khaylock: (gooseneck ST)
Warning! This is a vanity publishing blog entry. Don't blame me if it bores you rigid. This is as much for me to read back to myself in my addled dotage as it is for wider interest. If you stumble across it and enjoy it, though... please let me know!

Cheers,


Ken



Friday dawned early and we were quick to break camp, load the bikes and hit the road, initially back to Hillberry, via Douglas. Finding nowhere to park with bikes laden with gear, we swiftly relocated to Governors Bridge, and picked ourselves a decent viewing point from where we could see the bikes.



Motomuffin spectates at Governor's Bridge


[livejournal.com profile] motomuffin also had a... somewhat disturbing... encounter with one of the marshals at Governor's. The least said about that the better.

Sadly, after a couple of passes by travelling marshals, the heavens opened briefly and the whole programme was delayed, so we headed back into Douglas for Brunch at our favoured cafe...

Motomuffin goes for it...

Stomachs placated, we nipped back out to Governors in time to see the very loud, very noisy T.T. Milestones parade, led - again - by John McGuinness - who on his return told race control in no uncertain terms that he wasn't racing in the extant conditions.





This time, chastened by nearly becoming statistics on Wednesday, his fellow riders basically backed him and also refused to ride. Faced with a Senior TT minus all the star riders, race control backed down and went for a very delayed start. The 6 lap Senior TT didn't kick off until almost 5:30pm, so if we'd still been trapped on the camp site, we would have been having a very bad day indeed, stressing about making our ferry on time.

This was Guy Martin on lap 4...

Braddan Bridge

...and this was McPint on Lap 5, by which time he basically had it won...

Braddan Bridge






Next stop, Douglas prom for an evening snack in Colours, which is basically the Isle of Man's only nightclub, but not at 5pm on a Friday night. From there we watched The Vulcan display over the bay...



And then we were aboard the ferry, after more loading and boarding chaos (but no breakdowns this time) and off back to Liverpool, serenaded by an enormous end-of-TT firework display in Douglas Bay as we sailed out of Douglas and waved Mona's Isle goodbye...



And then we both fell asleep, awaking only as we steamed into Liverpool at 2am. The hotel was about 50 yards from the port (I was booking with priority club points and the cheapest Holiday Inn Express near Chester was the same price in points as the posh Crowne Plaza next to the ferry terminal, so it was a no brainer...), and they allowed us to park our bikes right outside the window of reception...

Moto Parking - Crowne Plaza, Liverpool

At last! A decent shower, and a comfy bed. We both slept the sleep of the dead and were woken up by the hotel in time for a hearty hotel breakfast, then we re-loaded the bikes and hit the road...

At least we had the (brilliant) A483 south through mid Wales to ride, as we headed further away from the 2011 TT with each mile. We spent the whole day just missing the rain, either arriving just after it had passed or beating it to the punch, with only the occasional raindrop to keep us honest. South of Newtown, the A483 turns twisty and... awesome. We had much fun riding down to Carmarthen, although we arrived quite late in the day. We just had time for [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin to throw a bunch of stuff in the washer drier and pick up a giant roller bag to take all the extra crap she had acquired on her trip home with her, and then it was Pizza, single malt Whisky and bed. All that remained was to drop her off at Port Talbot railway station the next morning, en-route to Heathrow, and TT2011 was officially over for us...
khaylock: (gooseneck ST)
Warning! This is a vanity publishing blog entry. Don't blame me if it bores you rigid. This is as much for me to read back to myself in my addled dotage as it is for wider interest. If you stumble across it and enjoy it, though... please let me know!

Cheers,


Ken



Actually, I neglected to mention that the hot favourite for Monday's first 600 Supersport race, Michael Dunlop, had serious bike issues both before and again after the red flag, and failed to finish, but New Zealander Bruce Anstey, who many people suggested was no longer a contender, beat all comers to win the Supersport race. I'm a big fan of Bruce, because he gave the Bloor incarnation of the Triumph company their first TT win (and the first by any Triumph for a couple of generations) in 2003. He's also an old-school real roads racer. He turns up to a handful of high profile road race meetings a year, climbs onto a race bike, usually is up the front and in the mix for the win, and then doesn't sit on a motorcycle again until maybe 6 months later when he lines up for practice for some other real road race. No pre-season testing, no training regime, no PR bullshit.




In between the two races, and I apologise for mentioning cars when talking about the TT, Subaru - who had made a big investment in corporate sponsorship at the TT this year - had local boy and rally ace Mark Higgins do a second of three fast (in fact, record setting) laps of the course in a Subaru Imprezza WRX, covered in cameras. If you watch this video, it is pretty impressive stuff. But not as impressive as the 150 mph+ out of control moment that he caught and saved on the way down Bray Hill! Incidentally, in the reprise of that moment, at 4:09 in the following video, if you look to the left you can clearly see [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin sitting on the grass behind the railings on the left...




Michael Dunlop's compensation for his shocker of a Supersport 600 TT 1 was later in the day when he won the Superstock TT on the fire-breathing monster that is the Kawasaki ZX10R. Here's the story of that race...





Anyway, when we left our hapless hero and heroine, they had just crawled into their tents. Noting that the wind had got up signicantly, I took the precaution of deploying all the guy ropes and sealing up the flap on the 'storage area' portion of my tent. In due course it got even blowier, and then in the wee small hours the heavens opened and there was a full on 'perfect storm' style deluge, with water coming down in large quantities like it was being fired from a pressure washer. Later the rain subsided to a more normal biblical deluge, and gradually petered out in the morning. On the plus side, the 5am chorus of hard-ragged motorcycles was surprisingly muted on Tuesday morning. On the minus side, at about 8am, the... less than entirely happy... voice of [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin assailed my ears from outside my tent. 'Good morning!' she said. 'Good Morning!' I replied, cheerfully. "Were you nice and warm last night?". "To begin with, yes..." she said. "But I'm going to need a new tent!".

Oh shit. Yep, my old reliable tent, the one I lent to [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin to reduce the risk of a new cheap tent being crap, decided to pick the middle of the deluge to give up being waterproof entirely. Disaster! So [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin and much of her stuff got soaked. There was a great deal of clearing up needed to happen in her tent, because the groundsheet conspired with the rain to form a shallow bath of icy cold water. F*****g horrible. So far, I'd lent her a bike that ate its electrics, a sleeping bag that froze her tits off and then a tent that tried to drown her. I can't blame her for the somewhat... stressed... tone.

Once we had cleared up the tent, and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin had stuck certain things out to dry in the renewed sunshine, we headed for Millets again. This time, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin bought herself a cheap tent. I almost certainly should have bought that for her by way of cringing apology but it really didn't occur to me at the time. We left the tent and a couple of other doo-dads at the shop to pick up later, went next door for a good breakfast, and then made our way down to the Villa-Marina to watch TT3D: Closer to the Edge. Now, I had already seen it twice at this point, and I've waxed lyrical about it in the past on Livejournal, but seeing it actually on the island, in a smallish cinema absolutely packed with TT visiting bikers (and they ran 3 showings a day every day for a fortnight, all packed) certainly added to the atmosphere. I think [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin, who hadn't ever seen it (it's not made it to the USA yet) was fairly blown away by it.




For me, it's a top, top film and it definitely bears repeat viewing.

On the way back to grab the tent, we were walking down the prom and passed this...

Velocette MAC (I think)

I think it's an old MAC, but I'm no expert at all. If it is an MAC, my father used to ride one. Comments from Velocette spotters welcome...

Velocette clocks...

Tent collected from Millets, we had some lunch, before heading back to Cronk Dhoo and ripping down/throwing away the disgraced tent and erecting the new Millets special in its place. In amongst all that, I also phoned Jason Griffiths Motorcycles, optimistically expecting that the bike might be ready. He'd ordered the parts on Monday morning, and he was expecting them in 48 hours, so the earliest they would arrive would be Wednesday. I communicated the bad news to [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin who was so far not twitching as badly as I feared she would be about not having a bike to ride, but... well, I was getting ever guiltier and she would start getting the DTs soon if she didn't get a bike to ride...

Much of the afternoon was sacrificed to trying to repair the damage of the previous night, but the new tent was looking pretty cool and in due course we were able to head into town for an evening appointment with the Red Arrows and then later the Purple Helmets, with a cameo from the White Helmets on the prom; remember that I missed them earlier in the week? Well, this was supposed to be my chance!

We arrived on a chilly windswept prom in plenty of time to park the bike and find a spot to watch the Reds do their show. Today the cloud base was low and one of their pilots was grounded by an attack of the squits, so we got 8 planes not 9 and a very flat display. Still brilliant of course, but not their best work, so the video below was made two days earlier by somebody with a radio scanner at the Red Arrows display over Ramsey at the other end of the island, which took place in brilliant sunshine and a clear blue sky....



The Reds did their thing at 7:30 pm, so naturally we were expecting the White Helmet/Purple Helmet combo to follow. But no. What followed first was a repeat of the previous nights TT highlights on the giant screen, and then a couple of freestyle motocrossers started jumping off a big ramp, accompanied by a 'High Energy' American commentary. Actually, I was blissfully ignorant, but [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin tipped me the wink that it wasn't even a real American accent - the guy was putting it on! I reckon there was about ten minutes to be filled by these two guys jumping over a big ramp covered in Monster Energy logos, accompanied by Mr Whoop'n'Holler. We actually got two hours of it, most of it to a Stony faced crowd who had seen two hours of it last night and the night before as well and were hoping it would stop right now.

Myself and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin went and sheltered behind the glass wall of the Villa Marina complex while we waited hopefully for the fake yank to accidentally choke to death on his microphone. That would have been totally gnarly dude!! Big round of applause for that one everybody!! Wow, that was a double nick-nack into microphone down the oesophagus! Woooo-hooooooooo!! Let me hear everybody cheer or we won't be able to get another stunt in here. OK, no I'm lying... even though nobody moves a muscle, we'll be here for another hour and a half (or is that month and a half) because we have to fill in time.

It wasn't all homicidal thoughts about the commentator. [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin amused herself by having me set this up.

'Ello 'ello 'ello!

Eventually, somewhat after the allotted time, the White Helmets did a vignette from their display along the prom, although of course the lack of space, and the surface curtailed their activities slightly. Our biggest issue, though, was that because we had gone and hidden out of the icy wind behind the glass wall of Villa Marina, we were stuffed for a decent view of what was happening.

After the White Helmets had done their bit to demonstrate their admittedly very impressive skills (stunting seems to have become quite passe these days, and the preserve of squids in baggy jeans, but the White helmets were doing it before anybody else, and they are still doing it now, and Troy-Corser stylee stand-up wheelies ARE still very, very cool if done in an immaculate dress uniform on a vintage 1970's Norton Commando - as are pyramids of riders on several Commandos ridden in formation).

Then it was what should have - for me - been the highlight of the evening... the Purple Helmets. We'd waited long enough, and I'd bigged them up enough to [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin. Sadly, they were late, totally disorganised and clearly hadn't really rehearsed the cut down version of their show so it didn't really hang together at all. That and of course we still couldn't see it properly.

Arse. I've no idea what [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin thought. Probably 'I stood here freezing to death for
that
?'

I decided to make an early run from the prom for the campsite... and bed. I didn't detect any resistance from [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin. After another brief electronics charging jag on my part, and watching the ITV4+1 version of the Superstock TT highlights, I went to bed. [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was already rocking her new tent, which had the major advantage of being waterproof. (Details, details...).

Wednesday dawned unsettled, with a triumvirate of races due - the second Supersport TT, the second sidecar race and the TT zero race. Our plan for today was to head round the course less than a mile and park up at Ballacraine. Ballacraine is the famous corner, named after the then pub, now private house that George Formby crashed into the bar of through the front door in the 1935 TT film 'No Limit' (top film by the way). But as we were setting up to leave the camp site, racing (and road closure) were delayed by an hour due to the dodgy weather. So we had another cup of tea.

By the time we took the short ride to Ballacraine it was close to 11. Ballacraine is a cross-roads that forms a 90 degree right hand corner for the race track at the end of a long, long flat out drag, and we parked up down a side road just before the roads closed and joined the throng on the grass alongside the braking zone.

Ballacraine

First up, once the roads closed, was the Arai parade of champions. This featured a number of legendary riders, including multiple 500 GP world champion Mick Doohan and island resident and British MotoGP star Cal Crutchlow, who were all ably led round the course by Ian Hutchinson, who won all 5 solo races last year, a feat never before accomplished, but who was riding in the parade with an external steel cage holding his leg together, since apparently it hadn't healed quite enough for them to take the cage off yet (the only reason he wasn't racing this year, after a hideous short-circuit crash that nearly cost him his leg at the end of last year)!

Ballacraine

Once the parade had made it back to the grandstand, and it was fairly quick as parades go, Hutchinson made it clear to race control that he didn't think the conditions were safe for racing on either wet tyres (they would explode) or dry. The race was delayed a little, and eventually started at 12:40, with none of the riders happy, but John McGuinness - who very nearly boycotted the whole thing told the riders after him (as the first man away) at the last second that he'd go but be taking it steady in the mixed conditions. Race control had spoken, the riders were browbeaten into going.

True to his word, John McGuinness took it very cautiously, and ended up riding in a group with the three starters behind him, all feeling their way around the first lap. The marshals were displaying lack of adhesion flags at every corner where there were any damp patches at all, but in some cases that was properly wet, and in others the odd tiny damp patch - and the riders had no way of knowing one from t'other.

Braking for Ballacraine...

Thus it was that after the leaders had passed through Union Mills on the first lap, there was a brief rain shower there. Around 25 minutes later, Cameron Donald and Guy Martin arrived at a now unexpectedly soaking wet Union Mills on their DoT race compound tyres, with John McGuiness and Keith Amor close behind, and then this happened...



The race was red flagged (much to the chagrin of the Dunlop Brothers who were basically riding absolutely fearlessly in the dangerous conditions and were running first and second at the time) and racing abandoned for the day. Everybody was very lucky that there weren't four very serious crashes indeed taking out 4 stars of the TT in one fell swoop. There were definitely some mutterings about rider power in the aftermath! Also some mutterings from the irish road-racing lads complaining that they were doing just fine with the dodgy conditions...

Anyway, after the red flag we were at a bit of a loose end, while poor old [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin really WAS starting to twitch now without a bike, and I felt absolutely terrible. I phoned up Jason Griffiths Motorcycles to discover that the part was now IN! I had in fact been facing the prospect that she might not get to ride at all on the island beyond ferrying the bike to and from the ferry. I had been quite prepared to give her the keys to the BMW for an afternoon if if it was that or the promise of riding on the island cruelly denied, but I was really hoping it didn't come to that.

So, off we rode down to Castletown, via the back road from Ballacraine, full of the joys of spring. When we got there, the bike was being bolted back together, so they recommended that we nip out and grab ourselves a pub lunch while we waited for them to finish up. This we did (although with me navigating, the pub was quite tricky to find - listening to [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin worked much better!) The food was truly excellent, and we were enjoying an excellent repast, when I got a call from the mechanic. To tell me that... the generator had also now gone south. This was a disaster! Fortunately, a new Daytona 675 had arrived, and it was duly robbed of its generator in short order - when he first told me I had visions of needing to get the bike recovered back to my place from Liverpool docks, and of [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin not even getting to ride back through Wales! Still, it was a bloody expensive day :-(.

Never mind, who cares, we had bikes (plural) to ride again! We rode back to Ballacraine and joined the course to do a lap of the TT course, myself on the GT and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin on the Striple, and then we headed over the mountain. Highlight of that? Overtaking a police 4x4 that was absolutely flat out uphill at about 100mph, and giving him a cheery little wave with my left hand as I flew past him at 120mph odd...

After that, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin headed off on her own for the evening (the first chance she'd had) and I nipped off back to the camp site for a meal, some internerd surfing on my netbook and a look at the TT highlights on the TV. And then to bed.

The next morning, I slept right through the traditional TT dawn chorus of howling exhausts and bouncing valves, but we were soon up and at them, and then we swapped bikes for the start of the day and headed out in opposite directions round the course aiming for Hillberry, where we ensconced ourselves in the makeshift Grandstand to watch the first half of the day's racing (postponed from Wednesday). I went round the course on the Striple, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin went the other way on the GT, and I filmed my run over the top, very badly, using the iPhone with the hideous interference issues...



We met up at Hillberry where I parked the Striple right next to the entrance to the Grandstand, and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin parked the BMW about a mile away up the lane. Of course, I got the BMW keys back at this point. D'oh!

Hillberry is actually a great place to watch. You aren't locked in and you can see the bikes as they come off the mountain all the way to Hillberry corner on the run in to the finish line.




The first race was Supersport 2, which was supposed to be a Dunlop parade - but wasn't because both the Dunlop brothers suffered mechanical woes - and could have been a McGuinness shock win, but wasn't for reasons that I'll let him explain (no really, it's worth hearing). There was also a bit of mild controversy in this race but it all came right in the end, and Gary Johnson won it, taking his first ever TT victory, and thoroughly well deserved. Oh, and Cameron Donald was all set for third place until his bike blew up... at the last corner!



The second sidecar race ended with Klaffi's outfit suffering mechanical woes and a surprise first-time winner...




Finally, Michael Rutter beat Mark Miller in the battle of the MotoCycz TT-Zero bikes, with half a dozen other electric bikes making up the numbers, but with Michael Rutter coming in for a 99.9mph lap, tantalisingly close to the big cash prize for the first ever 100mph electric lap, but no cigar...






If I remember correctly, we ended the day with me, idiot that I am, looking for a very nice and very imposing Indian Restaurant overlooking the seat out near Onchan that I last visited in 1999. We found it eventually. It is opening soon... as a Chinese restaurant. We found a rather poor Indian restaurant at the horse tram end of the prom and ate there instead, but the prices were ridiculously high and the food not that good. Which may explain why it was empty. And then, I vaguely remember, we dropped in at Bushy's and grabbed some stickers and another dollop of merchandise. I have Bushy's stickers from '98, '99 and now 2011...

And then, back to the site and to bed, ready for an early start in the morning and breaking camp (we had to be off the site before roads-close or we might be stuck there all day, and even miss our ferry if the roads stayed closed until late)...




Tune in next week folks, for part 4 (well, next week or when I've written it!).
khaylock: (gooseneck ST)
Warning! This is a vanity publishing blog entry. Don't blame me if it bores you rigid. This is as much for me to read back to myself in my addled dotage as it is for wider interest. If you stumble across it and enjoy it, though... please let me know!

Cheers,


Ken




I was woken before 5 am by the early shift of bikers with race pipes 'doing a quick lap before the traffic builds up', but I managed to get back to sleep for a couple of hours.

I woke again in time to call the Manx Telecom helpdesk. They carefully talked me through doing exactly what their documentation had already said I should do with no useful result. When that didn't work, they suggested that I pop into one of the Manx Telecom shops in Douglas and let them have a fiddle. I gave up and got up.

[livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was still in bed but awake, and said she had slept badly due to being cold. I was surprised - as discussed earlier I was too stupid to read the small print in the spec of the sleeping bag and expected her to be comfortable. I put it down to her sleeping on the ground. She decided to warm up with a nice hot shower. Nobody told the shower, though - apparently it was icy cold. At least breakfast, from the on-site van, was hot. [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin had already been introduced to the sacrement of the bacon and egg butty by my mate Karl at Snack Attack in Carmarthen, but here she explored variations on the theme of bacon. And tea. Suitably fortified, we strolled down the driveway to the main road past the entrance to the camp site, accompanied by Radio TT on my little radio. That road that had so recently been a bustle of traffic, mainly spectators on motorcycles heading for their favourite vantage points, was now a silent race track, waiting for the first Superbike race, with barriers drawn across the entrance to the camp site. At the bottom of the drive we found a family of four, sitting on deck chairs behind the low wall at the entrance, in the spot that I personally suspected a flying 190mph motorcycle would impact if somebody got Greeba terminally wrong. [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin thought we would get a wonderful view if we sat next to them, and that was true, but there was something she hadn't quite fully appreciated yet... until you have experienced the sheer visceral violence of a modern racing Superbike, flat out at close to 200mph, passing you within a few feet, it's impossible to describe it, and really, only the TT can give you that. Along with that thrill is the realisation that if anything does go wrong, both the rider and spectators may have milliseconds to do anything about it. If a Superbike runs wide and hits the very solid wall on the outside of the little kink out of Appledene and approaching Greeba Bridge at over 170mph, the entrance to Chronk Dhoo farm doesn't look like a good place to be sitting as the wreckage bounces back into the road. Guy Martin's crash last year in the Senior TT at a similarly fast corner just a little down the road from Greeba was about half to three quarters of a mile long, with pieces of burning and broken motorcycle, wall, bales and christ knows what littering the road for the whole length of the crash site - and at the very end of the flaming yard sale, Guy himself who had miraculously not only survived but survived in good enough shape to walk out of hospital a week or so later and be back racing 8 weeks later. He's the exception that proves the rule on crashing at 170mph at the TT, though...

In due course, the race started, and it seemed like moments later, we could hear the banshee howl of an approaching 1000cc 220bhp Superbike engine being held at full throttle for an extended period of time, then John McGuinness came past us about 8 feet away doing well over 170mph. Chased almost ten seconds later by another almost equally unbelievably fast missile. When McGuinness flew past, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin turned to me with her mouth forming a perfect 'O' - and after most of the first lap runners had passed us we moved back up the hedgeline to a spot on the apex of the fast corner that was much less likely to get
us
killed in the event of a catastrophic incident....

I took a bit of video during the Superbike TT from both vantage points...



The next video isn't mine, but it is a riders eye view of the section of course past our camp site; not even a racers view - that would just be a long blur - but the view from on the tank of a Travelling Marshal who is leading first-time Mountain Course racers round the track on a 'slow' familiarisation lap.



The section after Appledene and towards Greeba Bridge which goes past the two vantage points the previous video was filmed from start at 1:40, by the way.

After the Superbike race (won by McPint), a spot of lunch and the first sidecar race, won by Klaus 'Klaffi' Klaffenbock, we managed to borrow a battery charger from the campsite owner, pulled the battery from the Striple and stuck it on charge. We also popped the tank up and checked all the fuses and connectors underneath it, looking for any more benign causes for a failure to charge. I also turned on data roaming on my phone briefly and found the number of Jason Griffiths Motorcycles, Manx Triumph dealer to the gentry. I called them up and arranged to take the bike in on Monday (because his mechanic wasn't going to be in on Mad Sunday, as he had been working 12 hour days for a week now) for a quick prod with a multimeter. Jason himself expressed the hope that maybe his mechanic could whip a regulator/rectifier off another bike he had coming in on Monday and stick it on mine, if that was all that was required. It seemed hopeful, so I told him we'd definitely pop in on Monday.

Then as soon as the roads re-opened, we hopped aboard the GT and headed in to Douglas, where we went and explored the front a little, booked tickets for TT3D: Closer to the Edge later in the week at the first showing with space (after a marathon hike up and down the prom and an amusing 'wrong cinema' incident), bought a load of souvenir TT tat between us, and then had another marathon hike playing 'hunt the recommended Italian restaurant'. Which we found and which really was worth finding (but I can't remember the name of it now). We dined sumptuously, found the (closed) Manx Telecom shop for future reference and then headed for the culinary nexus of the known world, McDonalds, for pudding and free WiFi access. And then back to the camp-site and to bed, this time with [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin fully inflating her air-bed.

I was entirely confident that [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin would be adequately warm on Saturday night. Not only was she now sleeping on an inflated air-bed rather than the ground, but I was sleeping bollock naked in my sleeping bag, with the zip halfway down, and yet was entirely warm and comfortable, while [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was apparently dressed like an Egyptian mummy, in every item of clothing she owned, inside her sleeping bag. I was therefore immensely surprised in the morning to discover that once again she had had a sleep-interrupted night because she was cold.

This was Mad Sunday, traditionally in days long past, the only day of the TT festival where the mountain section was made one way and everybody and his dog went for a lap. Now the mountain is one-way for the entire duration of the TT festival, but traditions die hard, and one tradition is that on Mad Sunday, people ride like such utter cocks over the mountain that they are very likely to end up buried in the unforgiving scenery half way across the top, or knock somebody else into it. Riding the mountain on Mad Sunday is something of a mugs' game. Watching others do likewise, can be quite entertaining.

However, we had other fish to fry. I had a shower, which was actually too hot rather than too cold, but not hot enough to blister skin (so that was alright then), we breakfasted at the van, we reassembled the Striple with a now fully charged battery and then I suggested that we nip down to Castletown and firstly locate Jason Griffiths Motorcycles, and secondly pop in, show our faces and get ourselves 'in the queue' to be sorted out before anybody else came in with problems.

We headed in convoy along the TT course, through Greeba Bridge to Ballacraine, and then peeled off towards Castletown, fun country roads with the usual variety of speed limits from 30mph in villages to none at all outside them. In due course we actually joined the course used by the Pre-TT Classic and 2-stroke TT road races (because the road-racing around the TT begins before TT fortnight and ends after the end of race week, it just shifts around the island). In due course we arrived at the Triumph dealership that I remembered as S&S Motors - remembered because when I broke my Sprint ST, last time I was over in 1999, this was the place that fixed it for me, before Jason Griffiths, former TT star himself, bought it out. Now it seems to be a multi-franchise dealership, with BMW, Ducati, Aprilia and of course Triumph. And I was making a habit of bringing broken Trumpets here during TT visits!

The intention was just to pop in and show our faces, then we could both go for a decent ride round the island, avoiding the TT course (except possibly to watch the carnage) before putting the Striple back on charge overnight and bringing it back to the menders tomorrow for a quick fix. As it happened, the mountain spent most of the day closed as the police and highways agency hosed the remains of crash after crash off the road, and then spent several hours clearing an oil slick that had caused another massive crash, so there was no spectating to be done there. And also as it happens, the mechanic who hadn't had a day off for a week of dawn to dusk spanner waving was bored at home and came in anyway, which is how when I popped in to say 'Hi, this is me and this is the bike, we do exist and what time should we bring it in tomorrow?', Jason said 'Take it round to the workshop and we'll check it out'. So I did!

It only took ten seconds with a multimeter to confirm what I was sure of anyway - it wasn't charging! Another 20 seconds having pulled the connector to the generator indicated that at that point, the generator
was
functioning, so it was 'just' a regulator rectifier. Apparently, the 2009/early 2010 Striples and Rs had a defectively designed regulator rectifier from new. It was designed so that the cooling fins and indeed the reg rec itself were mounted against the back of the engine, and it was a shunt-type device that died horribly with monotonous regularity. So monotonous, in fact, that Triumph designed a completely different MosFet based part, with a heatsink that faced the other way and with different connectors, which became both the standard fitment and the standard replacement for the old part. But they never admitted there was a problem and they never recalled and replaced the ones that are prone to fail. So, the new design of reg rec was what was required.

Now, my experience with reg/recs is with Hondas, which are (were?) notorious for eating reg/recs like smarties, but on which the reg/rec normally lives in the tailpiece and can be changed in 2 minutes if you take it really easy. On the Striple... no such luck. You need to pull the rear shock to get to the thing and its giant heatsink! This, plus the fact that the new bike Jason was expecting not being guaranteed to arrive before Wednesday at the earliest, pretty much sealed our fate. We could leave the bike with them, they'd investigate getting a reg-rec quickly, but worst case they would have to order it from the UK. In that case it would take two days to arrive.

In my minds eye, I saw us getting the bike back during the day on Wednesday worst case, or Monday afternoon if there was a miracle. I could live with that, and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin seemed quite relaxed about it as well. In truth, I don't think we had any alternative, beyond possibly putting the bike on charge every night and hoping that the battery held up for the week. But at the time I was thinking that the generator was still OK, and didn't want to risk frying that, so it would have been a fairly brave decision.

So [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was once again my passenger as I headed for Douglas, via the back roads. And she may have been regretting it after we encountered the interesting combination of an incredibly bumpy but de-restricted section of Manx road. Of course, I was just fine - the suspension on the K1200GT is incredibly good, and just by raising myself slightly on the balls of my feet I was quite happy riding the bumps at high speed, but what I hadn't accounted for was that a passenger would get catapulted right out of the seat when I hit such a bump. And slowing down a bit didn't seem to help that much, since I wasn't skimming the bumps any more, and I very nearly inadvertently vertically ejected my passenger entirely, which... didn't go down well! She was certainly getting a rapid pummelling of the rump - which is something that very many people would definitely pay good money for in a specialist club, but apparently [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin isn't one of them...

The road smoothed out just in time for us to pause at the Fairy Bridge to offer them a traditional greeting, and also to read the many tributes and requests made, and see the many offerings left by others. Superstitions are weird!

Then we headed into Douglas where I was surprised to find that the Manx Telecom shop was actually open on a Sunday, and not only that, staffed by somebody who was able to tell me immediately that the APN listed in the documentation for the SIM they had sold me, and also being given out by their helpdesk, was wrong. I popped in the APN that the bloke in the shop gave me in place of the one that Manx Telecom were telling me to use (apparently that is the APN for contract customers only), and the dongle promptly sprang in to life and let me connect to the internet via WiFi with my phone! I was impressed! Nearly as impressed as I would have been if the documentation had been right in the first place :-). [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin, meanwhile, was buying jewellery I believe. Not really my department :-).

Flushed by the success of our shopping trip into Douglas, we headed for the TT Grandstand, parked up in pit lane with a thousand other bikes or so and went for a wander behind the grandstand, wandering around the many stalls and vendors, but also touring the paddock and looking at race bikes and sidecar outfits in various states of dissassembly and mid fettle. Sidecar outfits are definitely transport for the brave. Or is it the clinically insane?

Klaus Klaffenbock, for example, at least has the bars of his sidecar outfit in his hands as he wazzes round the course, though if his passenger Dan Sayle falls off or screws up, the outfit will flip over and land on his head before he can say "Wha..?'. But Mr Sayle gets to hang on to (and mostly off of) a 150mph tea tray, with no control of events whatsoever! This is doubly impressive because Dan Sayle has actually won races in his own right around the Mountain Course as a solo racer! To say "Rather him than me!" is to put it extremely mildly!!

We also headed up into the grandstand itself - the structure would be packed with paying punters on a race day but we had it to ourselves for free while we chilled out and took in the view...

The TT Scoreboard

We still had one mission to complete, though - we were rapidly running out of day, and I was keen to try and find a warmer sleeping bag for [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin since her nocturnal discomfort weighed heavily on my conscience. For her part, somebody we met near the grandstand told her about a woollen mill out near where we had ridden the previous day that had a shop that could sell her a manx wool blanket, which she was sure would be warm enough for her. I wasn't convinced, but since I hadn't seen a camping shop, we went blanket hunting.

We were against the clock as we belted out along the course and then left at Ballacraine and into the country towards Peel, heading for the shop at the mill near Tynewald Hill.

We got there just before the time we imagined they might close. But we were too late. About ten years too late - the mill and the shop had shut down a decade earlier. D'oh!

Another chilly night loomed for poor [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin, much to my chagrin. Deflated, we made our way back to the camp site and fed ourselves. I was just about to call it a draw and go to bed when I had a sudden realisation - in the desperate race for the manx wool blanket and the subsequent dissappointment of failing to find it, one of the signature events of the TT had slipped right out of my mind! We were at Chronk Dhoo farm, when I had been looking forward to sitting in Onchan Stadium a few miles away watching The Purple Helmets do their thing, in a joint show with the White Helmets!! GAHHH!

This was the sort of thing we missed... the White Helmets (the long time motorcycle display team of the Royal Signals Regiment, on immaculately maintained vintage Norton Commandos) jump through a flaming hoop... ...and the Purple Helmets on their Honda C90s try to top them by jumping through a ring of water...



The Purple Helmets are a Manx institution - this is them on Mad Sunday, touring all the pubs on the island as only they can...



This was the Purple Helmets show in Port Erin on later in the week, as filmed by one of their audience...

Part 1:


Part 2:



Anyway, we missed the Mad Sunday show, and I was... fairly peeved... about it. Until I realised that we could probably see them on Douglas prom on Tuesday night, anyway. At which point I stopped sulking...

And so, after an orgy of electronics charging and TT Highlights watching on TV in the communal area, off to bed...


Monday morning dawned once again with the sound of the 'early shift' bouncing off their limiters on the road past the camp site, and again I got back to sleep, but soon it was time to get up. Once again, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin had had a sleep-deprived and shivering night. Once again I felt guilty as hell. But now, I resolved to do something about it, after a quick shower and breakfast. Our viewing point for the day, at least initially, was to be Braddan Bridge, a giant natural ampitheatre furnished with benches by an enterprising land owner. But first, a tent. I used Google Maps to locate the Douglas branch of Millets and hit the road, heading the wrong way up the course. When we passed Braddan, the spectator area was already filling up nicely. We headed into town and had a brief circulate round the town centre looking for the Millets store that the internet assured me was there, and in the end pulled over to check the map again. By careful analysis, and orientating the map to the ground, we located... an empty shop with 'TO LET' in the window that had once been the Douglas branch of Millets.

Bugger...

Temporarily stymied, we headed back to Braddan, expecting to get shuffled off the course at any moment as the roads closed under us, but when we arrived, all the proper parking was full and we had to ride up the road half a mile to find somewhere to leave the bike that wasn't in the way. We were able to grab a bench and took turns to queue at the butty van for snacks and the portaloos as required. In due course, the first 600 race started, and we were able to follow it on giant loudspeakers that were rebroadcasting radio TT as well as on our own radios.

Braddan Bridge

Braddan Bridge

This really is an excellent vantage point if you want to see the riders, as they are forced to slow somewhat for the sweeping left/right. The weather was glorious and the racing shaping up to be exciting. Then, tragedy struck - at Gorse Lea, just up the road from our camp site, experienced irish rider Derek Brien hit the wall on his second lap and died. Of course we didn't know that, but we did know that the race had been red flagged for 'a serious incident at Gorse Lea', and that is a flat-out fast part of the course so, much as with Guy Martin's crash last year, you have to assume the worst for somebody. In this case, there were no miracles to be had.

Of course after a red flag at the TT, it takes a long time to get all the riders gathered together in clumps and herded back or forward round the course by a travelling marshal to the start, and then there is the clean up of the incident, before anybody can even consider a restart. Thus, fortified by information from the helpful guy sitting next to us at Braddan, we headed into Douglas once more to see if we could find where the Millets store had moved to. This involved a fair bit of nadgering around the back roads to get into town with the course closed, but we made it and were then successful in finding Millets, after a brief trek to their new place of business. [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin purchased a decent but inexpensive three season sleeping bag and we went and had a pleasant meal in the WiFi equipped cafe next door.

By the time we had shopped and eaten, we had missed the restart of the Supersport race, and indeed the race was into its last lap as we made our way up to St Ninians crossroads and parked up. From there, and from the petrol station on the other side of Bray Hill, we were able to watch bikes fly down Bray Hill, and the sidecars head off for a practice lap. Then we headed up Bray Hill inside the park towards the grandstand in time to catch the TT Zero bikes heading up the return road from their practice lap. Behind the grandstand we had another brief look at various of the merchandise stalls and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin sent some postcards from the little post office stall there, and then we walked back down to our previous location and found a little patch of unoccupied and shaded grass in front of the school building there...

Zzzzzzzzz.......

...where [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin could catch up on some missed sleep and from which we spectated as the Subaru headed off on the fast 'demonstration' lap that nearly ended in tears 100 yards further down Bray Hill than our vantage point, and then watched most of the Superstock 360 race into the evening, before escaping to our favourite Italian restaurant for dinner ahead of the rush...

And thence, back to the camp site once the roads had opened, a spot of device charging and then some TT watching on the TV... followed by bed. At least now, I felt confident, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin would have a warm and comfortable night's sleep. What could possibly go wrong?


Tune in next week folks, for part 3 (well, next week or when I've written it!).
khaylock: (gooseneck ST)
Warning! This is a vanity publishing blog entry. Don't blame me if it bores you rigid. This is as much for me to read back to myself in my addled dotage as it is for wider interest. If you stumble across it and enjoy it, though... please let me know!

Cheers,


Ken




I last visited the TT 12 years ago, in 1999. That's a whole year before I made my first post to this Livejournal! The Userpic above this entry is a frame from an on-bike video I shot riding over the mountain that year (that particular frame was grabbed at the Gooseneck)! I went, in 1999 as in 1998, with a large contingent from Team Waste. At the time it seemed to me that, utterly brilliant as the event was, the TT and indeed the island as a whole were in decline. In 1998 I stayed in a very expensive but nasty little flea pit hotel on the prom, 3 beds in a room, sharing with the late and hugely lamented [livejournal.com profile] twpd1964 having sailed to the island on the festering rust-bucket that was the Lady of Mann. By 1999, the minging fleapits had all closed down, but the Lady of Mann was rustier still and yet another year past the date when she was originally definitely going to be retired in favour of a halfway decent ship, and I found myself staying up at Hampton Manor with the rest of the denizens of Team Waste. From memory alone, I think Joey won a couple, despite losing a finger in a crash a few days before the TT, and unlike in 98, the weather was pretty wank all of race week, though since they did race in the rain back in those days, the programme went ahead in all of its dangerously deluge-struck glory.




In 2000 I decided to skip a year - Team Waste had seemingly collectively chosen to give it a miss en-masse, I was embroiled in buying a house with my then girlfriend and in any case I was sure there would be other opportunities. That and I was jaded from feeling distinctly like I was being ripped off by everybody from the Steam Racket to the farmer who charged me what I remember as a small fortune to park a bike in his muddy field at the Creg. Actually, the biggest bill, apart from the eye-wateringly rapacious Steam Racket, was paying what seemed like a Kings ransom to sleep for a week on a camp bed in a room full of sweaty farting bikers, which was objectively pretty poor value for money, even though I well understand the laws of supply and demand. Of course I missed Joey's greatest, and last triumphant huzzah, and then he was gone, and going back seemed less certain; how could it ever be the same again? The death of David 'DJ' Jefferies only served to underline that view, and then they started broadcasting Radio TT over the internet, at whch point I doubted that I'd ever be moved to go back in the flesh. The Greenlight Television produced TV coverage of the races, which always contrived to make them seem only slightly less interesting than paint drying even to a rabid fan like myself, hadn't changed since before I first ever went to the island, and in my minds eye neither had the seedy atmosphere of decay gripping the event and the place that I remembered from the end of the 20th Century. I imagined the paint peeling a little more each year, the visitor numbers gradually dwindling, the number of top flight racers wanting to come and give it a go gradually evaporating into the ether of history...

Of course the ITV4/North One Television coverage changed all that. This wasn't the same sepia-toned TT I remembered, with flatulent two-strokes being pedalled round the island by random once-a-year racers in 15 year old leathers. And the whole place didn't look like a faded seaside town living on past glories any more, either. Suddenly listening to the races on the internet and watching the now epic same-day TV coverage wasn't going to be nearly enough!

Last year as I watched the excellent TT TV coverage, and listened on the net, even before I headed off on my epic three week four and a half thousand mile circumnavigation of South-Western Europe, I already sort of knew that barring unforseen circumstances, 2011 would be my year for a return to the TT...

Pragmatically, after my past tribulations with organising biking holidays and then finding none of the people who told me they wanted to come with me turning up, I planned to go on my own. After all, that way there was nobody to disappoint me, and nobody for me to inadvertently disappoint. And that would have been that until late last year when during a passing IM conversation with [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin I mentioned that I was off to the Island 'next summer' for the TT, and breezily asked her if she was up for coming along.

Now, I've invited various people, her included, to come and participate in a couple of my crackpot adventures before now, because... well, why the hell not, the more the merrier, and specifically, how cool would it be, both hopefully for them and for me, if either [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin and/or [livejournal.com profile] lionstar actually came along on one of these trips? Especially if it was one of the trips where everybody else who said they were definitely coming a year earlier had just emailed me to tell me they were now washing their hair that week. But to be honest, the likelihood that she might suddenly decide to fly 2,000 miles+ across the world to hang out with some bloke she has only ever met on the internet and never even spoken to on the phone, and go ride motorcycles with him in a foreign land where they don't even ride on the same side of the road that she does seemed always vanishingly remote. For the TT trip, since I fully intended to go on my own, she was actually the only other person I invited along, with absolutely no reason to imagine for a moment that she might accept; when she said yes I almost fell off my chair!

That was pretty courageous of her. I'm not actually a crazed serial killer (as long as I keep taking the little pink pills, anyway) but she didn't know that exactly. Obviously this cut both ways, and I had to trust that she wasn't the Boston strangler, but I think she needed to be braver to accept the invitation than I did to make it. To be honest when she first said she was up for it, I was at once very pleasantly surprised and entirely skeptical that it would ever actually happen. It wasn't until around March this year, when I actually started trying to buy ferry tickets from the Steam Racket, and needed her to commit to coming before I splurged a small fortune on a ticket on her behalf, that it suddenly looked like it actually really was going to be happening!

Oh bloody hell... well, that certainly made things interesting! Up to that point, I'd been looking at grabbing my tent and doss bag and hitting the island on my BMW on my own, finding a camp site and just doing my own thing for a week or two. Now I had a guest. Which meant that winging it in my usual half-arsed way wasn't going to cut it. I should point out that I don't set out
intending
to make it up as I go along, but usually I put everything off until the last minute, organise nothing, and I'm left booking my accommodation for the first night of a holiday that has been in the planning for months from a lay-by on the afternoon of the first day of the trip... and so far it has always worked out just fine for me. But there was always that small finite chance that it wouldn't have. That my entire holiday might be spent sleeping next to the bike in a queue for a stand by ferry ticket or (insert equally awful organisational catastrophe here). But when you have invited somebody from the far side of the planet to spend a shitload of their money and to show massive faith in you by joining you on the implied promise of a holiday of a lifetime, suddenly the slightest possibility that that whole '7 days on the floor of the ferry port' scenario might unfold moves from the category of 'part of lifes rich tapestry' to the category of 'This simply cannot be allowed to even possibly happen otherwise I'll have to go and drown myself in the Irish sea to assuage the guilt'. The weight of responsibility for somebody elses 'vacation of a lifetime' hung heavy around my neck (Yes, it was a total pleasure, but nevertheless... the responsibility... Aiieee! It burns...!). So I really was going to have to get off my fat arse and get shit done now!!!

The first problem was simply logistical. Although we didn't have all the details nailed down, I reckoned it was pretty important that after flying in from the states she had at minimum an entire clear day with absolutely nothing scheduled whatsoever to begin to acclimatise and deal with the jet-lag. Also, since the original plan was that she would be riding my much abused TT600 over to the island, she would need a little while to get used to riding on the wrong side of the road etc etc. This left me a terrible dilemma. I could put her up in a local hotel in Carmarthen for a couple of nights, and explain that she couldn't stay at my place because there was no room for a spare bed in amongst all the junk, and that she might get cooked and eaten by some of the long lost tribes living in the piles of discarded fast food wrappers, junk mail, obsolete computer equipment and empty diet coke cans that occupied the floors to a depth of over a foot in many places. Or... I could clear the place up before she arrived and put her up in my spare room.

Being a coward, I preferred the clear up exercise to having to explain the disgusting mess, and booked myself 2 weeks off work and a builders skip to dispose of more utter crap than you can possibly imagine; This was no trivial undertaking... I was starting with a Land-Rover with a blown engine that had been cluttering up the driveway for several years, and moving on from there, one bomb-site room at a time, dawn 'til dusk!

There ensued a two week dawn to dusk orgy of clearance, tidying, cleaning, organisation, repair and DiY, punctuated with the arrival of various essentials (like a new bed and a mattress so that there would actually be a bed in the spare room, and a washer dryer to replace my dead one), plus runs to either the dump (to dispose of crap I couldn't put in the skip) or Tescos (to buy another new vacuum cleaner to replace the latest casualty of the clean-up from hell). To be fair, it would have had to be done at some point, I intend to sell the house in the forseeable future and 'has own ecosystem and lots of great archeology' is not a selling point with estate agents, but without the deadline imposed by the impending guest, it would still be waiting to happen, and I'd still be living in a house with crunchy carpets and entire rooms that are wholly inaccessible...

The skip arrives...

And this was just the start...

The contents of the garage either on the drive or in the skip

I was worried that the whole lot might topple backwards...

Of course in the middle of all this, in addition to the many false starts with crap online retailers who first could and then couldn't deliver things inside my critical two week window, I had a small motorcycle-shaped retail accident. I've been drooling over the Street Triple since I first rode one shortly after they launched, and again I needed little excuse to buy one (as I'd always known that I would as soon as I'd ridden one), but since I'd offered to provide a ride for [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin, and my poor old TT600 track tool was the best I could offer, it became a no brainer. As other posts in this blog have intimated, though, deciding to buy myself a Striple and actually successfully acquiring one are two slightly different things!

However, whilst looking for a cooking Striple, I came across an absolutely stonking looking early Street Triple 'R' for what appeared to be a bargain price, even allowing for the lack of service history. There was much beard stroking on my part and the car dealer I was buying it from was perfectly happy for me to go and play with it before deciding whether I wanted it or not, but in the end I took what might have been a crazy decision and bought the bike based on pictures and video clips, and had it delivered...

And then the new toy turned up...

Once the massive clearup operation was complete, the skip gone and the last run to the council tip with a land rover full of old car batteries, unwanted Hi-Fi equipment or dead vacuum cleaners made, I took it out for a quick test ride to see what I'd bought...



It was all there, and as nice as I remembered, but it did run rather like a bike that desperately needed a service. I did some digging to try and find out more about its history.

It had only had one owner and had been bought new from Metropolis in London in January 2009, taken back there for its 600 mile service and then booked in for a 6,000 mile service... an appointment that was then cancelled. And that was the last that Metropolis saw of it. When it came to me, it looked very much like it had been fitted with a brand new lock set and yet it wasn't flagged up as ever having been stolen; the used car dealer I bought it from had obtained it from an auction, so all the runes pointed to a finance company repossession. I called around every Triumph dealer in the south of England, trying to find anybody who might have serviced the bike, and none of them had seen it either, and yet it had a Triumph branded oil filter canister. Which meant that either it was being fettled by a Triumph dealer elsewhere in the country, or... it had somehow done 13,400 miles without so much as an oil change...

I gave it to my local fettler for what I suspected was a much needed 12,000 mile service, and he confirmed that it hadn't been touched a good many years. By the time it had been suitably caressed by Andy's spanners (including swapping a couple of shims around to bring the valve clearances back into spec), it was running much more sweetly, and my wallet was much the lighter. Since my BMW had chosen to eat its clutch a couple of weeks earlier, and then failed its MoT on a noisy front wheel bearing, and I chose to get the cassette gearbox that has been occasionally jumping out of first for the last couple of years replaced at the same time (50% paid for by BMW, but 50% paid for by me - and 50% of a fortune is... still a small fortune), the total bike-fettling bill was starting to look pretty mind-melting! Nevertheless, best to get the bikes well fettled before the trip, because that way they won't let you down on the trip, right?

Well... that was the plan...

Anyway, the bikes were sorted, the house was sorted, after much hassle and many phone calls a camp site on the island was sorted (after the first and second choices turned up full) and after several false starts, and calls to specialist insurance underwriters, a source of third party moto insurance to allow an American licence holder to ride a couple of British registered bikes on British roads...

Given the amount of time I gave myself to get all this together, it was still all an incredibly last minute exercise. The last couple of days before I picked up [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin from the airport was still a blizzard of dawn til dusk preparation.

I fitted a Powerlet socket to the Triumph, for charging or powering electronic devices...

I fitted a Powerlet socket...

...and stickered up both bikes for the benefit of somebody from the colonies to save them from the fate that has befallen me on the continent a couple of times - that terrible moment when you wonder why the oncoming traffic is on the wrong side of the road, then realise (as you take emergency evasive action) that it is you that is on the wrong side of the road, and then further realise that you just rode round a blind corner on the wrong side of the road and are lucky not to have been part of a catastrophic multiply fatal crash...

Stickers for the protection of a 'merkin...

Stickers for the protection of a 'merkin...

I also twigged that since both [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin and I are basically mainlining smartphone junkies, some kind of internet access option on the island could only be a good thing. I went with a USB powerpack to recharge the phone and a Huwei 3G MiFi widget. With her locked Verizon Droid thingy, WiFi (or the MiFi) was [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin's only comms option....

Techno Techno Techno...

...which I then needed to hack into and unlock so that it would accept the Manx Telecom PAYG SiM I had ordered online in advance...

Manx Telecom PAYG SIM

The final technological gizmo was a Scala Rider G4 Powerset. [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin suggested bringing her Chatterboxes across from the US, but I had a nasty suspicion that they would fall foul of the Wireless Telegraphy Act over here, possibly getting confiscated by customs on the way in, not to mention the risk that as radio equipment with lots of wires attached, they might attract the attention of the special TSA agents, the ones with the rubber gloves and the big bottle of ice cold KY jelly, at her departure airport. In addition, after the death of my last Scala Rider Bluetooth headset, I needed a replacement anyway. I liked the G4 spec a lot, particularly the updateable firmware, and so the eye-watering expense of the Powerset was... slightly less eye-watering to me than it might have otherwise seemed. Using one of them as a solo Bluetooth headset with built in FM radio, it did exactly what it said on the tin (I'm pleased to say). Time would tell how it worked as a bike to bike intercom...

My last contribution to the comfort and happiness of my pending guest was in the form of a tent, an air mattress and a sleeping bag. Our cunning joint travel plan involved [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin flying in to London Heathrow, carrying a Givi top case as hand luggage, with a bag in the hold containing her riding gear. This left no room for her curling tongs, eyebrow grooming machine or nasal epilator as it was - if she had needed to bring tent, sleeping bag and camp bed as well, she might have needed to wear the same clothes for the entire week as well, so I offered to lend her my spares. Camping gear, not clothes. My spare air mattress had held air for the two months leading up to our departure so that was that sorted out. My spare sleeping bag was... err... enormous, without a stuff sack. I wouldn't fancy carrying it on the back of the Striple. So when I saw some small, cheap, summer weight mummy bags in my local Aldi, I jumped at the chance to buy one. A quick look at the label said 'OK down to +2 Celsius', and this is summer, which means there was no way it would be that cold, so it looked like a no brainer. Sadly, lack of brain was an issue - if I'd read it more carefully I'd have seen that +2 celsius was the minimum temperature it would keep you alive down to. The small print, which I didn't actually read for some weeks, added that it was 'comfortable down to +15 degrees C...'. I'm not sure that 'Oops!' fully covers it...

Finally, tentage. I gave up using expensive lightweight hiking tents for motocamping a few years ago after a drunken biker fell on my hugely expensive unobtanium lightweight backpack tent at a rally and snapped a pole. While I was trying to obtain a replacement pole (at great difficulty and in the end expense) I bought a cheap dome tent to tide me over, and I've used it ever since, on the rare occasions that I stop under canvas in the UK on the bike. The expensive lightweight tent wore out and went in the skip some years ago, leaving me with only the one two-man sized tent (and a bivi bag and a wenzel biker micro tent, neither of which would be ideal for a week on the isle of man). So, my dilemma was... use my old reliable moto tent myself and buy another cheapie from Millets or Halfords for [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin? Or treat myself to a sexy new moto tent in the form of a Khyam Biker 'one-touch' two-man tent?

Since I was already spending money like piss, I decided that I'd buy myself the Khyam. Although if I'd realised how cavernously large it would be once erected, I might not have gone that way - despite packing quite small on the bike, it's like a small aircraft hanger, with an enormous porch area. Certainly if I was sharing the tent with somebody, the enormous porch provides a lot of weatherproof storage for even two big touring bikes worth of gear, and it goes up very quickly indeed, even allowing for a bit of jiggery pokery with a pole to support the porch. For me on my own, though... total overkill!

Another reason for going this way was that I "knew" my other tent worked well, and was waterproof. Why take the risk of buying something for [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin from Halfords for £25 and finding it didn't keep the rain out or whatever? Ah, the best laid plans... :=(.

Anyway, I was running around like a blue-arsed fly sorting things out at home even as [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was boarding her flight in Boston. Finally I jumped on the BMW and headed for a hotel just next to Heathrow. I made it to the hotel at around 2am, and collapsed into bed, setting the alarm on my phone for 'too damned early'.

'Too damned early' duly arrived and I rolled over in bed, killed the alarm and fired up the 'aircraft radar tracking' app on my phone (no, really!), to find out how late the plane I was meeting would land, which would directly translate to how long I could stay snoozing in bed. The news from the app was that the plane was ten minutes early and already on final approach... bugger!

I ran through the shower and jumped on the bike, then hit the A4... ...and although I was less than a mile from the arrivals hall, suddenly time ground to a halt, as I got held up by every light, ended up in the wrong lane at every junction, speared off the wrong way on every poorly signed filter lane and at one point headed the wrong way round the perimeter road, unable to turn around! As the air in my helmet turned ever bluer inside my helmet, I eventually found myself in the central area, ended up in a car-park without motorcycle parking and then, finally... found the bike parking and abandoned the bike. By now I was convinced that poor old [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was sitting forlornly in the arrivals hall, cursing me for being late, as I ran across the airport. I needn't have worried - Heathrow customs, immigration and the baggage handlers conspired to ensure that I was actually waiting at the arrivals hall for the better part of an hour before a fairly exhausted looking (but, he'd better add quickly, strikingly beautiful...) young lady emerged from the bowels of the T3 arrivals hall.

We made our introductions (it was not only the first time we had met but the first time we had heard each others voices) and headed back to my bike. First stop was the Ace Cafe for a proper english breakfast, and a bit of logistical faffing about with intercoms etc. But first, we had to get out of the Heathrow central area, without me killing my guest and passenger within 100 metres of her climbing aboard my bike for the first time (succeeded - just) and then get her across London to the Ace. Which meant introducing an American from a part of the US other than California to the concept of filtering (or 'lane-splitting' in 'merkin).

Perhaps in hindsight I should have mentioned what I was about to do before I did it - the loud squeal of surprise from behind me and the sudden rapid clenching inwards of pillion knees indicated that the experience of me nipping up between a queue of stationary vehicles to hit the front of the queue at a roundabout and pull away first came as something of a shock to the poor woman. I mentioned that it was perfectly legal and normal behaviour where we were, and that sitting in a queue of traffic when there was space to nip past just didn't compute, and I think having got over her initial shock she started to enjoy it. That and the jet lag (or possibly the happy pills she had taken to help her sleep on the flight) had a strange effect, I think... I glanced in my mirrors as we trundled up the Westway through solid traffic to see her cheerily patting the mirrors of cars and vans as we jinked between them! Most odd :-).

After a monstrous fry-up and a mug of tea at the Ace, and after [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin had bought a few souvenirs, including the obligatory T-shirt, we hit the road. Again. This time we were actually able to converse with each other, after a fashion. And I promptly ended up heading into town on the M4 rather than out of town, in a stunning directional fail. Once we turned around and headed out again, it settled down to be fairly boring trundle out towards Swindon on the M4. I don't think the steady 85mph cruise bothered my passenger much - US freeway speeds must be not far off that - but the comparatively icy blast (for her - I was between her and the wind and I was fine in a T-shirt with all my vents open; the advantage of being... well padded... as I am!) versus her vented leather was a different story, and we stopped shy of Swindon for fuel, a slash and a cup of tea, and for [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin to don a layer. For some reason, she didn't seem convinced by the potential benefits of my heated pillion seat (I think it might have been my earlier vivid description of the lovely warm feeling from sitting on it as being as if you had just pissed yourself on a cold day that may have taken her against it, I can't be sure).

We dived off the motorway and into Swindon, heading for George Whites. On the way there we passed through [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin's highway engineering kryptonite, the remarkably inoffensive in reality (and if you are used to this kind of thing) Magic Roundabout - I have no reason to doubt that she really did keep her eyes shut all the way through it. Before I even got there, though, I blotted my copybook severely - exiting a roundabout enthusiastically just off the motorway and with the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) still set in Normal mode rather than Sports mode, I managed to drag a pillion peg (and presumably the outside of [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin's left boot) up the Queen's Highway. I apologised profusely and tucked the relevant back into my pants where it belonged...

We stopped at George Whites because I thought it would be a nice place to grab a late lunch, and because it represents a scale of motorcycle emporium that I wondered whether [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin had ever seen before. The main dealership floors (two of them, both vast - one for Hondas and one for all the other brands they sell) were an aladdin's cave of kit and motorcycle models that she had never seen in the US, with nary a sequinned tassle or a bottle of branded aftershave anywhere in sight. She bonded immediately with the little CBR125 Honda (because 6 foot tall Amazonian biker chicks love 15bhp 125cc 4 strokes... apparently). But the real moments of open-mouthed shock were reserved for when I took her across the road to the enormous warehouse kit superstore, which was stacked floor to ceiling and beyond with... well, pretty much as much as you can imagine of pretty much everything associated with motorcycles apart from the bikes themselves.

George Whites Aladdin's Cave

George Whites Aladdin's Cave

George Whites Aladdin's Cave

George Whites Aladdin's Cave

George Whites Wall of Helmets...

Anyway, captivated by the 'Wall of Leathers' (see left hand end of warehouse in first image above), [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was inspired to ask about a one piece leather riding suit. She has been muttering about buying one for years - I've told her the 'one piece race suits for road use' cautionary tale about the friend of a friend and the french squat khazi at the Bol D'Or (Don't ask - it makes 'Two girls/One cup' seem like pleasant light entertainment experience), and she still fancied a one piece suit, had done for some considerable time. But, she had always complained, she was a mutant. A human/oompa-loompa hybrid. Recessive Orangutang DNA surfacing. 6 foot tall, all in the thigh. Nothing off the peg would ever fit her, the knee armour would always be on top of her thighs. Only a US$2,000 one-piece made to measure race suit would work.

The fact that the first women's one piece race suit she pointed at fitted her like a perfectly tailored glove therefore did somewhat confuse her. So much that she only went and bought it. Baggage allowance, shmaggage allowance. Then we had the amusing task of working out how to bugee it onto the bike while still leaving room for both of us!

Photobucket

From there we hit the M4 again, then headed over the old Severn Bridge before executing a sharp right turn up the Wye valley towards Monmouth.

So far, so good, if a little boring. I could have stayed on the M4 all the way back to my lair but I didn't think my guest would fancy 4 hours of superslab on cruise control any more than I did, so I thought it might be better to go home the fun way.

So far, beyond a brief moment of high stress when I introduced her to filtering, my riding style hadn't apparently fazed [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin in the slightest. She didn't even apparently hate me for my emergency stop, 30 seconds after picking her up, to avoid being creamed by a taxi in the madness of Heathrow's central zone, and the unfortunate pillion-peg/ground interface moment had seemingly left her entirely unmoved. And of course, we thought we knew something about each other's riding styles and the commitment we both had to trying to improve our skills. I thought I knew enough about [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin's riding to be comfortable enough to offer to lend her my motorcycles, and I'd seen on-bike videos she had made. She, likewise, had seen videos that I had made, even when I was 'making progress', and had even commented that I was doing things in the places and at the times that she would do them in similar circumstances. But I really don't think that in the absence of a big speedo sitting prominently in vision, that video gives a good impression of speed at all. This became apparent the first time I pulled out to overtake a queue of dawdling 50mph traffic in a brief national limit, as she tensed up unexpectedly. When I hit the NSL north of Chepstow and that tight climbing left hander that marks the start of the fun part of the Wye Valley road, I accelerated from 30 up to a gently brisk pace and started threading my way up the road, concentrating on trying to ride more smoothly than I might normally aspire to be, for the sake of my passenger, and taking it a bit more gently than I perhaps would if I was on my own; I felt I was stringing the road together in a tidy, relaxed fashion. Rather than the perhaps 90 I might have topped out at normally (err.... kph, officer, obviously), I was peaking at around 70, which for those outside the UK is about 10mph over the NSL (National Speed Limit) in this country. I'd only gone about half a mile when a very animated [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was reaching around me and waving at me to SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. The intercom had obviously decided to sulk at that moment so I had to guess at the vocals that accompanied the gesture.

Mortified, I asked her what was wrong and she explained that I was freaking her out. I slowed right down to about 50 and carried on, and she relaxed a little. A queue of cars built up behind us and started to pass us one by one, and in the next 30 limit I apologised and asked her what the problem was. When I explained that the limit was 60mph she was obviously shocked rigid - the same roads would be limited to 35mph where she lives. 50 for her felt like an exciting criminal enterprise, and me doing 70 obviously felt like dangerous suicidal insanity. What the fuck? 35mph? No wonder people ride Harleys over there - the vibration is the only exciting thing that happens, and it is probably an essential feature that stops Americans falling asleep! :-o

Anyway, once [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin realised that 60mph was just the prevailing speed limit and not a badly planned suicide attempt on my part, I was able to knock it up a bit and at least avoid holding up traffic, with the odd visit to slightly higher numbers on the speedo when overtaking traffic. Whether it helped or not, I also started giving a bit of running commentary as I rode to indicate that I was thinking about what I was doing well in advance and making hopefully intelligent decisions about when I opened the throttle, and when I closed it.

I'm sure I had mentioned that 60mph national speed limit on two-lane blacktop (70mph on divided highways) to her before, at length, but clearly the full import of that hadn't entirely got through :-).

By the time we stopped for a pee and tea break at the West End Cafe in LLandovery, I'd like to think that [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin had chilled out a bit and was getting more comfortable with the higher traffic speeds in the UK. After the final leg back to chez Ken in Carmarthen, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin did a brief modelling stint on the Striple in her newly purchased Oompa-Loompa-derived one-piece leathers...

Motomuffin's new FT one-piece

Motomuffin's new FT one-piece

Motomuffin's new FT one-piece

Motomuffin's new FT one-piece

Mutants are getting better looking all the time, clearly :-). If Frank Thomas hadn't gone bust, they could have done a lot worse than pay [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin to model their riding gear for them!

We rounded the day off with a curry and beer at the New Sheesh Mahal down in town. and so to bed, since by now [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was almost cross-eyed with fatigue!

The next morning I made her a brew and then chucked her the keys to the Striple, as we experimented with throwover luggage on the Striple with its high level pipes and for her, the whole 'riding on the left' thing. We also gave the intercoms a bit of a field test. She also gave her new one-piece a bit of a 'ride test' for the day. I'm not sure how she dealt with the practical challenges that wearing a one-piece entails, but given that she didn't end the day with a face like thunder and smelling strongly of wee, she obviously managed them :-).

Aside from talking to herself out loud to remind herself to e.g. 'Turn left, Keep left' at every junction, she took to the 'wrong' side of the road like a complete natural! Clearly there were some differences in our riding styles - for example, left to her own devices, she was topping out at about 50mph on the open road. I guess our mental speed controller does take a little while to recalibrate. A big problem I have found with riding 'sur le continent' is that whereas I'm perfectly comfortable having very solid scenery whizzing past my left ear at speed, as I move into 'position 1' / (i.e. the left hand gutter) when setting up for a right hand bend, having the same scenery on my right hand side was very discomforting and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin reported the same issue but in mirror image. In addition, without the tradition of Motorcycle Roadcraft based advanced riding in the US, riders are apparently encouraged to hold a position within a lane, ideally somewhere around 2/3rds of the lane in from the edge, and not move around the road to gain advantage, which to be fair, at 35mph would probably be of very limited benefit anyway. I tried to encourage her to start making use of positioning for right hand corners and was partially successful, but I think she had a very great deal to think about while riding over here, and a riding lifetime of 'don't wander around your lane, people will think you are drunk' conditioning to overcome to boot. Apart from that, though, she was clearly a very competent, very smooth rider, far smoother than I am (not that this is necessarily difficult - my riding may have smoothed out since a Police Class 1 instructor called it 'safe but agricultural' over a decade ago, but I'm definitely more point and quirt than gentle caress, even at my silkiest...). I relaxed significantly, knowing that my bikes were in the hands of somebody who really did know what they were doing. Not that I didn't already know that
in theory
, otherwise I'd never have handed her the keys, but it was very settling to observe in practice.

Of course, the other essential skill practised in the UK and apparently barely required in Massachussets is overtaking. [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin lives and rides in a regulatory environment where double yellow 'no overtaking' lines are the default, and one must wait for incredibly infrequent government mandated 'passing zones' before passing a dawdling car or lorry, or choose to break the law every time one passes. Over here, double white (not yellow) lines are very sparingly used in places where it would be hazardous to attempt a pass, but not obvious to a driver or rider that overtaking would be hazardous. There are very many places that don't have a solid white 'no overtaking' central dividing line, but where overtaking would be obviously suicidal. Through junctions, round blind corners, up steep power-sapping slopes in an underpowered car, you name it, it's not proscribed by solid white lines. It is left as an exercise for the potential overtaker to make the decision as to whether, when and where it is safe to pass. Get it badly wrong enough and you may still attract a dangerous driving charge, or just end up dead, irrespective of the presence or absence of road markings proscribing the attempt. Welcome to the world of personal responsibility for drivers and riders!

Of course, a world where traffic moves incredibly slowly in long queues, and where overtaking is actively frowned on as an outlaw activity conducted in contravention of the law except in very rare circumstances, breeds a certain attitude to overtaking and the joys of sitting in the middle of long queues of dawdling traffic. No doubt if you are in the USA, you know that there is no escape from the trundling, fume belching, clutch slipping, blood-pressure raising convoy you are near the back of, and that even if you did pass the front vehicle in the queue without picking up 3 million traffic tickets, the speed limit is only 35 anyway and you might as well not have bothered. Whereas over here, you can look for good, safe overtaking opportunities everywhere, you can make safe overtaking opportunities by being in the right gear and poised ready to go the moment an opportunity opens up and taking it swiftly, and the quicker you can leapfrog your way up that long hideous queue of slowly moving traffic, bottled up behind a couple of tractor trailers and a dozen nose to tail blue-hairs, the quicker you can get past the front of the queue and onto 20 miles of almost completely empty twisty tarmac, courtesy of the rolling road block you have just passed, and where you can have a great deal of fun.

Then again, the problem with overtaking is that it is one of the most potentially dangerous things we do on the road, there's a lot to get your head around, a lot to go wrong (and an overtake that goes wrong usually goes
really badly
wrong!) and a lot to consider before you drop it a cog and nail it past the dawdling twonk in front, so when you couple all that with doing it all on the wrong side of the road, it is probably understandable that [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin didn't become a demon at slicing through traffic during her time in the UK. I was torn between encouraging her to develop the skill and not encouraging her to kill herself while trying to stretch herself :-/.

We stopped again at the West End Cafe for a brew and lunch, after first removing the smoking throwovers from the back of the Striple and stuffed them in the Beemer's panniers (Oops!), then I lobbed [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin the keys to the BMW and we set off back towards my place, this time via the moderately epic 'Black Mountain run'. At the car-park on the summit of the Black Mountain, after a brief pause for [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin to marvel at the view of much of South and mid Wales, we swapped bikes again and headed on down the other side of the mountain.

I filmed this entire ride, from the cafe to the far side of the mountain, but the first part was filmed on an iPhone in a cradle mounted on the bars, and as you can see the video suffered some horrendous electrical distortion, and some auto-focus generated silliness as well, which you may consider makes it unwatchable in parts, although later on as the road tightens up and thus slows down it gets much better...

Fortunately, the section from the summit downwards, with [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin back on the Striple, was videoed on my little Muvi helmet cam, and that is as clear as a bell - see the second video below!





My initial intention was for [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin to ride the BMW as far as the bottom of the Black Mountain road itself, just to get a feel for it, and then I assumed that the kind thing to do would be to have her pull over and let her take back the Striple for the ultra twisty stuff further up; for some reason I assumed she'd find the GT a handful. But of course, for every hour I've spent pedaling around the countryside at warp speed, trying to hone my skills at making fast progress safely, she has been equally dedicated at practicing hurling a dirty great R1100S round tiny car-parks, in and out of cones, until she could chuck it around like a BMX bike with total confidence. So when she didn't pull over after passing through Llangadog, I cringed... but as the video shows, the more nadgery and complex the road became, the more in her element she was, lobbing the big BMW up the mountain with practiced ease and apparently enjoying every serpentine twist and turn of the road. In fact I think her only complaint was that she wanted to look at the scenery up at the top, but she couldn't due to the fact that she would probably have ridden off the side of the mountain if she'd taken her eyes off the road for a moment!

Top of the world, Ma... well, top of the Black Mountain...

After dodging sheep on the Black Mountain, we popped in at M&P (the motorcycle showroom and mail order warehouse which has since burnt to the ground) and a car accessory shop, looking for asbestos tape to possibly prevent throwover panniers from bursting into flames on the hot exhaust (a project we later abandoned in favour of a big tank-bag and a tail pack). We finished up the ride with a visit to an off-licence that specialised in Single Malt whisky, where [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin spent less money than I was expecting her to, and then back to mine via a pause to pick up some traditional Fish & Chips, for bike loading, tent testing and general preparation before bed time.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny as we loaded up to head for Liverpool and the ferry, but it was late morning before we hit the road. My original cunning plan had been to head up the very entertaining A483 all the way to Liverpool, but the coincidence of the relaunched Builth Wells bike show and all of the enthusiastic police attention that would attract to the A483 both North and South of Builth, made the decision to switch to the coast road out through Aberaeron and through Snowdonia for the trip north very easy.

We had a fun ride, although the fact that this lovely, twisty, up and down stretch of smooth, grippy tarmac that hugged the Irish Sea coast for much of its length before it climbed into the mountains was actually a main arterial route did mean that there were some big rigs crawling along in clumps, with slow moving queues of traffic bottled up behind them, and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin struggled to make progress through them in places. Or indeed to see why I might bother. It was certainly hard work, nipping past a car here and a van there on little short straights between corners, leapfrogging my way up the queues, although I enjoy the challenge, but of course the payback was that after a handful of miles of picking traffic off at every opportunity, I was able to pass the articuated heavy goods vehicle at the head of the queue and was staring down several miles of empty twisty road, although I hung back and waited for a while while [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin did the same.

We stopped for a late lunch at a nice country pub near Machynlleth...

Lunch at The Wildfowler Inn, Machynlleth

Then we pressed on, skirting the foothills of Snowdonia as we turned right and headed for Liverpool before we hit the mountains proper. Once again we hit a long queue of dawdling traffic, this time bunched up behind a shed-dragger, and whereas I was able to get past, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was stuck behind the accursed rolling road block, so I had a pleasant enough wait at the next junction, a few miles down the road until the caravan trundled slowly into view and we were re-united.

In due course, we hit Liverpool and headed under the Mersey Tunnel, then had much fun in the one way system while failing to get to the ferry terminal that we could clearly see as the clock ran down to our check-in time. Finally, we made it, joined the queue and shut the bikes down.

And that's where it first started to go a little bit to ratshit.

We were fine paddling the bikes forward as the queue for the check-in booths inched forward. And then as soon as we had checked in, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin went to start the Striple, and... nothing happened! By the time she had alerted me to this, I had ridden further into the port, so she paddled the bike up to join me, which was clearly no fun for her. At this point the BMW was idling happily but the temperature gauge indicated it was running very hot, as its wont after a long hard run followed by idling at a standstill in a queue on a hot day. The Striple clearly wasn't having any of it, though I hoped it had just got hot and bothered, and so I decided to try and bump start it on the ramp down to the dockside, giving [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin the Beemer keys. I enthusiastically hopped on the Striple, paddled it over the hump and started rolling down the ramp, then dropped the clutch and bounced on the saddle. First time I mistimed it, second time a bloke from the ferry company jumped in front of me and forced me to abort the attempt, then gave me a hard time for having [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin's boarding card in the top of the tank bag and not my own. And where was [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin? Well, the Beemer had failed to start. It certainly does get hot and bothered and won't start on the key when it is excessively hot - I've not got to the bottom of why it does this, but poor old [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin was left now to paddle a whopping great K-bike over the hump and down the slope to join me, since I couldn't go back to help her. Once there we swapped bikes back again and when we were finally released by the jobsworth from the ferry company I was easily able to bump the GT - it starts beautifully without any bouncing on the seat required. However, the Striple really wasn't playing, meaning that poor [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin had to paddle the bike the entire length of the quayside, and then, all be it with the grudging assistance of Steam Racket crew, push it up onto the ship, and again I wasn't in any position to go and help her.

It was an extremely flushed, hot, sweaty and knackered [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin that joined me as we headed upstairs to find our seats in the slightly posh reserved 'Mannanan' lounge (which gave us mains sockets to plug a netbook in and charge up intercoms, dongles, phones etc and free drinks/snacks.)

Aboard the Mannanan in Liverpool...

As the fast ferry skimmed over the flat calm sea towards Mona's Isle, we convinced each other that the Striple just needed to cool down and everything would be fine.

As we approached the Isle of Man and prepared to dock, with a flourish I put my Manx Telecom SIM into my little MiFi unit, powered it up and... nothing! It kept trying to connect to the network, and then getting kicked off. This was less than stellar - no internet connectivity? How would we survive? Plus also, my careful, almost obsessive planning was already coming apart at the seams and we hadn't even set foot on Manx soil yet!

As expected, once we had docked, the BMW fired right up on the button. It's not liked starting when over-hot for any of the last 25,000 miles that I have owned it but it has always been fine when given a little while to cool down. Sadly, the Striple really wasn't playing at all. Gravity got it and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin down the loading ramp and onto the dockside, but the dull click of a dead battery was all that greeted an attempt to start it. I offered to take the STriple and give her the BMW, which of course was now absolutely fine, but perhaps after being suckered that way in Liverpool, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin insisted on paddling the Striple up the dockside to the terminal building, where a Steam Racket employee was shortly expected to appear with a starter battery pack in hand. Up being the operative word, as an ever less coherent [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin grunted and groaned the laden Striple up the slope, rejecting all offers of assistance, while I followed on the Beemer. Her noble, if masochistic effort was most impressive. When she collapsed over the bars at the top of the slope, she was in a group of three or four bikes exhibiting the same malaise. A quick touch of the booster battery and the Striple fired right up, so we quickly put the seat back on and headed for our camp site. Our last best hope now was that the battery was on its last legs, but that the charging system was in good fettle.

Heading out of Douglas, we joined the TT course at Quarterbridge, and headed for our campsite at Greeba. En-route, a small furry animal - possibly a ferret or weasel - had a very good go at killing itself under my wheels (I caught a glimpse in my peripheral vision, [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin saw it much better than I did). I'm not sure it would have even been noticeable if I had hit it - except as a nasty mess to clear up and/or a bruised shin.

We headed into Cronk-Dhoo Farm/Beaufield Park camp site, after only riding past it the once, and parked up at the top of the hill, but left the STriple running so that we could move it around in case it wasn't going to start again, and also to give it time to charge. However, as I blipped the throttle and played with dipped and full beam headlights, it was depressingly clear that it wasn't actually charging at all.

Buggerit. That was a downer!

We parked up and [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin went to sign in at the camp site office and pay the balance of the booking fee. At this point, a fairly frazzled and tired [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin suddenly perked
right
up.

What could possibly have had such a sudden & dramatic effect on her demeanour? Could it have possibly been the young, muscular and flirtatious German student who was on duty in the office when she went in to pay? The youthful, boyish teutonic beefcake with the dimples who I dubbed 'Günther', because it seemed like the sort of thing he probably would be called?

I've no idea. It's probably coincidental that she was staring at him in a slightly far away fashion. I don't have any pictures of the bloke myself, but [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin may have one or two (memory cards full of) photos, who knows? Günther was a recurring theme during our stay, with [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin staring in a slightly unseemly fashion whenever he was within eyeshot. She may have sighed wistfully on occasions as well.

We were directed by Günther to the top of a steeply sloping field, the bottom of which bordered the main road through Greeba, where we quickly threw our tents up and went to bed. [livejournal.com profile] motomuffin didn't even bother to inflate her air mattress, so intent was she on sleep. For my part, I raised my vast erection, and inflated my air bed, before settling down with the Manx Telecom user guide to try and persuade my MiFi unit to connect to the Manx Telecom network. Having failed, I went to sleep.




Tune in next week folks, for part 2 (well, next week or when I've written it!).
khaylock: (Default)
...a gentle 4,380 mile bimble around Europe over 14 days, 3 of which were spent at the famous Faro Rally in Faro, Portugal (http://www.motoclubefaro.pt)

The trip started and finished at home in Carmarthen, in Wales. On the way it took me via Paul Minton's excellent Moto-Gite in Normandy (http://www.jthebs.com), and then through the magic of Priority Club reward points, I bounced from one Holiday Inn chain hotel to another all across the continent, first Lyon, then into the Alps and down the famous Route Napoleon to Cannes (and the ridiculously expensive Carlton on the seafront, where I was sharing with the glitterati - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlton_Hotel,_Cannes, for no money at all), then along the Coast Road to St Tropez, basking in the sun of the French Riviera, and then across to Marseille on the fabulous D98, then up into Andorra via some simply epic mountain passes in the Pyrenees, then down to Barcelona in Spain via the even more epic Collada de Tosas, which is now my favourite ever stretch of road, full stop...

N152 Collada de Tosas (Part 1) from Ken Haylock on Vimeo.

The N152 is an awesome road between Andorra and Barcelona. Well, the mountain pass called the Collada de Tosas is, anyway. It has been superceded by a very efficient tunnel through the mountain range, and then south of the tunnel it becomes a dual carriageway. A very twisty dual carriageway but a dual carriageway nonetheless. A few years ago I took the tunnel from Andorra and then had fun thrashing a 1200GS flat out down the entirely empty crazy twisty dual carriageway at around midnight on a Sunday night. Seeing the road in daylight, err... eeep! Anyway, the Col itself is a thing of beauty. Watch and enjoy as I take the K1200GT SE over the pass. Note that I could be going a fair bit faster, but if you see the drops involved if it goes wrong you'll understand why I wasn't...



N152 Collada de Tosas (Part 2) from Ken Haylock on Vimeo.

See Part 1 for description...



And then I had a couple of hot, hard, long days on the Autopista pushing across Spain, with the external thermometer on my BMW telling me it was 42.5 degrees C at times (that's 109F in old money) it was like riding into an open blast furnace, and then I was in Faro for three days of mild debauchery and the hospitality of my good friend Louis Dobson and his girlfriend Eva, after which I headed back to the UK, starting with another 650 mile day to get to the Spanish-French border, and then a 400 miler and a 200 miler respectively to get back on the ferry at le Havre and head for home.

Now, normally I'd tell you about it and maybe offer a few snaps and a ride report, but these days I can do better. I used a nifty smartphone app called Trip-Journal (http://www.trip-journal.com) to record the entire 4,380 mile odyssey, and then used one of its many export functions to generate a Google Earth .kmz file, with all of my ride report sections and all of the photos and YouTube videos on it in the correct place, along with my track log. And arguably the best thing about Google Earth is that you can set up my trip as a 'Tour' and then fly through the entire thing. I suggest skipping some of the less interesting motorway/autoroute/autopista sections, but some of the stuff in the mountains looks just awesome flying through in 'tour mode' on Google Earth... this takes ride reports and holiday snaps to a whole new level of insidious scariness!!!

Oh, the Google Earth file can be found here...

http://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0BzhLvX8hOXqZNmU1ZmY5NWMtZTZiZC00MWFiLWJjZDEtMDM1YzgwNWE5YjUw&authkey=CPCS99EP&hl=en_GB

Hope this interests somebody :-).

X-Posted to my journal, [livejournal.com profile] uk_bikers and [livejournal.com profile] motorcycles.
khaylock: (mountain TT)
This is some dutch guy who filmed his trip to the Isle of Man TT this year from Holland, and has cut it into a nicely produced little documentary film that, I think, encapsulates the whole experience beautifully.


khaylock: (Default)
...and turned them into a single monster sequential documentary movie. I'm ready for my Oscar now!



X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] uk_bikers and [livejournal.com profile] motorcycles...
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