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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

And it turned into a European Road & Race Tour.

Total distance: 24,746.6kms
Total riding hours: 365 hours,or 9 working weeks
Max speed: 150kph. (on the 'Ring)

Riding through the English countryside is immensely more fun when the sun is shinning. The ride from Heysham to “East Barnby Backpackers” was great, even if my GPS had snuffed it. The bike mount for my Garmin Zumo wasn't charging, making it bloody hard to navigate. My GPS has had a lot of use, I still think the mount should last longer than 2 years. And I wanted to use it to navigate me to Germany the next day. I rang every Garmin dealer within 150 miles of the “Backpackers”, even rang Garmin's head office in the U.K. Three days seemed to be the quickest anyone could get me one. Not nearly good enough. No one seemed very interested either.

So, I only know 2 Irish bikers. A strange thing happened, I was on the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam and someone called out my name. Bugger me, it was Dave Bowes, riding to Italy with his/my mate Sean and a few others. Bloody good blokes, for Harley riders. Neva, Ron and I had met the boys in Moscow last trip, shared a meal and more than a couple of beers. I ended up in the bar at their Hotel and camped the night in Dave’s room. Conquered the Moscow subway the next day and found my way back to our Hotel.

It is 360kms from Rotterdam to Stefan's home in Lohrne, Germany. It rained every metre of the trip. Olaf had arranged for a tour of the Herforder brewery. What a night. It was an extremely interesting tour, the brewery used to employ 700, they still bottle 80,000/hour, but with only 120 staff. If you are ever going to taste a good beer, it would have to be in the Brewery's own bar. We had a couple before the tour and they really laid it on afterwards. Gallons and gallons of sensational Herforder beer, some even came in 3 litre glasses. Yes 3 bloody litres!! Enough food on the smorgasbord to feed everyone in Bangladesh for a week, our tour guide, a darling of a woman with whom I had fallen in love, even got me up to dance. The last time I had danced, Jesus Christ was still playing fullback for Jerusalem. Stefan's brother, Jorge, picked us up to drive us home, not knowing when enough is enough, we dropped into their local bar for a white beer or two. The barman gave us some 75% rum to try. We left the car at the bar and walked home in the rain. Our breakfast with Olaf didn't happen until noon and we finally left for Matthais' lake house in Berlin at 4pm

My panniers and top box have been in some heavy rain and never leaked. Until this day. It was like a 320km trip through a cyclone, or under a fire hose. My visor fogged up, so I rode with it up. Everything I owned leaked. We had to do 120-130kph or else we would have been run over. The trucks do over 100 and there are thousands of them, you can imagine the spray. Cars in the fast lane are still doing 160-180. Bloody terrifying. Very nearly the worst conditions I have ridden in. Matty was following our progress on the Spot Tracker, so had the garage open, BBQ burning and a beer open when we rode in. What an Intrepid!

The Berlin Touratech agent unbolted a Garmin Zumo mount from a showroom display for me. Great service, at $124 it was bloody expensive. We did the Checkpoint Charlie thing, walked for hours, looked into castles and a caught a ferry. Matty cooked a few good BBQ's, Tom “from the Box” became our tour guide and took us back to his home for a meal. It was a little weird being able walk around areas of Berlin that wasn't possible last time I was in town.

Stefan and Matty took 2 weeks off work and we rode west through Germany and the Czech Republic. Although it rained most days, the roads were fantastic with little traffic. Seldom have I laughed until I cried so many times in a week. We ate many terrific schnitzels and drank gallons of beautiful German beer and stayed in lovely, but cheap hotels. Ended up in Giboldehausen with 400 or so others for the biggest MRT (adventure bikers rally) in Europe. I could not believe the number of Honda Africa Twins, Stefan counted 69! Being Germany there were plenty of BMW's. A surprising number of airheads. A lot of people took photos of the Rooney's frame and exhaust. Met Katherina, a lovely young girl who had ridden overland from Germany to Nepal via India, then through South East Asia, on a Suzuki 350. On her own! How good is she??

Kim and Kat rode over from the UK, Tom down from Berlin and Anton from Hannover. Jens was the only one missing. I met Matty's mate Stefen, another good bloke. Matty ordained Tom,Yens and Stefen “Intrepids.” Typical bike rally, only better. Trade shows, talks, good food and beer and a ripper of a band. It was a long time since we had all been together. You can imagine how the bullshit flowed. We drank Chingis Vodka, I had carried from Mongolia and“Black Dog Rum”, Stefan and Matty had carried from Mona Vale.

Sadly, we had to split and only Matty and I headed for France via Luxembourg, riding through magnificent country on magnificent roads. Surprisingly, in sunshine. Matty had planned we finish the days ride at the Nuburgring. We had to do a lap. After the Isle of Man TT Course, this is probably the most famous race circuit in the world, 20.8kms long. It was chaos, several Porsche GT3's in full race trim, a Bugatti, many high performance BMW and Ferrari's, every type of high performance bike on the market. Plus Matty's Yamaha Tenere 600 and my Rooney. Both with our panniers on and with our camping gear strapped to the back! All on the track together. Fantastic, but scary. When we finished, I was walking on air.

Metz is famous for the Peugeot & Renault factories as well as the Michelin warehouse of Jens “from the box”. I nearly forgot, they have a stunning Cathedral as well. We stayed with Jens and his mate Simon, drank beer and told lies till late. Matty and I walked for kilometres, drank coffee and ate cake. Just like any bloody tourist! Jens and his girl Hui Qin cooked dinner one night and made us a typical French breakfast, not bad for a Kraut! It was great. I was sad to leave Matty and Jens, the last of the Intrepids.

It was a 900km day from Metz to Whitby and “The East Barnby Backpackers”, via the tunnel under the English Channel. That was impressive. A shower and a change of clothes, into Stockers race van
and off to Snetterton to watch the boys race. Both Dave and Stockers came home with a few trophies and a cheque each. What a weekend.

And that all happened bloody months ago. As I attempt to update this I am sitting under a Palm tree, sipping on a rum and trying not to day dream and spend all day looking out to sea. Lolita's Bungalows on Koh Samui (an island in the Gulf of Siam), Thailand is so good I have been coming here for about 20 years. A great way to finish this trip. Hell, I miss the East Barnby Backpackers!!
Well, Here goes, all abbreviated and rushed. Went to stay with Toc and Sue, caught up with Debbie and Louise. They took me to Billy Shakespeare’s house at Stratford Upon Avon and to the Sammie Miller Motorcycle Museum at Bournmouth. Bloody fantastic. Saw Sammie riding an old Moto Guzzi around the carpark, after the Birmingham Motorcycle Museum, this is probably the best in the world. Back to Stockers and he and I went across to Holland to the Dutch TT races where he, Dave and my new best mate Frank, were racing. Amazing. Our other new best mates, Dirk and Villie turned up too. Frank hates BMW's, but is still a good bloke, we can't all be perfect! Saw my first electric bikes race and rode an electric bike for the first time. This was the final round of the year, good thing was a BMW airhead won the title. They asked me about racing at Phillip Island as well. I must be the Island Classic's European agent!!

Frank is the Amsterdam Honda Guru, apparently, a genius mechanic, with a workshop you where could eat you dinner off the floor, I lusted after his library. He has a collection of 10 Hondas. A night at Frank and Ria's house and off to Villie's Squat. Now, that was incredible. I can't describe it, Bootlace will understand what I mean. The night ended, after a beautiful meal, with Villie and I up to about 2.30am, drinking Aussie red, with the lights turned off, just like a couple of old poofs. Nothing sexual, the view was stunning at night without any lights. Ships, tugs, barges and hydrofoils all sail right past Villie's door. Bootlace had ridden Charlie's bike there and we loaded it into Stockers race van to drop off at East Barnby Back Packers.

I managed to catch up with all my Pommie mates, except Eddie. Couldn't spend as much time with the Tarts and Dave Hartlepool as I would have liked. Toc n Sue came up for a few days. We played tourist, with me the guide. Maybe this area is my second home now. I took a liking for Bitters. That's warm, flat, dark English beer. Looks like cats piss, tastes beautiful. Old Peculiar is my favourite. I think, perhaps, a lot of Aussie beers are very bland.

The weather was shitty, so I took Stockers spare car down to Grimsby to see Intrepid Kim and Kit for the weekend. Kit is a special girl. Has to be I suppose, to put up with Kimbo. Watched as a Pilot brought a car carrier into Grimsby harbour. The best ship handling I have ever seen. When we travelled together, I seem to remember Scotty cooked and Kim cleaned. What a fcuking waste! Kim is a gourmet cook and Scotty is a fcukwit! He thinks I am a racist and a dinosaur. That hurt. Fcuk me, I love everyone.

The time lines seem a little blurred. I don't know if it is the Heineken, time or old age. Maybe all three! Stockers, Dave, Frank and their entourage went to Cadwell for the last race of the year. What a circuit. TV doesn't do it justice. Bootlace turned up on his Triumph, Owen and Lynn came down as did Bev and Rob, Dave and Kim and Bill and Mick. A bottle of OP Bundy and a carton of Coopers Green appeared, all was set for a great weekend. Caught up with Roger and Cindy, maybe they are coming to the Hall soon as well. The boys all got trophy’s, including Frank, on his first visit to Cadwell. Intrepid Kim and his mate Keith turned up on Sunday. What a weekend!

An interesting thing happened on our way home. Bootlace,I know what happens on camp, stays on camp. But some stories need to be told. We stopped for fuel and a sambo. Afterwards Bootlace's Triumph was running like a hairy goat and blowing smoke like you wouldn't believe. Wouldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding. Why? He had filled the fcuker up with diesel!!! I was surprised it ran at all.

I showed Bootlace around Whitby for a couple of days and then dropped him at the station. He had to get home to be a Flaggy at Phillip Island for the Moto GP. Coopers of Sunderland, the local BMW dealer gave me three crates for the bikes and sold me three sets of BMW Rallye Pro 3 riding gear, each $900 cheaper than I could get them in Australia. Steve from Spares and Tony from Service are gentlemen, good ambassadors for their Company. Stockers and I crated Adam's, Charlie's and my bikes, Stockers borrowed a trailer and I took them up to Newcastle for shipping.

I had wanted to ride down and show my frame to Roger Bennett, the UK's master BMW airhead engine and gearbox builder, but it was raining and I had washed the bike for Australian Quarantine inspection. Roger wouldn't understand an Aussie's dislike of riding in the rain. He doesn't have a car. Only a couple of BMW airheads with sides, one car for his “works van” and another beautiful one for the “family car”. Roger and his wife ride down to their house in Spain on their outfit a few times a year, he commutes every day, all year, and they do long weekend rides to go racing and bush walking. He doesn't believe in windscreens or heated grips. Tough man, I think. Builds a beautiful gearbox as well.

Jacquie and Sylvia and their mates went to a Vampire ball. We went for a boys weekend to Doncaster and the Stafford Motorcycle swap meet. Bloody hell! I have never seen a show like it. Bikes I had only dreamt about. I didn't know they made so many Suzuki Waterbottles! Stockers and Dave ordered trick lightweight frames and suspensions for their race bikes. The frames are a work of art. And they thought they could keep it a secret! Dave gave us a tour of the local locks. His grandfather was a lock keeper and his father a bridge keeper, both professions of a bygone era.

My mate Steve Shaw took me down the Potash mine. What can I say!!A safety induction, PPE (boots and gators, overalls and underwear, gloves, helmet, glasses, ear plugs, head lamp and an emergency breathing kit). I forgot to ask him why I had to wear fluorescent underwear. All dressed up like a pox doctors clerk. Down 1.1kms in a lift and then into a Land Rover, we drove 8.5kms under the sea to a couple of the mining faces. Steve had to download data from gauges that are mounted in the tunnel roof to check for any movement. There are around 300 men working underground at any time and they have 90 vehicles to move around in. Talk about “big boys toys”. On the surface my other mate, Chris Scott took me on a tour of the gear that hauls all the product up to the surface. Astounding

My last evening in Whitby was a bit special. We went for dinner to Pete, Dot and Ashleigh Coney's house. Their house is Captain James Cooks old house. I've been to the Croney's home a few times now, and still find it almost surreal to be in Jimmy Cooks lounge room. Sitting down to a magnificent banquet there almost blew me away.

Well, it's almost over. Train to London, tube to Kat's penthouse. Good food, good wine and good company and after not enough sleep I was on a Gulf Air flight to Bangkok. A couple of days and I will be home. That is good.

Kim and I talked about what is the best part of a trip like this. We both agreed it is the people you meet. Many have asked me how much a trip like this costs. Over the next couple of weeks I will do a budget and post it on the Blog. You can't take it with you, remember, shrouds don't have pockets!

Fcuk, I wish I was still in the Gobi with Adam!!! At least I didn't break anything this time!

October 26, 2010.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stefan rettet den Kapitaen mit seinen Traktor

Russia III
Distance from Vladivostok: 14,691.5km
Russia Distance: 1,657.9km
Moving Average: 65kph
Moving Time: 23 hrs 30'
Max Speed: 131kph

Our first day back in Russia was crap. It was around 45 degrees and the roads were flat, straight and boring. The wind was hot and at least 30 knots. Most of the day we rode across seemingly endless flat plains. Fortunately we could buy cold water.

Late in the day the Traffic Police pulled us over. Wanted Adam's license and put him in the Police car. Eventually, Adam came over to get his rego papers and said the Cops would not give his passport back. A while later he came back and said they had caught us both speeding on radar, and we would have to pay $US100, cash. Each! Adam said the goon had a pile of $US and Rouble notes big enough to choke a camel. He still had Adam's license in his pocket. Fcuk that for a joke!! I stormed over and read him the riot act, told him the facts of life. Told him we wouldn't pay anything. Pointed out he didn't even have a radar. Told him he was corrupt and acting illegally and was a disgrace to his country and said I wanted to see his Captain. For good measure I said I would ring our Embassy. (I think we have one here) He asked me to “not speak loudly” and said he “just wanted to be friends”. Adam got his papers back and we left. In his panic the silly bastard nearly gave Adam his Police ID instead of Adam's license! Fcuk him. His side kick flashed around a Machine gun? This bloke and his mate are dead set pricks. These bastards are nothing but thieving criminals and fcuking bandits!. They should have known they couldn't stuff with a couple of Aussies! It is a pity, as every other Russian, including all the Police, have been absolutely lovely, fantastic and beautiful people. Fortunately, no Australian Police behave this way.

Next morning, as happens a lot over here, a Policeman waved his baton for me to stop. After a rush of blood to the brain I just waved back and kept going. In my one wreck of a KTM mirror I saw the Copper sprint to his car, and I new the shit was about to hit the fan. He had his little 1,250S, 4 speed Lada highway pursuit vehicle really flying. They had lights, sirens and the passenger was yelling into the loudest PA in the whole of Russia. I rode along at about 80kph, trying to pretend I wasn't even in Russia. Eventually, acting as surprised as I could, I pulled over. One bloke jumped out of his car and commenced to spit the dummy. The poor bastard had steam coming out of his ears! He freaked. His mate was in the drivers seat nursing their machine gun. Nothing I said could console him. He made me dig out all my documents, then all the bikes documents. He certainly was showing me who was the boss. He read all my details to someone on the phone, I don't think Russian drivers are in the habit of trying to do a runner. But, I think this bloke was a good honest Cop, just trying to do his job. Now I stop whenever they even look sideways at me.

We rode west, camped in a row of trees, between two of the biggest paddocks we have seen so far. Time to change our lube oils again, dropped the oil in the dirt, forgot the bloody wind was blowing over 30 knots and the stuff blew all over me. Fcuk me, can't take a trick. We were heading for Tuapse, a small shipping port and tourist joint on the Black Sea. As time went on the country got more interesting, lovely rolling hills and then a small mountain range. We had a fantastic days ride,tight corners,sweepers and even some gravel. The “”Rooney” and I loved it. Even Adam's shitty old V Strom excelled. The police pulled us over a couple of times, as is with most Russians, they were gentlemen.

The country had gotten more and more European the further we headed west. Tuapse. Fcuk me. What a joint. Definitely a European city. Whilst looking for a hotel I found the Seamans Club. My newest best friend, Marina,(a lovely 47 year old Hooker), sent me in the direction of a cheap, but good hotel. We booked in for 2 nights, ended up staying 3. The Seamans Club is run by the ITF, the umbrella Union for all Seafarers. Most large ports have one and they provide an excellent service. As a member of the AMOU, it was open door. Cheap WiFi, cheap beer and cheap women. We made friends with several of the local Hookers, although not on a professional basis. Lucy, Marina and Olga our favourites. For all these girls, their twenties is only a distant memory. The place is a bit weird, we went in to use the WiFi, the bar was not open yet, so one of the Hookers served us a beer, sold us a WiFi card and put it on our tab. All on trust. We came back later in the day and paid up. Only in Russia. As in most Russian cities, particularly holiday resorts, the women are spectacular.

Went for a beer in the evening with a couple of the local Bikers. As usual, bloody good people. A great open air bar near the harbour. Now, Thursday night at the Mona Vale Hotel is THE place to see good looking women. Second to none. The little open air bar in Tuapse came a very, very close second. And when those girls dance, they don't hold back! Next day we went to the beach.

The Black Sea coast is one of the prettiest areas of Russia. Apart from being 47degrees and the manic traffic, the ride from Taupse to the Ukrainian border was brilliant for our last days ride in Russia. I am really sad to be leaving Russia and my Russian friends.

We think registering is overrated, so didn't bother.

Distance from Vladivostok: 16,350.4km
Ukrainian Distance: 1,658.9km
Moving Average: 67.1kph
Moving Time: 24hrs 42'
Max speed: 123kph

We had heard and read a lot of bad things about the Police in the Ukraine, so planned the shortest possible route through the joint, which turned out to be a mistake. The Police were supposed to constantly harass drivers and riders, asking for bribes and handing out phoney fines. Even Lonely Planet bagged the country. What bullshit. Every person we met was fantastic. The Police were fantastic. Adam was pulled up once, but then he had done 2 “U” turns over double lines, in front of the Copper! Was he booked! No. Did the bloke ask for a bribe! No. He gave Adam a serve, checked his papers and sent him on his way. Every Ukrainian we met was great.

Adam has a theory that the girls look so good in these countries as there is a complete absence of fast food. No Maccas, KFC or Hungary Jacks. Almost no processed foods at all. Definitely something we can learn from.

We put in three big days. The bloody temperature was over 40 degrees every day. The drivers are lunies. They think it is their god given right to overtake when and where they want. We would cruise at around 100kph and a car would overtake us, squeezing between us and the Armco railing at about 130kph. Bloody terrifying!! We would be hurtling along the highway, only to come up behind a farmer in a horse drawn cart with a massive load of hay, going flat out at about 5kph. Jesus! The speed difference between us and the trucks was crazy. The roads were not so bad, and the scenery nice, although definitely unspectacular. We had a couple of mediocre camp sites and swam in a big grubby river. Saw a few big Jap bikes and plenty of Urals and HHH 2 strokes. It rained for the last couple of hours, the roads were slippery and my front tire didn't have much meat left.

Poland and Slovakia.
Distance from Vladivostok: 17,065.9kms
Poland & Slovakian Distance: 715km
Moving Average: 54.4km
Max speed: 133kph
Moving Average: 13hrs 07'

The border crossing into Poland was our quickest yet, 1hr 15'! The line of cars was about 200 long, we managed to jump most and blasted into Poland. Fcuk me!! We could not believe what we had ridden in to. Talk about the first world. The roads are great. They have signs and you will not die if you ride off onto the shoulder. The houses are neat and painted. The gardens maintained. The Ukrainians wonder why they cannot join the European Union. Just tell them to take a day trip to Poland and they will see why. We rode down a few gravel tracks and they seemed manicured. A shame to spin it up on them.

This was Europe. Poland is a complete, but pleasant surprise. Nothing like we expected. We ended up in Przeworsk, rented a cabin, ate in their fantastic restaurant and drank some magnificent Polish beer.

By now my rear Mitas E07 had 16,500kms on it, although still with plenty of meat. My front Continental TKC80 has been incredible! I cannot believe it. I had hoped it would give me 10,000kms. It has been fantastic to ride on and to get 16,500kms was stunning. Adam's Mitas E09 rear gave him 12,000kms and his front E09 8,000kms. Amazing as well. We tracked down the local Mitas importer, Handoplex, fronted up to their warehouse. Two of their guys, Pawel and Olgierd, who both spoke excellent English, went out of their way to help us. I bought a pair of Mitas E08's for $A109.00 How good is that. And a bloody good tire to ride on. The boys arranged for a local tire service to fit them, bloody good people as well. Almost right away we hit some mountain roads, the bike felt like a sports bike to ride. I think the E08's will be good.

Pawel and Olgierd mapped a scenic route across Poland via Zakopane, Bootlace had also told us to visit this area. We stopped on the side of a road to take a photo. There were a lot of signs. Being a bit thick, it took us a while to understand we were on the Polish/Slovakian border. Slovakia hadn't been on our itinerary. Who cares, lets go and see the joint. Slovakia looks like it is emerging from the forced Soviet era slumber, another 5 years or so and it will be up there with Poland. The day turned out to be our best asphalt riding day of the trip. Mountain passes, deep valleys beside rivers, good surfaces and plenty of corners. With new tires it was a pleasure. Later in the day we crossed into Austria and found a camp site down a little farm lane. Had a feed and climbed into the tent. It pissed down pick handles all night. In the morning we packed the tents in the rain and hit the highway.

No bloody fun at all. Heavy rain and strong gusts of wind. Almost no visibility. A real bastard to ride in. We rode at about 110kph and did about 600kms in the rain. Germany, and it still rained. Later in the day it stopped raining and the sun came out. What a difference. Beautiful scenery and great Autobahns. To good to last! The “Rooney's” gearbox decided to make an arse of itself. Checked into a Hotel at Hoechstadt, had a hot shower and a couple of magnificent local beers. I Skyped all my German mates, as well as Stockers, got them onto the case. Should I take the bike to the UK? To expensive. Get it fixed here? Don't speak the language, don't have any contacts.
Stockers and my Kraute mates were all working to find a solution. I e-mailed the local Horizons community. Stefan, one of the Intrepids, drove 450kms to pick up the bike and I. How good is that!!

We walked around the town. Bloody lovely. Met a bloke on a BMW R80, Martin, a top guy. His girl, Shanti came and we visited the local museum,and had a couple of beers at an incredible old bar. Martin is the local Carp expert. A scientist who is the worlds leading expert on Carp. This area is the Carp breeding Capital of the world. In Bavaria there are 6,000 farms covering 20,000 hectares. The average age of a Carp pond is 600 years. Martins family have farmed the one set of Carp ponds since 8th December 1650. The season lasts 8 months and in this area they harvest 750 tonnes per year. It all keeps 1,200 people employed. Our little hotel cooked and sold 5 tonnes in their restaurant. They have a competition to see who eats the most Carp meals in the season. The winner this year ate 210 Carp meals in the 240 day season. What a man! Martin and Shanti have a magnificent house on the edge of a 600 year old Carp pond. We had a grouse night with them and their kids and drank many beautiful local white beers. Their kids even cooked us a splendid meal!

Stefan turned up in his BMW, with trailer. In a few hours we were in Lohrne. What a great place. We went to the local BMW Air head expert, Rudolf Kallenbach, a bloody good bloke. His knowledge and love of Airheads is up there with Paul Rooney. It would be interesting to be there if they met. Rudy dropped everything and ripped my gearbox out. The problem was only a spring attached to the gear change lever. The fcuker had broken. While Rudy gave the “Rooney” a bit of TLC I ran around in Stefan's BMW and his best mate Olaf played tour guide. Stefan took me of a tour of the local area, including the canals on the river. From his area the canals lead to Amsterdam, Poland via Berlin, or the North Sea. Bloody amazing, as the boats are up to 85 metres long and can have a beam of up to 10 metres. They can carry up to 1,500 tonnes.

Olaf came around and we had a little “alcoholic party”. Fcuk me!! Stefan cooked Bratwurst and made many, many Caipirinha, a Brazilian drink of doubtful heritage, (if you don't know what this is, come visit me next summer), force fed us a few magnificent local beers and unfortunately topped it all off with a few shots of Jagermeister. I think, perhaps, the Jagermeister was a little off, as we all felt like shit in the morning. Olaf rode his pushie home, poor bastard had to work the next day.

So, I picked up the “Rooney” and powered towards Rotterdam to catch the ferry to Hull. Sat on 120 all the way, and she loved it. As I should of expected, Stockers has a mate, Craig, who got me a gigantic discount on the ticket, so after a beer or two, I slipped into my bed and updated this bloody blog as I drank a bottle of good old Aussie Rosemount Shiraz. Tomorrow, Donington to meet up with Stockers and Adam, and watch Dave race. Hopefully two of my favourite girls, Jacquie and Silvia will be there as well. I don't know if it gets any better than this!

Austria, Germany & Holland.
Distance from Vladivostok: 18,148.3km
Austria, Germany & Holland distance: 1082.1km
Moving average: 64.6kph
Max speed: 148kph
Moving time: 15hrs 02'

Welcome to the U.K. I disembarked at Hull in the brilliant sunshine. It lasted for about 10 minutes, then pissed down! I don't know why I love this place so much. A fantastic ride in the rain to Stockers and Jacquie's new place. Fcuk me! Talk about something out of Heartbeat. Amazing! As always happens when I turn up here, Jacquie does her best to kill me with kindness. I took the chicken shit way out and drove down to Donington in Stockers van with him and Jacquie. Dave and Sylvia were there, Adam turned up and Bootlace arrived on Saturday morning, about 3 hours after landing in the country for the first time. Magnificent racing, magnificent bikes, including a Honda CR250/6. Met Charlie's mates Glynn and Jo and caught up with heaps of people, including Roger Bennett. Roger told me the simple fix for my gearbox would have been to find a really steep bank, park the bike front facing down the hill, and turn it upside down. Then select 3rd gear and I could have ridden as far as I needed. Simple.

We spent a few days touring the Yorkshire area. It has to be the prettiest part of the UK. Took Adam to Captains Cooks house, had a magnificent steak and told a lot of lies. Adam prepared his bike for shipping back home. Jacquie, Sue and I dropped him at the railway station. I was sorry to see Adam go, he has been absolutely fantastic to travel with and an incredible navigator. Probably the best navigator I have ever ridden with. We rode at about the same pace, always a bonus. Adam has lost 14 kilos on this trip and I have lost 5. Lets see how long we can keep it off.Stockers and I rode to “The Flag”, a cafe in the middle of nowhere, (near Seamer, Stokesley) The Teesside Bikers somehow find their way down a few kilometres of tiny unmarked concrete roads to talk bikes and tell lies several times a week. Very different, bloody great. Whitby on a Thursday evening, many bikes, fish and chips and a lot of bullshitting.

Today more rain. I rode to Liverpool to catch the Isle of Man ferry. First, heavy fog, then heavy rain, then heavy rain and wind together. A couple of ciders on the ferry with Stockers made me forget all about it. I checked into a lovely “Home Stay” at Onchan and went for a beer with Stockers, Jacquie and their family. Mike and Val at the Home Stay treated me like I was a king. Fantastic. A warm evening, dry roads and little traffic. Just had to do a lap of the TT Course before I updated this thing. All 73kms of it. Am I feeling good? Bloody oath!!!

Ashley and Simon's wedding, sensational! Ashley looked stunning, Simon looked like he was “The Man”and Jake was “as flash as a rat with a gold tooth”, Jacquie, just beautiful and Stockers was the proudest guy on earth. He had a grin from ear to ear, I thought his face might split in two! He scrubbed up all right. What about Jasmin, bloody lovely. After spending time with Stocker's Mum and Sister, I can understand where he gets it all from. A few more laps of the TT course, a trip on the train and many kilometres of walking. All in the brilliant sun. Even visited the Manx Museum. Watched practice for the Manx GP at Signpost. Something very weird about sitting on a chair on the edge of a public road/race track, watching race bikes fly past only a few feet away, all while it is so dark the street lights have come on. Only at the IOM!! Had a few St Helliers Ciders with Graham and Andy at Queens and headed back to Stockers farm, or “East Barnby Backpackers” as I have christened it. Once again The Isle of Man has been great.

What's next. An overnight ferry to Holland, ride to Stefans and on to Berlin to catch Matty. Ride with the boys for a week or so, catch up with the Intrepids, a bike rally and back to the UK for some motorcycle racing with Stockers and his mates. Yes, all good fun but the really exciting part of my trip is long over. I would love to be back in the Gobi with Adam. Wish we could have done the fcuking “Stans”