When I met Doreen, she wasn’t big into bikes, but she seemed to quite like the idea that I had one, especially a hog. I remember the night we met. We were getting on like a house on fire and as we chatted we managed to sink a fair few beers. Bikes certainly weren’t a major part of our initial conversation, but since it is an important part of who I am, sooner or later it was bound to come up.
I told Doreen about my ambition to ride Americana one day when the current project finished – at that time I still didn’t know when that would be. I also told her that I was looking forward to some warm, dry weekends (a rarity in Scotland) so that I could get up and ride the Scottish Highlands. I think the idea appealed to Doreen, because she went further and joked about how cool it would be to ride around Orkney naked on the back of a Harley. Or perhaps she wasn’t joking.
A few months later, Doreen had to be up in Orkney for her work. Neither of us had forgotten the conversation about her riding naked on the back of a Harley around Orkney. Doreen suggested that we go up to the Orkney’s before her work engagements and make a long weekend of it.
For those that don’t know Scotland so well, the Orkney islands are a group of small islands off the north-eastern tip of Scotland. They’d been invaded and for a long time settled by Norsemen. Orkney is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and has some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe.
Orkney had two other claims to fame that interested me: it is both the home of Highland Park, one of my favourite whiskeys, and the place were Erik Tricity was born and breed. Erik is my buddy and my brilliant tattooist. His business card reads “Tattooist, Musical Genius, Deity”. Modest he’s not. Awesome he is. I was really intrigued to see what kind of place created someone as unique as Erik. So how could I refuse the prospect of Doreen riding naked on the back of my hog, and seeing the home of Highland Park and Erik Tricity?
One of the few downsides of long rides is a bike’s limited luggage capacity – especially with a pillion. For Doreen, Orkney was the starting point for a week-long tour of some of Scotland’s renewable energy projects. She was going to need to take her laptop, smart business clothes for the week, as well as stuff for the wet and windy weekend with me (you can’t be naked all the time in Orkney!). With my luggage on top, there was no way we could both go up on the bike.
We decided that Doreen would fly up to Orkney and that I’d ride up and meet her there. That gave me the perfect opportunity to tour the Highlands on the way there and back – all good training for riding americana! The ride up through the Cairngorms, and especially the ride across the top of Scotland and down the west coast is both stunning and beautiful – but as this is meant to be a blog about riding America, I’ll say no more than if you get a chance to ride (or drive) the west coast of Scotland, I recommend you jump at it.
The real point of this post was that our trip to Orkney was Doreen’s first chance to have a real blast on the back of the bike. For those that dinnae ken Scotland, it can be a wee bit wet here, and she hadn’t had the chance to get a good long ride before. Blasting around the Orkney’s Main Land and across the Churchhill Barriers down to South Ronaldsay whetted Doreen’s appetite for bikes. It didn’t take long for her to decide that it might be even more fun for her to ride her own bike, and so the dash for a licence began.
Some of you may be wondering whether Doreen did ride naked around the Orkneys. I couldn’t possibly comment. When she comes over to Sturgis, perhaps she’ll do a guest spot on the blog and answer that herself.