Friday, 30 July 2010

9 The Lake District

After a relaxing week in Scotland with Mum and Sandy, we loaded up with all the camping gear and Ray rode his bike and I drove the home to the Lake District.  We had arranged for four pitches in a campsite at Ullswater, and as we arrived it was raining again.   The tents were pitched and the family arrived, in all there were ten of us.  Ray disappeared to collect one party of family and when he came back stated that he had met a group of blokes on their 660 Tenere’s who had seen his new 1200 Tenere and then approached him and said, “are you Ray ?”  Apparently they all recognised him from all his chatting on another website the XT660 site.
The whole party consisted of Me and Ray, obviously, Zoe, Trula, Naomi and Rose, all Rays daughters, Paige our granddaughter, Wayne who is Zoe’s boyfriend, Matt who is Rosie’s  boyfriend and Sophie, who is a mate to Naomi.
Zoe (# 1 Daughter), Karen, Trula (# 2 daughter) and (granddaughter) Paige

Sophie (Naomi's Friend) and Naomi (# 3 daughter)
Matt (Rosie's boyfriend) and Rosie (# 4 daughter).

Wayne (Zoe's boyfriend)

The following day we all headed off into the hills for a walk after a near miss with a tractor, (thanks to Tom Tom).  It was very exhilarating and sorted out the men from the boys, and the rain kept off which made a big difference.

The next couple of days rained but it didn’t stop us going down to the lake and playing in the canoe and a rubber dinghy we had.  We even swam in the lake, determined to enjoy every frozen minute.
On the Wednesday morning we had decided that myself, Paige and Sophie would go horse riding and Rosie and Matt stayed in the motor home (having both got some sort of bug.  Ray went for a walk on the fell and the others amused themselves.  That evening over dinner we decided that the following morning we would meet early for a long hill walk, but the next day the heavens had opened even more than normal and everyone apart from Ray and Wayne decided to attempt to go up the hills.
Ray and Wayne on the way up Helvelyn, after this the weather was too bad to get the camera out.
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Getting the canoe and a dighy out on the lake.
We all went swiming in the lake at dusk
It was pitch black and cold when we got out.
Paige and a friend that just arrived from nowhere !

A few of us wandered down into the local town of Pooley Bridge. The boys changed their mind about their destination and went to Helvellyn instead.  They both came back smiling but I think they’d had a tough time with really strong winds, rain and poor visibility.
Thursday night was the club house disco/karaoke night, well worth waiting for.........Not. We went to bed in the rain and at about 2.30am we had to take down the awning from the motor home as the wind really started getting up and a real storm was brewing.  By 5.00am Ray was outside in a howling gale trying to re peg all the tents, the only thing keeping them on the ground was the people sleeping in them, although I have no idea how they were.  The whole campsite looked like it had been hit by a tornado and there were bits of other people’s tents flying around, people just gathering what was left of their gear, throwing it in the back of the vehicle and leaving the site.  As it turned out Zoe and Wayne’s tent was destroyed, one of our poles on another of the tents had snapped and the weather forecast said more rain, wind and storms.  I’m all for mad dogs and English men but enough was enough. We followed the other occupants of the site and called the holiday off a day early.
We headed back to Scotland to dry out and for Ray to build fitted wardrobes into my Mum’s bedroom, which we had promised to do.   There was as much wind and rain there and the drying out took a lot longer than hoped, but at least we had the out buildings to do it.  Mums wardrobes actually became:- Wardrobes,  new carpet and complete redecorating of the bedroom and Ray and I worked really hard to get it done before leaving on the Friday for Ray’s brother  Bruce’s house in the middle of Wales.   However on the Friday morning I woke up with a bug from hell and was no use to man nor beast and we decided to go on Saturday morning instead.  The problem with bugs though is that they are very friendly and like to get together with everyone, so on Saturday morning Ray had it too.  He wasn’t as wimpy as me and after a slow start and some quick stops we finally got to Bruce’s around 6pm.  Unfortunately that was also Ray’s birthday, so not a lot of fun for him. 
Bruce was having an annual gathering at his place in the hills.  He breeds and races Siberian Huskies.  Although it was cold and windy and then it rained, the barbeque went ahead and a good time was had by all, including Ray and me as we sat gingerly drinking water and trying not to rush off every ten minutes.
Everyone camped on Bruce’s land and the following morning Lyn,  Bruce’s wife cooked a full English breakfast for loads of people.  Throughout the day people left and eventually it was just the four of us left.  
Bruce and Lyn have a small holding in mid Wales and have 360 degree views of the Cambrian Mountains. We are currently parked on the top of a hill with a beautiful view of Cader Idris, one of the largest mountains in Wales.
Since then we have had several relaxing days, it took a few days for Ray and I to completely recover. We have been on a couple of excursions with Bruce, but tomorrow,(Thursday), Ray and me are going to visit a wildlife site that feeds Red Kites and have a few rides round on his motor cycle.  Then it will be on further south in Wales for a good look around.  Oh I think we have now finally decided to go to Silverstone on Sunday for the WSB, being the petrol head I am, I convinced Ray that, that was what he wanted for his birthday.
Thursday we made it out of the motor home and headed off on Wallace,(Super Tenere) to seek out the Red Kites.  Lunch was in a very pleasant place called the New Inn in Dolfor, a hamlet just South of Newtown. Then it was off to find Gigrin Farm, which is in Rhayader,Powys.  Ray found a route that took us through single track, full countrified lanes that went up and down and round some serious bends, perfect motor cycle roads.  Wallace is a star and as comfortable as my favourite Honda Pan, sheer pleasure. 
The Farm is advertised as the Red Kite Feeding and Rehabilitation Centre. There is a full nature reserve with walk and a part that the RSPB funds.  We parked up and walked up to the Hydes to watch the spectacle.  We watched as a tractor unloaded some beef scraps, and were informed that although this is a daily occurrence the following would happen.

The man with the tractor would disappear, there would be a gathering of Red Kites in the skies and then nothing would happen until all the birds were comfortable, then the crows would slowly start to descend and start to eat the meat, after the Kites saw that happen, they would then swoop in and collect a piece of meat and fly straight back into the sky and eat it on the wing so to speak, fighting off any other birds in their path.  It was incredible to watch, the speed, agility and magnificence of these birds is unbelievable.  The colouring and...... well you get the idea, we were impressed.

There must have been between 50 to 60 Kites, 2 Buzzards and a murder of crows.  I can tell you are impressed with that one.  We left there feeling at one with nature and that we had witnessed something quite awesome.  Can’t wait for the next day of our retirement.

It is official, we are fed up with the rain. It seems that for the last 3 weeks, apart from odd moments, it has never stopped.  However during a break in the weather today we decided to get on the bike and went to the seaside at Borth.  Once there we made like tourists and played on the beach. Well I stood admiring the view and a certain person I know played on his bike on the sand.

There I was minding my own business looking through the gloom at thedistant sea and hills, when I heard Ray call out.  I looked round and there he was on the floor under the bike, laughing.  Can't believe I missed that.

 We dusted the bike down and headed into the main town of Aberytswyth along a lovely coastal road.  So now here we sit in McDonalds updating this and dreading going back out into the heaving rain.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

8 Ripley & Scotland

Ripley was a biker meet for bikers, (Horizons Unlimited), with an inkling for, or experience of, riding round the world on a bike. The event was fantastic, arranged by Susan and Grant Johnson, who have travelled the world on their old BMW, and really set the stage for the rest of us with wanderlust.  There were 3 days of lectures about everything from trauma medicine to riding the Dakar rally, (Jenny Morgan solo female rider, very impressed), other riders experiences of their journeys. It was actually very fascinating.  
There were about 500 bikers in attendance, including Jason and his girlfriend who gave us a lot of useful information and help, they were travelling in a UNIMOG converted into a rock climbing motorhome, and are looking to go down south and on to France, thank you guys and have fun.

The venue, Lumb Farm, is a big pub/restaurant with lots of land for all the psychos and their tents and a couple of motor homes. There were hundreds of adventure type bikes with all sorts of homemade attachments for lugging gear around the world’s most inhospitable places. 

One couple had a Harley Davidson cruiser that has been to more countries than any other vehicle. 193 of the 203 (I think) countries. Another guy, Austin Vince, was the first guy to ride around the world using the Trans Siberian Railway. He is a mathematics teacher from Muswell Hill and is completely certifiable and a very funny man. He is now married to Lois Price, a lone female world traveller who is also completely barking mad. They were/are made for each other.
Whilst  there, I managed to spend another pile of money on some metal panniers and rack. I also managed to wreck the MH jack while trying to level the MH.
Some days I am very clever,   unfortunately this was not one of them.  (Yes, high IQ, low common sense).


We set off from Ripley at midday on Sunday the 27th and headed 80 miles East to near Skegness. We had arranged to get some carpet professionally fitted to the MH. We attended “BESPOKE RUGS” at a little hamlet called Ketsby. We arrived on Sunday evening and parked our MH on the forecourt and plugged into the mains. The proprietor, Darren Hudson made us most welcome even inviting us to his BBQ which we politely declined but joined him and his girlfriend Jane later with a bottle of wine. 

That evening he recommended a visit to a village called Little Cawthorpe, near Louth. We found it and went to a pub/inn called The Royal Oak. To our amazement, in the garden is an almost full size wood carving of Ryuichi KIYONARI on his HM Plant Honda. He appeared to have signed the bottom but it was in Japanese so only he would know. By the looks of the place, it was bikers pub...nice.


The next day he set about making a template for the carpet. We jumped on the bike and set off for the sunny delights of Skegness. Yes, we know it’s not the most salubrious of locations but we had never been there and were up for a laugh. We were warned that one visit would be enough, the warning was correct. It was a holiday resort that appeared to be dying on its feet. We had a McDonalds, a pint of beer and bought a stick of rock, marvellous.  (We know how to enjoy ourselves)  

We then jumped on the bike and I programmed the GPS to take us to a quiet spot near the beach further north. The GPS is not normally very good at this but today it came up trumps and we ended up on a nearly deserted beach and went paddling.  I spent a while laughing at Karen jumping in and out of the cold North Sea. We then went rock pool fishing and found a pile of star fish.  After a short period of British sunbathing (clothes on!) we rode back to Ketsby and fired up the BBQ for Darren and us. He was well into finishing the carpets earlier than expected. After grub, beer and putting the world to rights we went to bed. The next morning I went next door to a wood yard and asked the owner to make up some wooden ramps to level the MH up on when on site. That’s how I broke the jack !.
About noon, the carpets and ramps were finished. We loaded the bike back on the trailer and said goodbye to Darren, a thoroughly honest English gentleman and then set off for Dumfries and Karen’s parents farm.
We arrived at the farm at about 6pm to the usual incredibly warm and spoiling welcome.
We spent the next day, Wednesday, being lazy and on Thursday, set about clearing the crap out of the back of the MH. Bearing in mind it was still a solid wall of good and bad stuff. We laid all the stuff out on the floor of Sandy’s (Karen’s step dad) barn floor and spent the next 2 days sorting through it. We filled a box trailer with rubbish, put some in the loft for storage and sorted the rest into some semblance of order.

On Wednesday night I went up the hill to walk the border  collie sheep dogs, Will, Craig and Kate. On the way back I was confronted by a large badger in the bracken. It ran off closely followed by  a second badger.  As I walked on I saw a third one come out of the bracken and walk toward me. Knowing that their sight is not that good I laid down in a dip in the track and the badger walked right up to me and stopped suddenly about 6’ from me.  Then one of the dogs intervened and the badger ran past at arm’s length. WOW, what an experience.
On the following Friday, Karen was doing the same thing and had a similar experience. She was determined not to miss out. This time Craig ran into the bracken and the next thing she saw was a badger giving it large across the path in front of her.  As she was calling it a night and heading back to the quad bike, a second badger came out of the bushes and bimbled   across the path, Craig went running at it and knocked it completely off of its feet, there was no damage done, but the badger jumped up and started turning round looking for its attacker, she had to call Craig back as once the badger did catch wind of him, he went for him, I think I know who would have won.

Well quite a rarity, we have had a couple of quiet days doing things at normal pace and thoroughly enjoying it.   We are getting ourselves geared up for everyone joining us in the Lake District, I’m sure there will be some tales to tell.  
I have now fixed the heater exhaust and serviced the generator...Grrrrrrrr !

7 Leaving home

Once home it was all hands to the pump for the final week of residence in a brick build domicile (....not).  In reality, our hearts were not in it. Having no furniture, we took the mattresses from the MH and slept for the next week on the living room floor.
We started that night by unloading the rear boot area of the MH so that Cranhams (the MH dealer) could fit our larger rear garage door. There were other issues with the MH too. We identified during our trip to Scotland that the heater exhaust was hanging loose. Closer inspection showed that the brackets holding the exhaust in place were all rotten. On top of that the generator control panel told us that the generator had not been serviced as per our last request/visit to the dealer. We were more than a bit pissed off.  We had, a week  earlier contacted our salesman, Jeff WILLIS,  at Cranhams and I vented my calm anger and told him the MH would be back with him on Thursday, for these things to be rectified (by now we knew the rear door had arrived). I also told him that despite his pre sale promise that the MH would be serviced inside and out, it was obvious to us and any other moron that this had not been looked at let alone serviced.
The next day, I contacted Cranham’s   to confirm they were expecting our MH. Guess what, they had no idea. I told them that I was bringing it down anyway and that it needed to be fixed by next Wednesday for us to move into it.
After dropping the MH off I went to the Yamaha dealer and swapped the little 660cc Tenere for the bigger 1200cc Super Tenere. 


I even changed the tyres for off road knobbly ones before I’d even sat on it.  What normal human being takes the wheels off a new vehicle before sitting in/on it!.... Ray does. Once home I stole some time (much to Karen’s annoyance) fitted the Sat Nav and communication system to the new bike.
We struggled to motivate ourselves to do the final clean up for moving out. We dithered about doing a bit here and a bit there but our hearts were not in it. I then spotted an advert for the Silverstone Moto GP (the Formula 1 equivalent premier bike race in the UK) on Sunday the 20th, I asked if Karen wanted to go, and she said “Let’s go, it can be my birthday present”. How many blokes can get a bird with those attributes?  (Duck  Ray !)
So it was off to Silverstone on the new bike to watch Gorge Lorenzo on his Yamaha wipe the floor. We also bought 2 new crash helmets to match the new bike – how sad – so what – DILLIGAF.

Gorge Lorenzo (far left) setting off from pole to lead all the way to the chequered flag.

Once back from Silverstone, it really was time to go to work, we were due to move out on Thursday morning so we had 3 hectic and very tiring days. We got stuck in and cleared the house room by room. It was difficult work as we had to make hard decisions about all of our goods and chattels. A lot of stuff went to the dump, a lot was packed for storage in Scotland and a lot was just stored for placing in the motor home.

Monday was an interesting day.
Problem 1.  We have booked a family camping holiday in the Lake District and we needed transport to get 8 people from Harlow/Bishops Stortford to Cumbria. We originally intended to hire a mini bus and let Zoe (No. 1 daughter) drive it up and back. The problem was that we could not hire a mini bus with 8 seats (the max she can drive) from anywhere.   Karen eventually had a brain wave. Rosie (No. 3 daughter) has a new boyfriend, Matthew, whom we had met two days previously for the first time at Trula’s (No. 2 daughter) birthday BBQ. Matthew had passed his driving test 2 weeks earlier. If we put him on the insurance then Zoe could drive her car with 4 and Matthew the Fiesta with 4. A phone call to the insurance company revealed they wanted £1200 for the final 6 months of the insurance term, bugger, eventually settled for 1 month’s worth for £160. The next problem was that Matthew had never been on a motorway and to expect him to learn with a 300 mile 4 up trip was asking a bit much so that night I took him out on the M11 and M25. He was quite competent despite his lack of experience. At last........ some  good news.

Problem 2, Due to our mounting lack of faith in Cranhams, I phoned them to see how work on the MH was progressing.
A man came on the phone and said that he could not answer my questions as there was no one except him on site. The fire brigade had just put out a fire on their huge shop which had a gas canister store attached to it. He could not tell me if I still owned a motor home.  Oh shit !!!
I phoned the next day and was told that our MH was safe and the work had been done.
Wednesday finally came. We phoned them about 0930 and told them we were on our way. We arrived to see our MH near the gate ready for pick up. I could see clearly, from a distance that the heater exhaust was still hanging down loose. On speaking to the dealer through clenched teeth, we were informed that the generator had not been serviced either. We were told that the heater parts were on order from a company in Colchester (about 30 miles away)....lovely.
We were then told that if we took the MH to the same firm in Colchester they would service the was getting better by the minute.  We were met with a blank face when I asked who would pay. By this time we were both speechless. Mindful of the fact that there was a large black space where the shop used to be, Karen had to walk away and I ended up telling them that the best thing for us to do was to do it ourselves. During the encounter we were constantly told “we are not doing very well are we”. We did not reply with the appropriate response. We had repeatedly told them of our deadlines. We even waited for the rear door to come from Germany for 5 months. I could have walked there, strapped it to my back and walked back in that time. They, despite having the UK franchise for Frankia cannot phone the manufacturer.....What !!.
We got in our MH and drove off.  Wankers.

We drove home and calmed down somewhat. We needed to, we had a lot of work to do. We called Trula, our daughter to come over and help us with the cleaning while we were packing. Bless her soul, she worked like a trooper and helped us immensely. We finally gave up late in the evening and in the morning put the final bits and bobs in the MH, cleared the last few rooms, loaded the bike on the trailer and eventually at about 1230 set off towards Bishops Stortford to drop off our Fiesta with Rosie.
The boot of the MH was so full, that when the door was opened there was a sold wall of stuff. It was seriously overloaded (almost at the weight limit officer) and was very sluggish. After dropping the Fiesta off  we set off for Ripley in Derbyshire.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

6 Its been a busy month...

A belated thanks to Sandra and Terry for putting on a great BBQ. Lots of food, lots of booze and great company.

This bunch of psychos are Karens ex-work mates:
Lawerence at the back, Center fron left, Sandra, Marietta, Laura, zelma and Karen at the front.

Something we forgot to mention previously was that we went to the Peterborough National Motor home show. We bought a few necessary bits and had our two almost new and unused pushbikes stolen from the back of our MH. The security cable had been cut through overnight. Not a problem we thought, they are insured. We reported it to police etc as we should have done.
Once home we put in our first ever insurance claim only to be told that we needed proof of existence. “Receipt?” .....””, “manuals ?”.....””, “photographs ?”....””..... Dam.
They were having none of it, we were struggling and getting angrier and angrier about it.
Eventually we located some photos of our bikes on the internet in the background of some photos that had been published whilst doing modifications to our 660 Tenere motorcycle. Eureka.
We sent them the photos and they caved in. We now have two brand new bikes of exactly the same type.
-------------Moving swiftly on-------------------
The TT was, as usual, completely amazing and very scary. We had tried to get to see a bit of the racing but had managed to miss most of the big racing, and one day we actually got a good spot to watch, but due to adverse weather we decided to leave, the racing having been postponed and then further delayed. We had only been gone for about 10 minutes when we found out they had started the race. We felt that we were fated.

Whilst riding aroud the island we came accross lots of these signs....bikes and horses with equal status.....bliss.

On senior TT day we decided to get up to the mountain part of the course using the mountain railway from Laxey. We were with our ski buddy Rex and took a picnic of sorts. The morning was really misty and cold and we weren’t sure it would go ahead, but after a small delay and the sun coming out things got underway. 

We managed to get a good spot on the mountain for the senior TT and got a good photo of Guy Martin a couple of minutes before his crash. The first we heard was one of the commentators stating “Martin has not come past us”. The red flags then came out and the race was stopped as the fire brigade were required to his crash site. We heard no more for about 10 minutes and during this time there was an eerie silence all over, apart from Manx radio playing Hotel California and several other equally long mournful songs. We thought the worst as we knew all the top riders were really pushing it. Finally came the news that he was conscious and talking (too much as usual apparently) but had chest injuries. There was a big cloud lifted from the spectator’s demeanour.
A short while later I (R) witnessed Conner Cummings ride off the edge of the Veranda and slid a long way down the mountain. He was taken by helicopter and later found to have only (only !!) broken limbs. Our best wishes go to them both and we wish them a speedy recovery.
We took part in some of the non TT activities in Douglas. We watched the White Helmets motorcycle display team(for those not in the know, an army display team) doing their stuff, knowing that we were waiting for the Purple Helmets (who are not army), compete with them. (I will let you figure out the deliberate sexual connotation – suffice to say, their salute is an open semi-clenched fist on the top of their head).

For those that have never seen them, they are a piss take of the White Helmets and do similar stunts but revel in getting them wrong in front of the public. They are talented, psychotic and very funny. Their antics have to be seen to be believed. They ride Honda C90s with modified front forks. In one stunt two guys ride through the crowd on a sidecar unit, the passenger is playing a side mounted piano completely naked apart from his obligatory Purple Helmet. 

In another, they do the “save the planet” bit and a guy rides by eating beans from a huge Heinz tin with a huge trumpet poking rearwards out of his bare bum.
At the end of the display, both teams work together in a tongue in cheek display of mayhem, one working with military precision and the other not understanding the meaning of precision.

We stayed on the Island as planned. The whole of our stay was like one long party one way and another. On England’s opening game of the world cup, we were invited to Julie and Neil’s and the girls watched the match from the Jacuzzi quaffing champagne, I could watch more matches like that, and then we had a great meal with them. We were really spoiled whilst on the Isle of Man and would like to thank everyone, and you know who you are, for making it that great. 


On the Sunday after TT Andy Metcalf took us to his shooting range where we loosed off something like 400 round of .22 and 9mm between us. This was a treat for both of us, for me as following the government’s knee jerk reaction over hand guns, I have not fired a gun for many years. For Karen, it was only the second time she had done it. 

Sadly, again for me, Karen turned out to be the better shot – see her target – but I improved dramatically when it was suggested that I use my glasses ! In my defence, the last time I shot, I did not need them. Age is a cruel thing. 

Later that night it was Debbie and Andy’s end of TT /all June babies’ birthday party, there were four of us and a couple of others who pretended, lots of drink consumed and many photos of friends taken.

                                                                    Our hosts, Debbie and Andy Lagdon.

                                                                            David, Karen and Andy (another one)

                                                                      Dave, Tina, Lynn, Jane, Phil and Mark.
                               Karen, Maureen and Derek (PS thanks for thre use of the sewing machine !)

The following Wednesday it was time to leave and all was packed up and ready to go with the Tenere stuffed in the boot again. The ferry was boarded and set off at 0845 as scheduled. At about 1230 we drove down the loading ramp and set off for a 250mile slog back home.