Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's just a hobby

The B+B folks arranged for us to have a look at their neighbor's bikes. We had no idea what a treat we were in for. David came out and said, "All right then, let's have a look."

We walked in and he introduced us to his asisstant, Allen. Allen barely looked up from the piece of metal he was tooling. I have no idea what he was making on the lathe but he was checking his work with a micrometer.

David spoke a little about the bike currently sitting on the motorcycle lift, a 1901 something or other, then he took us into the other room. Old bikes packed and stacked everywhere. This is a 1903, this is a 1911, there are only three of these, one of these, one of these, etc.

After he'd answered all of our questions about the bikes he said, "Would you like to see a few more?" Of course we said yes and he opened a side door on the shed and we walked out into the drizzle. I noticed a turn of the century motorbike next to the riding lawnmower, but that wasn't what he had in mind.

He opened the door and bright light spilled out, angels began to sing and I realized that the other room had just been a setup for these bikes, his pride and joy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Killer Crest

Phil and I woke up and talked about the clouds."Do you think these are rain clouds?" "Dunno,
maybe. Probably won't start for a couple of hours if they are." "Oh, I bet you're right. Hey why do you think all the sheep are running away?"

It started to sprinkle about three minutes later. About three minutes and 17 seconds later the sky opened up and the island smelled of wet wool.

Rather than writing about our ride in the rain, how 'bout a little 'bout the Isle of Man? Their flag is three legs connected in a circle. The legs are wearing spurs and armor. Their motto is 'Whithersoever you throw it, it will stand' The legs are on the shield along with a falcon and a crow, two birds of obvious talents.

The Isle is technically a free state, not subject to British or EU rule. It is a bit of a tax haven with a maximum rate of 18% for individuals and none for corporations. They are serious about good business practices and all the pubs have posted signs that say if you think you haven't been poured a full pint, you have the right to have it filled to the top at time of service.

Oh right, no speed limit so this is where people come to "have a go at it."

Everyone rides bikes, races bikes, loves bikes. You know how kids pump their arms to get 18-wheelers to honk the airhorn? Well here kids give you the thumbs up sign and knda pump it a bit to get you to pop a wheelie.

We were watching the races outside a pub in Sulby tonight. You could hear them coming for three or four seconds before they came into sight and a guy said, "This must be a superbike." And this woman somewhere the other side of sixty says, "No, that's a sidecar." So it was. Turns out her sons are both in the sidecar races. One's a driver and the other is a monkey(remember how I thought there must be a better word for them then passenger? They call them monkeys and it fits well cuz they have to swing, hang and crawl all about and I've always thought of monkeys as crazy but in a good way) but, "Not on the same team, you understand. They're brothers."

Our cabbie raced trial bikes. Everyone is bike crazy. They say it's something in the water
but I think they take all the pregnant women round the isle at mach 3 so the baby is already
used to it in utero.

I wanna drive this time

Sidecars, my goodness. These bikes are low to the ground. The driver lays nearly prone across the tank with his feet on pegs that come off the rear wheel. The passenger's platform is about 3 by 4 feet. On the straights the passenger sits behind the driver. He or she(often she cuz their are lots of husband wife teams-think about the extra stress that would put on a relationship) leans over to the right for righthanders and slides to the far left and hangs out a bit to shift the center of gravity so the bike can turn left.

All this happens while they are hauling ass. You can see the passenger(perhaps there's a better word than passenger cuz it's anything but passive) bouncing around while trying to safely and quickly move across the platform. Sometimes they lay on their bellies with most of their legs hanging off the back. Legs straight cuz if they're curled they produce drag and if they touch the ground for more than a second or two, it's bye-bye little piggies.

We watched the classic sidecar race in the morning. I guess their pretty slow because they only average 80 mph or so. We only got to see six teams practice last night cuz there was a crash further up the course and by the time the course had been cleared of all the bits and pieces, it had to be called on darkness.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I'm not even close to crazy

Whoa diggity, these folks are nutters. We dumped our bikes back at the farmhouse and caught a cab into Ramsey. The cabbie suggested the same two corners of the course we'd been told about by the man with the unusual fear of gulls that we'd met on the ferry.

We got some beers and set up where we could see a straight that led to a sort of zig zag jog to the right or more like a right turn followed by an ess turn to the right. The riders are spaced out ten seconds apart at the start but bunch up by the time they get to where we were so that there's a rider or two going by every five seconds or so. I guess the leader has the toughest time and the trick is to just catch someone and tail them, you know dip when they dip, turn when they turn, etc.

Those boys come screaming down that short straight doing 100+, slam the back brake so it squirrels a little and goose it as they lean and get rocketed around the hard right. Then they crank on the throttle through the ess turn. You can see the rear tire bouncing and sliding because it is dealing with so much torque.

They get three laps, so we watched the first and hustled up to the second suggested viewing spot. It's called the crookshank, which I think is the curved part of a shepard's staff or a cane. That's exactly what it looked like. They come down that straight, which is just a little more than a quarter mile going 140 or so. Your heart jumps when they take that corner. I mean they hit the brakes a little but they're still going so fast that it doesn't seem possible to make the corner. Then you notice things like some of them are looking over their shoulder to see how close the other guy is while they are turning the corner. Just imagine taking your eyes off the road in that situation, nevermind the g-forces pulling on your neck.

After the superbikes(don't let the name fool you, one can buy these bikes over the counter at a store near you) were done, the sidecars had a go.

130 mph

Isle of Man

Woke to the sound of sport bikes at about six a.m. this morning. There weren't any beans on our breakfast plates today. Bummer. We headed to Heysham to catch the ferry. The riding was fantastic with loads of bikes. Apparently the area is always packed with cycles on Sundays.
I noticed after breakfast that our tickets said we needed to be on the 2 a.m. ferry while Scott was on the 2 p.m. We alll booked together and were prepared to fight or beg or bribe to get on the boat but they were nice as pie. It took about two seconds and no money to make the change. A reminder that this isn't America.

Eighty or so bikes lined up to load the ferry. First we were all subjected to a search. They took my 3" locking blade. Turns out lockbacks are illegal here. Reminder number two. The guy that found it didn't know how to close it. It's likely the first he ever touched. He seemed scared and then relieved when I closed it for him.

His supervisor came over to question me. "Why do you have that knife?" "For cutting stuff."
That was the end of it. They apologized over and over but kept the knife. Not a big deal cuz it was a five dollar knife and I have two more with me. They stopped searching as soon as they found the first one. Good thing they didn't look in the other saddlebag. It was full of heroin, prostitutes and chainsaws.

All the bikes were directed to the starboard(right yee landlubber) side of the boat and ferry employees strapped them all together. I stopped on the passenger lounge level but it was hot and muggy and full of bikers, so I headed up to the top outside level.

I met a bloke that has been coming to the TT(Tourist Trophy- the longest running motorbike race in the world. It began in 1907) for thiry years. He's a race marshall now.

His accent was super sick but luckily, another guy joined us. The second was born and raised on Isle of Man and comes back every year to work the course as a medic. Phil showed up and they gave us the skinny on the best places to view the race, where to eat, which local beer to drink, and how to keep seagulls from flying off with your triple burger, "I'm noot juking mate, a triple."

It sure was fun to unload enmasse with all those other bikes. We met a group from Argentina because they saw me and my AK Rider sticker standing by the bikes while Phil and Scott got some supplies. Turns out one of them met Phil, Josh, and Mariska in Patagonia.

We rode the course this morning and I can't wait to see the big boys run it. I stepped out of my comfort zone on a couple of corners doing about 38. That makes me wonder how in the hell they can average 130 over a 37 mile course. If you have access to a computer you should open google earth and fly the course. And if you don't, then how in the hell are you reading this?

We're off to watch some practice laps tonight. They usually go faster during practice cuz they need to make sure the bikes can handle it and not blow up.

Oh yeah, today's breakfast kicked ass. We're staying at a farmhouse with a family and they gave us a working man's English breakfast. But I can't understand why they call that stuff pudding.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Making miles

We're headed for Gigglewick today. But we may have to settle on Settle. Lots of wind today to go along with the twists and turns. The roads are so turny that the wind is pushing you one moment and gone the next and back and wham and everything's fine and shit it's shoving you across the centerline(which is white here) and...ah you get the idea.

We skirted the Nottingham area where Scott came close to bashing a woman that was washing her car on the road just over the crest of a hill around a blind corner. Then it was on to Sherwood forest.There aren't enough trees to hide Friar Tuck's fat ass these days. The forest is now a two or three acre patch of trees, miles of hog farm, and a dirt track where four-wheelers, bikes, and dunebuggys lap like madmen.

We've entered northern England and lots less people. The riding is out of hand. We wanted to stop and shoot all the time but there simply isn't anywhere to safely get off the road to take video and we haven't yet the time to double back.

We stopped for lunch at a place in the middle of some serious sheep country. After a bowl of bland curry, I decided to put my stunt kite in the air. A rottwieler attacked the fence I climbed over. He was some kind of pissed off but I couldn't be bothered. I had flying on my mind.

The site was a tiny paddock with barely enough area to fly. There were fences and playground equipment to tangle with but I was Jonesing to fly so safety be damned. I let out the lines and the kite promptly flipped over. Scott offered to right the kite, but I declined because I was concerned about cutting him if the kite got up and away from me.

I was able to right it on my own and then holy crow, it was off to the races. The kite was zipping to and fro and it was all I could do to keep it from smacking into something or someone. The someone was a little boy who's father thought it might be a good idea to take him really close to the fence even though I was being pulled around. Think about the wind that would pull a 180 lbs around with a kite that only has a fifty inch wingspan.

I tried to land the kite so I wouldn't break it or slice off that little tyke's nose. Then I tried to crash it. Then I let go of one line to flag it out. It twisted about a gazillion times before it hit the ground. Should be fun to untangle it.

We hit the road again and again I was amazed at something I saw on the road. These people have cameras everywhere. Chainsaws are illegal. But apparently it's just fine for a horse-drawn carriage to go down the motorway( our equivalant would be the interstate.)
Gigglewick was full. So we headed to Settle. Scott and I stretched our legs while Phil went in to see if there were any rooms available. A gust of wind knocked my bike down and gave it a few modifications. Bye-bye security deposit.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Big goddamn rocks

Phil and I got our bikes and all the paperwork sorted out and hit the tarmac about half past two. Bournemouth is a bit hilly, full of roundabouts, not based on the grid system, and of course you keep the oncoming traffic on your right. Needless to say, Phil and I had quite a bit on our minds by the time we got out of the city.

One of the things on my mind was the price of petrol. It doesn't seem terrible until one realizes that two bucks doesn't quite get you a pound and they sell petrol by the liter. You do the math in your head and think that isn't so bad, then oh shit i need to multiply that by 3.78 which is hard to do when you're driving on a road with more twists than a Wes Craven film, no shoulder and there's a lorry half in your lane fixing to squish you like a bug.

We drove for about an hour in a northerly direction to meet Phil's in-laws. They were having coffee. Phil had a tangerine juice and I had a soda made from burdocks(what that guy was brushing out of his dog's fur when he hit upon the idea for velcro) and dandelions. It tastes like a mild version of fernet but with none of the buzz or aftertaste.

After catching up with them and a promise to get to their place for lunch on our return, we headed to Stonehenge. A yellow-toothed(or is it teethed?) long-haired sod told us we'd just missed it, they were closed for the evening. Perhaps he hadn't noticed that the monument was right by the motorway.

Yep, them's big rocks. The smallest weigh several tons and all of the stones came from at least 200 miles away sometime around 2200 B.C. Opinions vary as to how the stones were placed and for what purpose. I say manna and the staff of ra were used to make a calendar.

Upwards of a quarter-million neo-druids still gather each summer solstice to celebrate, presumably the changing of the seasons.

Two men with a hammer and screwdriver chipped a hunk off one of the monoliths this afternoon. Security personnel were able to stop the damage but the men are still at large. It wasn't us.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

finally it's a motorcycle trip

Today's the day. After a breakfast of bacon, sausage, fried egg, and tomato(I don't know if the tomato will be fried, but I doubt it), we're gonna walk over to Bournemouth Motorcycle Hire and pick up our bikes.

We have one more night here in Bournemouth, so we will put a light load on our bikes and head up to Stonehenge for a look.

May 21

Two martinis in Anchorage then off to Seattle. Two big beers and a cheeseburger before the flight to London.

We sat in the way back next to the lavatory. Lots of action, lots of big asses bumping into Phil's shoulder. I slept quite well as is my custom on airplanes, until the dude in front of us began to vomit. Over and over he yakked into one airsickness bag after another.

Seven or so hours later, we touched down with death warmed over sitting in front of us. We jumped up and made a dash for it as soon as the fasten seat belt sign went off.

Customs went so smoothly that we both regretted not smuggling in something cool.

A former client of Phil's picked us up. We shoved our shitshow into Simon's sensible and fuel efficient car and headed to Bournemouth on the Southwest coast.

We heard two Brit teams were in the World Cup Finals and went to find a pub where we could watch their fans bash each other's heads in.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

From AK to UK in 17 hours

We still have snow in our yard, but tomorrow I'll be saying "hire" instead of "rent."