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Day 6
May 18th, 2005
Moffat, Scotland

We slept a little late this morning.  Most breakfasts don't happen in a B & B till around 8am, so we enjoyed the extra few minutes of sleep.

Today we finish off Scotland, then boogie south to Exeter to meet fellow ST riders from the ST Owners Club, they are about to start their annual rally known as BritStoc.

By now I had a pretty good system for loading the VFR, which was nothing more than 2 small duffle bags, and a empty ski bag, that was really beginning to annoy me.  Nothing like carrying an empty bag for 2000 miles.

When I finished that, I went inside and sat down before the spread Mrs. Jones had prepared for us.  It was fabulous.  Toast, eggs, sausage, fruit, and ham. (which in the UK is called bacon, what they call the other bacon I don't know, I never saw any strips).  As usual I filled up mostly on toast, but I did sample a small bit of ham and sausage.  I passed my egg over to Uncle Phil.

























Uncle Phil and David at Breakfast.  Great friends, riding
and food.  I was having the time of my life.  I felt 10 years old,
with an endless summer ahead of me.

The bed and breakfasts are a good way to see the UK.  They are everywhere, and allow you to sample the surroundings.  However, they make getting on the road early next to impossible.  But, in the UK that's not a big deal, traffic is always bad in in the south, and not much is open till later in the morning  if you need something.  Best to just go with the flow.
























    Mrs.  Jones and Uncle Phil.  She was awesome.


I really like the 2 piece Roadcrafter I purchased last fall.  This was my second tour with it, and I appreciated its versatility.  I could eat breakfast and load the bikes in just pants- unencumbered.   The unit still offers all the front line protection of a 1 piece Roadcrafter, it fits close, and is slick in the wind.  The Aerostich is a common sight on U.S. long riders, but the units are very rare in the UK, in fact I didn't see a single one outside of mine, but the price tag of a UK Roadcrafter would come in at 1500 pounds, BEFORE you add shipping.  Still, the Roadcrafter is well suited for the English clime.

The Viffer is a easy bike to push around in driveways and parking lots.  I backed the bike down the narrow driveway of the 9 Oaks to let the 2 STs out.  At the end of the driveway a gaggle of school kids in black and white uniforms walked by, probably 4 or 5th graders.  They were led by a typical looking science teacher.  He wore a twill coat, unpolished, scruffy shoes, and a wrinkled shirt.  He was at the front of the line, shouting instructions.  " Everyone keep up, keep moving!"
I picked out boy in the back and said- "y'all on the way to class?"


"yeah"
"oh man that sucks"

" I KNOW"

We said good bye to Mrs. Jones and brought the Hondas to life. 
 
Moffat is a typical UK village.  Old.  Age was the one thing that struck me most about the UK.  So many old buildings, homes, and roads.  I mean that in a good way.  These villages go back hundreds and hundreds of years.  New England towns are the only places that even vaguely resemble a UK village.  Neighborhoods are tight, and gather around the shops, I didn't see any sprawling suburbs with large homes on 2 acre lots, with wide roadways and sidewalks.  Land costs too much for such things.  You have to remember this is a island country with 80 million people.  The typical home in my neighborhood would cost a half million pounds or more in the UK. and would totally look out of place.  America is young and always changing.  In the U.S. old houses and neighborhoods are often purchased, pushed down, and replenished with bright, spacious houses that makes the developer a rich man.  That could be viewed as a good or a bad thing.  In America, you always follow the money trail, but greed got us where we're at. 

The narrow lanes sliced through the town, skimming homes and shops.  Many folks were starting their day. Shopkeepers were sweeping the fronts of their stores, and people were walking about taking care of errands.  That's another thing, we don't much walk anywhere in America outside of NYC.  We don't even like to park in the back of Wal Mart.  I've seen jokers ride aimlessly around the parking lot till a space comes open near the front door.  I can walk out of the store and 10 sets of eyes are glued to me, looking to see where I'm parked.  Its so much fun when it happens to be up front.  When I am, I like to walk slow, looking around nodding my head, "yes MY vehicle is close to the door, and I wanna see WHO wants it the most. So get ready to lay rubber!"  By the time my key goes in the door 4-5 are jockeying for the best seat in the house.

Forged handicap stickers are a hot business, get one of those and by dam you can be on the FRONT ROW, and save that 300 feet of extra walking.  There is a con store 3 blocks from my neighborhood, but heck, we ain't walking 5 minutes for a loaf a bread!  NO! We jump in the car and RIDE 3 blocks!

I was still thinking about all that when we pulled in a gas station on the outskirts of the village for gas.  They price gas in a funny way so you don't ever really know how much you're paying.  I didn't know if it was imperial gallons, liters, ounces or what.  But you can rest assured in NO WAY the price per U.S. gallon was going to be displayed, cause EVERYONE could relate to that.  Instead, they had these shifty guys lurking around changing the measure and price to keep the masses at bay, because if they ever found out what was truly going on, they would be dragged out and beat down on the street.  
The VFR was on half a tank, and I stuck the nozzle in.  "geezus I wonder what THIS ONE is gonna cost me."  I went inside to have my card swiped.  NO ONE in the UK pays cash for petrol, I mean it ain't safe to be loaded down with gold bricks to settle your petrol fees.

At the gas pumps, David fielded questions from a man who wanted to know about the windscreen on his 1100.  Apparently the man rode an ST, and wanted to know how David handled the buffeting problem common for many ST riders.


























         David took time to explain his ST to this gentleman

Unlike my VISA check card, my American Express has a pretty nice limit, but it was getting to be a real danger I'd max it out with petrol purchases before leaving the U.K.  "Hey honey call the bank, and get a second mortgage on the house, I'll be riding in the UK next week."

The Brits are a hardy people, and take all that in stride.  They are a joy to be around, and we all could take lessons from them when it comes to dealing with things. I enjoyed every minute of my time there.  But I'll say this, they are not going to take much more of the government taxing gas so much before they rise up and have their own Boston Tea Party.
After filling up the Viffer I bought 2 cherry muffins for later on.  I love muffins and the UK has the best I'd ever sampled.  Uncle Phil, who was pretty good at deciphering the exchange rate, told me this fill up just cost him over 30 bucks.
We took a few pictures of the village and got on the road.

Route A708 took us out of Moffat, and deep in the Scottish Border Lands.  The slender road snaked among the hills.  Temps were still on the cool side, but better than yesterday.  The sky was partly cloudy.  

Clearing the town limits the one lane road rolled over a series of small hills, and banked the VFR in several curves.  The VFR is a high revving bike.  It likes spinning around 5-7k, and I loved the VTECH rush it served up when you entered the band.  The A708 was mostly second and third gear stuff.  I was consistently able to pick tighter lines than either ST.  The viffer's lean factor was head and shoulders above the STs, and it was kind of sad it was saddled with a timid rider such as myself.   The VFR hated the top box.  It made the bike bounce all over the place on the bumpy road.  The STs seemed to handle it much better. 




























          Route A708 threads past Scottish hills and farms


MY ST 1300 and 1100 pull better at low speeds.  I was still learning how to ride the VFR, and too many times I let the revs drop too low in a curve, and the bike had to slug it back up to cruising speed.  I kept this up for a few miles till I grew tired of the concentration, besides I saw a few photo ops and pulled over.


























In this pic it looks like Uncle Phil forgot what side of the 
road he was suppose to be on.  Somewhere on A709.
Photo: by David Whitley

The surface of the 708 is not conducive to high speed sport riding, too irregular, and a soft shoulder encroaches most of the time.  Sheep were also free to roam about.  Most of them knew to stay out of the road, but no way was I going to bet my welfare on the whims of some lamb.  I kept my speed down and assumed any minute one would step out in front of me.

We purred along with Loch Mary on our right, and a few cottages on our left.  It was nice.  I caught up with David and Uncle Phil at a pull out on the lake.  A telephone switching building was across the road from us.  Because the road was almost deserted I almost took the right lane leaving out.  I could have rode the wrong side for miles, not aware of it till I met a car, scary.  I caught myself and corrected things.

























                                   I made sure I wasn't 43.

A sign was posted near Davington, it put you on notice 42 accidents had occurred on this roadway.  Not wanting to be number 43 I rode cautiously.  That tactic paid off a short time later, when I met a green 18 wheeler coming down a short bending slope.  What is HE doing on THIS road?  I could see him coming down the hill, that had a slight bend at the bottom, immediately I started scanning ahead for a place to hold up.  Neither of us were moving very fast, and I knew he saw me, because he was on the air horn.  I saw a dirt tractor drive near a small farm in the hollow and went to it.  I pulled in it and let him have the road.  His truck was barely able to fit on the road, there was no place he could go, so it was up to me to give HIM room. 

I thought how I resisted the urge to ride this road faster.  There is a reason I've traveled so many accident free miles.  So many miles and years of experience have taught me a good sense of awareness.  It is a good practice to assume the worse is just over the hill or around the curve.  I can't tell you how many times that has saved me.  Many times I've entered what appeared to be a clean surface curve only find gravel in the apex, or a car leaving a blind driveway, and last but not least, a vehicle crossing the line.  Sure, it means my pace is usually slower than most, but those guys don't ride the miles I do, and many have battle scars on themselves or bikes.

Uncle Phil put that theory into use when he came to a full stop to see if a lamb was going to jet back across the road to rejoin his mother.  I could see his brake light on the hill ahead.

We passed a sign pointing to Lockerbie, where Pan Am flight 173 went down.

Our first real break of the day came at a Tibetan Monastery.  The temple is open to anyone wanting a little piece and quiet.  It looked odd here in the Border Lands, but seems to draw quite a crowd in the middle of nowhere.  We strolled around then ducked in the tea room.  I passed on the tea, because I don't drink anything hot.  The Brits found that very odd.  The young clerk on the latte machine had Sly and the Family Stone on the deck system.
































                                        A Tibet Temple in Scotland

We crossed back into England on a route I'm not sure off.  We had an appointment with Colin McConnachy in the Lake District.  Colin is another member of the English ST community I was looking forward to meeting.  I was flattered so many wanted to meet us. 
 
The Lake District is a tourist haven for many.  The area is reminiscent of the kind you find in the U.S.  Packed with city dwellers flocking in to escape some of the mayhem.  We went by several big motels, then eased into the hills.  The riding was good.  

We left the M6 at Penrith and followed A592 over Kirkstone pass to A591.
Passing high in the hills above, I could see lakes dotting the country side, and busy villages.  A stone wall bordered both sides of the country lane we were on, and a rider once again had to look for stray cars coming at him. 


























A591 is typical of the kind of road you find riding the back
roads of England and Scotland.  Not much room for error.

If you encounter a car, you have to be prepared to stop.


We came to rest in a busy resort village, and it took patience to work our way through.  I stopped to let a few pedestrians cross the road and they looked surprised at the gesture.  In Alabama we yield to pedestrians when we can.  As an American visiting I wanted to leave a good impression.  It is also important for a motorcyclists to do something nice once in a while, it earns goodwill for the next guy.

At Stavely, we met Colin and his wife at Wifs Cafe.  A super, super guy.  We had a nice lunch and discussed bikes, business, and Colin's experiences in the U.S.  It was great.  I wished he was riding out with us when it came time to leave.  His gift was the Union Jack on display in the introduction of this journal. 

























 
        Here we are at lunch on Day 6.  Photo by David Whitley




David informed us in a few miles we would be on one of the main motorways.  He said we were looking at a 300 mile ride south down west England to reach Exeter, and the riding would be nothing more than getting there. 

 
When the STs hit the open road I quickly lost sight of them.  STs mask the feeling of how fast you are going, the VFR does not.  It lets you know every second you are doing 85.  David and Uncle Phil had a habit of forgetting that.  I tried to keep up, but it was just too much punishment.  The wind blast raked my head, and despite ear plugs my ears echoed in the river of wind rushing by me.  I was doing 80 and still could not keep them in focus.  I did the only I could do to spare my hearing,  I backed off to 75.

I came to a roundabout and had no idea which of the 4 spokes to take.  Dang.  I didn't know the route number, or the direction, heck, I wasn't even sure what the final destination was.  I had NO way to contact anyone.  The few folks I did know, I had not a clue how to find.  I rolled the dice and took the first spoke, and in a few feet knew it was the wrong way.  This thing is going north, and I'm sure we were suppose to be moving south.  I went to the side.  

OK, what to do now.  I decided to just sit and wait.  If I went off looking for them it would only make things worse.  Traffic was crazy and the chances of finding them would be remote.  I was almost sure, they would retrace and rescue me if I stayed still.  But first I had to get back up to the roundabout so they could see me.   I did the only thing I could do.  I doubled back the opposite direction of the ramp.  I only had a few feet to make.  I was turning back when Uncle Phil, true to form, was doubling back to look for me.  I saw him but wasn't sure he saw ME, I had to get back up to catch him when he passed around.  I waited for a break in the traffic and bolted back to the entrance just in time to see him as he came by.  YEAH!

Reunited we took off south to bury the last 300 miles. 

We pulled in for gas and I told my partners- "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 told me to take the point, that way I could set the pace.  I asked to stop every 100 miles to break the trip up.  We got back on the M5 and went south.
At 75 the VFR felt good.  We spent most of the time in the left lane (the "slow" lane) and fell in with the gobs of traffic.  Drivers in England drive aggressive, no doubt about it, but pretty much obey the rules.  They don't drag ass in the fast lane, and signal their intent, most of the time. 

Congestion picked up as we neared the industrial heartland of England.  The M5 shot us by Wolverhampton, Liverpool, and Birmingham.  Traffic was thick but fortunately there were no backups, and everything was moving.  This area of the UK reminded me of the rust belt cities back home.  Places like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Baltimore.  

The first 100 miles went by painfully slow, so I was glad when we reached the service area and a nice break.  My butt was stiff.  I was really starting to miss my 1300.  I'm small framed and the riding position of the VFR didn't bother me despite the fact it was more forward than my 1300.  But the last few months I'd spent a lot of time on a Trek road bicycle, talk about building saddle time.

The M5 was efficient at getting us south, but ugly.  It reminded me of the NJ Turnpike, need I say more?
Another 100 miles clicked off and we took the Michaelwood service area for a snack.  I picked up a muffin and a pack of fruit candy.  We lounged around a Burger King dining area.  David said, "according to my GPS were less than a hundred miles, when we get close I'll take the lead and bring us in to Peter's."

Traffic thinned out as we left the industrial area of England behind.   I went to the gas tank of the VFR to get as low as I could and twisted the grip.  The VFR bolted upright and took off, the whoosh of the VTECH kicking in.  In a flash the 2 STs were mere dots and the Viffer was on 110 before I knew it.  Gawd, it was fun.

I knew the power band of the STs leveled off around 100 or so, after that it was more gradual, while the VFR still had plenty left.  The 1300 topped out about 140 and a good running 1100 comes in about 130.  I was pretty sure the VFR could handle the 1100, and would probably get to 130+ quicker than the 13, but eventually the 1300's CCs would reel it back in.  In any case, the VFR had a light jockey on board, giving it another advantage, and it was all I could do to hang on.  
Motorists saw the twin headlamps of the Viffer close on them like they were sitting still.  They moved out of the way right on cue.  It was awesome, at 110 mph I dispatched the last 80 or so miles in about 30 minutes.  I knew I was getting close to our exit so slowed way down for David to catch up and take the point.  

David found the Exeter junction with his GPS (gotta get one of those) and led us to Peter Mallon's home down a few backstreets.  That joker is handy to have around.  We pulled in to be greeted by a house full of ST riders.  A nice homecoming. 

David's work was done.  He delivered us to the BritStoc rally as promised.  

We sat around Peter's living room and met the rest of the guys, and traded war stories.  It was fun.  Peter and Fiona did most of the planning for the rally and were serving as hosts, let me say now they did good.  After meeting everyone we were escorted back to our motel for the evening.  

I set the stand in the parking lot after a 450 mile day.

It was good to be in Exeter, the rest of the tour are low mileage days and social events.  I was looking forward to it.
After checking in I finally found a phone and called home.  Moff told me the code for the US.  All was well, and it was good to hear Debbie.  

I was beginning to miss running and cycling, but we were getting off the road late, and I didn't have any cool weather gear to run in.  I was feeling fat and sluggish, but maybe I'll get to run soon.  

Supper was a steak and fry thing from a nearby fast food service area.  The meat was tough, and I regretted ordering it.  
It was a short walk back to the room after supper, but for some reason I had trouble sleeping.  I watched a movie till it was almost 3am.  My ears were still ringing from the 300 miles of freeway riding.  
I finally dozed off looking forward to tomorrow. 

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Thanks again to David Whitley for helping recreate the events of the day.