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John B. Deitz
John & Sharon Deitz
August 4 - August 13, 1998
|DAY 0. Tuesday,
August 4th, JFK to Heathrow|
|DAY 1. Wednesday,
August 5th, London to Redcar|
|DAY 2. Thursday,
August 6th, the North York Moors|
|DAY 3. Friday,
August 7th. East Coast of England to West Coast
|DAY 4. Saturday,
August 8th, Castle Douglas to Fort William|
|DAY 5. Sunday,
August 9th, Mallaig and the Isle of Skye|
|DAY 6. Monday,
August 10th, Fort William to Stirling|
|DAY 7. Tuesday,
August 11th, Edinburgh|
|DAY 8. Wednesday,
August 12th, Stirling to Redcar|
|DAY 9. Thursday,
August 13th, Heathrow and Home|
Friday, August 14th, Sleep|
From the evening of Tuesday, August 4, 1998 through
Thursday, August 13, 1998, my daughter Sharon, and I took
a motorcycle trip through Northern England and Scotland.
Sharon is 30, and just learned to ride this Spring. We
flew to London, Sharon from Boston, I from New York and
arranged our flights to arrive within è¯µr of each
other. We hired bikes at a shop near London, and rode
about 250 miles the first day to a
friend of Sharon's in Redcar on the northeast coast of
England, staying there two nights. The second day
was spent on a day-trip through the Yorkshire Moors. The third
day we rode across northern England to the west
coast, spending a night at Douglas Castle just inside
Scotland, and then, on the fourth day,
up along the west coast of Scotland to the Scottish
Highlands and Fort William where we spent two nights. The
fifth day we day-tripped to Mailag and
took the ferry to the Island of Skye, returning to Fort
William that evening. The sixth day, we
returned east across the central Highlands to the
Lowlands, staying at Stirling for two nights and
touristing Edinburgh the seventh day,
going to the Edinburgh Tattoo that evening. We returned
back to Redcar on the eighth day, then
to London on the ninth day for the
flight home. Total of about 2200 km(1370 miles).
While that is a summary of the road travel, it
is not, of course, a summary of trip. One of the first
questions I'm often asked is, "Why a trip to
Scotland? You Scottish?" As far as I know, I have no
Scots blood, although I am 1/4 Welsh (and therefore
Celtic), which I have used to explain my excessive split
personalities -- German sense of order and Welsh passion.
But several years ago I got coerced into learning the
bagpipes, and inevitably got immersed into Scottish
culture and history ( I think Scottish
"culture" and "history" are really
the same thing). I'm also a Presbyterian, which had one
of it's roots in Scotland, so I've seen the culture from
I also have a passion for motorcycling, particularly the
touring side. I've taken long tour trips almost every
summer since I got my first Harley, getting as far west
as Sturgis and Denver, south to Savannah, north to
Vermont and Milwaukee. I've never found it boring,
although often tiring. I wish I could now wax poetic
about biking (there are many sources where they do), but
the emotions are complex and in the end not easily put
into words. There is the sensual pleasure of a vibrating
bike between the legs, the sense of personal www.poloralphlaurenaustralia.biz control, the
real riskiness, the feeling of being alone with one's
thoughts, and the closeness with the environment.
A component of the Scottish adventure was the
expected romanticism -- the poems and paintings of the
Romantics extolled these regions. And how about that lone
bagpiper/shepherd and his dog on the misty beinn
(hillside), or the quaint homesteads and exotic folk of
40's English movies.
And I must say I was personally
fulfilled in nearly all my expectations. The countryside
and villages of Northern England and Scotland are
romantic, rivaling West Virginia, Tennessee, Vermont and
New Hampshire. We saw Scotland in sun, in mist, and in
rain. I felt the country more than
anywhere I've traveled in the United States (with the
possible exception of a camping trip to the New Jersey
pine barrens in the early 1970's). You can truly
understand why there is such a passionate love for this
land and its history, even by first and second generation
emigrants. And the people are truly gracious and
friendly, if at times unintelligible.
What follows is a
day by day log of our travels.
| DAY 0. TUESDAY,
AUGUST 4TH JFK TO HEATHROW:
|Left USA for
Great Britain on a night British Airways flight. What
with the serving of meals and other attendant
"necessities," only got about 2 hours sleep.
Arrived in Heathrow about 7 am. Through immigration and
customs by 8:30 am. Sharon's flight from Boston also
on-time and she arrived about è¯µr later.
| DAY 1. WEDNESDAY,
AUGUST 5TH, LONDON TO REDCAR:
Sharon at the international arrivals gate about 9 am, got
British currency at money machine, and headed for
Ruisilip Manor (pronounced rice-lip) via London
underground to pick up motorcycles -- HGB Motorcycles,
69-71 Park Way, Ruislip Manor, Middlesex HA4 8NS, Tel:
01895-676451. Rail trip about 45 minutes, and required 1
change. Otherwise uneventful.
shop (rental dealer) just around corner from the rail
station. Picked up two Honda 650 CC "touring"
bikes; mine had only 200 kilometers on the odometer.
Folks at HGB Motorcycles very helpful in picking out
bikes appropriate for our needs, and giving directions
for heading north. Started out for Redcar, our first
evening's stop, somewhat apprehensive about left side
driving and roundabouts (traffic circles) for which I had
received prior warning. Went but a few blocks when first
roundabout looms -- negotiated it O.K., somehow, and
We find our way to the M25 London
Orbital (beltway), then the A1 to "The North".
Sharon leads much of the way. The A1 is a dual
carriageway (highway), with sections that are motorways
(expressways). Lots of traffic! Everyone seems to be
going faster that we would here with similar traffic
conditions, but maybe it was just that we were unused to
the bikes, left side driving, and English habits. Began
to get used to roundabouts, but still unsure of the
"rules" for getting through one safely.
Signaling was a particular problem; I never (for the
entire trip) learned that I had to shut the turn signals
off manually (the Harleys' shut off automatically; you
would have thought the Japanese also could have figured
out how to do this).
Stopped for lunch at an English institution, a
Little Chef (warning, avoid if at all possible! Just
about any mom-and-pop shop has better food). About 4
p.m., arrived in vicinity of York, and decided to take
this route just to pass through this historic city.
Stopped briefly to rest in York, walked the streets of
the old city, and saw the cathedral from the outside
(it's undergoing extensive exterior renovations). Then
headed northeast across the North York Moors to the North
Sea and Redcar. The moors are fascinating and beautiful.
I had always thought of "moors" as being
essentially low swampy places (I have no idea where I got
this idea -- The Hounds of Baskerville perhaps),
instead they are quite substantial hills and valleys
covered by low brush on the crowns, mostly heather I'm
told, and grazed by sheep. It was a real pleasure to get
out of the traffic of the A1 and urban England, and it
was our first hint that there was a rural England.
Arrived in Redcar around 7 p.m. and spent
considerable time wandering aimlessly around as Sharon
tried to remember where Kevin lived. Finally she called,
but don't ever claim that it is just a man-thing never to
stop and seek directions.
Redcar is a seaside city, just to the
south of Middlesbrough and Newcastle Upon Tyne, perhaps
150 miles south of Edinburgh and about 70 miles from the
England/Scotland border. It is a mainly industrial area.
We stayed two nights with Kevin Luxmore, a friend of
Sharon's, and a most amiable host. He served a good
supper, including wine -- Sharon claims I became a bit
tipsy, I won't know; then we went to the local pub for a
pint. After 11 PM closing I went off to bed (my
explanation was that I was exhausted since I'd had only 2
hours sleep since leaving New York), and Sharon stayed up
a bit longer to renew an old friendship.
| DAY 2. THURSDAY,
AUGUST 6TH, THE NORTH YORK MOORS:
|Kevin took us
out for a good English Breakfast at a small (quaint) shop
by the seacoast: eggs, bacon (actually what we call
"Canadian" bacon), sausage, blood pudding,
beans (ala Campbell's), fried red tomatoes, and fried
bread. Yummy, I loved it! But Sharon's mostly vegetarian
-- need I say more. (We were going to see more of this
culinary masterpiece as the week progressed, and its
||Kevin then lead us on a MC tour of the
moors and surrounding countryside. Kevin is very much a
sports bike aficionado (as are apparently most
motorcyclists in Great Britain) and seemed uncomfortable
with my more stately mode of bike riding. Sharon also had
a bit of trouble with slow turns on dropped her bike
twice, damaging both her clutch and break levers. But
Kevin was a great tour guide, and showed us some fine
riding roads, lovely small towns, and traditional English
pubs. We saw our first single-track roads and free
|Visited Helmsley, a lovely old
village, then to Grosmont where we took a steam train to
Goathland, walked back along the bed of the original 19th
century track, stopping at a small pub straight out of
the 19th century (Sharon wouldn't let me take a picture
of the old codger feeding his cat). When we got back to
Grosmont, we met another friend of Sharon's and Kevin's,
Andy, who then road with us back to Redcar (I
successfully negotiated an apparently famous hairpin
curve coming out of Saltburn-By-The-Sea, which is the
bane of motorcyclists both because of the steepness of
the grade and oncoming traffic. More on this curve later
in the log). A great ride. Looking back on it now, it's
hard to believe we did so much in a single day.
Got fish and chips takeout for supper from a
chip shop or "chippy," then again to the local
pub for a pint before to bed, tired but well satisfied.
| DAY 3. FRIDAY,
AUGUST 7TH, EAST COAST OF ENGLAND TO THE WEST COAST OF SCOTLAND:
|Woke to a
misty day, with the threat of rain. Went to the local
Honda dealer for replacements of the damaged controls on
Sharon's bike. Kevin and Andy are to ride with us part
way across northern England.
off about 10 am, and it shortly starts to rain. Stop for
gas, and for the first time put on our rain gear. A third
friend of theirs, who was to join us, decides not to
because of the rain. Rain mostly stops after è¯µr or
so, but day continues misty, with occasional heavier
stuff. We keep rain gear on all day.
Northern England on A684, a great road through picture
book countryside, farmland and small villages of The
Pennines hills. Stopped at Hawes for tea. Then across a
mountain on a single track road to Thwake (Thwake is
nothing more than a T in the road really), where Kevin
and Andy leave us to return to Redcar, and we continue
More single track road as
we cross a second mountain. Sheep and goats everywhere.
Sheep barely note your passing, some dozing in the
roadway, but goats are more aggressive and attacked
Sharon twice. Road frequently travels along ridges with
fairly steep drop offs, sharp curves and no guardrails --
I'm a bit acrophobic at times. But Sharon negotiates
roads like a pro; the prior day's mishaps are forgotten.
Light rain, fog and wind as we cross the higher passes
added to the adventure and sense of timelessness. Are we
in legendary Britain or what!
|Finally met up
with the A66 at Brough, and we're not ungrateful for an
easy ride west to Penrith, then the M6 north past
Carlisle to the England/Scotland border. We then again
headed west on the A75, past Dumfries. Our goal was to
spend the night at Girvan on the southwest coast of
Scotland, but it was getting late (the rain and country
roads had resulted in slower progress than expected), so
we decided to spend the night at Castle Douglas, stopping
at the first bed and breakfast we saw as we entered the
town, and took lodging. Perhaps I should have paid more
attention to the hand written notice on the downstairs
pub door announcing Friday as Karaoke night. The room was
small, but clean with comfortable twin beds. After
refreshing, we went in search of dinner, and found a
pleasant restaurant in the center of town. Returned, and
were in bed by 9:30 p.m. I awake suddenly at 10:30 PM!
Loud chorus of voices from below. And for the next hour
and a half, the din is unceasing. Tipsy voices only sound
good to tipsy listeners, certainly not to a tired old
biker. Fortunately the pub closed at midnight, although
for the next 15 minutes the townsfolk could be heard
singing their way home. Sharon sleeps through it all, but
complains in the morning that my snoring kept her awake.
I'm conscious of her poking me several time during the
night, and shouting "shhh!". Go figure.
| DAY 4. SATURDAY,
AUGUST 8TH, CASTLE DOUGLAS TO FORT WILLIAM:
and go down to breakfast. In addition to cold cereals,
we're offered a full "Scottish" breakfast which
turns out to be fully equivalent to the English variety.
The proprietor also offers poached eggs which Sharon
orders. It turns out that "poached" eggs are
equivalent to hard boiled eggs outside the shell, and my
full breakfast is appropriately daunting.
The proprietor recommends taking the A713 north
to Ayr instead of continuing along the coast on the A75
and A77. We had already considered this, since we were
behind schedule. The ride was pleasant, through modest
hills and forests, along lochs (lakes), good road and
light traffic. The rain had mostly stopped, although we
did don our rain gear.
|At Ayr we headed north along the coast. This is
"old" resort country, with much of the
architecture high Victorian hotels and shops. It was
definitely warmer (the influence of the Gulf stream, I'm
told). We stopped a Largs for tea down by the harbor. The
sun has come out, and we pack away the rain gear. Then on
to Gourock where we took a ferry across the Firth of
Clyde to Dunoon (bypassing
Glasgow) then along Loch Eck and Loch Fyne to Inveraray,
stopping along the way and taking a lunch of smoked
salmon. I'm feeling well satisfied, and we (actually
Sharon) decided to continue along a coastal route toward
our target of Fort William. The roads are mostly good,
except for occasional slowdowns because of slow moving
caravans (vacation trailers/campers) and trucks. And the
scenery continues magnificent -- low beinns (mountains)
and lochs, forests and small towns.
|We pass through
Lochgilphead, and Oban at the mouth of Loch Linnhe. We're
"officially" in the Highlands, and it's
beginning to get later in the evening than I like
normally to break for the day. We check our bed and
breakfast guidebook, and decide to look for lodging at
Ballachulish, about 10 miles south of Fort William --
mainly because I'm getting quite tired, grouchy, and not
dealing to well with the uncertainty of no bed in sight.
We stop at several places -- no room at the inn. I'm
really not dealing with this situation very well. On to
Fort William, stopping at the first bed and breakfast
hotel we come to. The rate is right, and the room is
good. We take it! My spirits brighten.
After refreshing, we went into the center of
town for dinner, had an adequate Indian meal, and
chatting a bit with four bikers (all with sport bikes)
from New Castle away from their wives for the weekend.
Fort William is clearly a town catering to tourists. But
that's O.K. We're tourists, and we needed a bit of
| DAY 5. SUNDAY,
AUGUST 9TH, MALLAIG AND THE ISLE OF SKYE:
|I had another
full Scottish breakfast, and beginning to wonder when
enough was enough. We decided to spend a second night in
Fort William, and planned a day trip to Mallaig and the
Isle of Skye.
||We decided to take the
ferry from Mallaig to the Isle of Skye, go as far north
as time would allow, then return by way of the more
northerly route, including the new Skye Bridge, back to
Fort William. The road to Mallaig starts promising, and
we stop at Glenfinnan -- where
romantic Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the banner of
rebellion with the Highland Clans in August 1745 against
the English. Ghosts are everywhere. Sharon and I climbed
the hill upon which the banners were probably raised. The
view down Glenfinnan and Loch Shiel is prototypical of
many in the highlands. And even though it's another
cloudy, misty day, this somehow adds to the sense of
timelessness. Away from the loch is the arched viaduct of
the railroad to Mallaig, which still runs excursion steam
trains, as well as regular passenger service.
|We continue on to Mallaig,
and the road soon turns single track. And unlike the
other single track roads we've been on, there is
significant traffic. While interesting and picturesque,
it's somewhat tiresome. We pass a few other bikers, and
for a change, I see a couple on a Harley. Arriving at
Mallaig, the end of the road and railroad, is a bit
anticlimactic -- there's not much there but the railroad
station, the ferry terminal, a few fishing vessels, and
shops catering to tourists; although there does appear to
be some new residential development on the hills, perhaps
vacation homes. Shortly after we arrive and purchase
tickets for the ferry, the steam train arrives -- photo
opportunity! We have fish and chips for lunch, off
newsprint, with our fingers. Very British, very greasy --
||We take the ferry to
Advasar, the terminal on The Isle of Skye. They
have us lash down our bikes, but sea is calm. I sing Skye
Boat Song to Sharon. She's embarrassed. More incredible
scenery as we cross over. It's all beginning to become a
bit overpowering -- scenetic overload. Try to imagine
being Bonnie Prince Charlie, but somehow a car ferry
doesn't fit the image.
single track road leads from the terminal northeast to
central Skye. Long lines of cars following caravans. Wish
we had been one of the first to get off the ferry, not
|Finally get to the main
road north toward Portree. We had hoped to be able to get
to Dunvegan Castle in
northern Skye, but it became obvious that by the time we
got there, it was likely to be closed, so we stopped for
tea just past the turnoff for the Castle at Sligachan,
then turned back toward Fort William.
||The northern route back
was easier road, and I at one point I burned well ahead
of Sharon, enjoying the smooth easy curves of the road to
Invergarry and the Great Glen. Need I say it -- more
great scenery including a photo-op above Loch Loyne and
the Beinneun Forest .
|Arrived back at the hotel
about 8 PM. I had a really pleasant day, even though we
didn't reach the goal of the north coast of Skye. Tried
to have dinner at a Scottish restaurant with a
"folk" floor show, but it was full booked, so
again ate in an Indian place (different venue, same management). Struck up a conversation with an apparently
single gentleman at the table next to ours. I went to the
loo so that they could have a few moments of private
conversation. But it was not to be.
| DAY 6. MONDAY,
AUGUST 10TH, FORT WILLIAM TO STIRLING:
|Passed up the
full breakfast. Enough! Instead took cold cereal and a
fried egg instead.
today is to get to Stirling, 30 miles or
so west of Edinburgh. If all goes well, we'll spend two
nights there, taking the train into Edinburgh on Tuesday.
We have a relatively easy trip across the highlands into
the lowlands of eastern Scotland on the A86 and A9. Good
road all the way, and not all that much traffic until we
get near to Perth.
||Arrive in Stirling in mid
afternoon, and without too much difficulty find a bed and
breakfast, the Burns View, in central Stirling, a short
walk to the train station, and in the shadow of Stirling
Castle; they also had off street parking for the bikes,
which was an important consideration. Checked out the
trains to Edinburgh; it is about a 30 minutes trip, and
trains are frequent; good.
|Took a short trip to Doune
and toured the medieval castle there, and then to
Dunblane to visit the "cathedral." (See
discussion about cathedrals in Scotland when I visit St.
Giles). Took a late soup lunch at Dunblane, and Sharon (I
suspect out of desperation) purchased nasal strips in the
hope that it would cure my snoring.
||On returning back to
Stirling, I saw a large monument on top of a hill outside
the city, and sought it out. Turned out it was the National Wallace Monument to Scotland's first freedom fighter. Walked up
the hill to the base of the monument, but it was too late
in the day to go to the top. Victorian architecture at
it's best/worst. On the way back to the bed and
breakfast, found our way to the esplanade of Stirling Castle. While
the castle itself was closing, the panoramic view of the
valley from esplanade clearly showed why the castle had
such strategic significance.
Returned back to the bed and breakfast, parked the bikes,
had an ordinary meat and brew supper at a high street
restaurant, visited a local pub for a pint, then to bed.
| DAY 7. TUESDAY,
AUGUST 11TH, EDINBURGH:
porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast.
Took the train to Edinburgh. Edinburgh festival
in full swing. Lots of tourists and street performers,
etc. Got ourselves into the full tourist mode. First
stop, picked up tickets for the Edinburgh Tattoo, then on
to Edinburgh Castle. Took
the castle tour. Then strolled the streets of the old
|Visited St. Giles "Cathedral". (Calling it a "cathedral" is a bit
annoying to a Presbyterian. There is no such thing as a
bishop in our polity; and therefore no need to have a
diocesan seat for a bishop -- a cathedral. In fact, even
in the old days, it was but a short while a cathedral
during the reformation struggles of the 17th century. And
after all, this was Church of Scotland. When I confronted
one of the tourist information officers about this, he
just rolled his eyes. Apparently he had heard this
argument too much before. St. Giles was, without a doubt
however, appropriately the "high kirk" of
Edinburgh. And I could feel John Knox's presence as he
railed against the excesses of the English and Roman
churches of the time.)
wandered the streets, watching street performers. Took a
bus tour, which was more important to our feet than to
our understanding of Edinburgh. Then had supper at a
non-pretentious but very good French restaurant (perhaps
our best meal of the trip), then on to the Tattoo.
|The Tattoo was, well, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Military bands, both brass and pipes, dancers,
stunt motorcycles. Fully met my expectations for
excessive and blatant nationalism. The bands were precise
and well costumed. And the audience appreciative. I sat
next to an elderly lady brought by her son. She sang all
the WWII songs, rhythmatically clapped where expected,
and at one point, when I was not clapping, jabbed me in
the knee for me to join in (I did!). When it was all done
she exclaimed, "Smashing, just smashing! Keep
applauding, maybe they'll do more." Sharon, on the
other hand, seemed less enthused. I kept telling her to
view it as anthropological research into an alien
culture. But in the end, I think she grudgingly enjoyed
it a bit. (Sharon's comment: "I 'did' enjoy it... it
was just past my bedtime... I loved the setting with the
castle behind." Ah, she likes castles with
derrieres. ) Unfortunately, I didn't have the correct
speed film in my camera, so was not able to get any
We then rushed
to get the last train back to Stirling. When we got to
the bed and breakfast, found it locked (proprietor forgot
we were returning late). Took a bit to rouse him, but in
the end we didn't have to sleep on the doorstep.
| DAY 8.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12, STIRLING TO REDCAR:
and toast -- and my stomach was grateful.
We're winding down and returning home, now. Took
the M9 north and east toward Edinburgh, then the A720
around the city to the A7 south toward Galashiels.
Crossed the Moorfoot Hills. Nice rural country. Started
to rain heavy enough to put on rain gear. Joined the A68
through Jedburgh. Then crossed the Scotland/England
border at the Chevoit Hills and stopped for a photo-op.
Searched for Hadrian's Wall west of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
And while this had been one of my initial targeted
"sites" for the trip, when I found it was going
to cost something to visit (none of the historic sites in
Great Britain seem to be free), and required traveling
more out of our way than I thought reasonable, we (more
accurately, I) abandoned the quest. I was traveled out!
|Sharon took the lead as
she was more familiar with this part of England. We
managed to get separated in Darlington, and after riding
around for a bit searching each other out, and just as I
had managed to get out the map in a real gale (almost
tipped the bike over), trying to figure my way to Redcar
alone, she appears. We get to Redcar. Kevin had gone off
on holiday to Greece, so we had the house to ourselves.
After relaxing a bit, we decide to go to
Saltburn-By-The-Sea for a "Pub Meal." I was a
bit apprehensive after she reminded me that the return
required negotiating again the infamous hairpin curve.
But I decided to go, since it appeared to be my only
chance at getting steak and kidney pie, or a similar
highlight of English cuisine. We had a pleasant meal, of
steak and mushroom pie (close enough). Then back to
Redcar. Sharon makes the curve out of town smooth as silk
-- she's become a real pro. I start through and the bike
stalls -- forgot to downshift to first (the Harley would
have made it in second without a whimper). There I was,
trying to start the bike while keeping it from rolling
back on a hill that seemed close to 45 degrees, not
dropping it, with cars close on my tail, my visor fogged
over, and (worst of all) two girls on the adjacent
sidewalk laughing. I needed more appendages to control
everything. But, I must say, I kept my cool, and pulled
out as gracefully as one can in this situation.
Sharon has her own bedroom at Kevin's
for the first time in a week. Her last words as she turns
in are, "Maybe I'll get a good nights sleep at
| DAY 9. THURSDAY,
AUGUST 13TH, TO HEATHROW AND HOME:
Our objective is to
get to Ruislip Manor, drop off the bikes, and get to
Heathrow in time to catch my 6:30 p.m. flight to JFK. We
get started a bit later than I would have like, but we
should still have plenty of time. Traffic hasn't improved
on the A1, but I think we are both a bit more comfortable
and understanding of English driving habits. While I
still don't fully understand the rules of roundabouts, I
seem to be fairly successful in their negotiation. Sharon
has given up on me ever promptly to turn off my turn
signals. While not quite sure how to get back to the
motorcycle hire shop, we manage to get there without
serious error. My bike, on return, has had about 2200
kilometers added. No damage to either bike is apparent.
We get back to Heathrow about an hour before my scheduled
flight time, say our goodbyes, still pretty much on good
terms with each other. While my flight is delayed about
an hour because of a minor engine problem, its arrival at
JFK is only about a hour late, and Richard meets me
without incident. While the flight-time is 9 hours,
arrive at JFK about 11 PM EDT. Home in a little over an
hour, and to bed.
| DAY AFTER. FRIDAY, AUGUST 14TH, SLEEP
MOST OF THE DAY:
|Real Coffee for
Except for taking
some film to the photoshop, sleep all day.