“No Mr Bond…I expect you to die”.

Two years into the relocation to the USA, it seemed appropriate that I should visit the neighbours. Karen and I had popped over the border from Seattle to visit our Commonwealth cousins in Canada, but that was too near to count as an adventure.

We’d had the chance to ride in China, Hainan Province in the very south, but that had been curtailed when we found our bike rental money, was funding the purchase of young girls. So, I was ripe for a new challenge; Central and South America.

Preliminary research on Horizonsunlimited.com, a site for these sort of motorcycle trips, soon revealed that almost the total population of the USA were heading to Tierra Del Fuego on two wheels, joined by an even greater number of Brits, Aussies and anyone else you wish to mention. It might be epic, but it was also lacking the elite challenge that I was looking for. I should point out here, that an “elite challenge” doesn’t mean punishing hardship, athletic feats of endurance, or anything tougher than I can possibly encounter in a day at the office…so a sort of soft challenge, the marshmallow of challenges, in the peanut brittle shop of challenges.

What could I add, that would distinguish my tootle down the pan american, from those of the others on the crowded convoy?

Naturally I’d follow the unchained ethos that I adopted for the ride across the USA and which I followed up with www.unchainedworld.com, and, which to my surprise was then emulated by a Brit comedian, who no doubt made a truck load of cash out of his version, called Unchained USA, thanks a bunch Mr Gorman. But I needed more, something else, daring do with a touch of freshness.

Inspiration first came from a song lyric…”they’ve got an awful lot of coffee in Brazil”, almost as much as we have in coffee saturated Seattle. So the initial challenge was, no coffee.

But that’s easy. I don’t drink the stuff as it is, yet still manage to function and stay awake without “the fix”.

Tea…I drink tea. So that was set. Queue song lyric two: trust me this is a song:

Featured in Buchanan’s 1935 comedy film, “Come Out Of The Pantry”
(Goodhart / Hoffman / Sigler)
Jack Buchanon

Every nation in creation has its favourite drink
France is famous for its wine, it’s beer in Germany
Turkey has its coffee and they serve it blacker than ink
Russians go for vodka and England loves its tea

Oh, the factories may be roaring
With a boom-a-lacka, zoom-a-lacka, wee
But there isn’t any roar when the clock strikes four
Everything stops for tea

Oh, a lawyer in the courtroom
In the middle of an alimony plea
Has to stop and help ’em pour when the clock strikes four
Everything stops for tea

It’s a very good English custom
Though the weather be cold or hot
When you need a little pick-up, you’ll find a little tea cup
Will always hit the spot

You remember Cleopatra
Had a date to meet Mark Anthony at three
When he came an hour late she said “You’ll have to wait”
For everything stops for tea

Oh, they may be playing football
And the crowd is yelling “Kill the referee!”
But no matter what the score, when the clock strikes four
Everything stops for tea

Oh, the golfer may be golfing
And is just about to make a hole-in-three
But it always gets them sore when the clock yells “four!”
Everything stops for tea

It’s a very good English custom
And a stimulant for the brain
When you feel a little weary, a cup’ll make you cheery
And it’s cheaper than champagne

Now I know just why Franz Schubert
Didn’t finish his unfinished symphony
He might have written more but the clock struck four
And everything stops for tea

Now I’d have put money on tea being ryhmned with three, but apparently four is the time to stop. Also, a quick question for all; what sort of factory, in the name of all that’s even remotely conceivable, has a production line that goes” a boom-a-lacka, zoom-a-lacka, wee”?  If you were cynical, you could convince yourself it was contrived for the purpose of rhyme.

Sorted. That was it. I’d stop every day at 4pm and make tea. Plan stored away, thank you very much and goodnight.


Not so fast.

 Jump to Lummi Island, just up the road and across the water from Seattle.

Remind me to tell you about my secret lair later.

Karen and I spent Christmas 07 on Lummi Island at a rather delightful B&B. (Unchained of course). Chatting, as one does, with a fellow guest, the bike ride cropped up in the conversation.

“Oh you must have heard the proverb about three cups of tea,” said our fellow guest. But we had not and felt quite ashamed at that fact.

So she told us.

 “First cup is polite introduction, second cup for understanding and third cup for friendship”.

Ta daa! A eureka moment.

I’d not make tea at 4pm and that be it, I’d make tea for someone else too. Three cups of the stuff.

From the unchained across the USA ride, I’d learned that visiting places can sometimes be a ticking off the list job; Grand Canyon, saw it, got the photo, move on. But what you couldn’t capture on film was the people. Well obviously you could get their picture, but not the interaction, not the tales they told, not the rapport that was established. These were locked in the memory and not on a memory card. These were what had made the ride unique, because I could ride back to the Grand Canyon again, but I’d not meet the same people and have the same conversations. Those were the ephemeral elements that I’d cherished and bored people with when reliving the trip. That’s what the trip to South America would be about…the people.

The secret lair?

When the Spanish ran Mexico, they used to sail up the coast. Lummi Island had been one of their stopping off points. Under the juristiction of the nominated Governor of Mexico, one Conde de Padilla, the landing party had named the island Padilla Island. It had changed names a few times since as history had been remapped by fortune and failure. However, my Mother retired from England and went to live in Spain…see where this is going?

Here she has met the current El Conde and struck up a friendship. Both are single, my Dad having passed away in the 1980s, and both are a bit long in the tooth. He has no heirs. So, if my Mother can get her act together and put on enough slap to land El Conde, then who knows, I could inherit the title. At which time I would stake my claim as the true owner of Lummi Island. Okay still with me on this?


Lummi is a great little island, flat at one end and with a  mountain at the other. I reckon, I could slice the top off the mountain, hollow it out and do a Blofeldt Bond villain job on the place. Here’s where it gets really clever though, because I’d open it up as a “tourist attraction secret lair” and sell sausage rolls and steak and kidney pies at the secret lair shop. I’d have T shirts with maps on, but leave them blank. Cunning eh?

I know you think that may be a touch daft, but in Essex in the UK, I lived not far from The Secret Bunker. It was sign posted…This way to the secret bunker…I went. It was quite interesting, but there were no sausage rolls or pies for sale, so that’s where I’d win.

Next time. How Three Cups of Tea went from a ride to a mission, involving an American Himalayas climber and his efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Plus, how Byeways and Pie ways became part of the equation.