Wow! I’m really milking this trip for all the blog posts I can get! After a week of deafening fun on the Isle of Man, we hopped on another micro-plane, this time to Newcastle upon Tyne – the start of our Hadrian’s Wall adventure.
We arrived mid-day and had plenty of time to explore the castle, visit the modern art museum, walk across the Millennium Bridge, grab a beer, write in our travel journals, seek out some awesome Indian food, and (most importantly) take in the colorful night life.
On the last day of racing at the Isle of Man TT, Nick and I chose a choice spot at Bradden Bridge – a tight left-to-right s-bend. Weather caused more delays – hours of delays actually. (Thankfully, I had a book. There was also a church with an unbelievably old cemetery next to it that we spent some time exploring. And we spent a lot of time chatting with people we’d met over the last few days.)
Things finally started rolling in mid-afternoon with the Milestones of the Mountain parade lap. The organizers had invited winners of the TT to ride a lap on their winning bike to celebrate 100 years of the mountain course. The oldest bike dated back to 1913. They started it up and broadcast its throaty rumble over the loudspeaker, but alas, it did not make a lap of the course. What followed though, was a constant flow of world class riders (and children of deceased riders) and some darn cool bikes. I’ll never forget Giacomo Agostini blazing by at race speed, taking the opportunity to push himself and his retro MV500 to the limit. Others took it slow, waving at the crowds.
Then the Subaru lap followed. For reference, the average speed for a superbike going around the course is about 130 mph. The average speed for the car was slightly less – 115 mph. Here’s what that looks like. Watch through to the end, where the driver talks you through the car cutting loose at 150 mph. Hairy!
Then, just when we thought we’d never get see the main event, the Senior TT race started. Fast, loud, and awesome are about all the words I have to describe these riders. We were so close we could hear the knee pucks dragging on the ground. It was worth every minute of waiting!
They went fast, so fast that most of our pictures were blurry. A few turned out though:
After our tour of the race course, Nick decided that he wanted to watch the first day of racing from Creg Ny Baa, a corner at the end of a long, straight downhill. Racers would be hurtling toward us off the top of the mountain at close to top speed, downshifting just before a tight right-hander.
Unfortunately, the first day of racing became the first of many days of waiting. Bad weather had riders spooked, and then hail cancelled the races that day.
Nick and I retired to the beer tent behind the bar and immersed ourselves in the camaraderie of the event. How to describe it? During the TT, everyone talks to everyone else, whether they are locals or visitors, and the talk is not always about bikes either. An air of excitement, of a common purpose abounds, that of worshipping at the altar of the greatest road race in the world. Everyone is here to see speed, derring-do, and bravery (and believe me, these racers are brave).
After a few beers and a bowl of fries, we decided to walk back to our host’s house through the fields. All went well, until we ran into a dead end. Our options were to walk back uphill to an exit on the main road or hop a barbed wire fence. It was a long way back up, so we found a suitable spot to jump the fence and leaped over a small stream. Then it was a road walk the rest of the way back.
The next day, we returned to the grandstand and were treated to some pretty awesome supersport and side car racing.
After a day of driving around the island, Nick and I wandered down to the Douglas waterfront. The mile-long promenade belies the city’s history as a pre WW II seaside vacation destination. As soon as cheap consumer flights to southern Spain became available Douglas lost it’s appeal.
During the TT, however, it is a hub for spectators. Stunt riders entertain well into the evening, while strings of lights give the area a carnival feeling.
On Tuesday, we flew an impossibly small turbo-prop plane from Leeds to Douglas on the Isle of Man. Our hostess, Geraldine, picked us up from the airport and gave us a grand tour of the island and race course, so we could get our bearings and figure out where we’d like to watch the races.