19 October 2017

Ring of Red 2017

Hopefully by November 12th the common  fainting (vasovagel syncope) problem will have receded and I will be fit enough to get out on this run. So far I have been every year since it started.

I sometimes this that I should support the RBLR run to Newhaven Fort but that is a very early start. RoR starts well after local cenotaph events are over and well after the televised Act of Remembrance in Whitehall is over.

Plenty of time to get togged up and out.

I ordered a couple of wristbands. Last year I had two. One went on Pepé's speedo surround and the other disappeared.

The 2015 band is on the rev counter. 2016 pinged off somehow so I asked the organisers if they had any spare.  For a donation I ordered another one.  Then this morning I opened a drawer and there was the "missing" one from last year. Now I have 2 for 2016. One spare! !

One will go on the bike with 2017.

As Seen from the Sidecar 2

Sadly due to the "common fainting" (vasovagel syncope) problem I seem to have added to my list of ailments I have had to drop out of the run to Paris.

It's a bugger but health and safety has to come first. Hopefully I'll be okay for the Ring of Red in three weeks time.

5 October 2017

As Seen From the Sidecar

I signed up for this charity run. The guys are attempting to ride around the world to raise money and awareness of modern slavery.

I had planned to do the whole run but have another event on the Sunday. So will do part of it with them and come back on the Saturday evening.

What they are doing is going to be an adventure beyond what I can imagine on a small scooter. 

8 September 2017

Vimy 101

After attending Vimy100 in April 2017 I have been looking at going again 2018.

I fully expect that it will be a more relaxed affair than the Centenary this year where there were around 20000 people attending the event.

When we went in 2014 we were able to park in the parking​ lot right by the visitor centre. Unlike this year where there were park and rides setup with buses to the site.

I'll probably be Jean Sans-Amis again but hopefully less of a cock-up like 2014 when I managed to get lost after deciding to leave the satnav at home!

Although I did all the planning for the 2015 trip I was unable to go after my heart attack less than week before.

So fingers crossed for good weather etc.

29 August 2017

Two in One

Two different events on the same day at almost the same venue. How could that happen?

On the Sunday of August Bank Holiday in the UK an event was organised at Dover on the esplanade in the harbour between the two docks.  

The Eastern Docks are primarily for passenger and freight ferries to the France and the Western Docks for cruise liners.  In the middle is a crescent shaped beach and an esplanade. 

At the eastern end of the esplanade the owners of the Pebbles Kiosk and Gift Shop had organised "Bikes on the Beach" for a third year.

At the Western end. The local sailing and rowing club had organised a fun day with stalls and exhibits.  The exhibits included some local classic car owners and the Dover Transport Museum brought some of their collection along.

I was a little late getting up after some overnight dog barking and disruptive sleep because of that.  The Dover event started at 10am and as I rode out of the close I was in two minds whether to actually go.  In the end the Meldrews were on a longish run from the Blue & White from about 1030 so I decided to go there, have a cup of tea and a chat and then see where that left us.  

They left about 1100 and I togged up and decided that as I had my camera slung over my shoulder I'd go to Dover after all.  Rather than go the A20, I went up the road a bit and then onto the M20 south and cruised to Dover.

There didn't seem much traffic around and it was pretty clear and warm. Glad I had the Joe Rocket on again.  Even though it is getting a bit "tired"  it is still comfortable in hot weather.

Amazingly for us in the UK, the Bank Holiday weather was dry and hot for the entire three day long weekend. I expect that the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey will make itself felt later in the week. We usually get the bad weather generated by hurricanes on the US east coast a week or so after they hit.

It was also good that after a year or more the ridiculous 40mph limit on the last five miles into Dover has been scrapped.

On arrival I was directed by a volunteer onto the esplanade via a drop down kerb and told to ride along until I found a space.  It was about 1120 or so.  I had to go about 100m down to find a space and back into it.  I locked up, and took a walk to the Western end first.  The stalls didn't really interest me much but the cars and buses on show did and I expended a lot of MB of memory card to get some pix.

I had a chat with a guy showing his 1958 Oldsmobile 88.  The 50's and early 60's must have been a great time to have been able to buy these cars.  They are so big and look like they are worth a million dollars.  It seems that each maker had to have something to stand out. Cadillac with their fins. But on the 88 it is the tail lights.  A real golden age of design.

Back towards the eastern end I hadn't seen the RBLR crew I had expected to be there form the FB page.  They were meeting a guy called Aaron Mitchell, who was returning home after riding around the world.  (See http://www.aaronmitchell.net/

I didn't realise that there were bikes etc the other side of the Pebble Kiosk! DOH! And that's where they were.  It's only after when I looked at my pictures, mostly of individual bikes, but some shots of the esplanade with multiple bikes, that I had got him by his bike.  What a plum! Me not him.

I missed them leave for a massed run to Rochester in North Kent as I was in one of the little shaded seating areas out of the sun and enjoying a tea.

All the pictures are on Flickr and linked here:

14 August 2017

Bird Toilet

Had a run into Folkestone today as I had a dentist appointment and thought the bike would be better.

Nice and sunny. Parked almost outside and was early. Went for a coffee at the cafe over the road. They couldn't make change for a tenner and trusted me to go back. Biker friendly.

After the scraping around I had a walk to Debenham's for another drink and make change.

Back at the bike I couldn't believe it. Bird shit on the screen and tank. Spattered on the chrome work too.

I stopped at the café and paid my £1.30 and rode home to clean the bike.

A short ride that would have been longer without those bloody birds.

11 August 2017

Custom Screens

I have been looking at the smaller flyscreens as the big screen on Pepé can be a bit of a pain in the wet as no matter how much polish it has on it, it still becomes a little hard to see through and you have to look over.

I have thought about hydro-dipping but have yet to fnd someone that will reply to an email enquiry or in fact show an example of a Rocket flyscreen suitably decorated. The ones I have contacted can't be short of business as they can't be arsed to come back with a price.

I have seen the work from Chris at Custom-Sculpt.  He does all kinds of different work and has a portfolio of bike work and a lot of R3 stuff.

You can design your own but I have always liked Iron Maiden's "Eddie".  A quick email confirms that Chris has the mould and can make one. I can decide on any colours I want as the mould starts off plain.  He has work piled up and so I'd have to fit in. That's fine with me. Time to put some pennies away.

Update 9/9/2017.

After a few days of looking at hydrophobic liquids I decided to risk buying one to try on the paintwork of Pepe and also on the seen. 

I still like the idea of one of these custom jobs but in the end delivery and cost is a major factor.

10 August 2017

Sinterklaastreffen 2017

It's a bit early to be booking bike trips into December. But seeing a special offer where the return fare to France for bike and rider was only £22.50 ($28.50 or so) for what amounts to two 90 minute (not luxurious though) cruises is the cheapest I have seen it for many a good year.  Book now!! Thank you P&O.

As every other year since we stopped going for the weekend, the plan will be to go over early but not too early. Fill the tank with slightly cheaper EU benzine and go to Ostend. Check out the chocolate shops and have lunch. See St Nick. Then ride home after a good day in Europe.

I'll probably put it on the Meldrews' Facebook page  at some stage in case there are any takers for the trip.  I have been Johnny No-Mates a few times and the last time it was just me and Cal.

Still a while to go before December 2nd.

Paul Devall shared an album with you from the Flickr app! Take a look: https://flic.kr/s/aHskn4opxt

17 July 2017

Third Sunday?

Then it must be Meldrews' Sunday.

Usually we meet at the Blue & White Café at Smeeth on the A20.  We have been meeting there practically since it re-opened with Superbike racer Leon Camier's mum at the helm. But it is getting busier and busier on a Sunday morning, not with bikers, who seem to have started to to back to the Airport Cafe, but with "normals" and their kids.

Biker life has always been a little adult and we aren't the axe chucking mob, just blokes of an age that like to have a breakfast and chew the fat in an adult way without feeling that some bullethead might be offended on behalf of his kids or his delicate wife.  It's not that we use the f-word all that often, but like any group, we have people that are drawn together for their love of bike and biking from across the spectrum. We have all shades of political views but it rarely comes up as a subject.

So this Sunday we tried the County Members pub in Lympne Village.  Lympne has a claim to fame as it it is actually named after Portus Lemanis, one of the first ports that the Romans used when they invaded from Gaul (now France) in about AD66. There are still Roman remains, of buildings etc, on the hillside below the modern village.

Over the past two millenia the silting up on the English side of the channel has seen the sea move away. Instead of being at the foot of the cliff, it is now about a mile to a mile and a half away across what we now call Romney Marsh.

The ruins are in the domain of Lympne Castle.  The Saxons had a fort up here in the 4th Century.

Lympne Castle is also one of the homes of the Aspinall Foundation. The two zoos at Lympne and Howlett's near Canterbury are conservation and breeding centres for endangered species, mainly focusing on gorilla and rhino.

So after that digression.  

We had a bumper turnout with nine of us including one member's son on the back of a scooter.  Start them young and in all the proper gear. 

Breakfast was very good, not too expensive and relaxed.  We pushed three tables together and could all chat. No rush and breakfast runs until 11am. Then they prepare for pub opening hours and the lunch crowd arrives.

From here we split up. Most of us decided to head over to Robinson's Foundry as there was an Indian open day.  Others went home.

The ride to Canterbury was lively.  I like to be an old and alive biker so tend to ride a bit more sedately.  The adventure bike group (GS, KTM something and V-Strom 1000)  flashed past. I held back and like the tortoise and hare, I was behind them in the shopping traffic in the city centre.

Parking up with loads of Harley's and a few Indians and the occasional Victory across the road meant we were near the dyno that was testing bikes for £19 for two runs.  I decided not to bother. Pepé is okay as he is. Just a big cuddly tourer.

After a tea and a look at the high price tags on the Indians I headed for home.

Another nice ride out and I still haven't cracked 6000 miles! I need a bigger challenge.

2 July 2017

AMRR 2017 Part Two

I was up on time and after breakfast I finally got away a little earlier than the planned 9am start.

As I was already fuelled up I decided to make my first stop just before the Dartford Tunnel. The traffic was running unusually smoothly. Maintaining 70mph was hampered as north of the tunnel I caught the back end of a rolling road block. The overhead info boards said there were animals on the road.

This lasted until almost to the M11. I chose stay in the left most lane of four for most of the way. Despite costing a £1m a mile to build so few seem to want to use it. Maybe the common term "slow lane" makes them feel inadequate?

It was about 1030am when I pulled into Birchanger Services. The car park was full and there were a few bikes dotted about. I didn't recognise anyone. Jean Sans-Amis again.

By the time I'd got a coffee it was nearly 1100am.  I usually reckon 25 minutes to the rendezvous. With holiday traffic it was nearer 40 when I pulled into Cambridge Services behind the police out riders and a support 4WD. They do a great job marshalling us through the city to the cemetery.  Such a shame on similar runs that Kent Police can't copy their Cambridgeshire colleagues.

I had time for a chat with a guy with a Suzuki M1800. It's a nice looking bike but maybe too futuristic for me. A walk around the packed parking area revealed a whole load of bikes from race-reps to customs.  And a fair few Rockets. I took a few photos of the assembly and they are all on my Flickr photostream.

Then we were off. The bugler played Reveille and we mounted up and gave it a bit of throttle. The "norms" at the services were applauding and taking  photos and videos.  We left at 1230pm.

As I was right at the back of the third column I somehow managed to get behind the stinkwheels; scooters by any other name. The smell of two-stroke, and after the run, the taste of it on my lips was terrible. I should have brought a drink to clear my throat of it.

As we crossed over the bridge over the A14 we could see to our left that the road was closed by a police car, and to the right the column of bikes stretching two by two into the distance.  I have no idea how many bikes and stinkers there were on the day.

We headed it the city. Cambridge is one of the two biggest and more elite of the university cities along with Oxford. So many colleges and so many tourists. I hope the spectacle was recorded by them.

Once at the cemetery we parked up. The overflow car park is not too comfortable being 10 x 8 inch cobble stones with grass growing between them.  And it slopes away from the monument.
Once settled everyone set off for the service.

This doesn't take long. Once we had sung both our national anthems and taken the Lord's Prayer we were off.

With 165 miles to ride home I went quickly. The ride home was done only with a stop at Ashford Tesco  to fuel up. The odometer showed 181.9 miles with "miles to empty" down to 55. A return of 49 mpg (UK gallon). No bad for legal limit cruising and 11 miles at 20 mph or less!

I seems a long way to go for half an hour.  But it is a show of respect to our fallen allies. Those men and women who may have a cross planted here or their name on the wall of the missing.


More Photos:

AMRR 2017

26 June 2017

AMRR 2017

Just a week to go until this year's Allied Memorial Remembrance Ride, I have managed to source a Royal British Legion car-poppy to install on Pepé.  I need to find a space for it now. I might put it on one of the screen brackets.


After missing the last two years due to the heart attack and the Somme 100 I am pleased to be able to attend again.  

It's usually a nice run up to Cambridge although to get there in good time it it mostly motorway plus the added hassle of the Dartford Crossing through the tunnel.

The local RBL Riders group in Kent are setting off a bit too early for me as they are leaving the A2 Services at 0845. I am not planing leaving home until 0900 and the RV is about 45 mins from home!

I might catch up with them on the road as I am not planning a stop once I have a full tank of fuel and they have a few meeting points along the way.

On the way up I'll see if I can get the 410 to work on the bike! I know where I am going but some assistance with fuel stops would be appreciated.

Photos from past runs.

Update: Found somewhere go put the large poppy.

22 June 2017

British Bike Night

Tonight Pepe and I had a ride up to the Wagon and Horses in Charing for the annual bike night. We had a good run up and back in fact. A chance to park on grass and a bit off off roading was enough for me!

A walk around the parking and grassy area.  I took a few photos and they can be seen here.

For once Pepe and the other Rockets weren't the biggest bike when the Boss Hoss V8 turned up.  Boy is it fugly.

More Pix!

20 June 2017

Ride to Work Week UK - 2

The ride home after work was every bit as bad as the way in. In reverse.

The ride down from sunny Islington via Hackney to sunny Darenth took over an hour but did include a fuel stop at Sainsbury's near the Millennium Dome.

I rolled onto the drive at home two hours after leaving work. This included a nice fast run on the motorway as well as the miles of bumper to bumper traffic basically from Dalston to Kidbrooke.  

On the approach to the Blackwall Tunnel I was filtering when the guy in the left lane decided to block me off. Result. My left bar end weight and his mirror interfaced. No damage to me but his mirror knocked back on its hinge. Oh dear. He was effing and blinding at me but maybe next time he'll not deliberately try to block off a filtering biker.  Somehow I think he'll be the same cretin for life.

So was it #commutehappy for me. Was it buggery!

On the road for the three hours fifty to cover 145 miles. Even with the drive to the station, hanging about a bit and then the train,  it is way quicker and in this time of jetstream induced high temperatures,  comfortable and air conditioned! !

Commuting is not for me any more.

Ride to Work Week UK

Pepé at work
Ride to Work Week UK

The idea behind this is to get people out of their cars and onto two-wheels,  It will reduce congestion, save on parking spaces and reduce pollution.

As my commuting into London days were over a few years ago, once I came to terms with having to sell an organ to pay for the train fares every month,  it was a bit of a shock to see what the every day motorcycle commuter has to contend with.  

Although saying that, the "ride" time is not much different to two years ago when I commuted on Döra the Explörer.

I made pretty good progress at first.   From home to the Darenth Interchange was just shy of 50 minutes. Google maps (below) has the time at 55 mins.  As this bit was pretty much free moving traffic that's no surprise. There was a little congestion where the cars were actually stationery on the M20 by Maidstone but I safely filtered through. Google maps is aimed at cars and not the more traffic slipping motorcycle.

At least the weather was kind.  Sunny but no too hot so I could wear my Joe Rocket mesh jacket.

Google Map of full journey

From the map we can see a few problems but this was made after I arrived at work. The two accidents marked towards the bottom right weren't there when I cruised through.

It's hard to see from this map the changes in colour to show traffic.  There are some roadworks and it seemed like they had coned off the entire left lane, but there was no sign that anyone had got off their arses to do any work. 

Fifty minutes to get to the Darenth Interchange.  Then another 50 minutes to get to work due to basically solid traffic requiring filtering (lane splitting) all the way from about a mile north-west of Darenth and through the Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames.  This can be better seen from the second Google Map.

Only another 50  minutes for this section is a bit better than the car estimate.  The problem with this part is that the approach to the tunnel is three lanes but each lane is narrower. As the tunnel is only two lanes there is a massive tailback and far less room to filter as everyone has to squeeze together and a lane is lost.

And to get home?  That's about six hours in the future.  But I expect the same traffic and hassles.

18 June 2017

Meldrews Sunday

Another shortish ride out today. It was Meldrews Sunday and also father's day so we had a reduced turnout. Still there were four of us in a pretty deserted Blue and White café.

After a chat about their trips last weekend we went our own ways.  I headed back home via a loop across the downs on some roads that seemed new to me. Following signposts I must have ridden further than expected. 

With temperatures hovering about 28°C it was great to be wearing my Joe Rocket vented mesh jacket.

Stopped however. It was far too hot in Kevlar lined combats.

Still nice to be out and about on the bike. My next outing might very well be a ride to work day on Tuesday. Why Tuesday? It's the only day my boss won't be there!!!

11 June 2017

Gravel car-parking

Today's run out was a tale of two gravel strewn parking areas/lots.

We'd been out in the morning in the car to see the poppy art installation at Shoeburyness.  When I say "we" I mean Claire,  Reggie and me.

After lunch I hauled Pepé out of the garage and headed to the bank in Hythe to get some cash. Man can't live by credit card alone.

Then I thought of a great photo op. A tribute to British engineering. My Rocket and the WW2 fighter aircraft at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Ferne.


Turning off the paved roadway entrance onto three or even four inches of grey gravel chips is not to be laughed at. Maybe on a cycle but not on a 700lb heavyweight cruiser. Jesus that was scary as the bars went straight to left lock. Luckily I got a foot down!!!

I took a picture (and not the one I wanted) and left.  It's a great cause but that's my lot. I am never going back.

From there I went to the White Cliffs. The car park here is a little light gravel over a  hard surface like tarmac. Shitty getting in where you have to go up about six feet and hairpin into the lower parking. The other tiers are cinder or grass.

At least here to café was open. New outdoor seating and a good tasting tea....

In all I was only out a little over two hours but bid get to put some miles on the clock.

Deep gravel,  not deep joy.

Biker's Tea

6 June 2017


When you own a Rocket keeping a note on fuel consumption isn't really necessary. However, as an exercise I find it quite good to keep a record so I can see what is happening when I am out. A bit of fun. 

Oddly, the app that worked on the iPhone doesn't work on the Android, so after ages I found Fuelly. It shares with other users and I need to see if there are other Rockets on there.  So over the coming months I'll be able to track the consumption on trips.

4 June 2017

June run out

The last two weekends were crossed off as potential bike runs out as we were on holiday in France and in the car.

With such a log gap between rides I begin to feel guilty. Since I stopped commuting on two wheels I haven't even become a regular and fair weather rider.

So when I saw on facebook that some Meldrews were having a breakfast run to thr Blue and White I decided to go. 

Otherwise I was going for an aimless ride across the marsh.

Yesterday I found a bottle of cleaner in the garage I had forgotten I had. The petrol/gas tank was a little dirty. A few squirts of this magic no water needed elixir and a rub over with a microfibre cloth and it was super shiny.

So I hauled Pepé out of the garage and headed to the café. Egg sandwich for me.

After an hour of chat we went our separate ways. Mine was to Tesco to fill up after the ride to Wimbledon a month ago! Tesco to Tesco was 160.2 miles. I was dreading filling the tank but was surprised at at an average cruising speed of 75mph (cough cough) that I could only squeeze 16.9 litres into the tank.

I have also joined Fuelly and have the app on my phone. First fuel came out at 43.1mpg.

From there I went on a longer run home arriving back just before noon.

A good ride out but only about 30 miles added to the odometer.

3 May 2017


Pepé must be thinking it is his birthday. Out twice on a few decent length runs in the same month.  Amazing.

The last day of April was the end of the football/soccer season for the League One teams.  Oldham were away at AFC Wimbledon. I did add this to my general blog.

According to Google maps the journey would be about 80 miles, mostly on the motorways but with a little bit at each end on ordinary road.  I set off about 0930 for a 1200 kick off.  

The area where the ground is isn't totally unknown to me but the final bit was definitely in need of TomTom's assistance.

I stopped to fill the tank at Tesco in Ashford. The French petrol from the Vimy run might have seen me get there and it may have been a few pence cheaper in South London but I wanted to be in and out after the game.

The M20 and M26 were pretty peaceful. Cruising at an indicated 75mph and TomTom showing satellite speed at 70 was good enough for me. The M25 was its usual PITA. It was recently widened to get rid of the hard shoulder (emergency lane) as part of the "smart motorway" project.  If you are suffering a breakdown, car not driver, they have hacked "refuges" into the side of the road. You just have to hope you can reach one" If not they have installed overhead gantries where they have red lights to show the lanes are closed, and also hide the speed cameras! 

As usual hardly anyone ventures into the left or "slow" lane.  The centre two lanes being far more popular and the outside lane (of four!) has the usual high speed drivers.  Usually under-taking is frowned on but with cars travelling at below the speed limit in random lanes. you drive/rides where there is some clear road ahead.

Once off the M25 I was on ordinary road. A road that seemed to have more speed cameras per mile than I have ever seem before. Eventually arriving at the Kingsmeadow Stadium at about 1115. The last few miles in heavy traffic.

I saw the car-park full signs and rode up anyway and the guys let me through and then I had to find a space to park. By email in the week before they had said part by the cycles racks outside the leisure centre.  What leisure centre!  I ended up locking the bike on a small piece of grass verge.  Not a good start to my first (and last!) visit here.

I had a chat with a guy alongside in a car. A  home supporter about the game and he directed me to the "away" entrance on the far side of the stadium.  The stadium is small. Sold out there were 4800 packed into it.  They still have standing, something that needs sorting before they can move up the pyramid. My ticket was standing. I got a burger and coffee and found a place under cover.  The weather had been pretty good so far.

The game went okay, ending 0-0 and then after the players came over and posed for pictures it was back to the bike.  Pepé always attracts comments even if not quite a crowd.  I togged up and wended my way through the crowd.  TomTom decided that although I had come the "fastest" route, the "fastest" route back home was totally different. Always a slave to the satnav I decided to see where it would take me.  I called Claire on the Scala and talked hands-free for a bit. No dramas apart from the M25 when one guy didn't want to let me join. I simply opened the throttle and he was  history.

The run back pretty unexceptional.  Cruising at the same 75mph indicated.  The only note was seeing the "miles to empty" go up once cruising speed was reached,

The TomTom Urban Rider does keep stats for the journey and showed that the day had been achieved at an average speed of 52mph and that I had actually covered 158 miles.

Another good trip out  and I can't wait to get out again. Sometimes life gets in the way though.

10 April 2017

Vimy 100 - Report

The day started a little later for me as I had misread the booking for the Shuttle and set off to arrive at 0850 when I fact the train was at 0850 and I was supposed to be there before 0820 when that train closed.  Curiously the automatic booking system didn't quibble and still gave me the crossing I could never make.  

As usual there was a delay. I don't think we have been over using Eurotunnel for many years where the train has left on time or at least as scheduled.  The last time was with Reggie and Claire when we went glamping on the Somme (80) coast last October.  Delays both ways.

Anyway.  Once I had done a few laps of the parking I slipped between the barriers.  When I arrived with my "hanger" - a thing that car drivers can hang from their interior read-view mirrors - showing crossing K, the staff didn't say, "Go straight to the controls", instead I would have done a 360 loop of the parking had I not snuck through the barriers after 180!

UK passports was relaxed and the French were creating queues.  Usually they are reading the paper or simply not there but today it was "only have two windows open" day  for hundreds of cars.

On the Shuttle

Once aboard the train we were told there was a slight delay as there was a hold-up loading the coaches in a different section of the train. As usual bikes are the poor relations and we wait for all the cars to load and they shove us on the end. I have never had a valid reason for this.  Once I was told it was because a bike might go on fire!  I am sure that my £13500 Triumph is less likely to cause a problem than the number of £2500 crap heaps that wheezed past me as I queued.

Once in France we were off into the same warm sunny day as it was at home.  As a consequence I only wore the Aldi base layer under my Joe Rocket mesh jacket. And I was fine even into the evening.  I did take a v-neck jumper just in case.

Other things packed included a couple of pies, a bottle of water and some biscuits, plus by accident some sun screen!  One each of the pies and biscuits came home too.

Once onto the A26 southwards I was in need of a drink. I pulled into the Aire de Rély and unusually for me,  I topped the tank off with €9 of unleaded.  Rather than hunt around later as I wouldn't manage there and back on one tank that wasn't full to start with.

A coffee and pain-chocolat later I set off again.  Slightly delayed as Pepé attracts people to come and have a look, I almost felt sorry for the glam couple in the Porsche being ignored, even when they blipped the throttle a few times.  Very Loud.  Feeling smug I set off.

All was going to plan, after the problem with the new TomTom 410 I was back to using the "old" Rider.  It took me off the A26 and A21 to the parking.  But sadly, by the time I got there it had closed as full. There did seem plenty of spaces for a motorcycle but the French jobsworth is more resolute that his English counterpart. Even the Gendarme was on my side but M. Jobsworth was adamant.

So I was directed to Lens, where I had already passed by, to Parking D situated at the 2000 car space parking lot by the RC Lens football ground.  Pepé was quickly locked up and secured and I was on a bus within 10 minutes.  What organisation!  Don't worry reality will set in.

The journey to the Memorial Park went along where I had just ridden and then we were disembarked some 500 metres from the festivities.  Along the way a lady kindly gave me a little maple leaf badge to wear. 

From there is was a bit chaotic as no one really knew where to go.  I picked up a programme and a water bottle from a table where volunteers were handing them out.  

On the really plus side and with the weather hovering about 25C in full sun all day, the organisers had water stations, with water cooler bottles so that the bottle they gave away could be refilled.

When I last went, in 2014,  it was mid week and there were maybe five coaches.  I doubt the ceremony was seen by more than 200 people. Today over 20000! Groups from all over Canada. School groups with those irritating little table tennis bat signs the leaders hold up and then proceed to push past every one.  

In the end I went to the right of the entrance and the path from the road to the monument was fenced off for the services to parade.  There was plenty of seating and I took the opportunity to sit on an end. I got chatting to a couple in the back row, and I immediately forgot their names (!).  As I had packed light, I didn't bring a camera, just relying on my phone.  For that I did bring two battery chargers though to top it up.  One didn't work though but the other did provide 50% charge for the S5.

More people in this pic than is 2014 at all.

We had a good view of the marching and for the speeches conducted on the other side of the monument, facing the west where the troops had attacked from, we had a screen to watch.

Unfortunately, the Samsung S5 has a good camera, but in full sun the screen is 99.99999999% impossible to see.  Some of the photos dotted around this blog were taken using the system of locating the target by checking their position in relation to a hat in the crowd!  It worked occasionally.

The massive crowd was entertained with music and dancing from people from the English and French speaking communities and from the First nation, Gradually bringing us closer to when the dignitaries would arrive.  Usually this is 3pm, but for some reason it had slipped back to 4pm and of course, they were late. As well as Canadian Veterans Affairs there was President Hollande from France, Justin Trudeau the Canadian PM, and of course Princes Charles, William and Harry representing her Maj the Queen.

The ceremony proper started off with a gun salute.  I lost count of the shells fired.  As we didn't see any part of Lievin and Lens on fire we assumed they were blanks... With my new found sighting system I managed to get some photos and accidentally a video! If you look it you will see the sighting hat!

Gunners getting ready.

One of the themes was the need for boots. Some letters read out from men that took part, and the main, were killed or wounded in the battle, they were concerned with few things other than having new boots, Their old boots hadn't been designed for spending all day in mud and water.  it does make you wonder who supplied the army.  I'm sure Canada has its fair share of wet and muddy conditions, not to mention -30 temperatures and snow.


All but M. Hollande conducted their speeches in both English and French. Some of the Canadians in my area were a little disgruntled by this as they though tit a little rude.

Mr Trudeau received the biggest cheer from the assembly so I guess that the disgruntlement wasn't to do with French per se. He slipped from English to French and vice-versa with ease and confidence.

There followed a fly past by some replica aircraft from WW1. Even though they weren't too fast, they were too much for the S5 and the new sighting system.  I just kept clicking hoping to get one decent or at least one none to laughable shot come out. Buy accident I did get a video but it needs editing to remove some of the verbal comments....

Replica aircraft fly-past

Okay, so they are a little small.  At least the purple umbrella helped get them all in the same shot!

And then the people began to slip away towards the buses.  And here's where the system failed.

The four parking area bus "stops" were close together.  Instead of organising lines/queues to each, they left it in a chaotic mess.  The school leaders blocked everywhere up to try and keep their charges together or at least round them up. That should have been done elsewhere and taken as a group to a bus.

In the end after two and a half hours I made it to a bus.  The humour in the crows shows that at the end of the day, Canadians are generally nice. Some cat calling and rude waves as the seemingly endless procession of cars and coaches took the dignitaries and their hangers-on away before the plebs were supplied with buses.

Once back at Lens I got back to the bike and was ready to leave in ten minutes. I had no idea how to escape the parking and set TomTom for Home.   I mixed up "laissser" and "departer" up asking a security guy for the route to "direction a Calais" but in the end TomTom came to our rescue.

Once on the A21 and then the toll A26 I was off like flint. The speed limit is 81mph on the toll sections and I was about that all the way between toll stations. Another €4 spent going north.  

At Eurotunnel it told me I was late and had missed ny scheduled crossing. As it was 2145 local time I was 55 minutes late for the train.  The automat kindly gave me hanger O and a time of 2225 departure.

Once clear of the passport formalities I saw that O was loading. Once again, I sat alongside the train as they loaded all the cars. It's annoying anyway, but when cars with P and Q hangers are loaded first..... Then that is taking the piss.  In the end I squeezed on the very end of the train. Just enough room behind the last car so they could close the fire doors with inches to spare.  I didn't bother taking any more photographs! OMG what if I had gone on fire..... The 2007 Peugeot in front of me was more likely to do that!

And so 40 minutes later we pulled into Folkestone and I was last off. Duelling with the foreign lorries to get onto the M20.

I was pulling up on the drive at about 10pm. Feeling a little hungry and also in need of the loo.

All in all a really great event to be part of. The chaos at the end could have overshadowed the day's events but for the good humour of the Canadian and British sharing the same  fatalistic sense of humour - making jokes out of adversity.

2 April 2017

AMRR 2017

After missing out on 2015 after my heart attack and 2016 as it clashed with the Somme 100 ceremony, I am planning to Rocket up to Cambridge to join this year's run.

The date is July 1st and is a Saturday again.

The Kent RBLR group are meeting at Cobham Services on the A2 at 0845 with several stops on the way. It's a bit early for me to be up there as I am not planning to leave home until 0900. Maybe I will catch them up with my no stop strategy.

31 March 2017

Vimy 100

Checked the website again to see what the travel arrangements are in place and with 9 days to go to the event, there is still nothing about the parking and shuttle up to the site.

There is an update regarding the e-ticketing to the event and for some reason, the French Government has asked that the e-tickets are sent out again.  

"Important Information – New E-tickets being issued

As a result of new measures in place put in at the request of the Government of France, Veterans Affairs Canada is issuing new e-tickets to everyone registered to attend the commemorative ceremony.
All e-tickets will be distributed by April 1, 2017. Further information about shuttles and parking will be provided in the coming days on the Veterans Affairs Canada website at Canada.ca/Vimy-100.
For those who previously received an e-ticket, please replace it with this new e-ticket. Please bring a copy of your official e-ticket and government-issued photo identification, such as a passport, national photo I.D. card or driver's license, on the day of the event. As the wireless network in the area may be very limited, it is highly recommended that people bring a printed copy with them to the site.
Veterans Affairs Canada is working closely with our partners including the Canadian Embassy and French authorities on all aspects of these events including registration and accreditation, security and transportation."

See what happens.

UPDATE 2nd April.

At last the parking and shuttle bus information have been updated on the website.  There are places not that far from the Memorial site and I have loaded one into the satnav. 

The trip from home is about 105 miles and that includes the Shuttle mileage.  

28 March 2017

Vimy 100

It's less than two weeks to go. I have my ferry booked and even took up the P&O offer to have RAC cover just in case Pepé breaks down.  Like all insurances you might never need it but...

So whilst I have a while before I need to pack the big lock and the panniers with stuff to wear whilst on foot at the ceremony, my thoughts turn to where to park.

The monument itself will be closed to the public, or at least private vehicles, with a shuttle bus service being laid on to take the public up there. As yet, there are no details in the website to say where the parking will be nor where the shuttle buses will run from. I assume as with the Somme 100 event last July the two will be about the same place. But where?

The FAQ:

Q 8: Will there be parking available onsite for the April 9th ceremony? Will there be accessible parking for those with mobility impairment? Will the site be wheelchair accessible?
A 8: There will be no vehicle access to the Vimy Memorial site for the ceremony on April 9. The Vimy Memorial site will be accessible to those with mobility impairments. More information will be posted on the website as it becomes available.
Q 10: Will transportation be available to and from the ceremony?
A 10: A public shuttle system will operate to transport the public to and from the Vimy site. Information about shuttle schedule, pickup points and designated parking will be posted here as it becomes available.
At the moment none too helpful. I go and check everyday.  I need to get the parking/shuttle into the TomTom so that I can find it off the A26 motorway.

On this trip I will be Johnny No-mates but I expected as much.  Things to do nearer the time. Decide what camera to take and charge the batteries up. Canon DSLR or Samsung compact?  Charge up the external power supplies for the mobile phone. 
A couple of pictures off the Canadian site.

19 March 2017

Ride out

Today would have been the Meldrews' March meeting but most of the regulars were away and I was down with a cold. So I didn't feel like a breakfast meeting.

We took the dog for his walk and were back for lunch.  By 3pm I needed to get out and so it was.

Firing up the engine I saw that the miles to empty on the clock was 12. I am sure it would have been more when I was last out. Obviously not.

First stop was Tesco for petrol.  A ride up the A20 and past the Blue and White where I should have been some five hours earlier.  No waiting but annoying that "pay at the pump" wasn't working again. Always seems up the swanee when I am on the bike.

Where next? I decided to head for the coast and then loop back home. So opted for the B2070 to Brenzett and then the A259 to Romney, then Lydd and onto the Dungeness Estate. I was too late for the railway cafe although there was a train in the station.

Instead I tried to get a pic of the bike by the old lighthouse. The sun wasn't doing me any favours and so I took just the one.

From there it was back along the newly resurfaced estate road back to the public road and along the coast back to the 259 and home. A short detour across country via Burmarsh and West Hythe.

I was out about 90 minutes in all and for mid March it wasn't too cold.

In the picture you can just make out Pepé in the dark shadow. 

6 March 2017

Vimy 2017

Planning has begun on the first run of the year. This trip will be to Vimy in Northern France. 

This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Arras, and in particular the Canadian assault on the enemy held ridge at Vimy to the north-west of the city.

I have been several times before, lastly in 2014 and in 2015 I had a heart operation just days before it took place! I was unable to go last year even though it was a Saturday.

This will be a Johnny No-Mates trip as we had originally planned to have it as a Meldrews event but when we found that Eurotunnel had no day tickets to sell as it is the week before Easter, we dropped it.

The date is as always April 9th and this year it is a Sunday.


Report later.

UPDATE 3rd April 2017:

I saw on Facebook that one of the bike groups I joined a while back are having a day trip to France on the 9th to have a hoon around and lunch. So I got on the Eurotunnel site and saw that day trips arr now available. So I booked myself on the 0850 returning at 2020. This should give me time to get here in good time and then get away again after the shuttle buses take us back to the parking and then the 80 miles ride back to the port.

20 February 2017

First decent day... Red Pepé gets out

Yesterday was the first decent weather day for weeks and weeks.  The last time I had Pepé out of the garage was over a month ago and then for a ride to the January Meldrew's Monthly meeting at the Blue and White. That day it was cold.  Very cold in fact.

Since then, although we haven't had any decent snowfall nor any appreciable rain we have those horrible damp days where the air seems to consist of water just waiting to make itself into rain.  The roads are damp.  Occasional overnight frosts have the local gritters out coating the "major routes" with a mixture and gritty sand and salt.

It's the salt that plays havoc with bikes.  Over the years car manufacturers have got wise to this and use galvanised metal. Even the traditional rust-buckets from southern Europe are made of it.  Hence no more rusty two year old FIAT cars on the road...

But. Motorcycle manufacturers may have caught up with this for the frames and stuff like petrol/gas tanks but not wheels!  Triumph in particular are coming in for some criticism over the treatment of wheels, or lack of it.  

Pepé was two years old a few weeks ago and try as I may, the bike looks almost new except for the wheels. No amount of elbow grease and hard work can keep them looking good.

Don't talk to me about chrome! 

Anyway, the second run out of the year was to the Meldrew's!  I took a bit of back road to get out of Hythe as we had a weekend of road works on the main road in!  Then to make up time a quick dash up the M20 to Ashford to blow out the cobwebs, in me and in Pepé.

The big surprise was that despite residing in a an unheated powerless garage, Pepé started first touch of the button.

I was out a couple of hours, mostly chatting and eating a bacon and egg sandwich, and managed t

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