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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.