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…

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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.

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Pass me my Broomstick…

WRWR Relay Day 16 – My Day 6 Biarritz to Gijon, Spain

14th March 2019

Just after 9 am we make our way a short ride up the road to the Triumph dealership.  It’s raining quite hard this morning, but soon stops.  I wait outside with my bike while Jo and Loup go in to talk to the triumph people.  Before long a van turns up with Jo’s bike inside.. wow that was quick!!

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After a bit of hanging around the upshot is that they think it’s the battery, so they will replace it and the dodgy key module that’s hanging off the bike. (The bike was stolen and the toe rags broke the key barrel to start the bike so Jo had a replacement put on, but its not the right one).  These seem quite straightforward fixes, they are also going to repair her rear light which doesn’t work properly, but they cannot get to her bike until about 3pm.

I can’t wait until then as I want to catch up with the relay.  Loup is going to stay with Jo so she won’t be alone, what a star.

I bid the girls farewell and head back to the hotel to get my luggage.  While I’m finishing packing I hear Loup’s bike returning so once I have packed she and Jo come out to wave me off.  It’s now getting on for 12 o’clock so I really need to get going, its a long way to ride.  The first possible catch up point is in Llanes where the Spanish are stopping for lunch and some sort of civic reception.  They are planning to be there from around 2pm to 4/5pm so it might be possible to get to them before they leave… better see how it goes.

Just before I leave I message Mar, the WRWR Ambassador for the northern Spain routes to say I am on my way.  She replies to head for the Civic Hall in LLanes, but Google maps is saying 355kms avoiding toll roads. My GPS won’t route in Spain, I forgot to download the map…oops!  It’s ok as I have my iPhone so can use google maps to navigate.  Its also saying 4 and  half hours, but that doesn’t include stops for lunch and petrol so its unlikely that I will be able to catch them before Dijon.

On the way out of Biarritz I stop to capture the rolling surf, bit wild and woolly indeed.

The road starts to climb upwards and I pass through several tunnels cut through the mountains.  The scenery is fantastic and before long I find myself in Spain having passed through the border without noticing.  I do however see a sign telling me I am now in ‘Basque Country’, this makes me think about ETA and the Basque separatist movement… mmm I wonder what happened to that??

Soon after this I’m feeling hungry so I stop at a roadside service area and restaurant.

Basque Country

I order a standard portion pork baguette, (lomo boccadillo) with a few chips, milky coffee and I want some orange juice and am feeling proud that I managed to ask for it all in Spanish.. except the chap is laughing because I got the orange the wrong way round, I said Naranja de Zumo and he tells me it should be Zumo de Naranja… oh well at least I tried.

The sandwich comes and of course it is absolutely enormous… I can only manage half, but what value for money.. all of that came to just under €10, brilliant.

There are always cabinets with loads of tut, but also knives of all shapes and sizes, however this is just batshit crazy… anyone can buy these for just €25, absolutely bonkers!

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So back on the road and am now riding along the wild coast of the Bay of Biscay.. really beautiful, I’ll have to organise a club ride here sometime.

With 250kms to go to Gijon I message Mar again to let her know where I am and ask where to meet with the group in Gijon.

I carry on riding and am in a great deal of pain with my hands as I don’t want to keep stopping… It would be wonderful to actually have a broomstick at this stage I can tell you.

My next stop is around 100kms from Gijon and there is no response from Mar. Ok so I message Colette, the Australian woman, to say I’m 100kms away and can she ask Mar to let me know where I need to go when I arrive at Gijon.

I arrive on the outskirts of Gijon at around 6pm.. park up and check my phone.. nothing, so what to do? I try phoning, no answer. I think that maybe they are in a no phone signal area as I know my phone is ok, (I have messages from other people), but I put a message on the group chat anyway to see if there are indeed any problems. Joanna, the French ambassador, replies that she will try and get in touch with Mar via What’s App. This is bloody ridiculous, I’m part of this leg group and I expect the group leader to at least wonder where I am and if I’m ok and to make arrangements to meet me, but silence. Am getting very pissed off at this point; I’ve ridden long and hard to get here, am in considerable pain and I’m exhausted.

After a further 5 minutes without any contact its out with my trusty booking.com app and I start looking for somewhere to stay. I find a pension in the centre of Gijon for €35 and book it.

I arrive at the pension, it’s in the middle of the city so I have to park in the street. The pension is in an apartment building with huge wrought iron gates, very grand, very dark!! Mmmm looks shut… I try the bell, no answer… oh stop it!

I look at the booking and there is a phone number so I try calling. A woman answers and says she will be there in 5 minutes… and she is.

The pension is excellent, very arty, and the woman couldn’t be nicer or more helpful. It seems I am the only guest! The room is great and there is a kitchen next door with a small sitting area very tastefully arranged. I can help myself to tea, coffee, toast etc etc, all very nice. She gets a small map of the city centre and marks out good places to eat and visit. She then asks why I’m in Gijon so I tell her all about the WRWR of course. She thinks it’s great and asks to take a photo of me… yes no problem,

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What a gem this place is, I’m already thinking I must come back to stay here again and explore Gijon properly. The woman gives me my keys and tells me just to drop them on her desk in the morning and then she’s gone and I’m all alone.

I change quickly and go out to find the restaurant she particularly recommends. I’m now thinking I don’t want to meet up with the group, in fact I feel like maybe spending another day here then heading straight to Gibraltar. Today has really taken the shine off the whole event for me; I mean it has been very hard going, not only the riding but also being in groups with riders who don’t really follow group riding rules, which makes the riding harder always having to change position to ensure a clear ‘escape route’ ahead. (It is usual to ride in staggered formation so that if something untoward happens you don’t plough into the bike in front) but some of the riders are sucking the tailpipe of the bike in front, moving from side to side across the width of the road to follow the ‘correct’ line, which is what you do when riding solo at speed, and riding a bit too close so it makes for greater concentration when following.

I call home and chat with my partner and in the end am almost sure I’m not going to continue with the relay.  Just then my phone rings and it is Colette, she asks me where I am and explains that they have only just arrived having been feted and escorted to various photos ops and media events in Llanes and they are now in a bar so I could come over and meet with them in this biker bar.  I mean seriously, I really expected Mar to call me and arrange to meet up with me or at least to check I am ok and sorted out, but instead it is Colette and I’m expected to want to get on my bike and ride over to some hairy arsed biker bar at this time of night… err no thanks.  

I tell Colette that I’m not best pleased, but can someone send me the meet point and time for the morning and I’ll see how I feel, but don’t wait for me.  On reflection I think I was being a bit of a diva but who cares.  Anyway, 5 minutes later and my phone goes again, it’s Mar at last, but I am just about to enter the restaurant so I think I’ll just let it ring and call her back in a few minutes.

The restaurant has a long bar and there is a bar tender just about to pour Sidre from above his head into a glass.. oh I love this.  I take a stool at the bar and ask him for a small glass of Sidre, just as he is about to pour I ask if I can film him…

Fantastic… I take the opportunity to tell him about the first time I saw this and to ask why they don’t drink the last few mm? He explains that this is to clean or clear the lip of the glass for the next sip.. mmm interesting. I ask for the menu and just as I am ordering Mar calls again so I message to say I will call her back in 5 minutes.

I give her a call and she is very apologetic and asks where I am; well I’m in Gijon but where exactly I don’t know so I put her on speaker and ask the bar man where are we? He explains to Mar and she says it’s not too far so she will come and meet me, she has a bed for me so I don’t need to pay for a room. I tell her that I am already sorted so no need to come. I’m not sure if it’s the language barrier but after the 3rd time telling her I already have paid for a room I begin to suspect she is drunk! She apologises again, several times and we leave it that I will be at the meeting point at 9am.

My food comes, it’s very good and I have one last shot of Sidre, also very good but the pouring palaver is just the best.

I make my way back to the pension and hope for a good nights sleep.

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Steamy, Huffy and Grumpy

WRWR Relay Day 15 – My Day 5 Saintes to San Sebastian, Spain

13th March 2019

So this morning we said farewell to Celine and the ride leader position is taken over by Loup (Wolf). Today there are six of us and we must leave at 8.30 am sharp to walk over to the prison to get our bikes. I took the opportuity to get a shot of the Abbey in daylight

And this rather strange and incongruous edifice…

Don’t know what it is and didn’t have time to ask.

A quick walk over the road, pack the bike and we are soon on our way to Spain.

We hit quite a lot of traffic around Bordeaux and a couple of the french girls seem reluctant to filter so we are reduced to riding with the traffic flow… you wouldnt get anywhere in London doing that I have to say. It is also raining pretty heavily too… grrr.

We stop for lunch at a bike training school, a bit strange methinks, but it turns out this is where Loup’s boyfriend works and she has arranged for us to stop there for lunch and to meet a representative from WIMA, (Womens International Motorcycle Association), who would like to take some shots of us. There was also supposed to be a rep from a bike insurance company too but they couldn’t come, they have sent us each a bag of goodies instead.. a pen, keyring, etc.

Loup’s boyfriend (I don’t think we were told his name) takes us in his van to a roadside food van and we order hot food to take back to the school, it is surprisingly good. Then it’s time to get back on the road.. a few of the women are starting to worry about timings.

Suddenly we pull over to the side of the road, Johanna’s bike is seriously overheating and is actually steaming and she says her coolant level is dangerously low. There is a Peugeot garage just a few hundred metres down the road so Jo dashes off to see if they have any coolant she can buy. When she gets back she says the mechanic has offered to take a look at it for her so we all turn around and pull in to their car park.

There ensues quite a lot of discussion and the mechanic calls Triumph, (she rides a Street Triple), but it seems the bike might have a thermostat problem and the only remedy is to take it to a triumph dealer. We start off again with Jo behind Loup in case she needs to stop urgently.

It all seems to be running ok so we carry on through the french countryside on our way to San Sebastian in Spain via Biarritz, a place I have visited before on my travels. At our next stop it seems Jo’s bike has stopped over heating and we put it down to the rain creating steam from the wet header pipes.. oh well, we’ve all done it, the main thing is the bike is ok.. phew!!

We are stopping on a regular hourly basis as I have the arthritic hands and Loup has a knee problem following a serious accident a few years ago. Every time we stop one of the french women huffs and puffs… oh dear, do get over yourself!

Loup is a very nice young woman, extremely chatty and a good rider, she is trying her best to get everyone to speed up as we are falling behind schedule to meet the spanish girls at Harley Davidson in San Sebastian.

At our last stop we have a good break with a coffee and some beignets.. yummy. I have to wait ages to get into the loo and of course I’ve got several layers of clothing to negotiate and by the time I get outside everyone is waiting. I did want to ring home quickly as I am quite worried about my partner who is very unwell. Next thing the small grumpy french woman comes over and, for someone who looks away when I speak to her I always assumed because she doesnt speak english, says to me to hurry up! Well, I am not best pleased.. I have said on more than one occasion that they do not need to wait fot me I will catch them up or go my own way and meet them there so I repeat this and say it’s not just me who is making everyone late.. meaning her not wanting to speed up or overtake on her shiny GS wth all the new gear… ahem!!

This puts me in a bad humour and wishing I could just go my own way, but Loup insists, rightly, that we all stay together, we are a team… ok.

I then rush to get ready and once we are underway realise I haven’t zipped up my rain jacket which is flapping about me. Every time we stop at traffic lights I try to do it up, but its a double zip which is near impossible to get started with gloves on, so after a few attempts I try without gloves, but the lights change so quickly that I don’t have enough time so in the end I just pull over to do it. The rest of the riders carry on, but I’m not worried as I know we are heading south and there are already sign posts for San Sebastian so I can soon catch them up. Just at Biarritz I do catch them, they are on the other side of the road having turned around so I go around the roundabout and back up to meet them. Just as we are pulling away Jo’s bike dies.. it just won’t restart and it is clear there is an electrical problem.

We try everything we can think of, bump starting.. nope, battery jump from a starter pack.. nope, check out the earth connection we can find.. nope, so Loup and Jo start making phone calls, Jo to her insurer to check if she has european breakdown cover and Loup to Triumph Biarritz. Now the french women are really moaning and so it is agreed to split the group, Loup and I will stay with Jo and the rest will continue to San Sebastian… and they didn’t even bother to say goodbye… seriously!!

A few moments later a van pulls up with two men who are also bikers offering to help. They take a look at the bike and also attempt a jump start but still no go, so they offer to drive over to Triumph and get them to come out. Meanwhile it seems Jo doesnt have any breakdown cover at all and they want 250 pounds before she can even get a call out, bloody expensive. Never, ever go abroad without european breakdown cover, as much as you can afford because you never know and it can end up costing a fortune. Anyway, the two french guys return and it seems Triumph are just closing but they are open again at 9am. It’s agreed that they will push the bike into a safe place and we will book into a hotel for the night. Loup manages to find a hotel near to the Triumph dealership and its very cheap so I take Jo’s luggage and Loup gives her a lift over to the hotel.

The room is fine, not luxurious but adequate so all is good. We have a nice meal and I sleep quite well, despite some rather noisy neighbours… bah humbug!!

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A Day of Kings, Convicts and Monks

WRWR Relay Day 14 – My Day 4 Le Mans to Saintes, France

12th March 2019

This morning there are just 4 of us leaving Le Mans going to Saintes. We will be stopping off to meet two other french women who will join us for the rest of the leg.

Just as we are about to leave the lead rider, Celine, hands me the baton case and asks me to carry it… oh yes, of course I will. We leave the car park with Celine and Colette having already ridden off so immediately Jo and I are unsure where they have gone. We discover there is only one way out but by then the road has been blocked with cones and a lorry is about to unload some building materials so we pull over and debate what to do. Some car drivers are crossing a no entry to get out onto the main road, but we don’t actually know where Celine and Colette have gone. While we ummm and ahhh, Celine suddenly appears. They are parked at the end of the blocked street, so we decide to ride up the pavement to get past the lorry. At last we are off..

We make a brief stop for petrol and then arrive at this absolutely stunning chateau to meet the two new french women…

Its at Montrieul in case you want to go for a look.

The route today is all about the scenery, so Celine is leading us down mostly D roads with twisty turns and some very bumpy sections. She does make a number of turn arounds too.

We stop for a short break and I notice a very unpleasant smell coming from my bike.. what the hell is that?? I have a good look around but can’t find anything wrong. The smell was soon gone so I wonder if it is all the mud caked on the front of the bike.. gosh she badly needs a wash.

Back on the road and next stop is for some lunch in a very nice country restaurant. The smell is back as I park the bike and there is some smoke billowing out of the top of the rear exhaust heat shield… oh that’s not good.

We head into the restaurant and as I am waiting for my food I google the nearest harley dealer.. ah Poitiers, I wonder if Jacques is still there. I also google smoking harley pipes and the only suggestion I can find is a small oil leak from the rear head falling onto the pipe so I go outside for a closer inspection. It is then I see a small black lump stuck to the pipe.. ahhhh, let me just check my get back whip…

Yep, there’s the culprit… when I have had the whip trapped between my leg and the exhaust pipe it has burnt the end off one of the tassels which has then stuck to the exhaust pipe and smouldered, hence the smell of burning leather.. ugh disgusting, but what a relief to have found the problem. However, Celine agrees that I should wash the bike just in case it is another problem. We are due to fill up now so we make our way to the nearest petrol station and it also has a jet wash.

I fill up with petrol and then have to ride over to a kiosk to pay, I give the woman my card and she takes ages to sort it, next thing she is on the phone to someone and then Celine comes over to find out what the problem is.. I am feeling mortified that maybe my card has been declined in front of the ride leader but it turns out that the card machine is broken, so I get my card back and pay cash. I pay 1 euro for a 2 minute jet wash and give the grrrrl a quick blast to get the worst of the mud off… she is definitely in need of an all day scrub.

We then get back on the road for more twisty bumps, but the views are fantastic and gorgeous little french villages. Next stop is outside a Boulongerie so in I dive for a quick coffee and a delicious Beignet, reminds me of New Orleans… yum

We then head to our last stop at 2D Moto, in Saintes and just as we arrive it starts to throw it down with rain… great. We are due to meet some more french girls here and a journalist who interviews Celine, (she is a former professional bike racer), about the WRWR relay. The new french women who come to greet us then take us to our accommodation. The bikes are going to be parked in the staff car park at Saintes prison, where one of the girls is a prison officer. It is very secure, of course, and the bikes are under shelter which is good. However, our accommodaton for the night is just stunning… we are staying in the hostel at the Abbaye Aux Dames… yep our rooms are former cells.. wow!!!

And the building itself is beautiful… also very serene

We all meet up later and have a great evening meal and very good company too.

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It’s the Pits Man

WRWR Relay Day 13 – My Day 3, Boulogne Sur Mer to Le Mans

11th March 2019

This morning we are meeting the rest of the group at the Nauticaa centre just a mile or so from the Ibis. Sylvie and I are the last to arrive just as they are about to leave. Of course Sylvie is turning back for home this morning as she has had to cancel the rest of her trip due to family illness, this means she never got to have the baton, which is a shame. Thankfully Mr and Mrs I M Incharge have returned to the UK.

Sylvie and I say our farewells and it’s off we all go on our way to Le Mans

The ride itself is only memorable for the fact that it was autoroute all the way in high winds so exhausting and we had to stop and pay the tolls that amounted to €32 euro, so fairly expensive. The major news is that I am given the chance to carry the baton, which I am very pleased about

The motorway riding means I am in constant pain, particularly in my right hand so am grateful for as many breaks as possible.

Late afternoon and we arrive at Le Mans… I didnt realise it was at the actual 24 hour race track.. wow how good it that. We pull up into the car park and seem to be waiting for someone to arrive to meet us.

Then Joanna Barthorpe arrives, the WRWR French Ambassador and we are led into the actual race track itself…. wow are we going to be allowed to ride around it?? No, but the next best thing, we are taken into the pit lane and meet up with some french women racers… fantastic!

What an amazing experience… and here are the racers all lined up with their bikes before they start some practice laps.. which we are allowed to watch.

..and here is the iconic track..

After that we are taken back into the pit area to meet some of them and have some nibbles. I finally get a photo with the baton itself… great

And take the opportuity to present Joanna with the gift from our club.. a limited edition Stolk print signed on the back by all of us who rode over to the Ace Cafe. Joanna seemed very taken aback, but later, after it sank in I guess, she did message us saying how pleased she was to receive it.

We are then led off to our hotel, another Ibis, and an evening meal. Despite the long monotonous ride and terrible hand pain it was worth it and a very interesting end to the day indeed.

Today I got to know Nana originally from Portugal but residing in France for many years with her french husband (the sweeper in the orange harley waistcoat, who doesn’t speak much english but seems a lovely man); Colette who is going to attempt the whole relay having taken a year off work… go grrrrl!! She is English, grew up in South Africa and moved to Australia so flew in to the UK, bought a bike and started the relay from Day 1… she is going to be a legend. Joanna, the french ambassador who is english but living in france. She is a biker but suffered a serious accident and was in hospital for a few months and only been discharged a couple of weeks ago. Flo from France and her gorgeous dog Markkus, who loves to ride on the back of her bike in his own carry box complete with his doggles.. so cute: Els from Belgium and not forgetting Johanna from England who is riding more legs than me, continuing back up through Spain into the south of France and over to Italy and possibly on from there, but who knows…

Sylvie and I also met Annie from Portsmouth who we hope to see again back in the UK on some of our club rides… good to meet ya!!

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A Van with a Plan

WRWR Relay Day 12 – My Day 2 – Gillingham to Boulogne Sur Mer, France

10th March 2019

Up early to get on the road over to the Travelodge to meet the rest of the girls riding over to France. We arrive just in time and meet Hayley Bell for the first time.

No time to chat as we are straight on the road to our first stop at Sittingbourne Speedway track. Annemarie was supposed to leave us at the Travelodge, but I pursuade her to come with us to the speedway first for a coffee.. a decision we both will regret.

The weather is atrocious with very high winds from the off, there are met office wind warnings for gale force wind speeds, but we are undeterred!!

On route we pick up several more bikers and the going is extremely tough. At one point we are riding so slowly that I am literally blown into the outside lane of a dual carriageway, luckily there is nothing coming along beside me.. whew! I’m not sure why we were riding so slowly, other than fear to be honest, but the lack of forward momentum was so dangerous that I decide to overtake everyone and pull up waiting for them to catch up. I then tag onto the end of the group.

Up ahead I see this and think to myself.. no way jose, I’m not going over that in this, I’d rather go home.

But luckily we turn off just before it, down some small back roads with the winds gusting between the hedgerows and on into a muddy track that is absolutely lethal.

Eventually we arrive at the speedway track, not a very impressive venue, a few cargo containers and a tea hut in a muddy field. There are quite a few people around and the coffee is hot so not too bad. Getting the bike parked was a bit of a nightmare, but with the help of a tall american lady I get her sorted out.

There is much talk regarding the weather and reports of 120kph winds over in Calais, there is some suggestion of postponing the crossing until tomorrow. Annemarie is anxious about riding home so decides to leave almost immediately.. I am so sorry I asked her to come with us and am quite worried about her getting home safely.

Someone then suggests we arrange for some vans to come and take the bikes to the Eurotunnel terminal as the wind is so bad.. this seems to be the plan. Some people are determined to ride there, I am in two minds but definitely do not want to cross that ‘sky bridge’ we passed on the way in. I am assured by one woman, who appears to know the area well, that we do not need to cross the bridge so I am thinking to ride it, but Sylvie is not sure as she has a brand new bike so we agree to have the bikes vanned over.

Just after Annemarie has gone I am approached by a woman who would like to take some photos of me and my fatboy… ‘oh ok, what is it for?’ I ask, “Hog Tales” the harley owners club magazine.. ‘well in that case yes I would be delighted’. We make our way back to my bike, whilst attempting to remain upright, (I kid you not, the wind is that strong), and a guy with several cameras around his neck takes numerous shots of me and the bike.. I ask if I can have copies and the woman takes my email address, so am looking forward to seeing them.

Here is one Sylvie took of me posing…

Next I’m approached by a young guy who would like to interview me for the WRWR record so we go back to the tea hut where he asks me some questions and his girlfriend films us… I’m getting famous!!!

This is also the guy who is arranging the van to take the bikes to Folkestone, so I’m glad I did the interview for him and really pleased Dykes on Bikes London is being seen participating in the relay.

There is also the helmet… I bought a new helmet especially for the relay and have drawn the days I will be riding on it with the intention that all the women I ride with will sign their names on the first leg they join then when I have completed however many legs I decide to do I will donate the helmet to the WRWR archive. I already have Sylvie, Annemarie and myself so I immediately ask Hayley Bell to sign. There is a group of women photographing helmets on a table in the tea hut so I offer to add mine to the pile…

I then go outside and have a quick chat with the american woman who helped to move my bike to park it up. It turns out she is one of the WRWR organisers from San Diego California and she has flown over for the weekend to help out with the arrangements.. wow what a star… now that is committment!! I ask her what bike she rides and she says she has 10, which she reals off in quick succession… I chat with her for a few minutes wishing her a safe return home and make my way to find out about the van.

Sylvie says the van is here so we have to ride down to the end of the muddy lane. When I get to the end there is a large furniture van and the guys are just unloading a very steep ramp. Nope, I’m not chancing them dropping my bike, I think even 6 guys would have a problem getting it up such a steep slope so my mind is made up, I’m going to ride. I tell Sylvie I will see her there and make my way over to the M2.

The wind is still tremendous, so reminicent of my recent travels in Utah…. but I am an old hand at this now so manage ok, until that is the gps routes me across country and the slow back roads are making it very difficult to control the bike, especially around some of the bends. Then the road is closed due to a fallen tree, the police have cordoned off the road and there is a crane in place trying to lift the tree. We are told to detour around and this is an even narrower, slower route with one section completely flooded, it is so deep the engine is giving off steam as I ride though. Round the next bend I have to take the right side of the narrow road to avoid a sea of thick mud and almost collide with a dirt bike coming the other way, I think he almost shit himself, but I manage to swerve around him in time.. whew, (is this enough drama yet Stolkie??).

I eventually join the M20 and with just 6 miles to go pull into a petrol station to fill up and have a coffee.. what a relief!!

As I exit the loos in comes Sylvie… ah ha… thats great. They are devanning the bikes here so that means we can ride into the terminal together… yay.

There are now about 5 bikes and we say our goodbyes to Hayley and the guys with the van to make our way the last few miles into the Eurotunnel. Once we have gone through and got our train notice to show which train we are booked onto we ride into the car park and line up with the other WRWR bikes already here. Into the terminal outlet building and straight to Starbucks, of course. There is a large group of women already here and a couple of male companions. Although it is a Womens relay and only the women riders ‘count’ some have brought male companions with them. We soon make introductions and get chatting with each other. I take the opportuity to get the helmet signed for the Gillingham to Boulogne Sur Mer leg.

Must be time for a group photo…

Sylvie and I get to see the baton and sign the hidden roll of honour revealed from within so that we can add our names.

Then, not long after this, one of the male companions suddenly starts making a speech, as if he is the ride leader, telling everyone what they should do re boarding and leaving the train, riding in France, etc. I am more than a little surprised and quite annoyed actually.. ok he is obviously very experienced, however, this whole relay is about women bikers, doing it for themselves so why does he think he’s in charge.. honestly some blokes just have to take over!! A week or so ago, Joanna, the french ambassador (each country has one or more to deal with arrangements for the legs in their countries), was asking who was leading the group from England when they get off the train in France so that they can make arrangements for the French to meet up. As no one else had come forward and I have been on the Eurostar a number of times I offered to take on this small role, so I had asked who was leading the group on to the train and Mr I M Incharge had told me his wife was doing it and off the train in France aswell… oh well, thanks for letting me know and stepping forward when Joanne asked, NOT, and now here he is doing all the talking!! I’m really not bothered about leading at all, but come on this is just not right. I did make some loud comments and one woman said well there are quite a few inexperienced/nervous riders in ‘our group’.. oh so there are separate groups now, I thought we were all riding together and why does that mean someone with a penis has to take charge?? Yes, I’m well grumpy, but she did kind of nod in agreement.

I make may way outside to my bike and everyone comes out as our train is due. I hope this isn’t the way it is going to turn out, if so I think the male companion thing should be stopped for future years, if there are any.

So Sylvie and I join the group led by Mrs I M Incharge, closely followed by Mr I M Incharge of course. There is a huge queue and my bike is burning my leg off as usual.. why don’t they just filter, there’s plenty of room.. I say to Sylvie, shall we overtake, she nods so I just pull out and ride through the cars.. lo and behold, they have all followed us… one up for the dykes hehehe!

We are called onto the train and line up all in one carriage… as per usual

Sylvie and I get chatting with a few of the women, and they are talking about who will have the baton so I ask when it will be our turn, Sylvie and I.. oh we are told ‘they’ have already decided who will carry the baton so we will have to ask the French.. seriously, we are part of the UK leg, we should be carrying the baton, even for a short time, obviously the French will each want to carry the baton and its not very fair if riders from other countries then want to take their time.. not a happy bunny!!

Next Mrs I M Incharge comes over to me and asks me if I have a gps, yes says I, so do I know where we are meeting the French, ‘I’m not sure as you are leading now so I’ll just follow’ ‘well I was going to ask if you would lead as I haven’t ridden in France before’ ‘oh, ok… where are we meeting?’ She gives me the details and I put them into my gps.. which wouldn’t find it at first but with Sylvies help we get there in the end. I strongly suspect my comments have found their way to the Incharge’s ears and that is why I am being placated.. however…

We exit the train and as we already passed through both UK and French passport control at Folkestone we can ride straight into France. I pull into the first petrol staion to make sure I’ve got everyone and then make our way into Calais. Suddenly, at a large roundabout half the group takes the wrong exit road, but it is a few minutes before I notice. Surprise, surprise it is the Incharges who have led them a different way and when we arrive at the meeting point Mrs I M Incharge can’t wait to tell me they arrived before us… do grow up!!

We are very warmly greeted by the French who seem to have come out in force. They are all very friendly and obviously excited about the whole relay. We get some coffee ordered and its time for a few photos, of course..

Outside there is this medieval tower… how many times have I been through Calais and never thought to stop and look???

After coffee we are back on the road, this time with the french leading.. I see a man in a flourescent orange harley waistcoat and think, I hope this isn’t another take over bid.. but no, one of the french women comes over and asks if it is ok for him to sweep, ie ride at the back? Yes of course, I certainly don’t have a problem with that.

We have about a 40 minute ride to Boulogne Sur Mer and our hotel. Most of the group are either staying at the IBIS or a Gite about 10kms outside of Boulogne. We were asked if we wanted to eat at the Gite but Sylvie and I had opted out so we broke off from the group to go directly to the hotel. Quite a bit of faffing about to get into the car park, but at least it is secure. We get our rooms and agree to meet up and find somewhere to eat. Just as we are about to leave, the Incharges and most of their ‘group’ arrive at the hotel so we agree to wait for them… mmmm

Eventually about 6 or 7 of us head off to find a restaurant, but nearly everywhere is shut.. gosh I am so exhausted after the terrible windy day.. the ride from Calais had also been very draining as it is still very windy. At last we find an indian restaurant open and have something to eat, which was good. I am so tired that I leave as soon as I have finished eating and take myself off to bed.

What a day!! But here I am in France and very much looking forward to tomorrow when we will ride to Le Mans.

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WRWR??????

So you are thinking WTF is WRWR…. well hold on to your hats…

This is it… one day a woman called Hayley Bell was sitting at her desk in the UK wishing she was riding round the world and was suddenly struck by a lightening bolt… if I can’t ride around the whole of the world maybe I could get other women to ride too and we could have a round the world relay. She put the idea on to facebook and within a few short weeks 13,000 women bikers around the world had responded and in a few months it has become a reality.

With an actual handmade baton complete with tracking device it began its journey around the world under the guardianship of individual women bikers riding in groups, being handed over at the end of each leg. Day 1, since starting at John O’ Groats at the top of Scotland it has crossed the Irish sea twice, traversed Wales and middle England and is arriving at the Ace Cafe in London today on day 11 where I and my good pals Sylvie and Annemarie from Dykes on Bikes London join the relay. We ride to Gillingham in Kent, where Annemarie will have to leave, but Sylvie and I will continue to Boulogne Sur Mer in France tomorrow.

Relay Day 11 – My Day 1 Ace Cafe to Gillingham, Kent, England

9th March 2019

Met up with Dykes on Bikes London at Big Moes Diner in east london for a spot of brekkie, then on the road round to the Ace Cafe to greet the girls riding in from Leamington Spa.

And here is the inspirational Hayley herslef with the now famous baton, in its specially made carry case.

HAYLEY BELL

At Big Moe’s I noticed that my rear left side indicator isn’t working so, while we are waiting for the relay to arrive, I decide to take a little look. The rear wheel has rubbed against the wiring so I attempt to fix it,

Badger is helping by cradling my head… very sweet of her but about as much use as a chocolate fireguard. I fiddle around with it for a bit, but, can’t get it working so will have to use hand signals that side.

After the relay arrives and we have a massive group photo

at around 1.30 we decide to start making our way towards Gillingham, although we will divert to the Isle of Grain as that is where we have booked some accommodation overnight. So with Badger, Doc, Slick and our great supporter Pumper in tow we start to leave the Ace…

BADGER

STOLK – Annemarie

ME

SLICK

PETIT CHOU – Sylvie

PUMPER

and head off on the north circular car park… bloody traffic. After the junction with the A1 I suddenly realise we have lost the gang and it’s just us three chickens.. not sure how that happened!!

We ride into the Isle of Grain and are immediately confronted by a huge petro-chemical works, not exactly scenic. A few miles further on and we come across the village where we are staying… pretty ordinary. We spot a pub behind our accomodation so that is probably where we will eat.

The B&B is fine, clean and warm so that’s all that matters. The owner confirms the pub does have a restaurant… fab. We also spied a signpost to the beach and, as its still quite early, we take a walk down there. It is rather nice, probably more so in the summer.

We wander back to the pub, which is quite charming, and order some food.. all very nice indeed. The pub is small and soon fills up with young people obviously celebrating the 21st birthday of one of their number… as it starts to get a little loud we make our escape back to the B&B and a relatively early night as we have to be at the rendezvous point in Gillingham, some 10 miles away, at 8.30 in the morning.

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Vive La France… again!

I’m well behind with my blog as it’s now January 2019, but I still want to record my adventures.

Back in October I rode with my club, Dykes on Bikes® London UK over to northern France for a long weekend.  As you know I only just managed to get my fatboy back from the USA tour in time, so was very pleased to be able to ride her on this trip.

Thursday – 25th October 2018

Trying my very best to be restrained in the packing department I just loaded up one bag… it was rather large though lol!!

Unlike Badger, who is relatively conservative with her packing

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Our Vice-President, AnneMarie (Stolk), Sergeant at Arms, Gill (Badger) come to meet up at my home and we ride off to Folkestone, picking up our President, Sylvie (Petit Chou), on the way, to stay overnight and catch a very early euro shuttle to France in the morning.

We booked a whole house, via AirBnB, in Folkestone and we arrive after dark, which gets the neighbours curtains twitching… especially with all the noise.

The house is called the Blue House and it is indeed blue…

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it’s lovely and after a coffee, some food and posing in our new tour hats….

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we settle down for an early night.

Friday – 26th October 2018

Next morning, I am up with a lark.. well before the larks actually.. 4am and give the rest of the girls a knock, make my way downstairs and get myself my first coffee of the day.  Everyone comes down and is dressed ready to go… I’m still in my pyjamas, which does not go un-noticed I can tell you… oops!

Out to the bikes and its a very dark, crisp morning brrrr…

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naturally I am last but then horror!! My bike won’t start.. dead as a dodo… WTF!  I give it a few minutes to recover and try again.. nope nothing…. the girls gather round while I wait a few more minutes and hey presto she starts… no idea what’s going on there, but no time to ponder, we need to get on the road to the euro tunnel terminal.

Arrive in plenty of time, so I can feel a coffee coming on and march off to find one.  Then it’s time to board the train

 

and within 20 minutes we are on our way to France… yay!

and here we are….

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In no time at all we are de-training in France… whohooo… then on our way….

We come across this concrete bunker and decide to pull over for a closer look

 

very interesting…. the walls are immense, guess this is going to be here for at least another 100 years.

Back on the road to….
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yep.. Belgium… what?? Thought you were going to France you say, well we are, via Belgium of course!

We are visiting Ypres today, the whole town was annihilated in the first world war and was rebuilt exactly as it had been before the devastation… a beautiful gothic town hall has been totally recreated in all its glory.

 

It is also the site of the Menin Gate where every day at 6pm they have a ceremony to remember all those who were lost during the war.. a very moving event.

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4ef5147e-1f02-4d9c-b2e6-161063d41ebd it has inscribed upon every wall the names of all those who were lost in the Ypres area… there are lots of them, from all over the world, including a possible relative of Badgers.

We mark the occasion with yet another group photo.. with DOBzilla, our club mascot, of course.

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After lunch it’s back on the road… just 6 miles to a preserved section of the miles of trenches that criss-crossed this area during the war, at Sanctuary Wood, (full information can be seen here Sanctuary Wood, Ypes, Belgium), we see what is an amazing and extremely thought provoking museum.

 

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After this we make our way back into France

 

and on to our holiday home rental in Boubers-lès-Hesmond.

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This is Maison Hann, a lovely home in a small village… highly recommended.

 

It is certainly good to get settled in and warm up… Stolk and I jump on our bikes and ride to the nearest supermarket for supplies.  When we get back Sylvie and Badger prepare a scrumptious meal… yummy.  The accommodation is really comfortable and very stylish.

 

 

Must be time for another selfie or two…. or is that groupie??

During the ride I notice my bike really isn’t running properly, especially at low speed, it seems to be struggling like the fuel isn’t getting through… it’s very similar to the problem I had with the bike I bought in the USA on my first tour there, that turned out to be a pinhole in the in-tank fuel pipe, grr will have to sort that out when I get home.

Saturday – 27th October 2018

Next day, its pretty frosty so I want to use my heated gear… hang about, wheres the plug on the bike… OMG I haven’t put one on this bike… STOP IT!  Amazingly Petit Chou has a spare lead in her bag…. what a star!  I get my tools and Badger comes to give me a hand… I take off the seat to get to the battery and start to take off the connectors to fit the lead, and promptly drop one of the nuts trying to get it back on so have to take the battery out to find it… so start again… then drop the bloody nut again… this time it disappears on the ground…. STOP IT!

Stolk comes out to help….

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After an age looking for the lost nut, I find a replacement, whew, and all is well.  Back into the house where everyone is patiently waiting, as per… and we are soon all ready to go, except of course my bike won’t start again, I keep trying until the battery is struggling to turn over… looks like I’ve flattened it, so Petit Chou and Stolk go off to ask the neighbours if they have any jump leads, while I continue to try and start her.  Just as they are returning with some pretty old looking leads the bike starts… WTF.

Stolk has organised a route for us to visit an ancient site at Dolmen à couloir: La table des fées…

 

pretty cool.

The roads are great, twisty country lanes and byways,

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We next visit the Canadian Cemetery at Vimy Ridge….

and potentially another Badger relative is on the wall….

It’s a huge site, gifted to the Canadian government to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of fallen Canadians.  There is also a reconstructed network of trenches and the landscape has been left battle scarred with thousands of bomb craters everywhere.  Again another moving visit… but we are also treated to a rainbow to alleviate the gloom.

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We speculate on what the pyramids might be, but never did find out.

We decide it must be time for a castle or chateau so go in search of one…

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This one’s closed…. but we never miss an opportunity for a groupie!!

The sun is going down now so we make our way home for another lovely meal concocted by Stolk, Petit and Badger… I think I might have laid the table…. mmmm.

Sunday – 28th October 2018

Sunday morning and we are planning to ride over to visit the site where they fired V2 rockets at Britain during the second world war, La Coupole.  My bike is still playing up but am managing to keep her going.

On the way we pass a crumbling castle.. ooo better stop and see if its open…

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It’s not, but I do get a good photo though.

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and… of course… seriously gangster!

La Coupole is quite an impressive site with much of the original bunker intact.  Inside there are displays, a cafe, a planetarium and would strongly recommend a visit if this is something you are interested in; see more at La Coupole website

 

When we come out, Badger finds this lovely mustang muscle car parked next to her bike… sisters…

 

bit blurry… not one of my best efforts.. sorry.

We had a relatively late start and now wend our way home down some great roads and are soon back at our rental home.

Another great meal and earlyish night ready for our last day tomorrow.

Monday – 29th October 2018

Today we are heading back to Calais to catch the euro tunnel train.  On the way we are planning to ride to the coast and visit the Atlantic Wall Museum before catching our train home.

Another great day, cold but quite bright, we have been really lucky with the weather, just a few brief showers.

 

They also have this…. a Harley of course…

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Back on the road and we stop for lunch and to gaze across the channel, of course

 

Hope you’re not going to put that back in your mouth Badge…. lol.

All too soon we are back in Calais waiting for our train to the UK… all aboard the skylark!!

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another quick crossing, just enough time for a few last groupies…

It’s dark and wet as we exit the train at Folkestone and make our way to the M25 where Petit will peel off towards south London, Badger, Stolk and I will split at the M11 and then I drop off while Badger will continue to her home further north.. well that’s the plan….

I have been suffering with the osteoarthritis in my hands for a number of years, but it is now particularly painful so we pull over into a petrol station and talk about changing the plans.  In the end it’s agreed that Petit will go off now while Stolk, Badger and I make our way to the M25 so that I can stop off when I need to.  After a time Stolk also heads off as she has the furthest to go.  Badger and I make a stop at Lakeside services for a much needed break…

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and an extremely large coffee, lol.

We then head off dropping me at home as planned.

An altogether fantastic weekend with some great girls, I had a fabulous time, good friends, laughter, food and excellent riding.  Let’s do it again soon.

 

P.S.  Huge thanks to Petit Chou (Sylvie), Stolk (AnneMarie) and Badger (Gill) for sharing their photos with me and allowing me to add some of them to this blog xxx

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USA Part Deux… the statistics

So the usual final roundup….

So what’s the verdict?

Another fantastic trip, but a wee bit too long.  Think I must be getting old.  I do love the USA though.. once again the people can’t be faulted, (not so sure about some New Yorkers tho’).

and here is the usual breakdown:

Countries Visited

USA

Total distance travelled – 4698 miles

Costs:

Flights – £ 517.32

Other travel – UBER £7.60 and $140; Trains NYC $28

Bike Shipping – Out £1620 – Back £906.40

Bike Insurance – £404.30 transit both ways, USA Accident etc. cover $602.90

Accommodation – Motels $1304  average $46 per night; AirBnB £535 average £49 per night

Food – Don’t know, didn’t keep track of it

Fuel – mostly paid cash… a full tank was around $10 so roughly $15 per day

Toll Roads – Crossing the Bay Bridge in San Francisco was $10, the golden gate bridge cost $8 per crossing into SF so $16 in total

Shopping – myob still

Best ride

Tail of the Dragon and Blue Ridge Parkway… would do both again and would love to finish the BRP next time

Worst ride

Memphis – probably the worst roads I have ever ridden; closely followed by Pennsylvania flash flooding

Best HD Dealership

All were good but hats off to San Francisco

Worst HD Dealership

None… see above

Best Hotel

They were all pretty much the same, some good, some great, some terrible, but that’s what I have come to expect of american motels… you get what you pay for mostly.

Worst Hotel

The Mother Road Hostel, Albuquerque… nasty but convenient and cheap, staff were great though.

Favourite Place Visited

Albuquerque, New Mexico closely followed by Carson City, Nevada and New York

Least Favourite Place Visited

Memphis wins again….. shame really

What I Would Do Again

Almost all of it

What I Wouldn’t Do Again

Utah…. too windy and islolated.  The scenery not to be missed though so glad I did it.

Sorry to say I will never ship my bike overseas again, it has been incredibly stressful and the paperwork or lack of it, guidance and support has been awful.  From sending my bike to LA by ‘accident’ to having to wait nearly 3 months for it to return to the UK plus constant emails to try and get some sort of update has been very disappointing.  I would, however, recommend Motofreight, I think they tried their best but were very badly let down by the US shipping company Schumachers… if I was to do it again I would deal direct with CFR Rinkens in the USA.

After another month I finally got my V5C returned with all the export paperwork… I had to remind them to return them to me… sigh!!

What to Remember for the Next Trip

Don’t lose my bloody laptop… so make sure everything is tied down before setting off!!!

Switch the bloody GoPro on for San Francisco Pride.

Don’t go for longer than 4 weeks max…

Take less stuff – again!!

P.S. I came home to a £1500 mobile phone bill from Orange/EE which must be the use of the Waze app for routing so no way am doing that again.  I queried it with Orange/EE and they did refund me the money as I should have had unlimited roaming so in the end it wasn’t an issue, but don’t think I’ll chance it in the future.

 

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About Bloody Time

 

So, its now October and where is my Fatboy I hear you think…. well… as far as I know she is still in New Jersey… yes I know, bloody rubbish!

Then miraculously on the 3rd I get an email…

‘I wanted to let you know the good news that your bike is on the water, and on it’s way back to the UK. Your bike sailed from New York on 26thSeptember and is scheduled to dock in the UK (Felixstowe) on 20th October. The container is on vessel Ever Lucky, just in case this is of interest to you.’

I am so relieved.  I download a ship tracking app and immediately see my ship, the Ever Lucky is just leaving Charleston on it’s way across the Atlantic.. how exciting.

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I can’t resist checking every day to see how far the ship has come, but every time I check it is still showing as just off the coast of Charleston… boo hoo the app doesn’t seem to cover the trip across the pond.

On the 11th October she reappears approaching Southampton due to dock on the 13/14th, ahhh wonder if I can pick the bike up from there?  I email Kathy at Motofreight, but she says its probably not possible to change the offload port as the container is bound to be under several others… bit obvious really, but am clutching at straws here.

I am due to ride to France for a long weekend with Dykes on Bikes London from the 26th October and am staying over in Folkestone night of the 25th; I really would love to take the Fatboy with me so need to pick it up on the 24th latest.  The ship stops at Southampton on the 13th and then sails to Antwerp so am hoping it will go to Felixstowe next.. nope, Rotterdam must be Felixstowe next… nope, Bremerhaven…. am getting a bit anxious now as it’s the 19th and the bike is due into Felixstowe on the 20th but will take up to 5 days to be ‘de-vanned’ i.e. unloaded from the container and processed through customs. It must be Felixstowe next!!

It’s now the 21st and the Ever Lucky is docked in Le Harve on it’s way to New York… it hasn’t even stopped at Felixstowe… omg I hope the bike is not on its way back to the US.  I am now seriously panicking… I email Kathy, did she give me the wrong ship name?…. it appears that ships often swap cargo and this may have happened to my container, she will get back to me asap with confirmation of where my bike is.

Next day Kathy emails to say the bike has been transferred to another vessel, the Tokyo Triumph that docked at Felixstowe on the 20th and my bike is there… whew!  She has spoken to the agent in Felixstowe and they have moved the de-vanning of my container to the 23rd so I can collect it on the 24th… yippee!!!

Early on the morning of the 24th I take the train to Felixstowe and grab a taxi to the shipping agents warehouse.  There she is ready and waiting for me.  I just need to sign some paperwork and she is all mine, but where is my paperwork especially my V5C (title), I really need that to be returned.  I am told that they do not have the paperwork here it is with Schumachers in Bishops Stortford.. blooming miles away!

I unpack my riding gear and start her up… nope won’t start, seems the battery is dead after being inactive for almost 3 months… bugger.  One of the guys at the warehouse brings a forklift truck and some jump leads round to get her started…. I unpack all the luggage and take off the seat so we can connect up to the battery, but nope she still won’t turn over… that’s odd.  He leaves the forklift running to give the battery time to charge up.

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There is another guy collecting his harley at the same time as me, he is an American and is moving over here to live, he’s been here before as his wife moves around with her job. His bike is also misbehaving but he eventually gets it to start and leaves it running to charge his battery.

All at once it occurs to me that the problem is not my battery, its the immobiliser, the battery in my key fob must be flat… I ask Tony, the other harley owner, if I can borrow the battery out of his fob to see if I can get my bike started, he doesn’t hesitate, what a great guy.  We put his battery in my fob and hey presto the bike starts…. what a bloody relief… I have to leave the bike running while I put it back together and repack all the luggage.  Tony needs to get petrol and so do I, but neither one of us wants to stop our bikes as his battery is low and I don’t have a working fob… I check out petrol stations and there is a Morrisons Supermarket about a mile away so we can get petrol and then I can run into the shop to see if they have the battery for my fob.  We fill up with the bikes running, a bit naughty but needs must.  I then ride around to the shop and Tony very generously offers to come with me and watch my bike as I still have to leave it running until I have gotten a new battery and they may not have the right one.

I run into the shop and YES, they have it.. I buy two packs of two, don’t want to be without a battery again.

I come out of the shop and take this photo… that’s Tony and his lovely bike..

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here’s a close up…

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what a grand chap…

He is riding all the way to Guildford, the other side of London, but we ride together for a while until I decide to pull off for a cup of coffee and he says his farewells.

I am a little bit anxious about the bike not starting after I turn it off, but I needn’t have worried, she starts first time… so relieved I can tell you.

A fairly uneventful ride home… the handlebars take a bit of getting used to again and the vibration plus the cold is affecting my hands making them very painful.. should have brought the heated gloves.

Once home I can unload the luggage and enjoy re-discovering some of my souvenirs including the knives I bought and other memorabilia from my trip.

Home at last and now the USA Part 2 trip is finally over.

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