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London - Leeds - Bramley

My trip to Bob Jackson Cycles, Ltd

July 15, 1998


My "day in the country" started at Kings Cross Train Station in downtown London. I boarded the 10:05 train to Leeds. It turns out that across the road from Kings Cross is another train , station, and of course, given a 50% chance I chose wrong. The Flying Scotsman Route is operated by GNER the Great Northern Eastern Railway. The fare to Leeds (Bramley was tossed in at no extra charge) was 49 pounds.  Before 9:00, the fare would have been 60.

Along the way was some beautiful country, much the way I had imagined the English countryside would look.  Vast fields, punctuated by small villages.  The only villages we encountered all seemed to have train stations, most were about 20 minutes apart.  Lets see, the train was traveling at an average speed of 90 miles per hour so how far . . .? I couldn't take any pictures from the moving train (none came out anyway) so the best I can offer is this picture of municipal workers hard at it. I hear that employment is at a very good level here.

My destination, Bob Jackson Cycles Ltd, as seen from the train landing in Bramley. The sign says "established 1993. How could this be? I had heard of these cycles since my days at the Twinn Schwinn Bike Shop in the 60's! 

It turns out Mr. Bob Jackson started the company in 1935, sold it in 1986, but resumed control in 1993. Alas, Bob Jackson died this last February. I walked to the store, a tiny bike shop in a community 2 blocks long. The attendant called the factory for me, and said to wait a few minutes. Feeling hungry I went to one of the other storefronts in the building and had the "special" fish and chips, without the chips (they were out). I was offered scallops instead. Thinking I would have a double seafood treat I greadily accepted. But when I was served, scallops turned out to be potato slices in batter, deep fried! The food was served very, very hot, and the grease dripped off into the foam plate. But the haddock and scallops were very tasty indeed.

Meanwhile, back at the shop. Mr. Donald Thomas was waiting for me when I returned, and gave me a belated warning about the fish and chips. He said to follow him and we would go to the shop. We walked around the corner and there it was.

The factory is located above the stores. Inside, he showed me the care they use in refinishing customer bikes and then took me to the assembly area. Here 3 men carefully hand assemble each bike. No sign of an alignment table or complicated jigs. Each set of tubes is carefully measured and painstakingly assembled. In the next room another craftsman paints each bike with a series of paints to insure a long lasting finish. 

At first I was skeptical that this crew could match modern standards, but all fears were removed as I examined the finished frames. The biggest problem with an order to Bob Jackson Cycles will be sorting through all of the options, since there are no standard bikes, no standard paints, no standard anything. Each bike is based on one of about a dozen "concepts" but every aspect of the bike can be mixed and matched and combined and selected for a truly custom finished product. After about 2 hours of discussion, I decided it was time to hit the road.

Next stop, return to Leeds. Bramley is a small community less than 15 minutes by regional train (no, not at 96 mph - hey, why do they quote miles not kilometers). Leeds, however is a large shopping mecca. Called "the fastest growing city in the UK", a mix of office and retail shops nearest the train station. I spent a few hours wandering through the downtown district and found "malls" adjacent to each other. Much like New York, the shopping plazas all began to look alike. I was walking through town when the clock struck 5. I have never seen such a change in activity. The mildly busy streets were suddenly filled with people as the gates were thrown open (or the doors locked?!)

I still had time to kill before my train pulled out, so I continued to wander through town. The sign above the entrance to a wharf side shopping district (it was after 5, all the shops were closed "as usual") reminded me how fascinated this county is with the Millennium. From the under construction multi-million dollar Millennium dome to local shopping outlets to stories in the newspapers (Barbra Streisand is trying to beat out Sarah Brightman as the featured singer at the welcoming party!?) to lively discussions overheard on the train (when does it really start?), this country is very much preoccupied with the years 1999/2000/2001. Hmmm, When does it start? I'll have to ask the date of the big concert. I've been reminded that whatever the correct, day and year, it will happen here first! 

The second interesting scene was this group of chaps fishing under the railway bridge. From my vantage point, I'd be reluctant to swim in the canal, let alone eat any thing caught in it.

Well, it was time to board the train for the return trip. Aboard the train I decided to splurge and have dinner in the dining car. The "first class" passengers can eat at the tables in their cars, or have first priority in the dining car. Next are the passengers paying "super standard class", then they allow "open standard class" and finally, if space permits we holders of "standard super-saver" tickets are allowed in. My hopes were not very high when I first began the 5 car walk. But there was a table for 4 with 2 vacant seats, so I joined a pair of tired advertising junior executives. They had traveled from London to pitch an account a new concept, but instead met a barrage of questions on past results. Together they finished off 2 bottles of wine and were making plans to continue when they reached London. I enjoyed a very nice meal and held my self to a half bottle.

Now, I'm back in London and its getting late. As I finish this page, its 3:10 in the afternoon where you are, that means where I am (WORLD TIME) its 96 miles ... no 23:10, err 11:10pm. So goodnight.

> > My first trip to London 10-20 July 1998
> > A trip to Leeds - 15 July 1998
> > Central London -18 July 1998
> > The New Forest - 24-25 October 1998
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