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Thu Sep 08 2016: The Isle of Man TT

The Isle of Man the week after the races is like Times Square on New Years Day. Everywhere, there's evidence that there were a lot of people here very recently - signs, barricades, etc., but the place is quiet, save for the locals going about their routine, commuting to work or buying groceries.

Weather is damp. The cold of the north has followed us from Scotland!

From Peel, we head north-east on the A4. This is part of the ring road that makes up the Snaefell Mountain Course, the circuit that all the motorcycle racers run for the TT. The route is entirely on public roads, different than the closed circuits of the races that we normally watch. Given that there are buildings and spectators lining both sides of the road in close proximity, the 60.75 km loop is run at insane speeds - over 200 km/h *AVERAGE*. Along the Sulby Straight, racers can reach a top speed of over 330 kms/h!

The outright lap record is just under 17 minutes. I wonder what kind of lap-time the slow riding team of RideDOT.com will post. I mentally make note of the clock on my dashboard, as we enter the course. I actually just make note of the hour, not the minutes... :)

We thread our way through light traffic on the road as the A4 skirts the edge of the Irish Sea. In every video of the TT that I've seen, a wall of spectators would line the road on either side, at a close and very unsafe distance away from the speeding motorcycles flying a few feet away from their noses.

Neda rounds the corner on the Snaefell Mountain Course

We round the top of the island at Ramsay, keeping up with the speed of traffic. Although there are no speed limits here - the residents steadfastly cling to their freedoms and rights here - the locals still putter around the roads in normal fashion. Ramsay looks like any small English town, pubs and shops line the both sides of the race course.

Exiting the town and heading south, we're now about half-way through the course and traveling along the most unpopulated part of the route; wide open, barren and windy countryside greets us. It's marvelous!

Snaefell Mountain boasts the highest point on the Isle of Man

As soon as Neda saw how high the mountain was, we abandoned the race course for a hike. :(

The lap timer is still going as we step off our motorcycles...

Near the Snaefell Mountain Tram Station, there's a statue of Joey Dunlop

Joey Dunlop is a legend of the TT, having amassed the most wins on this circuit in his long career in motorcycle racing. At the bottom of the statue is a makeshift shrine to a young motorcycle rider who died in an an accident in England. His mates must have set up this memorial in this place so sacred to motorcycles.

Speaking of which, the TT is the most dangerous motorcycle race on Earth. Over 260 deaths have been recorded here. 14 of them were spectators and non-racing officials... And still, the Manx residents cling to their right to die any which way they please. It makes for the most thrilling and exciting racing on the planet. For the riders and the people watching!

I watched an interview with Valentino Rossi, who they've been trying to get to race the circuit for years. He's always turned them down saying that riders who race here are crazy! On GP race tracks, safety standards dictate that at the high speed corners there must be a hundred of feet of gravel runoff in case a motorcycle goes down. A hundred feet to slow and stop and sliding motorcycle and rider.

At the Isle of Man, there's curbs, buildings and stone walls a few feet away from the road. And spectators...

At Snaefell Mountain, we meet a motorcycle rider who stayed after the races to do laps around the course

Since this is the most unpopulated part of the course, many riders will do runs between Ramsay and Douglas, taking in the beautiful scenery as they zoom down the road, visions of past races playing against the inside of their visors. This guy showed us his official TT race suit. A true fan!

We watched him as he rode back and forth, rounding the corners at speeds a lot less than 200 km/h

"Hey Neda, this tram goes all the way up to the summit of Snaefell Mountain!"

As you probably guessed, we end up climbing the mountain on foot instead. :(

The view of the Isle of Man countryside from half-way up

NatureGirl is just breathing in the scenery like air. I am breathing in the air. Barely.

And doing what I normally do

This guy is wondering why we didn't take the tram up to the top. So am I, Mr Ram. So am I...

I found a quicker way up

There's a little restaurant up at the top of the summit. They sell very expensive food, so we walked back down again towards our bikes. The lap timer is still going on my dashboard...

Back on the course. Little reminders of the races last weekend

These signs alert the racers to which way the upcoming corners go. It would be very difficult to memorize all of them - there are over 200+ corners on the TT course, only 60 of them are named. Mostly after people that have died on the course...

We round the finish line in Douglas and our elapsed time for the loop so far is 4 hours. A far cry from the 17 minute lap record. And we haven't even done a complete loop all the way back to Peel yet! That hike up Snafell Mountain didn't help!

Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man

Tower of Refuge on St Mary's Isle. Just off the shores of Douglas

This mini castle was built in 1832 after many ships crashed into the submerged reefs of the small island. The tower is meant for the survivors of the ship wrecks to wait until a rescue party was sent out. How hospitable!

After killing time in Douglas, we headed over to the Tramode Estate, just outside of town. The Isle of Man Film Festival is on this week and we scanned the itinerary looking for interesting (and free) things to do.

Lynda Reiss, Prop Master of the TV show Stranger Things was doing a talk

We tend to fill our time in between travels by reading books and watching TV shows and films on our laptops. We're huge fans of the program, Stranger Things (poor Barb). Mainly because it's set in the 80s, which we remember fondly. It was really interesting hearing Lynda talking about scouring eBay looking for period-specific clothing and paraphernalia to put on the show. And it all had to be correct, otherwise the Internet Sherlocks would be all over it: "That model Casio watch came out two years after the time the show was was set!" [Insert Eye Roll Here]

Although Stranger Things wasn't filmed here - Lynda is a resident of the Isle of Man - they have shot a lot of films on the island as a stand-in for other places in the UK.

While doing research for our ride through the Scottish Highlands, I watched a movie called Decoy Bride (yes, Doctor Who is in it). It's set in the Outer Hebrides and we were originally planning to take a ferry over there. Turns out the movie was actually shot here, on the Isle of Man. Cheaper than traveling all the way to northern hinterlands, more infrastructure here, and very generous tax breaks.

The night air is cold as it seeps into our vented gear on the ride back to our campsite in Peel. The temperatures are a constant reminder that although we'd just like to set up camp for longer than a few days, it'll have to wait till we get ourselves to warmer climates. And there's still so much more to see in the British Isles.

Next day, we venture off the TT road course and visit the southern section of the island. We stop for a scenic break at Port Erin

Chilly and windy at the cliffs overlooking the circular bay of Port Erin

Further south we venture

To the southern tip - the National Folk Museum of Craigneash

Craigneash is a traditional Manx village preserved to show the way of life in the 19th century. The Manx people are the local indigenous ethnic population, descended from the Celts. Farm animals traipse around backyard pens, enticing Neda to pet them.

The horns on these guys look menacing. Not petting material...

Neda finds one that's more suitable to petting and feeding

It's so beautiful and peaceful here!

Manx countryside

Thatched roofs of the Manx cottages


Wandering around the village

Back in our homebase of Peel, getting hungry

Cheap eats - fish and chips with curry sauce, overlooking Peel Beach

And now a short video of our time at the Isle of Man:

The current lap record around the Snaefell Mountain Course is 17 minutes. We completed the circuit in just over 8 hours! LOL!

We ride slow.

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