Saving the best for last, today is going to be special, if not a little bitter sweet. With a plan to first ride to the fishing town of Brixham, that has evidence of inhabitants as early as the ice age, we set out along the back lanes to avoid the holiday traffic that clogs the roads of this area in the summer. We are on the way to visit my best friend, Wibbly, and his family for a trip to Dartmoor, one of my favorite places on earth.
Back in the formative years Wibbly and I ran wild together, from riding our Honda 125cc dirt bikes all over southern England, to traveling the world together, before graduating to big Laverda motorcycles. Mother Nature handed him a cruel set of cards a few years back though, after marrying a lovely girl and having two beautiful daughters. Basically a faulty blood vessel required brain surgery and now he is left permanent disabled. He is making the best of it though, and with his family in the car we caravan off to Totness to pick up the roads that will take us to the moors.
It’s another stunning day, and as we roll through the patchwork quilt of multi-colored fields I can’t help reflect on some of our mad adventures. Always creating the craziest stories, there were many riotous evenings at the pub in years gone by recalling our adventures from far-flung places like Morocco, Australia, Belize, Thailand, Hong Kong, Alaska and more. I’m always grateful he didn’t wait till he got old to start living, as he’ll never make these types of trips again.
By now as we exit Totness, the roads start to narrow down now as we pass the Buckfast Abby where Benedictine Monks have been in residence for more than 1,000 years. At times they are as narrow as a mid-size car, and Patrick enjoys grabbling long stalks of grass and weeds from the hedgerows as we pass, rarely even getting into second gear for miles on end.
Hitting the edge of the moor, we go in search of Badgers Holt for some Devonshire scones, jam, and cream, washed down by a couple of pots of tea of course. Real Devonshire clotted cream is a specialty, and if you don’t like the taste you could smear it on your skin as part of an instant weight gain program, it’s that bad for you. We actually end up taking a couple of small detours around Holne, where memories of our buddy Pete jumping off naked in front of a bus tour of Nuns leaves me cringing. Thankfully today the cool waters are populated by sensibly dressed tourists escaping the heat wave that is sending the Brits into full scale moaning about the weather. It’s business as usual they are just substituting sun and heat for rain and cold in their conversation.
We find Badgers Holt, enjoy our feed, and stroll through the gardens, which are some sort of small animal sanctuary. Patrick and I clamber around the river taking photographs and I’m happy the place is full of tourists’ as I love seeing people enjoying this area. Back on the BMW we meander off, climbing some impossibly steep hills and leaving the trees and bushes behind we work our way up onto the moor. Wild sheep and Dartmoor ponies graze beside the road, occasionally walking in front of us, so progress is slow. Even on a hot summer day, there is a slight chill in the air, reminding me how bleak, desolate and dangerous the moor can be. Many experienced hikers have gone missing here over the decades when the weather turned. It can happen so quickly here, and so violently, even lifelong outdoorsmen have been caught out. I’ve seen the mist up here so thick if you walk five feet from the road you might not find your way back, so am happy for such a beautiful and peaceful day to enjoy the rugged views.
We park and hike, climbing to the top of Haytor Rock, a crop of volcanic rock that erupted out of the ground hundreds of thousands of years ago. We have to leave Wibbly in the car as he can’t walk that far anymore, and it reminds me life is short and we can lose our abilities at any time, so I’m feeling extra appreciative to be with Patrick, Georgia and Megan today enjoying a semi-strenuous hike.
Sitting on top of Haytor a while, with only the sound of the wind whistling and an uninterrupted view all the way to the ocean miles below us, I point out to Patrick that we have ridden all through this view over the last days and my fantastic mood if reflected in his smile. He’s loving it, scampering around taking pictures and taking it all in.
Dropping off the moor, we ride on familiar roads as we make our way for home. We have a dinner planned tonight for everyone at a six-hundred year old pub, so need to get home and get cleaned up for our evening out. It’s been great to spend a day with my old friends riding to one of the places I go to in my mind when I’m feeling homesick in America and to top it off I’ve had my son with me to share the day.
Like every day so far, it just seems like it can’t get any better.