Thursday, April 10, 2014

April Fools Rush In

   The joke is on me, I thought, as I contemplated the events of the day. The paths from the center of Newcastle down to the Tyne are all crooked, and I'd managed to find the darkest of all for my stroll to  Millennium Bridge. Upon reaching the U.K., via Dutch ferry from Amsterdam on the 1st of April, I was detained by the port officials. This took a couple of hours to rectify, but the copper, Scott, dealing directly with me, was a nice bloke. I was privileged enough to be able to eavesdrop on his, and his cohort's, separate conversations with their superior officer. Interestingly enough, the interrogation room, in which I was sitting, was adjacent to the head honcho's office. Shortly after questioning me and leaving, I could hear Scott say "He's a nice guy, traveling the world, it's not right". The commandant's voice was too low to distinguish, but I felt assured by Scott's vocal support. Scott departed the office and made for parts unknown. Several minutes of solitude were then interrupted by a hasty entrance to the next door. What, to my ear, sounded to be the voice of a young lady spoke up quickly, "It's the right thing to do! He's greedy, and he is putting everyone at risk. It's the right thing!". In this instance, apparently, "The right thing" was seizing my motorcycle and having it crushed for lack of insurance. Sacre bleu! My Tenere has its faults, but it deserves a better end than that. I never made the acquaintance of the young British lady trumpeting the notion of my Yamaha's demise, perhaps due to the fact that destroying the dreams of a stranger is easier than those of someone you've met.

Scott eventually reappeared and asked if I had paperwork for the Russian insurance purchased for my, until this point, failed attempt to reach Siberia. Unfortunately, as I packed in Romania, while contemplating bringing the packet of visa related documents, I thought it folly and put Russia out of my mind. Scott left and came back with printouts advertising companies offering short term motorcycle insurance, took me to a café, and gave me his number to call if I needed something. There was, of course, no internet. This meant a Kilometer long trod in full motorcycle rain gear to find wifi. I managed to buy insurance without too much hassle but my bank, and the local banks, took an improving situation and injected some adversity. The machine at the pub I'd walked to counted the money following my bank's approval of the ATM transaction but refused to dispense it. I walked back to the port wondering how difficult it was going to be to get the funds from my account to pay for the van I'd purchased on EbayUK (turns out to be a nightmare). After Scott reviewed my CPU to confirm my newly acquired insurance. He wished me good luck and said something to the effect of, "Crushing a world traveler's motorcycle isn't how I work. Cheers to that brother, Cheers to that!

   The fog, which accompanied the cold, produced a properly Dickens-esque setting for my walk
down to the water. The sporadic street lights offered hazy illumination of back ally buildings, corridors, and the occasional brick ruin. Turning corner stairs, I abruptly came upon a warmly clad street fellow ascending hurriedly in an overtly breathless manner. I acknowledged him and he said, matter of factly, "got any good schnapps on ya?". Oxymoron's aside, my first thoughts were concerning his seriousness. I was, in fact, looking a bit grizzled, having run at a dizzying pace since giving up on Russia back in September and returning to the states for 50,000 miles of, what was primarily, drudgery. Hygiene had become an afterthought, and I guess I am bit of a hobo, but geez. Perhaps it was time for a shave.
  Things began to look familiar as the ground leveled. I had, after all, been here before, and that fine night in 2010 came rushing back. Vividly, I recalled the freedom I'd felt while freshly embarking upon my first international motorcycle adventure. I'd stayed up all night (my second with a new 1985 r80s BMW) on a clear and warm evening in late June, having made the acquaintance of a long-haired, leather draped, hard rocker who's name has slipped into oblivion. He was a brother that shared the, at least partial, impetus of my trip. If ever you see a man with a cross hanging from his neck that seems out of place, a woman is involved. Mine was snapped free from my neck on the first day of my final semester at UTC by a Chattanooga copper (which possessed not the caring nor intelligence of Scott). It was there because of dimwitted police, I suppose it was appropriate for a dense badge pinned bureaucrat to remove it. I wonder if my unnamed friend still sports his? A litany of countries, continents, courtrooms, and classes, have passed beneath my wheels since then, but I will always remember that night that ended a with morning photo on Millennium Bridge. I didn't want it to end.

   Newcastle is a city of bridges, ports, and banks. Though the money here flows well (if you don't have an American based bank account), as do shipping containers, the bridges are the star attraction (all you need to do is look at the label of your favorite English ale to confirm this). Like a zapper to a fly, these lords of infrastructure drew me back to Tyne. I approached the suspended, multiply arched, pedestrian bridge, while contemplating circumstances past and present, to find that all traffic (save for one American) was headed in one direction. I squeezed passed the first clot of happy Brits as I stepped onto the water's broach to see an open gap followed by a group of about 9 ambling toward me. They were singing loudly, in unison, and the words were familiar. "As the river flows, Gently to the sea". My thoughts raced in a vein attempt to drag the song's name from the recesses of my mind. "Darling so it goes", I was now crossing paths with the troop of melodic merry men and joined in for the crescendo. "Some things are meant to beeee! The UB40 concert had recently concluded at the cleverly designed Sage opera house. I tarried, in the middle of the bridge, as stragglers from the show filed by. A pair of them stopped to have a chat. Their accents were thick but distinguishable. By the time grainy photos were snapped, I was feeling more at ease. Embrace the moment, I told myself. Standing above a river flowing into the North Sea, I was precisely where I was meant to be. I mused, breaking into a chuckle, when it comes to being a Fool, I'm a bloody genius.

Newcastle is a great town for walking at night

What were the French Foreign Legion doing in Newcastle, and why had I been to Kiev while they had not?
My consistent state of rush has dictated that I neglect much of my travel's narrative. The time spent in Kiev, along the trail to the UK, challenged my perception of the world and I have something to say about it. However, at the moment, I cannot quite articulate my feelings.  
In the meantime, there is more to tell of my recent experiences in the UK. The trip into Scotland was eventful to say the least.
It's somewhat unrelated, but here is a video from Hungry that I've been itching to post. For those of you in a rush, skip to 1:50.

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