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After spending a day with my mother taking a boat ride to the fishing town of Brixham, Patrick and I had a day in the saddle planned in which we would meander along some of my favorite roads.
The weather was again just stunning, and with a plan to take him swimming at a beach we used to visit as kids with sand dunes, we set out. Hard to imagine how diverse the coast of Devon is with everything from rocky beaches with large potato sized pebbles, to white sandy beaches with lots of different varieties of sand and rock in between. We even have palm trees and flowers and plants not found anywhere else in England due to gulf streams coming up from the Mediterranean and North Africa.
Spinning along the main road out of Paignton, memories come flooding back from the early motorcycle days and soon we are on a back road headed for the small town of Dartmouth. I know some back roads down to the ferry at Kingswear, and we roll along taking in the pleasant views.
Arriving at the top of the small village that clings to the side of the steep valley, there is a viewing area opening up onto the River Dart, and unloading to take pictures we are joined by a gentleman from the Royal Navel College. Apparently, a Navy Frigate is being pulled up the River Dart so we stop to enjoy it and snap some shots. The view up the River is just mind blowing, and a few miles up in a town called Totness the Romans finally were able to build a bridge across it 2,000 years ago.
The town of Dartmouth is incredibly picturesque with 16th Century buildings built on the site of medieval dwellings and the famous Butter Walk dating from the early 1600s. Richard the Lion Heart sailed out of here on his way to the Crusades in the 1100s, so it’s been doing business for some centuries.
We take a neat ferry across the water from Kingswear to Dartmouth and as pleasant as the town is, it’s congested and we want to ride. For the next couple of hours, we ride along the A roads of my youth. Memories of impromptu races with local boys on their Triumphs are fresh in my mind and we make a few detours to photograph the small towns and check out some points of historical interest.
Finding our way to Bantham beach, we dismount and head to the dunes. In an amazing feat of nature, the sand is so hot it’s burning our feet, and after a short while we elect to take a swim in the inviting, sparkling water. Cue the sound of screeching tires and metal object crashing to a halt. It was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey (an old English reference to the cannon balls used in one of the wars that were stored on a plate called a monkey. Which was made of brass of course)
Well, with a lot of brave, but blue looking English people pretending they were enjoying the bone chilling pain the water was inflicting on them we swam around for a while. But there is only so much you can do when you are hyper-ventilating and facing hyperthermia so back to the hot sand we went for an enjoyable afternoon nap.
Leaving Banthan we cut back inland toward Totness and then down a series of back roads to the tiny Hamlet of Capton. I’ve had friends who live here for over 30 years, and one of them, John, was home. We catch up on the passing years, modern motorcycles, our kids, his grand kids, and mutual friends. Some still with us, some gone.
The main road into Capton is barely wide enough for a car and external signs of progress over the last three decades are nil. In their younger years they all roamed the world extensively, but they always came back to the tranquil valley and it’s fantastic to catch up.
Leaving Capton we ride on the smallest, narrowest roads we’ll use on our trip and we are often down to first gear picking our way through the lanes. I point out a few vantage points to Patrick along the way, but he’s had enough of Dad’s history and is looking forward to dinner, so after the three house/one pub villages of Ashprington, Bow Bridges, and Tuckenhay I work our way onto the main road and we positively fly along the manicured A road from Totnes through to Paignton at breathtaking speeds of 55 mph. Riding close to the summer solstice, the light lasts long into the evening at this time of year and the golden rays burning the fields beside us make it the one of the best rides yet. Or maybe because these are my favorite roads and riding them with my son in perfect weather is the most I could ask for in life?