Travelogue from my August 2013 Trip to Germany, Sweden, and Norway. Lots of great photos accompany my written account of this fantastic trip. You may have seen some photos here on Tumblr already.
the plot was building and along the way i got talking to my buddy Graham (in England) on Skype… i told him i was flying into Glasgow on the 29th and he said his birthday is on the 28th, and he knows some friends near to Glasgow whom he hadn’t seen in a while… one thing leads to another and i find myself walking off the plane to meet Graham who is picking me up at the airport! yee haw. settle yerseff in and grab a brewski or beverage of choice, and we’ll trip around Olde Scotland for a while…
i was originally trying to get a train up to Newark (NJ) from home- because Amtrak rolls right thru the airport on its way between Philly and NYC… alas, it turned out to be a no go. the Amtrak scheduling on the day of my return, a Sunday, is sparse. there are fewer trains, it was a question of “will i make this early train?” or… “do i wait four more hours for the next train if i miss this train?” either/or- it was dodgy at best. so what the hey, i decide to drive down and park off site somewhere. i score a *deal* and pay 80.00 for the week! well, as it turned out, i paid dearly just the same… but that is another chapter for much later in this yarn.
here is a shot of Manhattan from the Newark Airport:
my flight took off around 7:30 PM (that’s 1930 hours) and with an overnight flight, i arrived in Glasgow just about 0730, local time (6 hour flight + 6 hour time diff). go thru passport control etc., sail thru with no problemas, and there’s Graham, sure enough, waiting for me.
Glasgow Airport shot:
oh BTW, the big surprise is that at 0730 Glasgow time? black freakin DARK out. not kidding. so we toss my gear into the rental car (long story-don’t ask) and take off for … for… well a few circles around Glasgow on the motorways!
then Graham got the idea that we should roll out of town to see a World Heritage Site, near a complete dump named Lanark. i’m like WOO HOO! yeah whatever bro- i’m in SCOTLAND! well we never did see anything too exciting about the Lanark area, but did manage to have a fan-bleepin-TASTIC brekkie- the Full English- Scottish style, and saw some Galloway Highland Cattle along the way- which is a pretty rare sight apparently- at least around these parts.
G at the helm:
Unknown Village along the Way to Lanark:
The Flora & The Fauna- you decide which is which!
The Bustling Necropolis of Lanark:
and yeah- Breakfast!
and oh so luverly it was, too… with a latte and some tea. BTW that wedge shaped thing is the Scottish bit of this Full English- a Potato Scone. yum!
so then off to Graham’s hotel to collect the lovely Diane and AWAY we go, into the heart of Glasgow- which is very nearly soul less, BTW, but OK for mediocre shopping tho i’m sure there is good food about in the Towne Centre…but we never found it….
but i did manage to collect some samples of Scotch- Single Malt, 10, 12, & 18 year old varieties…
into the stash bag they went for future reference. we popped about for a while and stopped into some small coffee shop for more…well, coffee… then made our way out to the edge of Town to the KelvinGrove Museum-
where they had a really bangin AC/DC exhibit going on! well, among other things…
the really great thing about the Kelvingrove Gallery & Museum is that they have this mad jumble of oddball stuff… all slapped in together, everything with everything! i mean it’s some eyeball poppin goodness. total mind candy. well, not to mention the feature du Jour, the fab AC/DC exhibit…
these pix, BTW, were taken on the fly in pure *stealh* mode- no pix allowed in the exhibit! oops, my bad. BUT- it was even better than it looks- with mad video, music cranked up LOUD (is there any other way to listen to AC/DC? i think NOT) and cool stuff like Bon Scott’s Leather Jacket… it was sights and sounds for a tired tired boy- i’d been up for pushing 24 hours by this point… after getting our fill of AC/DC, we popped into the Museum Cafe for some lunch… it was good too… not that i recall exactly what we ate, but i DO recall liking it! well, we also had to wash it down with SOMEthing. right? right.
Kingfisher it was then. not a total loss, by any stretch. i did wind up with some pretty decent Scottish Micro Brews later on… but the Scots are not generally known for their expertise in the Ales department.
afterwards, we was bustin a move on outta there… well we WANTED to bust a move… but it was fairly peein down with rain…
so we chilled for a second… a minute… a while… and Graham finally made a run for the car while Diane and i waited under cover… time wuz gettin short and i had a train to catch!
so we wound around… and around…. and around…. trying to find our way to the Glasgow Queen Street Station, which we eventually DID find. those guys dropped me off, and it was with some difficulty that i finally realised WHICH train i was needin to be on…… well OF COURSE it was the 14:53… i had a change over to another train in Perth, but it seems there’s a few stops between Glasow and Perth… and Perth wasn’t really mentioned on the marquee. not to mention i was firing on two out of eight cylinders by now, but i eventually *got it* and made my way to the proper seat on the proper train. it was JAMMED, because Glasgow is the kind of town that folks come to for the day, the weekend, a holiday, etc. i had fun there, short as the day was, fast as it went…. tho Graham texted me later to say that they’d found the soul of Glasgow after i left… a snappin little side bit of town with cool shops, hip restaurants etc.
ah well, i had another night coming in Glasgow. tho i planned it not at all, it worked out in a decent fashion for me- but that’s another tale for another day- a week away yet! HUGE Thanks to Graham and Diane for traveling a heck of a long way just to hangout for a day! i thoroughly enjoyed it! what a guy. G, dude you are A-OK in my book.
here’s a scenic/artistic interlude-
one thing that always seems to jump out to me when i travel is the way the sky appears in places, and how it differs from my *home sky*. the Sky and the Light up in Northern Scotland are completely amazing.
the sun comes out late in the morning and it gets dark early in the afternoon. it really seems to make the extra effort in the short time it has each day. when it shines, it just totally illuminates everything. sometimes it shines only partially and lights up stuff that’s WAY over there… the sky is so huge and changes from minute to minute. it can rain, and be sunny with huge clouds, all at the same time. everything is gigantic and the distances are vast. you think,”i’ll just walk out there to see that.” but it takes an hour (or longer) to get to what appears to be right at your feet.
i hope these pix capture at least some sense of this fantastical light.
right on then. now….. lessee, where was i? oh yes boarding the train. well being as it was a Saturday evening, the train was jammed. to the gills. all them people who were in Glasgow on day-trips
were headed home, and i was going with them…. well actually i was going beyond where they were going. i was going to Inverness.
my train was due in, about 10 minutes ahead of my sister’s plane. i’d chosen the Royal Highland Hotel,
a really great old place adjacent to the train station, just about in the heart of town. i rolled in, confirmed my reservation and claimed my room, about the same time that Jamie and my nephew Joshua were settling in downstairs in their own room- we’d checked in withing minutes of each other, if not within seconds!
we gathered up and decided on an Indian Restaurant that someone had recommended, The Rajah.
well it was above and beyond your average Ruby Murry, lemme tells ya. after, it was time for a mooch about town.
bottom line: Inverness is a really great small city with a plethora of bars and pubs, decent restaurants, and also a good number of hotels. folks had come to town for the weekend, (it was Halloween) and there was a hiker club staying at our hotel, so all manner of folk were on hand for the weekend, not just partyers. It’s in the middle of the Highlands, not too far from the sea- and of COURSE there’s Loch Ness and Nessie, the good ol Sea Monster… or Loch Monster, to be more accurate?
we had a blast, and i only wish we’d had more time there! after a very comfortable night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we were off to pick up our rental car, the valiant steed which would carry us oop nawth, to our leetle house on the Kyle Of Tongue.
a few pix of Inverness in daylight
moving right along… Scotland. wow, is it REALLY possible to experience love at first sight? or feel? or love with or in a certain state of being? as in being in SCOTLAND?
of course it is. cuz i was.
i’d only been there a few short days, and had already developed a deep desire to revisit those cities i had mere moments to experience. i like to look forward rather than backwards, tho, and sure was excited about the next phase of this adventure- spending several days on the Northern Coast. early Sunday morning we had breakfast at the Royal Highland Hotel and trucked all our stuff over to the *bust stop* (hint of foreshadowing), where we waited for our bus to the airport.
we waited. and waited. a goodly pile of people straggled up to the stop, the main bust departure from Inverness. many of them looking all pie-eyed, dragging small suitcases or toting bags they’d packed for the weekend… a bus rolled up. not *ours*, but *theirs*. every single one of *them* loaded *their* gear, and got on that bus, that *other* bus. and away they rolled, into the sunrise. leaving only us, and a cloud of diesel exhaust, and us feeling like…like… well, like we’d just missed our bus.
well it don’t take US long to get a good solid handle a situation. i mean you gotta get mighty early- about 11:00 to get one over on US’ns. To Wit: it was quickly becoming obvious that we didn’t HAVE a bus, no matter what the *schedule* said. so when a lone taxi rolled up and deposited a couple’a passengers, we hopped right on over there and paid the nice driver to haul our @$$es to the airport. which of course was a near total ghost town. HMMM… no WONDER that bus never showed. why get out of bed on a Sunday to take nobody to the airport? but the taxi driver was sympathetic and agreed, in fact, no- he complained, that if a place like Inverness relies heavily on tourist dollars (pounds), and if in fact LOTS of tourists spend lots of dough there, (which they do) then why-o-why aren’t the services just a WEE BIT better for said suckers…errr, i mean TOURISTS?
well. i found it no wonder that the airport was practically empty, as it happens to be really difficult to fly into or out of Inverness. think you can get a flight to or from Inverness from just anywhere? no flippin WAY! the only flights going into or out of Inverness connect thru Gatwick in London. what’s that?! you say? isn’t the airport in London called Heathrow? well boys and goils, Gatwick is London’s -ahem- OTHER airport…like the bastard step-child who is kept in the closet and whom nobody mentions in polite company? it’s true. believe me. flights to or from the great city of Inverness connect thru Gatwick, fly on to points unknown and unreasonable, THEN connect to whichever city you please. case in point- my sister, on her return trip to Rome, Italy- flew from Inverness to Gatwick and had to make her way from Gatwick to Heathrow, where they eventually boarded a plane to Rome- total travel time that day- 15 HOURS! she could practically have DRIVEN to Rome from Inverness in that amount of time. Inverness is simply one of those places that you just cannot *get to from here*. so the fact that A: nobody was at the airport, and B: all those *other* people took the BUS out of town, really doesn’t come as a HUGE surprise… in hindsight. hindsight IS always razor sharp.
well whatEVER, right? i digress. the Taxi Driver got paid, we made the airport & our car was waiting, so all was right in the world.
we collected our car from the nice rent-a-car lady and took off to load up on groceries for the week, not knowing what we were headed into, but knowing for sure there’s a giant Tesco super mercado right in Inverness, in line with our exit point. we loaded our little car to the gills with WAY more food than i would’a bought in a month… then again i don’t have a 6’-?” (and growing like a weed) teenage son who eats 3 Gigundo meals a day at MY house. that boy eats more in one day than i normally eat in three.
after, we jumped in and jetted out of town, crossing the big water on the BIG bridge, heading North on the A9, up along the coast. here’s a few pix from along the way. pardon any repeats.
we rolled up the A9 pretty far, stopping to peep a castle, Castle Dunrobin-
which was closed but you could still walk around it and look about the gardens, etc.- and stopping in Helmsdale, to have lunch. we had a marvelous Fish & Chips in a cool little restaurant which was listed in my sister’s guide book. there’s a very funky ambiance about the place. La Mirage. most excellent! it was packed with the Sunday Dinner crowd, and no wonder cuz that sh*t was bangin!
finally, after getting pretty far north, we turned off towards Thurso, cutting cross country where we began to see higher ground and windmills. we had no proper maps of the area so we hadn’t turned off to cut up through the middle ground, but were sticking to the areas we had on whatever meager maps the guide book provided… which sho wasn’t much. it’s obvious from seeing the oil rigs further south, to seeing the windmills up north, that Scotland is taking a hands on approach in taking care of its energy needs, for better or worse, i guess.
anyway, what began as a casual jaunt almost denigrated to the level of mad dash- we’d covered far more ground than was necessary, due to lack of real maps, and it seriously looked like we’d arrive at the house in Tongue after dark. well it was close, it had JUST gotten dark when we rolled up. and it was raining, but where’s the surprise there, eh? so after struggling just a wee bit to find the drive way, and making certain we were in the right place, we settled in with a beverage, prepared our supper, and relaxed for the night.
interlude Numero Dos- Scotland: All Things Great & Small
Scotland is alive. VERY MUCH alive, it is a land where things grow. things grow big. things grow small. things grow on top of things, things grow on things that are growing. things definitely grow on dead things. some things SHOULD be dead but are still growing. high, low and in between, life lives large. and small. and tiny.
here are some examples of life in Northern Scotland.
so… on the first day of our arrival in Tongue, we had to get up early and bolt back south. my sister, ya see, is a fly fishing enthusiast, and had booked a day of fishing on the River Alness. she’d booked in thru TroutQuest
i, unfortunately, was unable to really hold a rod because of my hands, and so i did not fish. it was an expensive venture due to river access permits, licensing, and the guide charges. however, my sister was dead set on it, and it made for a mighty fine day out in deep countryside, along a beautiful Scottish river. in the end, even tho nobody got any fish, it was decided to be well worth the time and money. the guide, Roger, was most excellent and attentive.
Roger makes it look easy peasy
Jamie and Joshua give it their all
The River Allness
of course i’m running about with my camera like a kid in a candy store
meanwhile back at the ranch:
but Josh has eventually had about enough
and the day is winding down anyway. so we give it up about sundown and haul back to the house in Tongue for supper and a beverage. if you ever want to do a salmon fishing expedition on a river in Scotland, these guys are your way into it. ask for Roger Dowsett and tell him your buddy Tom Banks sent you.
our house turned out to be really great if not tiny- but was well situated and well appointed as well.
so we settled in rather nicely & easily.
on Tuesday, we hopped back in the car, which BTW wasn’t my ideal holiday- driving or madly dashing about from point to point- but there were a couple POIs about which we’d agreed we all wanted to check out. today’s destination was Thurso and points West- namely John O’Groat and Duncansby Head. we finally made a last minutechoice to jet out to Dunnet Head as well, which happens to be the farthest Northern point of land on the UK mainland- if it can be called that. so here are some shots from that run-out.
because it was well written up in our guide book. we were glad we ate there because everything was fresh and well made, and nicely presented. i had a really good smoked haddock chowder, along with a burger. yeah that’s right, a cheeseburger.- now. normally i would NOT go to another country and eat what may be considered American food. BUT we were in deep farm country, and the beef was organic and grass fed, and the cheese was a local (or Scottish) cheddar. somehow when i saw it on the menu and read the descripition, i was like YEAH baybay. it was bangin, and not all that much like what i can get around here after all. different but the same. sorta.
after lunch we rolled out to John O’Groat. our book didn’t really say anything flattering about this out-of-the-way speck of a town but it was in our path to Duncasnby Head so what the heck right? apparently there is some old hotel here, as pictured in this first photo… painted garishly, like a giant Circus Tent, it’s shut down and supposedly under construction but it appears that no great effort is under way to re-open the place. looks like an abandoned construction site to me.
so yeah, nothing going on here. well, it’s nice to know you’re getting accurate information, if nothing else.
next up was Duncansby Head- home of the great Sea Stacks. not to complain but we got there later in the day. i mean when the sun drops off behind the horizon around 4:15-4:30, 3:00 PM is late in the day! anyway the sun was so intense and i was shooting right into it at this point- so pardon me if the couple pix of the amazing Sea Stacks aren’t all that!
first here’s the Light House at Duncansby Head
and the view down the coast looking West
here are the Sea Stacks- where the sea cuts out a chunk of Terra Firma as if to claim it for its own- which of course, eventually does happen.
and off we went to Dunnet Head
by now the sun was setting in earnest.
it was quite beautiful if not windy and c-c-cold. we climbed the hill to the highest vantage point for a 360 degree view of it all.
good night, y’all.
after leaving Dunnet Head, we jumped back into the car for the long haul -50 miles or so- back to the house. we’d had a good day but were resolved to make that our last day out driving about, as there was much to see afoot, right around Tongue.
as the week progressed, we found out what he meant when Graham had mentioned that when you are in Scotland, you are IN it. as opposed to AT it, or TO it. you seriously are quite IN it, very much in with it. and it gets very quickly into you.
the terrain around us was beautiful. colorful autumn hues juxtaposed against the blues and greys of the sky and the deep green of the grass. the area is stark and hugely wide open, with big mountains jutting up against the omnipresent sky, the sea always nearby- peeking out from behind the rolling hills flaunting its own color scheme in shades of greys and blues and greens, …the local lochs always reflecting the sky’s swinging moods. water was always present- even at the top of a big hill, in the middle of a sloping field, there’d be puddles- sometimes BIG puddles, like miniature lochs- and wet and spongy mossy ground. and the light. that amazing light, everchanging, inspiring, fleeting.
i already mentioned it but distance was distorted- you’d think, wow, look at that! i’ll walk out there and see that. your walk would take an hour or more, to get to what appeared to be right in front of you. Northern Scotland is the kind of place which makes you realise just how much a part of it all you are; how alive you are. and just how small.
here are a few shots from our drive that Tuesday Morning, on our way over to Thurso.
we stopped on this small bridge to have a look at a river that rolled into the nearby sea. the next two pix were taken while standing in the same spot, one looking upriver into the sun, the next taken looking downriver with the sun at my back. the camera settings weren’t changed at all. check the difference between the two shots!
along the way we saw from the road, a small beach in a cove. we’d seen cars parked there, and it appeared to be a popular surfing spot! we HAD to walk down to have a look, now didn’t we? do the Scots live up to their reputation as a tough crowd? bear n mind that this is November, the air temp is about 50+ degrees, and the water temps had to be about the same. sure enough, there were a couple guys out riding the waves!
sky and light part II
landscapes taken right around the Kyle Of Tongue, many of them looking in the same direction at the same stuff
for the rest of the week, we wandered the hills and oceanside closer to the house. in our travels around Tongue, we spotted a fair amount of wildlife. we saw Red Deer including the amazing Red Stags, some Roe Deer, a Seal, an Otter, some Porpoises, and numerous birds of prey.
here are some random pix from our wanderings.
that was our first day of local exploring and we ended with a visit to the Tongue Hotel, which won the award for Best Hotel this year. i had a couple beers and my sister and Josh had tea. we thought we might go back for supper one night but in the end we couldn’t justify it because we had so much food at the house… definitely, the Hotel is worth a revisit someday, if for no other reason than to sample the single malt list…
Next day (Wednesday) we walked down the road a short piece to an entrance onto “Skinnet Beach and Ard”. the *Ard* is a small peninsula with a loch near its middle. this was another example of it looking so *right there* but actually not being as small and close as it seemed. i think we were out on this walk for most of the day.
i don’t know if it’s stereotypical or not but i have always heard about Cairns, and naturally associated them with Scotland, or Ireland, somehow…. sure enough, they were all over the place out here.
here’s a Wiki link about cairns and the history etc.
seems it’s an ancient, worldwide phenom, and not strictly Scottish or Irish.
further out onto the *Ard* we walked, continuing back around to Skinnet Beach. it was out here that i first got a real sense of how clean the ocean water is. it is really clear, the emerald greens mixed with deeper blues were stunning and completely unexpected. of course the overall sense of the sea;s color was directly reflected from the sky so at any given time it was hard to gauge the water’s color. until you were right up on it.
that cairn, pictured a minute ago, was set (naturally) on the high point of the Ard. here are a few shots from the *summit*:
moving around to the western side of the Ard, i began to shoot more into the sun which was, by now, moving pretty well along on its path of daily travel. the sky was beginning to undergo a dramatic change, too- business as usual.
we found a small stream and followed it down to the beach, where we sat for a spell and had a bit of a lunch-y snack.
the sun was dancing in and out of the clouds which were building dramatically in the West… it chose to grace us with its presence while we sat and enjoyed this little private beach moment.
our spirits soared with the birds!
the clouds were building in the West. the sun put on a brave face but eventually relented, and so did we.
the water reflected the truth of the moment. in the east, the sky didn’t seem quite convinced.
back we went to the house.
the yellow flowers are on a plant called *Gorse*, which is fairly common in Scotland. it surprises you with its bright yellow flowers, which seem unlikely in late Autumn. tho attractive, it is unadvisable to touch it, due to its extremely gnarly and prickly nature. (ooh…..PRETTY flower! OUCH!
here’s another Wiki link to Gorse, if you care to read a little about it:
t was like tug-of-war between the clouds and the sun as we got back to the house, and the wind was fairly howling.
my sister’s boot kinda had a bit of a breakdown…
we struggled with it over the next few days, applying contact adhesive and yes- even duct tape in order that she might squeak thru the rest of the holiday. i mean, no way were we going to buy replacement shoes way out there! in the end she made it but it was nip and tuck the rest of the way down the line, lemme tells ya.
we had a nice evening, just hanging out and sharing a sample of Single Malt. for supper that night, we ate some fresh Salmon. we’d bought it from a local fishmonger out of the Thurso area, who delivers to the small stores around Tongue. we were also able to buy some really great fresh-made artisan breads at the store nearest us! i put a nice treatment on the fish, cooking it in a little Orange Juice with some tarragon, and washed it down with some Scottish Micro Brew.
next day we drove out a bit towards the end of land on the west side of the Kyle to look at the sea. we parked near a church that seemed to under repair, and hiked out from there. i spent some energy experimenting with B&W mode
and using different aspect ratios
i wound up shooting a fair number of pix in 16:9 for the rest of our trip, as it seemed to capture the sense of space rather well.
after lunch we drove out around the end of the Kyle. we’d laid hands on some maps of the area which showed various ruins and things of interest. as you move about the area, you cannot help but notice old and ancient stone foundations and walss here and there. most of these have been researched, ID’d, and mapped. there were a number of things we would have liked to see, but in the end we kinda ran out of time.
here’s a roundhouse- a waiting area for those who wanted to take the ferry across the Kyle, back before any bridges were ever built.
here’s the Varrich Castle ruin from across the Kyle- at extreme zoom
the sun sets on another day. we considered ourselves quite lucky to be having mild weather. we had one more day to move about the area before having to load out of the house and make our way back to civilisation. tomorrow we would hike out into the valley a bit, to the foot of Ben Loyal, seen here on the left side of this pic- it’s the group of 4 jagged peaks you have been seeing to the west in many of my pix.
on our last day we hiked out onto the open plain below Ben Loyal. our walk began with a drive out to the edge of the village to an abandoned manor house. the farm there is still a working farm but oddly (to my mind) nobody lives in the house- which is huge. here are a few shots from that walk.
recall that my sister’s boots had fallen apart, and we’d wished them together? they seemed to holding up rather well, considering. Duct tape RULES!
we’d also wanted to get to a nearby lake for a hike around, to look at some ancient archaeological sites there- some stone wall ruins and a rock with carvings on it. alas, it was nearly dark by the time we got over there, so we bagged it. it was a beautiful site tho, just the same. the sun was setting in the West,and the moon had risen in the East.
we drove back to the house to pack our bags, and to eat.
next day we were up with the sun, to load our gear out of the house, and to say our final goodbyes to the Kyle of Tongue. it was crystal clear and dead still that fine morning, as the sun was waking up behind the hills.
our drive back to Inverness would take us out across the open plain, thru Lairg- along the tiny roads whcih were primarily single lane, with wider, “passing places” here and there. did i mention there was not even a breath of wind blowing? the Lochs were like glass mirrors!
it was a great day for a drive, tho we didn’t have time to lolly-gag about. i had a train to catch and we wanted to eat lunch in Inverness together beforehand.
well, OK we stopped here and there… we HAD to didn’t we?
did i mention the lakes were like glass? WOW.
i’m guessing that you just don’t get too many days where there isn’t SOME wind blowing, in these parts…
coming into Lairg now… on the beautiful Loch Shin
and moving on to Shin Falls, with their really great Visitor’s Center, where we had a good coffee and a snack…
and back into the car we went, for the final leg down to Inverness…
Scotland has these very long… inlets, i guess you may call them, that come really far inland from the sea. the Scottish word for them is Firth. the A836 from Lairg down to the A9 follows several Lochs and then finds itself rolling over hill and dale, then finally out alongside Dornoch Firth.
the final stretch down the A9 flows thru farmland, alongside another firth, where the North Sea stretches way inland, all the way to Inverness. you can see the oil rigs out in the water. they seem alternately close and far away as the road winds about.
here we are, crossing the strikingly modern bridge across Beauly Firth, on the final approach to Inverness.
and come into Inverness proper
we park the car and head into the pedestrian district looking for lunch…
then bust a move over to the train station to say our goodbyes, as i begin the final leg of my adventure, the train ride back down to Glasgow.
the train was filled, and i sat with a family of folks who were going to New York City for the week! they would fly out of Glasgow in the morning on the same flight as i. i had fun talking to them about their trip, and tho i wasn’t able to give them to much info about NYC, i gave them hints about America and the customs associated with tipping, etc. all in all, it was nice, they were nice, and it occupied what would have otherwise been a not-too-exciting ride south.
sunset over the mountains
unloading at Glasgow Queen Street, we went our separate ways. i had absolutely no idea where i was headed exactly, or where i would spend the night… tho i knew i really wasn’t trying to end up in some shyte-hole of an airport motel, to have that as my final impression of a great holiday in a great country.
so i wandered about aimlessly for a bit… dragging my luggage!
i finally landed in a pretty swank Holiday Inn a few blocks away, near the huge pedestrian district, on the edge of the Theater District.
turns out they had a really nice restaurant right on the premises, which meant i didn’t have to go far for my evening meal. outside, in the streets, it was Guy Fawkes Night- costumed revelers were out and about, and mischeif was in the air! i wasn’t trying to get all wrapped up in that, so i sauntered into the hotel restaurant. after a short wait for my table, and a martini at the bar, i sat myself down at my table. supper began with Greenland Prawns, i moved onto to locally caught fresh Salmon, and finished with some foo-foo-ey dessert! from there i strode the few steps to the bar for a dram or two of single malt, and some light conversation with whomever was hanging about.
hot diggety ding-dang doodle! life, as *they* say- is GOOD!
a quicky lift ride back up to the room and the plush beds for some shut-eye… and i mean not too much shut-eye- i had a wake up call for 0500! ugh. but i did enjoy every second of sleep that night, the last sleep i’d see for a while.
Next morning, I hopped a taxi out to the airport, for the long flight back to the U.S.
Landing in Newark, i bumped into my *friends* (whom i’d met on the train yesterday) at the baggage carousel, and wished them well for their week in NYC. gathering my rolling bag, i headed over to passport control. the place was all but deserted! but as we all queued up, at least two other plane loads of folks arrived- we’d made it just in time to be at the head of a line that was hundreds of people long!
i made my way up to the nice customs man, and handed over my paperwork. one look and he discovered i hadn’t filled the form out properly or completely! his demeanor quickly soured, and i braced myself for some unpleasantness… miraculously, it was not to be! our conversation went like this:
him: blah blah blah
him: quack quack
me: mmm hmmm
him: ARRRRGH! BARK! SNAP!
me: OOPS MY BAD. SORRY man- here lemmee fix it.
followed by the next round with me sweating it the whole way. finally,
him: what do you do for a living?
me: professional stagehand
him (still seething): what does THAT mean?
me: i set up shows. i’m in the union.
him (giving me THE LOOK): when was the last time you worked?
me: some time ago, i’ve had carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. i’ve had one operation and the 2nd is scheduled for December.
him: REALLY?!?how’dtheoperationgo?lemmee see?how’sitfeelnow? that’sthescar? WOWTHAT’SREALLYGREAT! hey good luck and HAVE A NICE DAY!
me: thanx. you too. see ya bro.
PA POW! dodged a MAJOR bullet. i’m out like sweat pants!
only it goes downhill from here.
i slog thru the airport, exchange my remaining pounds back into US dollars, and ask about as to where to get my shuttle back to Joe’s Parking Lot… *they* say, “go to point A”.
i go to point A. i wait for EVER. i watch shuttles go by. every one but mine.
i ask about again. i slog over to point B. i wait for EVER. no shuttle. well, not MY shuttle, but lots of everyone else’s.
see a pattern forming here? at all?
finally, i slog back into the terminal building -feeling pretty damn terminal- to find a starbucks for some rocket-fuel-inna-cup. after an 8 hour plane ride on the heels of no sleep, along with the trauma of re-entering my own home country (they make EVERYBODY- even a white-bread home-boy feel like a terrorist!), i was being haunted by an overwhelming sense of ogawdi’mnevereverevergonnagetto my CAR! i desperately needed that double latte, that muffin, and that banana- believe me. like the nectar & the fruit of the gods, so it was.
finally, at my third *point of pick-up* and many trips up and/or down several escalators, i recall i have a slip with a number for the knuckleheads at the car park in my WALLET! which is where it all begins to go badly…
digging my wallet out of my pocket whilst shuffling two bags, my phone, and a handful of starbucks gak, i call. they say i need to be elsewhere. i slog up to the new spot. i wait. i wait. i wait some more. the shuttle FINALLY gets there about the time i realise i no longer am in possession OF MY WALLET.
Blimey, i’ve lost my wallet in NEWARK NJ! with a sense of doom buffered by tired resignation, i am in a near panic as i tell the shuttle driver i’ll *catch the next one* (like oh yeah, this’ll only take a minute) and begin the oh-so-painfully-long process of retracing my steps and working with the nice folks in red sport-coats who are the airport’s helpful public *ambassadors*, finally winding up in front of a port-authority police officer to fill out an official PO-lice report on my now obviously lost wallet, which i will also obviously never see again…
something like 3.5 hours after my plane landed i finally got to my waiting car, threw my bags in, and began the 3 hour drive back home. by now both Cynthia and i were beside ourselves- and not beside each other.
the drive seems like a dream to this day- it happened fast somehow- didja ever magically float -as in a dream, across a hundred or more miles of landscape, WITHOUT psychedelic drugs?! in what i remember as mere minutes- i was back at El Rancho Grande AKA The SkyBox, in the arms of my sweet baby.
i’m tired but happy to be home. with a lot of digesting the epic trip ahead of me and wading thru a couple thousand pix, i’m both worn out & still in shock from all the end-time BS and having lost my freakin wallet in Newark freakin New Jersey. in retrospect, maybe i should have taken the train to the airport after all- what i saved in train fares up and back i may lose in a case of identity theft!
none of that can override the fact that Scotland is a great place to be. we had a mah-ve-lous time, and now i HAVE to go back, to explore Glasgow and Inverness.
2008 45TH International BSA Rally Isle Of Man Excerpts
England Trip 2008- IoM
here are a bunch of BSAs waiting to board the ferry from Liverpool to the Isle Of Man. we are heading over to the 45th International BSA Rally.
so yeah, Isle of Man. i’m there in August 2008 with about 500 other folks from around the world. most of us RDOE in on BSAs of assorted vintages. it was pretty great, but ya think it rains at ALL on the IoM? we rolled off the Steam Packet Ferry (out of Liverpool) in Douglas around midnight -a whole other story i won’t get into, suffice it to say that we began calling the Steam PAcket Company the Steam RACKET Company.
anyhow, midnight, and it was POURING rain. no drizzle, no mild rain, it was dumping buckets. here’s what the campground looked like next morning:
but yeah it was still the Isle of Man so we didn’t really care what was happening. we were there to ride.
while on the Isle of Man, we rode out to Laxey, home of the giant “Water Wheels” to try to attain a Guinness Book World Record for the most BSAs ever assembled.
we DID IT! the Guinness World Book guy addressed the crowd from atop a stone wall, yelling thru a large, orange safety cone, in his staunch British Accent. his speech began with these words: “In my long career, i have done many things, none of which include addressing a crowd by yelling thru an orange Safety Cone!”
So yeah, back in August 2008, I went to the IoM with some friends, to attend the 45th International BSA Rally. The same week we were there, it was also practice week, of the Manx GP.
looking at the course map, the BSA Rally Campground was on the first big straight- at Union Mills. the bikes would scream past going so fast it was just surreal! the pix of practicing riders were taken at Kirk Micheal, and at Ballaugh Bridge.
you find a pub, drink some traditional Cask Ales, maybe have some fresh, locally caught/grown food, and watch the race bikes zoom by at breath-taking speeds, just a few feet away. well. it doesn’t suck.
of course they race every kind of bike imaginable, including several classes of vintage bikes. race officials close the roads down (on the course anyway) at 6:00 PM and practice runs thru 9:00. it’s fantastic! Motorcycle Nirvana to say the least. Douglas. if this is on your “list”, then GO. Seriously!
Well, Boy has it been HOT this summer around here, sometimes dry & hot, Sometimes wet & hot. I mean, there ARE times when wet & hot is a WINNING combination… but not so much when it comes to weather!
In spite of the weather, I have been out motorcyclin’ around the area, and have some pix to share from my exploits and misadventures.
First up- Yesterday was the 1st Sunday of the month- and that means it’s the day of the HUGE monthly gathering at Ehprata, PA’s American Legion Hall. Folks come from far & wide to this “event” and no exception was made to that rule yesterday. I rode down with some guys I sort of barely know, on the periphery of one of my circles of Motorcyclin friends.
Here’s a few shots of interesting vintage and Brit stuff from Ephrata.
There was a great BSA there:
And a PILE of Triumph bobbers
And of course there was a goodly number of assorted Jap and Vintage bikes on hand, stock, “custom”, and semi custom (file it under “whatever”):
Think this guy has a sense of humor?
Registered: 05/13, 2007, Posts: 5616 Loc: Pennsyltuckey The Italian contingent was definitely in da house, y’all
ooooh so sexy!
As well as your typical assortment of bikes to file under “other”
Category: Other Sub Category: Just cuz ya can, don’t mean ya should
Then of course there’s some typical knuckle-head-ery:
One dude even showed up in a CAR! well, at least it was a cool car…
And THIS dude faked me out for one hot second, until I got a closer look:
In the Indian-head tank painting it is written: Drifter, AKA KAWASAKI Drifter. WTF man. Get real, right?
There was a great AMF Harley there, resplendent in semi-gloss black:
More knuckle-head-ery, a couple for the ATGATT crew
And of course you have your obligatory Ural WITH side-car:
No M/C event is complete without one, right? AND dude gets extra points for clever stickers, too!
Yeah, so Meanwhile, back at the Bruce Wayne Manor, A buddy came up from Georgia in July, and we hung out together, and did some riding around PA. His cousin is a dude who’s made a lot of $$$ working stock market angles. He’s convinced that The End in nigh. Subsequently, he has armed himself to the TEETH- with all manner of smoking hot semi auto weaponry, and built a greenhouse, put a big ass back up electrical and elaborate security system in his house, and even hid a GIANT steel bunker underground beneath his “tractor shed”, with a three year supply of freeze dried food! I mean this bunker is made out of the same gauge steel as your basic Aircraft carrier- i am NOT kidding.
So yeah, that was fun, seeing all that, and shooting those guns… and we also had fun looking at deer and stuff later at night, using his infra-red imaging scope- one little toy that likely cost around 12-15 THOUSAND dollars, it seems… not to mention riding all over the state on some fab roads and stuff.
I rode out to meet my friend and his boy, getting a fairly early jump on what was surely going to be one stinkin hot day. The ride began as many do, me headed upriver, along the Mighty Susquehanna. Not a breath of air moving.
Note the box strapped to the back of my bike? Brand new GUN!
Of course, what fun are guns without lots of BEER?
And no pile of guns and beer is worth even the smallest hill-o-beans, without at least one hot car…
OK, TWO hot cars- one for you and one for your teen-age daughter:
Throw in a few motorcycles
and all that’s really missing is CHAIN SAWS!
But HEY! Life is not ALL fun, no? I mean a guy has to finance all this jerkin around right? RIGHT-O. So to that end, since work has been weird, (read: SLOOOW) here lately, I have been branching out.
An opportunity presented itself to me, for me to get up to New York for some set building. I leapt up and stepped up a few notches on the food chain! I wound up in Brooklyn at Steiner Studios working on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, building set stuff in a shop for the upcoming 3rd season! This isn’t the kind of thing you can really be all taking pix of and posting them on some web site… so here’s all I got to show:
THIS PHOTO HAS BEEN DELETED BY THE HBO SECURITY POLICE CHARGES PENDING….
….moving right along….
No trip to New York is complete without some bouncing around the city. here’s a few pix from my exploits up there- and some shots of stuff from when I was sitting in T-R-A-F-F-I-C… not that there’s any of THAT in New York City at 5:30 PM on a Friday afternoon…