Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Dangling in Dingle

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

As the New Year approaches (and what a year it’s been), I need to get on with our tale of our Epic Road Trip. Lessee, I left off in Doolin, drinkin’ pints and listening to the best Irish music of the trip, if not a lifetime at McGann’s. 

Part of the Plan was to take a day to see at least one of the Aran Isles. The first thing we did after settling into our digs was to visit the local Tourist Board (Bord Failte) and see about tickets. “Nope, no tickets for the next day, sea’s too rough, try tomorrow.” And we did. Sure enough, we could book tickets for Inish Oirr and a cruise past the Cliffs of Moher. Perfect. So, after another grand night in McGanns, including dinner this time, and the now familiar stagger home in the dark, we were up early to get to the ferry port. 

It had rained that night, but the weather was looking decent. Or as decent it gets in the West of Ireland. The sea looked a bit choppy, and there was a good wind, but the brilliant rainbow that led probably to the pot of gold we’d already spent was a good omen. 

We lined up along the quay (pronounced, key) and boarded the tiny ferry. Going out, it was a good “D Ticket Ride” but not horrible. A short 20 minutes later, we landed on Inish Oirr and were greeted by a good dozen horse carts with old guys offering tours. Ten Euros each. Sure, why not. Help the local economy. We climbed in along with four Swedish ladies and off we went. Seamus, our guide, pointed out the usual stuff as we bumped along between rock walls that divided the landscape into a crazy quilt of small plots of land. Each had been laboriously made cultivatable by decades of bringing crushed rock and seaweed to form a kind of mulch. Talk about a hard life! The stone cottages dotted the landscape and the ruins of a castle loomed over all. 

We trotted up to The Sight on Inish Oirr, the shipwreck of the MS Plassy, washed onto the rocks in 1960 and left to rust. It’s a testament to the unforgiving nature of the Sea. It’s also used in the opening credits of “Father Ted”, the outrageously irreverent TV comedy. It island has other attractions as well. Ancient monastic sites, stone walls, an early Christian church, stone walls, limestone formations, and yes, you guessed it, stone walls.  See for more details. 

There is also a great pub with good food. We grabbed the last two pasties and a pint of local beer and enjoyed the view of the increasingly hostile Atlantic. Yeah. 

Our ferry back was to leave at 2PM, so we hung around the quay, just enjoying the laid back life of the island. Finally, our boat pulled in, and as we got on board, we were told “No trip to the Cliffs of Moher, too rough.” That should have been a warning! 

The weather really started getting rough, our tiny ship was tossed...The trip back was beyond an E Ticket Ride. I’d put it somewhere around an M Ticket. As in MOTHER #*&$@%! I have NEVER been in seas so rough. Some rogue waves launched us into what felt like a 90 degree plunge. I had to hang onto the seat, brace my legs and keep both Mari and me from sliding onto the seat across the aisle! Nobody tossed lunch, but a few were a bit green around the gills. By the time we got back, the pouring rain was blowing sideways in a wind strong enough to push us along. We got a refund voucher for the lost Cliffs of Moher part, headed back to town to cash in, and back to our rooms to warm up. It was GREAT! That night, it was back to McGanns for one last meal, a few pints, and more great music. 

By the way, I don’t think I mentioned how really small Doolin is. We had to drive eight miles to Lahinch to find the nearest ATM, and cell phone service was mostly non-existent. Same with the WiFi! The struggles of the modern world. 
The next morning, we were off, headed along the Wild Atlantic Way. What a drive. Tiny villages, soaring cliffs, pounding seas. Everything you’d expect to see in the West. Just past Kilrush, we jumped on a ferry across the Shannon River, avoiding the traffic and dirty poetry of Limerick, then back to the coast for more spectacular scenery. 

Now, our original plan was to see the Ring of Kerry. One of Ireland’s top tourist attractions. Several people warned us off, saying it was crowded with buses and not as great as the Dingle Peninsula. Besides, to get to Dingle, there’s one of The Great Driving Roads Ever, the infamous Conner Pass. 

Just before the village of Camp, just past Derryquay and Derrymore, you bear right off the N86 and take the R560 towards Aughacastla. There are signs saying the trucks and buses are NOT allowed. The road has “GO MALL” painted on the surface. GO SLOW! It’s a narrow two lane drive with some of the best views in all of Ireland. It’s rugged, rock strewn, and about halfway up, there’s a great turnout near a waterfall that has an incredible view. We stopped and ate the last of our Cheddar Cheese, some salami, and bread and enjoyed the view. What there was of it. It was, of course, raining. 

From this point on up, the sign on this really narrow road said “Road Narrows Ahead.”  Yep, single track. Like in Scotland. By now, I was a hardened veteran of one lane twisty roads, and generally people headed downhill would yield to the uphill traffic. At the top, you can see both sides of the Dingle Peninsula. If it’s not raining. Down we headed into town, and after a bit, found the Dingle Harbour Lodge, the place we’d booked for the night. Less of a B&B, more of a hotel, it was comfortable and the breakfast was good. Once we’d dried out and warmed up, it was off to find dinner. In Dingle, there are a lot of options, but we’d been told by Larry Wade, a fellow Road Tripper and E-Type driver that “Out of the Blue” was a must. 

Out of the Blue is a seafood restaurant that serves whatever is fresh off the fishing boats that day. If the catch isn’t too their liking, they don’t open! And they have a huge sign, “NO CHIPS!” The didn’t open until five, so we shopped a bit, finding some great stuff for us and family, then about quarter of, we dropped off our goods and headed to the restaurant. 

It wasn’t yet five, but we saw a couple go in, so we followed. “Have you a reservation?” “No.” “Oh, sorry, we’re booked.” ARRRGH! The other couple were in the same boat. Disappointment loomed. I looked at the other man, and said “Share a table?” He liked the idea and we asked. Seems a table for four was easier to seat, and it was early so...

The other couple were from Idaho, very pleasant, and we ate the second best meal of our trip. This fish was amazing. The “menu” was a chalk board. We got a starter, main, and dessert. It was fish that we’d never had and it was wonderful. So, St. Serendipity was still with us. We didn’t know just HOW with us he was until later. 

Dingle is also known as a music town. Almost every pub has live traditional music and pub crawling is highly recommended. The first place we hit was John Benny’s. No, not Jack, John. There we were, sitting near the bar, enjoying a pint. The place is one of the (sadly to us) renovated pubs, made cleaner and “nicer” for the tourists. On the wall were an assortment of shoulder patches from a variety of American police departments. You see a lot of this around Ireland. Most are east coast, attesting to the reality of the stereotype of the Irish Cop from 1930s movies. One however, caught my eye. “Pasadena Fire/Paramedic.” Wow. Pasadena? 

From here, it gets weird. REALLY WEIRD. See, my brother Scott was a Pasadena Paramedic. He died about fifteen years ago. OK, you say, so? Well, he got married about 1985 or so, and they honeymooned in Ireland. That’s when I got to thinking. I showed Marianne the patch and she was just as stunned. Naw, couldn’t be. I found a waitress who was a bit older and asked if she knew how long the patches had been there. She’d only been there ten years, so, sorry. I told her why I was interested. She was intrigued. The owner, however, had taken over the place only 15 years previously, but wasn’t in. sigh. 

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was. After all, how many Pasadena Fire/Paramedics would ever visit Dingle? Only one way to find out. It was about 10AM back home, so we sent a text to my mom and to my sister, adding a photo we took with the phone (ain’t technology wunnerful?). And waited. After another pint, we got a text back. THEY WERE BOTH FREAKED OUT! My sister was in fact, driving my mom somewhere. They had to pull over to the side of the road. YES, Scott and his bride had indeed spent a few days in Dingle. It HAD to be his patch! After all our trials and tribulations, we took it as a sign that, yes indeed, the trip was worth it. We’d paid a steep emotional price, what with the Triumph hors de combat, the missed connections, the having to adapt, keep calm, and carry on. Besides all the great things we’d seen, the wonderful people we’d met, this seemed to be the real reason for our trip. 
Thanks Scott. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Back to Ireland-The Last Lap

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

We schlepped our bags from the ferry in Dublin, hailed a cab to the airport and picked up our new rental car. Remember, we had to drop the UK registered car in Holyhead or incur a £1000 charge! What a racket!. We made a mistake and opted for a nicer, larger car. From our experiences in Scotland, we should have known better. The Opel was more comfy, but proved to be a liability at times. Here’s a tip, always rent something small.
Anyway, we headed west, not sure where we’d stop, figuring we’d let St. Serendipity guide us. It was getting on to the later afternoon, and we just asked Sean the Less-Than-Reliable for a place to stay. He sent us to Mullingar and the Mullingar Park Hotel. Looked a bit fancy, but we were tired. turned out well. Not only a room for under €100, but the bar had the last minutes of the Dublin/Mayo Gaelic Football match for the All-Ireland Championship! Mayo hadn’t won since about 1951, so most of Ireland was rooting for them. Dublin dropped back into a “prevent defense” and prevented themselves from winning, giving up the tying point in the closing seconds! Match ended in a tie with a replay match (no sudden death here!) in two weeks time. Sadly, we found out when we got back that Mayo didn’t have the luck of the Cubbies and lost.
St. Serendipity didn’t let us down for dinner. There’s a Chinese restaurant in the hotel complex that was FANTASTIC! Place is called “Mr. Wong” and had some of the best Chinese we’ve ever had. Got to compliment Mr. Wong himself. Remember, we live in SoCal. Some of the best Chinese food in the world is here. We told him this and that his was as good as the best!

The next day, the good saint led us to another great find. Marianne loves checking out the binder most hotels have in every room about local stuff. In it, she found Fore Abbey as a recommended stop. So, off we went. Great ruin of an old abbey and pair of small churches. We got there early, so had the place to ourselves. Not only a neat ruin, but there’s a Sacred Well there too. Very peaceful place. We also cruised through Longford. My great-great-great grandfather emigrated to the US from there, escaping the horrors of the Great Hunger. His pregnant wife died in childbirth on the way.

From there, we were off to Clonmacnoise, a much larger monastic site, filled with tourists, but the view of the gently flowing Shannon River made it well worth the side trip. Both of these are well off the beaten track and required some deft driving on the narrow lanes.
After Clonmacnoise, it was getting towards lunch and since the cafe at the abbey was full of tourists, we headed out. In Shannon Bridge, we found a great old pub/market called Killeen’s. A real local. Old guys in a booth solving the problems of the world, good food, good beer. Nothing better!

We then hit Cong. found us a B&B called the Dolman, just out of town, and after dropping off our bags, we headed in for a dose of serious tourism. Cong is where John Ford filmed “The Quiet Man,” one of our favorite movies. They play up the connection of course. We got there a bit late, but one shop was open so we loaded up on the usual stuff: fridge magnet, calendar, t-shirt. Marianne was jazzed!
We toured through the abbey there, then went for dinner Lydon’s Lodge. In Cong, each pub takes it in turn to host the evening’s music, and this was the place. It was there we hit on an idea that would help us for the rest of the trip.
We were seated at a table for four and about to order when in comes a couple looking for a table for two. Nothing available. They’d have to wait quite awhile for a seat. I chimed in, offering to share our table with them. Very nice couple from Belfast on holiday. We chatted away at dinner, steering clear of politics and religion and had a great time. I HIGHLY recommend this as a practice! It’s VERY un-American, but so much fun, and in fact, stood us in good stead for several more meals down the way.
The next morning, the compliments of our hostess at the B&B ringing in our ears (“I wish all my guests were as easy to please as you two!”) we were off for some more sights and the town of Doolin.
First up was The Burren. This part of the west coast of Ireland is amazing. It’s a large, no, make the HUGE limestone dome that covers several square miles. From afar, it looks bleak, desolate, and barren. It’s not. The stoney ground is carved like jigsaw puzzle pieces and the gaps are filled with small wild flowers. Cattle and sheep graze (watch out, this is open range country!), and there is a remarkable feel to the place. There are two places that are “must see”.
First is the Ailwee Cave. Now, neither of us are much for spelunking, but this was pretty cool. The cave was discovered in the 1940s by a local farmer who’d lost his dog. McFido had wandered into the cave and the man, Jack McGann, followed. What he found was astounding. Even more astounding was that he never told anyone about it for some 30 years. In the 70s, the cave was further explored and was developed into a tourist site. It goes back some 3/4 of a mile into the hillside, has remains of giant bear, stalactites and stalagmites, deep caverns, and when they turn out the lights, total, complete, darkness. Impressive to say the least. In addition, they have a Birds of Prey exhibit that is worth the extra euros. Some of the oddest birds form all over, on display and put through their places. Admission also helps bird preservation in Ireland.
Next stop was the Poulnabrone Dolmen. Another spectacular site, well off the beaten path, but a must see. It stands lonely in the midst of the  barren Burren and, as all of these are, older than the Pyramids of Egypt! Great limestone slabs support a limestone top that must have taken a couple of barrels of Guinness and three Irishmen several hours to erect.
Our stop for the next three nights was to be the fishing village of Doolin. This became one of the top highlights of our trip. In fact, when we go back to Ireland, I think we’ll just stay there for a week or two and do side trips. What a great village. We found lodgings at The Lodge, a good sized, newer place. Up THREE flights of stairs, we had an entire suite to ourselves, complete with kitchen. The staff were great, the breakfast good, and the laundry service reasonable.
It’s also an easy walk into town. One of the things we wanted to do was take the ferry to the Aran Islands. We found the tourist shop where tickets were sold, wanting to head over there in the morning. The lady there said to check back the next morning, as the weather was looking bad, and they might not be running. Sure enough, the next day, no chance. Try tomorrow. sigh.
No real problem though, we headed for the Cliffs of Moher, one of the other places we wanted to see in the West. WOW! We got there ahead of most of the tour buses (highly recommended to time things this way) and it was windy and drizzly, and still spectacular. There’s a good reason the Cliffs are such an attraction.
That night, we had dinner at Fitzpatrick’s Bar. Great mussels in a huge pot, great bread, and of course, Guinness. From there we walked down to McGann’s Pub. This was THE discovery of the trip. Our friends from back in our racing days, John and Martha Gianelli (she’s the Irish one in that family) strongly recommended McGann’s Pub. Boy, were they right!
We got there and the place was jumping. Squeezed up to the bar for pints, then stood around, amazed by the music. Best craic of the trip. There was an uillean piper that was one of the best I’d ever heard. Found out later that the man on flute was Donal Lunney, one of the giants of Irish music! The place was rockin’! And as the infomercial says, “But Wait, There’s MORE!”
We went back the next night, early to get dinner (which was great) and got seated towards the back by the woman who seemed to run the place. She could tell we weren’t too happy about being away from the music and, after I mentioned that I was a piper myself, asked if we’d mind sharing a table. “Of course not!” She hustled us up to the table next to the musicians, plunked us down, smiling all the while.
About 9:00, she starts setting up mics and such, in comes a young woman with a harp and an older gentleman with a banjo. They play and our hostess sings. Seems she’s none other than Geraldine McGowan, former lead singer for the Irish band “Oisin” and someone we’d listened to for years! She’s the real deal. Photos of her on the internet with the likes of Sting and Pavarotti no less! By our third night there, we’d been adopted. Geraldine is one of the nicest, sweetest people we’d met in a nation of nice, sweet people. As she was singing, she’d look our way and give us an inquiring thumbs up, which we’d enthusiastically return. Ireland is an amazing place.
The only small fly in the ointment was the stagger back to the hotel. Only a half mile, but in places, dark as the inside of a cow. Marianne was not too happy about it, but using the light on her cell phone as a marker for traffic (all two cars of it) got us safely back. It was good of her to brave it.
So, I’ll leave you all here for now. Next time, the trip to Inish Oirr, the Conor Pass, and Dangling in Dingle.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dartmoor to Wales-Be Seeing You!

Road Trippin’ 
Steve McCarthy

So, where were we? Ah, yes, leaving Guy and Eunice in Cornwall and setting out for Wales. So much to see! 

Our immediate goal was the Great Dartmoor. The looming landscape of so many Gothic novels, including, of course, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes’ greatest adventure. We did it in daylight, but the brooding landscape, dotted with free range sheep, cattle, and horses; the patches of bog, the fields of gorse and heather; what’s not to love! 

We took the B3212 through the centre of the park, and what a wondrous route it is! Plenty of open road, some tight twisties, lovely inns that are centuries old. Spectacular! 

From there, we skirted Exeter, then jumped on the M5 and exited for the Cheddar Gorge and lunch. Cheese, of course! There is one, and, sadly, only one cheddar cheese maker in Cheddar. It makes me sadly shudder at the lack of cheddar. I know, that’s a gouda one. 

This is a marvelous little village at the mouth of one of the most spectacular rock formations in the Isles. We bought a couple of wedges of cheese, one a super aged cheddar, the other, a smokey cheddar. Then, lunch across the street. All the sign says is Good Food, Real Ales. We took them at their word and weren’t disappointed. I had the ploughman’s lunch with TWO huge hunks of cheese, enough to eat half and save the rest for future lunches. We snacked on that cheese for a week! 

One of the interesting, and, well, a bit freaky bits of info we learned was about the mummified remains of a neolithic hunter/gatherer, dubbed “Cheddar Man”. His remains were found in one of the caves that riddle the gorge, and a few years ago, someone got the idea to do some DNA testing on him and the living locals. Shockingly, some 20% of the local population are direct descendants from this guy who lived some 3000 years ago! 

After lunch a a walk through some shops, we headed through the gorge itself. Amazing! Spectacular. It’s not a long drive, but well worth it. Out the top, we headed to Wales. Using good old, we found a B&B in Chepstow, Wales, just across the Severn River. The First Hurdle is a nice place, but we were only there to rest our heads. For dinner, we opted for the Beaufort Hotel. Very nice and reasonable, it’s an old school hotel/bar/restaurant that is clearly the gathering spot for the local Old Farts’ Club. Large Welshmen with booming voices. Well, I’ve heard they do some singing in Wales, so I wasn’t surprised. all in all, a nice place. 

Early in the morning, before breakfast was served, we were on the road, first to Tintern and the abbey ruins made famous by William Wordsworth, the great romantic poet. Pretty far afield from his native Lake District, but it was easy to see why the man who practically invented Romantic Poetry, all filled with a love of nature and a 180 degree turn from the cold hard logic of the Enlightenment, would love the place. 

Again, timing is key. We got there just as the sun was struggling to rise over the gorge of the Wye River (and yes, there is an Abbot and Costello routine in all of this) we had the place to ourselves. No tour buses, no chattering selfie-stickers, nobody. The sun lit up the ancient walls with a golden glow, and there I go, waxing poetic. It’s an easy place to have that happen. 

We chatted a bit with the shopkeeper in the only place open (the Welsh accent is both the loveliest and most difficult to understand), bought some stuff, including the obligatory Welsh Love Spoon. These are a great art form, hand carved from one block of wood, they have interlocking chains, hearts, flowers, etc, each having a meaning. 

From there, we headed through the Brecon Beacons National Park (more great roads and scenery) along the A479/A470 to Tywyn on the coast. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it. Welsh is indecipherable to all but the native born speaker. 

Tywyn is neat because it has the oldest steam tourist railway in Britain, if not the world, and served as inspiration for Thomas the Tank! It’s a delicate little two foot gauge railway that once served the slate mines nearby. The equipment almost looks more like an overgrown garden rail road. The Live Steamers in Griffith Park in LA are almost as big! Mind you, I’m not disparaging it at all. But to an American, used to massive 4-8-4’s and Big Boys, well...Lunch in their cafe was good, and we left in plenty of time to make it to one of The Highlights of the entire Trip, Portmierion, AKA, The Village. 

Now, you’d have to be a fan of the late 60s TV series, The Prisoner to get any of this, but catch a few episodes on youtube and you’ll see why it is quintessential 60s Down With The Man drama. It was all filmed in this odd little resort on the Welsh coast, called Portmeirion. Built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, beginning in 1925, it’s a tribute to idyllic Italian fishing villages. What can I say, it’s what the Madonna Inn wishes it was! Every nook and cranny has something in it, every arch reveals a ready made photo opportunity, it’s spectacular! 

We splurged on this. Our room was in the Cliff House at the top of the Village. The view into the estuary of the  Afon Dwynyd was incredible. There was also a full carafe of complimentary sherry. Walking about, we headed down the hill to the hotel itself, made reservations for dinner and strolled about. Naturally, we hit the #6 Shop (you need to see the TV show, suffice it to say, #6 was the main character-”I’m not a number, I’m a Free Man!) and bought T-shirts, buttons and stuff. 

Dinner was a show in and of itself! We opted for the Tasting Menu. PreStarter (Salmon Sushi); Crispy Duck Egg with black truffle soldiers; Local lobster, heritage tomatoes, iced lobster thermidor, and basil; Loin of Welsh lamb with pine nut crust, quinoa, ratatouille vegetables, torched aubergine and olive tapenade; Sea Buckthorn sorbet with champagne and yogurt; and finally, Chocolate and passion fruit tart with coconut ice cream. And to cap things off, a spectacular full moon rising over the river and a couple celebrating their 40th anniversary with a fireworks show!!! And did I mention that the dessert was a FLAMING one? 

The morning saw us off to Holyhead and the ferry back to Dublin. We said good bye to the trusty rental, and just a bit hungover, took the good ship Jonathan Swift back to Ireland, and more adventures. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Stonehenge and Cornwall: The Best of England. London? Not so much.

Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

So, after Goodwood, everything else should be an anti-climax, right? WRONG! Along with the Lake District, Devon and Cornwall are the loveliest parts of England we drove through! That’s not to say these are the only lovely parts, but they’d be hard to top. 

We did do a day in London, and managed to bring some real SoCal weather along with us. Hottest September day in London since 1911! They were DYING, but we were just uncomfortable. Again, nothing has A/C so that didn’t help. Mostly, London was a blur. The British Museum was, of course, fantastic (I mean THE ROSETTA STONE! THE ACTUAL REAL THING!!) and the Tower was pretty neat, but damn, the traffic is worse than imagined. I’m a hardened LA Freeway Traffic Warrior. No freakin’ way I’d drive in that! I don’t see how the city can actually function. We did one of those hop-on-hop-off bus things and were glad we did. Sure, we could have done a “mere cat tour” by popping up and down on the Tube, but Marianne had never seen the place, so we opted to stay above ground. Took us 2 1/2 hours to get from Trafalgar Square to the Tower of London. About 4 miles! If we hadn’t already walked a bunch, we’d have walked and done if faster. Here’s a tip, do like LA did for the Olympics in ’84. Ban all daytime truck deliveries. Make ‘em deliver stuff at 3AM. And ban ALL on street parking. All of it. The damn donkey cart scaled streets were OK when everybody drove Minis and Morris’ and such, but not modern cars! At least they went back to double deck buses and dumped the bendy buses! Whose idiotic idea was that? 

So, Apres-London, we left our digs in Bromley (yeah, I know, a LOT of people wondered about that. See, Marianne’s GGPa came to Sierra Madre from there, so, she wanted to see it. Underwhelmed is the term) and off to the West. Took us 1 1/2 hours to get away from the general London area and onto a motorway. Again, STOP PARKING CARS ON The STREETS! Hell, we had to drive up onto the center divider to let an ambulance get through! It’s so bad, London had paramedics on motorcycles to deal with the traffic! And, you all COULD have fixed all this 300 years ago when the whole place (London that is) burned to the ground. But no, narrow quaint winding streets in a major metropolis is EVER SO ENGLISH! But I digress. 

We made it out into the country and enjoyed things immensely. Once out of the cities, England, in fact, all of The Isles is terrific and well worth seeing. So many cool things along the way. Case in point, as we were driving to Portsmouth and Goodwood, we spotted the signs for Blenheim Palace! Of course we stopped. Magnificent place! Anyway, off we went on the M3 and past Basingstoke (a place full of hidden meaning!) we took the A303 and headed for Amesbury and that most marvelous of all Neolithic monuments, Stonehenge! Now, on a map, the A303 looks like a major road. Well, in places. Like so many “A” roads, it occasionally makes an attempt at being a 4 lane highway (dual carriageway to that lot over there) but randomly, it goes to 2 lanes and roundabout intersections that, depending on the traffic, either improve or hinder traffic flow. It’s all rather random and, again, SO terribly English. 

What was amazing, and, a bit confusing, was that we made a couple of turns, topped a rise, and there sat Stonehenge. It’s, well, compact. Far more than any photos will let on. Although the Sarcen stones are some 30 feet tall, the entire circle is only some 300 feet in diameter. That’s about two average to small residential lots square. Still, it’s impressive as all hell! 

There’s now a new visitor centre and you have to take a shuttle bus out to the stones, and they’re roped off, so you can’t get closer than about 20 feet or so. It’s a shame, but sadly, needed to preserve the place from the hordes of selfie-stick wielding tourists who pile out of tour coaches from the cruise ships in Southampton (I talked to a couple of drivers at lunch and this was their SIXTH trip there that week!) and, left to their own devices, would swarm the place, climb on the stones, and probably carve their names in the rocks. Or worse, do a Griswold and back into one with their rental car and play dominoes. People suck. 

Anyway, in spite of all this, it was still AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING! If one is patient, with a decent zoom lens, one can get great photos without people in them. The key to ANY of these “must do” spots is get there early to beat the buses, uh, coaches! Another tip is every museum/cultural site we went to, the food in the cafe was quite good, and reasonable in price (take note, LA County Museums!) so get there nineish, when most open, look about, then have lunch. BTW, Fentiman’s Ginger Beer is a great accompaniment to a lunch of local cheeses and is non-alcoholic, so driving after lunch doesn’t run afoul of the law. In Scotland, find Crabbies. It’s alcoholic, and REALLY good! 

So, from there, we were off to Cornwall, and along the way, discovered the Haynes Automotive Museum. As in  Haynes Manuals? Great find, lovely collection! From there, it was off to our friends (and Official Road Trip Heroes) Guy and Eunice. Constant Reader may remember them. They’re the nut jobs who drove their Austin 7 from Baltimore to Alaska, to LA to TIERRA DEL FUEGO some four years ago? An 18,000 mile trek? They are wonderful people, and, more than most, really understand the rigors of a month on the road. The first thing they demanded was for us to get our laundry done! Of all the little things one needs to do, laundry is THE most important and sometimes, most difficult chore. The hotel in Carlisle and the later one in Doolin were great for this. Charged by the bag or the kilo. After getting a bit soggy at Goodwood, we were getting desperate. In Bromley, we asked and they charged BY THE PIECE. Like, THREE POUNDS FOR A BRA! I had to get some fresh stuff, so we spent the equivalent of a dinner for ONE SET of clean trousers, shirt, and undies. So, Guy and Eunice were live savers! They also took us to a Staples (yes, that Staples) and used DHL to send back some of the overflow from our baggage. We’d been stockpiling trinkets for the natives back home and had some stuff we’d needed for driving in the TR that were just taking up space. Mind you, doing this ain’t cheap, but sometimes, necessary. 

Having taken care of the necessities, we were ushered around Plymouth to see the sights (the steps where the Pilgrims embarked in 1620 to take the Mayflower to the New World in order to spread religious intolerance here) and the green where Sir Francis Drake played out his game of Bowls before heading out to trounce the Spanish Armada were two highlight. Then off to lunch. Off to the BEST MEAL OF THE TRIP! 

Off in the Middle of Nowhere, Cornwall is the village of Tideford. Unless you live there, or know someone who does, there is no way you’d go there. None. the Rod and Line pub isn’t even on the High Street (the main drag of this one horse town) and even if you went past it, you wouldn’t give it a second thought, let alone stope there. And you’d miss out BIG TIME! 

Half dozen guys in for an afternoon beer (Tribute, Cornish Ale is quite good!) and a bull session, ceilings so low I had to duck, and that lovely aged color of ancient centuries of nicotine, this is a true Local. And one with fantastic food. The Scallops in garlic butter were amazing, sourced that morning from the fishmonger in Plymouth. The bread was fresh baked and the ale great. And about $20 a head. Beat hell out of several high priced spreads we had! So, more thanks to wonderful people when on the road! 

We’d sacrificed a day in Salisbury for the extra day of R&R with Guy and Eunice, and it was worth it. After a good breakfast, we headed off to our next adventure, The Great Dartmoor, the Cheddar Gorge, Tintern Abbey, and another highlight of the trip, The Village. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Road Trippin’
with Steve McCarthy

What can I say about Goodwood that conveys a sense of the place? Closest I can manage is “Sensory Overload!” especially the first day. Think of a Renaissance Faire on steroids for Car Guys and Gals. The roar of V12 Ferraris, straight 6 Jags, by God, a brace of H-16 BRMs? The smell of bean oil and racing gas? Tire squeal from proper treaded bias ply racing tyres? People dressed to the nines in period garb (at least 90% of attendees dress the part!) Close racing. It was the raison d'ĂȘtre for the whole trip. It made everything, despite the problems oh, so worth it! 

How close? Close enough to give my old friend, John Snow, Chief Steward of VARA a coronary. These guys are SERIOUS RACERS, not content on the fast parade of American Vintage racing. “If yew ain’t rubblin’, you ain’t racin’” is the mantra. In one race, a light weight E Type diced the whole race with a 289 Cobra. E Type led, then bobbled, Cobra struck and passed, then 3 laps or so from the end, the E made a brave move down inside, tapped the Cobra in a Pit Maneuver that the CHP should watch for lessons, spun the Cobra around, took the lead and won. No protest, not hearing with the Stewards, “That’s Racin’” as Gery Hunt would say. Good, hard, honest racing! 

It went on all weekend long. Even on Saturday where it pissed down rain all day, these guys were at it. Hard. Everything from Formula Juniors to Formula One, an entire race of A30 Austins, all equally prepared, Big Bad Le Mans racers from the ‘50s, D-Types, C-Types, Listers, THREE Ferrari GTOs and the Ferrari Bread Van! 2.5 Litre GP cars from the 50’s, including the last front engine F1 car to win a GP. DAMN IT WAS GLORIOUS! 

Then, there was shopping. Everything vintage from clothes to signs to cars. Everything done up as if it were still the Glory Days of Goodwood and Stirling Moss was hammering around, letting Maston Gregory find the oil, and dicing heavily with Juan Manuel Fangio. 

I’ll just shut up now and add a few photos. For more, go to and find the online videos. AND BUY YOUR TICKETS! Sell your soul or your first born and GO TO GOODWOOD!