Day 1 – Boston to Orton

I suppose that this post should rightly be entitled “Narragansett to Orton” because the chauffeured ride from home to Logan Airport was memorable in its own right. Certainly any 80 mph drive up Route 95 is memorable but this particular jet pack excursion was extra special because Bill, Mike’s trusted driver, hails from Cranston and is old enough to have frequented many of the same haunts that Mike and I prowled in our youth. A normally dreary and angst-ridden sojourn on the Boston expressways was transformed into a wonderful trip down memory lane with the three of us regaling one another with tales of youthful adventures and misadventures where the settings were the same.

But this is a Coast-to-Coast blog so I’ll change gears now and commence to provide a minutely-detailed description of our journey from Boston to The George Hotel in Orton, Penrith, Cumbria UK where I sit in the not-yet-open-for-business pub on the ground floor writing these words. Actually I will do no such thing as this trip, booked as it was through Aer Lingus (my national airline), was nearly flawless. Check-in at Boston was quick and painless.  The transatlantic flight was smooth and comfortable marred only by the minor annoyance of my earphone jack being broken requiring me to amuse myself with an audio book. The transfer through Dublin airport despite our early arrival at 4:45AM was so easy that I was pinching myself in case this had all been a dream and I was actually asleep in Bill’s van stuck in traffic on Route 93. The 40-minute flight from Dublin to Manchester was barely a blip in the day. And the train from Manchester Airport to Penrith was remarkably prompt, clean and quiet* and it delivered us exactly on time to the curb in Penrith and the waiting Damien of A1 Alliance Taxi who held a handwritten sign that read “Dennis to the George Hotel in Orton.” By 12:30 we were here.

I had mentioned in an earlier post that one goal of this trip was to reunite with the proprietors of this place, Andy and Bruna, to thank them for the kindnesses they showed to us when grief befell us in this very place last year.  Despite our early arrival, Bruna opened the locked front door as we turned to leave Damien’s taxi and she immediately professed a memory of us and all that had transpired in our brief history together. As soon as we crossed the threshold, Andy emerged from the room behind the bar clad in paint-smeared shirt, coveralls and boots to extend an equally warm greeting.

Mere minutes later, Bruna had shown us to our rooms and we settled in – me with a shower and shave and Mike with a nap. Once I had scrubbed off the aroma of a long day’s travel and removed the gray stubble from  my face, I ventured out for some fresh air and a stroll around this most enchanting little village with its crooked lanes, stone cottages and 12th century Anglican church and its equally ancient graveyard. I wandered into the little variety store to buy an 80p bar of chocolate energy to spell me through to dinner time. A friendly red-haired  lady behind the counter chatted with me to inquire about the purpose of my visit to this sleepy place. I briefly explained the interrupted walk of 2022 and our wish to see Andy and Bruna, she replied ”Well, you’ve come just in time!” I don’t recall if I said something or if I just made a queer face showing a failure to grasp but she next delivered the distressing news that the Jennings Brewery, which owns the building and the pub where I sit, has placed the entire operation on the block for sale and that “Andy and Bruna will be sorely missed when they quit this place in a matter of weeks.” I returned to the hotel and put the question to them directly and, indeed, these good people have little choice but to try to outbid all comers or get on with their lives.  They have opted, sadly, for the latter. We would likely never return to this place again, but still this variety of forced transiency saddens me.

Tomorrow we walk.

* I will add parenthetically that America’s passenger rail system is an embarrassment

Ready to leave (our driver, Bill, looked around and asked “Why are you leaving here?”                                  (Last picture of us- promise)

Our little village – for the day

My writing desk – for the day

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