The sky was as crystal blue as one could get. This gave us hope. Just a day ago, Justin and I suffered the sort of light drizzle that both suffocates you with thick humidity and paints your gear with lazy indifference. We were uncomfortable, a little cold, but not actually wet; a mere inconvenience which I took wholly for granted. But at that moment, riding our Royal Enfields as fast as two classically styled, single-cylinder motorbikes could, the weather was perfect. Maybe Britain's reputation for gloom was an exaggeration after all? We took advantage of the bone dry roadways and wound through ever more hedge groves destined for a famous set of stones.

Royal Enfields in England
Kyra can make any bike look big when she, with her five-foot frame, tries to man-handle it into a parking spot.©Motorcyclist

Before we even hit the road (or the sack), I was reconsidering our trip to the famed Stonehenge the next day. Our newfound friends clinked our drinks for most of the night and implored us not to leave Portsmouth – our first stop of many on this trip. Forgo circumnavigating England and stick around for a birthday party and regular rounds of white wine, cider and terrible English ales, they suggested! It was a good offer, really. And when that didn’t work, they warned of the crowds, the shallow “attraction” of the ruins and the hellish traffic we’d encounter. Why travel all that way when we’d hardly get a glimpse? Okay… there’s a point. Graham, whose typecast Brit features I’ve seen a thousand times in movies, at least offered an alternative with his next argument. He swore that the real stone phenomenon lies North in Keswick (pronounced Kes-sick) within the Lakes District. “Don’t bother with Stonehenge!” Don’t bother, huh? I typically give weight to the advice of a local, but of all the sites along our route, it was the one we looked most forward to visiting. I was torn. Do we want to start off a several-day several-mile motorcycle trip at a tourist trap that may only lead us further into the “Did It” checklist trend?

Riding Royal Enfields in England
We were surprised to see that these were the only Royal Enfields in the parking lot, let alone the county.©Motorcyclist
Icon helmet planter
Hanging flower planter - a fine use of a well-loved ICON Airmada helmet!©Motorcyclist

In so many words, Airbnb beseeches viewers in their most current commercial campaign, “don’t do… live.” At least that’s how I perceived it. Granted they’re trying to sell us snake oil, but frankly, they’re right about the modern (wo)man’s desire to fulfill an often superficial checklist of experiences based on what society thinks is trendy or unique. A reason to post photos, garner ‘Likes’ and make people jealous even when we “really don’t care what people think.” But we do. The problem is that the person who factors the most in this vote is the person posting the photo in the first place. Complaints aside, I don’t want to be the kind of gal that half-heartedly attempts something truly interesting, fun or enlightening just so I could say, “I do things. Do you do things?” Hell, I post to Instagram as much as the next person but the key is that no one really gives a shit but me. The idea that this was exactly what I am doing, and what we were planning to do for the next few weeks, makes me shudder. But we’re going anyway. Why? Because warning or not, skipping what you want to do because someone else thinks it might be uncomfortable or inconvenient is silly. Even more, changing plans because you don’t want to look like ‘that guy’ seemingly makes you ‘that guy.’ I’ll stick with being a tourist. This time.

Loomies cafe
Loomies Moto Café was a hidden gem in the South Downs National Park.©Motorcyclist
Baps
Baps! Or as far as us Americans are concerned, a plain bun with cold meat and an egg.©Motorcyclist

Most of the route took us through narrow tree-lined avenues, squeezing us passed impatient toy-sized sedans and Lorries adding minutes, maybe even some hours, to our voyage. So when we’d hit the Open Road, we hit it with wheels turning fast. At 60 MPH, the vibration starts – again, single cylinder. At 70, and we pushed well past 70 whenever possible, the buzz becomes so violent I’m literally fighting to hold down the throttle. An ache still lingers in my littlest finger. Every blind turn was a welcomed relief as they’d force us to cut our speeds in half, but exhausted us all the same.

England roads
Shoulder-less hedge tunnels are something you’ll see all over England.©Motorcyclist
Kyra on Royal Enfield
When packing for an international motorcycle adventure, it’s important to take the right luggage.©Motorcyclist

Around one particular corner, at the exit of a long dark canopy, Justin spotted bikes ahead flying one after another into a parking lot like bees to their hive. Loomies. At first glance, the rectangular brick building was nothing worth noting – that’s until you scanned the lot filled with a wide array of motorbikes lined up for our viewing pleasure, their captains not too far, sipping something warm from porcelain mugs or waiting patiently for their meal. This cafe is a motorcycling gem hidden amongst the lush forests outside of Surrey serving hot coffee and savory Baps. “You call them buns.” Our inquiry was justified, even the girl behind the counter had no idea and she took a light scolding when also having to ask her father, “what is a Bap?” He had explained that they’re just sandwiches, typically filled with breakfast fare, served on rolls or hamburger buns. Justin bought ham and egg. I went for the sausage and egg variety. We washed everything down with coffee and the tiny glasses of water that are such a precious commodity in England, or so it seems.

Riding to Stonehenge
Coming up to Stonehenge, we spotted ‘Walkers’ bobbing in and out of the golden fields that surrounded the ancient ruins.©Motorcyclist
Sheep in England
Maaaaaaaaan did we see a lot of sheep ;)©Motorcyclist

Feet finally on the sacred ground that hosts our long sought destination. Traffic was as horrendous as described, but we were at an advantage riding motorcycles. The tourists were as ample and oblivious as any public relic could attract, but the lines moved swiftly. A perimeter secured by ropes encircling Stonehenge pushed us far enough away that if a child broke free of the barrier, they’d be surely caught before even a fingertip could graze a column, but it kept the structure clear to capture on the Canon. Despite all the claims of setbacks, the park harboring not just one historic feature but several historically relevant burial sites, ceremonial monuments surrounded by patches of dense vegetation, and rolling farmland for families to stroll through or picnic, was well worth the entrance fee. Off the Enfields, we again took the slow approach, foregoing the swift shuttle transport, savoring the rich green and golden landscapes. Justin encouraged me from a distance as I took a close-up shot of a huge cow – he has a far better sense of smell than I do apparently. We overheard a conversation between a son and his father as we pushed forward:

Feeding cows in England
Kyra documents the eating habits of the Bovine while Justin stands back as he takes note of the smell.©Motorcyclist

“Dad where are we going?”

“We’re going to see some stones.”

“But, I have stones in my pocket…”

Stonehenge
That’s one serious pike of stones…©Motorcyclist

Ah, the innocent ambivalence of youth. I’ve felt that so many times in my adolescence, but now is my chance to take in an experience as thoroughly and consciously as a thoughtful adult should. There wasn’t much of a battle to the ropes. Several moments along the circumference, we stopped, we photographed, then we contemplated. As I always do when I’m somewhere new - on the road and out of an office - I think about what’s around me. Who’s been there? What was it like? Which stories would it tell? How lucky am I? After hours of riding, buzzing, anticipating… finally at the conclusion of a drawn-out day staring at Stonehenge, maybe just like a hundred other visitors, trying to dissect its existence. To learn something more by being in its presence. To feel fulfilled in a way that an organized pile of roughly four-thousand-year-old rocks are supposed to make you feel. To watch the sun set through the stones as it was intended. Then, to check it off the list, turn away and move on.

Visiting Stonehenge
For all the trouble a tourist might go through to see it, Stonehenge is something truly incredible to see.©Motorcyclist