Archive | June, 2012

Last Day – A retrospective

15 Jun

I think I had my best day today.  And every day has been absolute heaven.  Again, some days have been higher than others, but every day has been a complete high.

I’ve learned so much.  Respected so much.  And seen things I’ve never seen or imagined.  I can not wait to do this again.

I ended my trip with amazing conversation amongst myself, Todd & Mich, 2 Fins, a Norwegian, an Aussie, and a New Zealander.  Three hours of wonderful international gab  shared over our favorite beverages at our hostel.  All kids, and much younger than any of us.  Some traveling the world and some on holiday, like us.  I admire them so much.

To learn of their experiences, tribulations, triumphs, and “inconveniences”  was awe-inspiring.  Shit you would never learn staying at the Hilton.  I could not applaud them anymore for doing it while they’re young.  As they all were.  I feel I had educated them on their fears and curiousness about America as we are all very, very much the same in this very small world.  Take away religion and politics and we all seem to want the exact same things out of life.

An amazing and enlightening experience.  I feel a little sad that I waited so long to experience this.  However, I am very proud how I represented myself and my fine country.  I am a prouder American coming home, but a more humble one as well.

Our crew, including Todd & Mich are off for the night to experience the legendary Reykjavik weekend party scene.  I’d still like to visit the Viking museum in the morning and not feel like hell-hung-over of our long seven hour flight home so I’ve elected to stay in, drink the rest of our liquor, and reflect on this most awesome journey.

As I’ve stated, it was a real treat, blessing, and pleasure, however, I am so looking forward to getting home to my immeasurable blessings in my own kingdom. I truly am the luckiest and most fortunate man alive.

First and foremost, my amazing wife, Jenny.  Without her, none of this would be possible and she’ll never know how much I appreciate my Queen turning the other cheek and holding down our Kingdom while I did this.  She is the love of my life and I can’t wait to thank her and squeeze her.  I have always been the richest man in the world thanks to her unconditional love.  I want to thank my children for putting up without their overbearing father who likes to remind them that every decision they make can alter their entire future.  I hope you enjoyed the break, because I’ll be home tomorrow to ask what you’ve learned since I’ve been gone.  I’d like to thank my friends Todd & Michelle.  You could not ask for greater, more gracious, travel mates and close friends.  I love you both very much and thank you for your camaraderie through our adventure.  It’s been amazing and is only the beginning of the things we’ve seen and will see together.  You are family.

That’s about it.  It’s been phenomenal, and I can’t wait to do it again and share with the other people in my life who I love so much.

Thanks Europe.  You’ve been spectacular!  See you soon!  Cheers!


Reykjavik – Day 14 & 15

15 Jun

Today was a bit of a travel day. We packed up and sadly said goodbye to a wonderful time in Scotland. Michelle did not want to go, as she hadn’t yet found her Scot, but we had to press on. Todd successfully completed at least a thousand miles of driving through Great Britain without putting a scratch on our Ford minivan. He was fantastic.

Dropped the car off at the Glasgow airport and caught a flight to Reykjavik where we’ll be staying a couple of nights. This country is quite beautiful. It’s about a 40 minute ride from the airport into Reykjavik. The land is barren volcanic rock, which kind of looks like the surface of the moon I imagine, but once you get into the largest city in the country which holds the vast majority of the entire population, it’s a bustling little metropolis. American tourists are everywhere. And we’ve seen too many being complete pricks. Disappointing. Not us at all. Most people do speak English or some English, but there are no signs that I can read. Everything is in Icelandic, although they do have English menus so I can find the hamborgari og frönskum.

Stopping at duty free, we were able to stock up on alcohol and tobacco as we all have our vices. We decided on a little impromptu room party when we arrived and figured out a course of action. We have booked the Golden Circle tour for tomorrow which will take us deep into the land of fire & ice! The hot volcanoes out in the freezing, icy tundra. We’re all looking forward to that.

Once Michelle and Todd were good and buzzed we had a taxi driver take us to the city center where we got something to eat and begin a bit of a spontaneous pub crawl. One of the main streets is bar after bar. In the back of each bar is an outdoor area where they all join together and people of all ages, locals and tourists alike, were drinking and talking and having a general good time. We patronized a few of the joints and enjoyed people watching. Moving further uptown, and I have no clue where we went, we found some more pubs and after a couple more beers and seeing the clock going on about 10pm, I was ready to call it quits. I was feeling very full and very tired from all the heavy beers I’ve discovered. It’s fully daylight at 10pm like it would be at noon back home being that we’re at such a far north latitude. It’s 24 hours of daylight in these parts. The sun does actually set about 11:30pm, but it doesn’t get dark at all. Mr. Sun makes his appearance on the horizon again at about 3am, which is precisely the time we got home.  🙂

Michelle was fading, as I was, but Todd was just getting going and convinced us to have just one more pint. About eight pints later and finding it was 1am, we were all drunk, meeting and partying with the Icelanders left and right. Did I say pint, they’re even bigger here than the imperial pints we’ve fallen in love with throughout Great Britain. Everything in Iceland is ½ liter.

We had found our way off the beaten path and were with the locals once again. Which is just how we like it. The people are warm and very friendly. We made a lot of new friends tonight. The women here are absolutely gorgeous with their piercing blue eyes and either white blond or dark hair. 10% at least are supermodel caliber and the next 50% or so ain’t bad either. Todd is in heaven. We joke with Michelle that she was a Liverpool “9”, but sadly has dropped to a Reykjavik “3”. Of course, I’m happily married to the love of my life for almost 16 years and now, and more than ever, I can’t wait to get home to her loving arms.

Once we returned to our humble accommodations, we had to continue the night with a pint of rum Todd had picked up so we partied until the sun came up, literally, and then crashed hard.

Racing out the door at 12:30pm on Friday, our driver picked us up and brought us to our tour center where we drove along the entire south of Iceland stopping at many of the sights. I can’t pronounce any of them, let alone spell them, but the countryside is absolutely pure and virgin. So clean and untouched. It’s a great relaxing day just watching the countryside go by and listening to our Icelandic guide butcher the English language. I honestly am enjoying his commentary and stories even when he can’t see to find the right words.

We’re all having a very nice day and should get back into Reykjavik about 7pm tonight. It’s 4:15pm now as I type this out on the open road.

Apparently the party in town on Friday & Saturday nights is legendary in these parts so we can’t wait to see it for ourselves tonight. We should be all rested up and ready to go! Tell you about it tomorrow when we pack up and head back to Seattle!

Hi! We’re in Iceland!

People here are very friendly!

Nordic ladies LOVE Big Todd!

Out back at the Celtic Cross in Reykjavik getting pissed. This photo was taken about 12:30am without a flash.

Me, Mich, the future Mrs. McDougall, and Todd.

Not Niagra Falls, but pretty damn good none the less.

Todd is an eruptive force on the Icelandic scene.





Edinburgh – Day 13

13 Jun

Today was a sightseeing bonanza as we visited a few sites.

After a quick morning bite and coffee we were excited for The Scottish Whiskey Experience. It included a somewhat cheesy, however, very educational ride (like in a car with bars that come down over your lap like you’d find at Disneyland in Fantasyland) explaining how whiskey is produced along with the intriguing craftsmanship involved with cask making. I think I was more enamored with that process than the distilling of the fine Scotch whiskey. We were then educated on the five main regions of Scotland that create whiskey and what an important part the environment plays as the whiskey ages.  It is a major factor in the final flavor. Learning a little bit about each area using scratch and sniff cards targeted a sense of each area’s unique flavors due to the fragrances in the air. The casks breathe soaking up not only the essence of the wood of the virgin cask but the air around it as well.

We were tasked to choose one. Then you guessed it, we proceeded with “the tasting”. I am no connoisseur by any means but I have done a couple of wine tastings (which I do not care for). The process is much the same. Swirl it, look at the color, sniff it, taste it. Yadda yadda yadda. I had to resist my American instinct to just “shoot it”, but instead to savor the flavor. For God’s sake, it was only 10am. Mine was from Speyfield(?) and was quite good although I enjoyed it more after adding a bit of water.  I think ice cubes would’ve been the best.  Our guide told us there is no wrong way to drink fine Scotch, even with Coke.  I told her, nicely, she was full of shit.  I would get murdered if I asked for it with Coke in these parts and she said I was probably right.

It was a great experience and I believe I now understand the difference between single malt, blended whiskey, and always my favorite, good ole Kentucky bourbon. Yeehaw!. Very fun start to our day!

Our next jaunt took us just off the Royal Mile, which is the road, roughly a mile long stretching from Edinburgh Castle, high over the center of town all the way down to Holyrood Palace. It sounds cool, but it really is just a mix of tourist traps and pubs that the locals don’t go anywhere near. Not our scene on this intended “backdoor” trip.

However, we had heard of a place called Mary King’s Close. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries they had these long, very narrow streets sloping downwards perpendicular to the Royal Mile (or High Street as it’s named). Streets so narrow you couldn’t drive a modern car down them.  Maybe ten feet wide at the most. On either side of the street were tenement buildings rising 8 to 14 stories high so you can imagine light barely reaching the street (or “close” as it was called, because I suppose it was completely closed in) during the middle of the day. A tour of this sounded quite intriguing as what eventually happened was the city built above these tenements using them as foundations for a large government building overhead. And people were essentially tired of living underground and just moved out. Or the plague, which arrived in the mid 17th century, killed about half the populations of these closes. Mary Kings’s was merely one. Sadly, the tour was a bit disappointing peeking through what were old homes and businesses with staged hokey mannequins posed this way or that and an equally hokey guide talking about “his” time and “our” time.  It was all a bit….gay.  The best part was when we actually got out on the close and were able to get a sense of what it was like living there. I’ll spare you the details, but it was literally very shitty. Google it to find out more.  It is quite interesting and sounds downright awful.

Our final destination for the day was a lovely drive out to Stirling Castle in the town of, duh, Stirling. This was the highlight of today touring the 900 year old fortress which focused on the history of King James IV and V and his daughter who would become Mary, Queen of Scots. Thanks to my pre-study I did before this journey, I did know the very basics to these tales and to walk in the footsteps was a real treat. As well as knowing Robert the Bruce and William Wallace also trod upon these grounds made it thoroughly awesome bringing back memories of the movie, Braveheart .  It was most excellent bringing it all to life and imagining what it may have been like. The castle is fantastic and you can go just about anywhere you like. It is not nearly massive as the Tower of London and I enjoyed it more with the captivating story line and fantastic audio guide what led us through.

Stirling is about an hour northwest of Edinburgh along the usual breathtaking country side. So pretty here but very green, just like home. More sheep. Less needly trees.  Very few pines or firs.

It’s getting near dusk now and we’re pub hoping as I write this on pad and paper.  We’re toasting the wonderful times and memories we’ve made in Edinburgh.  Seeing old friends and making new.

Cheers! Off to Iceland tomorrow.

Scotch tasting!

Stirling Castle from the motorway.

Inside fabulous Stirling Castle. That’s the gatehouse right there.

Here’s Todd taking a piss in the middle of Edinburgh. He had to go so bad he just pulled the car over and jumped out and ran behind this tree inconspicuously. Fortunately Michelle and I laid on the horn so no one would miss the show.

Us with Emily, Ben, and their friend. A real Scotswoman!





Edinburgh – Day 11 & 12

12 Jun

Awoke on Monday and it was strange not to be heading to Download.  That was all consuming for three days straight and it was bliss now looking back.  What an exceptional time!  I just might have to come back next year now that I’ve been trained in the way of the Downloader.

I loaded up my gear including an offensive sack of Download laundry that smelled like I’d been digging up bodies.  I figured with so little changes in apparel, I may as well just wear the same clothes as I’m just going to get dirty anyways.

Hopped the train to Edinburgh from the Derby train station and I was off on my next adventure.  I absolutely love the trains.  They just seem to lull me off to sleep.  Very relaxing.  The country side was beautiful for the most part as it blared by me at how ever many miles an hour we were going.  I have no idea, but I’d guess 70 or 80mph.  Fields and forests and lush, lush greens.  The occasional city or village and that was about it.  I was in a quiet car full of Downloaders who probably hadn’t slept in days and they were all out cold.  It was completely silent in the car for the most part and my headphones blared with the music of the bands at the festival.  I couldn’t of felt more at peace.

Getting into Waverly station at Edinburgh was a mess as the station and the surrounding area are all torn up with massive construction installing new city trams.  The residents seem to be fed up with it as it’s already a year overdue and judging from the looks of things, it’s going to be at least another one (or three).  The city was every bit as breathtaking as you would imagine.  Right as you emerge from the crypt they call Waverly, centuries-old buildings line the hill leading up into Old Town where we’re staying.  It looks completely medieval and is very, very cool.  It’s easy to imagine the view would not have been all that different 200-300 years ago.  Even longer.

I arrived at our hostel and checked in.  I was surprised to not find Michelle and Todd as they had been off on their own jaunt while I was at Download.  I figured they’d have arrived by now and been all checked in.  Not so.  The room is basic, but clean and nice and there’s plenty of room to move around.  We are right on the roof line so there’s a sloping wall with a great skylight we can fully open up and the view is stunning.  I have the single (hey, I got here first) and they’re sharing bunks.  We have a private room for three and there’s a community shower and toilets just down the hall.  All very nice and I have to say I reallyl dig the communal living just fine.  There are several lounges full of kids playing pool, reading, fiddling on laptops and they don’t seem to mind having old farts around at all.  In fact there are people here older than us and it’s a really cool vibe at the Castle Rock hostel.  I would stay here again any day.

Had a look about the place and it is huge!  Went downstairs and within minutes I was reunited with my mates.  They told me of their harrowing tales driving through Oban and journeying to the Isle of Mull as well as Iona.  Happy to report they made it safe and sound, and they were looking forward to getting out of the car as they’d spent a great deal of time driving.

Our hostel is right underneath the great Edinburgh Castle.  It is quite an awesome sight to walk out everyday and look up at the fearsome fortress.  Still haven’t made it up there, but we’re finally going up for a whiskey tasting tomorrow and we’re all looking forward to it.

We chilled for a bit and then met my old friend Emily who was a bartender at my favorite local watering hole at home, the Just Left.  She left about 5 years ago and had always talked about wanting to move to Scotland and go to school.  Well she actually did it and through the miracle of Facebook I knew where she was!  She looked just the same as always except her hair was a bit longer and she had a full Scottish accent.  It was quite funny to hear it, but if I didn’t know, I’d say she was 100% Scottish.  The three of us spent the evening pub hopping and tasting whiskey with Emily and her husband, Ben.  They were great hosts and both work in the bar industry here in Edinburgh so they were very knowledgeable on the beers and the booze!  The whiskey list at one place we were at was about 10 pages long.  Rows and rows of different kinds of whiskeys.

When we got back to the hostel late about 1am we decided we should have a nightcap.  Us drunks are funny that way.  Michelle had picked up a 3-liter bottle of Apple Cider back in Liverpool and hardly cracked the seal.  Well we brought it down to the lounge and shared it with our new housemates.  This stuff is like pure gasoline.  It’s the foulest, most disgusting drink I think I’ve ever had.  Most were happy to have a cup, but no one asked for seconds.  Eventually the room cleared out as everyone had gone to bed.  The old farts were the last!  We wound up back in our room just passing the bottle and having an impromptu slumber party.  It was quite entertaining and will be a highlight memory.  Real pissed in Edinburgh.

Having had such a late night, we slept in today.  Which we all needed.  Finally up and showered and all doing surprisingly well, we decided to take a hop-on hop-off tour of the city to get our bearings and see some of the sights.  Well we wound up doing a few loops and I think we got a good look at everything there is to see, at least from the outside.  The city is charming and busy and we’ve traveled outside the city a good bit too.  Many tourists and many locals.  We’re nearby the Royal Mile which is very touristy, but just enough off the beaten path where we don’t feel much of it, but it’s easy to get to.  The huge Gothic cathedrals here are my favorite of any I’ve seen in all of England.  The one right out the door of the hostel is my favorite and I can practically picture it in the center of Gotham City with Batman perched on top.  It’s pure awesome.

Tonight, we’re off to Emily’s pub for dinner and drinks and I know it will be an early night.  (wink, wink).  In the morning we are heading up the castle then visiting Mary’s King Cross (or something like that.  I’ll know more tomorrow).  We’ll be able to get an early start as we have a full day.  After our two city excursions, we’re going to get Todd back on the road and take us up to Sterling Castle and hopefully have dinner around or on Lake Loch Ness looking for Bessie.

Our trip is rapidly winding down, but we’re squeezing every last moment out of it.  We travel perfectly together and have had no instances of any kind with ourselves or our trip.  It’s been right perfect and I expect it will be through Saturday when we say goodbye and return home.

I miss my wife and kids very much now that its going on two weeks, but it won’t be long now.  And I’ve had a wonderful, eye-opening adventure.  It’s been a real blessing to be able to take it with such great people!

The view from our room in Edinburgh.

Emily instructing on how to roll a rolly.

Just like old times at the Just Left!

Fucking wasted….

Me and Scotty.

Edinburgh loves Brentallica.




Download Festival – Day 9 & 10

11 Jun

Download has gotten easier each day as I’ve learned the ropes.

First and foremost is proper footwear. Namely Wellys! A must for getting around. I awoke at 8am Saturday and went on the hunt. Surprisingly I located a pair of American men’s 11’s. The last pair of any men’s at the local recreation store, Millets. I couldn’t have been luckier. Download with Wellys was a real treat. I was now able to move about at ease and navigate the thick, gluey mud. The day was pretty cold, but completely dry so thank God for that.

I’ve also been finding the least crowded sets of port-o-loos. Even if you have to walk a bit further, it’s worth it as once you crack the seal on a bout of serious beer drinking, you seem to have to go after every pint. I have my favorite food stands as well and have a general area where I like to hang about. People seem pretty territorial and hang in the same spots daily. I’m familiar with the blokes around me and we share words or the occasional international signal for metal; \m/.

The set changes between bands are very quick through the day and only get a bit longer at night time when the bigger bands come on. Most changes are under 30 minutes which gives you just enough time to grab a beer and a piss. In fact I’m writing this on pad and paper while waiting for Anthrax to set up. It’s Sunday about 2pm.

Having been on my feet 12 hours yesterday, the other necessary item is a camp chair and I picked one up this morning at Millets on the way to the festival bus. I am in rock and roll heaven today. I decided to spend most of the day camped out with the other chair people just about 300 feet from stage which is still plenty close to the action. This festival is truly multi-generational and that’s very cool. I see many father/son/grandfather trios all sporting the shirt of the band they most support. The moms and grandma’s are all here too.

The massiveness of the whole thing is astounding. Especially moving further back today you can see the insane number of fans cheering the bands on the main stage. The second stage must have 10,000 people per show. The main stage has to be closer to 80,000. It’s an unreal site, looking down on it. One big family united in rock. I have never seen so much facial piercing, tattoos, and multi-colored hair at one time. It’s quite the circus with the everyday Joe’s & Jane’s mixing with the free spirits, but it’s great to be a little tiny piece of it. For the most part, the crowd is well behaved and polite. It astounds me there is no security to speak of within the arena. It’s all at the perimeter, nothing in the massive middle. And everyone seems to police themselves. That would never happen at home. It’s a bit strange, but I didn’t see any violence or anything even close. Just people having fun.

Of course, when you put 85,000 people together there’s bound to be some assholes and there are, but a very, very small percentage. Fortunately, I’m not one of them as I have made myself a gracious guest my entire time in England. I’ve purposely been en guard to not be the ugly American and believe I’ve succeeded.

Yesterday was a blur of beers and bands and I swear I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. I was completely wiped out. Metallica ruled the stage and the band looked fantastic and sounded better than ever. Also enjoyable were Jack Black’s band Tenacious D as well as Steel Panther. Both adding a bit of humor to the metal scene that the crowd ate up. Another thing I really like is the “Boobie-cam”. Apparently, the rule is, if they put a chick on the big screens, she has to flash the fans or suffer a tremendous booing by the horde. Fortunately, most gals comply rather than suffer the public indignation of being a prude. Fine rule I think.  I’m also enjoying some new bands I’ve never heard before including my new favorite, Norway’s Turbonegro.

As I mentioned, today is much more relaxed as I have my easy chair now and it is a lovely, mostly sunny day. I just heard Black Label Society take the stage over at the main stage and it’s deafening over here at the 2nd. I’ve elected to see Skid Row instead. Anthrax was every bit as awesome as I’d suspected they’d be. Upcoming tonight is Ugly Kid Joe, Megadeth, Soundgarden, and the Godfathers of Metal, Black Sabbath in undoubtedly will be one of their last shows ever. Going to stay sober today and just relax and dry out a bit. The temperature is warm and it’s a beautiful day in Donington. Having now gotten me feet wet and learned from a couple of mistakes, I couldn’t of had a better time (once I figured out what the bloody hell I was doing.)

True Rock & Roll heaven if there ever was such a place!  I love Download!

These are my Wellys. I shit you not. LAST pair in all of Derby. Beggars can not be choosers. I was thrilled! These go to 11. Size 11 that is.

Me modeling my new Wellys. I’m a very proud papa.

This is the beer token. You buy them in blocks of four and you just break them off. When you want a beer, you grab the quick que and just trade a chip for a pint. Cool!

This….is Boobie Cam. It’s quite awesome.

Me rockin’ at Metallica!!

There are a literal fuckload of people here at Download.

Download Festival – Day 8

8 Jun

My day was sheer madness. I headed out for the Download Festival about 11:15am this morning. Here’s the play by play:

  • 11:15am – Step outside and make my way south through the beautiful town centre. It’s much busier than it was last night, but still has that story book quality. Just grand.
  • 11:25am – Lost
  • 11:30am – Back on track pointed towards the rail station.
  • 11:35am – Lost
  • 11:40am – Back on track pointed towards the rail station.
  • 11:45am – Arrive at the rail station. Don’t see a single sign for Download Festival, but I swear it said to catch the shuttle here. I walk all the way to the right. Nothing. Back all the way to the left. Nothing. The steady morning rain has soaked me on the outside. Fortunately, I have the right clothes underneath and I’m toasty and warm.
  • 12:00pm – Fuck it. Time for a pint and maybe a helpful local. I duck into a pub which name escapes me. I meet up with three fellows. Two are from Darby and one young guy who’s traveled from a small village near Reading. Three pints later and they’ve adopted me and lead me off to the coaches to take us to Download.
  • 1:00pm – Back at the rail station now where there’s clearly several signs that say DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL with friendly arrows pointing to the rear of the station. I’m an idiot.
  • 1:15pm – On the bus and headed to Download.
  • 1:25pm – I should’ve pissed before I left the pub.
  • 1:35pm – I REALLY should’ve pissed before I left the pub.
  • 1:45pm – Traffic on this single lane highway is horrendous, most likely due to the gawd-awful weather and I’m going to piss myself. All the blokes are in need of the toilet and we have the bus driver let us off right at the start of the town of Donington. A few steps later, we’re at The Lamb freshly pissed and drinking another pint. Halfway through our pint, our bus rolls by finally catching up with us.
  • 2:00pm – We head off to walk the rest of the way to Download. It’s a long walk uphill most of the ways I’d guess a mile and a half. Finally we make it. We pass our shuttle bus and leave it far behind us.  Waiting about in this que and that que we finally get inside about 2:45pm. That was one hell of a journey just to get here!
  • 2:45pm – I wore the wrong shoes.
  • 2:46pm – It is a mud pit, inches deep. Thick mud that hangs onto your shoe when you try to take a step. Occasionally you’ll come to mud matted grass which allows you to get a bit of a better footing, but not much. It’s pretty difficult to get about.
  • 3:00pm – I’m getting the hang of mud walking and moving somewhat quicker. I haven’t fallen yet, so that’s good. I’ve found the beer token line with my mates and we all drop 50 quid for beer tokens. That’s 13 pints. The reason they sell the tokens is pretty cool. In the beer line, you simply hand them the little plastic token chip, they hand you the drink of your choice. Fast and efficient! Get in. Get out. I like it.

Download is a sea of completely crazy people. I think most of them are totally mental. First off, I noticed all ages from grandparents to young teenagers. Everyone is here. The crowd is 85,000 strong I would guess scattered out amongst five stages which are all a fair walk from one another. About 98% of these concert goers are wearing “Wellies” which is slang for Wellingtons.  They are simply cheap rubber boots. How I wish I had a pair today. Some folks are bundled to the hilt as it’s cold and very windy, but fortunately the rain stopped about 2pm for the most part. Some festival goers are wearing nothing but shorts and T-shirts. Many are in costumes. I’ve seen Waldo, Yoshi, Snow White (a guy), Fred Flinstone, and a million others.

There are cities that have been completely erected for camping which I guess is truly part of the Download experience. I say “Hell no”. I’m quite cozy laying in my hotel bed, with the Eurocup on in the background typing this to you. I’m showered, dry, and cozy. Even though the cities have everything you would need, I could not even imagine sleeping out there. I have never seen so much mud. Met several fellows who said it’s downright miserable even with all the beer in the world. Saw many others packed up and making their way out with their camping gear trying to find accommodation in nearby towns. Good luck. This city is booked solid.

When I left tonight after Slash (most excellent) there were still loads of concert goers rolling in with camping gear and completely clean. They were in for a big surprise!  Pack on the back, sleeping bag under one arm, and a case of Carlsberg under the other.  That seems to be the uniform.

I did make the most of it and even though I was worried my beautiful new Rockports would be destroyed, there really wasn’t much I could do about it. I’d shopped around the store area inside the festival and everyone was out of my size Wellies. It will be my first priority in the morning.

I did see some great bands today including NOFX, Billy Talent, Machine Head, and Slash. The last two blew the doors off the place although I had to go over to the second stage to catch Slash. He definitely should’ve been main stage I think, but oh well. I was curious to see The Prodigy who are huge on this side of the pond and they were the headliner for the night. There was definitely a buzz in the air as many were there for them.  I could see them as I made my way back to the shuttle after Slash, but I was too exhausted to give it a go.

The ride home was nothing like the ride there. Quick and easy. I suppose as I think everyone went to Prodigy so there’s not even a full bus on the ride home and we make it back to Derby in 20 minutes or so. Jump in a cab, and 5 quid later, I’m on my way to my hotel room carrying my shoes.

Jump into the tub with all my gear on and strip down. Pull me pants back on with me shoes and just turned the shower on and had a bit of a cleaning party in half my getup. The water was jet fucking black. What a mess. I hope the shoes dry out quickly. They look normal again at least, just soaked. The pants are great hiking pants and imagine they’ll be dry in hours.  I’m going to get dirty again tomorrow, so I’m just wearing the same thing!

All in all, that was some experience. I was perfectly prepared as I never got cold or wet really. Even my feet stayed dry. I was quite comfortable other than the extremely slippery ground and constantly watching my footing. The food at the show was quite tasty and I think 4 quid a beer for something like this is pretty reasonable although my mates bitched. I told them what we pay at the Seahawks games and they said we get “proper fucked”. I agree.

As I said, I’m getting up and heading into town about 8am to search for Wellies. And we’ll do it all again tomorrow for METALLICA!! \m/  Sunday’s going to really be the huge day for me though with Anthrax, Ugly Kid Joe, Skid Row, Megadeth, Soundgarden & Sabbath!

Picturesque little Derby

My mates and I out back at The Lamb.

The fucking zoo.

I said last Fall I was coming and I made it! Download 2012!

Not an unusual sight by any means.

A Wellie, a Metallica fan, and his tattoo. NO, it ain’t mine.

I showered with my clothes on to save a bit of laundry. This is the tub afterwards.

Derby – Day 7

7 Jun

I’m all alone.  My mates and I have parted ways over a pint, but it’s only temporary.  I am on my own and excited about the prospect.  And a little scared too, but for no reason.  They’ve dropped me off in Derby, UK (pronouced Darh-by) and it’s the most charming little village.  I’m embarrassed to compare it to one of the fairy book lands at Disneyland, but it’s true.  Right out of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.  A real English village and it’s beautiful here.  My hotel is a huge step above where we’ve been staying (which haven’t been bad by any means, but this is a real hotel with an actual lift and shampoo in the showers.)

We had another late morning start after another great night in another Liverpool pub far off the beaten path.  Our cab driver dropped us at Hertz this morning where we took our first foray into driving in the UK.  Todd has done this before, however, it’s been 20 years.  We have all decided it’s not too prudent to continue to remind him to “keep left, keep left”.

Fortunately, we have a GPS unit which guided us quite easily to Old Trafford, home of the world famous Manchester United football club.  While I have no love for Man U, I can certainly respect the history and legacy of one of Britain’s top-flight clubs.  If not the very top!  Their success is legendary.

The tour was fantastic, and Old Trafford is a beauty to behold.  However, I was much more impressed with the historical factors of Anfield as it still, to this day, is very much the stadium it was of ages past.  That can’t be said of Old Trafford.  99% of it has been completely replaced over time.  Being a big Wayne Rooney and Alex Ferguson fan, it was an enjoyable tour and the museum was first rate.  I enjoyed myself very much and appreciated learning some of the illustrious history.  I just wasn’t enamored with it like I was at Anfield.

We then pressed on to Derby and the traffic is every bit as maddening as it is at home, but when you’re on vacation, you don’t seem to mind.  We had a great drive and Todd was gaining confidence with every right-hand turn.  Until we got off the motorway in Derby and forget to remind him to “get left”.  Quick thinking and a dive for the hazard lights, he steered us clear of the situation and we made it safe and sound then had a good laugh.  🙂  I don’t believe it will happen again.

After my mates left, I strolled down into the village of Derby and “village” is the way to describe it.  It honestly looks like it is out of some fairy tale here on Irongate street.  I’ll snap a photo tomorrow.  You’ll swear I’m at Harry Potter World in Universal Studios.  Found a nice little bar to drink, eat, and pen this blog at called The Slug and Lettuce.  The name just appealed to me.  And the food was great, just as it’s been the whole trip.  English chips are the best!

A good night’s rest awaits me and I’m hoping a call home as I’ve been unable to get the time’s right so far.  I sure miss my wife and kids, but I’ll be home soon enough and they’re plenty busy without me.  It’s off to the Download Festival tomorrow.  The entire original reason for making this trip.  Part of me wants to be back on the road with Mich and Todd as they are literally making it up as they go for the next four days.  That sounds very appealing to me.  I know they have intended stops in Oban, Hadrian’s Wall, and Iona to name just a few.  I’ll meet back up with them on Monday afternoon and am already looking forward to it.  I’ll be sure to get their stories and post them here!

I don’t know what the next 3 days will hold, but I’m sure it will involve plentiful beers, intense head-banging, and hopefully a few new friends.

Wish me luck!

Me with the statue of the Great Bill Shankly in front of The Kop.

The Paisley Gateway in front of Anfield.

The dullest dressing room on the planet, but it’s the real one where they kit up.

THIS….is Anfield!

Me with De Gea’s jersey in the Man U dressing room. A bunch of prima-donnas….it’s a palace compared to Anfields.

La Todd in the slums of Manchester.

Me in the Away Team box at Old Trafford. I wouldn’t set foot in the Home team one.

Michelle, who knew nothing about the Premiership, before our trip agrees that Man U sucks….

The Real England – Day 6

6 Jun

Awoke late, on purpose, as we had a bit of a late night in the pub.

Quick showering by everyone and we were off for lunch in the Boot Room at the world famous Anfield, home of the Liverpool FC Reds.  Having fallen in love with the Liverpool FC and the English Premier League over the last 4 seasons, I’ve come to respect this hallowed ground and it was an honor to visit it.  My mates, while not the fans that I am, were equally impressed with the triumphs, failures, and tribulations that have occurred here over 100 plus years.  Including learning about the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.  So sad.

We met a bloke named Ian who was recruited by Liverpool FC as a lad and eventually wound up with the NY Cosmos in the mid-80s who teared up as he told us about the carnage unfolding in front of him as he was at that fateful match.

We are very thankful and happy we’ve been avoiding the touristy areas and traveling through the areas the “tourists” don’t usually visit.

We’re staying, and playing, in a real working-class Liverpool neighborhood known as Wavertree.  Every single person we’ve come across has been extremely surprised to see an American in their community and we are treated like rock stars and family every time we open a door.  It’s been an amazing experience and very sobering too.  While we appear to travel so meagerly, we’re all of much better means than the vast majority of these folks.  I am amazed by their sense of family and community.  Something that does not exist in the United States that I’m from.  It’s been a wonderful experience.

After taking the city bus from Anfield back to the City Centre, we made our way, on foot, down to Albert Dock, which is the new Mecca of the city.  It’s the improved area that attracts all the tourists with lots of shops, restaurants, and novelty attractions.  We spent about 30 minutes there, including a quick souvenir stop at the Beatles Fab 4 shop and we were happy to have a look about and then get the fuck out of there.  This was not for us.

We had a pint here and there as we made our way back up town.  Todd was fading after a long night in the pub and was a real trooper getting through the day.  Once back in our comfy abode, we decided to find a laundry as we were all in due of a change of undergarments.  🙂

Up the street, not too far, was a Liver Laundrette which corners the market on self-service-laundries here in England, but the highlight of the day was the pub and people we met across the street at the shithole pub, Prince Alfred.  We tended to our laundry as the small clientele eyed us suspiciously when we walked in.  When we walked out 4 hours later, we had clean clothes and about a dozen new friends.

Truly amazing.  We’re honorary Scousers…. (Look it up.)

Well, it’s been another 10 out of 10 day minus the rain storm we had to tromp though and we’re off tomorrow for a car rental, and a trip to Old Trafford (home of Manchester United FC), and then wherever the wind takes us.  I am enamored with the way every sentence in this city ends with “love” or “lad” depending on the gender being spoken too.  Along with a hearfelt “God bless” at most partings.

I’m running a day behind on the pictures.  Have a lovely night love… God bless.

Our humble Liverpool abode.

La Todd and I, just steps away from Ringo’s boyhood home.

Sentimental Journey

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes…

Strawberry Fields forever….

At John’s boyhood home… Mendips.

Ahhh….look at all the lonely people. The grave of Elenor Rigby.

Us with our mate Dave at The Welly.

Real England – Day 5

5 Jun

Well now.  Times have changed, love.

We awoke this morning to a quick checkout and walk to the station where we tried our hand at navigating the rail system.  I am happy to report that we made it safely and soundly into Liverpool thanks to Michelle’s crack navigation on finding us “Plat Eleven” in Crewe where we quickly changed trains and made our way into the home of the Beatles: Liverpool, UK.  I also enjoyed my first fast food of the trip which will come as a huge surprise to most of you, dining on a Breakfast Butty from Burger King at the Euston train station.

The ride up with simply lovely.  Mostly country side, we all found it incredibly difficult to stay awake riding the smooth rails up north.  Like a baby being rocked in utero.  Zzzzzzz……

A quick cab to our hotel and we all fancied a pint and a chance to decide what on earth we should do today.  Liverpool was one of my picks as a stop on our tour due to my love of the Beatles.  The Liverpool route was near the top of my agenda and my wonderful mates were more than willing to learn a little more.

We got the #1 tour on, the Fab Four Taxi Tour which took us on a 3 hour tour in a private taxi to all the lad’s early childhood homes, Strawberry Fields, Elenor Rigby’s grave site, Penny Lane, and so many more places.  It was literally a walking-in-the-footsteps tour, as we frequently stopped, got out, and stood on so many hallowed grounds where the Fab Four grew up.  Our guide, Ian, was nothing short of a walking Beatles encyclopedia and really made the journey memorable.  We took a TON of pictures which I will try to share soon.  Due to minor technical difficulties (Michelle is still at the pub with the camera) I am unable to post them now.  Also, don’t worry Sue & Gary, she’s perfectly safe and doing a wonderful job taking care of Todd and I.

After our tour, we decided to go bar hopping down Mathews Street which was the home to the world famous Cavern club where the boys cut their teeth.  The Cavern club is long gone, but has been replicated a few short doors away.  Hiking down into the Cavern it was easy to get a sense of what it was probably like, but not being the real thing and not wanting to get stuck in some overpriced, tourist trap, we quickly looked around, enjoyed the Beatles tribute band and quickly made our exit.

We were much more enamored with pubs like the White Star and The Grape which were nearby the cavern where the Fab Four would drink and meet girls after their 274 Cavern gigs.

All-in-all it has been another fantastic day.  I have to say the people of Liverpool are a hospitable and friendly bunch.  Much different than the people in London who seemed hesitant to even make eye contact.  It is just one significant difference I have noticed.  That is not to say we didn’t enjoy London.  We did!  Very much!  We were fortunate enough to have met some fine folks, and had a fantastic time exploring!  However, here feels more like home.  Friendly people, lots of smiles, and when they discovered we were American, we got brought right into the fold at just about every pub we visited today which was probably about 10.

The English accents are quite a bit thicker up here and Michelle and I can’t keep joking about how we keep trying to turn the subtitles on every time we speak to someone.  I know they’re speaking English, but it is thick and a lot different than the English we speak.  It’s been a ball learning new words we didn’t even know existed!  Our ability to understand them seems to get better with the amount of beer we consume.

And we’re watching our valuables as everyone is telling us to mind the Jihbos!  Being a big Guy Ritchie fan, I knew who these folks were immediately and we had a good laugh.  This whole working class neighborhood we’re staying in is right our of a GR movie and I don’t think any of us could be happier.

Cheers love!  I’d double up on the pictures tomorrow!

Britain – Day 4

5 Jun

Well our visit to London has been nothing short of amazing. Sadly, it’s drawing to a close. We’ve seen so much in just three days. We’ve put at least 20 miles on our shoes, climbed thousands of steps, and seen just about every Tube station in town. The romanticism of just “being in London” has inspired Todd and Michelle to start writing a book. The book will be about the various conditions of the public toilets they’ve used all over London. They’re going to call it either London Loos, or Win or Loos. It will be penned under the pseudonym Rick Pees. (I don’t expect it to make the NY Times Bestseller list, but don’t tell them that.)

Being privileged enough to be here for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was purely icing on the cake as the entire city was on holiday with us or so it seemed. The crowds didn’t slow us down a bit and even though we had a few times where we had no idea where we were, we were never lost. We just didn’t know where we were going yet and have found it very easy to make it up along the way. I don’t think you could put three better travel partners together. We’ve even gotten close enough to begin farting in front of each other.

Making the most of our day, we skipped out after another fine English breakfast at our B&B and visited the Churchill War Rooms. I have to admit the only things I knew about Winston Churchill before I came to London was he was a beloved Prime Minister that led Britain through WWII who made amusing and inspiring quotes. Stepping back in time and seeing the actual location where the entire British campaign unfolded from was truly awesome. The rooms, museum and audio tour were spectacular and probably the highlight attraction for me here. I can’t wait to get home and pick up this man’s biography. What an amazing life before, during, and after the war.

Next we finally made it inside the Tower of London. It was equally awesome to bask in the history that has occurred here and to learn about it’s illustrious and bloodily notorious past centuries. I find it very easy to picture the tales unfold in front or me as I listen to the guide. I can imagine it happening right then and there and it can be pretty mind blowing. I made a point to do some remedial study of early British history before I came out and it was great to actually get to this site to get a better understanding of what it must have been like here through the ages. Quite awesome.

And, of course, after full visits to these sites, we were ready for dinner and a brew at a real English pub. We made a point to go to the pub Michelle has been eying since we noticed it on our first day; Ye Olde Cock Tavern on Fleet street. As you know, “cock” over here means something different than what we Americans know it as. Sadly, for her, it was devoid of cocks, but the ambiance and barkeeps were terrific and they took good care of us.

Back to the hotel, settle the bill, and packed up for an early morning departure to Liverpool, my mates have headed the ½ block down the street to our local watering hole while I feel compelled to jot down my memories here and share them with you. I hope to read this down the road and recapture the footloose and fancy free life we have been leading. (Plus, my feet hurt like hell and I’m just as happy knocking off early watching Britain’s Got Talent with my favorite a-hole Brit, Simon Cowell. Love him.)

Goodnight London.

The White Tower where the Kings lived.

‘Ello Mr. Beefeater!

Michelle used every trick in her book to try to lure this guard away, so me and Todd could take pictures of ourselves in the booth, but it was not to be.

Hello Seattle. We’re missing you back home. (Just kidding, we’re too busy and/or drunk.)

Picked out a grandmotherly type to take this photo. But apparently British grandmummys aren’t as sharp with the camera. This is crooked and she cut off part of the tower. Bollocks!