Hundreds of miles already under the wheels, we, Justin aboard his café racer especially, needed a break from the road. One of Britain's most storied cities was our home for the next three days and four nights. It's a place we both looked forward to. Justin called it "Harry Potter Town." This from a man who's never actually had much experience with the franchise. I on the other hand just called it a relief. Brands Hatch, home of British Superbike for the weekend, sat on the southwest side of Britain and if we were to make headway before dark, beating the rush, we'd have to take off early. At nearly 200 miles per hour, one after another – and some very close – professionals pushed themselves and their "Super" bikes past the checkered flag in pursuit of glory or, at least this day, pole position. And with the final wave, we bid our silent goodbyes and made a mad dash to the grassy lot tucked behind the raceway where a cherry red Royal Enfield Continental GT and glossy black Bullet 500 waited patiently.

England on Royal Enfields
Slow was not how we’d describe our journey from the British Superbike race at Brands Hatch to York.©Motorcyclist

When you arrive in the northern half of England, you know it. A chill swept into my riding gear, up the sleeves and down the collar, soaking into my skin with a shiver. It was a welcomed kind of cold. The sort that breeds hardiness. It’s the reason they invented warm meads and hot savory pies. A place which constantly appears wet, even when the roads are bone dry. We were above the majority of England’s population at this point, headed to a place after which fairytales model their kingdoms: York. The Tudor buildings cram together, hunched like weathered old ladies, leaning into each other over the narrow cobbled streets to whisper their secrets. Walking under the low-hanging awnings and doorways, you get the suspicion that a swift breeze could topple the aging structures and bury you under their dense history.

Royal Enfield Continental GT
The lush green landscape of northern England slipped past, and certainly made Justin’s cherry red GT stand out!©Motorcyclist

Founded by the Romans, their ruins still scattered within the ancient city walls, the town then called Eburacum or Eborakon saw the rise and fall of an empire, became a kingdom of Northumbria under King Edward, a bishop then the Archbishop of York, and passed ownership to the Vikings who renamed the cultural epicenter Jorvik until it was finally conquered by the Kingdom of England. The name Jorvik soon became York as it has been called for over a thousand years, with no end to its tales. Constantine the Great was declared emperor here. King Edward was baptized here. Jews found sanctuary, even wealth, within the stone perimeter (to include a moat!), only to be betrayed by deceitful king and a misled mob. Fires, murders, suicides and war have riddled York from its birth and maybe 'til its end. So there's no surprise Justin and I, "antiquity enthusiasts," would choose a rest stop along our journey with such a storied past, evident in their architecture, traditions and diverse locals.

Riding England's countryside
Rolling hills and simple stone walls cover much of the English countryside. And sheep. There’s sheep everywhere!©Motorcyclist
English backcountry
There’s not a lot of room for mistakes, or break-downs, in the English backcountry.©Motorcyclist

We strolled the oldest streets, my excited eyes darting back and forth, leading my feet in one direction or the next. I peered into the windows of buildings trying to guess their age or their importance. I pictured the unnamed faces from various eras, dressed appropriately (or so I imagined), speaking their native tongues, drinking ciders and wines, conducting business or behaving badly. I enjoyed our present state of awe while losing myself to curiosity. While deep within my self-fulfilling poetic waxing on all things old and mysterious and peeking into storefronts like a child looking for sweets, we stumbled upon a large window boasting bottled libations from around the globe, no sign properly labeling this treasure trove. At last… IPAs and stouts! Climbing the couple of steps to our new Heaven, I hit pause on my daydreams while Justin and I bothered the clerk with questions and anecdotes.

Yorkshire museum
One of the two walls that remain of York’s ancient abbey, now a park, playground and home to the Yorkshire Museum.©Motorcyclist

With his finger pointed, thusly, straight up, we learned about the Trembling Madness. Justin followed me up the steep narrow stairwell that wound its way to the second floor of this establishment and opened up to a compact room with staggeringly tall ceilings decorated in taxidermy creatures, era appropriate weapons and exposed beams to hold up the Tudor plastered walls and peaked roof. It was miraculous! So much so that everyone and their moms were packed around the fireplace, against the walls, belly-up to the bar and around the table centered in a tiny pseudo-private room set off from the main space.

The Shambles in York, England
The Shambles, an ancient street within the walls of York, is home to small shops in slouching buildings.©Motorcyclist
Cobblestone streets in York
Cobblestone streets and the last bit of light lead us home in York more than once.©Motorcyclist

Today was our third time back to Trembling Madness – second in the day. We stuffed ourselves full of Charcuterie, stew and salad, washed it down with murky apple drink and wandered until the sun went down and thirst tickled our throats. And so back to the popular haunt in the legendary ghost town. With little seats left, we cozied up to a group in the small room off to the side, cut quickly into their ale-fueled conversation and made fast friends with two American families on vacation together. They had ventured south from Scotland, staying the night at the city’s most notoriously “spirited” inn, ready with their Ouija board, and somehow found the current pub because it had no sign.

Ye Olde Starre Inn
The ‘Ye Olde Starre Inn’ sign has been hanging in the same place since 1733!©Motorcyclist

It’s Sunday. In Britain, this means Sunday Roast, and to me, that means Yorkshire Pudding. I didn’t really know what it meant, but I knew I had to have it. “Where can I find the best in town?” I asked the Goldie Locks behind the counter at Guy Fawkes pub. According to her, aside from her Granny, the best place to have a traditional English family feast was at the Judge’s Lodging. Be swift! When the kitchen runs out of roast, it’s game over. We discussed her U.S. travels over the manliest of British beers and she gave her best American impressions, spot on, I might add, then off to my one required dinner of the trip. Just in time for two huge meals, the Sunday Roast earned its place as my favorite English dish of the trip. Unless you count soft serve ice cream.

Lion at the Trembling Madness
This beast hung above the bar at the Trembling Madness.©Motorcyclist
Kyra Sacdalan in York
Pretty sure this was the first time in a week that Kyra could wear a dress.©Motorcyclist

The last day in York was left for the town’s former Abbey. Just a couple great stone walls erected long-ago remained, carefully carved into a series of beautiful arched windows and walkways that once formed their God’s massive and intricate House of Prayer. It is now a playground amongst the grass, a quiet place to read or an intimate corner to share a moment. The museums and attractions onsite were nearly closed and so we did one final lap of the city. In British fashion, we were caught in a downpour and took solace under the recessed window of a department store. The rain let up just enough to feel like home – oh Seattle, where a light drizzle is customary and “fickle” is a common descriptor of our weather’s temperament. But we didn’t let those details ruin the now, though unbeknownst to us, that’s what we’d encounter in full as we headed further north.

Brick, ivy and cobblestone streets of York
Brick and ivy, cobblestone streets and an air of mystery encompasses all of York.©Motorcyclist

Another bittersweet and silent goodbye. We pulled out of our parking spots against brick and ivy, turning down one last little alleyway before touring the North. Violent buzzing rendered my mirrors useless, but I looked into the blurry glass anyway. Body and bike faced my destination, but my gaze, and heart, held fast to the fuzzy outline of York until it was completely out of sight.