Touris trophy, we had always wanted to go to the island. The epic of their deeds was impregnated, from a childhood blurred and lost in the late 60s, in the translated chronicles of the correspondent Mick Woollett reread a thousand times on the parchment pages of motorcycling when he was «The international magazine for all motorcyclists». Black leather Lewis suits and Cromwell helmets in the Hailwood-Agostini duels were static black and white images memorized for life in the strange race, on the opposite side of the pavement. Another time, another motorcycling, less circus in the Continental Circus. Sport in the cradle of “fair-play” with canvas advertising in two colors; Champion, Castrol, Dunlop or Ferodo on the two-way asphalt roads between Douglas and Ramsey; between Ballaugh Bridge and Creg-ny-Baa.
There it ran at more than 100 mph. with the death of package between the curbs, houses and stone walls. Parlotti and also Herrero were killed, but today they continue to dribble the quick chill in tracings memorized to the millimeter. We had always dreamed of going to the Island and now the time came. A story about the race week was the perfect excuse to embark on a different route. The Honda house gave a 600 Shadow for tests that would accompany the muscular Harley Davidson Heritage Softail of 90. Without much time for preparations and with the anxiety of the asphalt and the improvisation in the saddlebags, we launched ourselves towards Somosierra on a threatening May afternoon in darkness to crown the 1,404 meters of the port. With the suits of water flapping in the wind we leave Burgos towards the Basque Country illuminated by a sun that dries the road. The orange light of twilight sinks in the west, prolonging our shadows in left turns. When Irún passes, the darkness is total and the fleeting process of the border introduces us to France, where the endless lines are framed by the ghostly presence of the black poplars that mark imaginary fields on both sides of the road. The muscles numbed by the heat, the rain and the two-cylinder vibrations along the kilometers call for a truce and a luminous one of Fina announces the stop and inn. The gas station, its minibar and the pinewood later complete a long day of 10 hours of highway. Edmundo Rivero whispers a tango from a pocket mini-drawer, under the starry sky that fades fast in the subconscious. A French day of veiled sun dawns that blurs the shadows around Bordeaux. We must be very aware of the gendarmes and their hungry radars, because the law is predatory with the inexperienced and the infraction is paid at the moment, under penalty of immobilization of the vehicle. They sit crouched behind the BMW Boxer waiting to complete their monthly quota of fines as soon as possible. – Adieu mon ami gendarme. We leave the boring and expensive toll highway and circulate through neglected secondary between Angouleme and Cognac; shabby roads that shine in the afternoon sun. The flow between small towns makes the average fall considerably and we opted again for the payment to Paris, passing Tours, Blois and Orleans. The speed increases in four lanes and the hurricane pace of the BMW and Porsche Carrera raise the category of the French automobile fleet above a European utilitarian average.
THE SPACE-TIME EQUATION DOES NOT APPEAR IN THE BRITISH ISLAND OF MAN, MÍTICO PLACE IN WHICH THE MOTORCYCLISM PROTAGONIZED GLORIOUS GESTAS.
The circumvallatory bottleneck of the great city of the Seine awakens us from the rectilinear stupor in which we were sunken for hours and makes, focused on deciphering the hieroglyph in motion, we forget the smallness of the tank of the Shadow exhausting its minimum reserve in between of a vortex of traffic between guardrails. The shoulder is a cornice shaken violently by the passage of the MAN of eighteen wheels that make vibrate the three hundred kilos of Harley when they pass to 80 cms. of our crouched asses. In those we are, in the rubber tube, the tap of gasoline and the bitter drink, when we see approaching a Sportster chopped in red that stops at our side. His pilot indicates by gestures the exit towards a Scalextric of three levels that ends at an industrial estate near Orly, where an Antar station feeds us with fuel. Concentrated again in the labyrinth we lost the north and left towards Senlis-Arras-Calais. Without hardly noticing, after the excitement of the episode, the cold is felt unexpectedly but we endure 100 kilometers more and in the plains of Péronne we barricaded ourselves to spend the night in the open, illuminated in bursts by the flashes of the highway. The tense travel muscle does not relax and the night turns cold and spasmodic.
The first light of the morning is pearl gray and the static mists, on both sides of the highway, let glimpse the ghostly vision of fields planted with white crosses in the memory of ancient battles: the dead of the Somme 1914-18. It is 10 o’clock at 10 degrees Celsius when, hit by unusual icy gusts in May, we reach the Calais Pass where we embark. The sea is turbid-brown and does not inspire confidence in the moment when the chunky cavalry of the ferry takes the first blows of the propeller. In the distance you can see the white cliffs of Dover and the Perfida Albion zooms in at 18 knots.
It is icy cold at His Majesty’s customs, however, the process is again simple and then we follow the uniform pavements of the A-20 towards Folkestone, where the Motorway-20 is born, heading north-west towards London. . The tall grasses of the ditches dance wildly to the rhythm of the torbe-lilies and the intermittent bursts that come down from the north, while a timid sun, impoverished by the mists, diffuses shadows. The traffic is thick but disciplined; a constant and uniform flow of vehicles distributed on the six-lane highway. Circulating in the center lane, we leave millions of kilometers of vehicles on our left, a rust from the 70s punished by the severity of the climate in the lows, doors and joints. Scabby colored cars
pure; Escort, R-5, Party and some vans that would transgress the legality of a rigid ITV. Ford Transit infested by the cancer of corrosion and wet leprosy with thousands of miles on its rusted shields. Anglias and Morris Minor, survivors of other decades, take to the left with the perseverance of 60 mph. of its good maintenance and tuning. It is not unusual to surpass some Jaguar or Bristol of the 30 and to attend the visual and sound spectacle of a lost time: the locomotion and the luxury on the asphalt. The police are present in the gutter but their punitive function is rarely noticeable. There is a certain permissiveness in the limits of speed, a trust agreed between the law, the order and the user; It’s the “British phlegm.” We continue in the center lane to a cruise of 140 km / h rushing all the fist to 160 in overtaking and very steep right rear view to make way for the Porsche 924 or Jaguar XJS V-12 that burst into a meteoric flash and disappear without more, whipping his heart over 200 HP in a very fast, almost dizzying image. We also advance eighteen-wheeled trailers whose turbulence shakes us from left to right and make the resort of the radical accelerator mandatory so as not to be absorbed in its dangerous wake. In the surroundings of Maidstone the reserve of the Honda returns to manifest itself; 20 kilometers to the total vacuum: 15, 10, 5 and no Gas-Station in the left lane of the M-20. The stop is imminent. Stop! The solution to the problem is on the opposite side of the highway. Without thinking twice and with Spanish inertia we enter a prohibited direction racket. They are about 500 meters to the bridge of change of direction, but in the middle of the illegal maneuver the flashes of blue and red flashes of the law put on the table an imminent reality: Problems. Once the stop has been made, and with cynical kindness, they start by enunciating the articles of the Code infringed, accompanied by the corresponding penalty for their failure. In a flash of lucidity we become the Swedes of Chamberí and between gestures and manipulated phrases we indicate the deposit and the gas station. These are moments of confusion in which victory is ours in the face of local surprise. The representatives of His Majesty understand little the barrage of words and have no choice but to turn a blind eye.
A jump, a cramp in his studied script of gestures, laws and sentences for, moments later, offer to escort us to the service station making use of all his paraphernalia flashes and then verify -in situ- the authenticity of our shortcomings. Subtracting importance from the stroke of luck, we filled the deposits with 4 Stars and again took the motorway towards London. The M-25 is an English M-40 very used by all the light and heavy traffic that goes or tries to avoid the city of the Thames. We circumnavigate the Greater London that, always to our right, inspires and expires the crown of blackened “smog” protecting from the absolute sun its pale inhabitants. Factories and deposits are lost in the distance and are framed under an opaque sky in which air traffic denotes its incessant activity. We are in Heathrow, where the DC-9, 747 and even the Concorde buzz with its supersonic bellow, thundering on odd days around the county of Surrey. London moves away to the southeast and to the north the clouds are turning fast and black, threatening. Miles and kilometers, miles and miles in a straight line to Birmingham where the storm of water and darkness at tea breaks. It is necessary to stop under a bridge to put on the water suit, the waterproof plastic that flames with the gale during the kilometers of squall. The artificial night is clearing for moments after fifty kilometers of downpour and an illuminated afternoon makes its way between two impressive clusters. The air, now clean, has changed its scourge by the logical breeze that cuts the wind at 140 km /. without fairing. At Croft, the sun shines bright yellow as we turn west on the M-621, breathing the damp proximity of the Liverpool River. The port city receives us resplendent and coppery in the light of the afternoon, and the streets, bright with the water received, reflect a pure blue sky. The docks are empty and between their abandoned warehouses exhausted activity is breathed, as of another time. The old information booth suffers on its worn greenwood planks over the years and the storms of the Irish Sea. It is closed and on a yellowish sign you can hardly read the ferry schedules. Today it is already too late for the boarding and our tires roll indecisos towards the rest by cobbled streets, between port buildings closed to lime and song. The luminous and sad city does not have much speech and its neighborhoods denote a provincial cut. A nineteenth-century splendor is glimpsed that perhaps had in its structure two wharves from where the Blue Star transatlantic ships departed to New York and Boston. Today, alone and soulless, the Birkenhead ferry sails every hour on the short, tedious journey between Liverpool and the opposite bank of the Mersey estuary.
The center is a large commercial street already dead, full of common places: Marks & Spencer, Mc Donalds, Wimpy, some pubs in “happy hour” and Mathew Street, where perhaps some nostalgic can hear the distant echo of the Beatles within a Cavern de pega for tourists, although that resonance, distorted by time, only serves to numb a sad evening / night between pints of warm beer.
The morning appears clean through the windows of the bed & breakfast in which we sleep exhausted from the rectilinear monotony of the British “motorway”. The Lady of Mann awaits us and the animation becomes clear upon arriving at the embarkation esplanade. There are hundreds of machines in a logical and orderly row. The Japanese product abounds in all its variants, although BMW and Ducati are reperesentadas in great number. The plates indicate origin; D, GB, NL, B, French and many Italians. Norwegians, Swedes and Danes arrive; new Vikings wanting to reconquer the island that was his in the 10th century. Some Germans embark between the backfiring of two times and the resounding sonority of the boxer; BMW with side and a Bultaco Metralla registration of Düseldorff. From a rusty Ford Transit they are unloading the crown jewels: Triton Wideline 650 and BSA A-10 cafe racer. Cult machines piloted by veteran rockers to the English. Tea, toupees and Gene Vincent in black leather. The golden age of the purest motorcycling: England, 50s.
All settle in the belly of the packet, old iron tanned in countless crossings by a dark sea. When the hold is complete, the remaining bikes are tied arbitrarily by the deck. It is an oily and roaring landscape; machines hosted by the big machine. The gasoline goes silent and the gas-oil slowly drives the 4,000 tm of the old ferry, where other stories are whispered, real feats or invented by the asphalt knights, a different biker dynasty, not common in other lands; Spain, for example. A brotherhood on a pilgrimage to the holy land of blessed speed: The Tourist Trophy of the Isle of Man.
Four hours later and with the contained emotion you can see land on the west. The berthing maneuver brings us back to reality after the brief spell of mysticism, waves of three meters and warm beer again.
“There it ran at more than 100 mph. with the death of package between the curbs, houses and stone walls. Parlotti and also Herrero were killed, but today they continue to dribble the quick chill in lines memorized to the millimeter »
The magical island does not seem immobile from the railing shaken by the high tide and the ramp greets the jetty of the port. The wineries of the Lady of Mann vomit white smoke from imperfect combustion and the mechanical hearts of the Paneuropean, GSX-R 750 or BMW k-100 are regaining their lives. Some relic of the empire coughs and hobbles and while the distracted Bobbys get bored routinely. The show is magnificent in noise, smell, grease and other noble materials.
The smoky flow is dispersed when arriving at the marine stroll of Douglas, where multitude of small buildings of Victorian cut look towards a kilometric and ugly beach that limits the contour of the city. The rhythmic and uniform sound of the sea is continually altered by excursions beyond the red figures of the Japanese multi-lap counters, which howl at 12,500 revolutions per minute. Some other twin bellows – Made in England – are in charge of balancing the hyperacute tone of Suzukis and Kawasakis. The going and coming is constant; colors, brightness, lights and tones in a common denominator of motorcycles, motorcyclists, motorcycling 100 per 100, full-time, 24 hours a day, seven days of June since 1907.
The air is clean, cold, and the light of the setting sun shines and is reflected in the perfect chrome, drawing scenes imagined in the pubs that overlook the bay. Hundreds of clients, gentlemen of the leather and the asphalt, drink in the afternoon Newcastle Brown Ale in their transparent bottles. If you drink, do not drive, but if you have to drink, let it be Newcastle.
We have to get to Ramsey, also on the east coast but 20 miles north of the capital. The road is narrow and bulging with two waters. The pavement is perfect, abrasive and non-slip; in dark gray and bounded at all times by threatening curbs. The route must be clean, without amendment, because the error is paid with the cobblestone. The paint is dense and bright, complemented by anti-fog catadioptric of predictable utility. The immemorial route cuts between wind-blown hills and small valleys shaded by birches, all framed by low walls that, literally stuck to the asphalt, flood any escape. We cross Baldrine and Laxey surrounded by their tiny houses attached to the medieval road with avarice of space and when leaving a closed to right we are surprised by the luminous presence of a crowded pub, just crossing Laxey River. It’s called Coach & Horses and it’s the perfect place to connect with the locals. We stopped.
The escapes of a meeting of the Club 59, full of coffee-racers in fraternization, are playing in the adjoining meadow. A black and white image of satin leather and polished metal. Inside, the chords of rock & roll enthrone the rhythm of the engines tuned with the 4×4 of Eddie Cochran, between toupees and pints of beer. Some Newcastle later we entered the conversation, in an accented and gestural way, facilitated by the autochthonous multilingual camaraderie. A veteran inlaid in leather is interested in our origin. – Ah, Spain. Not many come around the island. Very good the year 69; Santiago Herrero, yes, a blond guy who ran with an Ossa Stroker against the official Yamahas. Incredulous and surprised by the comment, among the bustle, Vince Taylor and the Newcastle, we continue listening to the understood. – Yes, he killed himself in 70 at mile 13. Very good, the last Spaniard who ran the TT. At that moment Jerry Lee sang “Chantilly lace”. It was enough. We toasted again and made our way through the vociferous crowd towards the door. Outside was the display of machinery of the Club 59, whose honorary president, the Rev. Father Bill Shergold, got in the early 60’s to build the foundations of an extravagant association of rockers, between chains and collective penances from the North Circular Road to the parish of St. Mary of Paddington Green, in the most pop London of 1963. Ora et labora: and in the meantime they tuned their Triumph T-120 Bonneville in the bustling esplanade of the Ace Café.
We continue along the narrow ascending road through tiny villages; Dhoon, Glen Mona, until it reaches the sea again in Ramsey Bay, hit by severe northeasterly gusts from Scotland. The hotel is comfortable and in its parking there are several purebreds of high birth: Norton Commando “Yellow Peril” (a special preparation from the beginning of the 70’s), along with a Laverda 750 SF-2 and several BMWs of all times. After settling down we went down to the hotel bar where, under the guinness of a Guinness, we cleared the crowded agenda of the racing calendar; seven days full of smoking events. Everything has actually begun a week before, in which morning private training awakens the island from its winter lethargy. Although the departure signal, the genuine chupinazo towards the purest motorcyclist fun bursts in the “mad sunday” or crazy Sunday; Curious and dangerous appointment, unavoidable for any biker in the Tourist Trophy. The circuit used for official races-local daily roads that link various towns closed to ordinary traffic for the exclusive use of burning two-wheelers that dare to drill it, without any speed limit, during the first hours of a Sunday different. It is not strange that one of the most classic souvenirs of the TT is a shirt with the inscription: “I survived the Mad Sunday”. Everything happens normally; some other unimportant entrant, some injured another of varying magnitude and the odd low one. It is an assumed and consensual risk.
In the latitude where we are, 54 ° 05 ‘N, the nights are short and at five in the morning there is enough light for official training to begin. Thus, from a drowsy sleep in the early morning you can hear, in the distance, the tetracilíndricos howls of the Japanese superbikes ascending the mountain by the twisted ramps, from Gooseneck -the neck of the goose- to Guthrie’s Memorial.
We have to collect our accreditations in Douglas, in the press room of the main building located in the middle of the starting straight, so we headed south early on a transparent morning of sun and cold. The traffic, mostly motorcyclist, is constant up and down in search of suitable locations to pursue the race. The yellow license plates with black characters indicate the British origin, distilling all a road teaching in its disciplined circulation, without fussing or axes flashing with the handlebar of the gas. The Germans, omnipresent and more boisterous, have signals in their own language, mentioning in a crushed way the sense of circulation. “Remember, drive on the left.” The right to overtake or crash. We passed some torries (small delivery trucks) of beer in their majority, and when arriving at Douglas we give a great detour to dodge the track where it has begun a sleeve of the category Ultralightweight-125 cc. Attracted by the enervating and sharp noise that comes from the track we climb on a black wall of slate to see that on the other side, at about 90 centimeters, the competition runs in its purest form, without cushioned loopholes or high-tech inflatable protections. The chilling speed at which the endless descent of Bray Hill to the Quarter Bridge is negotiated produces a different sense of danger. At 200 kilometers per hour on a track of no more than 5 meters and encased between sharp walls of slate, any error means death and trust is an escape valve to scare away fear. When arriving at the “paddock” and after collecting our passes “no limit” we ascend to the tribune of straight, until a few years ago of wood, from where we enjoyed a magnificent view. All the boxes in the open air with the mechanics and the team leader and opposite the legendary waxing panel of classifications with the variable times of each pilot in the different key points of the circuit, still written in chalk by a legion of boy-scouts. Behind the gigantic checkerboard, and sheltered by elms and cypresses, the great cemetery of Douglas serves as witness to “the greatest motorcycle race in the world”. Life and death separated by a worn brick wall.
We contemplate the steaming spectacle without losing sight of details and gestures. It is a race against the clock and the adversaries, there is no space for clever castings in the treacherous turns and the participants must have the circuit engraved in the mind meter by meter, yard by yard to fight against themselves in a game of memory and precision . In the reports you can guess, under the helmet, an intense, extraordinary concentration, and while the assistant cleans the visor of embedded insects, the rival times and strategies are whispered by the “manager” to the pilot, who with the lost look agrees , anxious to notice again between his legs the docile beast of febrile explosion. The speech ends and with a snap the man-machine binomial moves away, drawing relationships in an echoless howl at pure speed.
It is the moment to access the closed park that, expedited to the general public, is shown in full activity. Carpeted in green by a spontaneous lawn, it is full of small vans with their back doors open to the civilized curiosity of the expert. A single “motor-home” stands out in black at the bottom; It’s the Rotary Norton Team. Dozens of tents have improvised workshops where they shelter and sleep private machines waiting for the track. A large tent is erected centered as a pub and inside the bustle is notorious and the beer is warm. The staff is diverse; pilots, mechanics, press, amateurs; all make up a disparate sports community. “For the love of sports,” one could read in Mike Hailwood’s fairing. An extinct religion whose cult survives in this isolated corner, uncontaminated, perhaps in spite of itself, by the publicity and circus of other more bombastic competitions. Outside the tent the clouds that come from Ireland, threatening, cross the sky fast towards the northeast, in the direction of Scotland.
Text by Edi Clavo, Route 66.