June 11, 2008
Friday was my recovery day. The last week and a half had been a whirlwind, so it was time to relax. I slept in Friday, and participated in a meeting at PTG Gateway’s corporate restaurant (a small deli in the park). A bunch of photo processing, writing, and reading filled my afternoon, followed by my first serious game of badminton ever, which I really enjoyed. Nigel (Neil’s friend and business partner) took it easy on me, but Neil felt inclined to kill a rookie. That’s fine - he needs something to let him keep the illusion of not being old (gee, are you reading this?). I can’t wait to play racquetball next time he comes here. After another barbeque and some time in front of the fire pit, it was time for bed.
Saturday was another slow day. Liane joined me for one last brief trip into London. Mostly we traced my previous steps, and picked up a few souvenirs. We did take a nice trip down the Thames by ferry, to the colorful commentary of a crewman turned tour guide. That evening I went over to see Liane’s flat near the train station. I was introduced to Derren Brown, who I hope eventually makes his way to America. He’s got a riveting sense of spectacle (and I watched way too much YouTube that night).
Sunday was the last surprise of the week. Neil and Sue are both motorcycle aficionados, as are some of their friends, and I’ve long been a motorsports fan of any type, so Brands Hatch and British Superbike were a great finale for the trip.
Clearly, you don’t go to a bike race in a car (unless necessary). Sue drove the support vehicle (she can’t ride anymore because of her wrist) and the rest of us went by bike. Craig, a friend of Neil’s, was nice enough to lend me equipment and helmet and give up a spot so I could get my first real bike experience. I got there on the back of Nigel’s Yamaha DragStar, which he kept under 110 mph the whole way. About 10 minutes in, after the initial new-ness of the experience, I started really getting hooked. This was an exciting, really fun bit of transportation. And it’s cheap.
The whole motorbike kick has been building for awhile. Lee taught me hand controls awhile ago on his resident quad, and I’ve even ventured onto his dirt bikes once or twice. I never really got it though, until now. But I’m hooked, finally. Sometime this summer I hope to get my license and then pick up a bike late summer or fall. My friend Mike let me ride his Suzuki Bandit 600 around a park a week ago, and even that brief ride was enough to keep me going. A Suzuki SV650 seems like a great starter bike: cheap, easy to ride, and comfortable. That will be what I’m looking for.
I hope my Mom decides to talk to Neil again at some point.
We got there and joined the thousands of other bikers in the grass. Having a car parked nearby proved incredibly useful for stowing all the gear.
Brands Hatch is a beautiful raceway. I pulled out my borrowed telephoto almost as soon as I got there, and took advantage of the elevation changes. Shooting top-notch motorsports is hard. The bikes were doing upwards of 180 mph down the main straight, so it was seriously hit or miss on focus. I managed to get a few decent shots coming out of Turn 1, and got extremely lucky with one spectacular crash on the first lap of a 1000cc race.
The whole day was an absolute blast. When it came time to head home, I hopped on the back of Neil’s Turbo Kawasaki 750 for a slightly different experience. We stopped at an Indian restaurant for dinner, and I had a quick introduction to curry that turned out much better than I expected. I suppose I could be convinced to break out of my pizza shell every once in awhile.
Neil and Sue graciously took me back to Stansted early Monday morning. Due to some ticket purchasing conveniences, I would be retracing my steps back through Dublin on the way home. I was sorely tempted to stay in London, and then again tempted to stay in Dublin. But I made it back to the rural beauty of Dulles in northern Virginia (cough), where Pat picked me up after work.