I have been my husband Bill’s pillion rider for 30-plus years, riding a variety of bikes on trips as short as just around the corner for ice cream, or as far away as Lumby, British Columbia, for a Norton rally (we live in Ohio). Bill is an experienced rider and I always feel safe. So, when we decided to take a bike to the Isle of Man for the Tourist Trophy (TT) races in August 2016, and then mosey around the UK and Europe for six weeks, I was pretty excited. It was our 30th wedding anniversary and we wanted to do something BIG.
After researching the best means by which to ship our new 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 from Ohio to England, we decided to contract with Motorcycle Express (which flies bikes out of Toronto, Canada). After a direct flight from Toronto to London with our trusty Bonnie on board, we were ready to go. Within a few hours of landing and going through customs, we picked up our Triumph and off we rode. It took a few miles to get used to riding on the “wrong” side of the road, but change is fun, right? Meeting up with our good buddies Don Danmeier and Shirley Soucie near Heathrow, we planned our ride through the Cotswalds to Liverpool, across the Mersey (yes, I sang “Ferry Cross the Mersey”), then on a ferry to the Isle of Man. No one could have prepared me for the beauty of this island. After eight days of amazing racing, scenery and good friends, we headed back to Liverpool, only to part ways with Don and Shirley and then head south for the next leg of our journey. We were excited to take the “Chunnel” to France and head to the Alps.
Over the next five weeks, we rode 5,000 miles through some of the most majestic landscape I have ever seen. In Northern Italy, it was the beautiful Dolomites, Stelvio Pass and Gavia Pass, and in Austria it was Grossglockner Pass. We visited a lovely town in Germany named Füssen, and many more. We had no agenda and no tour guide, using only our GPS and maps passed on to us by friends who had previously made the trip. Traveling on the left side of the road in England and the right side everywhere else soon became second nature. We were on our own through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Germany, England, Switzerland and Italy. The people we met along the way were friendly, helpful and respectful of motorcyclists. We also attended the Moto GP race in Mugello, Italy, which was an awesome experience!
At some point in the middle of our journey, we decided to do something crazy and stay in one place for a few days. Our choice was Brighton Beach, England, primarily because we would not have a language barrier and we loved the idea of visiting an English seaside resort town. The Brighton Pier is in the central waterfront section and there is an abundance of nice restaurants within walking distance.
Many of my non-riding friends asked how we manage to pack for a six-week trip with just one side bag each plus a tank bag. My answer was always the same: it is actually easier than packing a suitcase to go to the beach…less is more. Taking hot- and cold-weather microfiber gear did the trick, as they were easy to wash out and dry quickly. Two pairs of jeans, one pair of walking shoes and top notch riding gear, and we were good to go!
I encourage those who want to experience a great ride like this to go for it! This fabulous adventure taught me:
- People are pretty much the same everywhere you go.
- Sheep, goats, cows, horses and donkeys run free in the New Forest, England.
- English food is just still not to our liking.
- At age 65, we could both handle the trip.
- Pack a collared shirt—you never know when you might want to get a little “dressy.”
- I really love our Triumph Bonneville T120.
- I don’t get homesick until week five.
- Being with my best friend/husband 24/7 for six weeks was a piece of cake. True love prevails!
When you’re on the back of the bike, trusting the pilot is paramount. During the entire six weeks, I had the luxury of relaxing and enjoying incredibly beautiful scenery. I was also co-pilot, in charge of keeping watch for gelato creameries, as well animals on the road. Our Sena Bluetooth headset and intercom devices were a blessing.
Bill and I are a team in every sense of the word, and our communication skills both on and off the bike are a huge key to our success in marriage as well as on a motorcycle trip.