Way of The Roses – Or Bridlington by Bike

Day One
….and so it begins, 2014’s challenge, riding from coast to coast, beginning in Morcambe Lancashire, ending in Bridlington Yorkshire. Don’t they look happy ?

Poor fools, they were unaware of what fate awaited them (and particularly to their rear ends).


The starting point, Morecambe, so good they named it once…. well actually it would have been better not to, sorry but it’s a bit of a dump, even though it looks OK in the picture. Viewed in a postmodern way, one could revel ironically in the crap chip vendors, the run down bingo and the very sad amusements…….. But I just can’t ; loads of v obese children being taken there by v obese parents, so they can smack them in public.

Anyhow, soon away and on to our first rendezvous on Le Tour de Rose Rouge et Blanc.
Those who have read the previous descriptions of these little jaunts, will be aware of the former history the Riders have with their sense of direction and geography in general. At the first meeting point, which was meant to be Hornby, everything went mammary glands to the vertical (work it out). They got lost almost immediately (predictable if nothing else).

However, this time they did it in style by being almost on the correct road, but heading in completely the opposite direction. The walkie-talkies purchased especially for such eventualities, proved to be useless when hills are involved, and after much driving back and forth and one handed mobile phone use (sorry officer), we eventually made a new meeting point at Wray.


Pub Car Park At Wray

Wray has, or more correctly had, one pub. This was closed down and semi derelict, but still had a notice warning of parking misdemeanors.

However they did at least find it. Next stop Clapham , (no junction to be seen), but a nice little place, where beers were imbibed in the glorious weather.

There’s obviously money around here, nice cars and a lot of nice yummy mummies collecting their little precious from school in the four wheel drives.

A nice pot of Earle grey too.









 Final section for the day was to Giggleswick. No problems encounter, even though the hotel was a little out of the way.

First into Giggleswick - Roger

First into Giggleswick – Roger

Followed by Mike and Steve

… followed by Mike and Steve

The Craven Arms was a nice little hotel / pub, with very good beer.

By chance it turned out to be quite a gastro pub, and the food was really excellent. Scotch Eggs with Chorizo for starters, followed by Pork Three Ways.

All helped down by four bottles of a Tempranillo recommended by Roger – which was excellent.

Ah beer at last – The Craven Arms

Miles covered – 40 (ish)

Day Two

A very tasty full English breakfast to start, and out on the road for 9:30. This time I got lost immediately – but of course it wasn’t my fault at all – ridiculous road signs etc. (ahem). Their first big challenge was the biggest climb of the tour, up to the top of Malham Fell . A really daunting sight it was too.


View of the morning climb

I caught up quickly and stayed near them on the way to the top, in case of breakdown, injury or exploding buttocks – though being such toned athletes they didn’t need it.

Really hot and sunny all the way, showing the beautiful countryside off to great effect. A couple of quick stops before a nice sarnie-based lunch in the park at Pateley Bridge, where we watched the crown green bowling while the riders cooled their heels for a bit.

Thanks to the climbing and the heat, the riders were starting to look tired, and bumus ouchus disease was setting in. Michael had apparently been too ashamed to use his BAM Nutall fleece he’d brought especially as a buttock insulator, probably after the criticism he faced for last year’s Noddy gloves.

More climbing - and no padding

More climbing – and no padding

Next stop Fountains Abbey, well the car park at least – never got to see the Abbey itself, which is very nice I’m told. While waiting for their arrival, I eavesdropped on a conversation via the walkie talkies, between a crane crew lifting heavy weights, but I bit my lip and didn’t sabotage things.

Still very hot, so made sure they kept up the fluids.

Next stop was the Lamb and Flag in Bishop Monkton – another very pretty, well to do village. The locals treated me with quite a bit of suspicion as I wandered about in my Sun Records T-Shirt with my camera – obviously they were sure I was casing the joint for nefarious reasons – lots of curtain twitching and just plain overt staring, and me so innocent. As it turned out the pub was closed anyway, so we carried on to the next village, whose name escapes me (too much sun on the bald pate you know).


A View

Yet another lovely village and again very well to do. The four customers sitting at the outside table when I arrived consisted of two fancy dress dummies and two locals, it was difficult to tell them apart. Very good beer again – pint of Lanlord I seem to remember.

The pub had the most un-PC men’s toilet I’ve seen for years. It was amply decorate throughout with pictures cut from Penthouse and Playboy (naughty magazines I’m told, of which I know nothing). The drinks went down particuarly well with the hot and sweaty athletes.

Can you see the curtains twitching?
Can you see the curtains twitching?

 On to Great Ouseburn. Another very quiet and picturesque village with a lovely church and another closed down pub. As I waited for their arrival, the owner of the house I’d parked outside of, actually came out and stood and stared at me for several minutes. Why are these people so xenophobic ? They must really hate Sun Records.

The last leg of the day was on to York. I was pre-warned there would be problems with the hotel parking, as they were refurbishing. This meant unloading the entire car out front on my own (ahh poor me), dragging it all up to the rooms, and then back out to park the car in a council car park down the road. The extra hassle was made worse by the fact the hotel charged £5 for the privilege ! However this was offset by a very pretty, helpful girl on reception who did her best to make it easier.

The riders finally arrived late around 8:00 pm and they all looked knackered – unsurprisingly having ridden for the best part of ten hours and covering more than 70 miles, a lot of it up steep climbs (I was tired too you know, those bags were heavy – especially Steve’s, it being full of his drugs stash of jelly drinks and exotic unguents).

This was all forgotten when we went around the corner to a very good Indian restaurant (The Viceroy 4.5 on Tripadvisor) that I’d seen on the way in. Authentic Yorkshire Indian Shikh Kebab and Chicken Nawabi Khana – very good indeed. Plenty of Cobra to refresh and re-hydrate too.

Steve and I’s room unfortunately turned out to be sited over Hades as it was boiling hot all night. I did at least find a good use for the Gideons Bible – wedging the window open. This made barely any difference, and as a result I hardly slept (please, no sympathy). Steve was so knackered he was out like a light, which meant he didn’t hear the weird clicking sounds in the night that had me convinced there was something nasty somewhere about.

Day Three

Good big breakfasts all round (well I needed to keep my strength up), and out on the road by 8:30. Still quite humid and warm, but very overcast with a promise of rain to come – which it did, leaving mud on the roads, most of which seemed to end up on Steve’s back.

I hope It's just mud

I hope It’s just mud


At this point the stops all seemed to merge into one, especially as the terrain was flat and actually quite boring – but good for riding I suppose.

All three athletes were now complaining of tired limbs and backsides, but they kept manfully on, fuelled by Jelly Babies and the rest of Steve’s drug supplies – dodgy looking “energy” things – I blame his wife the marathon runner, a bad influence if you ask me.

The most welcome thing in Pocklington

The most welcome thing in Pocklington


So Stamford Bridge, Pocklington, Kirkburn and Burton Agnes all swam past, until at last they rode into that jewel of the east coast that is Bridlington.



Wow another dead English seaside resort, chock-a-block with chips and bingo, but very few people about on the streets. However all the car parks were full, so God only knows where they all were – inside the bingo halls and pubs would be my guess.


A jumping English seaside resort

A jumping English seaside resort 


Congratulations to the riders, a big achievement and a total of around 180 miles in three days over difficult terrain. Well done men!

Journey's End

Journey’s End

As we didn’t fancy the pubs in Brid, just a quick photo of the end point and then off out of it.

So “where to in 2015” I ask, “somewhere flat” scream the riders.


The Blues Trail 2014

…so the time has come at last. After much anticipation we depart for Ny’orlins, via London and Dallas tomorrow (Wednesday). I’ll try and update this blog from time to time, (unless we get kidnapped by banjo-playing madmen : dang-a-lang-lang-lang etc. etc.). deliverance I’d recommend you read Mike’s blog for more sober, factual impressions, as mine are almost inevitably going to be flippant and almost entirely unlike the truth. But, only time will tell.

Day One (23/04/14)

Flight from Newcastle to Heathrow on time. Bags checked through to Dallas, making things a little easier.Terminal 5 Heathrow was quite pleasant, and not too busy.Flight to Dallas looked like it was going to be hard work when we saw our rather cramped seats – the middle 2 of a row of 4. I was worried about 9.5 hours in that space. However, it was actually OK, thanks in part to watching movies. This is obviously why Peter Jackson makes such ridiculously long films, 3 hours of Hobbit II helped pass the time no end. Not sure why BA subjected us to the task of assembling our own cream tea, not easy juggling cartons and plastic knives with your elbows in your ears. Arriving in Dallas with 1.5 hours to next flight seemed fine, until we entered the machine that is USA customs and security. With 30 mins to go to take off we were still stuck in the system. Huge queues with no one in any hurry. I’ll never complain about immigration at Newcastle airport again. Eventually after palm prints and facial scans we made it to the gate just nicely on time for the nice short hop to New Orleans. The young guy next to me seemed to be a student as he was watching a lecture on his laptop during the flight. However I can’t imagine what his subject was as it was presented by David Putnam and include a pie chart relating to testicular cancer…?? New Orleans airport not too big and So quickly got out for a cab. This was quite entertaining as our cabbie was a rather large black lady with a very thick nyawlins accent. Mike struggled a bit to understand, but all was fine and she was really nice.


Hotel Bienville House

Arrived at Bienville House Hotel, Decatur St. Around 7 pm, after 18 hours travelling. Very nice Art Deco style hotel right in the middle of the French Quarter. Immediately found our “local” – Evangeline’s, just across the street. Had brilliant prawns wrapped in smoked bacon, washed down by several really nice beers from their specialist menu. Finished with a Maker’s Mark bourbon and thence to bed.

Day Two (24/04/14) New Orleans

First morning strolled down to the French Market after breakfast. Market a bit like the quayside on a Sunday, if it was designed by Dr. John.



Lots of good stuff amongst the tat, including fake voodoo stuff. So after imbibing powdered mojo hands for strength, we carried on. Just beyond the market we had our first glimpse of the Mississippi. Huge and brown, with a pleasant breeze in the 80+ degree heat. Then on to a nice place on Bournbon St. for Po-Boys (just big sarnies) and beer. After eats, walked to Louis Armstrong Park and sat watching the same birds as we’d see in Paddy Freeman’s (as far as I could tell anyway). This was followed by the best caramel milk shake ever, purely medicinal of course, as I was melting. Back to hotel for a shower and rest. Then out to seek beer and food. Ended up on Bourbon St. Again. This time it was very busy if a bit tacky. Lots of loud bars and ladies advertising their wears, and what a pair of wears one had. Couldn’t imagine how she’d manage to give a massage without putting your eye out. Ate in Cajun style at a fish restaurant. Then back to Evangeline’s for a nightcap (no massage honest).

First sight of The Mississippi

First sight of The Mississippi

Day Three (25/04/14) New Orleans.

This morning walked to the museum district. First stop the WWII museum. Here we learned that UK wasn’t in the war, just them and “The Allies”, and that the Americans won it. They also have an RAF spitfire in perfect nick hanging from the ceiling. On my return I’m starting a campaign to get it returned. Then to a civil war museum that actually didn’t discuss the war at all, but was just a repository for Louisiana military bits and bobs – very interesting anyway.

The Rising Sun

The Rising Sun

Walked to Basin Street and found the famous brothel that had employed many of the early jazz men, which was supposed to have been the subject of “House of The Rising Sun”. Don’t worry its now a small convenience store. A pitty that the rest of the street lived up to the famous “Basin St. Blues” song, as it was very underwhelming. Heat really sucking the life out of me, so we had beers and burgers (our first), very nice too. Found excellent music store specialising in local musics, where I was forced to buy a couple of CDs. Back to hotel via the banks of the Mississippi – really hot now.

Riverboat on The Mississippi

Riverboat on The Mississippi

Evening stroll began at Evangeline’s, where we tried their specialty – a ginger and mint julep. So delicious we had a couple. Walked to Bourbon street which, thanks to the cocktails, looked more attractive. Found a jazz club and watched a really good tradish band (and more juleps). Then on to a Cajun club to see an excellent Zydeco band. By now the juleps plus bourbons had us both a bit squiffy, so back to hotel at midnight and slept like a rock.

Day Four (26/04/14) Lafayette

After a quiet breakfast (ahem), an easy drive to Lafayette. We started with a detour through some of the aftermath of Katrina, which still hasn’t been rebuilt (the richest country in the world can leave areas like this ??). Very flat, very wet country all the way. Lafayette not looking too inviting, but The Hilton looking fine. Downtown to discover we were in the middle of a music festival. The town itself was otherwise empty, but there were tens of thousands of people spread around three stages set up in the centre.

Lafayette Festival

Lafayette Festival

All styles of music were being played to big audiences . Hundreds of food and crafts stalls, like a giant version of the Newcastle green festival! Too too hot, and so exhausted back to hotel for clean ups. Walked across the road to a (very basic) surf ‘n turf diner. Hush puppies, crawfish gumbo and rib eye steak. All v cheap and v tasty. Drink in hotel bar where we were the only 2 in a massive disco with banging dance music blaring away to no one. Left after one drink.

Days Five (27/04/14) Natchez

Great drive following the Mississippi through national parkland. REAL backwater southland. Lots of tumbledown shacks. Mike spotting lots of birds he didn’t recognise (some massive spuggies mind you). Really atmospheric, and the best scenery yet. Arrived in Natchez to find a VERY sleepy small town. Empty streets and silence.

Main St. Natchez

Main St. Natchez

Strange mix of boarded up shops, next door to fancy antique dealers. Popped in to Fat Mama’s for a lunchtime snack. More of a shack than a restaurant, but again tasty stuff. In town found a lovely little bookshop where Mike bought a book to ID all of the birds he’d been noticing. Even though it was Sunday, we were surprised how deserted it all was. Weirder yet,we came across a little funfair with empty rides turning away riderless. Really hot again, car said 92C, but great view of the Mississippi stretching away. We discovered that a fairly large area of town is very well to do with really nice houses. The legacy of its prosperous past. That prosperity being built to a large extent on slavery – which they admit. We stopped and looked around the area where the last slave auctions were held in 1863.

Slave Auction Site

Slave Auction Site

It’s still very hard to believe it really happened so recently. Hot again, so back to the hotel to recover and do some washing!! After recovery, back out for dinner. Biscuits ‘n Blues restaurant was supposed to have live music at weekends, but there was nothing on today. Did have ludicrously HUGE servings of crawfish natchos with deep fried jalepanos, and catfish with oysters and massive prawns. Couldn’t manage more than half of it. All delicious.

Day Six (28/04/14) Natchez

Nice brekkie (always nicer when free), the TV news on in the lobby was warning of hurricanes – already big damage in Arkansas (who’d notice?). Then we drove 4 miles to the remains of the last Natchez Indian settlement, from before the French almost eliminated them, and then ran those left out of Mississippi entirely – well at least it wasn’t The British for once.

Remembering the Natchez

Remembering the Natchez

The park consisted of three grassy mounds and a mocked up mud house. Very pleasant non the less. Both of us were paying careful attention to the BEWARE VENIMOUS SNAKES warnings. I nearly filled my (sweaty) pants when I stood on a twig. Next stop the Old House Winery. The winery was a Ramshackle shed run by a nice guy called Scott Galbraith, who was so proud of his Scottish ancestry he even had a table mat with Stirling castle on it as proof. His wine is made from an indigenous grape they call muscadine. Quite earthy fungal aroma, but OK taste. Bought a red and a white, which we had to force down later that day. Lunch in The Natchez Coffee Company. At last a sensible portion size by buying half a sarnie.

Antebellum House

Antebellum House

Then we walked around the really nice, elegant antebellum housing areas. Some very attractive 1830’s buildings. Next a quick drive to Natchez Under The Hill,  and a cold beer in the tavern right on the banks of the Mississippi river, next to a riverboat casino.

Natchez Under The Hill

Natchez Under The Hill

Going to walk back tonight to eat and imbibe. Pitty , but returning to Under The Hill was a disappointment, as everything was closed, except the bar, and we’d walked there in what was threatening to be rain. The next place we could find on foot was called Jugheads. It was just what the name implied – the smallest most basic and shack-like yet. Food OK and the only other 2 people in there were a couple of young British guys from Hampshire who were driving from NYC to New Orleans.

Day Seven (29/04/14) Jackson

Nice drive through beautiful forests – mainly Homocheeto Forrest – obviously named after a camp Mexican card sharp. Many tiny settlements all with their own baptist church, lots of the shacks literally falling apart, but the churches were all immaculate…..hmmmm wonder why. Arrived in Jackson and it is a BIG city, the capital of Mississippi. Mike’s had one too many gumbos, so we’ve warned the coastguard, unfortunately I’d not thought to pack a nuclear standard gas mask. THE BOOK recommended a trip to one of the most important streets in the development of blues, Farish Street. Wow, very surprised at the state of it. Almost all the buildings were boarded up and extremely dilapidated. There as nothing left to see at all , and not the sort of place to get out of the car, or even stop, or even look at anyone…. Great Shame. Nothing of note to visit nearby so went for a Chinese meal at Mr. Chow’s, and then an early night.

Day Eight (30/04/14) Clarksdale (Mike’s Birthday)

Drive to Clarksdale pleasant in cooler weather. Made several stops at important sites. Firstly we stopped at Robert Johnson’s first grave ( yes he has two) in Morgan City.

Robert Johnson's first grave

Robert Johnson’s first grave

Then at the second in Quito just a mile or two away. Neither is signposted etc., and both are in very small backwoods graveyards in the middle of nowhere, with small gravestones only raised in modern times – and this for possibly the most pivotal musician in popular music….

It’s becoming seemingly clear how little the US in general cares about its black musical heritage. Then on to Morehead to see the railway crossroads called Yellow Dog where WC Handy apparently “discovered” the blues. Very quiet small town, but with a nice atmosphere, where we sat and ate the fruit we’d picked up at breakfast. Next on to Indianola, the birth place of BB King.

Robert Johnson's second grave

Robert Johnson’s second grave

His foot and hand prints are impressed on the pavement, but hardly a monument to someone so celebrated (even though though not a favorite of mine). Another quiet small town. Charley Patton is considered to be one of the key originator’s of the music, and again his gave was in a tiny unmarked cemetery in Holly Ridge, the rest of which consisted of three houses. We couldn’t even find the actual grave itself. Final destination for the day was to Dockery Plantation, where scholars say blues was invented by Charley Patton and others, who all worked there picking and processing cotton.

Dockery Farm cotton plantation

Dockery Farm cotton plantation

Originally it was almost a town in itself, with its own currency. The entire cotton industry collapsed in the thirties thanks to a little beetle called the bole weevil which came to the plantations from Mexico. More of an attempt had been made to preserve this site, but we noticed that more than half of the names in the visitors book were European. Final leg to Clarksadale painless, but not a great hotel at the end – only one night stay though, but not boding well. 6:00 and out to a recommended blues bar – Ground Zero Blues Club. Really great atmospheric place, pessimism prods me to say especially created for tourists??. Who cares, it was ideal.

Ground Zero Blues Club

Ground Zero Blues Club

Three sets of live electric blues by the 82 year old Leo ‘Bud’ Welch. His John Lee Hooker rhythms and effecting vocals were worth the visit. Hot wings and a Big Jake Burger with seasoned fries – very welcome, as were the several bottles of Southern Hop’itality local brewed beer (very like my favorite Bitter ‘n Twisted).

THE Crossroads

THE Crossroads

Local blues artist Steve Kolbus chatted with us, and I got his CD for Mike’s birthday, which he signed. At closing time we were given a free ride home in a stretch limo by the young bar maid! All of which made Clarksdale an excellent place to visit after all.

Day Nine (01/05/14) Memphis

Before leaving for Memphis, we visited the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale. This was really excellent, and well worth the 7 dollar entry. Some great photos and memorabilia, really well presented. Nice to see that Clarksdale celebrates its blues heritage. From there a 10 min drive to THE CROSSROADS – well at least where they’ve decided to mark it, at the junction of Highways 49 & 161 (bought the T-shirt). We didn’t go “down on our knees” as the song suggests, and there was no sign of the devil to do any soul selling (and mine was on special offer too), but we agreed we could have spent another day or more here in Clarksdale, as there were so many places of interest. Easy drive on to Memphis.

Highway 61 - built by Romans?

Highway 61 – built by Romans?

Typical flat open landscape all the way. On arrival Memphis looked huge, with mile after mile of glaring malls and , for some reason, LOADS of self storage facilities – what the hell do they keep in them – best not to know (John Wayne Gacey etc.). On arriving at our suite (oooh), I discovered that Mr. Thicko (moi) had apparently left his toilet bag on the bed in Clarksdale!! Probably the last I’ll see of it. Once settled, we then drove over to see Bishop Al Green’s church in a pleasant middle class area. Unfortunately he didn’t happen to be outside singing “Let’s Stay Together”, but at least we can say we’ve been. On the way there we passed Gracelands. Wow, it’s clear that the Elvis industry goes on massively unabated. Lines of shops selling tat, and even saw a couple of Japanese Elvis’s wandering by. Japanese food tonight! (added later – now I know why I’m not keen on it, could have done with a pizza afterwards!!, and it would have been nice if the damned fish had stopped flopping about when I was trying to eat them).

Day Ten (02/05/14) Memphis

Yeah! Found toilet bag on floor, it had fallen out with shoes. This is what comes of living out of a suitcase. Great museum day. Firstly to Stax Records – brilliantly told story of Stax soul music’s birth & growth in the city (Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Booker-T etc.) Lots of memorabilia and very well told and presented.

Hi Records

Hi Records The Royal Studio

Then strolled the renowned Beal Street – famous as being the site where blues was really fully born. Several live bands were playing along the street, and we stopped and I had a grilled polony sandwich with coleslaw, fries and cheese. Chatted to “Mr. C” in the street, who asked us if we were with the Princes?? Apparently some royal people are here too…. Perhaps I should have known as I’m paying for their trip in addition to my own? Then on to the museum of rock and soul, housed in part of the Gibson buildings (as in guitars for the uninitiated), for more interactive displays, dealing particularly with the growth of rock and roll, from its blues meets country roots. Again, really well done. It is actually really effecting to be so close to these things that are really important to me, which previously had only been known second hand in books or possibly on TV. Mike then got passing strangers to take his picture next to Jerry Lee Lewis’s Cadillac, which was parked outside his bar – what a tourist!! I am of course above such things. We noticed that in all three museums of black musical heritage, there were no black people visiting – just those working there – discuss….. We then bought tickets for the music festival that starts today and continues tomorrow and Sunday. It’s a three day event that happens to coincide with our stay. Big names like Patti LaBelle, Snoop Dog, Jerry Lee Lewis, Joan Jett, Buddy Guy, Bootsy Collins…. Should be good. Meal tonight won’t be Japanese! Meal tonight wasn’t Japanese! Best meal so far – certainly for me. Italian grille restaurant, called Carrabbas. Delicious char grilled chicken with mushrooms and a side salad (healthy or what?). The Peroni beers and bottle of Montepulciano were also particularly good.

Day Eleven (03/05/14) Memphis

The last day in Memphis began with a trip to the Sun Records studio. Very small place that had a massive influence on popular music. Not just Presley started here but the first record credited as rock and roll was recorded here

Sun Studios

Sun Studios

(Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner). Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and many more, all got their first recording experience here. It now functions as a recording studio again after being shut for many years. U2, Tom Petty, Jack White and many more have all recorded here, looking for that analogue warm sound. Very well worth the visit. Then on to the Hi Records studios founded and run by Willie Mitchell, and famous for Al Green and Anne Peebles output, among many others. The building remains, but there’s nothing left inside, and no tours etc. Quite a sad, rough area. The next stopping point was the Lorraine Hotel.

Dr. King's Assassination

The Lorraine Hotel Balcony

The site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. It has been preserved just as it was, and is now the centre of the US Civil Rights Museum. Very atmospheric place, and a lot of young white kids visiting. The evening brought the Beal Street Music Festival. It i

sn’t actually held in Beal St. itself, but in a very large park that runs along the banks of the Mississippi at the bottom end of Beal St.. Still very hot and humid, we made our way first to see Mr. Jerry Lee Lewis. He can’t be long for the planet, and it was a shame that he’d been pulled out to perform. His voice is practically gone, as is his pitch and piano playing. Quite a sad sight. Next up, Buddy Guy. Great blues guitarist, he played and sang really well for 45 mins, before his showmanship got the better of him, but still well worth watching. Then we went to see Chick Corea. Absolutely excellent. Wonderful musicians really enjoying themselves, and the best jazz I’ve seen this year. A major part in it being played by saxophonist Tim Garland. It was a long way to come to see a man who lives in Whitley Bay !!!! No food tonight, too late and too shattered.

Day Twelve (04/05/14) Nashville

As we’d not eaten the night before, I pigged out on the free breakfast in Memphis! Omelette, sausage, pancakes etc. Yum! Set off for Nashville, probably our least looked forward to destination, as neither of us are country music fans. Yeee Hawww (etc. etc.) Pleasant drive through mostly forestry, no other towns really all the way, apart from Jackson. This Jackson (TN), rather than our previous (MS), is the place referred to in the famous song. As far as I’m concerned, the fame attaches itself to the fact that Paddy McAloon misheard the lyrics, and thus gave the name to the wonderful Prefab Sprout       (” …hotter than a PEPPER sprout…”)

On arrival we wandered to a bar for a cold one, which had live country music being performed, and they were actually playing “Jackson”, how apt. It was called Cooter’s Place, but not sure of what, or who a cooter is, sounds a bit parasitic to me. Music fairly painless. Next door was a great tacky tat shop – The Willie Nelson & Family Gift Shop – really rubbish & all the greater for it. Later, and out to eat at The Cracker Barrel Store. A bit weird, very red neck, all gingham and wood. After being seated we discovered they didn’t sell alcohol – oh no!!!! Good food though, biscuits, fried steak in breadcrumbs, sweet corn, jacket spud and coleslaw. Then, dying for a drink, we went next door to The Carey Fork River Valley Grille. A bar that was a bit like a red neck Cheers really, but with a restaurant attached. Several large Jack Daniels went down a treat!

Day Thirteen (05/05/14) Nashville

Most important day so far, as I went to the mall for my boots and cowboy shirt! Got both in a big western shop, and they were just what I wanted, so watch out Queen Vic! I don’t think Faye or Lucy will be seen with me in the shirt, it’s a bit insane! Although the mall was all stocked with big name outlets, there was one glaring omission – no Gregg’s. There a clear opening here for the world best corned beef pasty I’m sure. Then downtown for a wander around Broadway where all the music bars are. Cold beer while watching the Premiership highlights on telly, which was being rudely interrupted by a country duo (who were ok really), and after all, ” when in Rome”…… There are only two record shops on the entire street, one was closed, and other very poorly stocked, even though it was recommended in “The Book”, ah well. I did at least buy a chilli dog on the street – lovely.

Our No.1 Export

Our No.1 Export

The presence of Brown Ale in most places is quite useful in explaining where we’re from.

This town is obviously all about country music with little else to see or do, and so it was a bit difficult for us non-country lovers, but I’d say it’s quite nice for a quick visit. We sat for a bit on the banks of the Cumberland River that flows through Nashville, really nice. Next, we stopped at a liquor store – or “offie” in English.

A bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon was purchased, purely for medicinal reasons of course. It’s restaurant critique time!! Dinner at Suk Ha (that’s not an order, just the name of the restaurant). The Thai food was nice, by the end we agreed it was the best meal so far. A good Chardonnay very reasonably priced, lovely spring rolls too. My main was ” Angry Pork”, so named to imply it’s hotness. It was more like a fairly narked pork really, but delicious anyway. Then back to red neck cheers for more bourbons!

Day Fourteen (06/05/14) Cape Girardeau

Before leaving Nashville we thought we’d best visit the country music Nirvana that is The Grand Ol’ Opry.

The Grand Ol' Opry

The Grand Ol’ Opry

Nice park setting (with massive shopping mall next door), but the Opry building itself is very dull. Quite a new concrete box affair. The only interest being two giant guitars at the entrance. I tried not to look impressed in case someone mistook me for a worshiper. Lots of muscle-bound squirrels running around with no fear of us. More spuggies for Mike to wonder at too, as well as more mocking birds mocking us. Off to Cape Girardeau : Another pleasant drive, and another 86 degrees day. Cape Girardeau is in the middle of nowhere as far as we can see, and there’s not much to look at near the hotel, so we’re treating it as a rest day. We have only one sight to see tomorrow on the way out, which will come later. In terms of distance we’re about two third of the total now, having covered almost 1500 miles so far, and it feels easy, coasting along quiet freeways 99% of the time. Big shout out to the TomTom satnav which has been indispensable, getting us through complex interchanges and finding tiny cemeteries in the middle of nowhere – full marks. Actually I think we’re both starting to fancy the satnav lady….. Cape Girardeau is right on the Mississippi.

Mississippi - still massive

Mississippi – still massive

One section of the flood defence wall has been decorated with portraits of the great and the good(ish). Mildly diverting anyway. Otherwise, another very quiet place, with an amazing number of antique shops for such a small town.

Illustrated flood wall

Illustrated flood wall

One nights stay enough. A couple of bourbons in the room, then out we go. Ears open gastronomes : El Acapulco was a Mexican restaurant (cantina), and although it looked like one of a chain, it was really nice none the less. Even by sharing we still ended up with much to much food. No chance of any music here.

Day Fifteen (07/05/14) St. Louis

Broke up the drive to St. Louis by stopping at Sainte Genevieve. An attractive old town, a bit like Corbridge. Went to a nice tea room in an old fire station, that had really nice coconut cream pie ! Then the reat of a quiet drive into St. Louis. Looks like a really big city, many sky scrapers etc. Immediately we found a sports bar across the road with draft Leffe Blonde, dead nice. As was the serving wench that Mike took quite a shine to (understandably so). After several Leffes we were both starving, and (who says there’s no god?) found an INDIAN RESTAURANT, yes that’s right, 4 lagers and an Indian, how exotic are we. After the final shovel of lamb vindaloo I was as satisfied as a full bed tick.

Day Sixteen (08/05/14) St. Louis

Took our lives in our hands and bought day tickets on the Metro. Apart from the mad woman bellowing and calling everyone “mellon farmers” (or something that sounded like that), it was fine.

The Arch

The Arch

Got off at The Arch, a stunning, massive stainless steel arch set next to the Mississippi in parkland. It is constructed from hundred of stainless steel sheets. I took some pictures of the welding to show George at work, to prove that other people have worse welding than Siemens. Down town St. Louis is a bit soulless, so we got the metro to the St. Louis walk of fame. This is where they have Hollywood style bronze stars set along the pavements, celebrating authors, musicians and film stars from the area. We found Miles Davis and T S Elliot OK, but there must be some kind of oversight, as The Wurzles and Pam Ayers were no where to be seen.

Miles' Star

Miles’ Star

One of the best finds so far was Vintage Vinyl, a massive record shop on the walk of fame. I bought 3 CDs but haven’t got room for any vinyl LPs! Across the road was a sculpture of Chuck Berry, born here in St. Louis. A thoroughly unpleasant person by all accounts, but a cracking songwriter. The area the hotel is in is quite yuppie. Which means smaller portions (yeah!), but bigger bills (boo!). There’s several medical schools and a nursing academy nearby, which means quite a lot of people wandering around in their scrubs – surely not a good idea, cross infections etc.? I’ll have to check with Dr. McCorry. Spent a cooling hour in Joe’s Bar after we got back from The Arch, and the redheaded bar maid was particularly soothing on the eye.

Chuck Berry?

Chuck Berry? or Jimmy Crankie?

Then out for a nice (but pricey) Italian meal. We tried in vain to find local live music, but none was to be found. The only local venue had nothing on tonight except DJ sets. It’s becoming clear that the music we revere is not felt to be precious enough to Americans in general for it to be preserved and even added to. Ho hum. It has also become more apparent as time goes on that Mike is developing a lust for american muscle cars, especially the Ford Mustang. So don’t be surprised if he turns up in one after we get back!! I must admit to feeling a bit the same way, but don’t tell the Jag or she’ll get upset.

Day Seventeen (09/05/14) Fort Madison

We had time to spare and so detoured to Hannibal. A small town with lots of car repair shops, that looked a bit like Blyth at first. We then found the old Town center, which had a nice little street where Samuel Clemens lived (no need to check Wikki, that’s Mark Twain to you), so everything was called “The Mark Twain….” Very nice ice cream and a decent cup of tea. What has also become clear is that it only takes one find to rescue one’s opinion of a place. As evident here in Fort Madison.

Bouncing town centre

Bouncing town centre Ft. Madison

...keeps on rolling along...

…keeps on rolling along…

Beer sampling

Lost Duck beer sampling

After a look at what passes for down town, we felt quite depressed.

And then, boom!, The Lost Duck Brewery. By pure chance we found a newishly refurbished place with a micro brewery out the back. The best beer since we got to the US, unfortunately too far from the hotel to walk!! Must ask if the Queen Vic can get some in. Food scoffed in diner near hotel, great burger – only my second honest. Chatted with some locals about whether The Who or Zeppelin were best, during which I had to remind them who invented the language, when they said we were on vacation not on holiday. Makers Mark finished the evening.

Day Eighteen (10/05/14) Davenport

As it was quite an easy drive we spent the morning down by the Mississippi at the reconstructed fort. The reenactment people dress up as pioneer types and live on gruel, while using a wooden bucket as a “rest room”. But I noticed there was a sneaky air con unit in one of the “cells”. The big lady who ran the gift shop was delighted we were English, forgetting we had encouraged the native Indians to fight the early Americans, as she was keen we signed her visitors book. DSCN0141She was also particularly keen on trying to sell Mike a peace pipe / axe replica….. would have been handy for a Wednesday night. Nearby was the railway which had massively loaded trains crossing the river at what they claim is the worlds biggest swing bridge (OK a lot bigger than ours, but not as attractive).

Birdies ahoy!

Birdies ahoy!

I counted 89 cars being pulled on one train. Half way to Davenport we detoured to the Port Louisa Nature Reserve on the Mississippi. Turned out it was a twitchers nirvana, absolutely wick with spuggies. Mike was in his element. I was even impressed that the birds weren’t all brown. Apparently they have 278 species (is that a lot?). Many are very colourful, as if asking to be shot, and I’m sure the locals oblige. Well worth the visit, and a very pretty place. For some reason it seems the Fort Madison region is quite obsessed with ” the right to life “. There were many roadside hoardings exhorting us to “love life”, and to “put god back into government”. There were even pamphlets in the hotel room on the evils of abortion. I really started to find it was quite unpleasant, and a bit creepy. On to Davenport. Bigger than we expected, spreading both sides of the Mississippi, and with a large island in the middle called Rock Island, which has a railway running next to it (Lonnie D perhaps?). Drove downtown and parked up to find the river was in flood,

Mississippi in flood

Mississippi in flood

to the extent that the water had been across the car park recently. One of Mike’s original wishes came true (sadly not the one involving Cameron Diaz and the sponge bath), as three pelicans floated past on the very wide, and very fast flowing Mississippi. Although quite large, the city has very little high rise, and as a consequence has a much nicer feel to it. Then had beers in an Irish bar (our first – Irish that is – not bar), although I’ve no idea what was meant to be Irish about it, other than the count down clock for St. Patrick’s day. Excellent steaks in the hotel’s own restaurant later, with a good bottle of Merlot. I know I shouldn’t carp, but sometimes the service is just too ecstatic – the very young waitress was squeaking in delight at out every choice or comment, but perhaps that was just our animal magnetism coming across.

Day Nineteen (11/05/14) Chicago

Wow Chicargeee already.

The Bean

The Bean

Chicago skyline

Chicago skyline

Trump Tower

Trump Tower

Berghoff's Cafe

Berghoff’s Cafe

An uninspiring, but easy drive here, until we hit the town traffic. Very busy, even though it’s Sunday. Took the car back to Avis soon after check in, and discovered we’ve driven a total of : 2,040 miles !!! It’s really hard to believe, as it’s not been at all arduous. I think I’ll wait until after I get back for an overall reflection of the trip, but it’s been great so far for sure. Nice view of lake Michigan from our hotel suite. We were given a free upgrade as they’d originally given us only one bed!!! Went for a wander, and settled into a bar for drinks. Nice wheat beers too (Blue Moon). Then on to a Chicago deep pan pizza restaurant. The pizza was very tasty, but a bit more like a quiche than a pizza. Our first proper rain at last, with an impressive lightening display over lake Michigan.

Day Twenty (12/05/14) Chicago

Very hot and humid even after yesterday’s bit of rain. First off a trip to the lakeside park, a walk along the lakeside path and a good look at Anesh Kapoor’s sculpture Cloud Gate, or as Chicagoans call it The Bean. A huge highly polished bean shaped metallic mass, that shows surprising reflections as you walk around and under it. Personally I’m intrigued at the method of production as much as anything. It’s obviously made of stainless steel, but there’s no sign of joints anywhere. Very alien. Nice to see a British artist being so well feted over here. Back to reality with a trip to Reckless Records (more bargains!), and then on to Macy’s – a temple of consumerism – but still great. After a snack, we boarded a sightseeing bus for a long tour of the city. Amazing buildings, but not a lot of history in the commentary. Well worth it, especially as we weren’t charged ! After the tour we found an amazing old German Jewish eatery called Berghoff’s. What a great find. As well as brewing their own beer, which is very good, the food was really great, and as far away from any American diner you care to mention. Spent the evening at Buddy Guy’s Legends, just around the corner. He set it up himself in 1985 and it remains one of the few platforms for blues In the city. What a great night! It was Jam session night, hosted by the house band lead “Brother John”. A really good band with impressive multi-instrument capabilities ; the sax player was also a great singer and blues harp player, and the keyboard guy also played trumpet on the New Orleans tunes. After their set, a couple of a dozen singers, guitarists, bassists, drummers and keyboard players all got up and played. This included a pretty good Japanese guitarist who was given a good (and slightly patronising) round of applause, and several great vocalists. One of whom, a massive black lady called Holle Thee Maxwell, scared me into buying her CD !!! A young guy turned in a great example of blue rock, a fantastic talent with effortless solos. Best not to mention the slightly “odd” washboard player who was called up for a couple of numbers, as I’d probably say something very un-PC. (Hint: he bore a striking resemblance to the banjo player pictured at the start of this blog). Beginning at 9 PM, it was almost non-stop music until 12:30. However, the biggest surprise of the night came in the first half, when a spritely well dressed guy ambled on stage, it was the man himself – Buddy Guy! We’d seen him at the festival in Memphis, and been told he’d been playing in South America after that, but here he was yards away, singing in his own club, maybe only one song, but making it a perfect night.

Day Twenty One (13/05/2014) Chicago

After a late lie-in, a late breakfast, and a bit more shopping. Then walked to the South Side of Chicago to find firstly VJ records, another legendary but long gone studio and label. The building is unmarked and boarded up, very sad. Further down the street we found another landmark for blues and rock and roll – The Chess Studios.

The Chess Records studios

The Chess Records studios

This is now The Willie Dixon Blues Heaven. Rather than a museum, it’s an educational foundation for young black kids. There is a small tour around the legendary studio and some memorabilia to look through, all well worth the visit. This really was a key place for electric blues and rock and roll. Many, many amazing classics were recorded in the room we sat in, watching a film of its history. Another important destination completed, and sadly our last, as we leave tomorrow. The evening was spent eating at Berghoff’s again, and then on to The Jazz Showcase. Very nice place and every inch the archetype of a Jazz Club. Unfortunately the gig wasn’t as good as the surroundings. A female vocalist with a “pleasant” voice, singing mostly the well-worn show tunes. A very good trio backing her, which would probably been better on their own. Never mind, they did do a pretty interesting version of The Who’s “Love Rain O’er Me”.

Day Twenty Two (14/05/2014) Chicago

After check-out, walked by the lake again and then visited the The Art Institute of Chicago. Fantastic collection of masterpieces. Many very well known works by Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh etc. etc. It’s shows the wealth that was / is in this city – most pieces were privately owned and loaned to the museum. They also have a fantastic collection of modern art  – Pollock, Motherwell, de Kooning etc.



A good way of burning up time before gooing to the airport. Flight to Heathrow on time, but unfortunately a three hour delay to fly to Newcastle – thanks French air traffic control.

Closing remarks

A really great, once-in-a-lifetime trip. Nothing bad to say at all. The America we saw, and the Americans we met, were both to our expectations, and defied our expectations. It was a joy to see the places that had been so crucial to the development of the music that matters most to me. It would have been good if those people and those times were more generally appreciated by those around today, but it’s probably understandable, as most young Americans no doubt see it as uncool, boring and for old people. But that didn’t put a dent in our enjoyment at all.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night….

….. stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds (Herodotus).

Not content with trailblazing a route from Newcastle to Edinburgh in 2012, our intrepid band have now decided to forge a course from the West to East coasts, beginning in Ravenglass and ending in South Shields. Along the way they will be visiting such fleshpots as Silloth and Prudhoe (all without a gum shield or a Kevlar vest in sight).

(And as for snow, rain etc., I’m sure they’ll hide in the back of the support vehicle at the merest hint of precipitation.)

However, training is already at an advanced stage, as is equipment fine tuning. This has largely consisted of working on our tolerance to alcohol, and Steve actually fitting some brakes and tyres to his machine – that should prove to be quite a novelty. The journey is to be undertaken without the aid of oxygen or Kendal Mint Cake (that’s a measure of just how tough we are), and as a large proportion of the route is in The Land That Time Forgot (Cumbria), we are also training to survive on Cumbrian bush-tucker (i.e. pies, crisps and mars bars).

Friday 28th of June – Day 1.

The 3-day event began with a fairly uneventful drive to Ravenglass in southern Cumbria. Mind you, any drive with Michael at the wheel isn’t exactly dull – unless you’re used to driving alongside a Norwegian rally driver.

Fresh faced, and ready to go.

Fresh faced, and ready to go.

Ravenglass to Sellafield:

Awful weather and fairly oppressive surroundings. Getting to the Sellafield railway station for the rendezvous was a bit of an eye-opener : razor wire everywhere and security very tight all around, reminded me of the old East Berlin. Cancelled my idea of stealing some plutonium to play with. The Athletes arrived in the car park dripping wet and not happy (no change there then).

Wet in Whitehaven

Wet in Whitehaven

Sellafield to Whitehaven:

This part of Cumbria isn’t exactly pretty – unless you’re drawn to closed industrial sites, run-down council houses and dead fish. Wet all the way, but at least it let up in Whitehaven. We met in the marina area for lunch. The riders arrived cold, wet and a bit miserable, but a hot cup of coffee cheered them a little. People actually come here on holiday you know! The American couple in the pub (half of Peroni so I could use the facilities), had come to Whitehaven instead of going to The Lakes – well done, what a good choice.

Raining for a change

Raining for a change

Whitehaven to Maryport:

It didn’t rain for a bit! While waiting I had a walk around the Maryport marina and soon felt my soul dropping into a slough of despond. Crumbling relics of a fishing industry gone for good. The bikers had double insulated themselves for this section and were glad they had. We then had a bizarre conversation with the marina’s own jobsworth.

A Thriving Port

A Thriving Port

We were told to leave the car park because it was for members only and they have problems getting to their boats because of people like us. There were 3 other cars in the pretty large car park and about 6 boats in the marina – go figure.


Michael decided to reveal his secret weapon (ooh matron!), The Andy Pandy Gloves. Bright yellow chamois leather and fleece lined (who said big jessie?).

The Andy Pandy Debut
The Andy Pandy Debut

 Maryport to Silloth:

The best section yet by far. Great views across the Solway Firth AND the sun even came out for a bit. Easy to spot the riders from a long way off thanks to the aforementioned gloves. Arriving in Silloth, The Golf Hotel was much better than I had expected – sorry Silloth for my negative expectations. Quite a nice little place, especially if you like cobbles, with a park in front of the hotel. No doubting the direction of the prevailing wind – I’d not really realised that trees could grow horizontally. The bikers seemed to enjoy our first pints of the tour, well except Roger who stuck to his shandy – which as we know is impossible to enjoy. A Nice bottle of Malbec with a very good dinner too.

The Golf Hotel - No golf In Sight

The Golf Hotel – No golf In Sight

End of day 1. Miles Covered Today : 53 






Day 2. 

Leaving Silloth

Leaving Silloth

Silloth to Angerton:

Very good breakfast, but the haggis was off (as in not on the menu, rather than rancid). Most importantly, it wasn’t raining! Very nice route along the coast of the Solway Firth – loads of birds. An ideal area for those of a bird bothering persuasion (Hi Chris and Mike!). Michael had a puncture, which was to be expected, as he’d had about 12 on the previous tour. Mind you, how Steve didn’t puncture is anybody’s guess, what with his totally bald tyres (think Yul Brynner after a run-in with a particularly sharp Gillette GII).

The Solway Firth

The Solway Firth

Angerton to Burgh-By-Sands:

More of the same, very flat and quite bleak, but in a nice way. Angerton quite a pleasant little village, but with a bit of a weird atmosphere – the big wicker man with the screaming policeman inside didn’t help. It also had a pub that was really dropping to bits, reminded me of the “Slaughtered Lamb” pub in “An American Werewolf in London”.

I was just pleased no one was around to see The Andy Pandy Gloves, things might have got ugly.

Birds Everywhere (but hiding)

Birds Everywhere (but hiding)

Burgh-By-Sands to Warwick Bridge:

Nice stop in a lay-by for deli-made sarnies (thank-you Ian), a drink and a wee in a farmers field. Steve reports a very shore knee and Michael a shore rear. Request from Steve for Ibuprofen, paracetamol and amyl nitrate – where does he think we are, Blyth? Michael remains stoical, refusing all artificial aids.

A Quick One

A Quick One

I detoured to Brampton to buy drugs for “Lance” Brown.

Warwick Bridge to Lanercost Priory:

Even while driving I noted a lot of climbing, but I persevered and made it through OK. Of course the riders had a good moan about it. Steve now taking handfuls of various drugs – including the pain killers, jelly tots and some weird über-caffine dextrose jellies. This is what comes of working in psychiatry for so long (“I’ll have a pink one and a red one, washed down with my methadone”).

Lanercost Priory

Lanercost Priory

Lanercost Priory would have been very picturesque if the weather hadn’t been so heavily overcast – but the threatened deluge didn’t happen



Lanercost Priory to Greenhead:

Toughest climbing yet. The riders were tired but staying with it. Steve’s drug habit is getting him and his knee through. Michael’s gloves still providing light entertainment. You may notice that Roger doesn’t really come in for abuse – he’s a solicitor, and I’ve heard of the libel laws.

Greenhead to Vindolanda:

Sun poking through while crossing impressive Roman Wall country.

On The Wall

On The Wall

But £6:50 for a ticket into Vindolanda is daylight robbery, no matter how big the site now is (“ahh look another pile of stones”). They’re careful to make sure the toilets are on the other side of the ticket office, and for use by ticket holders only. The most expensive wee I’ve had in a while, certainly since the episode with the llama and the toasting fork.

I Love Stones Me

I Love Stones Me

Vindolanda to Fourstones:

Great road over the tops, running parallel to the wall. But of course all the climbing wasn’t what the riders really wanted (you just can’t please some people – maybe Netherlands next time?). Steve’s knee much improved, but Michael still refusing to join the drug culture, even though his arse was like the map on Bonanza.


Fourstones to Wall:


A Pint At The Hadrian

More long straight Roman roads, and  the end of a very long day. The final hill climb up from Chollerford was a bit of an unexpected killer I gather. They all agreed that it was nice to get to Wall and the Hadrian hotel, even if The Hadrian was a bit shabby. Excellent beer and a very nice dinner. The four bottles of Malbec went down particularly well – I could get used to this alcohol stuff, if I really stick in and train for it.

There endeth day 2. Miles Covered Today : 86 , Total Miles : 139 

Day 3. 

Goodbye To The Hadrian

Goodbye To The Hadrian

Wall to Corbridge:

Another good brekkie, the haggis was on this time. Weather a bit gloomy, but at least no proper rain. While stiffness and chafing continue to niggle , they still set off on time, heading for Corbridge. Michael taking a devil-may-care attitude and discarding his Andy Pandy’s. It feels like we’re almost home; well actually that’s because we are. Roger in particular could smell the coffee in his kitchen from here. Corbridge was it’s usual twee self (but very nice) and quite busy for so early in the day – probably church-goers – a foreign land to brazen heathens like me.

Corbridge to Newburn:

Weather better –  warm and dry. I think the section was a bit further than they expected, but it ended with a welcome coffee at the Keelman.

Steve’s drugs wearing off – ouch, But Michael feeling good now.

Coffee at The Keelman

Coffee at The Keelman

Newburn to South Shields ferry:

The flat, paved and tarmac’ed paths spoil them. No rain and really warm too. Bit of a break for the riders on the ferry, while I sit in the blazing sun having a half of Hobgoblin (it’s a tough job etc.).

The Ferry Arrives in Shields

The Ferry Arrives in Shields

Back on Dry Land

Back on Dry Land

South Shields ferry to The Sundial :

We’d planned to go to the Sand Dancer pub but I messed up and was waiting here for them. Bit of a dump. The pub stinks of cheap larger and burnt lard – but some unpleasant aromas as well. Michael’s car door gets a scrape in the car park – the only damage inflicted over the three days, thanks no doubt to some knuckle-dragging chava (what judgemental? Moi?). Bit of an anti-climax on the whole.

The entire tour finished at 14:00 Suday afternoon.Miles Covered Today : 35

Total Miles for the Tour : 174 

 Well done the riders. 

And for next year….. Ijmuiden to Groningen?












Edinburgh or Bust.

A tour diary by the support driver and Domestique

Day One – Friday 20th July

Newcastle to Tynemouth:
No hitches and Tynemouth looked great. Better weather than we’d expected too.

Tynemouth to Blyth :
Spending an hour contemplating the architectural delights of ASDA’s car park is not recommended. The riders had initiated what was to become a frequent occurrence and got lost, or as they preferred “changed their route”. So we went on to Bedlington Station to meet up. Other than the place being a total dump (sorry Bedlington-ites), no other problems.

Bedlington Station to Druridge Bay Country Park:
Another “improvised” route. We were meant to meet in Lynemouth. However this was a much nicer place, and we had a welcome picnic in the park, with a view over the Lake and a nice cuppa.

Druridge Bay to Boulmer:
Boulmer was shut. All of it. No, really. So we went on to Longhoughton, which while being Chava-central, at least had an open pub. A beer, some nuts and on again.

Longhoughton to Dunstan:
Noting off-piste this time. The Cottage Inn being a welcome sight. A couple of beers and a decent meal soon refreshed our intrepid combatants.

End of day one, no casualties : Total miles 61

Day Two – Saturday 21th July

Dunstan to Glororum:
More route improvisations. While I enjoyed Glororum, with it’s nice views of Dunstanburgh Castle, the team went their own way, at which point my notes become a bit hazy, as the next stop I’ve recorded is Beal. But there was a stop next to the North Coast Main Line where high speed trains screamed past us – but not sure where that was….

Glororum (or somewhere) to Beal:
Met up in a fairly unattractive pub car park in Beal, just off the A1. Very quick refreshments (only water), and on again.

Beal to Berwick-on-Tweed:
Nice to drop down the hill and across the old stone bridge, stopping on the way to buy provisions for the hungry “athletes”. While waiting for their arrival I found an very nice pub – The Barrels Alehouse – a lovely pint of Rivet Catcher in very quirky surroundings. Although Steve had coveted by Cornish pasty at Duridge, he failed to eat the ASDA one I’d bought for him – obviously too much for the highly honed physique to take. We agreed Berwick was much nicer than we’d remembered, and well worth a repeat visit.

Berwick to Ayton Castle:
Closed (a pattern’s emerging here). Again. So after water and an unasked for look at Michael’s toe, quickly on….

Ayton to Coldingham:
Well, it was meant to be Huxton, but that seems to exist only on the map and not in the real world. Coldingham was a bit bleak, unless you like wind turbines, but at least the grass was long enough for sanitary purposes.

Coldingham to Torness:
After only a slight mishap in the exact detail of the meeting place, which necessitated a daunting u-turn on the main A1, a quick stop-over in the shadow of the power station. Felt a bit like Quatermass.

Torness to Dunbar:
No more improvisation on the route, and it was nice to roll into a very nice seaside town. The Rocks Hotel was comfortable, had great sea views and excellent food. It was also packed with locals, all dressed up to eat out, in what must be the best restaurant in the area.

End of day two, : Total miles 136

Day three – Sunday 22nd July

Dunbar to Haddington:
Quite a nice little town, a bit Corbridge-ish. A lot of old coaching inns etc., showing it’s past use as a staging post to Edinburgh.

Haddington to Prestonpans:
Back to the off-piste version of the route, with the riders missing out on Cockenzie. We met up in the car park of The Goth pub (no sign of any Bauhaus or Cure fans though). A pretty bleak place, but with at least some kind of sea view raising it just above Bedlington Station in the grot stakes.

Prestonpans to Arthur’s Seat:
We suffer our first casualty – me. I fell down in the mud (not that I got any sympathy), and the camera and I got covered. After an improvised bath in the car park using bottled water and tissues, and a change of clothes (not easily done in the back of a car), the athletes decided not to turn up (again). We planned to meet in the centre of Edinburgh, but I discovered that almost all the roads into the area were closed (thank you the town planning dept. of Edinburgh), and the ones that weren’t were jammed. Therefore..

Arthur’s Seat to Edinburgh Castle:
The cyclist took their lives in their hands and pressed on to the castle without their trusty support driver. This they did without a problem. (Some would say they could have managed the whole thing….). The nearest I got to the centre was back in Holyrood Park, where we all had a 99 (not a euphemism – a nice Mr. Whippy ice cream), and we saluted their success.

End of day three : Total miles 170

A fun (for me anyway) long weekend, with good company, plenty of laughs and some good scenery. And so, where to next year??