I met my English friends, Keith and Val, about fifteen years ago in Kissimmee, Florida. They were on holiday from Pool in Wharfdale, a small village outside Leeds in the UK. My partner and I rode our motorcycles from Tennessee to Florida, and we had actually befriended another couple from England first, striking up a conversation poolside at the Golden Link Motel. I don’t remember her name, but his name was Steve. I remember him because he reminded me of my dad, a short, stocky fellow, bald, with a toothless grin. While my dad had all his teeth, he was stocky and short, only five foot three inches, a hard worker and business owner in the HVAC industry. Steve was the same, although a plumber, if I remember correctly. He showed all the signs of a hard worker, callused hands, leathery skin, and tired eyes. One particular day, I was sunbathing poolside and decided to get in the water to cool off. Steve, his wife, Keith, and Val joined me in the pool and we all got to talking. I really enjoyed our conversations about everything and we all just clicked.
For the next several years, we vacationed at the Golden Link in Kissimmee, Florida at roughly the same time, so we got to know each other. When my partner died, I kept up the travels to Florida and continue my friendship with Keith and Val. Sadly, Steve, and his wife, had stopped coming to America because their daughter suffered a botched surgery that left her an invalid, so she required twenty-four hour care.
In 2013, I traveled to the UK to visit Keith and Val. It was my first time to travel abroad and they took excellent care of me. We visited castles and old churches in places like Skipton and York, Val prepared authentic English meals, complete with fish pie and Yorkshire pudding, and of course, we dined at a fish-n-chips restaurant where they served the traditional meal wrapped in newspaper. Also, it was Christmastime, so I got to experience their Christmas traditions, including Christmas crackers, mincemeat, and mulled wine.
We continued meeting in Kissimmee at the same motel until Covid. That was last time I got to see Val in person. She died in February 2022. And while I was sad I did not get to see her in person again, I was delighted to get to visit Keith this past May at the bungalow they purchased in Bridlington, East Yorkshire a few years ago. They have a lovely home and I had a wonderful time visiting with him and seeing the seaside of England. His bungalow sits on the North Sea, so it was exciting to watch the sun rise over the water and it amazed me that daylight was so much earlier in the morning.
Again, we visited old churches, priories, and a castle or two. The history in this country is rich and long, with many of the places nearly a thousand years old. I particularly enjoyed the The Priory Church of St Mary in Bridlington, which was originally a monastery, and now the local parish. I also enjoyed Pickering in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire, where I visited the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Pickering Castle, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and a wonderful tea room called Botham’s of Whitby. The Church was amazing with 12th century medieval paintings. You can read more about that place in Atlas Obscura.
I look forward to going back in the Spring to visit Keith and see more of the English countryside. This time I plan to rent a car, and bring a writer friend. This will be a new experience I am looking forward to and it will be interesting to drive on the other side of the road in a car with the steering wheel sitting on the right, instead of the left.