Tag Archives: two wheels

Last ride of the season

Still coughing and spluttering a bit to the point where my upper chest aches first thing in the morning. This London cough has been no fun at all. I’ve been home for three weeks and it’s hanging around like a bad smell. Gone but certainly not forgotten.

The other not so good news is that the Mutts insurance finishes tomorrow. So I went for a quick spin around town for the last time this afternoon before I put my big blue motorcycle into storage. Temperatures locally have settled into the single digits with some serious hail on Tuesday, some of which, like my cough, I noted was still hanging around at the edges of the road as I rode around town.

When I was bowling along happily in the sunlight it wasn’t too bad, but once passing through shadows for more than a kilometre, despite several layers of insulation I felt the cold leaking in. After an hours meandering around at both highway and urban speeds I retreated home feeling like I’d been working in a cold store, naked. Chilled to my bones. Haven’t felt this cold since I was soaked to the skin on a rainy Winter days foot patrol. It was just like half my body heat had leaked away.

Now as Mrs S likes to say I have what she calls a ‘cold weather metabolism’. Anything above zero Celsius doesn’t really bother me. Normally speaking. I can sit in an unheated room in light clothing while everybody else has chattering teeth. Think there must be some hidden Geordie in my DNA. So the wind chill must have been getting into sub zero territory. Should have worn my trusty old heavy leather riding jacket rather than my Summer riding gore-tex. Maybe some heavier gloves and switched on the heated grips. However, we can all be wise after the event can’t we?

Oh well, it all burns calories and I’m off to arrange some storage insurance tomorrow before I put the Mutt into hibernation mode for the Winter. Not that I won’t be running the engine at least twice a week to keep the battery alive and fluids circulating. Then when the temperatures begin to rise in Spring I’ll put full riders insurance on again and get out and about. Not that it’s been a great riding season for fair weather riders like me. To be quite honest I hear all the panicmongering about the coming heat death of the universe as promised by the UN and think “Bring it on.” Some higher temperatures and less rain, at least around Victoria BC this Summer, would have been nicer. I remember the foreshortened riding seasons of the 1970’s and 80’s. Those weren’t much fun.

Now there’s a promise of a longer, thirty year global cold period coming, perhaps even a descent into a new Maunder-like solar minimum, which kind of makes a nonsense of all the rhetoric about oceans drowning the cities or higher temperatures making places uninhabitable. Seriously, haven’t these people heard of galoshes or air conditioning? No really. I’ve a sneaking notion that as things cool we’ll actually see global CO2 levels stop rising or even begin to drop off as outgassing from the oceans that cover two thirds of our little blue green planet reduces or even reverses. The upside of which will mean that all the carbon doomsayers will have to find something sensible to talk about. Not that it’s likely. Some people just aren’t happy if there’s nothing to act up about. Me, I like being able to relax and enjoy things. We only get one life each and it’s important not to waste it.

The downside of a global cooling means coughing up funds for some better insulated riding gear. Winter drawers on as they say. Note to self; must get some shares in Damart or other maker of thermal underwear. Now there’s a marketplace which is due to take off in the next few years.

Well that worked

Or rather it didn’t. Put not thy trust in Princes, to bastardise the old biblical saying, nor in the weatherman in whom there is no hope. Despite grey skies, Wednesday’s weather forecast up the island highway all the way up to Campbell river said dry and cloudy. Oh no it wasn’t. Thursday afternoon, what was supposed to be a sedate swan northbound was a damp old ride once I cleared the big hump of rock we call the Malahat. So the Mutt and I turned around and retreated back to the louring grey skies of Victoria.

Am taking great delight in the downfall of the idiot fop who weaseled his way into becoming the Prime Minister of Canada, a post for which he is both unqualified and has too little real life working experience. All the times he has claimed to be ‘anti-racist’ and a ‘feminist’ are turning out to be a bit of a bad joke. Three cheers anyone? Hip-hip hypocrite!

Not only is Trudeau a known groper of women, but also once liked imitating, some would say parodying, darker skinned people. Mm-hm. That’s without being a corrupt politician whose office goes against it’s own much vaunted principles. If he doesn’t get voted out during our October election, I for one will look at my fellow Canadians with even more disdain than at present. Not that I really like the idea of Andrew Scheer as PM. He’s kind of a very wet cod-liberal who wouldn’t try to bail out a boat if it was sinking, just in case it ‘offended’ someone. My vote, such as it is, is going to our local People’s Party Candidate. I like what Maxime Bernier is saying, and will be giving his fledgling party what support I can.

Any way. The sun is shining and I’m suited and booted for some weekend riding.

Boring….

A bit bored at the moment. We’re on the run up to London in just under a month and looking for places to entertain ourselves. I’m rather put out because the weather around here has turned quite damp, so the Mutt is currently snuggled up under cover and I find myself reluctant to look out of the window at the rain. Such are the issues with being a fair weather only rider. I’ve got a hankering to take a run up past Comox (450km there and back, all right, 280miles) or even Campbell River (530km round trip, about 330miles) to clear some accumulated cobwebs.

On the plus side, work is under control and Management are happy with the what’s, why’s and wherefores of my workload, which I can handle without difficulty because I’ve whittled a number of tasks, including my weekly reporting, down to a few mouse clicks. It’s all a question of streamlining and automating the simpler procedures, which I’ve had time to do over the Summer, even with me and the Mutt sneaking out for two or three hundred kilometre long rides while things are slack. The mountain loop round Sooke and up to Port Renfrew, thence over the hump to Duncan via Lake Cowichan and back to the barn is a favourite. The road surface gets a bit rough after China bay and up to Port Renfrew but it’s very scenic. You go from a massive vista over the Pacific, where there’s nothing between you and Japan to nice tightening curves between the hills, dodging the logging trucks as you gain altitude. Snow normally hits the high ground in early November on this particular leg, so this is a Summer only pleasure. The Mutt is going into cold storage in the garage until the end of April 2020, so I’ll be making the most of all the sunshine we have left until October.

I was rather hoping that the warmer weather would continue for a while, but like I said, it’s raining and I’m no longer happy to don waterproofs and duke it out with everything the British and European sky can hand out. Never mind the Canadian weather. Yes, you can call me a wuss, but over the years I’ve ridden in everything from blazing heat waves where the mercury casually blew past the hundred and ten Fahrenheit (Forty three Celsius) marker to thunderstorms, torrential downpours where the rain meets itself coming back up, cannonball pea sized hail and even near whiteout blizzards. I’ve come home soaked to the skin through full waterproofs and on a couple of occasions with my leathers covered in a quarter inch of ice. So. Been there, done that, not dumb enough to want to do it again.

One of the benefits of my current age is experience and what I consider a little hard won wisdom. So there.

Tempus, fugitting

Time is ticking down. Old family friend is declining with them, which means we get phone calls every day accusing the care team at her senior living facility with all kind of wrong doing. So we as powers of attorney have to co-ordinate mental health and her carers to make sure of maximum co-operation and minimum alienation. I think we all know she’s on the home stretch. She’s been working herself into a nervous frazzle and with her damaged heart probably doesn’t have long in this world. So our emergency travel bag sits at the ready because it will be us doing the unpleasant post mortem details like formal identification. Note to self, get funeral clothes out of cold storage. Black shoes, white shirt, formal suit, black tie. There are things which must not only be done properly, but also seen to be done after that fashion. This is the way we in our household prepare for these sad occasions. This is how we say goodbye to an old and highly respected friend. Slow, reluctant walk to the cemetery, brisk walk home. Life will go on and those we hold in our hearts can never die. Not a happy thought, but I can see it’s looming inevitability like an oncoming train.

Fuck. I hate doing this.

However, the other thought occurs that we will have discharged the debt we owed to elderly friend and her late husband, which is as it should be. We can take comfort in that.

We managed to get her on the phone, but if anything, the confusion has worsened. All we can do is make sure we’re ready.

Stuff it. It’s labour day tomorrow and the weather forecast looks half way decent, so I’m off for a good long 200k plus ride to clear my head. Full tank of gas, suited and booted. Let Mrs S have the car to please herself. Not much else I can do.

Well done that man

So some Tories (Suspended) actually have balls. Well done Mr Field. Some whiny-arse protester crashes your private function and starts berating everyone over an imaginary ‘crisis’ and gets manhandled for their pains. Boo-freaking-hoo. These crazy morons who think it’s okay to create ructions and disrupt the personal lives of others should get a little of what they’re constantly giving out in return. These annoying little shits commonly use harassment and assault against anyone who disagrees with them because Mummy and Daddy didn’t do the hard work of disciplining their child age three, so now society at large has to deal with these emotional retards, these overgrown toddlers who can’t get past emotional age eleven. Maybe if a few get what they deserve the rest of us wouldn’t have to put up with their narcissistic disruptions.

Sometimes I think Mott the Hoople had the only solution to these self centred shits who can’t show a little decorum and respect a democratic vote.

You wanted equal rights? Ah kiddies, you forget there’s equal wrongs too. Life taught me to never start a fight and (after learning the hard way one time) I never will, but finishing them is another matter.

On the subject of woman trouble, the possible next UK Prime Minister has just had some. Shouting and arguing was heard at the flat Boris Johnson shared with his notoriously green remainer girlfriend, not sure what for, but Bojo probably needs a new place of residence a.s.a.p. Having looked at the situation, frankly it’s better for the country if she was history, influences like that should be nowhere near the seat of UK power in the current climate and I’m sure Boris will find himself someone more amenable. Yes he’s a first class philandering dick from a sexual standpoint, but that doesn’t make him incompetent. All that bumbling amiable bluff and bluster is just a front. Whenever he’s been in a position of power he’s made a reasonable fist of things, unlike his successors. I might be reading this entirely wrong, but I do think he can deliver BREXIT and even possibly save the Tories from total electoral annihilation. Because if there is further delay, they will be toast at the ballot box.

Anyway, October 31st will be the proof and I will be in West London, possibly even mulling matters over in person with Tom Paine, a fellow blogger of long standing who writes The Last Ditch.

On the home front, the Mutt has developed an electrical fault which means the battery drains even when everything is switched off, so back to the shop it goes for a little electrical TLC. I think I know what the answer is, but I’ll leave it to the boys with spanners to confirm my suspicions.

The Deck garden has been too windy to sit out in, which is a shame as otherwise the weather has been quite nice and our new rose bush has a set of burgeoning blossoms which look like they will be adding another splash of colour to the mini-jungle outside our kitchen doors. Our two Sunflowers have passed the metre tall mark and one is already developing a flower head. Which is nice. The Lemon Tree plants are growing new leaves and an accident with a seed packet means the planter that was once graced by the pansies might have anything coming up. We shall see. Life has to have some adventure.

Oh what the hell, it’s the weekend. Mine’s a large glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Mrs S will enjoy the odd Vodka and Tonic. We at least are civilised folk, well her more than me.

TTFN

One last item, serious props to Donald Trump for not doing the whole ‘Bomb, bomb Iran’ thing. Apparently he pulled back from retaliating for that shot down surveillance drone after asking “How many casualties?” and getting the answer “One hundred and fifty Mr President.” Which would have only escalated the problems in that area. Good. We could do with a whole lot less mindless military retaliation in this world. World wars are not much fun.

On the other hand, if the provocations keep on coming, then the gloves can come off, but not before.

Update: Re the Mutt. My beautiful big blue motorcycle has a duff battery. Which is kind of odd as I asked and paid for a brand new one to be fitted when I bought it. Has someone not been entirely honest with me? Enquiring minds would like to know. Then theres being deprived of riding time. Not impressed. Not impressed at all. Warranty, warranty, who’s got the warranty? Oh yes. Me.

Gestures

When travelling the roads of the world, some of you will notice that many motorcyclists wave to each other as they pass. There are several forms of gesture, from the nod, to the upright hand wave, drop-v and left boot wiggle. What is the significance of these gestures and who does them? Well I don’t think there’s an official version, but the style of gesture, and who uses them varies greatly depending upon who you are and where you’re from.

Mostly these gestures are about recognition of status between bikers. Whenever I’m out and about on the Mutt, I’ve noticed that the gestures are most widespread amongst those riding European style. The observant among you will also register that North American Harley riders for example very rarely acknowledge anyone unless they’re riding another Massey Ferguson Harley Davidson. Even so, the habit is not widespread among them. Some people think there’s a certain cachet to owning a Harley, personally I disagree. Yes, those big old v-twins have lots of low down grunt, but back in the day, some of the guys I knew who bought them said the electrics were worse than Ducatis, Anyway, that’s by the by. Generally speaking, Harley riders rarely salute anyone but other Harley or Indian riders.

To be honest, there’s often a bit of snobbery here. There is a partisan faction that believes Harleys are the only machine worth having and that ‘rice burners’ (Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki etc, even BMW’s) are not fit to share the same roads. So, fellas, you’re not Marlon Brando fans then? He rode a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T (Not a Speed Twin – cheers Ripper) in the iconic bike flick ‘The Wild one‘. To which I would also add; screw you, I’ve ridden in every weather condition short of a Tornado for over three freaking decades and I’ll ride what I do because it works for me. Don’t need your permission. Go way son, you’re bothering me.

However, the thought does occur that the feet out high handlebar ‘Easy rider’ style adopted by many big V-Twin riders is not exactly conducive to making hand gestures. Perhaps they don’t gesture because it is too difficult to take one hand off the handlebars while in motion, unlike the European style of machine that is increasingly common over here in BC, which is more stable and allows the rider a free left hand.

The etiquette, if such a word can be applied to rough, tough motorbikey types is that only those who ‘live to ride’ or are serious about their riding tend to give these gestures. Never in town, too many hazards. Generally these gestures are only made while on the open road and in motion. Of course if you’re purely a weekend warrior or the rider of a smaller machine like a Honda cub or similar, no one expects it. Nor is there any acknowledged requirement to do so. It’s just the done thing. A salute, a tip of the hat, the acknowledgement of a kindness, a recognition. That’s mostly all it is. We are simply acknowledging our difference from the common herd.

Because let’s face it, riding a motorcycle and surviving for any length of time, in itself is the mark of an individual cut from less common cloth. More switched on. Motorcyclists have to be vastly more alert than most car drivers because we have to do their observing for them. Don’t argue this point, a rider who is inattentive or careless soon pays the penalty because all those idiots in tin boxes are mostly that, idiots. They fiddle with radios, take cell phone calls without hands free, drink coffee, argue with passengers, don’t bother to look or indicate when turning or changing lanes and all other manner of inattentiveness which is the biggest killer on the road. Forget drunk driving or speeding, the biggest cause of all road casualties is the air between the ears, which motorcycle riders, at a deeply visceral level, understand all too well. Which is why so many of us often acknowledge each other. It’s a badge of pride. Of commonality. A kind of “Well done, you’re still breathing. Keep it up.”

As for the type of gesture, this varies from place to place. I’ve seen everything from a sidelong nod to the very French left boot wiggle, but let’s deal with the main ones;


The standard wave; raised left hand upright, palm forward, fingers closed. This is very old school and the most primitive of gestures in the riders lexicon. It just means “Hi.” between riders. Nothing more.


The low wave; fingers loosely spread, thumb out. A general low energy greeting. Meaning; all is cool from whence I have come.


The drop vee; A very continental European variant. Originally from France and Italy (I think). Sort of an upside down V for Victory with the thumb held wide. A more exuberant version of the low wave. General greeting of coolness. Even Bike cops have been observed making this gesture.

The low thumbs up; No image as this is self explanatory. Thumb up, wrist rotated back. Bit of a Fonzie “Heeeyyy!” gesture. Sort of a “Nice day for riding” gesture.
The low wave repeated as though patting; This does have a specific meaning, it means “Slow down” it warns of a hazard ahead. Might be a speed trap, might be a crack up. Take care.
The left boot wiggle; as is suggested. Left boot off footpeg, leg angled out, foot briefly wiggled. Very Francais this. Tres continental. Means ‘thank you’ or ‘murky buckets’ depending on your native tongue. This gesture is almost universal in France and is given to both other riders and car drivers for giving way or any other courtesy.

Well folks, it’s another nice BC day and I will be taking Mrs S out for a spin later after I’ve watered the plants and had breakfast. If anyone can add to the above, the rest of us await enlightenment.

Just a bit of weather

While all the zombie peeps are getting up in arms about ‘saving the planet’ by taxing CO2, might I point out we’re getting another dump of late season snow up in the Rockies. It’s June FFS! I know the old saying goes “Ne’er cast a clout until May be out” but this is ridiculous. Or hasn’t Madame Tracey stepped out of Number Ten yet? She is taking an unconscionable time a-going. So casting any clout of any description or size before she’s gone will be highly premature. Come on girl, get your walking shoes on! Some of us are waiting, clout in hand, to cast it over our shoulder with gay abandon and we can’t do that unless May is out properly. I don’t know, some people just have no consideration.

While we were waiting I took Mrs S out on the back of the Mutt (For those who missed the memo it’s a big blue sports tourer) today for a forty kilometre spin out to Sooke for coffee and a snack before heading back to the barn. Nice and easy little eighty kilometre run. She’s getting more confident on the bends, remembering how to move with the bike, not fight the motion as she was originally doing, which gave me a few headaches, Nevertheless we got home safe and I could feel her relaxing all the way back. She wasn’t holding on so tightly or gripping my hips with her thighs so much.

Which made the ride a pleasant little saunter to catch the air before the rain paid us a visit. Which it has, although not as much as prophesied. Maybe it’s all heading over to the Rockies?

After the warmth of the last few days it has felt a little cooler today. Not enough to warrant adding another layer to my jacket (It’s one of those fancy three layer gore-tex mesh things) but quite refreshing. I really had forgotten how bloody wonderful it is to ride again. Although I’ve long maintained that riding a motorcycle is more real than driving a car. The best analogy I’ve ever come up with is that driving is like watching the match on a big screen TV, while riding is like being on the pitch and in the game itself. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like driving as well, but if given the choice of a sunny day out on the open road it will be Jacket, boots, gloves, helmet, and see ya later. I have been known to get quite carried away. Usually over a hundred miles away from where I started.

Anyway, milady needs new riding gloves as the lining on her twenty year old Belstaffs have begun to disintegrate, so a quick amble downtown is called for tomorrow. As it’s liable to be showery the Mutt will stay home covered and chained up in his kennel, while Thumper, our reliable little All Wheel Drive will ferry us through the traffic to a little store I know.

The Motorcycle diet

As my one remaining reader will know, I’m a biker. One who passed his motorcycle test three years before he took and passed his car test. I’ve ridden everything from a beat up Honda 175 to a full sized sports tourer, which is what I have at present. 1261 wonderful cc of genteel fun. It’s a big dog, currently securely chained up in the yard under cover. It gets plenty of exercise and gives me a fair bit too. Which is why I am currently losing weight quite rapidly.

The thing is about riding a motorcycle is that unlike driving a car or truck, it is a dynamic process. Every time you corner for example, your whole body has to be involved, in my case piloting a machine almost two and a half times my current body weight. There’s no power steering, no gadgets (Apart from heated handlebar grips), just bodyweight dynamically managing a heavyweight machine along uneven roads and some fairly tight uncambered bends.

The process of positioning your body correctly for a bend takes effort which is not unlike the philosophy behind ‘hot’ yoga. Even at relatively sedate speeds, shoulders set, knees cuddling the tank, it takes a a fair bit of energy to swoop, apparently effortlessly, through repeated bends. Then there’s the loss of body heat which means you can burn quite a few calories keeping up even within the space of a two hour ride. Think of it this way. What might be a warm day standing still can get decidedly chilly over sixty miles an hour, so even fairly well insulated you can burn up a whole heap of energy simply keeping warm, thus losing weight as your body goes through those calories like a blast furnace.

Add to that a fairly high protein, low carbohydrate way of life and weight loss is guaranteed. I call it ‘the motorcycle diet’. It works. At least for me.

Anything in the news? Not really, just the usual bunch of suspects getting bent out of shape over Trumps state visit to the UK. That idiot Sadiq Khan didn’t attend the state dinner, neither did Corbyn. Jesus H Christ on a moped! Are these people so devoid of intellect and statecraft that they shut themselves out of the party. While Liz and Trump were celebrating the alliance between the UK and the USA and deals were quietly being discussed, a bunch of incompetents were trying to virtue signal that because ‘orange man bad’ this somehow excused them being utterly atrocious at their jobs. Then the credulous morons who can’t be bothered to do their own research and see how well the USA is doing under Trump turn up en masse to complain. These would be the same people who ‘think’ that man made climate change is a physical threat to humanity despite the continual failure of their end of the world prophesies and that Socialism isn’t a bad idea despite a century of failure. Newsflash kiddies; if you believe what the bought and paid for media tell you, that ain’t ‘thinking’.

Oh well, I look at it this way. In order for a certain number of people to be of above average intelligence, there have to be a whole heap who are dumber than a bag of sponge rubber rocks. It’s a simple rule of averages. Like what we have taken to calling ‘Emotional Literacy’, like reading ages, some people only get as far as an emotional age of 11, others make 13, fewer still 17 and the very few emotional maturity.

Mrs S and I had a broad and in depth discussion on an associated topic last night. She came back from a conference at UVIC yesterday and we had an interesting exchange of views about childhood trauma and how it impacts people. “You control your impulses very well, Bill.” She observed. Yes, she knows I’m damaged goods, but I know precisely where and how I’m damaged and try to take a breath before simply reacting. It passes for wisdom sometimes. And that pertikular commodity, me deario’s, is where you finds it.

Is that the sun shining? So it is. Time to shed another pound of two.

Ello, ello, ello

What’s all this then? Heading back from a meeting with our accountants this afternoon we noticed that our local RCMP detachment were pulling over all the motorcyclists, presumably to give them a free lecture over how dangerous these consarned two wheeled contraptions are, and presumably a check of dodgy registrations or out of date insurance. No, they weren’t looking for specific machines, they were stopping every type of motorcycle, from cruiser to sports tourer and off road machines. Couldn’t find any announcements about it in the local press or on the RCMP website.

There’s been a lot of this recently. Locally we’ve seen motorcycles parked at the side of the road just off the hard shoulder over the last week. We watched an Asian lad get pulled two days ago on the Sooke road. Not speeding, not driving dangerously, but he still got stopped by the Police.

I remember back in the day mates of mine often used to get stopped a lot for a ‘tyre-kicking’ session by the local law looking for possible drunk driving, stolen machines, out of date tax discs, no MOT, no licence, faulty lights etc. Usual schtick. But none of us greasy looking good-for-nothings would ever be as half witted as to take photographs of ourselves actually breaking the law like some idiots do on YouTube. Honestly officer.

What are the local law up to?

On the other hand I’ve seen a lot of ‘European’ style riding, cutting in and out of traffic, filtering and white line dancing by some guys, so maybe the local RCMP are having a little crackdown. I won’t be riding until next week, so maybe the cops will have tired of pulling over bikers by then. We’ll see.

Update: My bike deal just fell through, so no riding this year and no likelihood of being pulled by the local law. Swings meet roundabouts. Bugger.

Cruise control and wide open skies

One of the things that we don’t generally use on our car is the cruise control feature. Until yesterday when I was getting bored with the unending flatness of rural Manitoba and clicked on the ‘cruise’ button on the steering wheel followed by the ‘Set Coast’. There was a sense of the accelerator pedal developing a mind of it’s own, then as I gingerly pulled my right foot off, our little Subaru took over, taking care of all the throttle controls, leaving me nothing else to do but hold onto the steering wheel. Now when it comes to driving I’m a bit of a control freak, I don’t like not knowing exactly how much pedal goes to the metal or which gear I need to be in.

Like with riding a motorcycle, you are not really a rider, your machine should really become no more than an extension of your own body. Your hindbrain takes care of the weight distribution, line into corner, throttle, gear and so on, and the bike provides the power and grip, letting your higher brain functions enjoy the ride, occasionally making conscious decisions like trying to scrape your sidestand on a particularly fast left or right hand bend. Depending on which side your sidestand is fitted of course, unless of course you own a particular model of Vincent, which is one of the few motorcycles ever to be fitted with two sidestands. Saw one back in the 80’s on the ferry to the Isle of Man TT races. Something to do with rapid wheel changes as I recall. The guy who owned it did admit his machine had been modified, and joked about it being one of the ultra-rare ‘White Lightnings’. Although I think what he really had was a repainted Black Shadow.

Any old road up, after that brief sashay down memory lane, back to the main thrust as it were.

It’s a bit disconcerting to find yourself sailing up hill and down dale at the same speed without your right foot being involved. But after a while you get used to it. It even becomes fun. So after the initial discombobulation I simply sat back and enjoyed myself cruising across the (very) flatlands of Southern Manitoba until we arrived for tonights stopover in Winnipeg. Holding on to the steering wheel, for want of anything else to do, chatting idly to Mrs S as the scenery rolled on by under magnificently cloud decorated skies, chasing the coat tails of a recent storm.

In our hotel we checked the news as is our wont, and were greeted by the grim item of another couple of terrorist attacks in London. So we got on the phone to Youngest to check that she was okay, which she was. Reading further I noted with grim satisfaction that the attackers sponsors both for Manchester and London, are about to get a very nasty shock. The real dogs of war have been set on their trail, no doubt with orders not to mess around and dispose of any evidence without fuss. I would not like to be in the Islamists traditional dress right now. A lot has been learned since the Gibraltar Fiasco, when three IRA murderers got offed in public on their way to attack an army band giving a concert. I am led to believe matters are dealt with a little more discreetly nowadays. While the PR team do the flashy stuff like jumping out of helicopters for the cameras, the hard core specialists will be down at street level disposing of the garbage.

At which point I’m moved to comment that sometimes society at large needs the protection of its meanest sheepdogs, and with the Daesh facing annihilation in their current domicile, they are lashing out in desperation, exposing their UK operatives and networks with these last ditch terror attacks. Of course the terrorists eventual demise will be no comfort to their victims, or the inevitable collateral damage to the innocent, but digging out a cancer like the Islamists can be a messy business and not always possible without amputation, even with the best of surgeons. Sad but true.

Just hope Youngest doesn’t get caught up in the resultant mess, that’s all. Despite the fact that she’s old enough and wise enough to make her own life choices, we still worry. Why? We’re parents and worrying is part of the job.

Anyway, it’s past bed time and my presence in same is being demanded.

TTFN

Triumph-ant

Road trip planning again. This time I’ve been reviewing my choice of machine for the trip, a brand new Triumph Trophy SE 1215 (The 2017 version). Now I’ve had an on again and off again love affair with Triumph Motorcycles for some considerable time. From the first time helping a mate rebuild his Triumph Tiger Cub clutch when I was just out of school, to my later trans-European adventures and high mileage high jinks on my old 900ST. In between there’s been a few Hondas and Suzukis, and I’ve test ridden a whole heap of other machines, but in the end my preference all comes down to long distance comfort.

My problem with most new motorcycles is that I’m a big guy. Long in both leg and body. Broad shouldered and heavy built, which is a legacy of hard physical work and extensive weight training regimen which began during my early teens removing tree stumps with axe, pick, shovel and brute force. I’m physically more carthorse than thoroughbred or Shetland pony so most motorcycles aren’t built for people of my size. There’s also the classic North American foot forward riding position and footboards which I don’t much care for. My riding heritage is Northern European where you fit around the very bones of your machine, not just sit in it like it’s a Lay-Z-Boy.

Harley Davidsons and the like were immediately off my buying list because despite their physical size and the reportedly fixed problems with electrics (especially in the wet). The positioning for feet and hands is more for those with short legs. Which came as a bit of a surprise. When I first sat astride one, I got the immediate impression that I would have to ride with my knees around chest level no matter how the seat was adjusted. Then I don’t much care for those heavy V-twins, they’re so agricultural and leave me with the feeling that I’d be better off buying Massey Ferguson or John Deere. Besides, there’s that whole ‘weekend warrior’ vibe which just isn’t me. So, crossed off the list.

Ducati and Moto Guzzi. Same issue. Lovely to look at, great performance, but the short legged peg position and problems with the electrics during wet weather tended to put me off.

Next to be examined were BMW’s. BMW’s, although the footpeg position was good for me, have a tendency to cut the handlebars a little narrower than is comfortable for long journeys. Love the long term reliability of the Boxer engine and the shaft drive…. But. And this is a big ‘but’, unlike mine, which Mrs S likes because of my still ‘high and tight’ buns. Apart from the 1150RT which they don’t make any more, none of the other models in BMW’s range had the feel that I was looking for. So bye-bye BMW.

Suzuki, Kawasaki and KLT? Close but no cigar. There’s a happy place in my heart for the 1200N Bandit and the V-Strom is okay, but Suzuki have long had an issue with finish that degrades a little too quickly for my liking, and Kawasaki tend to build for the smaller rider. KLT aren’t bad, but there’s something not quite right with the machines I’ve tried out. There’s an instinctive knowledge that after a couple of thousand miles my back would start to complain because of that tiny kink in the riding position that is almost, but not quite, right for me.

Honda? Mmm. Sooo close. Wish they still made the ST1100 Pan-European, which is a splendid touring machine, creme de la creme. Love that smooth V-four. After test riding, the ST1300 and Gold Wings are a little too big and heavy to be the kind of fun I look for as a rider. The Bagger ain’t bad, but my pillion has needs too, and she reports that the rear seats get a little uncomfortable after the first fifty miles. Which, if you’re going down the full helmet comms route, would result in a rides enjoyment being curtailed from the whining sound in my helmet earphones.

Now Triumphs. Again, there are a few which immediately get crossed off the list of potential purchases. The Supersports are built for the slighter built rider and relatively short distances. The Tigers are super trailies, but although they’re okay for rider, taking a pillion long distances is likely to cause a high pitched whining in my headsets headphones after a relatively short distance. The Bonneville and similar? Tried one while I was commuting to Bristol and back on a job. Quick and nimble, but the saddle was for shorter distances. Great for a pose down to the pub, but for serious travelling? No. So, this leaves the new Triumph Trophy with that lovely responsive in line triple powerplant and intuitive feeling riding position, comfortable saddle and leisurely pillion position. When you’re after something you can ride all day without a care. then for me, that’s it.

Still debating what we want to do about Southern France, whether we cut across the lower Central Massif and as far south as Carcasonne or stop in Nimes for a week and do day trips North, South East and West. It depends what accommodation is available on AirBnb or VRBO. Italy we’re pretty sure about our destinations, but we’ve yet to examine the options of Austria, the Czech Republic and Western Poland. The discussions continue. When decisions are made, we’ll book.

Travel insurance

Road trip 2017 planning has slipped over the last week what with my bouts of sleeplessness. However, Mrs S and I are now into the main planning stages plotting not only the general route but the actual where and when prior to booking. The big expense of course is the flights and flying the motorcycle via Air Canada to and from Vancouver, which won’t leave us much change out of CAD$7050 (A shade over 4000 Quid, roughly. Including import taxes and fees etc). After that I’m off oop norf to go see some estranged family (If they’ll talk to me) while Mrs S stays with Youngest down in the smoke. I may be away for three or even five days before limping back down to London and getting ready to take the ferry to France. Overnight around Caen somewhere and thence off on the great trek along through Western France and around towards Provence and the Carmargue. Then down into Italy. Jesus! My course in Italian starts Monday! My how these things sneak up on us.

After that the general plan is to head south through Italy down to see the buried town of Herculaneum near Napoli. At present I’m crunching the numbers. Nothing insuperable, but the trip will be a little more leisurely than our dash around the USA, even if we do end up doing a similar mileage. I reckon about 8,500 miles as a rough guesstimate. I may even book in a service for the half way marker. I’ll have a look at the price quotes and see if there’s any advantage to doing so.

A place to go

Ever heard of ‘Liberland‘? A small, almost forgotten 7 square kilometre parcel of land on the Croatian and Serbian borders, recently claimed by a bunch of renegade individualists for a grand social experiment. I’ve just realised that it may be not too far off our planned 2017 grand motorcycle tour.

Freedom for Liberland! from MEL Films on Vimeo.

Worth a visit, not worth a visit? Worth going to just to get a stamp on our passports, if they do that sort of thing? I have no idea. But it’s just the kind of goofy, off the beaten track adventure we’re looking for. We’ve got a planned stop around Split in Croatia. Could be worth a day trip.

Wonder if there’s a decent hotel close by?

Old joke, but true..

A Biker (Motorcycle rider, not those wussies in spandex) is visiting a zoo when he sees a little girl leaning too close to the lion’s cage. Suddenly, the lion reaches out through the bars, grabs her by the collar of her jacket and tries to pull her inside, right under the eyes of her screaming parents. The biker runs to the cage and smacks the lion square on the nose with his fist. Whimpering from the pain the lion jumps back, letting go of the little girl. The biker then returns the girl to her terrified parents, who thank him profusely.

A reporter watches the whole event and approaches the Biker in the car park as he is about to leave, saying; “Sir, that was the bravest and most gallant thing I’ve ever seen a man do in my whole life.”
The Biker replies, “Why, it was nothing, really. The lion was behind bars. I just saw this little child in danger, and acted as I thought was right.”
The reporter says, “Well sir, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a journalist, you know, and I can guarantee tomorrow’s paper will have this story on the front page. So, what do you do for a living, and what is your political affiliation?”
The biker replies “Well I run my own small company, and as for my politics I’m generally but not always conservative.”

The journalist smiles, thanks him again, and leaves.

The following morning the biker buys the paper and reads the following headline:
“Right wing fascist thug assaults African migrant and steals his lunch.”

Well it made me smile.

New Kit

New riding gearRoad trip planning for Europe 2017 continues apace and a deposit has been put on a shiny new motorcycle for delivery March / April 2017. Also purchased are two new Olympia Dakar touring jackets. We still both have our old heavy leather jackets from other trips, but have decided that the lighter and more weather versatile mesh style will be of greater utility. Yes I know we’ll both look like traffic cops, what with the three stripes on the sleeve (Wotcher Sarge) and everything, but my rough and ready ride-all-day-and-all-night days are long past, and I’m growing soft in my not so frail dotage. Two new HJC IS-Max II helmets have also been bought. Could have gone for Shoei or some other make, but the reviews and safety ratings for HJC are good and the ventilation is comfortable. Which in European Summer heat will be an essential. I know they’re expensive, but I don’t plan on ‘spoiling the ship for a ha’porth o’ tar’. A trip like this can be done on the cheap if you’re young and willing to rough it a bit, but when you are, shall we (Cough) say over the big Five-oh, you get to like your comfort. Hence the upmarket clothing and brand new top of the line motorcycle.

Then there’s languages. My French is adequate. My German mm, Ich spreche nicht Deutsch gut and my Italian sounds more like Spanish. However, I can get by, but want to be able to do more. So language freshen ups are required. Current route plan takes us via ferry from Foggia, Italy to Split in Croatia and via Slovenia to Venice, thence northbound. At the very least we need to be able to read road signs, count to a hundred, say “Yes”, “No”, “Please”, “I don’t understand”, “Thank you”, “How much?” and “You must be joking me old china” in Czech, Slovene, Polish, Dutch, Danish and Swedish rather than expecting everyone to speak much English. I think of it this way; it’s good manners to at least try.