England on Royal Enfields
On our way to see her Majesty the Queen, we wandered down The Mall, a street known for Royal processions and other stately activities.©Motorcyclist

It was the first hotel-slash-pub-slash-restaurant we had found that seemed respectable. Only hours before, the two Royal Enfields we would borrow for our jaunt around England were waiting patiently in a small town south of London boasting the oldest Cricket field in the United Kingdom, if not the world. Justin and I had been anxiously anticipating our adventure—scouring England's early fortresses for history we could probably find on Google and an experience you can't quite catalog. Nineteen accumulative miles by foot and several pints later, it was finally time to exit the fog, say goodbye to Big Ben, and try our luck on the left side, looking right.

Royal Enfield Continental GT and Bullet 500
We picked up a Bullet 500 and Continental GT about an hour outside of London, loaded them with Wolfman Luggage and set off for Portsmouth.©Motorcyclist

Motorways have a tendency to be the same most places in the world: distracted teens at the wheel, impatient delivery services trying to make their deadlines, crabby Corporate Zombies excusing themselves for nearly running you off the road because your antiquated motorbike won’t cruise kindly past 60 mph without losing a heat shield or some bolts or whatever else you’d expect a 500cc single-cylinder to shed…

But what the British freeways lacked in character—and shoulders—it overflowed in abundance on their country roads. Lanes made for maybe a car-and-a-half, sometimes with and sometimes without defining white lines. Canopies of ancient intertwining branches tunneled our pathway intermittently shading us from rain or sun at just the moment we needed relief. Tall hedges gave speed to our ride, blurring as they fell behind us. Wheat fields, stretching as far as the eye can see, painted the horizons golden yellow and dated our surroundings to the birth of agriculture, hiding what was left of the primeval forest we imagine from the stories.

Sena Bluetooth
SENA Bluetooth headsets have been an essential tool for all of our travels. Without them, navigating on the wrong side of the road would be a damn bit more difficult.©Motorcyclist

I felt like a collegiate drop-out in the early 20th century, when motorcycles were still new and exciting (and dangerous), ready for an experience not defined by the confines of contemporary and classic society. Perhaps feeling free for the first time on this beautiful glossy-black beast I opted for over the four-legged furry one that had carried humankind for thousands of years until then.

Left side of road in England
The GT might not be a touring bike, but the riding position isn’t as bad as we imagined. And what’s cooler than exploring England on a proper café racer?!©Motorcyclist

The Royal Enfield, at that time still British, gave the stifled youth the prospects of glory, escapade and infamy. And now upon an Indian-made Continental GT and Bullet 500, nearly a century past my daydream, we make our way to Portsmouth on the first leg of this iconic expedition reincarnated. The English Countryside is infamous not just for its fairytales but for the circuit of narrow, short-sighted avenues often crumbling at the edge that have taken many lives from those who dared to challenge them. Even after the motorways were ready for two mid-sized vehicles—lorries included, the blind corners lined with barely pruned bushes, a timeline of ancient homesteads and stone walls built to kill protect, gave the Bullet and GT a ride worth the effort.

Rain in England
We anticipated precipitation, but so far the worst we’ve encountered was an hour long downpour while making our way south from the city. Fingers crossed it stays sunny!©Motorcyclist
England pub
Dumb luck took us to The George, a small pub in Portsmouth filled with colorful chaps, warm beer and wonderful food. We stayed the night next door at the Royal Maritime Club.©Motorcyclist

Hours of hyper vigilance can work up an appetite and rob you of your energy. We were cut off by Brits all the way to the water riding well under the suggested speed limit. And when the George Hotel caught our eyes, we dismounted with fervor, grabbed some cider and waited patiently for Six O’clock Supper.

HMS Warrior
The HMS Warrior, one of two English war ships docked in the small port town of Portsmouth. The other, the HMS Victory, was captained by Lord Nelson during the Revolutionary War.©Motorcyclist
Royal Enfield Bullet 500
Kyra is a bit more comfortable behind the bars of the Bullet, with its upright riding position and wide, cushy seat. Justin is a little jealous.©Motorcyclist

"How was your ride?" The gentleman sitting in the corner, clad in khaki shorts and possessing a brand new camping chair, sniffed us out. He too had ridden the hard miles of the motorways aboard his motorcycle to settle at a quiet pub in his comfy cushion, pint in hand, and observe the locals. We three talked for nearly an hour before the man, whose name I daresay I can't remember, departed only to be replaced by the next 70+ year-old Brit bloke ready to chat up the Americans on Enfields. Clive was a character I will never forget. The pure definition of jolly, and as nationally proud of England as Justin is of America. After introducing us to Graham and John—one of which a visiting Kiwi, Clive extended his formal invitation, authorized by the Queen herself, for America to rejoin the United Kingdom. "All would be forgiven!" Big smiles as contained as we could muster, we said with a straight face that we will immediately notify the American government and the people of such wildly generous opportunity. Please stand by. After cider (ours) and white wine (Clive's) drained 'business' from the conversation, we mostly reminisced over motorcycles loved and lost, adventures had and hoped for, and the many Enfields that—like Harley-Davidsons to Americans—have drawn in generations of Englishmen, sufficient or shit.

English countryside
The English countryside is two-tone at times, both a golden brown and an emerald green on either side.©Motorcyclist
Portsmouth, England
Tree lined tunnels lead us to Portsmouth, a much needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of London and the M highways that shuttle people in and out at high speeds.©Motorcyclist

As if our first conversations weren’t enough, we met Barry—a Brit whose sister lives near us in Washington, who spent his adolescence in my hometown in California in the 1950’s and had retired 15 years ago from a lucrative career in Marketing. He led us through the positively stereotypical English pub to a table seating an 85-year-old gentleman harboring a 20-year-old spirit named Alan who could describe his first Royal Enfield like it was still parked outside his flat.

Wolfman Luggage
Fully laden with Wolfman Luggage, Kyra is playing mule for this motorcycle adventure as the GT is able to carry only a tank bag.©Motorcyclist

And Russ, the American-come-Brit whose work at Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Portsmouth estate was to make its contents more accessible to the visually-impaired. But most notably, Russ was the only person we met that night under the age of 70… Famished, I was happy to devour one of the best meals I’d had since our arrival over even more cider, then more pints of “real ale” and plenty of conversation. From the bar attendants to the patrons, good food and warm beer, thoroughfares both breath-taking and treacherous, our first day on the open road had Justin and I buzzing, laughing, clenching and sticking to the (far) left, looking right.