November 2011


Back in the Land(s) of Plenty


When you last heard from us, we’d just arrived in England, early in November.  

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We arrived panting from the quick run-up from Bulgaria, popped off the ferry, devoured some lovely fish and chips, hit the ATM for local luchre, made our way along the M-something-or-other around London, and arrived in Cheltenham, where we had arranged to have a bit of maintenance work done on the Tiger while we waited for our new wheels to arrive.  This involved meeting Darren and Martin, two great guys who together make up Motorhome Medics, a thriving enterprise taking care of mostly American motorhomes.  We’d heard about them from some English traveling friends and had enlisted their help in taking care of La Tortuga.  This has turned out to be a terrific find for us, as they have become not only an important resource for us, but friends as well.

Our first supermarket in England was its own culture shock:  we had returned to The Land of Plenty.  Walking in, all I could say was “My lord, look at all the food!”  We had spent SO many months in countries where shopping was a hit-or-miss affair, and often pretty slim pickings: you bought what was local and in season, and picked through the offerings on the shelves, being pleased to find something interesting to try.  Bulgaria had been the best of the lot, with both Kaufland (German) and Billa (Austrian) stores bringing in some items from further north, and we were able to stock up on some things there.

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But now!  Wow!  I went crazy!  We had fresh muffins!  Strawberries from Belgium!  Good beef!  Lemon curd! And…and…and…!  Seventh heaven doesn’t even start to cover it.  

Another of the pleasures of being back in England was a chance to see relatives and do a little sightseeing.  We visited with cousins, some of them several-times-removed, and were escorted to Worcester (pronounced Wuss-ter – as in “Don’t be a wuss”, which has a truly splendid cathedral, along with beautiful swans floating on the Severn River; it was a remarkably peaceful scene.  The cathedral was so completely different from those we’d visited this year, particularly in Serbia and Bulgaria; it seemed very austere and restrained, although magnificent.  

Cheltenham is on the edge of the Cotswolds, one of our favorite areas in England.  Wandering about, we stopped at Edward Elgar’s birthplace, a small cottage where he was born in 1857.  We had the house to ourselves and enjoyed exploring, upstairs and down, in this small home with a pretty garden and a statue of the composer seated on a bench where he could enjoy it all.  The visitor’s center itself is under renovation until next spring, so we’ll have to go back and see it another time.

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While driving along, we spotted signs for the National Motorcycle Museum; had never even heard of it, but it was marvelous.  Full of bikes, old and new, along with great posters and photos and gear and just all sorts of great biker stuff.  Rick had also promised himself a follow up second visit to the Morgan Factory in Great Malvern, so off we went.  The visit was terrific.  They’ve actually come up with a rather high tech remake of the famous Morgan Three Wheeler that was the foundation of the company back in the twenties.  It’s a hoot.  Morgan is a company of folks who seem to be having way too much fun making interesting cars in the twenty-first century.  Go to the Morgan Website to read all about it.  Also, you can go to our own Motor-Museums.com site to see lots more photos of both locations.

Otherwise, we were pretty much settled at Cheltenham.  We watched all our British monarchy films, everything we owned that featured Judi Dench or Helen Mirren, and even “The Full Monty.”  All this while keeping an eye out for our new wheels and tires.  But they became further and further delayed.  And the weather in England turned, well… very English.  It was nasty cold and very drippy.  We both got the flu, Rick so bad we finally went to a clinic.  Just a thought here:  you may know that England has their National Health Service and all comers are treated for free.  That’s all English comers.  It cost Rick £75 (roughly $120) to see a doctor.  But he was lovely and nice and quite encouraging that Rick would survive.  Even called personally with the lab results and spelled out the name of the bug in question.

All this finally became too much.  We weren’t having any fun.  The holidays were fast approaching and we knew this would entail further delay on the wheel front.  So we finally said, “To hell with it; let’s go home.”  

We flew from England to Houston on December 1.  Arriving back in the States, with its wide roadbeds, amazing fuel prices, and continual coverage of an election almost a year away - but also friendly folks and a smiling “Welcome home, y’all!” – was something of a culture shock as always.  We’ve gotten pretty good at handling it by now though, and we have realized that we just sort of melt right back into the flow of the easy life here in the states.  

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And so we’re back, and happy to be here, at least for a while.  We have spent many a Christmas holiday season in rural Texas; we’re northwest of Austin, one of our favorite cities, at Inks Lake State Park in the hill country.  We’re enjoying being back in our larger ‘home’ and having the BMW along with us.  The bike riding is sublime, with the Bluebonnet Café in Marble Falls within reach (to say nothing of that great BBQ spot in Llano and the lovely jam and honey in Fredericksburg).  

Early in January we’ll start to move west, visiting family and friends in Arizona before ending up in California mid-February.  By then, of course, we’ll be starting to gear up for our return to England the end of March, where we’ll take up the mantle of world travelers again, heading for Scandinavia and the Baltic States.  We are assured that our long awaited wheels and tires will arrive before we do, probably in February. 

For those of you whom we’ll miss during our time Stateside, and for those of you whom we’ve not seen in a very long time, I insisted we needed a new picture of ourselves to remind you of who it is writing these messages.  So here we are, never young, but ever happy.  We both wish you a lovely holiday season, and a very peaceful 2012.

Best wishes, Rick and Kathy


© Rick & Kathy Howe 2001-2017