march in.

This was as close as we got to Buckingham Palace. You can see the crowds in front of the main fence. There were actually more crowds behind us as well.

The New Guard marching in.

After the Changing of the Guard, we left Buckingham Palace and headed down the street to Westminster Abbey. This is a fairly pricey tour ticket, but the place is huge and the sights inside the Abbey are worth it, in my opinion. Westminster Abbey was built between 1042 and 1745, with most of the construction taking place in the 1500s. Not only is the architecture impressive, but the list of people entombed there, along with the amazing artwork of the tombs themselves, is impressive. The number of Kings, Queens, and other Royals and VIPS that are resting here is amazing, but I’ll let Diana tell that story on the Facebook or Instagram site.

Approaching Westminster Abbey.

Impressive architecture

Detail of the ceiling.

Poet’s Corner. Not all of these people are buried here. Some just have stones to memorialize them.

This one is actually buried here.

After a couple of hours at the Abbey, we headed across the street for a quick view of the Palace of Westminster, or England’s Parliament building. There was a lot of scaffolding and construction going on, so no photos, but we did snap a quick photo of Big Ben at the end of the building.

How many million times has this photo been taken?

Then it was a bit further up the street to Trafalgar Square for a view of the fountains and sculptures on display there.

Trafalgar Square

This was a bit bizarre. The other columns had famous military people on horseback atop them. This one had a large ice cream with a cherry on top, and on the back of the ice cream was a giant fly, while on the front was a giant drone. The drone actually broadcasts a live video feed.

After Trafalgar, we hopped back on the Underground for a quick ride to Kings Cross, where, as any nerd knows, is where Platform 9 3/4 is located. We arrived at Platform 7, and not far away, was…

The line of children, teenagers, and adults waiting to have this photo taken was probably 50 people long.

And thus ended our Speed Tour of London. We jumped back on the Tube and headed back to our hotel for one last night in a bed. Tomorrow we’ll leave the UK and our Schengen time clock will start up where we left off (at Day 14 in Schengen Time).

Schengen Time: London to Bruges

June 17-20, 2022

We’re back on Central European Time (one hour later), and back on Schengen Time; that is, our clock is ticking on the 90 days we are allowed to remain in the 26 Schengen countries during a 180 day period.

We crept out of London (traffic is a nightmare), and four hours later had made the 110 mile trek to Folkestone to board the Eurotunnel to Calais, France.

The ride on the train under the English Channel is only about 30 minutes, and we spent the time chatting with several British bikers that were headed to France for a club meeting of older motorcyclists.

Once off the train we headed north to Bruges, Belgium for a couple of days of sight-seeing.

First, the beauty of Bruges:

Bruges, “The Venice of Belgium”…it’s also famous for its beer and chocolate, and the water here kind of looked like chocolate too.

The Church of Our Lady in Bruges. The Madonna and Child sculpture by Michelangelo is here. I would insert a photo of it, but they charge so much to see it that I couldn’t bring my cheap self to buy two tickets. I’m pretty sure it looks just like it does on the internet though.

Market Square. The medieval Belfry of Bruges is on the right.

We also went to the Lace Center, where they have exhibits of lace craft work, as well as demonstrations by women making lace. The minute detail is pretty astounding.

A couple of old windmills. I don’t know the exact dates of these, but this style goes back to the late 1300s in Belgium, and were commonly used to grind oil.

Are the pennants the new Belgian high-tech method of saving the birds from death by windmill? Just kidding, of course. I’m sure lots of birds have met their fate in Belgium and Netherlands over the past 600 years.

Then, the not-so-beautiful part of Bruges, at least to an anti-social hermit like myself:

The sheer number of tourists is a bit stifling, even this early in the season. The tour boats were packed, and there were so many of them that it became a bit of a traffic jam at times.

This is the entrance to the De Halve Maan brewery. We stopped in here to have a beer and a snack on our walk around Bruges. The local Bruges Zot beer is brewed here, and sent 3km by underground pipeline to their bottling plant in the suburbs. The beer from the taps here comes straight from the tanks, and was very good. But the local tour guides line the tourists up in the entrance alcove to tell their story, thus blocking the entrance for paying customers. Too many people for this hermit.

Back at our campground, it was filled to capacity, and there were some pretty interesting campers there.

This Citroen Type H van has been converted to a motorhome. Citroen built these between 1947 and 1981. This is a 1970s model, though you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. The current owner has had it for 26 years.

We were walking through Bruges when we saw one of these “Side-Bikes” pass by, pulling a trailer. When we got back to the campground, there were two of them there, each with their own pop-up tent camper.

I had never seen one of these before. They’re made in France, and have a 16-valve, 2000cc Peugeot car engine placed at the rear of the sidecar, which drives both the rear wheel of the bike and the sidecar wheel. The driver sits scooter-style, low with feet forward, and the accelerator and clutch are operated with the feet, like a car. The enclosed sidecar is wide enough for two people, and is well appointed.

When we arrived in Bruges, western Europe was experiencing a record-breaking heat wave. But by our second night, a storm front had blown through, and the temperature had dropped dramatically. It rained most of the night and into the morning, but a break in the weather mid-morning allowed us to pack up our wet tent and head north again, this time to Amsterdam.


June 19-20, 2022

We keep hitting big cities…London, Bruges, Amsterdam. These places can put a big dent in our travel budget. I’m not completely against seeing these places. I just want to be careful about how we do it. And to be honest, we weren’t even sure what it was that we wanted to see in Amsterdam. We had originally scheduled a three-day house sit in Amstelveen, just south of Amsterdam, which would allow us to spend a couple of half-days seeing the city. But the homeowner canceled a couple of weeks before, and we were left without “free” lodging. We decided to go anyway, and we ended up at a place I had found a couple of years ago when looking for my usual “off-the-wall” style of accommodation.

Hotel Not Hotel is a hotel with a bit of a hostel vibe to it. Or maybe it’s a hostel with individual rooms. It’s really hard to say. No two rooms here are the same. There are rooms hidden behind a library bookcase wall, rooms hidden behind mirrored walls, rooms that look like a giant dollhouse, a “room” in the upstairs lobby area in an old VW microbus. We ended up with a more conventional room that looked from the outside like it could have been the entrance to an old row-house somewhere. The shower was in the bedroom, rather than behind a bathroom door. Aside from that it was fairly normal.

Hotel Not Hotel. Is it? Is it Not?

That’s our room at the lower right. Just across from Kevin Bacon.

One of the “rooms”. The wall of books behind the bus contains several hidden doors to rooms.

Parked in the row of bikes outside the hotel. Definitely the largest, but it drew little attention.

Not your typical “Do Not Disturb” door hang tag.

We did our now-typical one-day walking tour of Amsterdam, visiting the “Nine Streets”, and walking the Red Light District south to the flower market.

One of the canals along the “9 Streets”.

There are a lot of houseboats lining the canals in Amsterdam. This hundred year old converted cargo ship featured a grass roof and lots of plants.

Yes, this is a brick houseboat on a concrete foundation. Floating in a canal.

I thought England had a serious “Frite” (French Fry) problem. There, everything comes with fries, or chips as they like to call them. Fish & Chips is just the start. Just about every meal, including a salad, came with fries. In fact, Lukasz mentioned that he once ordered a baked potato in England and it came with a side of fries. Here in Amsterdam, they aren’t shy about it either. Hence, a restaurant that serves Fries & Fries.

“OMG! Look! It’s him! It’s Dr. Falafel, in the flesh!” Amazing likeness.

Look closely at this building. The right end of it…the last two windows. That is not an optical illusion. It’s leaning badly.

A photo of Diana taking a photo of the Anne Frank House.

On the main Dam Square, there was a large spinning class taking place. We watched for a while, and learned that they were raising money to build sports clubs for refugees. For every kilometer you pedaled, they contributed £10. So I jumped in. I didn’t last long, but I did earn them twenty or thirty pounds.

In the back corner of the spin class were these two women eating pizza. It just seemed wrong. But they were probably volunteers taking a lunch break. Still, it made for an amusing juxtaposition.

These tiny cars were everywhere. When you can park one in a line of scooters, why not?

These bicycles were also everywhere. Most of them had children sitting in the large box in the front, some with seat belts. This seems to make more sense than putting your child behind you where you can’t see what they are doing. It also makes a great grocery getter. And in this woman’s case, it’s a way to carry another bicycle.

By early afternoon we headed to Leidseplein, an area with lots of restaurants and pubs, to meet an old friend.

Huub and I met in Japan in the early 1990s when he worked for Yamaha Europe and I worked for Yamaha US. We would see each other once a year or so through the early 2000s, usually in the US, then lost touch until just before our trip, when he popped up in my LinkedIn contacts. It was great to see him again and catch up.

After a few hours of catching up, Huub caught the train home, and we walked back to the hotel for dinner at Kevin Bacon Bar, a Thai restaurant in the hotel. Odd name, and we were told no actual relation, but they had a really convoluted story about why they named it after the actor, even though he isn’t involved.