What a Load of Cobblers….

Monday 29th April 2019 – WRWR Day 62 – My day 5

Wow.. this morning everything is covered in a thick fog… I can’t even see out of the end of Hilde’s driveway. Nevertheless, we must make our way to the gathering point… carefully.

Hilde leads the way and some 10kms onwards towards a restaurant in the middle of nowhere.. a very beautiful nowhere I have to say. We are in Kasteelpark, Gaasbeek. Again the whole restaurant has been booked out and I believe it may even have opened up especially for us… amazing.

There are croissants and coffee and it looks as though we are to be 100+ women again, just astounding.

We are split into manageable groups of around 20 bikes each. Today we will ride through Belgium, on a fairly circuitous route, arriving in Wachtebeke where most of the women will be staying in a campground. I of course will not… oh no… camping yuck!! No I am actually staying near Sas Van Gent, over the border in Netherlands where we will begin tomorrows first leg in Netherlands and my last leg of WRWR.

Each group is a different colour and we are given ribbons to wear on our arms, the international set are all in the Yellow group.. good. Apparently there were armbands yesterday too, don’t know how I missed that.

One thing that the Belgian women mention is the famous Flanders cobbled roads… oh oh, that sounds ominous… they are smiling broadly as they talk about it and are obviously hugely looking forward to it. Meanwhile, us non Belgians are feeling more than a little trepidatious. Trui attempts to calm our nerves and Mar gives us all the benefit of her not unsubstantial experience… stay in one low gear, don’t brake sharply, don’t change gear, stand up… stand up!! are you having a laugh, I’m on a Harley, no standing up on that I can tell you, my bum is firmly planted in the saddle. I am still feeling the effects of my very near miss yesterday, and the thought of cobbled roads is making me sweat!

We make our way onto the route and I am quaking expecting to be faced with mile upon mile of wet, slippery cobblestones.. after a good 15 minutes I calm down as I realise it isn’t imminent, but I have to say I am still a bit wobbly round corners and especially coming off of roundabouts… oh do get over it Pogs!!

The going is very slow.. even slower than yesterday… mmmm it’s going to be a long day.

First stop is here at Geraardsbergen in East Flanders, where some of the women climb a large hill,

but Mar and Trui decide to almost go for a swim…

very funny and Mar almost got a soaking… here she is showing off her numerous armbands.. where did they suddenly come from I wonder???

Mar posing as usual, while The Celebrrrrity, Sara and I talk sensibly in the background…….

Back on the road and soon we come across our first cobbles… thank the goddess it’s dry, that’s all I can say. I turn on my GoPro to get some footage of the cobbles… won’t be able to upload til I get home though.

(I’m now home and find that my camera didn’t record anything at all for the whole trip.. gutted. Thanks to Els for these photos of the famous Flanders cobbles..)

Next stop is lunch, at this all American/Belgian Diner in Oudenaarde, East Flanders… carrots anyone??

So, I bet you are wondering… carrots? what carrots? Well I shall tell you. We all troop into the Diner and it’s the usual American Diner fare, burgers etc. but everything, and I mean everything, comes with carrots.. of course we start messing about asking if there are carrots with the ice cream. I’m curious as to the significance of carrots, is Belgium the centre of the european carrot mountain I speculate. I have to ask. I enquire of the women in front of me in the queue if they are Belgian, yes.. ok so what’s with the carrots? They look puzzled.. I explain that I am wondering why there are carrots with everything, is it a Belgian custom.. yes they say, looking a bit surprised that I am asking.. oh dear I hope I’m not offending them. I’m not a big fan of carrots so I ask one of the women if she would like mine.. she says yes. To be honest, I felt I didn’t get to the bottom of the carrot question.

I order a burger and chips.. with carrots of course.. and I find that the carrots are actually a small bowl of salad with grated carrot on the top.. ah so that is the reason for carrots with everything, it’s actually salad!!

After lunch we are warned.. next comes the famous Flanders cobbles.. oh no, my heart sinks……

It’s time to suck it up and go, but we do have time for a group photo.. this is one of my favourites so far

Me, Colette (Celebrrrrity) and Mar.. the 3 Mouseketeeers

The cobbles await… and here they are…. rattle rattle rattle.. I am concentrating hard, keep in 2nd gear, don’t brake, don’t change gear… ok ok all going fine… oh shit, here comes a bend… my heart races… whew, I manage to get round, not my best bit of cornering ever… but I survive, whew!

Thank the goddess that’s over… oh oh there’s more, Stop IT!!! This time we are going up a very steep hill and as we crest over the top we are turning sharp left, my heart is almost literally in my mouth! Just as I crest the rise I see it isn’t cobbled, it’s tarmac, but my relief is fleeting as I see Colette has come off of her bike.. oh shit, I come to a stop and try to get off my bike as quickly as possible. I and other women rush over to see if she is ok… I immediately check and she is fine, it seems she turned left and didn’t have enough room to manoeuvre so went off the side of the tarmac into some mud, the side of the bike then hit the tarmac and toppled over, she is so lucky. Just then, as we are helping her and her bike up, another woman crests the rise and just keeps going, her bike travels straight into the ditch and she is thrown forwards over the handlebars, we are all convinced she has broken her neck, but she just dusts herself off and climbs out of the ditch. Wow, how lucky are they both.. and both bikes are fine too… amazing.

The cobbles continue and I suddenly get my confidence back.. I am even going at a fairly rapid pace… be still my beating heart.

I must admit, I am very tired. We stop again in Brugge at a motorcycle shop/cafe and it appears to be a branch of Deus Ex Machina, the same as I visited in LA.. oh good, another coffee please. I notice that there is a petrol station next door, great I need a top up, they also have a jet wash.. ok so I decide I’m leaving the group here; my bike needs a good wash and I need a break. I am going to enjoy another coffee, fill up my bike, give it a good wash then make my way to Sas Van Gent and my room for the night.

But not before I meet this little lady….

isn’t she just the cutest thing….

I am also snagged for a photo shoot.. really… ok. Trui has asked the group photographer to take some of me posing… I look forward to seeing them.

Time for a scrub..

that’s better.

It’s great to be alone, too much togetherness for me these last few days lol. I’m soon in Westdorpe just a couple of kilometres from Sas Van Gent. The hotel is basic but clean and there is a bar/restaurant across the street with the same name that I find out to be where I check in. This is perfect, I have a quick look at the menu and will definitely eat here later.

Everyone is very friendly, which I have always found to be true of Dutch people.. other people too, but especially the Dutch. A lovely steak and chips and an early night is definitely on the cards.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WRWR Luxembourg/Belgium

Sunday 28th April 2019 – WRWR Day 61, My Day 4

Am up early again to get myself over to Bollendorf and meet the group riding today to Bruxelles, via Luxembourg.  

We are meeting at a petrol station just over the border in Luxembourg.  Bollendorf is on the river that constitutes the border so I only have to cross over a bridge and am immediately in Luxembourg and at the petrol station.  I think I’d better top the tank off while I am here, don’t want another scare like yesterday.

While I am filling up a voice shouts.. “Dykes on Bikes” and I look up to see a woman who I have not yet met, but have corresponded with online.. Trui Hussein Hanoulle who then rushes over to greet me and proceeds to take lots of photos.  It is fabulous to meet her in the flesh and I am looking forward to talking with her as she is indeed a fascinating woman, but more about that later.  I also see Els from Belgium and Taloch from the Harley Davidson Club Des Frontieres who I rode with in France.  Mar and Colette are there of course, Colette has started calling us her international visitors, while Mar has dubbed Colette ‘The Celebrrrrrity’ as she is becoming so famous and is now making a live video diary each day.  We have really gelled as a group and I enjoy their company enormously.

I don’t see Dori yet, she is riding home today, but said she would come and say farewell this morning.  There are loads of bikes and I am given to understand that there will be over 100 women bikers today.. wow, what a spectacle.  For safety reasons we are being split up into groups of about 20, I am riding with Colette and Mar and it seems Trui will be joining us too and we are the lead off group.

It is soon time to go and I am a bit sad that I don’t get a chance to say goodbye to Dori, but she did say she might get over to the UK this summer so I will see her then.

The weather is very wet, but the roads and countryside are fantastic.  Before long we all pull into the centre of a town and park up.  Apparently we are stopping for breakfast and what a breakfast it is.  We are in a bar called Alter Schwede in Remich and there is so much food.. all free.. wow, what a fantastic welcome from the Luxembourgians.. there is ham and cheese and bread and scrambled eggs and cake and fruit and, and, and oh yes coffee of course… all absolutely delicious. 

We have another photo op with all the bikes lined up.. I thought I had a photo but it seems not.. damn!

Back on the road and it’s a little bit greasy with the rain, as we turn onto the main road my back tyre skids a little bit, oh didn’t like that and then again when we turn the next corner… not nice.  We are soon rolling along and we enter a roundabout, as we leave the rear of the bike starts to snake and my heart is in my mouth.. I’m sure I am going to crash.. I manage to save the bike, but my heart is pounding so hard that I have to pull over.  Colette, Mar, Trui and the sweeper all pull up with me.  I jump off the bike and have a look at the rear end, I feel sure I have a flat tyre, but no all is fine.. so what is going on???  Colette says she thought I was a goner… me too.  We all think it was probably a combination of the wet road and the bike being new so the tyres haven’t been scrubbed in fully.  I get back on the bike, but have to admit my confidence has taken quite a blow and am now a little anxious when cornering.

My heart takes some time to settle down, but am still very wary.  Anyway, I have ridden through Luxembourg quite a few times and for some reason haven’t really paid much attention.  It is quite mountainous and there seems to be a castle around every bend.. speaking of which..

We pull into a car park next to this stunning castle.. there is a photographer waiting and we all troop up to the castle for a photo shoot, but also take the opportunity to take our own photos.

Pretty impressive.. this is Bourschied Castle in North Eastern Luxembourg, well worth a visit.

The riding has been pretty slow, and we soon stop again, this time for lunch. We make our way into a restaurant that has been reserved for us. I don’t remember doing so, but it seems I have ordered lunch, which is indeed very good. After lunch there is cake, but not just any cake.. two huge cakes have been specially made, one of which has the face of Hayley Bell, the originator of the whole WRWR phenomenon, I have to say it’s a little bit spooky, but one cannot fault the Luxembourgians for their hospitality.. a tiny country with an enormous heart. I really want to come back here and spend more time, hopefully in better weather.

Once more onto the road again and we enjoy slightly better weather, the sun seems to be trying to peak through.

All at once we arrive in Martelange, the meeting and baton handover point in Belgium. We pull into a rather small, scruffy car park where loads of women are waiting for us. There are a few film crews too, so The Celebrrrrity is hauled off to do some interviews. The baton is then officially handed over and we are back on our way to Brussels.

It is now approaching 4pm and we still have another 120 miles to go… and it has already been very slow…

Eventually we arrive in Brussels at the famous Atomium, and what a magnificent structure it is.

It’s starting to get dark and we are all cold and tired. I have been offered a bed at someones home, a woman called Hilde, but I haven’t met her yet. It seems the international crowd are all staying with her, that’s me, Colette, Mar and Trui, but who is Hilde?? Mar and I start joking about ‘where is Hilde?’, ‘who’s hiding Hilde?’ Who is HILDE?’ Trui comes to our rescue and introduces us. She hasn’t ridden with us today, but will be riding tomorrow. A last minute change of plan, Mar and Colette will stay in a hotel, it has already been arranged by the Belgian Ambassadors.

We all get back on our bikes and follow Hilde to her home. Mar and Hilde’s partner Johnny have stayed behind waiting to greet two women from England who are due to arrive at the Atomium this evening and will stay at Hilde’s too.. she must have a castle methinks.

They do indeed have a beautiful home and I have a room to myself, which I always like. I take my things upstairs and when I come down, the two girls from England have arrived, Sara and Thirza, and somehow also a stack of pizzas like magic.. yummy.

What a blooming’ looooong day… I really need some sleep!

But… lastly… isn’t this the most fantastic helmet you every saw??

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

WRWR Germany – Der Eifel

Saturday 27th April 2019 – WRWR Day 60, My Day 3

This morning I am up early, so I take a couple of photos from my bedroom window… shame about the mozzie netting

By the time I’ve managed to sort myself out I’m running late so I have to jump on the bike and really bomb it over to Dierdorf without brekkie… as I arrive at the restaurant, we are meeting there this morning, I pass two women coming out of the road and I can see that almost everyone has already gone… but where to??  Luckily there are two women left, well lucky for me as one of them has actually broken down.  Now, normally I would ask what the problem is and see if I could fix it, but I don’t want to lose the rest of the girls.  The other woman, who is German says they have all gone to fuel up at a petrol station nearby and I look for it on Google Maps.  I check with her… is this the right one, she confirms and actually follows me to it.

Everyone is there, except for a few they are waiting for, including Dori, so it seems I have time for a coffee and croissant.. yippee!!  There looks to be at least 20 bikes, so quite a large group of riders

DORI READY TO ROCK!!

and here we are leaving.. on our way.. yay

The weather is gloomy but dry as we head off into the Eifel region. It is very beautiful with lots of fast, but twisty roads.

We arrive at a river and await a ferry to cross over… I can’t resist this selfie op!!

Soon the ferry arrives and we all ride on… it’s always great to be on a boat in my view and even despite the gloomy weather I enjoy the scenery.

Next stop on our journey is for lunch and we ride into a car park in Bad Munstereifel, what a pretty town.

We all gather at a small restaurant for lunch.. it is very quirky and the food is excellent. Some of the girls have sat outside, but I much prefer to eat indoors. Am very relieved to have gotten a seat, especially when it starts to pour with rain.

A very delicious lunch indeed. We stop for about an hour and then back to the bikes and once again into the beautiful mountainous countryside.

We have been on the road for several hours since we left this morning and the bike is now showing a petrol warning light.. mmm we must be stopping soon. The fuel consumption on this bike is not great, especially on fast roads. The bike shows me how many miles of fuel I have left, but I don’t trust it. When I had the Sportster 48 it would show ‘low miles’ with about 10 miles of fuel left, until, on a very hot day, it ran out on a motorway after just a few miles and I had to wait for recovery. This bike seems to show the warning light at around 50 miles to go so now its showing 40 miles. We do stop for a route check, (a group of the german girls get together and discuss routes options), and I take the opportunity to tell the ride leader I have about 40kms of fuel left so need to stop.

I’m now getting very worried that I am going to run out of fuel, the indicator is saying ‘low miles’, but I don’t know what that means for this bike. I drop back to the sweeper and tap my tank frantically to indicate low fuel, he, (don’t go there), nods so I am relieved and expect to stop in the next few miles… but no.. we continue up into the mountains, lots of great twistys that I’m not really enjoying because I’m expecting the bike to cough and stop at any time. At last we pull over for a photo op of the fantastic views and I jump off the bike. I say to the sweeper that I am almost out, but he reassures me there is a petrol station just up around the bend.. phew!! I speak to the ride leader and explain that it’s a new bike and I haven’t really got a good idea of the tank capacity so I probably over estimated at 40kms.

The views here are stunning… shame about the weather, but even so very impressive. These are the Manderscheid Castles

Back on the road and sure enough, round a couple of bends and into a small town… hurrah! there is a petrol station, I am very relieved to be able to fill the tank up.

We now descend and join a fast road, just then its begins to rain, then rain harder, then blooming’ hell…. hailstones, huge hailstones… ouch that hurts. We pull over and take cover under a bridge.

Look at the size of them!! I don’t wear a full face helmet, so yep was regretting it, slightly, at this moment.

The hail shower is soon over so back on the road to Bollendorf. The sun almost comes out as we arrive.

As this is the last time Dori will ride with me on the Relay, we grab an opportunity for a few photos with the famous WRWR baton… Dykes on Bikes, we represent!!

I am staying in a hotel about 14kms away so we all split up to our various hotels. There is a meal booked in a restaurant this evening, but, even though I have paid, I am so exhausted that I really can’t face coming back into Bollendorf. I say I may return if the weather stays as it is now, but not if it rains again.

The Hotel Europa is actually situated in the town of Holstrum, in a valley the other side of the mountain from Bollendorf. When I arrive I am greeted by Mein Host, he looks like he might enjoy a stein or two. He asks if I am alone?

Yes..

All alone?

Yes…

You have booked a double room?

Yes… he looks quizzically at his paperwork..

I can have a single room, I don’t mind…

No it is ok, we don’t have a single room..

Oh! I wonder why he is hesitating.

That’s €66, ok..

Yes I know. (I already know the price as it was shown on the booking.com app)

I pay with my credit card and he shows me up to my room. The room is pretty basic and there are two single beds, only one of which is made up. This is not my idea of a double room, this is a twin and, with only one bed actually made up, single occupancy. The room is freezing cold, there is a radiator but it is barely on. My gloves and riding gear are soaking wet so I need to dry them out. I get changed and note it is pouring with rain again so I’m definitely not going back over to Bollendorf. I look for information about the wifi and find an information folder. The first thing I notice is a tariff of room charges. Now I don’t speak very much German, but I can read quite a lot of it and I can see the a double room, with satellite TV, fridge, etc. is for, between 1 and 3 nights, €33 per person with slight reductions for longer stays. WHAT! I just paid €66… am not a happy bunny! I try the wifi… it’s shit.. I can connect to the wifi network, but can’t connect to the internet… really, really not a happy bunny!

There is a menu, I can order pizza for €10 so I decide to go downstairs and order it. Mein Host comes out directly and I order the pizza, he says it will be about 20 minutes. I ask if the heating can be turned up? Yes that’s fine. Good… I see in the folder that a double room is €33 a night per person so I have paid for 2. He says that’s because I have booked via booking.com and they have to follow their charges… I decide I’m too tired so don’t challenge this, but now it is obvious to me why he hesitated when I arrived. At least the room is clean and once the heating warms up it will be ok. I mention the wifi, oh yes, we have lots of problems with the wifi because we are in a valley, it comes and goes so you have to keep trying. Seriously, so he was able to see my booking ok…. mmmm…. I give up!!

Back to my room and I keep trying the internet but no joy… the radiator doesn’t seem to be warming up, but it’s looks like a pretty old system. After 20 minutes I go downstairs to get my pizza, it looks and is delicious.

I am now so cold that I decide to change and get into bed, the radiator is no warmer. I am too tired to go down again so snuggle up in bed and am soon asleep.. I hope my gear is dry in the morning.

Posted in Touring, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wildwest Saddle Anyone??

Friday 26th April 2019 – Day 2

I check out where I am in relation to Lille Harley Davidson, oh am way past it and as it would take at least an hour to get there and back to this point, it’s not really doable… mmm maybe I can drop in on the way home.

I make my way into breakfast, the usual fare is on offer, but I just have some coffee and a croissant then pack up my bags ready to go.  On my way back from loading up the bike a guy stops me and says I need to pay for breakfast, it wasn’t included with the room so I have to cough up €8, an expensive coffee really.

I wonder whether there will be a problem exiting the compound, but no worries the gate is wide open already so I am quickly on my way.

I must say I am enjoying this bike, it is comfortable and even the seat is ok, which is a miracle for Harley stock seats, they are usually very uncomfortable and one of the first things I change.. think I will keep this one though.  I actually don’t expect to change very much on this bike, I don’t have the money for one thing and I am pretty happy with the way it looks straight out of the box.  The exhaust is quiet though and as you know I am a firm believer in ‘Loud Pipes Save Lives’ that is why I have bought the S&S Grand National Slip On Cans that I will fit when I get home.

One thing I really don’t like, however, are the mirrors, I can hardly see anything except my sleeves, because the mirror arms are very short, so I moved them to underneath the handlebars and now I have chipped the paint on the tank as when I put full left lock on the bars the mirror bashed into the tank… gutted… the bike is only one day old!!

I have to run the bike in for the first 1000 miles and this used to be at a maximum 50mph but this engine I can run up to 80mph so I do manage to use the full gear range and once or twice slightly go over the 80 limit… I am being careful though as I don’t want any problems with this bike.

I enter the small town of Beaumont and, as it is almost lunchtime, I decide to stop for a break and some lunch.

There are a few eateries, but I decide on this one… obviously

I enjoy a delicious Omelette and chips and then get back on my way.

Having missed out on Lille HD I note that I will be passing another dealer at Namur so decide to drop in there.

Nothing of note. I do pick up a poker chip, but don’t purchase anything else…. for a change.

Next it’s onward to Liege in Belgium… ah ha, they also have a Harley shop, of course one must stop and peruse…

Wow, what a fabulous photo and just look at the saddle on this bike… now that’s really worth seeing.

Again, I just pick up a chip and am soon back on the road… onwards mon brave!!

I arrive at last at my overnight accommodation just 10kms from Dierdorf in Oberraden. I am staying in a Pension, but the door is locked and it looks empty. I check out my booking confirmation and I see that I have to go over the road to a hotel to check in and get my key. Everyone in the hotel is very friendly and asks if I am part of WRWR… wow, that’s a surprise.. another woman who is riding tomorrow is staying in the hotel and has told them all about it.. oh good, saves me having to do it… lol!!

A young chap then takes me over to the Pension… my room is on the top floor, in the attic.. of course.. standard… apparently there are some other people staying, workmen, but I don’t see any of them. Once I have unpacked the bike I need to ride over to Dierdorf to meet up with the women for dinner, I hope I’m not going to be late.

I find the restaurant straight away and there are a couple of women parking up their bikes as I arrive. They confirm I am in the right place. Once parked I start to make my way inside the restaurant but am immediately waylaid by my friend Dori G from Dykes on Bikes Hamburg.. it is almost a year since we visited DoB Hamburg and very good to see her again. We chat for a while and then she disappears to her hotel for a shower and change so I make myself comfortable in the restaurant with a nice cup of coffee of course. I do wonder what the plan is for the meal as I see several tables occupied by women in motorcycle gear, they are already eating so I ask if I can order. It seems that the whole restaurant has been booked out by the German WRWR Ambassadors and we can order and eat when we please.

My food comes quite quickly and as I am tucking in, in comes my old friends from the previous legs Colette and Mar, I am absolutely delighted to see them again and they come and join me at my table with Livi the German Ambassador and her boyfriend… what a jolly evening we all spend together, such a grand time.

Dori returns from her shower and is at the next table; as soon as I finish eating I go over to talk to her, she would like a photo with me, of course says I…

DORI G AND ME

At about 9.30 I really pretty bushed so make my escape back to the Pension and hopefully a good nights sleep. Tomorrow we meet at 8am so I need to be up and at em very early as have to pack and get over to Dierdorf by then… zzzzzzz

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

WRWR – The Sequal

25th April 2019 – Day 1

I am going across to France this afternoon and into Belgium on my way to rejoin the Women Riders World Relay in Dierdorf Germany tomorrow evening.

I have had to pack all my gear into my dry sack backpack as the sissy bar and rack didn’t arrive yesterday. That means I will have to carry everything on my back for the next 7 days, oh joy especially on a new bike. My train is at 5.20 and, as I am working until 2, I will have to go straight from work.

I then receive a message that I am only going to be needed until 12 so a quick change of plan, I will now return home from work in hopes that the bar and rack arrive this morning and I can fit them quickly before I have to leave for Folkestone Eurotunnel terminus. I receive another message later in the morning that the items have been delivered so all good.

I get home and sure enough the sissy bar and luggage rack have arrived along with the S&S slip on exhaust mufflers and the Fuel Pak, but I only have time to fit the bar and rack, I still need the high flow air intake to arrive from Jersey HD.

It’s now 1.30 so I have less than an hour to put this together and get it fitted to the bike and repack my gear… I’m not going to do it in time so I reschedule my train for 7.20 this evening giving me an extra 2 hours to get everything sorted.

All done and packed ready to go…

I know the packing looks enormous but I’ve only got the dry sack backpack and a small day bag under there I promise.

I got a few bits done to the bike yesterday… fitted mounts for my phone and camera, added a heat shield to the exhaust, moved the mirrors to under the handlebars, I really prefer that position, and fitted a helmet lock. I was going to wire in my gps cradle and a twin port usb charger, but that necessitates removal of the fuel tank and I didn’t have time. I also found a small square box on the side of the frame between the forks and the petrol tank… what’s this I thought… wow HD have fitted a usb port to the bike already, well that is impressive I must say.

All my farewells done and I’m on my way. The weather at the moment is perfect although thunderstorms, heavy showers and high winds are predicted for the next 4-5 days so I am wearing my full biker cordura gear instead of my usual jeans and leather jacket.

I arrive at Folkestone without incident and soon board the train. I forget, as usual, that the time will shoot forward an hour when I get to France which means a 9pm arrival so I don’t think I am going to make it into central Belgium today as planned. In fact I am already thinking about where I am going to stay tonight. At about 9.45 I stop in a largish town and break out the trusty Booking.com to find a room… wow it is soooo expensive, 120 euros for one night… I’m not staying here. I carry on and the next big city is Lille… ahhhh Lille Harley Davidson, I have been there several times before so I could pop in tomorrow morning for a mooch. I arrive in Lille around 10.15 and find a room at an Ibis Budget so make my way there. It is just off the D656 at Wasquehal round behind a shopping centre where I also spot a McDonalds so will come back here to grab a quick bite… better than nothing.

Well, that’s if I can get into the bloomin’ hotel. It’s like Fort Knox, surrounded by high metal fences. There is a notice on the large gate in several languages including English explaning that if you don’t know your room code then walk into reception and check in to get your code and you can return to your vehicle, input the code on the keypad next to the gate and drive in… what a palaver! Ok, so how do I walk to reception, the small pedestrian gate seems to be locked.. am getting a bit exasperated when a man starts walking down from reception. I’m not sure if he is staff or a guest, but am trying to prepare my best Franglais to ask how to get in when he says in perfect English are you booked in? Yes.. to which he nods and pulls the pedestrian gate really hard so that it swings open.. ahh it wasn’t locked at all, I’m just puny. I follow the man into reception and get my code. Am soon parked up and unload the bike. It is now 11pm so I hope the Maccy D is still open… I ride over and although the seated area is shut the drive through is still open so queue up to get a big mac meal. Thankfully she gives me a bag with handles so I can carry it on the handlebars. I get back to the room and find the food is stone cold.. yuck, but I’m hungry enough to eat some of it.

I’m absolutely shattered, its been a bit of a whirlwind two weeks what with all the bike trouble etc. but am looking forward to the ride to Germany tomorrow.. nite nite

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Never say Never…

Wednesday 24th April

Well, quite a lot has happened since I left WRWR and went to Gibraltar. Actually, before I left for the relay, the V-Rod decided to go on strike, only firing on the rear cylinder. I managed to coax it home and then up to the workshop intending to try and fix it myself on my return from WRWR… and thereby hangs a tale!

When I got home I had a look on one of the V-Rod forums to see if anyone had any ideas about what the problem might be on such a new bike and it looks like it could be the front coil – the V-Rod has two coil ‘packs’ one in the middle of each cylinder, they actually plug into the top of the spark plugs. Every post seemed to indicate this or one of the earth connections having come loose. It’s a bit of a pain to get to the coils, I have to take off the false petrol tank, the air filter and the velocity stacks and remove the battery to get to the front cylinder head, what a bloody nightmare. The first step is to swap the two coil packs over and start the bike to see if the coil pack is the problem as, if so, the front cylinder would fire and the rear not. However, bright spark me decides to buy a new coil anyway… don’t ask… of course it isn’t the coil at all, but I had to put it all back together to test it, (of course as I’m typing this I’m thinking I actually didn’t need to put it all back, just the battery… mmmm). While I had the coils off I did check the plugs aswell, all good. Ok well I’m going to need the bike next week for a charity challenge ride Annemarie and I are doing for the club next monday, so I better have it taken to Harley to have a look. I usually would go to Warrs at Mottingham as its only 6 miles away, but it’s Monday tomorrow and they are shut. I bought the bike from Lakeside HD so I give them a ring and arrange to have the bike taken over tomorrow morning.

Next morning I go over to the workshop to meet the recovery guy and hand over the bike, then I have to go to work. On Tuesday I call Lakeside to find out what the problem is.. oh, they might be able to look at it late on Thursday afternoon, but I need the bike back, can I have a loan bike… no, we only have one and it’s already out on loan. I have to have a bike for Monday and I’m very fed up with the rod; this is the second breakdown in a year of a new bike thats only done 5000 miles… its gotta go!

I start thinking that I might be better off with another marque, so I start looking at Triumph, I’ve always fancied a Bonneville or maybe another Kawasaki, I like the old bikes especially the 750 Zephyr that I almost bought 25 years ago but got a ZZR600 instead. I have a look on flea bay, there’s quite a few old Zephyrs but they are expensive, looks like they’re a bit of a collectors item. Anyway, long story short – for a change – I decide to test ride a bonnie and am not feeling the love.. it’s ok but feels under powered and clunky, so not for me. Thursday morning I get a call from Lakeside HD and they haven’t managed to trace the problem yet, but they think it’s the wire from the ECM (Electronic Control Module i.e. the brain) to the front coil, is it ok for him to piggy back a wire to test the circuit… erm yes ok, thinking why are they asking me??? Then she tells me that he has already spent 2 hours on the bike and tracing a wiring problem could take several more hours… what about the warranty says I, oh no, she says, it ran out on the 17th March, I say, two weeks ago, come on its only done 5000 miles surely you can look at it under warranty, nope no deal and the bill is currently £180 with possibly the same again plus parts, what do I want them to do… well like I’ve got a choice! They will call back later this afternoon.. um ok. At 5 o’clock I still haven’t heard anything so give them a ring, the woman I spoke to has left already so I have to call back in the morning. So, if I had taken the bike to them when the fault first happened then it would still have been under warranty.. OMG what a bloody plonker!!!!

Right, I need a bike for a club ride on Saturday and the challenge ride on Monday so I ring Warrs and book a hire bike from tomorrow (friday) late afternoon to next wednesday morning – 400 quid… kerching!!

The bike is a Sportster 48, a new one and it’s really a great bike.. I know cos I used to own one, but had forgotten how much fun it is to ride. While I am at Warrs I spend some time looking at the bikes and am offered a test ride on a new Breakout 114 and a new Fat Bob 114. These are the new Milwalkee 8 engines so I am keen to try them out. They are both great bikes, but I really like the Fat Bob, it is very comfortable and the Breakout is a little bit too much like my Fat Boy. I get the sales man to knock up some figures for me, how much roughly for the V-Rod in part ex for the Fat Bob in Wicked Red with loud pipes?? Food for thought.

I ring Lakeside… notice how they haven’t rung me… I speak with a different woman and am told the wire isn’t the problem and now they have other bikes booked in so they will have to rebook my bike for next week… am speechless… well sort of, at least I have the sporty.

On saturday I go out on a club ride and during the day Lakeside call me, they believe it’s the ECM at fault, I explain that it was only changed 6 months ago by Warrs, she says she can’t find it in the bikes record so will call Warrs to confirm and let me know.

On monday Annemarie and I attempt to ride 250 miles in 6 hours, which is harder than it looks, for our club nominated charity The Outside Project for homeless LGBTQI londoners. We have both got a few sponsors so hope to make a bit of money for the charity. The weather is glorious and all is going to plan until after about 120 miles we stop in Great Yarmouth for petrol and I, for the first time ever, put diesel in… the bike won’t run of course so it looks like my ride is over. Annemarie offers to stay with me but I insist she carry on for the charity so off she goes. I call the recovery service who, because its a hire bike, won’t take the diesel out so I can get going, they will only recover me to the nearest dealer, which is Norwich, and I will have to find my own way home… great. I ring Norwich hoping they will get me back on the road… they’re shut!! I call the recovery back, who don’t believe me and then say they will recover me to Norwich and store the bike overnight, seriously… I say what about Newmarket? They reluctantly agree to recover me to Newmarket, so I call them to ask to get me back on the road and they are open, but no service staff are in.. ok I give up.

After about 10 minutes I think if it was my bike I would just take the diesel out myself so that’s what I’m going to do, but how?? I don’t have any tools or pipe/tube… ahh there is a patch of grass, if I push the bike over there I could disconnect the fuel pipe and let the diesel drain out onto the ground.. I leave all my gear and push the bike across the road to the grassy scrubland. I undo the fuel pipe and…. nothing happens… of course the bike is injected so the fuel is pumped to the injectors. Just then someone shouts from the other side of the road where my helmet etc is; its two young women and a child in a pushchair.. they are shouting to say they’re looking after my gear… mmm really, I’d better go and get my stuff. One of the women asks what the problem is and I tell her, she immediately says ‘yep did the same with my bike before’ and I am instantly ashamed for assuming the worst. These two wonderful young women proceed to come with me to the bike and we look at how to get the diesel out. We think about laying the bike down to let the diesel out of the filler cap, but I’m not really happy with that, I dont want to damage the bike, it’s not mine afterall. The petrol station is just there and there is an Asda.. the two women offer to go to the shop to see if they can get some pipe so I can syphon the diesel out. I am always amazed at how supportive women can be to one another and I don’t know why I should be because on all my adventures I have met some wonderful and incredible women who have helped me out of some very tricky situations.

They return after about 20 minutes with a new coil of garden hose, a bucket and a craft knife.. wow… they have actually bought this stuff. We cut a piece of pipe and I syphon the diesel into the bucket; it tastes disgusting and one of the women takes over the last bit as I have had enough.

I offer to pay for the items but they flatly refuse, just marvelous but I do wish they would let me pay. I thank them both profusely and give them a hug then push the bike over to the petrol pump and fill up. The bike takes quite a few attempts, but eventually splutters into life amidst clouds of acrid black smoke, a few seconds and then dies again. I persevere and at last am able to jump on and get going. The bike kangaroos for a couple of miles but at last settles down.

I ride as fast as I can to try and bump up the miles for the charity and when the time runs out have managed 170 miles in total. By the time I get home I have done over 250 miles but in 8 hours.

Still no word from Lakeside and the following day I give them a call, she says she is still waiting for a response from Warrs. I finish work early so decide to return the hire bike to Warrs today instead of tomorrow. I tell the truth about the diesel incident fully expecting to have to pay for the engine to be flushed out or something.. the service manager asks if its running ok, yes.. is it still blowing smoke? no… ok that’s fine then, don’t worry about it. Oh, won’t you need do do anything to it then? Well, yeah, we might take the plugs out and give them a clean, but if it’s running ok then probably not.

I ask him if he has heard from Lakeside, he hasn’t, so I proceed to tell him what’s happening with the rod. After a long discussion he says to get the bike over to them and they will do it under warranty as the fault is with the ECM that they already changed. He also says if I had taken it to them last week he would have given me a loan bike so I would have saved the hire charges… bloody marvellous, I so wish I had waited the extra day until Warrs was open. I immediately call Lakeside and tell them that I will move the bike to Warrs as the fault is related to their part, they are not best pleased. They will still charge me for their labour, £300, she seems surprised I don’t argue about it and tell her to send me an invoice and I’ll pay later. I arrange for the rod to be collected from Lakeside the following morning and taken over to Warrs.

In the midst of all this I decide I am going to rejoin the WRWR in southern Germany, so I will ride the last leg in Germany, Dierdorf to Bollendorf in Luxembourg, then from there into Belgium and on to the first leg in the Netherlands leaving at Amersfoort and returning to the UK. This was all going to be done on the V-Rod, but now I have lost all confidence in the bikes reliability and have more or less made up my mind to change it, but for what??

A few days later and the V-Rod is fixed, I remember it needs a 5000 mile service too so ask them to do that before I collect it. When I pick her up I am expecting to pay for the service, but he says not to worry as it’s only a small service and it will go towards the cost of the hire bike that I wouldn’t of needed if I had taken the bike there in the first place.. now why on earth would I take my bikes anywhere else in the future??

Riding the rod home and I just love it, well love riding it, she is a dream.. so smooth and responsive and fast!! But, the exhaust pipe is still bloody murderously hot and I’m half expecting it to break down again.

It’s now good friday, a bank holiday and easter weekend is here… I decide to go back to Warrs and talk about swapping the rod in for the Fat Bob. I’ll have to forego the Wicked Red paint and get the ex-demo in denim black, probably almost my least favorite colour, but I’m due to go to Germany next Thursday so can’t wait for a new bike. It’s a lovely day and I arrive at Warrs around 10 am.. it’s shut, what! I’m going out riding with a couple of the girls tomorrow and am busy Sunday, Monday Warrs is shut and I am working all day Tuesday, ummm. I did see a Fat Bob in denim red, seriously ugly, for sale at Oxford HD quite a bit cheaper than the Warrs figures, think I’ll take a ride over and have a look. I ring first to make sure they are open and still have the Fat Bob on sale, I also book a test ride, just want to make sure it’s what I want.

A couple of hours after riding around the M25 car park, I mean over 50 miles of filtering.. exhausting, I arrive at Oxford HD. I really don’t like the red, I just don’t like denim paintwork, which is odd because the Fat Boy is denim. Anyway there is a brand new shiny black one stood next to it and I get talking to one of the sales men and mention that I prefer the black one, but it’s a lot more then the red and that is a very good price. I go out on the test ride and really do like the feel of the bike. When I get back I’m seen by another sales guy, Jonny, who tells me the chap I was talking to earlier is the sales manager and he has decided to offer me the black glossy new bike at the same price as the denim red… sold says I, give me a pen and tell me where to sign. They are offering the same as Warrs in part ex for my V-Rod so I decide to go ahead and all is done and dusted there and then. I can come back on Wednesday to drop the rod and pick up the new Bob so I will take it to Germany with me on Thursday.

The next day, me and a couple of the girls from the club took a round trip down to Stonehenge and back, we really had a great ride and as we were all on fast bikes made the most of them. It was a great farewell to the rod, we had a real blast. On the way we stopped at Oxford HD, well we were passing by just 2 miles away so, as I was leading, we pulled in of course. Pumper took some photos of me on the new bike…

So today I went to Oxford to pick up the new bike. I did feel a bit sad to be saying goodbye to the V-Rod, it’s a great bike and I would buy another one in a heartbeat, I guess this one was just jinxed so it had to go, but am very much looking forward to my adventures on the Bob, I’ve got new exhaust mufflers, a screamin’ beagle air intake and a Vance and Hines Fuelpak 3 coming to soup it up a bit and make it louder, but they won’t be here in time to do it for tomorrow. I also have a luggage rack etc. arriving today I hope, otherwise I will have to take a rucksack on my back.. eek!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Freedom of Speech…. eh??

20th March 2019

So this morning I awoke to a shitstorm… it seems, since publishing my blog, the whole ‘man signs baton’ issue is spiralling out of control.

I am not going to make a big thing out of this, but I do want to document a few facts so that those reading my blog will know what happened.

Firstly, it starts with one person copying and posting their comments on my blog onto the WRWR facebook group. Immediately comments, both for and against, start being posted regarding men signing or being involved in WRWR. Then the personal comments about my blog begin and what I should or shouldn’t have said/done. Then it was confirmed that a man had not signed the baton at all and that this was a ‘false rumour’ apparently started by me!

Next I receive a phone call from Hayley Bell, the originator of the whole WRWR shebang.. we have a long chat about my blog, male involvement in WRWR, the promotion of women bikers, etc. However, the main thrust of her call is to tell me how devastated the Spanish Ambassador is about what I have said in my blog about my experiences and feelings on days 16/17 – Biarittz to Vinhais. She also confirms it is not true that a man signed the baton, it was a man standing next to a woman who was signing and the woman is upset that people are calling her a man. Furthermore, it is a woman’s hand holding the pen. I explain to Hayley that I am documenting my experiences, my reactions, my feelings of events as and when they happen. When I wrote about the lack of communication with the Spanish Ambassador and how upset I was that day and part of the next day I didn’t know the woman at that time and obviously with hindsight I now know what a lovely person she and the other Spanish woman are, but the blog is a record of how I felt at that moment in time, it is not retrospective and in the following days I do acknowledge how warm, welcoming and fantastically organised it all was. With regards to the baton incident, I merely reported what I had been told and how I felt about it.

Next I receive a text message from one of the other organisers insisting that I apologise to the Spanish Ambassadors for creating ‘false rumours’ and that I should choose my words carefully and take responsibility.

It is at this point that I post the following on the WRWR facebook page:

“I suspect that the baton upset has now moved on and I’m grateful for that, however I do feel the need to defend myself from some of the comments made about what I wrote in my blog. Having been contacted by WRWR organisers telling me about how devastated the Spanish ambassadors are and asking me to apologise for creating ‘false rumours’ I feel I have no choice but to put the record straight. First and foremost I am equally devastated that the Spanish ambassadors are so upset and I apologise unreservedly for any part I may have played in that. They are wonderful women who have done an exceptional job. We were all treated with the upmost respect and made to feel tremendously welcome by them and the rest of the Spanish riders. With regards to my blog and comments I make within it, this is a record of my days, my experiences, my views and my feelings. I am recording what happens to me, how I feel about it and my own opinions. I do not start false rumours I only report what I was told and how that made me feel. When I was told the baton had been signed by a man I took that at face value, I didn’t question it as I trusted the person who told me. That information was extremely upsetting to me and I fully accept and respect that other women do not feel the same way. I do not however accept being accused, vilified and criticised for documenting my feelings and experiences as they were at the time; my feelings of upset and devastation are just as valid as anyone else’s. Ultimately, if you do not agree that anyone should have the freedom to express those feelings in an online diary then please do not read mine.”

This created a number of responses, both supportive and not.. I am not going to document them.

I then felt I should contact the Spanish Ambassador to express my regret at the upset she has felt today and to explain my comments in my blog about things that happened. I fully expected her to unfriend me and never want to be in contact with me again. Astonishingly she said exactly the opposite, Mar Gómez Garcia you are a lovely woman, do not feel bad about any of this ok!

So, in the end what has happened is that it has been discovered that a man did indeed sign the scroll, it was an ACCIDENT… it was not planned or ignored or anything, it just happened. I think it is great that the facts have now come out and we can all move forward, let’s face it, we are all capable of making mistakes and I’ve been told that the man in question is equally devastated that he did not realise he shouldn’t have done it.

Mar put a statement on the WRWR facebook group informing everyone of this so hopefully we can all now continue to support the fantastic WRWR initiative. I personally won’t be taking any further part in the event this year… not because of this, but because I have to work and other commitments that I must devote my energy to.

So onward and upward… next should be a weekend trip with my club to the Peak District in northern England at the beginning of May… watch out there’s Dykes about!!

P.S. It seems some people felt my comments about male bikers a bit ‘harsh’, I think there may be a culture clash here… in my circle of biker mates (male and female) referencing bikers as ‘hairy arsed’ and ‘real bikers’ as big bearded, fat, men is a joke.. it is irony just as we joke about new harley riders ‘buying the lifestyle’ etc. etc. I received personal messages in response to the comment ‘everyone knows a real biker has to have a large beard, enormous belly and a dangly appendage!!!’ from my mates who actually have large beards, enormous bellies and dangly appendages who thought it was hilarious, so if you are offended then don’t be, its just biker chat!!

Finally, and I have thought long and hard about whether to say this or not, but I do feel I must comment on the consequences of the furore for me personally. After it was announced that the incident had actually happened I kind of expected at least the WRWR administrators who had contacted me yesterday accusing me of creating ‘false rumours’ and being the reason the Spanish were ‘devastated’ to, either publicly or privately, proffer an apology; I have waited all day for some kind of acknowledgement that I am not at fault. I have to say how sadly unsurprised I am that not one person, of those who were so quick to condemn and criticise me yesterday on facebook and via text and telephone, is prepared to even take the trouble to apologise once the facts became public late last night, therefore it appears that I remain, to some extent, still considered ‘guilty’…. a very, very sad end to the WRWR experience for me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Foggy Mountain Dew

Day 9 – Seville to Gibraltar

17th March 2019

So last day… just another 150km into Gibraltar and my other home.

But first…..

I eventually got to sleep, but am up relatively early and make my way downstairs for some coffee etc.  Mmmm what’s all that noise… seriously!!!  There are literally hundreds of people, the whole bar is absolutely chocka block with Spaniards either eating breakfast or queuing to order some.  It’s absolutely manic.  I turn around and make my way back upstairs, no brekkie for me today.  I simply pack my bags and make my way back downstairs, struggle my way through the throngs and outside to find 4 coaches parked up… so that’s where they’ve all come from.  I remember now that Sunday is a really popular day for coach trips.

On top of that visibility is down to a few feet, yep, thick, thick fog… I can’t believe it, yesterday was absolutely perfect, brilliant sunshine and very warm.  Oh well, better get going I guess.

Before I leave I see this little bird sheltering from the fog…

I get on the bike and decide I will stop at the first opportunity to have a coffee at least and hopefully the fog will quickly dissipate when the sun starts to burn it off.  I also decide to live stream from my phone on the bike.. I have done this a few times, the video quality is really crap as the vibration from the bike just makes it jump all over the place, but it will still give everyone a good view of the fog.

I stop the film at the cafe, but again it is full of people from coach trips so I quickly get back on the road.  I eventually find a place, off the beaten track and at last can have a coffee.

Back on the road and passing Jerez.. I am thinking to myself ‘Welcome to Andulusia’ 364 days of beautiful sunshine and here I am on day 365.. hahaha

The road carries on towards Algeciras and suddenly I am in full sunshine again, hurrah.  Very soon I am on a familiar section of the A381 past Los Barrios, where we often go shopping, on to the A7 into La Linea De La Concepción… more shaky video

At last I am parking outside my apartment complex and the journey is done.  I am looking forward to seeing my friends here and enjoying at least a few hours with my feet up.  The bike is in desperate need of a proper wash and then I will store it in our garage in La Linea until we come over again.

To all the participants, organisers, supporters and promoters of the WRWR event around the world, thank you for all your hard work and dedication, it is a fantastic celebration of women riders, wherever they may be.  Putting aside the ups and downs of individual days and routes I have had a wonderful time, have met and ridden with marvellous, generous and friendly women who have welcomed me into their company with open arms.  There has never been one hint of homophobia and for that I am eternally grateful.

Thank you, Merci, Gracias, Obrigado – Ride on, Ride Safe Sistas x

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pass the Port…

WRWR Day 18 – My Day 8 Vinhais, Portugal to Seville, Spain

16th March 2019

This morning its a very early start as we are supposed to gather for a 7 am photo shoot, we more or less manage to be ready at 8am lol.

Just as we are about to leave the cabin Colette doesn’t drop her bike, more like guides it to the ground.. oh oh, copying my trick.. forgot to take the disc lock off… oops!! At least there’s no damage.

We take some time to have photos taken, the Portuguese have had a banner made.. excellent.

c. Susana Rico Photography

They also have a van so Colette immediately unloads her luggage to go on the van.  There are also several photo/videographers to record every second of the event.

Now it is time to say farewell to the Spanish riders… I have to say I have really warmed to them all and do regret being such a gloomy cow yesterday.

I am particularly sad to say goodbye to Mar, but she makes me promise to keep in touch and to let her know when I am in Spain again so we can go riding together.. I tell her that is a definite.  I also say farewell to Sandra and tell her to sit still when she is riding, she thinks this is hilarious!!

Finally it is time to bid farewell to Colette the English/South African/Australian woman who is attempting to ride all the way round the world or a far as funds and her will to continue lasts.

It has been fantastic to meet/ride and laugh with her the last few days, from UK through France into Spain and now Portugal, I hope she realises her dream. We promise to see each other again sometime.. I still hope to make it to New Zealand one day so we will arrange to ride together again then.

The route today is approximately 500kms to Lisbon, I have miscalculated the time I have available so I am not going to be able to ride all the way with them and will have to make my way to Gibraltar today instead of tomorrow.  I ask the ride leader, Livi founder of the Litas Motorcycle Club, whether they are going straight on to the Autorua?  She says they will ride some country roads first, great so I will peel off when they reach the Autorua and make my own way.

We are soon on our way, back onto the great, twisty country roads.  A quick stop to pick up another woman and then for petrol.  The new woman, (I’m sorry I didn’t get her name), seems to be the official photographer and she asks me if she can take a photo of me sometime on the route.  I tell her I am leaving soon as I have to make my way to Gibraltar so she asks me to pose with my bike there and then.  Gosh, this trip is a hedonists dream lol.

Back on the road and there is another photographer riding with us, a woman pillion is taking photos as we ride and the pilot is overtaking and cutting in for her to get the best shots.. I really look forward to seeing them.

All too soon we are approaching the Autorua so I make my way to the front of the group and wave my goodbyes to them all.  I have already said individual goodbyes so I simply roar off into the distance – hasta la vista… baby!!

Here are some fantastic photos taken by Susana Rico, check out her work here at https://www.susanarico.com

Suddenly a motorcycle overtakes me.. it’s the photographer pillion bike… a final shot and they are gone… ciao.

I need coffee…. I continue riding for a little while avoiding toll roads of course.  I then find myself in this lovely little town so I pull up and take a break.

I go into a cafe and, remembering my last time in Portugal a few years ago, order a Galão… (sounds like galon), which is a tall, white, delicious coffee and a croissant… obrigado, (thanks… my other Portuguese word, besides Ola that is).

I enjoy a very pleasant break and indeed order a second Galão, it is just so nice to be on my own, doing things at Pogs’ pace and not having to rush or panic…. it has been a fantastic experience riding with all these great women, but I have to admit I really do like my own company and to do my own thing.  My only objective today is to get as far as I can to Gibraltar, no need to bomb along and endure excruciating pain, I can stop as many times as I want and enjoy just riding my beloved fat girrrrrl, gaze at the scenery, take photos, change direction etc. etc…. pure bliss!!

I have made a decision to head to Cáceres, just over the border in Spain as a potential overnight stop, but I have nothing booked and will sort something out when I am ready to stop.

I leave the town of Vila Flor Capital Do Mundo and find myself on the N332 a fantastic well surfaced road with some nice curves to keep me occupied.  The scenery is just great and the sun is shining… am having an absolute blast.

The road is so great that I just have to stop and take some photos…

However, each time I ride through the centre of a town the Portuguese have a very clever way of slowing the traffic down… yes there are the occasional speed humps, but it seems every town centre is cobbled, believe me that concentrates the mind to keep the speed down and the bike under control.

I must say I really do like Portugal and would love to have a biking holiday here sometime, rather than just riding through or attending a HOG rally… ok Dykes on Bikes London, a holiday in northern Spain with Mar and an exploration of Portugal is definitely on the cards.

On my route I pass through Almeida, and what a lovely surprise, oh I wish I had time to stop and visit… right this is deffo on the itinerary dykes…

As you can see it is now 80 degrees, a lovely hot day. After a time I look up and see the pylons all have storks in them… I have never seen this before and they are all concentrated in a very small area, how odd!

Quite suddenly I am at the border with Spain… mmmm, no more Galão, quick turn around and I find Cafe Taba here in Vilar Formoso, literally 1km from the Spanish border. Time for a spot of lunch too as it’s now 2pm.  The man behind the bar seems like a nice boy… I wonder if he is the only gay in the village lol???

Once across I am still heading towards Cáceres, but am now on faster roads.  I am feeling pretty good so I think why not try to get all the way to Gibraltar??  Oh, I remember I haven’t brought the apartment keys with me so I will have to get the guest set from our friends who look after it for us when we are not there..  at this rate I’m probably not going to arrive until about midnight, not really a good idea to bother them, but I could ask her to leave the keys under a flower pot.. mmmm

I carry on as far as I can and around 9pm decide not to be daft, I can’t make it to Gibraltar tonight, but I will carry on a little longer.  Eventually I pass by Seville and come to a place called Dos Hermanas and am ready to stop.  Out with the trusty booking.com app, but there is nothing available here… well not in my price range.  I do find a Hostal just 30km away on the A480 so book a room there.

I arrive at around 10pm, it is pretty basic, but clean and the restaurant is still open so I order something to eat.  As I’m eating the restaurant starts to fill up, I am amazed at how many people are having their evening meal so late. I know the Spanish like to eat late in the summer, but still I am surprised.  Off to bed, but there is a lobby just on the floor below where a man is on the phone, loudly, the sound is being amplified by the usual tiled surfaces in most Spanish hotels, so I am still awake at midnight… sigh!!

In total I have ridden 770km today, roughly 500 miles, I think that is my record… don’t know why, I just kept going… strange.  Just one and a half hours to go tomorrow into Gibraltar.. yay!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Face Like a Smacked A**e or What!!

WRWR Day 17 – My Day 7 Gijon to Vinhais, Portugal

15th March 2019

So, after the drama yesterday I’m still not feeling the love for this relay.. I do however make my way to the meeting point arriving 20 minutes late not much caring if they are there or not.

They are gearing up as I arrive so no need to get off my bike, which is good as I’m not in the mood for false bonhomie.

A rather small woman comes out, says hello, jumps on her Harley Sportster and then we are off. The small woman is in the lead and the other girls wave me through so that I am behind the leader.

She takes us on to the Autovia and after about 20km we take a slip road off into a town and eventually pulling up outside an American Diner.  I, of course, am hoping there is time for coffee so I dismount and go in. Inside are several plastic Elvis statues, stop it!!

Colette and Mar, who obviously have just finished breakfast, are both here. Mar immediately gets up and comes over apologising yet again, repeatedly… enough already.. gosh I’m in a foul mood. I tell her to stop apologising, I want to add its really getting on my nerves but I don’t.

So the plan, she says, is to ride now to Léon, about 50 minutes, then a short break.. ‘will that be alright for you, we can stop earlier if you need to’. Obviously Colette has told her about me and my hands, I say I’m fine, a break every 100km or so is good, afterall I rode yesterday with only 2 breaks, rubbing it in of course, told you am in an evil mood. Mar continues; then we are going into the mountains to ride one of my favourite roads, lots of twisties, which apparently I will love.. ‘promise’… I just look at her. We will then meet up with another woman, Maria followed by a visit to a cultural heritage site and then we will stop for lunch, after which we will ride to Vinhais in Portugal to meet the Portuguese Guardians and hand over the baton for the next leg of the relay.

Sounds like a plan, I just nod, I couldn’t care a less at this point, I’m still not sure I even want to be here, but whatever.

Colette is full of admiration for these girls and has told me more than once how they are great riders, apparently they were bombing along at 160kph yesterday and taking the bends very fast… yawn!

We soon set off and the route is very good, we don’t really use the fast roads and it’s mostly country roads all the way. After a while we pass Leon and come to our first stop. One of the other girls explains that if you order a drink you get free food.. oh really, ok. I order a coffee and we are all sitting outside in the sunshine, it is actually a lovely day, very warm in the sun. They then bring out huge platters of meats, chorizo, salami, etc., and hunks of bread.. very good.

Mar and Colette have obviously become firm friends

MAR and COLETTE

and I sit with them and a couple of the other women, it’s a very pleasant stop off… I’m still in a mood though, I’m finding it hard to shake it off so keep quiet mostly. Mar tells us about her favourite road and how they ride it in the snow every year with her bike club. One year the guy sitting opposite, hairy fat chap, rode it when one of the passes was closed and dumped his bike, only his panniers saved his bike…. yawn!! Sorry, evil….

Soon we are on the road again and climbing up into the mountains. The road starts to get twistier and I was expecting really difficult hairpins, but actually its pretty easy and I’m not having too much difficulty negotiating the bends, except I’ve got the small woman on the Sportster in front of me and she is pretty slow so I find myself in the wrong gear sometimes, which is annoying, I’m glad we’re not doing it in snow though I have to say.. that is pretty hardcore.

Eventually we pull in here and the views a pretty stunning… absolutely fantastic I must say.

After this we start to make our decent to meet up with Maria. I am now behind one of the other girls, Sandra, who is riding a small GS, (BMW), she constantly stands up, sits down, stretches both arms out, wiggles her head, sticks her feet out…. OMG sit still!! One thing though, she has a very long body but extremely short legs so the bike must be lowered.. mmm I’ll ask her later.

There are a couple of blokes in the group, but they are partners of the girls and they are very unobtrusive so I hardly notice them.

We meet Maria and it’s hugs all round and off we go again, this time with Maria in the lead. The roads are now becoming vertical, uneven and the corners tighter… my right footboard even scrapes the ground on a few right handers, until we pull into a large car park.. this must be the heritage site I think. I have to move my bike as the slope is too steep to put the side stand down and by the time I have parked safely and got my gear off the girls have started walking up a slope that rises above the car park.. Mar shouts down.. come on Pad… PAD!!!… no, no, no….

I start up the slope and now can see it’s a very steep, long road up the side of a mountain… grrrrrr….. If I’d known I wouldn’t have started up, but my pride won’t allow me to give up. At last I reach the top where there are some old ruins and a viewing platform… yep the views are fantastic, but no sooner have I arrived than they all want to go back down.. I do manage to get a few shots though.

Down to the bikes and I’m getting back on when everyone just roars off, including the sweeper!!… now this is one thing that has been happening all day, they don’t wait until everyone is ready, they just go and if everyone hasn’t caught up they might pull over and wait for them.. that’s just not done in my club, we wait until everyone, ie me, is ready so this doesn’t help my bad mood. I follow the road, but at one point there is a fork… oh which way?? There’s no marker ie a bike waiting to signal the correct fork, so I take a chance and turn left. At the bottom of the road the group is there, ah so they did wait for me… oh hang on, one of the other girls is fiddling with her bike so maybe it’s not me they have stopped for… nice.

We ride on some faster roads and here we are…

2206275372728114

then stop for lunch… outside in the sun I sit with Mar and Colette again. I’m starting to come around now and realise that I do like Mar.. she is a drag racer so that’s pretty impressive I must say as she only looks about 21.. she’s 36 and rides several bikes, but the drag bike is her favorite. She is actually very likeable and I feel my black mood lifting. I take this opportunity to get all the girls to sign my helmet, which is looking pretty good I must say and is proving very popular for photos. I also advise Mar that she is not to call me Pad, it’s Padraigin or Pogs please, she is ok about it.

Back on the road heading now to Portugal, after about an hour we seem to be riding into a farm and stop again outside a house. I take a quick look at my floorboard, yep it’s scraped and my exhaust too… some appreciative noises from some of the girls too… it’s a biker thing!

The farm house turns out to be a small bar and we order coffee and some delicious patatas bravas… it is so good that we actually scoff several small tapas portions between four of us.

Lau, Sandra, Moi, Mar and Maria… I’m holding the Patatas Bravas of course

I grab the opportunity to ask Sandra about her bike… yes it has been lowered… mmm interesting…

Maria comes in and shouts Vamamous or something like that and everyone laughs… obviously a spanish in joke!

We come out of the farm and within 20 minutes are at the border with Portugal. There are at least 20 bikes waiting to meet us.. yep the Portuguese girls are right at the border and we take loads of photos of course. The local MC, (Motorcycle Club), is also here to greet us.

It is now dark as the whole group sets off for Vinhais… hang on why is there a bloke leading?? Mar, Sandra and Maria plus a few other women overtake him and he ends up in front of me. He is riding a Honda Maxi Scooter with a hugh red strip light on his top box that blinds me everytime he brakes.. and he can’t take a corner without braking.. oh great. I really want to pass him but the road is too curvy so I just have to get on with it.

We enter Vinhais and go into what I assume is the town hall where there are several people.. dignitaries I suppose.. waiting for us. This chap gets up and makes a speech in Spanish, I assume he’s the Mayor or something, so Colette and I sit and laugh at the terrible artwork.. you would have to be there to see what I mean.

Then he gives Mar and another Maria, a Portuguese Ambassador, a town shield and a few other bits and pieces and we are given brown paper bags with some Vinhais tourist leaflets, in Spanish, a pin badge and a cloth badge with the town logo and a small terracotta pot… that’s very kind of them.

One woman seems to have taken a bit of a shine to me… aye, aye… she asks if she can take a photo, sure, but not of me oh no she wants a photo with my back patch lol!!

I’m really tired and still not sure where I am supposed to be sleeping. Im not really bothered about eating, I actually just want to go to bed so I check booking.com for a room, but the nearest is about 10km away. Colette pursuades me to come for the meal so we all ride further into the town and enter a large restaurant where they have a very long table prepared for us.

The meal is pre-ordered, meat or fish so tough if you are veggie or vegan. The starter is huge lumps of chorizo and pigs head…. no thanks to the pig snout! The next course is pork slices, these are quite nice and we have some chips with it.

Mar acts as interpreter for Maria, (vamamous), who asks how old I am… this keeps happening, apparently I’m one of the oldest riders so far… when I tell her she says she admires me very much and wants to be still riding like me when she’s my age…. how sweet. So then Colette chimes in with how impressed they all are with how I handle the big bike in the corners… they should try it on the Tail of the Dragon, lol.

Now I really can’t stay awake so Colette asks about our accommodation. We are sharing some cabins in the woods, sounds basic, and they have a bed for me. It’s too late and I’m too tired to ride anymore so I say thank you.

We ride in the pitch black up a steep twisty road to arrive at the parc ecologic, mmm interesting. The cabin is huge with two bathrooms. Mar should have gone home, but decides to stay overnight so she gets the couch. I’m to share a twin room with Colette… I don’t like sharing, but needs must and Colette is a nice woman so all good.

Before crashing Colette shares a bombshell about the reception in Llanes. The relay was greeted by local bike clubs, including a Vespa club who proceeded to take control and lead the group.  What is even worse is that when it came to signing the WRWR baton scroll the men of the Vespa club were signing too…. unbelievable, it’s lucky I wasn’t there I can tell you.  Seriously, what part of WOMEN RIDERS WORLD RELAY don’t they understand…. oh they probably are just letting us think we are bikers, after all everyone knows a real biker has to have a large beard, enormous belly and a dangly appendage!!!  I can’t believe this was allowed to happen, the scroll is meant to be signed by the baton Guardians… what a disappointment.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments