America. Supposedly, we are the best, we are free, we are deserving. We defeated our evil enemies to be our own country and so we are the strongest. It is our right to have everything we want, so we have it all. We’re the best, so why should we accept anyone else? Recently, this is what I believed, because I knew nothing else. But this past August, I got to see past all that stuff. I got an immersive look at another way of life. One that, to me, makes much more sense. Welcome to the UK.
My parents and I flew from Pennsylvania, USA, to Manchester, England on August 9, and were amazed while flying over the UK at how different it was from home. America is quite gridded out, and the UK seems to be much more about using only the space that you need. We could see small roads lined with trees, fields and mountains, a few villages here and there. The place seemed content and simple; plenty of open spaces dotted with sheep. We couldn’t wait to start riding!
As we started to pull our bikes out of their bags for reassembly, Jon from Restrap pulled up! He hugged us all in turn and helped us put our bikes back together. Soon Alex pulled up, lent another hand, and we took the bags to a guy that would keep them for the duration of our trip. As we pushed off, we had to cross a road. Dad looked the wrong way, assumed there was no one coming and pulled out in front of a bus to Alex screaming “STOP!” Yes, we felt quite American…
As we rode to Leeds, we had to climb a few small hills before crossing the Pennines- the mountain range that serves as the western border of the Yorkshire Dales. One of the roads going up said hill was quite narrow and busy, with cars parked on the road and people going in both directions. But we survived and made it to the Holme Moss, which was one of my favorite climbs of the whole trip. It was so beautiful and fun; I didn’t want it to end! But halfway down the other side we stopped at a little pub with amazing food.
The next day was the day I was most excited for- the day we would make it to Restrap. I had been so excited to finally meet the people and see the workshop of the company I ride for and that I love and support. And it did not disappoint. Nathan’s mom, Helen, gave us a killer tour of the factory as we drank tea; then Danny did the templates for new custom frame bags! We met Nathan after, then he took us back to his place so we could shower and change before dinner. We all went out to eat at a little pizza spot downtown.
Days passed. We rode with the Restrap team for one more day, a beautiful ride to a town called Kettlewell. We seemed to get a good taste of what the UK was like- sheep, beautiful mountains, tiny stone villages where often the buildings were older than America. We saw no storage complexes or excessively oversized housing. Everyone seemed to have what they needed and be content with that. No jacked-up trucks blasting black smoke: hardly anyone seemed to own two cars. The cycling community, at least in England, was massive.
The day we crossed into Scotland it was raining. We found that no matter what the sky looked like in the morning, it would probably rain at some point during the day. As soon as we crossed the border, we found that the people were much more working-class. We kept riding and stopped at Caerlaverock Castle, a beautiful structure dating back to the 1300’s. A note on castles: at the start of our trip, we stopped at lots of castles, as we weren’t sure if we would see more of them. By the end of the first week, we just rode right on by as there were just so many!
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to grow up outside of America. What are the kids taught in school? What do they value? Are they encouraged to get outside and do things instead of sitting behind their screen? To me, it seems that they are much different than American kids. I see UK kids playing with each other outside instead of texting. There seems to be much less patriotism and more of an agreement to let people be who they want to be instead of forcing them to conform to society’s standards. To me, though America will scream that it is a free country, the UK, especially England, is the free one.
We rode through the islands of Scotland- Arran, Barra, Eriskay and south Uist. The clear blue water there was amazing! It was so pretty. We added a few rocks and shells to our collection of souvenirs from our trip. Unfortunately, we had to take a few ferry rides to get to our northernmost point, Mallaig, before taking trains back down to Newcastle.
As a child, my father’s mom read aloud the James Herriot books to the family, then Dad read them to me when I was young. Subsequently, the veterinarian’s hometown of Thirsk was a must see. We spent a fun day at the James Herriot Museum before making our way through York, the namesake of the town where we live, and down to Newport, near Hull. We spent a night at Helen’s place, drinking tea and chatting. Then, it was back to Leeds!
As we picked up our frame bags and walked through the Restrap factory one last time, we said goodbye to people that we had met and solidified our resolve to come back. With tea in my hand at Jon’s house, I reflected on how far we had come, things we had learned and the changes to our lives. We flew across the ocean to see another way of life, to broaden our horizons and be able to have a deeper gratitude for who we are and what we have. At least, that’s just how it is to me.
After all, All I'm doing is getting out and riding.
- Scarlet Zeigler
Photos by Flint Zeigler
Scarlet Kit List:
Restrap Rando Bag Large : food, clothing, sleeping mat, cooking system, books (7 at one point)
Restrap Fork Bags (mounted on front rack): tent, rain gear, clothing
Restrap Tech Bag: snacks
Restrap Race Stem Bag: snacks, personal hygiene
Restrap Saddle Bag 8L: sleeping bag, pillow, down coat
Flint Kit List:
Restrap Bar Bag Small: food, personal hygiene, cooking system, clothes, extra tools
Restrap Fork Bags: clothing, rain gear, food
Restrap Race Stem Bag: snacks, battery pack, charging accessories
Restrap Saddle Bag 8L: sleeping bag, pillow, sleeping mat, emergency bivy, down coat
Jana Kit List:
Restrap Rando Bag Large: I don’t believe Jana had any rhyme or reason to packing and she repacked several times on the trip. This bag did, however, consistently hold food
Restrap Dry Bag Double Roll (2- mounted on front rack): clothing, rain gear
Restrap Stem Bag: snacks
Restrap Custom Frame Bag: water bladder, food
Restrap Saddle Bag 14L: sleeping bag, sleeping mat, pillow