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Motorcycle Mecca, the Green and White and Up Up and Away!

From the ferry, the White Cliffs of Dover, lit brightly by the morning sky, first appeared as a sliver of white on the horizon that separated the sky from the sea. As we neared they looked like a giant glacier with a green crust on top, whiter than white and deserving of their name.

We disembarked at the port in Dover, got on the M20 to London, and drove straight through the city to the Mecca of café-racer motorcycling, the Ace Cafe. I was nervous about navigating in England because of the left-hand driving but in reality, we adjusted very quickly.


Once at the Ace, we parked and immediately drew a crowd of fellow motorcyclists asking about our journey. Several were surprised to see that we were Americans, having the perception that all Americans were into Harleys and not adventure motorcycling. We were glad to dispel that myth.


That weekend there was a gathering of Jensen car owners so it wasn't the typical café-racer scene, but we didn't care, we were there, in the epicenter of British café-racer culture, so we went inside and each ordered American cheeseburgers with fries.

After hanging out a bit and talking some more with other interested motorcyclists we headed back east to downtown London and our hotel near the iconic Trafalgar Square. We settled in at the hotel, Mike reached out to his cousin who lived in London, and we agreed to meet up for some drinks at a pub near where she was going to school.

Nick couldn't join us because he had gotten a message that there was a health issue with his dog Weegie, which was being taken care of by an ex-girlfriend while Nick was away. Mike and I were concerned for Nick as we left for the meetup, but Nick assured us that he was going to be okay, he just needed to find out the details of what was going on with his dog.

Mike and I had a great evening downing pints at the pub with his cousin Cassie and a group of her college-aged friends and cabbed back to the hotel to see how Nick was doing.

Nick was in a bit of a panic when we returned. It turned out that Weegie had gotten an eye infection and it had swelled up and burst. He learned that his choices were to either put the dog down or return home to have Weegie undergo surgery to remove his bad eye because it was too much for his ex-girlfriend to handle.


Either way, it was a horrible position for Nick to be in, and Mike and I felt terrible for him and also for ourselves because he might not finish the trip with us after having come so far. We'd had several low points in the trip where we thought that events were going to derail our goal of making it around the world, but this was by far the most serious. He didn't want to put Weegie down, but he also didn't want to quit the trip. Mike and I asked him not to rush a decision and to sleep on it and see how he felt in the morning.

The next morning Nick had made up his mind, he was going to continue the trip but only until we could make it to my brother's place in Maryland back in the US, a week out from that day, where he could catch a flight back to LA and leave the bike with my brother to sell. It was a shit sandwich of a situation, but we could understand his desire to save his dog. We were happy he didn't have to leave immediately and could enjoy England and Scotland with us.

The day weighed heavy on us all, but we managed to have a great self-guided walking tour of central London. We walked along the waterfront down to Big Ben and Parliament, then crossed the Thames and took a ride in the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel right on the Thames that offered panoramic views of London. That night Mike took us to his favorite Indian restaurant, and we had some of the best curries I've ever eaten.

Early the next morning we loaded up the bikes and headed to the air freight company that was going to ship our bikes to New York. Mike had made all the arrangements and I'm not going to lie: Because I had done most of the planning to date, I was a little skeptical that this was all going to work out. We pulled into a big warehouse and dropped off our bikes with all the luggage that we didn't need to be strapped on their bikes.


We signed some papers and that was it. It was that easy. We then Ubered it to a nearby rental-car company and took off north to Scotland to visit Mike's family and his ancestral home in Glasgow.

On the way, we stopped and visited Mike's aunt and cousins in Liverpool and took a nice walking tour of the city center. The whole city seemed to be dedicated to the Beatles and little did we know but Mike had a strong attachment to Ringo Starr, as evidenced by him showing his appreciation at the bronze statue of the Fab Four in the town square. (See photo at left.)

We pulled into Glasgow in the early afternoon and got settled at the hotel. Mike called up his cousin Steven, he came and picked us up at the hotel, and we went to dinner at a classic Scottish pub in the city center. Steven forced me to order Haggis, which almost made me vomit (joking, actually quite tasty), and Mike spent most of his time translating Steven's heavy Scottish brogue into English that Nick and I could understand.

We spent the next two days touring Glasgow with Steven, the highlight of which was attending a Celtic Football match, easily the most amazing sporting event that I've ever attended. Celtic fandom is legendary, and Steven is a fanatic so he made sure that we were kitted out in Celtic fashion. We walked from downtown to the stadium, threatened along the way by a drunk Ranger fan (the rival protestant Glasgow team and yes religious sect matters here), and joined a huge crowd of white and green as we approached the stadium.


The match itself was the loudest I'd ever heard, and the most amazing part was the nonstop singing, in unison, song after song of Celtic pride. Steven and Mike knew the words to every song. Nick and I pretended like we were in church mouthing the words to hymns and humming along. Before the game, because Steven is so connected with the team, we got a backstage tour of the Celtic trophy room and the empty stadium. I even got to sit in Rod Stewart's season ticket chair (yes that Rod Stewart).

We also toured the new Glasgow Transportation Museum and saw the motorcycles that Ewen McGregor and Charley Boorman rode on “The Long Way Round”, the TV series that was a major inspiration for our trip. We sat there for a few minutes reflecting on their journey and felt proud of the fact that by the end we'd have accomplished largely the same thing. Our balls swelled a bit at the thought that although Mongolia had been hard, it didn't make us cry like it did Ewen McGregor.

After we toured Glasgow, we hopped in Steven's car and took off for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. We were going to try to attend the World-Famous Tattoo Festival (not what you think; it's a military festival) but we couldn't get tickets. Fortunately, the Fringe festival was happening so the whole town was full of street performers and art happenings.


Edinburgh is a magical place made even more magical with its amazing castle and the sights, sounds, and smells of the Fringe Festival. We had simply a fantastic time. It was tough to leave Steven, the most gracious and hilarious host, but home was calling and so was the sobering and sad reality that we would soon be saying goodbye to Nick.

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