World Affairs: The UK – You can never truly go home.
I once had a friend called Rob Bartrip who was a legendary lady slayer. He may have exaggerated once or twice but he did pretty well and he racked up many more notches on his bedpost than his mother would care to know about. He was always on the look out for his next conquest and he seemed never to pass up an opportunity to give a pretty (or even not so pretty) girl the chat. It was quite tiring some days because it was hard to get him to focus on anything else other than romancing and prancing. He had no standards and no regrets, he was just singleminded in his pursuit of action. He was like a laser guided missile of lust that was fueled by a sex drive greater than the contents of the King’s larder.
Anyway, I was surprised when he one day confessed that all he was looking for was a lovely lassie to settle down with. All his banging around town was actually his way of looking for a gal to nest with. He longed for a cosy relationship and a warm mug of cocoa to drink from. He wanted to be a love struck swan and find that one single and significant other to be with forever.
At first I didn’t quite believe him, but after a little time I realized that he was genuinely desperate to assign his rampant randiness and his love to just one goddess. His problem was that he wanted to be sure that undoubtably every avenue and cul-de-sac was explored first. He wanted to make absolutely sure that wherever he ended up parking his Cadillac of a lidido (and its accompanying trunk sized log book of sexual history) it was unquestionably the right place. I never really quite understood it, but I did respect it in some bizarrely twisted manner. Then recently it all became clear to me, I had become Rob Bartrip, only instead of sexual conquests it was travel and the exploration of new riding experiences that was fueling my insane need to find the one. I have been expending my life by following a ridiculous lifestyle where bikes were the drive to see more and more of the world. I was whoring myself about in order to find that one place I was happy to hang my shoes up and be settled enough never to venture too far from again.
This epiphany occurred when I took a trip back to Britainshire earlier this year. I was brought up on that tiny island of chirpily melancholic people, but I have been away from there for quite some time. Around 2004 I ventured across the Atlantic to experience the wonders of Whistler’s winter wonderland and then I was propelled into an endless summer after rediscovering how great mountain bikes really can be when mountains are actually involved.
I blinked and five years had passed since I last raised a pint of ale in Englandterre, so this spring I decided it was high time for some quality tea time. I even decided to take a mountain bike, just to see what the trails I had grown up on were like now I had matured a little.
What I found in two weeks of exploration was a thriving scene of mountain biking. The invention and explosion of trail centers is incredible. Imagine good trail loops which are of a long enough length to feel like you have achieved something, have fun enough terrain to be challenged by, and they start and finish at a big modern building that contains showers, warm cups of tea, and a bike shop. There are not many places in the world that are set aside as specific mountain bike locations like this and that have the accompanying facilities to support riders.
I couldn’t ride the same trail center loop day after day but there are so many that you could spend years exploring all of them. On top of that the UK is small enough to make a roadtrip plausible. Later in the year I am hoping to be back in the UK for a little longer and I plan on attempting a road trip that takes as many of these trail centers in as possible. In the same trip I also hope to get back to Scotland to explore the mountains there some more. Whisky, peat bog fairies, and clouds of midges await. I can’t say that UK riding is the one place I want to settle forever, but I am just surprised that after years of searching I found a lot of what I’m looking for right back at home on the doorstep.
I had packed up and headed overseas in pursuit of trails made of gold and in the meantime back in the shire things were racing forward. The UK is now undeniably a destination for mountain bikers. Anyone who loves mountain biking must be open to trying out what England, Scotland and Wales have to offer. I sincerely recommend you consider looking at visiting the UK if you are contemplating an overseas riding holiday. I still can’t believe it all happened after I left. It’s like meeting up with an old girlfriend years later and seeing she has lost some weight, got her hair did, and pimped her trunk.