Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ace for full English.

As always I checked the weather before I set off, it told me it would get warmer as I travelled south with very little chance of rain, I dressed accordingly.
I’d decided to go and take a look at the Ace cafe in London, good excuses for a ride out for breakfast, it was listed on the VRCC message board as a breakfast meet so was hopeful I’d meet up with a couple of other Dragon riders. I also wanted to compare that place with Squires. Again I set off just after six, today being Sunday the roads were even quieter than a few weeks ago when I went to France, so apart from the temperature being just above single figures it was going to be a nice ride south.  I’d tapped the post code (zip) into the GPS before I left but then turned it off, it wasn’t charging on the bike so only powered it up when I needed it, that wouldn’t be for at least another 150 miles. (Going to have to do some serious maintenance this winter)
As I’m sure we’ve all come to expect the ride was, on the whole uneventful, you know it has been said that these ride reports are getting a little boring “because nothing happens”, well I can tell you at this time of the year when, as one season ends and another begins there’s loads happening especially when you’re riding a bike thru the dawn, watching the sunrise and the mist on the fields with the trees appearing to float on a cloud, the smell is different also, maybe it’s the lack of traffic on an early Sunday morning, so what I smell is fresh air not tainted by exhaust fumes, it’s the mist melting in the sun, it’s the ever changing sky from red to blue, it’s just a pleasure to be alive and witness these things. I looked sideways as a car passed the passenger put there thumbs up at me, they knew, I nodded back and an even bigger smiled crossed my face.

South of Birmingham and the sky looks even more promising as I look south and I can actually feel it getting warmer, I’ll stop at Northampton  and remove my over jeans and fleece shirt before I get too hot. I’ll also ride thru all the service stations after that just in case there are any other Valks making their way down.
They seem to be always altering the M1, no sooner do they get one section finished and your thinking oh good no more gridlock and speed restrictions, then they start on another section, never mind we travel on, as I approach the M25 I had to make a conscious effort to keep in the right lane for some reason the Dragon kept drifting over to the left, habit I suppose, neither of us had passed that junction before and not taken it, as we did the bike misfire as if to ask why. Time to tap the GPS into life, I’d need guiding this last stretch, thou was sure I knew roughly where I was going, the north circular road couldn’t miss it, sure enough I didn’t, however the GPS said 8 miles to go, what the heck it’s Sunday morning the roads are quiet, lets see where we get. As we turned off the circular and headed into the city I knew I’d go the wrong code in the GPS but still allowed it to lead me. We hear all the time about congestion in London, it’s so bad you have to pay a congestion charge to drive with the boundary, on a sunny Sunday morning in September it wasn’t a problem in fact I’d say Manchester was more congested, maybe the congestion charge is working and keeping people off the roads, I don’t mind I was enjoying the ride, soon I reached the banks of the Thames, for today that was far enough, crossing would be a mistake I’d miss breakfast.  I stopped and tapped the correct postcode into the GPS and headed for Camden road and the Ace cafĂ©. I couldn’t have picked a better route to travel by design, sometimes the GPS can be trusted to lead you along roads, well the route back was, Pall Mall, Piccadilly, Park Lane with Hyde Park to my left, then some road works that left me zig zaggin thru Marylebone to Baker Street and up Park Road with that other park (Regents) on my right, up thru St Johns Wood past Abbey Rd. along what I guess were side roads until I joined a main route the A404 that took me back to the north circular which I joined for 200 yards before being led off and into the Ace car park. As I arrived the 59 club were just leaving on an escorted ride and the place was full to overflowing, it was just after and 209 miles.
As I was taking of my helmet a fellow Valk owner Mark and his mate John came over and said hi, we’d met briefly in Llangollenthe other week so weren’t total strangers. We made our way inside past the many bikes of all makes and ages and I’m pleased to say although most bikes were there to be seen they weren’t all show bikes, these were every day usable bikes in honest condition not all polish and chrome, I hate to go to any event or venue when you can tell that the bikes your looking at have hardly turned a wheel on the open road, fortunately most of the Harleys had left on the ride.
We kicked tires and told stories for about an hour and a half, no one else from the club showed and by this time I needed to be heading north to join a group protest at Northampton services, European legislation trying to stifle our individualism again along with many other things, make us wear florescent jackets for our safety, not leather or protective clothing, oh no fluorescent bloody vests, along with anti tamper fuel systems and eventually not being able to change a bike from anything other than manufactures spec., get outta here.
So I went south to try to persuade some southerners to come north for our meet at squires, unfortunately only three of us turned up.
The Ace although having a history and making a good job of promoting itself is smaller than squires and a little more posy, can’t fault the breakfast or service, I’ll reserve final judgment until I’ve been back to squires and tried their food offering.
So I once again got astride my trusty Dragon and headed north, uneventful ride to Northampton services where there was maybe 100 plus bikes waiting to have a slow ride up the motorway and hopefully make a statement, we left the car park just after 1pm. I was surprised we didn’t have a police escort, but with all the other protests taking place at the same time I’m sure they would have been over stretched, we paraded along the 2 nearside lanes of the M1 for approximately 20 minutes, then as the other bikes left to turn around and travel south, I wound the throttle of the bike and headed north, a few miles up the road and I noticed no traffic at all on the southbound carriageway, a few miles later and I see approximately 500 bike across all three lanes making a statement, unfortunately although these things happened all over the country at 1pm Sunday very few got media coverage and those that did only got local airtime  , don’t know if MAG have a press department but they took their eye off the ball on this occasion if they do, the only people that knew we were protesting were the poor motorist stuck in the jam and they wouldn’t have known why, nice turn out but missed the mark, I headed north.
Just south of Birmingham and I felt some rain, fine drizzle, the sort that wets you before you realize it’s raining, too late to put my wet gear on and I could see clear sky further north anyway so just trudged thru. Sure enough north of Brum and the rain stopped and sun came out, in the interest of making this ride more appealing I had considered dropping off the motorway and travelling up the A roads north but with the rain my spirits were dampened and I changed my mind, I’ll save that for another day.
Arrived home at 4pm, again I’d switched to reserve at 325 miles so had topped up at a service station, but 300 miles between refill is good riding, suits me sir.
Chicken dinner and a restful night’s sleep, they’re promising fine weather this week with high temps and clear skies; if I can get done I’ll be making the most of that.
Till next time.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Finally got some miles in……part 2

I awoke bright and early next morning with the sun streaming thru the bedroom window and the sound of the farmer’s cockerel welcoming the day; I think my text to meJulie was “makes you glad to be alive” I certainly was.

I had a check around the cottage and noted the wasps were apparently still active though there was a lot more dead upstairs than on previous visit I could still hear activity in the roof space, looking up from outside it was confirmed they were still nesting in the roof, three bombs hadn’t done the trick, never mind there was grass to cut and a garden to tidy. I had a walk down the lane to our neighbour Regis where I found him in his garden, he informed me that this had been a bad year with too much rain during the day and no cloud at night so it had gone very cold, it’s usually the opposite here with clear sky daytime so it’s sunny and clouds and rain at night, perfect for farming and growing a small vegetable garden, but alas not this year, he did sort me two nearly ripe tomatoes and suggested I put them on my window sill “they will be ready in a day or two” and sure enough they were, tomatoes, you’ve not tasted tomatoes till you’ve tasted Regis’ tomatoes, I know his secret it’s fresh manure from the farmer but I don’t think about that when I’m eating them, sweet and as firm as they need to be to just bite into them and eat like a piece of fruit, lovely.
Only thing I had to do on this visit other than sort the garden was visit Paul and Rose in Le Dorat, I’d make a nice afternoon ride out of that tomorrow but for today I cut the grass and generally had a tidy, I’ll be hopefully spending more time here next year so want to get the garden sorted so it will be ready for me to start planting some vegetables early in the year, a few thing to sort but with the internet and communication nowadays it’s not always necessary to be where work is.
I got up on my ladder and stuck my head thru the velux window mid afternoon, and using a silicone gun filled under the loose roof tile the wasps were using as an access to the nest, I then spent the next 4 hours leisurely watching them removing said silicone and regaining access to the nest, when I inspected it the next day they had indeed dug another hole thru silicone and were again entering and leaving the nest and doing whatever wasps do in a roof nest. Next trip if they are still active I’ll bore a hole in the roof from inside and spray direct into the nest, that’ll be a blog worth reading, bet you can’t wait?
So Wednesday I visited Paul and Rose, managed to turn the 25 mile trip into 125 just tootling around via here there and wherever, had a couple of small beers and a steady ride home, tomorrow I will be taking it easy, I’ll have to decide whether to travel back thru the night France side to get the train am Friday or leave Friday morning to get late afternoon train and aim to arrive home about midnight.
So after a nights sleep and an early wake up call from meJulie it was decided, as I’ve said I enjoy riding in Europe but don’t look forward to riding in the UK so I opted for the set off early Friday 3am soI’ll be finishing my ride in the UK during daytime.  I also have promised myself a ride over to Llangollen for the 10th anniversary of the VRCC UK and meeting of friends 3 Saturday, just to show my face and say hello, and ride some welsh hills that I’ve been promising to revisit for a  long time.
So Thursday was a tidy and a sleep on the hammock in the sun, had a late lunch of omelette and salad and a couple of hours sleep before setting off at for Calais. I’d reckoned 8 hours but if I pushed could probably get that down to 7 or even six, either way I’d make the midday train and as long as they didn’t make me wait for my allotted time I’d be home before dark. The first 150 or so miles is thru open country with roadside signs warning to watch for deer and wild boar as you travel thru the woods, I do slow thru these areas but really if you hit one at 50 or even 40 you’re not going to come out on top, I usually keep my speed down to that and so far have only seen one group cross the road in front on all my trips, first across was a large doe, more out of surprise I slowed but was glad I did when soon after a couple of fawns, big enough to do damage though and hurriedly trying to catch their mother, so far no real scares just means you have to be that little more alert than you might, and today I was again as on the ride down going thru these areas in the dark.
Soon the sun was up and it began to warm, the nearer to the coast I got the cloudier it became but other than a little drizzle as I approached Calais  it stayed dry.
Sure enough I made Calais with time to spare and took the opportunity to fill the tanks at the underground station, I’d switched to reserve at 340 miles and ran out shortly after so had put the spare gallon I carry in a container in the saddle bag in just south of Calais. Gas sorry petrol is no cheaper anymore in France, diesel is, a lot, but petrol is about the same but I chose to fill this side to give me a straight run home when I get off the other. I rode around to check in at the terminal and again was informed I could travel early if I paid an upgrade 20 euro, I could then leave in ½ an hour or I could wait 2 hours it was up to me, just don’t seem right but it’s the way it is. Every vehicle was sniffed at by the dogs at customs and more than usual were undercover being searched, heightened alert given the date, “we will never forget”.
So by 11 am I’m on the train and heading back to England, nice thing about travelling north is you arrive 15 mins before you leave as the clocks are 1 hour behind, see life, as complicated or as simple, I mean how’s that? The sun’s where it was or is both sides of the tunnel, nevermind.
The ride north was slightly more stressful than that south but then I was a lot more tired now, I stopped for a chicken wrap at Watford gap services, by this time the rain that had greeted me in Folkestone had abated and it looked like it would stay dry, so I removed the one piece rain suit and continued my northward trek. Numb bum set in about Birmingham but experience told me that another 15 minute break would only temporarily relieve it and it was probably going to return before too long so I may as well plod on, helped by the distraction of heavy traffic on the old M6 around Birmingham (decided to miss the toll, needed distracting) I continued my weary way. I was soon upon junction 19 at Mere. From there it’s only a couple of miles to home so I pushed on arriving at my destination just after 5 pm. Fish and chips, a cup of tea, a couple of hours in front of the box and an early night, I had to be up tomorrow at 6.30am if I was going to make the VRCC ride out for 9.30, here
As it was I was awake at 6 so got up and after a quick breakfast was ready for the off with time to spare. I was on the road again for 7.30, first stop was the local supermarket to fill the tanks then the nice leisurely ride down into Wales. When I set off it was raining, only just but enough that I thought I better get wrapped in my waterproofs, I was confident having seen the weather report that morning that the weather would break and we were in for a dry day, sure enough after only about 10 miles the rain stopped and the sun broke thru. I stopped at Chester services about the half way stage and took off my wet gear and with a smile on my heart rode the rest of the way looking forward to a nice dry days riding thru Wales.
Arrived at the hotel just after 9 where I found Bobbyvalk in the car park, what he was doing in the car park is his business and I’m sayin now’t, after a quick hello and acknowledgment it’d been a long time he took me into the dining room and introduced me, this gave everyone there the advantage over me as they all now knew who I was but I didn’t have a clue who they were. Walked down to help myself to breakfast and on seeing the fayre on offer I was to say the least tempted, however a strong will reminded me of my diet and I walked away without a plate, long gone the day I’d have filled it and gone back for more.
As organised as these events are it was time at to mount up and head for them hills, there was a lunch stop scheduled at the half way point and Bob said as there was one or two cancelled there would be a spare plate of food so I could help myself, (meJulie’s sandwich would have to wait). As we sat in the car park waiting to leave, the decision was made to put the waterproofs on as though not yet raining it looked a little threatening. Ten minutes into the ride this proved to be a wise decision. That was the story of the day as far as the weather was concerned sunshine and showers, go over one hill and the sun was shining turn the corner and there was the rain. It was a shame really but I have to say Bobs ride scouting this last summer was well worth the effort, he took us thru some beautiful country and re introduced me to an area I had not visited for over 30 years and all only 70 – 80 miles down the road, I’ll go back when the suns shining and further explore.
You know for all I ride on my own (mostly) I truly enjoyed being in the middle of a very long line of valkyries as they made their way thru the welsh hills, looking forward and all I could see was valks and in the rear view mirror all I could see was, yep valks.
We travelled a couple of roads twice, don’t know if it was by design or accident and the sheep we past three times had quite a bemused look on their faces, but eventually we arrived at the venue for lunch, I sat at a table with a couple whose names I don’t remember but did say at the time I wouldn’t and he seemed ok with that, we had a chat about shipping a bike stateside and the cost (if your reading and want to contact I have some information that might be of interest) always happy to help.
So fed and watered I headed out to the car park and joined another group having a cig and a chat under a sheltered table, yes the rain was coming down this time fairly heavy, no really it was teaming down. I made the decision to head back to Manchester and not ride with the group back to the hotel, the ride had been shortened anyway and for me it was getting late, it had been a long week. I said farewell to Bob and watched the car park empty of valks. You know even though I am the owner of one of these fine machines I can fully appreciate the looks of admiration they attract especially when riding in a group, for a moment I was quite jealous until I remembered I was sat astride my Dragon, I pressed the start button and pointed the beast home.
A week riding alone finished off with a day in the rain riding with friends, even if I still don’t know half of them, enjoyed that, thanks.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Finally got some miles in……

I awoke at 4.30 after one of the warmest September nights in a long time where temperatures hadn’t fell below 15 degrees and was now rising as the day began. I still put on my thermal vest and jeans over my leathers deciding to leave the union suit off but still wrap up just in case, on this small island the weather can change in the turn of a corner as I was going to find out next Saturday but for now I was looking at a 750 mile bike ride thru England and down thru France, today was going to be a good day…………………………

Before I go on, did you know a word underlined is a link, usually place name to Google maps, will put them in when I remember, and gives a clue as to where I am, so to continue.

At 6.30 in the morning it’s a breeze getting out of the city, the commuters still tucked up in their beds for the most part with very little traffic on the roads.  I still choose in the UK to drive any distance on the motorways rather then the A and B roads I’d be using in France, not so much because I want to make fast progress, I’d still hold my speeds down to around the 60 mph even though the limit is 70 and up to 70 to 80 is, well shall we say not overly punished by the law allowing for the 10% plus three rule, remember 10% because the speedometer is probably out by that much and plus 3 cause that’s what they will (discretionally) allow you. No it’s not because I want to open the dragon up and speed as quickly as I can from this overly populated island, no it’s because of that this small island is over populated with little distance between towns and areas of conurbation and that’s something I don’t enjoy,  riding thru towns and cities when rush hour begins at 7am and ends at 7pm, no the motorway will do me, just sit back and enjoy the breeze while watching the now awake commuters rush to the chairs and chains to start another day “working for the man”, wow Michael, slow down I can see philosophy rising it’s head leave that for Zen and the art, it’s been getting better for us for a long time.
Just before Birmingham the M6 splits and here I have a choice, toll road or old road the toll for a motorcycle is £3 (when this road opened oh not so long ago it was only £2.50 for a car) I usually don’t use this road as for the few miles length I think the charges though once fair are now excessive, but on this occasion and judging by the amount of traffic queuing to turn left and onto the old road I decided I’d take the new and less travelled road.
Wise move and I sailed along a half deserted road to rejoin the old M6 in no time at all.
I like to chunk down the UK side of my travels, M6 toll being first yard stick, then it’s the M1 intersection, I always find the M1 boring, I mean more so than any other motorway, don’t know what it is,  just bores the life out of me. This is followed by the M25 clockwise around London, this stretch although longer than the M1 keeps me that busy dodging the 24 hr rush that I hardly notice it and I’m soon at the Dartford crossing. South the Thames is crossed by a high level bridge, north you use the old tunnel and go under the Thames, as an interesting aside this stretch of road is not a motorway, interestingly the M25 although claimed to be the first orbital motorway in the UK it was not and still is not, useless information but until an act of parliament was passed prior to building the M6 Birmingham toll to bypass that great city, it was unlawful to stop traffic on a motorway for anyone other than emergency services, so rather than sort an act of parliament for the M25 they just left a 2 mile stretch of road classified as an A road, as a further aside now they have permission to stop traffic on the motorway we now live with the ridiculous situation where we have trafic lights actually on the slip road where you join the motorway, but I digress, lets get back to this trip.
Just before the bridge there is a service station and I took the opportunity to get off and feed myself, just a light burger and a drink and I was back on the road, I didn’t need to fill the Dragon as I still had a couple of gallons left in the tanks, I’d take care of that just before I get to the tunnel.
So it was over the bridge and onward towards the last stretch that is the M20, at the top of the bridge I had a bit of a fright, just past a lorry and a gust of wind caught me, took the tank bag half off and was strong enough that I nearly inadvertently changed lanes, this worked to my advantage as the trafic usually makes a dash for the toll booths but the cars to my right seeing this sudden change in direction by the mad man on the bike decided to stay back and allow me to choose my lane in my own time. This toll for bikes is free, there is quite a queue and I suppose stopping a bike and waiting while the rider gets his money out to pay his £ will be too much of a delay for the other users so for us it’s free, you just arrive at the booth man lifts barrier and away again.
From there it was a continuing steady ride around to Folkestone and the train, I was making good progress. I don’t use a watch, again for old time followers you’ll know my philosophy on that “time is mans burden”. I check the time I set off,  allowing enough time to get to a set destination but not being governed by it, if I’m late I’m late, if early I’m early, “life can be as simple or as complicated as you make it, me I like simple”. So on this occasion my body clock is telling me I am making good progress and will be ahead of my allotted travel time, sure enough I arrive at the terminal with three hours to spare, in all honesty I’d planned that, I’d elected to buy a later ticket, allows some breathing space but also covers the chance of being asked to pay extra as I am travelling at a more expensive time should I arrive early, the ticket I’d purchased was the most expensive on the day, £35 one way.
When I arrived at the booth to book in I’m informed I will have to wait for my allotted train as because of earlier cancellations all trains are full, OK again I’d calculated that I’d still arrive at the cottage before the midnight hour, no I’m not Cinderella and the Dragon wont turn into a pumpkin but for some reason if I’m awake at midnight I wont be for long, body just shuts down at 12, I can push on beyond that but it becomes more and more tedious.
So I ride around to the car park and wait, while I’m sat waiting a couple pull in on a BMW, we get chatting and I learn they are looking for the sun and reckon Spain’s a good bet so that’s where the’re heading. I noticed his ticket was a letter before mine and he said he’d been informed all trains were delayed ½ an hour and how he wished he’d pre bought his ticket as he had paid £85 on the gate, this I found a little annoying as I’d been told all trains full yet ½ an hour later they can put a cash paying passenger on an earlier train, seems to be the way of business these days, like banks special offers open to new customers only, old loyal customers are stuck with what they’ve got, me as a frequent traveller block book tickets 12 months up front and then get knocked back so a cash payer once a year traveller can board before me.
As it was we travelled around to the terminal together and when we got to the ticket check they just asked him what letter he was and assumed we were travelling together so we both got on the same train, incidentally the carriage we were in was half empty so there was room for another 4(at least) bikes so the others that weren’t cheeky enough to follow could have made this train, never mind in 45 minutes I’ll be in France and my ignorance of their laws and language will be a refuge from the madness.
We rode the first 15 or so miles of the duel carriage way together but then as it split, one way for the toll the other for the old unclassified roads we parted with the BMW riders taking the toll and me taking my usual right turn along the road more travelled, they had a destination, me I was going to enjoy the journey.
For the most part the ride to Rouen, though not toll road the roads have been upgraded and have long stretches of 4 lane almost motorway sections, it was on the first of these sections I pulled off for a brew and a sandwich lovingly made by meJulie that morning. My mileage was about the 350 mark and I have to say at this stage I was feeling no ill effects from the sitting on the bike for so long, I had started to ache on the M20 but my arrival in France had given me a new lease of life and I felt refreshed and was looking forward to the next few hours, just me, the Dragon and the road.
I packed my brew gear away and once again got astride the bike and headed south. Rouen arrived and disappeared along with a few other towns I’ve now become familiar with, eventually the sun went down and the moon became our companion (do you like that) after about an hour of riding in the dark I decided I’d have to upgrade my light this coming winter as it was getting a little difficult in parts to get a clear view especially when the moon hid behind a cloud.
Unlike the UK ride I don’t need to chunk the France ride, rather I just let the road roll under the bike and enjoy the wind, as 600 miles rolled over on the milometer the base of my spine began to ache, surprisingly not my knees, I decided to get off and have a stretch, it was not really surprising as I had first got astride the Dragon that morning at 6.30am and now it must be approaching 11pm, not far to go, I had picked up the “BIS Limoges” signs a few miles ago, always the sign I’m nearly home, for anyone not familiar with French travel, these are tourist routes that dissect the country and if ever you want to experience travelling thru France away from the rush pick one and ride it, it’s like time travel, going back 20 or even 30 years they haven’t arrived in the 21st century yet, nice.
As I turned into the drive at the cottage I noted with pleasure how short the grass was, it had only been a few weeks since our last visit but it was nice to arrive to a lawn that only just needs cutting, an event we hoped would be regular but unfortunately you just can’t get the staff, oh well, that was then.
A quick look up at the carriage clock on the mantle tells me it’s 11.30 French time, one hour ahead of UK so that’s 16 hours on the road and 750 miles, a good days ride. I went thru my usual procedure of turning on the electric and water before routing out the second sandwich made by Julie along with a beer from the fridge settled down on my favourite chair, no I didn’t sleep there after another beer I went to bed and slept like a baby.
I’ve split this into two, second part will be posted weekend.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Negotiating to buy.

I got an email from Jean Pierre in France a few weeks ago informing us our neighbor Denis was considering selling his property, a little history. Our house used to be 3 connecting rooms on ground floor and over the years thru inheritance and other events it had been split into 3 separate properties, that at least is the short story, longer one is how they started as one property and were extended and altered but that would be a long story and involves me waffling on about reclaimed oak beams from barns and bricked up bread ovens.
So anyway back to the here and now, we own two thirds of the property, the remaining third was occupied by a couple up until maybe 10 years ago, until old age forced them to a more comfortable surrounding, more comfortable in that the end part of the building consists of one room with a hay loft above, no bathroom or facilities other than a sink in the corner, slightly primitive, I’ll post some pictures at a later date.
Anyway when we arrived at the cottage on this trip having again driven thru the night I got straight on with cutting the grass and getting the BBQ out of the barn, while the coals heated we walked down the lane and said hello to our neighbors Regis and Collette. Regis immediately informed us that Denis was indeed selling his property and asked if we would be interested, we of course said we would, he then phoned and arranged a meeting for us in a few days to discuss it with the seller. On our return to the now suitably heated BBQ and while I cooked the steaks we had brought with us Julie and I discussed what we might be willing to pay for this attached property, we concluded that it was too small to be of use to anybody else and should anybody else buy it, it would possibly become an inconvenience to us, after a couple of beers we settled on a figure and went in to dust a few cobwebs away before making up a bed for the night.
When Julie went upstairs she discovered the loft floor covered in dead (thankfully) wasps, as they were dead I said I’d investigate in the morning.
Next day it didn’t take long to discover we had a very active wasps nest in the roof space at the top of the stairs fortunately the wasps were only managing to get into the house in small numbers but the nest needed dealing with, another walk around to Regis. Regis quickly came round to inspect and asked if I had a BOMB, I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about but it all became clear when he returned with a fairly large aerosol with a funnel shaped nozzle, apparently these thing are good at up to 6 meters maybe 29 feet, just what you need when dealing with wasps. Fortunately they had built the entrance to the nest just next to the velux window, so balancing on the top of a step ladder I could just pock my head out and direct the gas towards the entrance to the nest and retreat back in and shut the window. These sprays are pretty instance and for the rest of the day and that evening while cooking yet more steak on the BBQ we could see wasps rolling down the roof, unfortunately the nest was far more active that one spray could deal with and before I finally left to return to the UK I’d given the nest 2 more blasts, but it was still a little active even then.
Saturday and our neighbors arrived to discuss selling their house to us, fortunately they had a young lady with them who spoke exceptionally good English so eliminating what we thought would be the biggest hurdle. Unfortunately it seems there was a problem with a hedge growing on our land that was over hanging onto another neighbors land and he was doing most of the negotiating, he insisted that if we didn’t cut the hedge he would not sell the end cottage to us, on hearing this I said ok then don’t and turned to walk away, by this time we had a fair size audience with the other residents of the hamlet watching on and finding it all very amusing, this hedge has been in dispute since we purchased the property, I had been informed thru a third party that this guy insisted he owned the hedge and thought it quite humorous that the “silly Englishman” cuts it for him every time I’m there, so I decided if it was his hedge he could cut it, he never did coz it wasn’t his and he knew he legally couldn’t interfere with it, all a little petty but it is a good indication of how things can escalate in neighbor disputes. Anyway he has now finally admitted that the hedge is ours, from our point of view it marks our boundary and removes that from any future dispute. So with that resolved in my mind, I asked them what they wanted for the cottage, they um’d and ar’d and came up with a figure just over half of what Julie and I had discussed we might pay, I could see in Julie’s eyes that had she been negotiating she would have snatched their hands off and took the keys, me I just shrugged and pointed out the crack in the wall and the fact it had no drainage for the grey water, 10 minutes later and I’d offered a figure two thirds of what they wanted, they said they would return next week and let us know the answer, later meJulie said she thought I was cheeky, I said they knew better than us what it was worth and being French would have automatically loaded the asking price knowing we would negotiate a lower price. They returned Thursday, this time just the grandson and translator thinking it wise to leave the old man out of it, we agreed a price halfway between the two and all is well, we have now shook hands on the deal and the next time Julie and I go back (October) we will visit the notaire and sign for the place, nice little project for me for next summer, keep me out of trouble for a few months, we’ll keep it separate from the main house and have it as a nice little gite, maybe rent it out, get some cash back.
Other than that it was a lazy holiday, Julie was there for just over a week I stayed on for a second week just for the hell of it but have to admit once I’d got the garden in order I was bored rigid and couldn’t wait to get home, apart from missing the obvious I was also missing the Dragon, having only just got it back on the road I was itching to get some riding in.
First thing I do when I get home is check the computer for messages and read the one or two forums I enjoy not least the VRCC both UK and US, some one on the UK board asked if there was any possibility of a northern meet as most of the club activity was down south or in Wales and how about doing something for us northerners, I said I was up for attending something up north, long story short I’ve been lumbered with trying to arrange a meet in October, pushed it to the end to give folk a chance to rearrange their diary and riding schedule so they can fit in what should be a pleasant weekend in Yorkshire. We will be planning a couple of ride outs, I’m trying at short notice and without knowing numbers to get a Best Western to agree discounted room rates and oh well, all good fun, funny how so many people want a gathering but want someone else to sort it, me I’m not the most sorted person, I mean even when it is only me I need to sort I struggle so organizing something that involved 10’s of bikers (really haven’t got a clue about the numbers) and with only 6 weeks or there abouts notice, well I’m clueless, meJulie in her optimistic way assures me it’ll be great, sure it will.
In the meantime the USA fall color trip is off due too spending all my vacation money on buying property, I have however found a big black marker pen and filled a new trip in for May 2012 that cannot be erased, penciling it in doesn’t work, too easy to rub out, no this date is set in stone, will get tickets sorted Feb. (apparently 12 weeks before travel is the optimal time to buy price wise) then for sure there’ll be no turning back, gotta check the lot over there, it’s been too long.
For now I’m away back to France for a ride, yes that’s right a RIDE this coming Monday, not doing the 1000 mls in 24 hrs iron butt due to the fact I’ve been having some trouble with my knees not lasting longer than a couple of hours sitting and am not over confident given that I’ve not ridden the bike much this year  could last 24 hrs, I’m aiming for the cottage in one hop 750 miles give or take all secondary roads in France, if I can’t I’ll stop at a motel and rest, the minds willing I’m just not confident the body is up for it. There will be a full ride report when I get back, only going to cut the grass and ride a few empty roads be back Friday so I can attend the last day at the VRCC UK Meeting of Friends 3 at Llangollen, sounds like a nice days riding around the hills of north Wales.
Yep going to do my utmost and make up for all the down time the dragon has had this summer.
Well that’s about it for now, made up another lot of diet food this past week, might post a new menu before I go Monday, Mediterranean veg, with a Mick twist, nice.
I’ll be back, till then take care and ride safe.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Missing Blog

This is the blog I was going to post before I decided to tell you about the saga with the alternator and the bike, so here goes.
Oh before I do, I’m away to France next week for a couple of weeks, got some grass to cut, also got an interesting email from Jean Pierre a few weeks ago re some property, but more of that later for now here’s the missing blog.
Now for first time readers thinking “oh here we go another health nut blog promoting diets and whatever” stay with me.
I weighed in Christmas 2010 at 208 lbs, those of you who were with me on my old site will remember I had to replace my wardrobe with clothes prior to going away I’d put on that much weight. So when we got back in the new year I decided to do something positive about this weight issue, I was, on the BMI scale, obese, I only stand 5’ 6½“.
So first 6 months of 2011 and where am I?
Last weigh in Friday (29 July 2011) I was at 173.4lb, not bad hey? Total loss of some 34 lbs I’m well pleased, only problem is, if there is a problem, I find it real hard to keep to any sort of diet in the summer as with visits to France regularly interrupting my routine, its not easy, main point is I can’t take the gym with me so have to make do with a bar and some weights, no treadmill, squat rack or bench press, so exercising slows while I’m away and BBQ’s increase. The usual pattern is loose a little weight in UK only for it to go back on in France, very disheartening, however on a positive note this year I’ve managed to actually loose a couple of pounds on my French trips as well.
The first ¼ up to me going to France I’d lost 26 lbs averaging about 2lbs per week, now that’s the sort of weight loss it’s good to see, not to fast, just about the right pace. Then I went to France and managed to loose another couple of lbs whilst there, given I was there for three weeks it wasn’t at the rate I was doing, but still a loss. Then back home and again back on the exercise and diet plan, first week I didn’t loose any weight, second week ½ a lb and third week another ½ lb, but hey I’m still losing so not too despondent and this diet is easy to follow in fact I’d say a dodle, takes a little will power but given you only have to follow it for five days out of seven it doesn’t drag on, it also doesn’t allow your metabolism to slow as it gets a boost weekend, as long as you eat sensibly weekends that is and don’t pig out, I’ll share my weekend with you, slow smoked pork shoulder and my take on cowboy beans was one we did last week for James (seventeen year old son and friends) went down a treat and I enjoyed my share.
The reason I think my weight loss has slowed is because muscle weighs more than fat and since returning from France I have altered my weight training from cardio to high resistance so am now building muscle, will explain more in another post.
So what’s the diet?
It consists of basically three meals at the moment mainly vegetable with a little white meat (chicken). I make these meals up once a month and freeze them; I’ll give you one recipe per post if you want to try it.
First one is the Mexican stew, and let me tell you even if your not dieting this stew makes a great meal and is very moorish.

Mexican stew

About 8 to 10 servings

2 onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed (I use a lot more, maybe a couple of bulbs but love the stuff)
drizzle of olive oil
4 chicken breast cubed
2 pkts taco mix (I make my own up but packets fine)
2 tins cut tomatoes
2 tins kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tins whole kernel corn, drained
6 large green chillies
500 grm mushrooms
I cup chicken broth

Cook onions and garlic in oil in large pan till tender
Add chicken, taco seasoning, tomatoes, beans, corn, chillies and mushrooms
Keep it moving and add broth.
Slowly bring to boil reduce heat and simmer for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally,
And that’s it serve on a bed of rice (browns good) with a tortilla, forgo the forks and get stuck in.
I freeze this in portion bowls, defrost and reheat, makes weekday cooking a breeze.
Breakfast is brown bread toasted, lunch again brown toast with maybe sardines, fruits ok if you get peckish and I also take the odd handful of dried raisins to take of the edge, oh and keep the fluids up (water) save the beer for weekend.
Next week it’s Mediterranean veg with a twist, oh and I’ll share a Saturday night treat with you.

So it’s away to France for a couple of weeks, maybe got a property deal on the horizon, will tell all when I get back, sure to be more stories, never been on a trip where I didn’t have a story to tell after, going to try the night/early morning crossing again, get to see the sunrise as we drive down, nice.

So be back in two weeks, y’all take care now, ya hear.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


I was going to start this blog telling you all about my diet and how successful it’s been, but I won’t.
I’ve not been in the best form this past few weeks, seems like months, no like years. As old followers will know my main summertime passion is riding my bike and as mentioned previously the alternator went down on it a couple of months ago, no worries I thought as I soon got it sorted by a local shop all for the sum of £50, not a bad deal or so I thought.
I reckoned I’d saved about £150 on that deal so as this was an amount I thought I had to spend on the Dragon I decided to spend it anyway and ordered some saddle bag guards from the States, I paid the same for these as I would have for an alternator so wasn’t disappointed at all with the deal, mind it meant I had to get out of bed at 4 in the morning to catch the auction end, time difference you see, did this for a week and eventually got a winning bid in, happy.
Got a phone call of my mate Fred asking if I fancied a ride over the Pennines to collect a couple of metal detectors he’d won on eBay, never the one to give up a chance for a ride I said I would, next day we’re away on a nice 200 mile round trip, motorway there but back over the snake "here" Not as exiting as US129 but never the less a nice road. So all should be well? No, you see a few miles into the ride, I notice the volt meter only registering 12 volt again and not the 14 it should when charging, I wasn’t overly concerned as I’ve learnt from past experiences to be prepared and never trust a repair straight out the box, so I’d strapped the 12 volt power pack to the rear carrier, long story short, on the return leg about 10 miles from home bike starts miss firing and batteries dead. Get off hook up battery pack and home.
So next day it was alternator off and back to shop, left it for checking and sure enough it was shot, in fairness they offered a refund on repair which I gladly took but now had the dilemma as to what to do. This dilemma stayed with me for the 10 minute drive home, when I got in I was straight on eBay and ordered the alternator from the states should have done that in the first place.
So I’m now without the bike and waiting, I’ve got a tracking number and every couple of hours I clicking ups and tracking my parcel, (both of them). First one to arrive at customs was the guards followed 4 days later by the alternator, there they sit, languishing in a warehouse somewhere for over a week, then they are on there way again this time the message is “attempted delivery, fees to pay, awaiting payment”. I wait, two days later I get a letter telling me I have to pay customs duty prior to deliver. This is not a problem; I was expecting and had allowed the cost of duty and VAT.
So off to the depot I trot with cash in hand, I hadn’t had a letter about the alternator but that too was showing released from customs, so I asked anyway if it was there, sure enough it was so now I’ve got all my goodies and am happily driving back home to get them on the bike.
It was getting a little late so decided I’d tackle the alternator tomorrow and maybe bag guards the day after, so it was to bed and once more contented sleep knowing my Dragon would soon again be whole. Next day, and it was a day, I put the alternator back on, unfortunately when they assembled the alternator they put the rear housing on one third out,later discovered this being for a Goldwing that’s how it is so once on the bike although I could hook all the wire up I couldn’t get the trim surrounding alternator on. I did consider leaving it off but decided I’d remove the alternator and turn it a third (clock it), before I did this I did fire up the Dragon and can confirm volt meter was showing 14 volts, jobs a good un. Not the easiest thing to take off and put back on these alternators, but after a little cuzin and f’in an’ jeffin it was all done.
The weather up to this point had been really nice, wall to wall sunshine, perfect for riding, unfortunately the day after it started raining, never mind it will clear, so I got on with putting the guard rails on. 4 days that took me, just finished now, see the problem was my bags aren’t standard and I’d put them on where I thought they looked the best but when I came to offer up the rails they wouldn’t go around the bags, so I had to take the bags off and re mount them where the rails would work.
I put the rails on then offered up the bags, figured where I thought they’d need to be, altered the mounting brackets to suit then patched the old mounting holes with fibreglass. The first bag went on a dream and looked the business I must say, unfortunately it wasn’t the case with the second bag, seeeeeeeeeeee………………these rails are after market and not 100% and unfortunately the other side was out, only by a fraction of an inch but enough to make a difference. So I had to modify the bag mounting brackets to take the bags nearer to the bike, having done this it moved the mounting holes, only a little but a little is enough that the bags wont fit, soooooooooooooo I filled the holes with fibreglass and when set re drilled new holes in correct location.
The bags are now on the bike, I’m going to have to give the Dragon some real attention this winter and I’ll take the opportunity to sort out the paint and the back of the bags but for now it’s not too bad, when the rain stops I’ll go for a ride and maybe get a picture for you to see, until then, if you can, ride safe.