Stop. Drop everything. Take a deep breath and for a day or two or ten change up your life completely. Its blissful to do, and rejuvenates to the point of disbelief. I flew into Southampton Thursday night, a small airport on the Southern coast of England to stay with my buddy Paul in the just as small Dorset county. After my troubles last time, I came into customs as prepared as I can be, but it was a still a mess as they didn't understand my visa and really couldn't seem to fathom that I truly planned on heading back to Paris. Of course I just bought the train ticket as a hoax...
The first thing I did in the parking lot, graciously out of the clutches of the customs officials was to head to the right side of Paul's car, which, in my experience is where the passenger seats. To my great surprise, there was a steering wheel there. That was the humorous beginning to my realization that the roads were flip-flopped the fear came as cars hurtled down the right side of the freeway. Instinct kicked in and I put on my best deer in the headlights goggles, but luckily we were on the left.
Fresh off the plane Thursday night, there is only really one thing you can do in the country, and that is go to the local pub. Back in Paris a few weeks ago, Paul had promised to show me some 'real' cider. He didn't disappoint on his claim, neither did the cider. Thus started the tasting of local beer as well, which would continue throughout the weekend, all quite good.
After the best sleep I'd had in weeks (thank goodness for planes and beer!) I surprisingly awoke to the shining sun, apparently a rarity in this part of the world. Some espresso sent us out the door to pick up my rig for the weekend, Paul's friend's Parlee with Sram Red and a powermeter. That may not mean much to some readers, but to me its a dream bike. Light, high quality and fast, its also worth probably more than everything I own put together. Dreams do come true it seems.
After fulfilling my cravings for a traditional English breakfast and a stunning view of the coast that eased my beach cravings (it had been four months since I'd seen one) we were ready to ride. i was still one ride into 2013 and Paul is an animal on two wheels. The combination of his patience and my base fitness and work-horse ethic left us with an even enough compromise.
About a mile in I blinked my eyes a few times to ensure myself of my consciousness I seemed to be riding in a dreamland, green fields and rolling hills under blue skies surrounded me as far as the eye could see. The dream carbon machine simply flew underneath me as my legs snapped into the familiar rhythm and my heart snapped to the beat of the joyous melody composed by the surroundings and circumstances Streams trickled, birds chirped, sheep started and there were nearly no cars to be seen.
When I had originally planned the trip I had figured we'd ride, hang out and eat and drink. Tourism hadn't even crossed my mind. Luckily, Paul has lived all his young life in the area, and he knew where to show me around. After we showered up and my legs got some rest, we headed out to Stonehenge.
I wouldn't say it wowed me, but it is really cool. Really really cool. I was fascinated as a kid, and seeing those rocks nudged feelings of childlike awe. It has become pretty controlled, you must pay to get close, but still keep a pretty considerable distance. a long cry from its days as hippie hangout in the 70's.
There's a lot of thoughts Stonehenge can bring up: those of mortality and what we leave behind, and those of human creation. How do we find meaning in something such as these rocks if it seems inconceivable that they even exist based on our knowledge of them. But I'm not in the speculative stage of my life. For me its this chapter and the next, the last chapter and the epilogue are a long way out. Regardless, its a thought-provoking place.
Thus with our intellects stirred we headed to the nearby Salisbury for the magnificent cathedral. It is huge and well situated in a large field of crazy surrounded my nice brick buildings The inside, magnificent as any is filled with memorabilia from one thousand years of history. Talk about church and state...I didn't see much because there was a service, but the spaciousness and lack of pretentiousness provided a great serenity, accented by an interior fountain.
Day one concluded with more beer and food, and set the sun for more glory to follow. Ancient history, glorious biking, serenity in nature and great food and beer. To be continued...