Ghost Roads …

I am reading Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider, travels on the healing road. Within a short period from August 1997, he lost his daughter to a car accident and, ten months later, his common-law wife of twenty-three years, Jackie Taylor, who succumbed to cancer. Over a period of fourteen months, he rode 55,000 miles in search of a reason to live. Peart was an admirer of Hemingway and thanks to Ken Burns’ documentary, recently aired on the BBC, I pick up on the references.

Immediately before this, I was reading Lois Pryce’s Red Tape and White Knuckles, a solo motorcycle trip through Africa and before that, her Revolutionary Road, a solo ride through Iran. When I returned from Yorkshire last week, there was a surprise package on the doorstep – two books about a pair of dreamers, hell bent on taking part in the Isle of Man TT. The gift, from Simon at Ducati Preston, was prompted by a discussion about motorbikes and literature and my enthusiasm for Ted Bishop’s Riding with Rilke – Reflections on Motorcycles and Books. Centred on a road trip from Edmonton to Austin, Ted rides a Ducati Monster

It is not difficult to detect a recurring theme/obsession here. It is mid-July 2021 and already I have covered 6000+ miles – not in Peart’s or Pryce’s league but surely indicative of an unhealthy mania. Many of the miles were accumulated on a glorious one week trip to the north of Scotland. The rest of the time I can be found, alone or in the company of a few like-minded souls, anywhere across the length of Northumberland, the Scottish Borders, County Durham and North Yorkshire. This week I was back at Port Carlisle – I keep going back – the road, any road, is an addiction. To quote Lois – Being on a bike throws you out there into the thick of it, whether you want it or not, and makes you more vulnerable as a result. But with that vulnerability comes an intensity; a concentrated high, a sweet nerve-jangling, heart thumping, sugar-rush sensation of the kind that only comes from real down ‘n’ dirty, life-affirming motorcycling.

There is something other-worldly about this stretch of the southern Solway coast. There are traces of conflict, two separate abandoned railways, a demolished mile long bridge across the Firth and the ruins of a sizeable trans-shipment port. All of this has gone – there are scattered communities but, even in these days of staycations, the roads and shoreline remain quiet, ghostly. It is this that keeps drawing me back – like Ted, I was riding a Monster:

The Black on Black Monster between Port Carlisle and Burgh by Sands.
Ghostly and dangerous
Liable to flooding, as I last experienced on a trip through here on the GS.
No direction home.
This arrow was used to direct RAF pilots at floating targets in the Solway Firth – it is clearly visible on Google Earth.
Cattle on the edge
Near Bowness-on-Solway

To quote that well-used adage, you don’t stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding. I imagine myself riding into my eighties – isn’t it pretty to think so.


  1. Pit · July 22, 2021

    Just keep going!

    • northumbrianlight · July 22, 2021

      I will, Pit – it is compulsive 🙂 Trust all is well with you and yours. Apologies for not keeping up with your posts but one way and another, I am very busy (bikes being just one part of it :-))

      • Pit · July 22, 2021

        Tnaks for asking: yes, all is well here. nd no need to apologize for not keeping up with mt posts. I can easily understand.
        Take care,

  2. J.D. · July 22, 2021

    Gorgeous post, Robin. I was fortunate enough to see Rush in concert 3 times. Neil Peart’s drum solos were absolutely mesmerizing. Complex and full of soul, like he was.

    The road has you in its grasp right now, but I’m not sure it’s unhealthy. I’ve been overcome with trail mania this summer. The journey has been amazing. We both are simply heeding the call.

    • northumbrianlight · July 22, 2021

      As ever, many thanks for the kind words, Julie. Rush must have been great to see live – he certainly comes across as intelligent and thoughtful if inevitably tormented.
      I am liking the idea of trails too, although I guess you might not approve of your peace and solitude being interrupted by the buzz of motorbikes (understandably). Good to know you have found an escape in these lock-downed times – I look forward to reading about it. Stay happy. All the best, R.

  3. petergreyphotography · July 22, 2021

    Wonderful post this one! Great pictures.

  4. Tony Duncan · July 22, 2021

    I love your posts and since moving into the area from Sussex you have guided me to many places I would otherwise have missed. You seem to be fascinated by slightly haunted places, your photos have a dreamlike quality. I wondered if you had encountered Hookland, a fictional online place composed of photos and stories about scenes and locations very like your photos – old country lanes, leaning signposts, abandoned buildings and so on. Anyway, thanks for sharing what you do.

    On Thu, 22 Jul 2021, 09:30 northumbrian : light, wrote:

    > northumbrianlight posted: ” I am reading Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider, travels > on the healing road. Within a short period from August 1997, he lost his > daughter to a car accident and, ten months later, his common-law wife of > twenty-three years, Jackie Taylor, who succumbed to cancer. ” >

    • northumbrianlight · July 23, 2021

      Many thanks for your kind words, Tony and I am very pleased you enjoy my ramblings. I will investigate Hookland – thanks for the tip.

  5. HogriderDookes · July 22, 2021

    Wonderful moody photos as always. I love the way you tackle the subjects. Great read too!

  6. johnnyc1959 · July 22, 2021

    Terrific sequence of B&W photographs…and a fine narrative. Always look forward to reading/viewing … J

    • northumbrianlight · July 23, 2021

      Very kind, many thanks – this ghost thing is catching – very much enjoyed your post too.

  7. sustainabilitea · July 22, 2021

    I think you’ll be riding when you have to have a three-wheeler, Robin. 🙂 We’ve often driven to Wyoming for either Cleveland or Chicago when the Sturgis rally was on in South Dakota and we saw all sorts of motorcycles and riders of all ages. We don’t see that now as we come from an entirely different direction although we may see some riders headed that way as well.

    But back to your photos, which I really like. I think it behooves one to enjoy carefully if you believe the signs, which I think you should. 🙂 When I think of the Isle of Man, I think of Mark Cavendish, cyclist but of a different sort, and “TT” to those of us who watch le Tour and other events means “time trial.” 🙂

    Nice to hear from you.


    • northumbrianlight · July 23, 2021

      Hi Janet – always good to hear from you and many thanks for the generous comments. I like that you make connections – Cavendish and TT- it is a storytelling device which I am very fond of. I hope you and yours are keeping well and enjoying summer. It is unusually warm over here at the moment so, it was another 100 mile ride into County Durham today. Always quieter during the week than weekends. All the best, R

      • sustainabilitea · July 23, 2021

        Hot here too but at a very different level–over 100F. At least this year we’re getting rain, which is badly needed so very welcome. The big problem is that the soil here is much like cement so if it rains too much too fast there are flash floods and excess water issues. But since we moved here well over a year ago there’s been virtually no rain and the entire West and Southwest is still in drought, so we’re quite happy.

  8. Sue · July 22, 2021

    Good for you….I always loved the open road…..past tense as I have a had to give up driving for health reasons

    • northumbrianlight · July 23, 2021

      Thanks Sue – such a shame that you cannot enjoy the open road as you once did but, at least you did it and know the joy it brings. All the best, R

      • Sue · July 23, 2021

        Thanks, Robin….Well, exactly, I have plenty of future nostalgias!

  9. restlessjo · July 23, 2021

    Thanks for taking us with you, Robin. Happy riding!

  10. Chris Barker · July 23, 2021

    I really enjoyed this post, as many others, Robin. I don’t share that author’s admiration for Papa, having found his work forced and melodramatic (or perhaps I disliked his treatment of women), but I do share the love of the open road, the anticipation of a journey, the travel. I also love the history that you’ve found everywhere.

    • northumbrianlight · July 23, 2021

      Thanks Chris – I must confess I had limited knowledge of Hemingway until I saw the Burns’ documentary. I can certainly understand your reservations about his character while my exposure to his writing has been limited to The Old Man and the Sea – it didn’t leave a lasting impression. I now feel compelled to try one of his others, just to see what the fuss was all about.

  11. Aviationtrails · July 23, 2021

    It’s great to get out into the wilds and be away from it all. The open road is a blank canvas just waiting for painting. Get your brushes out and keep going.

  12. socialbridge · July 23, 2021

    Oh Robin, this is spine-tingling.
    Ride on!

  13. jef62 · July 30, 2021

    Nice words. Good photographs.

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