It takes a few days to settle in after landing on the Isle of Man for the TT races. This is the result of jet lag, the overwhelming assault on the senses that the races provide, and of course, late evenings in the pubs. The best way to clear the head is to get on a motorbike and tour this magical island. I wrote about it last year, and after eight IOM visits and many miles, the absolute pleasure of riding here is undiminished.
First day out, down through the southern end of the Island, I ride to the ancient village of Cregneash, park up and walk for a bit on an impressive section of coastline called The Chasms.
Okay, head cleared, this is beautiful, meaning of life in focus. Then, realizing I’m not actually Don Draper, I wheel down for a coffee stop at The Sound Café, which provides a breath-taking view of the Calf of Man, an uninhabited wildlife sanctuary. Superb coffee and cakes, gaggles of bikes and easy conversations with motorbikers from all over the world about important things like motorcycles, pubs and Guy Martin’s chances.
Wiltshire U.K. residents Martin and Julie Oatley are typical of the folks you meet here. They have toured extensively, including 3000-plus miles across the Western U.S., but astride their KTM 1190 Adventure, they are, surprisingly, here for the first time. “Riding the wide open spaces of the U.S. on a Harley was a fantastic experience,” said Martin, but after only a few days, like most who get the IOM bug bite, the Oatleys are already planning future TT and Manx Grand Prix visits.
My buddy John Santapietro arrives from the U.S., instantly doubling the island’s population of Italian- American guys from New Jersey, and off on our Triumph Street Triples we go race spectating at Hillberry Corner. Tucked away at the 36th milestone, Hillberry, in Onchan, is a fantastic location, with a long, 190-mph straight leading in to a compound right-left-right, less than two miles from the finish. For only five quid, cushioned seating, a burger van, and a prisoner of war camp-quality porta-potty allow for long stretches of race enjoyment, and racing luminaries Maria Costello and Jenny Tinmouth – the latter being the fastest woman around the TT course – were both watching the races there, a testament to it’s fabulousness. If you come to the TT, do this place.
The evening is spent at the pub at the Woodbourne Hotel, known only as The Woody to the locals who comprise the vast majority of its patrons. The Woody is in a goth-ish structure, with three bars, including the marvelously idiosyncratic ‘Gents Bar,’ capacity 40-ish, where I settle in with my Welsh friend, 50-year strong TT visitor and spiritual guide to all things IOM, Peter Thompson and his wife Gill (The Gents Bar, while not yet likely ready for Caitlin Jenner, is female friendly these days.) TT racer Michael Rutter is enjoying a pint at the next table.
The Woody is often used by Manx brewer Okell’s to test its latest bitters, and you will be drawn a truly delicious pint here. On a per-capita basis, there is no greater concentration of motorcycle and road racing knowledge and conversation about said topics with friends you’ve never met but will know for the rest of your life than in The Woody. It is off the beaten path enough that you will feel like you’ve stumbled into a hidden universe where everyone cares only about bikes and John McGuinness and pints of bitter. And you have.
More TT tales to come.