Up and at ‘em for a trip to the dentist: Britain might have expensive gas and high taxes but we have a fantastic health care system and as a Brit I still qualify. $50 for a clean, scale, polish and two fillings is hard to beat, and so with a face as numb as an ice fisherman’s arse it’s off for an afternoon around the back roads of my youth.
The weather is stunning, and the trees and flowers are shouting out their colors as they raise themselves up to the warm sunshine. The golden moss in the shady stretches tells the story of how cold, damp and wet the west of Scotland can be, with some of the stone walls still looking as if they are still holding moisture from the long, wet months of winter. Into the
small village of Houston we go, where the Ale Houses have been serving the small population since the 1700s. It’s hard even for me to think about these establishments doing business for over three centuries, especially when I know of much older ones we will come across in the next week.
In no hurry, we pick up some back roads and roll through rich, fertile farmland. Healthy, well-fed cows, multi-colored fields of various crops form a patchwork quilt as far as we can seen, and hedge rows of brightly colored weeds flash by inches from our arms as we ride. At times we stop to let a tractor pass, even backing up to find enough space to allow the occasional car coming the other way to squeeze by. Entering the town of Kilmacolm, where I spent my teenage years, we visit my old house and take a walk through the neighboring fields. Decades passing have not changed the landscape or the buildings, and the view today overlays almost perfectly with my thirty year old memories, save for a new garage here, and different cars there.
We visit with my old aunt, who at 90 plus years of age has the eyes of a mischievous woodland creature, even though her legs have given up their ability to move her. Her mind is still running through the fields though as we engage in animated conversation trying to piece the five years since our last visit into a condensed enough version to make sense before we leave. I need to make some notes, so we slump into some comfortable couch chairs at the Bean Scene coffee shop and journal while village life is played out through the wide patio doors that open onto the pavement in front of us.
The coffee is strong, the BMW outside draws us into a number of conversations, and with nowhere to be and nothing to do we linger long. A short walk through town to take some photographs unleashes a flood of crazy memories from my sister’s wedding to the first time I saw my childhood sweetheart, and with an inner smile we mount up and take the long way back to dinner. Riding on British back roads is close to the ultimate in motorcycle pleasure. Every gear change is thought about and planned, and there is never a second where your attention can waver from the road surface, the hills, bends, dips and rises.
It’s clear to me why I so love the process of riding a motorcycle and the art of smooth gear changing to keep things sweet for my passenger, as anything else but total attention and correct application of the controls can quickly spell trouble. Not able to quite commit to the quickest way home yet, we wander off the direct road and find ourselves down at Loch Winnoch watching the swans and enjoying the cooler air by the water. Eventual making it home for a late dinner in the garden, a first in Scotland for my family for many years, the long days at this time of year are simply magical with the most intoxicating light. With the sky still not dark and the midnight hour approaching we pack it in and sleep, a day riding to Edinburgh planned for tomorrow.