I just visited the United Kingdom
for the first time last week, and despite my straining to understand the various colloquialisms
, I rather enjoyed myself. The people, the scenery, and food were charming, and the bike riding was spectacular; or as the locals say, the "mutt's nuts."
My nine-hour flight from Atlanta was an overnighter, which sometimes makes the most sense when traveling internationally. I landed in Manchester, and after moving through customs at a tortoise-like pace, met up with Mr. Richards, who promptly whisked me away to Todmorden in his spiffy red Alfa Romeo on the M62. Sitting in the passenger seat on the left side was different, but I got used to it after a few days.
MR's spiffy red Alfa Romeo steering (on the rightside, of course)
Todmorden is a charming hamlet, surrounded by hills and dales I'd only seen in picture books. Mr. Richards and I spent the day getting to know each other, talking bikes, and indoctrinating me into the UK bicycle scene. His world is lovely, and I rather enjoyed getting to know his children as well.
Sir Toby of Todmorden
Gracie and Lu, queens of the Todmorden tarmac
Mr. Richards' unbridled enthusiasm was in overdrive last Thursday as we hopped on some mountain bikes, steered our way past the tripe factory(!), along the canal, across some cobbled roads and alleyways, and up to Mr. Murray's place. M2 is MR's righthand computer guy and expert MTBer. Between fielding cellphone speaker phone calls from Ray at the warehouse in Doncaster, the boys and I snuck a few peeks at some very clever Mac vs. PC ads on Mr. Murray's new Apple iMac desktop computer. As a life-long PC user, I may switch teams down the road...
Next, it was on to the Singletrack Magazine World Headquarters to meet Chipps and his crew for a quick coffee and chat. I've known Chipps since 1999, and thought it only polite to visit when in Todmorden. We discussed Gaansari plans for the U.K., then pressed on back to MR's house to spend time with the kiddies, enjoy some of Mrs. Richards' world-famous gammon, make some headway in my relationship with Gracie, toddle around the shed and grounds with Lu and Toby, then head off on our epic offroad ride that evening with M2 up to and around Stoodley Pike, the national monument.
Thar be Stoodley Pike, me hearty.
The cowpaths, sheep and rocks made for an exciting (and somewhat nervous-making) offroad ride for me, especially coming off a transcontinental flight with little rest. We soldiered on, enjoyed each other's company, and spun our way back into town, where I stayed at the dapper Scaitcliffe Hall. Charming to the core.
The next morning M2 and I met for a coffee and a chat at the Bear Co-Op
to discuss our new website plans. We both noticed the large number of older gentlemen scuttling about the roads on old English steel bikes in garish team kit. This gave rise to a healthy discussion about lugged steel bikes, something near and dear to our hearts at Gaansari.
We transferred our bodies down Water Street to the Tenth Muse Cafe for some veggie sausage and mozzarella panini, and after more website discussion, rode our bikes back to M2's place to meet MR, who promptly wisked me off in hs red Alfa to visit the Doncaster warehouse crew.
M2 and the rolling hills
Ray, Andy, and Mark were charming, and it was good to see the UK operations. MR showed me some new products, then after zipping once again through the plush green countryside, we landed in Sheffield, former top UK steel producer and hometown of several music industry icons, including Pulp, Def Leppard, Joe Cocker, The Longpigs and the free improvisers Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. The 1998 Mercury Music Prize award winners Gomez are also connected to Sheffield, as some of the founding members went to Sheffield Hallam University together. The Arctic Monkeys, who have recently exploded onto the UK music scene with the fastest selling debut album of all time, are based in Sheffield.
We arrived at DL's place a bit early, so we chatted outside for awhile before DL returned from his daily road ride. His wife and young daughter also arrived a few minutes later, and after exchanging pleasantries, MR, DL and I walked down to the town centre for a bite to eat and to discuss business.
For the next few days DL and I took his young daughter and dog Texas for some walkies, meeting some friends and getting acquainted. We're both turning 40 this month, so we share much in common. The weather turned sour in Sheffield on Saturday, but there's nothing like a good hilly road ride to cure the cold-weather blues. Our two-hour tour of the Peak District was nothing short of spectacular, despite the heavy rain halfway through the ride. My desperate thoughts of hot coffee and biscuits back at DL's house were realized once we needled our way through busy Sheffield traffic. The birthday cook-out at DL's friend Bill's place was especially fun - everyone's first whirlwind tour of England should be this accelerated!
Stay tuned for more...