I woke early to a stunning morning in West Street, Oxford. Shelby had been up banging around since 4.a.m so not a lot of sleep. It’s quite nice to be in that semi, jet-lagged, sleep-deprived state sipping coffee and spending the early morning hours talking with Shelby. At 78 years old he’s slowing down a little. Sitting for almost two-hours to chat it’s a rare treat as he is normally hammering on his keyboard, swimming, digging in the allotment or bicycling into Oxford on business.
I’ve been stopping in since 1985 and this is the first visit that Shelby has no mad travels planned. He wanted to hitch hike across the Sahara but fears his age won’t let him. Maybe I should offer to carry his bags? I want to write a book of his life. He has seen so much of this world and today’s story that I will take with me is how he had his money stolen hitchhiking in India, and with ten rupees decided to carry on to Katmandu. Living off the land, and from assistance he received from the local people, he made it and all the way back to Delhi to re-claim his travellers checks a month later. Cementing a confidence in him as a young man that he could always survive, he exudes that same confidence today. He did talk of times during his epic Burma adventures though that he thought he might not make it, and to me this is a story that needs to be a movie as no one has made that journey and lived to tell the tale.(the book about it is called, “Among Insurgents”)
We finally have to get rolling. It’s the first time Patrick has met Shelby and I wonder what he’ll take from his time with the great man as we say our goodbyes. We have to make time. My sister’s house is about 350 miles north and we have to be there today, so we hit the motorway and get riding. The traffic is fast and predictable, and while there is a lot of it through the flat, hot industrial middle of England, it keeps moving. And so do we. Putting in 90 - minute stints in the saddle and relaxed breaks, before too long we start to see the mountainous landscapes of the Lake District signaling the Scottish border will be coming soon. From the highway we roll through miles and miles of farmland, and the occasional church or historic building off in the distance. Old, brick farmhouses dot the landscape and lazy cows and sheep graze the fields.
Patrick is doing great, looking around, enjoying the view and is the perfect traveling companion. We have our duties at break times and he is quickly up to speed on his. Everything on a motorcycle has its place and he soon has our organization system down and makes our fuel stops and food breaks quicker and more enjoyable. Plus he has a lot of exciting observations to share.
We cross the border late in the afternoon and surprisingly the temperature rises. In my youth the road to Scotland was a winding two-lane road affair, but now it’s a slick highway so we can’t stop to admire the views. With the BMW rolling comfortably along at 75 - 80 mph we see it all from the saddle though and press on. My sister will want us there in time for dinner so no time to delay. Glasgow arrives, and we head west to the small village of Houston some 15 - 20 miles away.
It’s been a long time since I drove or rode here so we have a few missed turns finding our way out onto the farm roads that will take us to her house. The sun is still well up in the sky, even at 8 pm, and we are soon in the garden eating dinner and catching up on the five years that have passed since Patrick and I last visited. Us old ones look a little more wrinkled, the kids about two feet taller but soon it’s like we’ve never been away. The BMW gets locked up in the garage, and with the jet lag and lack of sleep making themselves felt it’s soon time to put this day into the books and sleep.