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Saturday, 10 March 2018

Breast Way Round

'Breast Way Round' is a group of (mostly) women motorcyclists who organise events to raise money for cancer charities. They are well known at motorcycle events with their stalls and pink clothing. This year's major event is a 500 mile / 800 km, 3 day ride for 100 riders starting from Rugby Park, Kilmarnock on Friday, 25th May and finishing at Loch Lomond Shores on Sunday 27th May. They will be raising money for Cancer Research UK and Target Ovarian Cancer.

Almost everyone will have know someone who suffered from cancer (I lost my mother to cancer when she was only in her early 50s), so please dig deeply and help support this very worthwhile event.
They love their pink clothes!

My friend Shirley will be taking part, her fundraising page is here.

Breast Way Round website and Facebook page.

If anyone is within travelling distance of Kilmarnock next Saturday (17th March), they are holding a collection at MCS Motorcycles. Website. 

Trip to France 2

Was in France for a week recently on a business visit. This was a repeat of the trip I made in December 2016, however this time there were 4 of us rather than 3. Also, to avoid the 13 hours journey by public transport, we flew from Glasgow Airport and hired a car.

One small problem was that there is only one flight from Glasgow to Paris on a Sunday, and that gets in quite late, so we arranged to fly on the Saturday and spend a night in Paris (well, you would, wouldn't you!)

We got an early flight, got to Paris CDG airport and picked up our hire car.

It was a very well specced Opel Insignia with lots of electronic goodies, my favourite being the 'head up' display that projects speed etc onto the windscreen in front of you. As an aside, the car is branded as Vauxhall in the UK, but Opel elsewhere (except Australia and NZ where it's a Holden). It's built in Germany by a French owned company, but if they stick a Vauxhall badge on it, some people think it's British!

I had the joy of driving an unfamiliar left hand drive car on the right side of the road whilst trying to remember to use the clutch (I've been driving an automatic for the last 6 months), through the busy streets of Paris. As I mentioned in a previous post this included going round L'Etoile around the Arc de Triomphe. 12 roads join with no 'give way' lines or road markings! It wasn't that busy, and you learn the technique of 'going with the flow' and I got round it OK.

We got to our nearby hotel, dropped off our luggage, and went for a wander round Paris.

Sarah, Reiss and Louise at the Arc de Triomphe

Reiss, me and Sarah with the Eiffel Tower in the background

Now that's what I call a Metro station!

Saw lots of the sights, then got on the wonderful Metro to The Catacombs These are amazing underground chambers full of the skeletons of Paris's dead. There's apparently 6 million skeletons and chanbers lead off into the distance. If you are thinking of going I would advise buying your tickets online in advance. We paid 29 Euros, which included an audioguide, whereas a ticket at the door costs 13 Euros, plus 5 Euros for the audioguide. This might sound steep, be we went straight in whereas those buying a ticket at the door were having to wait 3 hours to get in.

Stop! This here is the empire of the dead.

After that we went for something to eat then got the Metro back to the city centre. It was now dark and many of the sights were illuminated. We got back to the hotel, soon after the others decided to go out and ended up at the famous Moulin Rouge. Me, being a lot older than them and I don't drink, ended up going to bed early!

Next morning I drove 200km / 120 miles to Vendôme where we would be based for the next few days.

Vendome from hotel room

I'll not bore you with the details, but we spent 3 long days at a factory looking at a piece of equipment, and the people there were superb hosts, taking us out to good restaurants for lunch and dinner every day.

The plan was that we would finish at the factory on Wednesday, stay the night in Vendôme, the drive up to Paris for our flight back to Glasgow on Thursday. However, there was heavy snow, airports were closed, flights cancelled, roads blocked etc. We decided to drive to Paris to then see what flights (if any) we could get.

Outside our hotel on Thursday morning

We set off on Thursday through snow that thankfully cleared as we got near Paris, returned the hire car, then found there were no flights that day. We stayed at a hotel at the airport having bought tickets for a flight to Glasgow via Birmingham, early the next morning.
We got the flight to Birmingham, and were called to the gate for the flight to Glasgow. While we were waiting we were told that the flight would be delayed by 20 minutes. I thought this was unlikely as there were no aircraft on the apron outside the terminal, and after a lot longer than 20 minutes were were told to follow an official who took us through a maze of corridors before taking us back to the entrance lounge where we were told to join a very long queue where 'things would be sorted out'. After about 2 hours we still hadn't got to the head of the queue, and on the phone we had found out that Glasgow Airport was closed, and there were no trains going north of Carlisle. All this time we were given no information by the airport or airlines! Eventually, we decided to hire a car and drive the 300 miles / 500 km home. Luckily the 3rd company we tried would hire us a car, and we got into a Vauxhall (Opel elsewhere) Astra and headed north. Once out of Birmingham, the snow cleared and it was a fairly uneventful drive to Glasgow.

Approaching Tebay on the M6
In Glasgow there was fairly thick snow and after I'd dropped the others off at their houses, I managed to get stuck. I was about to abandon the car and start walking when some locals came out of their houses and manhandled my car onto a drivable road - times like this you appreciate the kindness of strangers!
Got to about 2 miles / 3 km from my house when I hit something hidden on a snow covered road – probably a pothole. Just after the 'low tyre pressure' light came on – I had a flat tyre! I changed the wheel at the side of the snow covered road whilst being showered with slush from passing cars, and my hands were so numb I could hardly open the car door. Finally got going only to have to abandon the car 200 metres from my house and walk the last bit!!

It was a good and interesting trip, but I cold have done without the excitement of the last 2 days!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Plans for 2018

Sorry for not posting for a while, but I was waiting to see how some things worked out.

Posting a 'plans' post is always a bit tricky as things change, don't work out, other things come along, etc – perhaps 'hopes' or 'aspirations' would be better words!

2018 is going to be a year of changes for me – I'm 60 in April and don't like my job, so have decided to leave my job just after my birthday and follow one of two 'plans'.

Plan A is to find another job and work for another 2 or 3 years before retiring. I get my work pension at 65 and my State Pension at 66, so should be able to save enough to live on after a few years. Have been looking around for another job, but no luck yet. Although it's technically illegal to discriminate on grounds of age, we all know it goes on and I've had the 'you did your qualifications a long time ago' comment from one employer. I'll keep looking to see if I can get anything, and could those who know what I do let me know if they see anything.

Plan B is to sell my house, move somewhere cheaper, and retire and live off the money I make. I've made the calculations and it should be possible – just have to do some work to make my house ready for sale!

Either way I'll let you know as things progress.

If I do retire, or get a job where the scooter is not suitable for commuting, it'll be for sale so if anyone is interested, let me know.

I've previously mentioned that I'll be selling my Yamaha SZR660 when the weather improves, so that will be me down to the Bonneville and the Honda CL350 'project'. If I retire I'll have no excuse for not getting it finished!

Back in November 2016 I went on a work trip to France to see a piece of equipment that was being built for my company. I've to return at the end of this month to see a similar piece of equipment that's being built for my company's new plant in Singapore. Unlike the last trip, this time we'll be flying from Glasgow Airport (5 miles/8km from my house), travelling by hire car rather than public transport, and spending a night in Paris before driving to Vendôme. I'm the only one of our group who can drive the hire car, and our hotel is about 50 metres from the Arc de Triomphe, so I've got this to look forward to!

I'm planning on going to Spain this year and have started Spanish lessons in the next village to me. These are being held in a pub as there's not really anywhere else to hold them. It's a fairly straightforward conversational class, so hopefully I'll be able to pick enough up to get by.

I don't know how long I'll have to go on the trip, if I'm working I probably won't be able to go for more than 2 weeks, but if I'm retired I'll be able to go for as long as I can afford.

I've a couple of ideas of places to go, so it'll be a case of working out a route taking them in. More later, but my friend Maureen lives near Madrid, my friend Jane will be moving to Murcia, I've always wanted to go to Barcelona, and I found this bike event in Northern Spain,

so I could work out a route taking them in. Also, there's a ferry service starting from Cork in Ireland to Santander, so that's another 'possible'. If I go to all the places in Spain I've mentioned, this is the approx route.

Obviously, this is just at the planning stage and some, none or all of the above might happen! If anyone has any suggestions of places I could go to, please comment below.

Another plan I have is to go to a music festival. I've never been to one, so was looking about for one that I thought I would enjoy. This one looks like having the best line-up, and being near the South Coast, could be taken in as part of my Spain trip.

Other than that, my 'aspirations' for this year are the usual stuff: go out on the bike more, go to more concerts, lose weight, get fitter.............. and who knows, I might even go on a date! (Although that's probably wishful thinking on my part!)

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Review of 2017

The end of another year! Not an awful lot to report, but things are moving forward.

I've stayed in the same job for another year, and have been commuting each day on my Honda PCX125.

I've been really enjoying riding the scooter, what it lacks in power it more than makes up for in ease of riding. 

My Triumph had been running badly and as the weather had got colder over the winter it became harder to start. Eventually it was so bad that I had to heat the engine with a heatgun before it would start at all! I was very busy at work so arranged to have it serviced and starting problems looked at my local Triumph dealer - Triumph Glasgow. They were in the process of moving to new premises, so I had to wait a couple of weeks before they could take my bike in. Problem was debris that had built up in the tank and had made its way into the carbs - it was now clear that the bike hadn't been used for a while before I'd bought it.

With the Triumph in the shop, I went to my first bike event of the year on my scooter, Bikes on the Beach at Largs. 

Really good turnout and a sunny day, but the trip showed up the scooter's lack of power a bit! There are more 'Bikes on the Beach' events planned round Scotland next year, list here.

Around the same time I sold my silver MZ Skorpion Traveller. I'd had the bike for 17 years and had many trips on it , both home and abroad. This ended my connection with the MZ brand as I'd owned bikes built by them for around 30 years.

Next big event was my two week Trip Round the Neighbours tour of Ireland, France and Belgium, including a visit to the Coupes Moto Legende event near Dijon. Had a great holiday and everything went well - good weather (never had my waterproofs on!), Great roads and cities, bike ran really well and showed its abilities as a tourer, and I really enjoyed myself. 

Next event was the Ayr Classic Show, always a good show and well worth going to.

I was out on the Triumph fairly regularly over the summer, and the next event was The Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. This is a world wide charity ride where riders dress up in their finery and ride through a city (Glasgow in my case). A great day out, but horrendous weather! Couldn't believe how wet it was, but we had a good time and I met a number of interesting people.

Since then I've been for a number of runs and have met up with the local Triumph Owners Club.

As for my other bikes, my Yamaha SZR660 is now complete and once the weather improves, and the 'selling season' starts, I'll take it for an MOT (annual safety test) and it'll be for sale.

I've restarted my Honda CL350 'project', so hopefully it'll get a bit further forward next year.

Outside of motorcycling, main thing I did was buy another car.

I'm still going swimming regularly, and my 'nights out' tally for the year is getting slightly better - 1 meal out, 4 concerts, and one trip to the cinema. No dates this year, so no change there!

Highpoint of going out was seeing Kraftwerk on their recent tour. One of those bands I've always wanted to see, so was very lucky to get tickets for their Glasgow concert.

So that was my 2017. Lots of plans for 2018!

Monday, 11 December 2017

What else would you do on a cold Sunday?

Yesterday my friend David and I went a 400 miles /600km round trip to Darlington to collect a bike he'd bought.
We drove in my car to the van hire depot with -4 degrees showing on the display!

Our van for the trip - a Renault Trafic

We headed off into thick fog that didn't clear for about 60 miles/100km and as the road got higher there was more and more snow at the side. Crossing Beattock Summit (highest point on the trip) the display showed -9 degrees!
Only on the last 40 miles/60km or so of the trip did it brighten up and the temperature rise above freezing (just!)
We found the seller's house, David bought the bike, and we loaded it into the van for the trip back. Temperature was about the same, but at least the fog had cleared. We had a stop for coffee each way, and along with the time at the seller's house and returning the van, it took us about 8 hours all in.

What we went to get - David with his 1980 Honda C90 (Cub in a lot of countries other than Britain). Really good condition for a 37 year old bike.

Monday, 4 December 2017

To Russia and back

Found a blog of a journey a father and son took from Scotland to Russia and back, via Nordkapp.

They took a pair of Honda Africa Twins (ironic that they went as far north as you can in Europe on bikes called 'Africa'!), seem to have had a great time without any serious mishaps. 

Read blog here.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Friday bike

Vins Duecinquanta Sport

Here's something we didn't think we'd see again - a road going 2 stroke sports bike!

The Vans Duecinquanta is, as far as I know, still at the prototype stage, so may never see the light of day. It's got a wide angle 250cc V-twin two stroke engine,

housed in a carbon fibre monocoque frame with a BMW like front end and a horizontally mounted rear shock.

Only information I could find is on their website, which is in Italian (which I cannot understand.)

If this ever see the light of day, it's bound to be expensive (one website put the price as around £35,000 = 39,000 Euros = US$47,000), and therefore very rare. Also how a 2 stroke would get round current emissions regulations is anyone's guess.