20 December 2006

FWB - Confirmed.

Fair weather biker status is officially mine.

As soon as you see a bloke all togged up on a freezing day like we had today and you immediately think "how can he do it?" you know you are an FWB!

That was me as I walked 300 yards to the sandwich shop at lunchtime!

19 December 2006

Holland Hotel Weekend – July 6th to 8th 2007 - Part 2

Further to the original post we have decided to drop the need to send a deposit and to book rooms over the internet and allow members wanting to come along that freedom.

The hotel will still be the Campanile in Gouda. To book direct, go to their website and book the room yourself. Just let us know you have done it.

The run on Saturday will more than likely be to Amsterdam for a full day on our feet unless someone can come up with a better suggestion? I have a suggestion of a motor museum and also the original idea of going to Arnhem and Nijmegen.

More to follow - Link to previous post.

Lille Christmas Market

This trip was by car. Scraping the ice off the windscreen in the morning was enough to convince me that I really am a Fair Weather Biker nowadays. As you can see from the murky pictures, it was foggy in Nord!

I know I should have gone by bike and froze to death to be a "real biker", but in the end we were warm and were able to visit the hypermarket at Grande Synthe and carry back 4 cases of beer and a large selection of wines!

Lille itself was difficult to navigate and I ignore "Doris" (my GPS) as she seemed to be off on one of her "funnies" but in the end she took us right to the Grand Place. Unfortunately, the car-park was full and we had to look for another, eventually finding one above the Tanneurs shopping centre.

On the way we drove towards the Flandres Station along a road lined with elephants. Not real ones, but large models of elephants as part of the decoration for a cultural event about Hindus and Bombay. More on that on this website: http://www.hindu.com/2006/10/14/stories/2006101417592300.htm

We walked back the same way as we didn't have a map and didn't want to get get lost in the middle of nowhere in the back streets.

Once back at the Grand Place (car park still "complet") we saw that they had a small Santa village around the bottom of the big wheel.

It was lunchtime and so we decided to find somewhere to eat and then enter the "Marché de Noel" in neighbouring Place Rihour.

And we did. The €10.60 lunch menu in the Brasserie Floré, also in Place Rihour was all we needed. If anyone can tell me what "hampe" is I'd be most obliged. It looked like steak and tasted pretty much like steak.... but....

After a leisurely meal we were left checking the watches as we had to be back at the ferry terminal for the 1945 (local time) ferry home. So with Lille some 70 miles away, an hour, we needed to leave the area no later than 1800... and it was already after 1500, and, (too many ands!) we still had the traditional English booze-cruise element to get over and done with.

We decided that as it was getting dark and the fog was thickening we would leave asap and drive back the Auchun at Grand Synthe on the coast. And so we did. The traffic was heavy in both directions on the A25 and I have to admit my eyes were straining to see the other cars, many of whom have never thought of using lights in fog.

We had a reasonably quick tour of the hypermarket getting four cases of beer (only one for me!) plus of course some wine. Red wine. This is for Claire and visitors. Recently I seem to have developed a problem with red wine! Or rather my stomach has! I love to drink it and then am ill for a few days afterwards. So I stick to white. I've not regressed to childhood and started drinking sweet white, but am stuck on a nice dry white.

My granddad was in the wine trade all his life. Starting work in the cellars for Chaplins (we still have wooden coat hangers with their name and what we would now call a logo) in the arches near Fenchurch Street around the First World War when he left school, until he died in 1968 soon after retiring as a senior manager in Wines and Spirits for NAAFI.

Of course we bought some other staples... cheese, smelly feet sausage and some tins of cassoulet for a quick lunch snack. Always good to have in the cupboard and one of two other bits and pieces.

The last part of the drive along the A16 was better, cold but fog free.

In all we had a great day out. Capping a good long weekend.

16 December 2006

Arsène Wenger's Red Army

Claire's first visit to the new stadium to see the Arsenal play and I took this picture. It's a popular spot at the top of the steps by the stadium end of the north bridge.

Sadly with a mobile phone it is hard to get a decent picture, the quality isn't there and you can't get too much in without it all looking a bit an the small size.

The game was a 2-2 draw with the Gunners coming back from two down to make a game of it.

14 December 2006

Wipers Times - April 8th 2007

Wipers for the Day
Planning has started for a day trip on Easter Sunday to Belgium to take in a few WW1 Ypres Salient sites and then the "Last Post" ceremony at the Menin Gate before returning home.

The run is open to SOC and IMTC members.

Currently, the plan is to cross on an early Shuttle, 0920, and return on one about 2220 at night.

The "Last Post" takes place at 2000 local time and we need to be able to get back to the bikes and then ride to the Shuttle terminal, so 2220 seems about right.

Of course, lunch will be factored in.

Depending on what everyone wants to do, I can plan a short trip around some sights after lunch arriving back in Ypres in time for tea and then a walk to the Gate for 8pm.

23 November 2006

Fair weather biker? Me? Too damn right!!!

I had hoped this day would never arrive. I've become a fair weather biker – an FWB!

After years of riding to work in all weathers, daily dodging the cars on the M1 to commute to London for a 14-year stretch, with only the snow to get me on the train, I have become that armchair biker.

The bloke I used to laugh at. Now I am he!

On Saturday we had to go to Suffolk to visit my sister-in-laws.

"Let's go by bike,” she said.
"Okay as long as it's not p*ssing down" I said.

It wasn't.

As I looked out at the frost on the car windscreen, a voice inside me said, "She'll be cold and miserable". The outer voice said that it was going to be cold and we should go by car. The outer voice hiding my new found status as a fair weather biker!

I guess if you've always been a FWB you won’t understand. You can’t understand the feeling of loss that accompanies the downgrading of your biker status.

No longer one of the hardy-bys, the guys that laugh in the face of frostbite. Just a bloody FWB!

How can I redeem myself? When can I get out and show that:

A bike isn’t just for summer, it’s for life”?

15 November 2006

Welsh National Rally - May 12th 2007

The Welsh National Rally is a good weekend away riding some excellent (and some awful tiddley) roads in Wales whilst trying to get to checkpoints and answer questions, a sort of treasure hunt, with the need to get some planning done a week or so before starting out.

In 2006 only Dave Clarke and I went from thee Kent Centre, and we met Friday after work near Oxford and rode across near to Wales to stay at a Travelodge.

On the Travelodge website there are some good offers for some of their motels with some at 50% off. Sadly not the one we stopped at in 06! But a few within reasonable range of the start point in Castle Caereinion in Powys.

After the rally I decided to stay locally, well in Birmingham, as I had the last game ever at Highbury the day after, but Dave rode home to Kent.

So who is up for it from the Kent Centre? A weekend away, some great roads…

Click here to see the organiser's flyer.

Here for update - On the Road Again: Welsh National Rally - May 12th 2007 Part 2

13 November 2006

A sunny day...

Trussed up like a chicken, or rather a pork(er) joint, I waddled across to the garage to get the GS out for a short run up to London for the Arsenal home game with the Scousers, aka Liverpool FC.

The weather forecast was for cold and blustery. So it was in bright sunshine that I set off complete with thermal undershirt, rugby shirt and thick jumper. I also decided to give my Nitro N700 helmet a day out. When I don’t need the GPS headset, it is quieter than the Caberg J1S, and more restful. I bought it a few years ago and it had an outing and promptly fell of the seat on a trip to Ypres and the paint got damaged on the chin, apart from that it shows no other damage, but there’s always a suspicion, isn’t there?

Time seemed to be slipping away as I was stuck at 25mph on the lanes getting to the A20. A succession of pensioners wrapped up in their coats and hats despite, no doubt, having the heating on at full pelt in their 51-reg Protons or Daihatsus!

I took the A20, as once again I needed petrol. Last week’s miserable day out to the fords had left the tank depleted and the vagaries of the GS fuel gauge were highlighted as I was only able to squeeze 13.8 litres in the tank after the 158 miles since the last refill.

As usual Tesco, was a riot of colour and movement. Why everyone has to use the two set of pumps nearest the road is anyone’s guess and woe betide the driver or in my case, rider, that tries to get across to the back aisle. Bumper to bumper and moaning if someone dares the think outside the box. Once on the M20 for the run up I managed to get into the “groove”.

Everything was perfect, the bike sailed along and with the needle on 80 I cruised sedately up passing almost everything. You always get some one in a 4WD that can go faster but if they can afford to buy the thing they can afford to cough up for petrol. What does get right on my tits is that they pass you and then pull over and you immediately close the gap. A glance down shows that you haven’t speeded up at all, just that they have slowed down. It’s more infuriating when you have to overtake them again! Only for tit-head to pass you again. Why?

The rest of the trip went like clockwork, all the way around to join the M25 and then the A2…. Smooth. Even the Blackwall Tunnel wasn’t its usual joke considering there are roadworks on the approach. Although we had the usual “I’ve never driven in a tunnel before so I try to drive in the middle” pillocks, and the braking and swerving as the other road users avoid them!

After that spectacle even Hackney was quiet and peaceful, managed to get through without being mugged or any cretin walking in front of me. On arrival at my usual off road parking I found it chock a block. I’d set off late, lost time at Tesco and was behind schedule. In the end I wove through the ranks of parked cars to almost my usual place. “Park behind the Priest’s car” the parking guy said, “He’s not going anywhere…”, which was true as his exit to the road was blocked by plenty of cars. I could park on one of the (few) bike spaces on the road but feel that off road in the front of the church allows a bit of “out of sightness” that might mean I can get back and find it there and the box not jemmied open as has happened on the mean streets of Islington before. Plus, you never know who will be looking down on it from above…

The walk down from St Joan of Arc was pleasant. The Emirates Stadium looms up ahead of you as you make your way down hill. Hard to believe that until recently there was the council tip and vehicle depot there, called Albany Place not Ashburton Grove, and light industrial units.

The game was a little dull at first and then erupted once the Arse had scored the first goal and then we never looked back as the Scousers were eventually well-beaten 3-0. The day made even better that Tottenham Hotspur had gone down 3-1 at Reading.

The ride back was quite uneventful. It was by now 6.30pm when I set off through the traffic and a few short cuts I have picked up whilst working locally for Islington Education. Inching out of the church car-park and then off towards Hackney, double here, double there to get onto Ballspond Road and off. Once on the little motorway towards the Blackwall, the speed limit has been reduced to 40 now. A bit of a joke as everyone ploughs along and brakes for the cameras. Roadworks in the south tunnel forced me on the magical mystery tour that is the A13. Everyone seemed well behaved until a twat in a Porsche decided to undertake everyone and force across in front of the bike in front and me, forcing us to brake. A few choice words and the courier offering some level of violence and we were off past the Ford factories and into Essex, the Porsche lost forever.

It was by now getting a little cold so I was forced to flick the switch to turn the heated grips on, setting 2 and then backing off to 1 as my hands began to toast. There was also the sneaking suspicion that I was getting a little bit of a draught in around my back where the jeans and top meet. Something I didn’t get last week when wearing the Chilli jacket instead of the jumper. Mmm. Re-think?

I arrived home just after 8pm, not bad for 76 miles and some of it through London Sunday evening and post-match traffic. As I put the bike in the garage and locked her up I felt I had had a great day out. The winners always feel they’ve had a great time!

Now when’s the next day on the bike?

6 November 2006

Motorcycle Club Membership? IMTC?

The IMTC is in fact the International Motorcyclists Tour Club, founded in 1932 and still going strong.

The club membership across the UK is about 450 and is very active in the north. It is smaller and less "organised" in the South East and we have only recently started to meet on a semi-regular basis.

The group that we are building locally are pretty close and democratic. There are no Limited company "rules" to follow and no rigid organisation. The IMTC lives purely for touring.

There is a certain amount of fuddy-duddyness in the Club, and as the membership gets older we need to work out how to start getting younger riders to join. Not too young but perhaps 40's!!!

For more information you can go to the IMTC website and see about joining.

If you live in the South East and want to have a look before shelling out the membership fee feel free to contact us.

I am looking into getting some webspace for us on the main site, take a look here and see if I have suceeeded!
See here for an update on this post.

2 November 2006

IMTC Holland Hotel Weekend – July 6th to 8th 2007

As a replacement for the weekend we cancelled for May Day 2007, we have come up with this as a cunning plan. Currently the diary is free for this weekend and rather than the well worn path to nearby France or South Dover as we still call it here in the Kingdom of Kent, we have decided to turn left on arrival at the European bridgehead and go to the Netherlands. Gouda to be more precise.

The weekend begins with an early morning crossing to France with your own choice of conveyance, Shuttle or Ferry and the ride across to Holland via Bruges and the new Tunnel under the Schelde near Antwerp. Although in fine touring tradition members are able to make their own way to the Campanile Hotel in Gouda. I can provide a GPS location for anyone that wants to have it. If you have a Garmin Quest the Campanile is already in the system on Mapsource City Select V7.

To keep costs below that of the average GDP of an African country we have chosen a budget hotel. The room rate is for B&B and is €77 per room per night. Unfortunately, there are no single rooms and as a result no supplements, although for single occupancy I'd expect a reduction for the cost of the 2nd breakfast, at least. Parking for motorcycles is onsite.

Nigel has created a booking form and the hotel will use these to make your reservations. Once received I will collate them and send them to the hotel. As is the norm with IMTC events there is a deposit to pay and we have set that at £40 per room, cheques payable to “IMTC”.

Booking forms are available from me at the address inside the back cover of Tourider; please enclose an SAE for the return postage. If you have the internet you can download the form from http://uk.geocities.com/pauldevall/DutchBookingForm.pdf and post it to us with the cheque.

The forms need to be back with me no later than January 31st 2007 as the hotel can’t guarantee to have the rooms we (may) require.

If you want any other information, please check with Nigel, or me. Contact details inside the front cover of Tourider or by email at southeast@imtc.org.uk.

For some idea of what Gouda has to offer have a look here.

Update on:

1 November 2006

Isle of Man TT 2007 - BMW Club Meeting

The BMW Club Committee have given the green light to the Club having a meeting on the Isle of Man during the Centenary TT in June 2007.

I have already booked the Liverpool Arms, Baldrine between Onchan and Laxey for the morning of the 7th June 2007 - Thursday. I thought it was best to have it on a day when there was no racing.

What I now need are volunteers to assist on the day and in the run up to the event. I have a small budget to spend on publicising it here and abroad.

If you want to volunteer or have some ideas on where and how to publicise the event please email me

22 October 2006

Kent Charity Pet-Food Run - 22nd October 2006 - Report

On a very wet and windy day a total of ten bikes and 16 people made the effort to meet at the Blue & White Cafe near Ashford and then ride down to the rescue centre near the Shuttle terminal. Sadly there were only two BMW’s and these were mine and Kev from UKGSers but the numbers were made up by the Suzuki Owners Club - Bandits galore.

Luckily, Julie, the local charity organiser had made it a day to get all the volunteers to come together to meet up and bring their rescued and foster dogs with them so that had we not turned up then the event wouldn't have been a total wash out.

She had the local press there as well to publicise the case of a dog they have in their care that had a hip problem and needs an expensive operation. As a charity they rely on public donations and pledge never to kill any dogs that are not in pain and suffering. Zippy, the dog in question was abused as a pup and can walk by dragging his back legs behind.

To check out Zippy's story click here.

Julie also had the local fly-ball team come to demonstrate the dogs’ skills and agility. Some dogs were so eager to please that they played on their own even after the show was over…

In the end the event was a success. We took a pile of food for the rescue dogs and a large wedge of cash. If we do it next year it would be nice to see more (some at least) faces make the effort.

It was only raining after all?

16 October 2006

At last! A day on the bike!

It seems like ages since I last sat on the bike let alone had a ride. Things to do have meant that it has sat in the garage waiting for a trip out. The last ride was the weekend in Arras over a month ago!

Today’s outing was a ride up to London to watch the Arsenal at home to the transient Premiership side from Watford.

Despite having a rail season ticket, I decided to ride up. Why? Well, fair weather biker that I am nowadays it was going to be a dry day and reasonably warm. Plus the journey home after a game is horrendous with a train service running one an hour from Charing Cross back to the Kent Coast. Of course, you have to get to Charing Cross in the first place. Sadly, the tube services haven’t been upgraded to support 60000 leaving the new stadium and so the queues to get into the stations are quite horrendous. They could barely support 38000 leaving the old one but no one seems to have spotted that there might be some contention? Or did they and just thought “b*gger it”?

The ride up was okay, 103 miles on the trip and ¾ of a tank according to the gauge. By Maidstone I was down to 3 bars (!) on the gauge and I decided to divert into Sainsbury’s for petrol. I was left scratching my head, as I needn’t have panicked. I don’t remember 3 bars meaning I could only get 14 litres in before! Perhaps I need to monitor it?

On the approach to Wrotham Hill the “50” limit signs were flashing in the central reservation and we all carried on at about 80 until we caught the first of Kent’s finest in their Volvo. We all slowed down, bunched up and the potential for accidents increased dramatically as we started to crawl up the hill. Inching past the coppers testing the limit they would allow. Then the central signs alternated between “50” and “Fog” all the way to the back of Brand Hatch. Of course, of the fog there was no sign. It had been foggy overnight but it had all been burned off by 1pm and visibility was over a mile at least. So why don’t they turn them off? Answers please?

On that section we encountered another Volvo crawling and one of the Highways Agency non-porker cars! Once past them the pace picked up until the A2 junction off the M25. Roadworks. Bad signposting means that the cars are tailed back beyond the start of the exit slip and onto the inside lane of the motorway for about half a mile. This means that the slow lane cruisers and arseholes that want to push in later then crawl along the centre lane and then stop to go left. What a cock up. Once through the traffic you can see that they are all stuck in the right lane on the exit slip, the centre one for those that feel Dartford is a genuine alternative to suicide (it’s not!) is virtually empty, and the left “swoop” lane join the A2 northbound slip is empty…. Better signposting might alleviate the dangers to the traffic on the M25? Or is that too radical for the Highways Agency? How about the Volvo driving coppers hanging about and keeping the traffic flowing?

The A2 itself was free moving all the way past the cameras at Bexley, all five of the buggers between the Black Prince and what used to be the Dover Arms. I opted to cut through the city instead of Hackney. Well you would wouldn’t you?

Roadworks! Bane of the motorists’ world. Commercial Road roadworked to death, Christ only knows what it is like on a weekday! In the end as the stadium has moved half a mile the road up so Highbury Barn has far less traffic and getting parked at St Joan of Arc was achieved with the minimum of hassle. I had a chat with the priest about his idea that the HM The Queen was coming to watch her favourite club in action. At least we had two Englishmen starting the game in the first eleven! Sadly, Mrs Quinn not making until later in the week.

The walk is a little longer but not that bad and it brings you out between the two new footbridges over the railway and see the ground in front of you. Although I’ve seen it a few times and watched it going up from the remains of Islington Council’s Albany Place vehicle and dustcart workshops, it is still spectacular.

The game went predictably and our way, then after a coffee I had the uphill walk to the church to get the bike. I discovered that my boots have a problem in the right foot that makes a squeak when walk. I think the metal shank inside has broken, as the sole doesn’t seem as solid. They’ll last until next year. They are Oxtar and waterproof. I bought them back in 2000 and they have given good service. Never leaked and have seen some really crap weather at times.

On the way back it chilled quite rapidly as the sun headed for the horizon, and I began to question the sanity of wearing my vented Joe Rocket jacket in preference to the more 4-season HG Maxwell jacket. Once again roadworks conspired against me and I took the A13 to the Dartford Crossing and that way back to the A2, heading through the shunts and fender benders near Bluewater to arrive home just as Robin Chav started on BBC1.

I shouldn’t be surprised but later that evening my neck and shoulders started to feel stiff! I know I am overweight and unfit, but stiff neck after a few miles (Okay 160 miles) on the bike shouldn’t be this bad!

10 October 2006

Hi Viz Vest/Jacket Project - 2

Not unusual, but this project ground to a halt quite rapidly. See http://invictamoto.blogspot.com/2006/08/hi-viz-vestjacket-project.html for original posting.

Despite wasting my time and effort to contact the various nation's motorcycle federations and the initial euphoria of getting answers, the whole lot has stalled.

If they all manage to work this slowly or completely ignoring requests how are we to get them off their arses to respond to the re-emergence of the Euro License Directive that might kill off biking for younger riders and make it harder for us to go about our lives?

Let's hope they have someone awake when it arrives and that someone actually gives a toss eh?

2 October 2006

Motorcycle Bloggers International

Just joined this group. :)

Fords of East Sussex

I thought as I have a run planned for the South-East Section of the BMW Club, I'd better go and see if the fords that I had seen on Wetroads.com actually existed and whether they had water in them. Sadly, I had to go by car as the previous week I'd been off work for a few days with a stomach bug and was only just getitng over it.

In the initial planning I had discarded a couple that were unsuitable for road bikes i.e. ones that couldn't be ridden on a Wing or RT.... I've got a GS but I doubt that many of my fellow BM clubbers would want to try these.

This left six and all of them in fairly close proximity to one another to the west of Crowborough. I worked out the gps co-ords using the Wetroads site and www.streetmap.co.uk. But before the run on 5th November I needed to ride the route ansd make sure my co-rds were right. Incredibly, they were accurate to a few yards on 5 of the 6. The last one (I optimised the route on the Quest) was at the end of a 1/2 mile rutted and rock stewn path, it was unsuitable for my wife's Getz as well, so I have struck that one off too.

Of the five that remain only 1 was lacking in water, and it was hard to see as the locals parked across it, rendering it photo opportunity free. Another wasn't photographed as we had to wait for Mr & Mrs Green welly to get out of the way to let us across and then one of the chinless tarts gave us very little room. Luckily it was only a few inches deep.

I took a few pics of the others and hopefully some will appear here. I'll label them when I can remember which ones they are!


1 October 2006

28 September 2006

Tacheback - Two days to go

So only two days to go, the tache is probably not got much further to go before it will be time to remove it and consign the whole idea to the back burner until 2007!

Okay it's not as fantastic as the ones on the TV recently, but they were World Championship level competitors!

19 September 2006

Isle of Man TT 2007 - Club Meetings

Me and my big mouth!

Not only have I volunteered to help with a meeting for the IMTC but I stuck my foot in and volunteered to assist the BMW Club as well.

So far I’ve not had a lot of help from local members of either club and so it’s a case of check the web for places I know and see what happens…

For the BMW Club, I have booked the Liverpool Arms, Baldrine between Onchan and Laxey for the morning of the 7th June 2007 - Thursday. I thought it was best to have it on a day when there was no racing.

For the IMTC I've emailed another Commitee member with a place that has been recommended to me the Niarbyl Bay Café.

Tacheback - The Tache so far

After 19 days of the 30 I am contracted to my sponsors to complete the Tache is actually starting to show up. Okay, it's not quite up to Einstein proportions but it is getting there.

So far I have about £60 in sponsorship online and another £60 or so on the paper sheet that circulated at work.

Thanks to everyone that has sponsored me so far. I might "out" you all on here afterwards...

11 September 2006

Arrassing About - Aftermath - Day 2

After a leisurely breakfast the plan was to go into the town for a look around, then to Vimy and Lille for lunch.

As we were very leisurely things changed. Firstly as we left the parking the barrier came down so quick I got left behind as the others shot off. The guy in the control box opened it for me!

In town there wasn't much to see on a Sunday morning, and after a walk around to look for a chocolate shop we had a coffee and changed the plan. Still Vimy Ridge but Cassel for lunch rather than Lille.

So we set off on Plan B. Betsy was still playing up so it was me to lead again - b*llocks.

Despite the criticism of the day before - okay, I did go through a red light, but in mitigation it was as I was on the outside of an old t*sser in a car and saw the pedestrian light go green and shot off. No one got hurt - I led us out of the town, via a petrol station and then on the direct route to the Canadian Monument. I don't accept the criticism that I don't give way at roundabouts! Unless there's a stop sign, I watch the left (in France!) and if the other vehicles are a way off I go. If they are close, I stop! I don't see the point off giving way to empty tarmac.

All would have been well, and the route Doris planned for us is there on the Michelin map for all to see, if the highways people hadn't decided to build new roads, rebuild old ones and close others. After some very off-roading that led up to the top of an unfinished fly over.... We found the N17 (the way I would have gone without Doris' assistance!) then they managed to mention the "deviation" that took us in a huge loop to the monument. When we arrived in the car-park the entire thing was covered in white shrink wrap" plus the waking areas lined with the names of the 40000 or so Canadian troops killed on the assault of the ridge was covered up too.

Doris, using Nigel's map and waypoints, led up off the wrong way and looped around to almost where we had just left. The reason? We hadn't actually tripped the waypoint and so Doris was taking us to it. Some re-programming and we were off.

I am almost certain that between Vimy and Cassel that there are some major roads, or if not major, some without grass in the middle. Sadly, despite being set to "quickest" route, we had a magical mystery tour around rural Nord Pas-de-Calais.

We eventually arrived at the hilltop town where the Duke of York (not the current fat Andrew) marched his men up and down in the nursery rhyme. Despite the cobbles on the way up the town is very picturesque and motorcycle friendly. We went to a bar with a choice of hundreds of beers, but as it was lunch time we had light beers. But it is a place to go back to another time and stay locally so we can try them out. Some of the Belgian Trippels were 10 degrees of alcohol.

We then set off, with me leading again across country from Cassel through Watten towards Ardres and Guines, the last bit retracing our steps on the way out. This time not stopping at the Drap d'Or cafe, although it was open.

A trip we were given last time was to go through the Priority check-ins at Coquelles. They are self-check as the rest but tend to have no one queuing at them! It does work. Try it, but don't tell anyone else!!

We joined the queue for the 1711 train and less than an hour later Claire and I were being ignored by our cats and settling down for a nice cup of tea in our own house.

We both had a good weekend away and it has given us some ideas for other trips. There was some talk of the group taking a longer trip at Easter 2007. Maybe across to the Ardennes? We'll see. I just hope I don't have to lead again - too much stress.

Didn't take any pics today as I just didn't have time!

Arrassing About - Aftermath - Day 1

Probably, for the first time ever we arrived with plenty of time to spare at the Shuttle terminal at Cheriton! But, sadly, the recently introduced "self check-in" was defeating the hordes car drivers that were unable to stretch their arms far enough to reach the touch-screens and who had parked too close to get their doors open to get out and do it.

It doesn't seem like rocket science to use the stats off the booking system to know the peaks and troughs of travel and to make sure that they have humans working at those times.

In the end we made it around to the terminal building where Nigel & Jane (Triumph Sprint) and Simon & Denise (Blackbird) were waiting. For once we managed to avoid the security check and went straight through to the queues to get on the train.

In the end, due to some problem that was never defined, the 0828 train was full despite around fifty cars and us with the right letter still waiting in the queue, so we got "priority" on the 0844. Priority? Not on a bike. It means that you can move from the queue to the side of the train and wait until they load the cars and then squeeze us on the back of the last carriage?

Once on the other side Nigel's "Betsy" took over leading us. Betsy is a Garmin Quest! For me, it was a pleasure not to lead. I have done it for years and I was quite enjoying my role as tail-end Charlie.

Another reason was that my Quest, Doris, after her problems on holiday where she lost satellites all the time, has been reset on the instructions of Garmin. She then thought we were in Garmin's US headquarters and was supposed to find the satellites to work okay. In the end it took her the best part of 8 hours (in three sessions!!) to find a third satellite to work properly.

Betsy took us the wrong way onto the A16 heading towards Boulogne rather than the opposite way. Then once up and running we had an easy run to Guines and then Ardres. Between the two we stopped for a coffee at the Restaurant du Drap d'Or, or the Cloth of Gold, which is situated on the main road near to where the Kings of France and England (see link) met to have some sort of discourse, but in the end ponced about that nothing got done.

The next port of call was lunch in St Omer. We arrived in the main square whilst the market was still on so we parked up with a load of bikes and left them there on the pavement. The nearest restaurant was "Les 3 Caves" where Claire and I have eaten before and we tucked into the €22 lunch. Bit of a belly buster, but in the end we mostly chose salads.

It was so hot that Nigel and I both needed some head cover... follicly challenged as we are, and guess what? A Buff folds to make a sort of pirate hat or even a bad-ass biker bandana... Now where's my Harley?

After lunch we had a round the houses escape from St Omer and finally got on the road to Arques where we found the boat lift. It's as you can imagine in an industrial area, after all that's the general idea of canals; to get goods about. The gippo site on one side of the towpath didn't fill us with much enthusiasm for leaving the bikes unattended with soft luggage on the Blackbird. We found that the boat lift, Ascenseur des Fontinettes, was open to the public but is no longer in use. Claire chatted to the lady that lives in the barge (you can see it in the pic on the linked website) about her cats and dog. We decided that now we had found the place, we'd fit it into another visit. So we set off with Betsy misfiring and leading us all over the place. In the end I took the lead and without Doris (or the Michelin map that was on the side of the bath at home) we had to try and navigate using road signs, none of which featured Béthune where we would turn off the N43 towards Arras. I have no idea how far we rode round and round before we eventually found the N43!

From then on plain sailing to Arras via the D937. This road takes you across two of the three peaks that formed the basis if the Battles of Artois in 1914 and 1915. Two were won back from the Germans by the French, Notre Dame de Lorette and La Targette. The third to the east is Vimy Ridge. Vimy Ridge was captured by the Canadians in 1917.

We stopped on the D937 at Souchez by a couple of monuments.

The first is a traditional monument to General Barbot who led the 77th Division and who very un-General-like was killed in action nearby.

Just up the road is the big French cemetery and museum dedicated to the battles for the three hills at Notre Dame de Lorette. We didn't have enough tome to call in and it was by now after 4pm. Another day perhaps.

The second was much larger and laid out with an eternal flame and a strange water feature, the white marble is inscribed with the the names of the French soldiers that were killed in action in North Africa during the independence wars that raged in the 1950's and 60's.

As we set off southwards the signs to the left were to the Canadian Monument at Vimy Ridge, although we couldn't see it from where we were.

On the road for the last ten miles or so there are cemeteries to the different armies involved, as well as the British, French and German, there's also a Czechoslovakian cemetery and one to the Polish troops that fought in the Foreign Legion.


Once in Arras, Doris, thankfully restored to working condition (touching wood!!), led us to the hotel. Finding the entrance was more complicated though. Once booked-in we parked in the underground car-park. Exercising our right to avoid paying for the car-park, we took on ticket and shot through together and parked in the motorcycle-only bays. The slippery floor had all three of us spinning the rear wheel as we shot away.

After some R&R in the room we assembled for a drink in the bar and then to go into town for a walk around and dinner. Nigel had a rib place in mind in the Grand Place. As luck would have it we had booked for the same weekend as Arras was having a Quad Festival, and the Grand Place was set up with displays of the four-wheeled vehicles and their owners...

As we ate the noise from the thumping disco was almost ear splitting and the screech of two-stroke engines added to it. We watched the freestyle solo riders doing their bit on two ramps and a massive pile of straw bales. Quite impressive before it all came to an end about 1030pm and everyone drifted away.

We had a turn around the town again before going back to the hotel for a nightcap and then to bed.

Pic (left) shows the town hall all lit up at night.

Bike Luggage (5)

Darnit. Being away for the weekend not conducive to winning EBAY auctions and I lost the Caja Sahel by £159. Looks like it is back to the drawing board. The winning bid came to near enough £480 with postage and according to Phil at Caja Sahel they are about £500 new.... so who would buy off EBAY for secondhand... must have been the spanish bull sticker on one that did it!

I can leave the subject of luaggage now for a while. I'm not planning any long journeys on the bike apart from the occasional run to work (160 miles round trip door-2-door) and some club runs so none needing panniers!

The next big journey will be a week to the Isle of Man in June for the TT, and I don't think we'll need much "civvy" gear for that anyway!

8 September 2006

Petrol Prices?

Petrol prices?

If the so-called "price war" has meant the price at the pump coming down around 9p a litre locally to where I live, why didn't it happen sooner when everyone was on holiday?

Why the end of August when the kids holidays are almost over?

7 September 2006

Arrassing About - 9/10th September 2006 (6b)

"What a difference a day makes,
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain..."

And none truer than in the world of trying to arrange visits for a bike club run to France. No sooner do we add a place to visit, than we get word that they can't do it at the time we arranged and the timer they can do it is inconvenient.

So it has to be scratched. So, no distillery on this trip.

Bike Luggage (4)

Touratech "Street" Panniers

Still an option and today I had an email from TT in Germany to say that delivery would be two weeks and the price including delivery to a German address would be 697 Euros, about £475 at the exchange rate today.

Caja Sahel Panniers

Also still on the cards. I saw a set on EBAY and had a punt (no Irish joke intended). The auction doesn't finish until Saturday when I am in France so I'l have to wait and see. I've entered my max price and we'll see...

Did get an from Philip at Caja Sahel (philipmcgonagle@eircom.net) and the price is quite compatible with the TT panniers at £500 or so

Isn't it exciting?

6 September 2006

Sloe, sloe, quick, quick, sloe?

Tonight's spare time job was to start off a batch of sloe gin. The first litre using a Gilbey's Gin bottle and the second a habitat jar with a Grolsch type top.

Sloes out of the freezer

The Gilbey's bottle got 1/2 litre of gin and 150g of sugar, then the bottle (litre size) is packed almost to the top with sloe's that were collected at the weekend. Leaving enough room for a daily agitation for a week.

Filling the bottles
The other bottle got a half-litre of Aldi Gin, 150g of sugar and then it was filled to the top with sloes, again leaving enough room to agitate.

According to the recipes you are supposed to wait until after the first frost, but the trees are begging you to harvest now and many are so soft the break as soon as you pluck them. You can simulate first-frost by bunging them in the freezer.

In the end we collected almost 2lbs of sloes and used about 1.5lbs to fill the bottles.

Now we have to agitate the bottles daily to keep it all mixed up and the sugar from hiding at the bottom, then go weekly after the first week for a few months.

We are drinking a bottle that Claire's Dad started off in 2004 and it has matured in the bottle (it was in the Gilbey's bottle) and is the consistency of sherry... very tasty and sweet AND POTENT!

4 September 2006

Bike Luggage (3)

Darned internet. Darned UKGSer!

Just when I had made up my mind that Touratech "Street" panniers would be next Spring's wealth distribution project, someone mentions Givi!

When I bought the GS, had it not come with BMW System panniers I would have kept and used the Kappa items I had on the Bandit. The K40's were not that old and big enough for weeks or even years away!

The UK Givi people weren't all that much use as their reply to my email asking if the pannier rails (part no. PL189) would fit and leave me with the System box in place. They couldn't say but sent me a link to the fitting instructions. Better than nothing.

Then... Caja Sahel came to the discussion topics again.... I thInk they look alright in a chunky sort of way, and perfectly good for my needs....

Now I need to see how much they are as the website is a little unspecific, okay, it doesn't say.

3 September 2006

Arrassing About - 9/10th September 2006 (6)

We've added another place to the trip, on the outward run to Arras we have now added a distillery to the route.

The place is in Houille not far from Eperlecques and just off the N43 to the north of St Omer.

More details from http://www.genievredehoulle.com/uk/visite.html but you are suggested to have your own French translator, so we'll have to hope that Claire can cope with the lingo for us!

There is a film in English anyway and we really only want to have a free taste!

No one can argue there's no class on our trips!

Also planned an off motorway journey using N43 and D937 and this takes us past Notre Dame de Lorette, one of the French "bête noires" from WW1.

29 August 2006

Bike Luggage (2)

Thanks to the folks on http://www.ukgser.com/forums/ I have a few ideas for luggage. I like the idea of retaining the BMW System rails and getting the aluminium style boxes to go with it.

I don't really need them to be too Q/D as I am only aiming to use them for long trips and holidays, more for the convenience of getting them on and off.

Taking the "Street" (part no 01-052-0310-0) option of Touratech Zega panniers looks like a good option as hopefully on times when I am away for a short time I can (hopefully) still use the OEM System panniers... A guy called "Des" on the site has a set that look very nice and fit for my purpose.

Also, if I trade the GS I can (hopefully) bang the bike out with the System panniers. Although at the moment I have no intentions of flogging it off! My bank and I have an agreement that I keep it for another few years!

I've emailed Touratech GB and DE to see what the options are... I've seen them on the TT website and just need to check what other messing about there is to do as well as fitting the shorter rear indicators.

28 August 2006

Arrassing About - 9/10th September 2006 (5)

Nigel's idea is to do this... Looks good to me. Now all I have to do is find the emails that confirm the hotel and the Shuttle!

Getting to Arras at a reasonable time so how about once we get out of Coquelles head down the D roads to St Omer for coffee and waffles, or whatever. Then straight to Arras, so that we have time to look round the town before meeting up for a beer and some nosh. (75 miles roughly)

Fill up with fuel on Saturday when we arrive so that Sunday morning we can head off to the Canadian memorial near Vimy, then on to Lille for lunch. After lunch a steady ride back across country stopping at Cassels for a breather and more coffee, before getting to the shuttle around 17:00 (100 miles ish)

27 August 2006

Dover Castle - August 25th 2006

As we were still on holiday we had a drive out to Dover, one stop for a look around the Castle, and another to have lunch and sit above the Eastern Approaches to read in the sun in the White Cliffs Park.
If you are members of English Heritage or The National Trust, both would be free, if not, the Castle is £9.50 each and to park on the top of the White Cliffs is £1.50 per vehicle.
Although I have lived near Dover for many years, it's not a place I frequent very often, mainly to leave from the ferry terminal! So this was my first visit to the Castle.
The roots go back to the Saxons for a fort and the church, and to the Romans for the "Pharos" (pic 3).

Most of the work was done in the 13th centrury by Maurice, the engineer that Henry II entrusted to build the castle on the site of earlier fortifications.
There was a tidy up in time for Henry VIII's in 1539, when the castle was seen to be old and rather out of fashion. It was of course 300 years old by then.
It was given another face lift a couple of centuries later when Charles II's fiancee came to stay after her arrival from abroad.

This is the Roman "pharos" built not as supposed to warn navigators at sea of the land, but as a guide, Paired with one on the western approach it showed where the harbour was for the galleys crossing from France.
Only 4 storeys remain an dit is in excess of 40 feet tall. In Roman time sit would have ben 8 storeys tall with a beacon on the roof.
Pic 4 shows the approach to the Castle inside the outer wall but approaching the inner fortifide wall. The flag is flying form the top of the Keep.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden

After we got back from Austria we had a few days off and on one we went to Dover Castle, on another to Sissinghurst.

Here are a few of the pics I took with my Nikon Coolpix 8700, mostly on fully auto, but some, like the bee, using the pre-set close-up "mode".

Bike Luggage

I've always liked the look of the BMW oem luggage, seems to fit the bike, but after three and a half years of going away and I am finally coming round to the position that I need a change.

There is simply not enough room for two people's stuff for two weeks. This year even with the Lakeland compression bags, we were short of stuff and without washing facilities (or the weather to dry stuff!) we had loads of smelly togs, plus, the compression bags don't stop what you have got from getting creased to b*ggery.

So before the next longer trip, to the Isle of Man next June we need a re-think? I don't want uneven fittings, so Givi/Kappa panniers are out of the equation. So Touratech Zega? Kiwi Bob's? As they won't get used everyday they need to come off easily and not look like a scaffold stockpile when off... Suggestions?

26 August 2006


Okay, so it might not seem all that cool to grow a 'Tache. Heck I am even crap at actually getting any decent facial hair to grow to look anything like nancy boy George Clooney manages, but it's all in a good cause.

Go to www.tacheback.com and see how you can help raise money. If you don't want to grow one yourself, or already have one, then sponsor me. Do this by going to https://www.bmycharity.com/V2/invictamoto and clicking on the buttons...

All I have to do it grow a tache in September. One measly month in my life to grow something as simple as a tache! Easy? I did it in 2004 and it was pretty rubbish, but I raised just over £110. I'd like to think that all of you out there, friends and colleagues will visit my sponsor page and pledge some of your money...

25 August 2006


Originally uploaded by pauldevall.

Took these little devils on the Grossglockner.

The range was about 60 metres and so on my Nikon Coolpix 8700 I was way into digital zoom to get them. Luckily the little darlings were quite still as the slightest movement (or camera shake) renders maximum range on digital zoom useless i.e. completely blurred.

I always use the full 8mb and the "fine" setting for pics to hopefully get a decent resolution.

23 August 2006

Austria & The Alps Day 12 - Home

Today started off badly. I dropped the bike exiting the petrol station in St Goar! Not anybody else's fault but mine. No real damage to us or the bike. Pride suffered the most with the bike getting scuffs to the plastic cylinder guard and to the right pannier.

I simply lost balance making a U-turn out of the place onto the road. It was slightly downhill and an acute angle to turn onto the road.. foot down, nothing there and bingo; nought mph keel over.

What is the secret to BMW mirrors? The right one is prone to loosening and spins about and as if by magic it fixes itself. But not today, over 200 miles before I managed to get it tight. This time I tugged up on it and turn it at the same time and it locked in place.

How the heck do you get them off? Mine simply turn round and bloody round. Aaaagh.

After 308 miles we arrived at Dunkerque for the 1600 ferry back to Dover. Holidays for 2006 nearly over.

Once I have got all the pix sorted on the camera I'll add to the blogs for each day. I tried to send some pix as attachments, but the were too big it said. 

All the entries are done as email from my O2 phone. Hence no paragraphs originally and then they will be sorted once I get home.

22 August 2006

Austria & The Alps Day 11 - Das Boot

A whole day on a cruise boat might sound a nightmare but in fact it was very relaxing to sit on deck before going to one of the saloons for a coffee and a cake. A chance to unwind and read a book.

Rüdesheim was a bit touristy and the greatest gathering of our fellow countrymen we had seen since we got off the ferry over a week ago. There are also more Christmas shops than seems really necessary, one lured Claire into buying a small snow storm dome thingy complete with snowman!

Back at the hostel we had a read and a second cake! Dinner to look forward to, then back to the hostel and start packing the panniers.

Doris reckons it's about 285 miles to Dunkerque and the ferry is at 1600, so we need to be away pretty smartly after breakfast. Should be home in time for Corrie!

One of the big successes has been the Lakeland vacuum bags. Apart from one losing the little slider that helps seal the zip end they have been tremendous - I wouldn't hesitate in recommending them to anyone.

Austria & The Alps Day 11 - No bike day

I had to get up in the night to check on the bike as it was parked on dirt... As it rained heavily for a few hours. We should be used to this by now. 

In the end it was pitch dark and I had two disc locks to get off, then I could see f.a. and took it down outside the main entrance.

When I came to shift it later in daylight, I found I was only about 2ft from nice firm tarmac! Bugger!
Today is boat trip day, 1020 from St Goar. Let's see how it turns out.

21 August 2006

Austria & The Alps Day 10 - North by Northwest?

Well. As is now the norm we set off in waterproofs. Waterproof over trousers and Hood Kevlar lined jeans do not make for happy motoring pleasure. Betty Swollocks within minutes. At least on the positive side Doris has got over last week's problem of losing the sats every ten minutes. And so she led up from Switzerland into Germany. Swiss petrol was reputed to be cheap, but the fill up I did just before the border was 118 cents a litre. So about 55p a litre. No wonder there are so many American cars about with Swiss plates.

Once in Germany we hit the motorways. Getting to St Goar was more important than scenic touring!

One small detour was forced on us when I chose the wrong Rüdesheim from the two options that Doris had in her city finder. I had a 50-50 chance and chose wrong. In mitigation I have to say that both were about the same miles from where I created the via point AND are the only two in the entire Atlantic base maps and 16 miles apart!

As a result we added 20 miles to the days mileage and had come up the wrong side of the river so I aborted Rüdesheim and came straight to St Goar. We had lunch and then booked in the YH.

Once unpacked and showered we walked back to town for a look-see and an ice cream. We watched the ferry going back and forth to St Goarhausen and decided to have a boat trip and for €2.60 each return it was a good trip! Today's mileage was 260, and we'll have the same sort of day on Wednesday so tomorrow will be a no bike day to give our arses a rest. We plan to be plain tourists and take the riverboat trip to Rüdesheim and back. It takes 3 hours to get there southbound but only 1 hour and 40 minutes to come back. 

Any guesses? Tide!

20 August 2006

On the train... Rhätische Bahn

On the train... Rhätische Bahn, originally uploaded by pauldevall.

It was whilst on the leg of the journey homewards from the Stelvio, across the top of Switzerland, to Stein am Rhein on the western end of Lake Konstanz, we let the train take the strain.

It began raining hard from the moment we crossed into Switzerland, just after the Umbrail Pass, so I decided to avoid the ascent of the Flüelapass (2383m) and the 39kms of road over the pass via Davos. But how?

The map showed a rail tunnel from Susch to Klösters through the Vereina Tunnel. Decision made and we set off for it. Luckily it was clearly signposted and we foundit despite major misting of my glasses and visor! The GPS also managed to find the eastern end of the tunnel before conking out with brain overload! The tunnel is slightly over 19kms long.

So for 18 Swiss Francs we went on the roller coaster ride that is also known as the Rhätische Bahn. In an open carriage amongst the cars we set off hell for leather into the bowels of the earth. I sat on the bike and Claire stood alongside. Such is the speed we spent most of the time visors down and holding on for dear life!!

Claire managed to squeeze this shot off on her phone before we entered the tunnel as my gloves we so wet I didn't want to risk taking them off to get at my camera in my tank bag. It's a bit dark!


A video Claire took on her camera phone!

Austria & The Alps Day 9 - Stelvio? Yes.

The entire trip has been like the search for shangri-la; the sunshine is just the other side of the mountain, when you get there it's.... Well you know!

Today it was sunny straight off. On the road from Merano it was dire. Traffic and lots of it. Being a weekend it turned out to be the last weekend of the school holidays for Swiss and German kids, and they were making their way home.

Once on the road up to the Stelvio through Prato it was better.

There were a few twats about who seemed to enjoy cutting up other bikes as well as the cars. Sadly the two that cut across me as I was halfway around a tight turn were on 1200 GS's. So they were faster than me, but at the end of the day they were arseholes no matter what they rode.

After a wurst and a beer and a bit of sheltering from a shower (!!) we set off taking in the Umbrail (2503m) and into Switzerland. 

I was enjoying the almost deserted 8 miles to Santa Maria until after 2 miles of smooth tarmac it was unpaved packed mud and gravel time for the next 4. Not a worry one-up, but not as much deep joy two-up and loaded.

Luckily we were prepared at the sight of the blackening sky and were already togged up. We'd just got ot the top of the Ofenpass/Fuorn (2149m) when bikes coming the other way all had their wet kit on, so we did the same.

As we headed for Davos it started to pee down. We then decided to let the train take the strain. For 11 euros we rode on the train through the Vereina Tunnel under the mountain to Klosters.

This is an experience; loaded into a rail car that resembles the truck carrying carriages on the Shuttle. With the bike in gear and sitting on it with Claire standing holding my arm we hurtled through the dark for about 10 or 11 miles! Well worth the money! Better than a theme park ride for sheer fright!

The last 80 or so miles to the YH at Stein on the Rhine was uneventful. Nice medieval old town.

Sitting having a bratwurst for dinner was the first night for over a week we haven't been surrounded by mountains as we ate. Of having to watch the sky for the rain clouds!

As we ate the sun began to go down over the Rhine/Rhein and we took some photos as the light faded.

Once again we had stayed somewhere really nice and the hostel was again of good quality.

Tomorrow we set off north to the Rhine in Germany. Two nights in St Goar with a day off the bike?

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