I awoke to a huge sun just peeking over the horizon and Portsmouth just coming into view. Somehow I’d managed to get some sleep on the Condor. Slumped in my seat, feet up on the table with a tiny cushion propping up my head it shouldn’t have worked but it did.
Finally we docked and were asked to return to our vehicles. I jumped on the bike, set-up the sat nav and prepared to move out on the first leg of my mini road trip.
Woodlands Campsite at Silverstone was only a two hour ride away if I took the most direct route, but the direct route was the last thing on my mind. It’s not often that I get to ride outside of Guernsey and I wanted to make the most of it by taking the more fun and twisty B roads and making a stop or two on the way.
It took less than 5 minutes for the sat nav to lead me to a road that was no longer passable. A little 5 meter stretch of road was blocked linking two larger routes sat before me with newly installed bollards and a sign that said no cars. But since I wasn’t a car and the gaps between them were large enough I developed a case of tactical blindness and slipped between them.
Getting out of Portsmouth is a puzzling and confusing challenge, but thankfully the roads soon opened up, the morning traffic thinned out and the landscape changed to rolling hills and open fields.
Finally my road trip had properly begun.
“I’ve made a huge mistake”. That was the thought running through my mind as the roads passed through mist filled valleys. The roads were fun, the bike was handling great and the landscape was very pretty. The only problem was that I was freezing. It was still only 8:30am and the air temperature was around 10c. My lightweight summer jacket and gloves were certainly not made with those temperatures in mind. Later at the temperatures soared to 30+ degrees I was eternally grateful for them, but at that moment they offered zero warmth at all.
My first destination was a place I’d attempted to get to once before, but a puncture to a friend’s car who was meeting up with us had led to a detour and impromptu rescue mission, but today would be the day that I finally made it to Stonehenge.
In truth I felt the same way about visiting the stones as I did when visiting the Terracotta Army in X’ian. They are pleasant to the eye, particularly when the sun breaks through the clouds and Illuminates them in a warm glow with the detail and texture of the stones highlighted by lovely contrasty shadows. In the flesh the stones, and the army are both impressive but I felt the real interest is in the how and why of their creation and purpose rather than the seeing them with your own eyes.
You cannot get close to the stones due to the need to ensure their preservation and solidity of the foundations. So the actual experience of visiting is lessened somewhat through distance and the sheer numbers of people on site at any one time. Large tour groups stand milling around as their guides take them through their tours, the now ubiquitous selfie-seekers who seemed determined only to view the stones through their phone screens with their backs to the henge as though they were a latter day Jason spying Medusa through the reflection in his shield.
I’d still happily recommend a visit as it is a wonderful part of history, but as with the warriors the experience of physically being their does not feel as essential to the story as it does in comparison to somewhere like the Taj Mahal.
I continued on the twisty B roads now turning north and heading to Silverstone. I set my route to take me past White Horse Hill near Uffington so I could see the giant chalk carving.
These roads were so much fun to ride. Devoid of traffic with lots of twits and undulations all whilst passing through aching picturesque countryside.
On a hot summers day there really are few things better in life than a motorbike and a clear road.
The later part of the journey took me onto the A roads and a more direct route to Silverstone. As I approached, event signs started to appear guiding me to the campsite. As I arrived I was given a wristband and directed to where the other bike campers had pitched up. Since it was Wednesday and no events were scheduled to start until the following day there were only a few of us. By race day the entire area was completely packed, but for now I was able to set-up at a leisurely pace and meet my temporary neighbours.