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Brekkie. That great British word that evokes thoughts of bacon, fried eggs, beans, fried bread, sausages, mushroom and tomatoes washed down by lashings of hot tea, and soaked up with toast and butter: A heart attack waiting to pounce off the plate and grab you.
By 7:30 am, with the early morning sun burning the haze from the surrounding fields to reveal sheep and cows grazing in idyllic pastures, Patrick is wondering what to do with the mountain of strange food in front of him, and all thoughts of diet and exercise have been burned off as fast as the morning mist by the taste buds that makes this sort of feast so pleasurable.
Our busy host is business like in his conversation, and we also chat with other guests who are older, retired folks hiking along the earth wall the Welsh built 1200 years ago to keep the English out. It’s 180 something miles and they will walk every day for nearly two weeks, arriving at a Bed and Breakfast each evening to find they clothes and toiletries waiting for them. They are certainly earning their Brekkie, and as we force down the last cuppa, it’s approaching time to load up and hit the road. Not before we spend a peaceful half hour photographing the animals and enjoying the magical morning vistas though.
Back in the saddle it all feels like business as usual and we wind our way down through Welshpool and head south. Our host has given us a good route and we are in no hurry on a stunningly beautiful day. Eight miles in, as the big GS has to put some torque down to pull us up a particularly steep hill, I spy an old ruin perched way up above us. Patrick has expressed his desire to explore a ruin, so I pull into the small village and working my way through tight, narrow streets, and steep hair-pin turns, before long we are exploring and old castle first started in the 1200s.
There’s not much left but the outer walls, but it affords magnificent views of the surrounding countryside from our lofty perch, and we are in no hurry to leave.
Once out on the road, we roll through incredible farmland, rising temperatures, and picturesque villages, as if all the residents were trying to outdo each other with the quality and color of their hanging flower baskets. It takes time to make distance so it’s close to midday when we ride through the Wye Valley. Following a wide river barely visible through the thick trees and undergrowth, the cool, shady avenue of foliage is a welcome break from the hot open roads we’ve been traveling. We gas up, take a quick snack and keep rolling, and before long we are riding high about the River Severn on the suspension bridge leaving Wales and making for the City of Bath.
As a unemployed teenager, I had scraped up a few quid, jumped on my Yamaha XT500, and ridden up here on my way to the promise of a summer job planting and picking lettuce in the early ‘80s. It took a month to accumulate enough dole money to make a repair to the bike and raise enough fuel coupons for the remaining 200 mile cross country journey, so riding in I thought I would remember the layout of the city. Wrong! It was only in the center that is seemed in any way familiar, and I guess 32 years is too long to hold some memories. We found a fantastic and most eclectic café for lunch, and although we were politely informed we were too late for lunch, they found something for us as I guess we looked hot, tired and hungry. After all it had been seven hours since the last 6,000 calories, and we’d only had a few chocolate bars to keep our sugar levels spiking along the way.
Our kindly patrons put our riding gear in a cupboard, told us they’d keep an eye on the BMW, and we strolled off into town. As well as you can in adventure touring pants, and heavy boots when the mercury was working its way to triple digits as England enjoyed the hottest weather in 3,700 years. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m not sure there’s anyone old enough left living in England who could remember it hotter.
The city is incredible, with its weir, the bridges, the churches, the Roman Baths cathedrals, and other amazing historic buildings. Then a pair of mounted policemen stop at the ice-cream shop, and watch as the lady confirms her work mate really did want vanilla with a chocolate flake added. We enjoy a haunting solo guitar performance by a young fellow that warranted just sitting and getting lost in the moment and then back to the café and on the road.
We are expected at my mother’s house by 8 pm, and every minute past that time will increase the octave of the moaning and complaining that a little tardiness will surely bring.
Our exit from Bath was bordering on painful. The GPS routed us down one of the A roads with the after work traffic and we crawled along in thick traffic for an hour or so. Not feeling the love, we re-set the GPS and headed across country for the motorway and some plain sailing. The 40-mile route was one of the finest yet with a mixture of every type of road condition and riding experience imaginable. We hit the M5 motorway in the late afternoon sun, dialed the cruise control on 85 mph and rolled south for home.
Arriving at the top of the hill that looks down onto Torbay, the place I call home, the light was as golden as I’ve ever seen as small boats mixed with a big ocean going tanker in the tranquil waters, and my heart was filled with excitement. I’ve traveled long and hard around this big spinning ball called planet earth, but nothing compares to this for me.
Patrick was here five years ago, and remembers it as we snap some pictures and head down to my Mothers. Making the turn along the sea front, one last activity draws us in as we find over 800 motorcycles meeting up for the Wednesday night gathering. We spend a few minutes walking the eclectic collection before riding the last half-mile of the day and make it to my Mother’s with minutes to spare.