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The Frustration Of Familiarity

Blog Date 2 March 2022

I've lived in this 'ere shell of a house for 21 years now. I've lived in the north-western quarter of Greater Manchester for over 31 years now. I've lived in this general area for about 45 years now. Since I started riding motorcycles around 32 years ago I estimate I've covered well in excess of half a million miles.

Half a million miles in 32 years equates to roughly 16,000 miles a year on average. Sounds about right. But the vast majority are NOT those misty eyed romantically notioned adventure miles where I'm exploring beautiful countryside, indulging in foreign cultures and drinking tea outside dusty cafes in the middle of nowhere. 

Sharon atop a mountain in Spain in the sunshine and light clouds, a lifestyle type of shot
This is NOT the reality of my everyday motorcycling existence.

I'd guess maybe 90% of these miles were ridden within about 50 or 100 miles of my home. Many of them were and are carried out in the pursuit of "romance" (read - young Ren chasing skirt, older Ren having a girlfriend who still lives 30 miles away). Many more miles were in carried out in the pursuit of "money" (read - work). Other miles were for social and family visits. 

Ren in bright jacket looks at floods in the pouring rain near to his home
This is much more like my everyday motorcycling existence.

The remaining local mileage will come from riding for pleasure. I did and still do enjoy many local excursions to a variety of cafes and biker hangouts as well as  simply exploring what's in my back yard. I would love to ride around the world yet I still remain, after so many miles, pleasantly surprised to find new and interesting roads and places within an hour's ride of my home. 

Yes, some of my mileage has been gained from adventures around the UK and the merest hint of European exploration. It's nowhere near as much as this blog may portray though. I write up the interesting trips that are usually my "away" trips, I'm not sure how interested you'd be to read "My Sunday Ride To Mother's House" and "An Afternoon's Ride With Sharon To Buy New Gloves". 

There is one problem though, as pointed out by Mr Soady recently. Sameness, samey, you know, overfamiliarity. 

Sharon and I try to get out most weekends, if the weather's good we may cover 150 miles, if it's poor or the mood isn't with us then it might only be 20 miles. The problem is we've been to most (if not all) of the places we want to go already - that are within an easy afternoon's ride. Not only have we been, we've been several times. 

Coast riders fcafe blackpool. A large buiding with a sign and windows
One of the many places to catch a brew and a chat hereabouts.

Don't get me wrong - there are some fantastic areas within our reach. North Wales, Derbyshire, Trough Of Bowland and North Yorkshire to name but a few. There's nice spots on The Wirral and some fascinating back lanes inland from Southport. 

But, well, you know? Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt and would like to try summat new like innit. 

How? While we wait for the invention of the "Motorcycle And Rider Teleportation System" or "A healthy wealthy retirement" (both of which seem highly unlikely) then we can only go so far in an afternoon. There is one other option. Moving, as in moving house, moving our lives to another place entirely.

It feels a bit drastic though. Upending our work lives, our family lives, our friendships and our finances in search of a new place to explore. Bear in mind that after around 5 years it's likely we'll have been to most of the interesting places in that area too. I also believe that if you take a miserable sod from Bolton and put him in, I dunno, Oxford, all you end up with is a miserable sod from Bolton in Oxford.

Ren gives a thumbs up by the tank at Leyland
You can take an idiot out of Bolton... you just end up with an idiot somewhere else.

This being said... I do rather fancy a bit of Scotland or maybe Wales. Again though, let us think this through.

I adore Ullapool. A delightful little town in the most stunning surroundings. The mist over the sea loch, the mountains, the remote location and the tranquillity, aaaahhh, Ullapool. 

Ullapool we see a road, some houses and grassy areas and the mountains a loch behind
Oh Ullapool, sweet Ullapool, what a fantastic place.

Wait a minute. There's 2 roads out of Ullapool, one to Inverness and the other north to Durness. ANYWHERE you go from Ullapool is on those 2 roads. Even the best road in the world must get "samey" after a while. Also it's an 58 mile (116 mile round trip) ride to the nearest motorcycle shop / DIY store / Kebab house. Bit of a drag in deepest darkest wettest winter.

Let me go to the other extreme then. Bury St Edmunds. I have a soft spot for this small city too, ever since I worked there a few times back in my motorcycle instructor days. While the surroundings are entirely flat there's a lot of lush green countryside with quiet back lanes to explore, a rural atmosphere and yet the small city has enough services and facilities to enjoy a modern convenient existence. There's a lot of pleasant coastline within a day's ride and the weather is better there too. Hmmmm...

Wait a minute. I do think I'd miss access to hills and mountains, the nearest being at least 100 miles away. Admittedly Bury St Edmunds is closer to the southern ports that allow access to Europe but it's also a lot farther away from Wonderful Wales and Stunning Scotland. Still, the idea of being somewhere where it only rains 30% of the time and not 95% of the time, oh my.

Whatever, wherever - I can't see it happening financially just yet nor for many other practical reasons. And as shown above there is no place that would be a perfect fit. While the North West of England is far from perfect let me consider the positives I have here.

I am located pretty much centrally to the UK, both Scotland and Cornwall are within a long day's ride. I also enjoy good access to Ireland, both Northern and Republic Of. I'm quite close to the UK's second largest city which means access to bike shops and dealerships aplenty (except Honda, pfffffft). And as previously stated there are some nice areas hereabouts.

A map of the UK with the area near manchester circled. This circle is close to the centre of the map
Not exactly the middle, but close enough.

There's one other thing.

I wonder. Those who live in stunning, beautiful and genteel surroundings - how do you appreciate other places? When I leave my small, scruffy hovel, ride out through the grimy post-industrial now retail park filled surroundings and eventually find myself in stunning, beautiful and genteel surroundings - I feel the contrast, I sense the improvement, I breathe in the pleasures.

I imagine myself as a wealthy fellow with a luxurious pad in a remote part of The Alps. I have some of the best riding roads in the world on my doorstep, I am surrounded by wonder and awe, every day there is idyllic. I then decide to take a holiday in, errrr, The Picos for example. I arrive and while The Picos is wonderful it's only as wonderful as my home in The Alps. What's the point? Might as well just stay at home.

So living in a poopy house in a poopy town makes anywhere and everywhere else seem nice. Lucky me!

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Reader's Comments

said :-
Let me get this right, or possibly wrong. By the sounds of it, you think, every where, apart from where you live is ace. So you've made the decision to stay where you are now, because it's s***e.

This website is so illuminating!

02/03/2022 20:29:17 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Eeerrrrrr... yep, you got it right. There are actually worse places than where I live but the locals wouldn't let me move there. My reputation precedes me.
02/03/2022 22:24:45 UTC
ian said :-
rides getting samey - so much depends on the weather and the amount of traffic, the same road can be different backwards and really as far as i am concerned familiar roads are best because you know the dangerous bits. What I don't like is congestion, particularly when caused by parking, things get fraught, you can never tell when one, that you thought empty perhaps, suddenly pulls out.
03/03/2022 00:58:11 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Au contraire Ian, Au contraire me o'd mucka.
Whilst I agree totally that familiarity can be a good thing it can also breed content. Contentment can also be good but not when it leads to a lack of concentration.
I can't be the only one (maybe I can) who takes his eye off the ball when riding in familiar surroundings, if you know what the bends do, what the camber does, where the junctions are, then why bother with the concentration bit. Concentration is hard innit. Try it, it hurts.
Put your hand up if when riding on familiar roads you can remember thinking I can't remember passing that junction but I damn well have, still just me then.
Now put me on an unfamiliar challenging road and with the bike and Er'Indoors in the mood to "enjoy" it and my eyes will be like saucers, I will see every apex, every vanishing point, get every glimpse ahead through trees and vehicles. It'll drain your brain in minutes but that's real safety and concentration.
03/03/2022 09:31:29 UTC
ian said :-
yes you may be right upt north - however the amount of 'accidents' and crazed driving round where i live, oxford means you are just too plain scared to not concentrate, consider the recent case of boris's godfather, a demented character in charge of a huge suv who went on wrong side of the road, apparently not seeing an oncoming biker. then there was this other case of a guy driving a skip truck under the influence of drugs.


03/03/2022 12:30:53 UTC
ian said :-
I like the theme ren, it is a good 'un, food for thought there.
03/03/2022 12:32:24 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , if you go North you'll need a sidecar if you want to keep biking in the winter or even a Quad , as for familiarity , there's always the tale of familiarity breeding contempt as the rally car driver crashed into his own gatepost on a closed road stage that passed by his house....
With petrol prices spiralling you won't be able to afford to ride the bike , but when you do occasionally venture out you can hypermile all the familiar roads for a different view, problem solved , no need to move !

04/03/2022 21:05:38 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Even Sharon suggested with the price of petrol being what it is, this blog might become "e-bikesandtravels.com". We'll be investing in a couple of pedal assist push irons. This of course means the range we can achieve in an afternoon will be EVEN SMALLER.

And then the return trip ride from Ullapool to Inverness, 116 miles on an e-cycle at 15mph, will take around 8 hours. I think my kebab will be cold by the time I get back. Bury-St-Edmunds is flat... I guess that's where I'll be going then huh.
07/03/2022 11:31:31 UTC
nab301 said :-
Nearly €2 euro a litre locally.... A neighbour offered me a secondhand solar panel that is surplus to requirements, I wonder what I'd need to rig it up to charge batteries and then maybe I'll remove the engine from either my MZ or Enfield and convert to electric!
07/03/2022 20:22:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Yeah but leccy prices ain't exactly cheap either. In an ideal world we can "suss out" the fusion reactors and make them small enough to fit in a bike. We're 20 years away from industrial scale fusion reactors. We've been 20 years away now since the 60s and we'll be 20 years away in another 20 years...

I'd suggest a regular pedal cycle but have you seen the price of food!
08/03/2022 09:06:50 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Workable fusion power has always been a fantasy. Apart from the great big fusion reactor in the sky which has been working for billions of years and that can provide all the energy we could ever need (wind, wave, solar) if used properly - especially when supplemented by the other free resource of the tides which we in Britain are exceptionally well provided with. I think it was a great shame that the proposed Severn barrage never came into being.
08/03/2022 10:41:05 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ian, when you're right you're right.
Weren't we all promised CHEAP, renewable energy in return for ruining our countryside. Well they definitely ruined vast swathes of our green and pleasant land but for what return.
Although I'm assured the Chinese will build us some nuclear power stations at the right price and there'll be some cheap Russian oil soon.
Never mind the price of food Ed, I've just had to pay £9.50 for a bag of cement. Although Whyte and Mackay was £16.00 a litre so I won't remember how much I paid for long.
08/03/2022 11:42:25 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I remember as a kid watching Tomorrow's World. It looked as though we'd be working just 1 or 2 days a week as the robots would be doing all the work. It looked like we'd be flying around in space buses with a trip to Oz taking just a few hours. No-one would be ill as sci-fi all over scanners would diagnose and fix things in a jiffy... And so on and so on. Well I figure that's not working out as planned then either.
09/03/2022 15:09:40 UTC

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