June 19th, 2017 – London, England to Christchurch, England: ~120 miles
I’m a big fan of adventure bikes for on-road touring, and it only seems appropriate to use a British bike if we are starting in England. That’s why I ask Triumph if they’d lend Vy and I something for our trip, and they are gracious enough to oblige with an Explorer XRt. We are scheduled to pick it up from an office at 11am, but once we arrive we’re notified that the delivery driver is stuck in traffic and that we should come back in an hour. I am antsy to get on the bike and start our trip, but the delay allows Vy and I to explore the community of Kingston Upon Thames.
We stop at a coffee shop inside the train station in the hopes that we can get WiFi to look up something interesting to do. A local walks by wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt – I had my Red Sox hat on so I told him I liked his shirt and he responded by pulling up a sleeve and revealing a tattoo of the Red Sox logo with “2004+2007” on top of it. Baseball fans will know that’s when the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series after a 86 year drought. Two additional championships came in 2007 and 2013 and Red Sox fans went from lovable dopes to annoying jerks pretty quickly.
Leonard describes himself as an “Ameriphile born in the wrong country.” He moved to Texas decades ago and owned a specialty wine store but eventually a Whole Foods moved into town and he came back to the UK. We tell Leonard that we are looking for a place to kill an hour and he kindly takes 10 minutes out of his day to walk us to the riverside. I got my first pint of the trip at a pub called The Bishop and we watched some swans go by.
An hour later, we start heading back to the office. On the way, I saw this sign, and was stunned that it was even necessary:
Back at the office and we load up the luggage of our bike – an Explorer XRt adorned in a lovely color that Triumph calls Cranberry Red.
Our trip may not have started flawlessly, but all of my hassles disappear as I swing my leg over the bike. Now my focus is simple: stay on the
wrong left side of the road! Riding in foreign countries is a joy but each nation has its own set of challenges. My main frustration with England? It isn’t staying on the correct side of the road – it’s speed cameras. They’re everywhere, and it feels draconian. What happened to the sport of speeding until you see a police officer and slowing down to pretend like you’ve been under the limit the entire time?
We then visit the famous henges preceded by Wood and Stone. Woodhenge has a few campers nearby (including one blasting Euro house music) but there is barely anyone at the monument when we arrive.
The site itself is comprised of six concentric ovals, though it can be difficult to determine that at ground level. When it was originally built, the ovals were outlined with wood posts that may have been as tall as 25 feet. Nowadays, the locations of the old posts are denoted with concrete posts:
On the other hand, Stonehenge was absolutely amazing. The physical accomplishment alone of building it is incredible to me, and I love that no one definitely knows for sure how it was done. Ramps made of earth? Probably. But you don’t know!
We explore the visitor center to learn more about the history of Stonehenge. One exhibit is a force gauge built into a stone and it tells you how many multiples of yourself you would need to pull one of the stones found at the monument. Most people need an additional 95 or 99 clones of themselves. Then Baby Jack stepped up to embarrass them all:
As we leave Stonehenge, I can’t help but notice a Piaggio scooter that looks like it has some stories. There’s a random collection of stickers and the odometer shows over 45,000 miles – now my curiosity is really piqued. I take a few photos and make a mental note to investigate the stickers later but the owner enables my lazy side by appearing a few moments later and sparing me the research. He knows all about the Explorer and asks me some questions. I, on the other hand, know nearly nothing about Piaggio’s scooter lineup. Choosing not to expose my ignorance, I instead ask him about his journey and the stickers. He’s on a tour that started from the city of Osijek, Croatia and he’s averaging 350-mile days as he tours through Europe. My last question is about the large “Dobro” sticker on his trunk, and he responds by opening the trunk and presenting me with a pack of dry-cured pancetta. Huh? Turns out Dobro is a meat company based out of Osijek and they’re sponsoring his trip. So he’s been getting photos of people with the product…and that’s why I’ve now got a photo of me giving a thumbs up to meat I’ve never tasted or had even heard of before:
Packing for an international motorcycle trip can be difficult. Space is at a premium on the flight and on the bike, so you must bring versatile gear. I brought my Aerostich Roadcrafter R-3 because I knew it would be perfect for the inevitable cold and rain of English weather. Only problem is, the weather gods had different ideas. Britain is going through a heat wave – in fact, today is the warmest 24-hour period in June the country had seen since 1976. This is a problem because most people in England don’t have air conditioners. Why invest in one if it’s only warm about 3 days a year? But when it gets legitimately hot, people are at the mercy of the weather. As is the norm nowadays, many complaints are lodged about this on social media with the hashtag #toohottosleep:
— Gareth Davies (@garethd001) June 19, 2017
We make our way towards a hotel in Christchurch because tomorrow we’ll be visiting the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum nearby. The hotel is called the Fisherman’s Haunt, and I think it’s lovely.
Making the experience better was our host/bartender Ben. He rides a red/white/blue Honda Fireblade so we enjoy a bit of bike themed conversation. He has just finished planning a motorcycle show that will happen next week – unfortunately Vy and I won’t be around for it.
Our only problem with Fisherman’s Haunt is that, like most non-chain hotels in the country, it does not have air conditioning. So Vy and I open the windows and hope for the best. Tomorrow’s going to be full of classic British motorcycles, and I can’t wait!
Back to Day 1 and Day 2