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Saturday, 25 October 2008

GBC goes to London; by train. Yawn.

Phew. No sooner have my feet touched Scottish soil then I'm back on the move again. Had to nip down to London for a few days for a briefing. Went on the train. Oh me. 8hrs on the way down, 2 days of sitting in a meeting force feeding my brain with new and important information, and sightseeing trips after the meeting taking in Oxford Street (one of the main shopping drags, apparently), Marble Arch, Hyde Park, St Pancras station (a most magnificent and beautiful old building), and Baker Street, home to one Sherlock Holmes, back in the day. I saw the Griffins that guard the centre of the city, apparently the Queen must ask permission from the Mayor before she can pass the Griffin, and if he allows her to visit, he will gift her a pearl encrusted sword to carry with her. I'm not sure I like the idea of Boris being in charge of swords. Walked through an area I later saw on the news, known as the Square Mile, summat to do with these stock broker guys I think, but the most impressive sight there was St Paul's Cathedral. Much as I don't want you to navigate away from here, go check out the virtual tour - - its wicked man. Anyway, tain journey took 10hrs on the way back cos its all up hill y'see. Only kidding, engineering work on a Saturday led to a diversion via Carlisle. Met 3 very interesting people on the train though, Marion, an art teacher who insists that everyone, even I, can draw. Claire, a trainee GP who seems to have travelled the entire Scottish coast in her quest to surf, and Christie, a farm owner from Nigeria. Certainly helped pass a good few hours chatting to them. Then changing at Edinburgh saw a 45 min wait cos the brakes kept coming on when the driver tried to pull away. Changed to another service heading north which was packed to the gunnels. Ended up sitting on the floor scoffing my Burger King meal. Sat in First Class for a while, but only cos once I was in there the automatic door wouldn't open and I was trapped. Then Mrs BC met me at the station at half 8pm and we got half way home before the fan belt on the van started to shred itself. Remind me to fly next time.

So back to Cubbie. My chum Victor has very kindly let me 'borrow' the stator from his C15 until I can a) find a suitable one to purchase and b) afford to purchase one. Odd thing is the rotor and stator look to be the same size as the Cubbie stuff, but the hole in the rotor is larger. No problemo for a genius like me though, I'll simply use the original rotor and his stator. But of course the bullet connectors on Vic's are smaller than the corresponding ones on the Cub, so it was out with the knife and time to butcher. Er, after checking with the owner first. Only had to change one and managed to cobble the other two, but then what to do with the 4th wire that comes from the bike? On the old stator, the 3 wires plug into their connectors and the 4th one is in a kind of a double connector so don't need to worry about it dangling or touching anywhere. So I've left it in the plastic bit and wrapped it up in insulating tape, will that do? Who knows. I guess you know, but I don't. And I won't, until the battery is fully charged and I can fire it up. Hope to do that first thing tomorrow morning, maybe after I phone the garage to see about taking the van in for a new fan belt. Would prefer to save money and do it myself but without a decent jack or a pit to put it over, its kinda very awkward to get at it. Will probably give them a nudge about my car too, thats only been in there 2 weeks, or is it 3. Could do with that back as the van requires a little work on the brakes too. Oh me, looks like a vehicle crisis in GBC land!

Friday, 17 October 2008

GBC goes to Spain; by any means. (Sorry Charlie B if I've nicked your title).

Tuesday 7th Oct 2008.

The journey begins. I was due to catch a train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh at around 12pm. A chance encounter with the evening news on Monday revealed that there was a strike on the menu for the train companies, starting at, yes, you've guessed it, 12pm on Tuesday. Could have chanced it, but decided to look at the other options instead. The bus seemed like a plan. And cheaper too. £10 Vs £30. So Mrs BC bundled me and all my worldly goods in the van and dropped me off in Oldmeldrum, where I had to catch the Bluebird to Aberdeen, must have been about 10.30am. Quite excited now. The adventure had started, good and proper. It was raining. I was wearing full biking gear and lugging my lid in a rucksack - tis the only way to keep all the heavy jacket / leathers / boots within the strict airline baggage weight limits. Guaranteed a seat to myself on the bus. Bleedin' uncomfortable though. Changed buses in Abdn, had ages to wait, absolutely chucking it down now, caught the Megabus to Dundee, changed there too after another long wait - broken down bus I think - snotty grumpy driver took my ticket that I needed to continue my journey! Said I wouldn't need it. Everyone else had kept hold of theirs. This was on the local service bus to the Ferry Toll just this side of the Forth Bridge, where the nice man issued me with another ticket, this time for the shuttle bus to the airport.

Gawd knows what time I arrived there, but had enough time for a pasty, which was too hot to eat, let it cool down, then of course it was cold and soggy. Mighty peckish by now. Flight boarded half an hour late, ended up landing at Cardiff just before 8pm. Ah, good old Robbo! He was there with his band of kidlets, got back to their place where his wife, Carolyn had cooked a huge (and most welcome) meal. ('Scuse me, phones ringing....brb.....ah...t'was me supervisor...on a Saturday too!!!) Right back to the tale. Transferred all my clothes to the panniers on the cute little MZ TS150 that would be my steed for the next few days. Then Robbo hit me with the news that we'd have to be up by 4am and leaving at 5 the next day....nighty night then...

Wednesday 8th.

Jeepers. 4am. What’s that noise? Oh, tis the alarm. Dark and cold looking outside. Weird how you can be tired but not feel it, with the prospect of setting off on an adventure, it didn't matter that it was so early. Back into the biking gear, breakfast, fire up the bikes and we're away by 5 on the dot. Pitch dark. Never ridden this bike before. Head down to the 24hr garage to fill up, exciting excitingexcitingexciting weeeeeeeee!!!! Soon we're on the M4, all the way to, and over the River Severn. First ciggie break of the day for Robbo and time for me to experiment with plugging my camera battery charger into the ciggie lighter on my bike. Then it’s the M5 all the way south to Plymouth. Hugging the left hand lane, the wee 150 toddles along happily at about 50/55mph. Lorries bear down on us though, evil eyes approaching in the mirrors. About 6.30am, just as the sun peeks up, it suddenly gets really cold. I mean freezing. I'm kitted out in a tee shirt, thermal top, woolly jumper, thick winter jacket with liner and winter gloves and it feels like I'm sitting there in shorts and tee shirt. I suppose the draught whizzing in between the visor and the helmet didn't help. But soon Robbo pulls off into a service station - if he's cold, then its official. IT IS COLD. Dawn is a brilliant time to travel, even if it is on the motorway. Edged with fields of cattle and sheep, mist lingering in the hollows and birds waking up and flapping lazily across the pinky golden sky. Helps to pass the time. I see signs for Cheddar Gorge, Taunton, Tiverton and I vaguely know where I am. It's a long time since I was in this area. I believe one of my shoes is still in Cheddar Gorge. We're doing well for time, so a leisurely stop in Teignbridge for brekky / lunch is welcome. Time to thaw out. Arriving at the ferry at 10.30 we're not the first. We join the queue and wait to board.

We pick a spot on board with a comfy looking sofa. Find out later on, this is next to the cabaret area. Jolly good. Manage to put off eating until mid afternoon. Then hunger wins again and I have to have fish and chips in the evening. The food is tasty and quite cheap, surprisingly. I'm bored. Robbo's bored too but he smokes so can keep nipping outside to break the boredom. I beat him thoroughly at Gin Rummy. The annoying Elvis impersonator is still droning on. Then the magic act starts up. More like a disco though with hideously loud backing 'music'. We've booked reclining seats but I for one, don't fancy being subjected to a load of smelly snoring old blokes (and wimmin) I've never met so its time to settle down on the sofa. Then the cleaners come in. Back to sleep. Then 4am, what’s that noise? Oh flipping 'eck, its my alarm again! Back to sleep. Then some eejit starts pressure washing the windows. Boy, am I gonna be crabbit.

Thursday 9th.

The little old boaty pulls up in Santander sometime around 10am - ah, UK or local time? Can't remember, too tired to think. Exiting the boat doesn't take too long due to the efficient officials (wait til you hear the saga from the homeward journey). We're off. Riding on the wrong (right) side of the road, following the guy in front, who, luckily, is Robbo and he knows where he's going. Time to fuel up again. My first experience of paying with Euros and speaking Spenglish. Honestly have no idea of how we got to Colombres to sign on for the Moto Piston rally. I do recall travelling on a very well surfaced motorway for a while, before heading off onto a smaller road along the coast. Met some other Brit bikers at the inscription point, the small tourist office. Angelines and Anne were most helpful in sorting out our entry packs and pointing us in the direction of the local campsite - yeah, people thought we were crazy wanting to camp in October, but hey, its fun! Found it eventually and had the tents set up by 3pm, local time.

It was then that things went slightly squiffy. Himself suggested nipping to one of the local towns, Panes, primarily to buy a small stove cos someone forgot to bring all the necessary bits for his one....hehe....found a cracking road right through the mountains. Huge sheer rock faces towering up above us, very narrow twisty road, winding alongside a river. For a goodly number of miles its just so huge I keep looking. Up and up and up. They're different to our mountains; they have trees and greenery growing all over. Caves too, even ones with their own picket fencing out the front. Through the pass the sun rarely hits us at this time of day. I'm wearing only thin summer gear now, assuming that we won't be out for long.... After Panes, we head further south towards Fuente De, probably only about 30miles from Panes but the sun has gone for good now and I'm starving. Might have been slightly crabbit too. Doubt it though. Stopping in a sort of a 'basin', in the heart of the Picos mountains at the foot of yet another big chunk of rock, looking up the thin wires of a cable car are just visible, as is the platform way up high. Robbo's been there before. No wonder he knew the way. Arrived back at camp some 5 hours later, a little bit chilly and more than ready for my Noodles Extraordinaire.

Friday 10th.

The day of the 5000 curves. Hmmm, heard a lot about this part of the rally. Wild stories of people setting out at 8am and not returning until 9pm. Can't say too much about it in detail, as it will be in my report for OLD BIKE MART, other than what an amazing route! The weather was simply glorious. I was all togged up for being cold again but by the lunch stop everyone was seeking out what little shade was available. Saw a Brough out there doing the bends, heaps of Bultacos (unsurprisingly, as the rally was celebrating the marque), the usual collection of Trumpys 'n' Beezas and so on.

Long day out, but good fun, and able to stop when we wanted and veer off from the route as we pleased. Can't recall what time we got 'home' but it was in plenty of time to head out to the evening meal at a local hotel. Within walking distance, according to someone. Tried the two nearest hotels and it wasn't there, so got a taxi to a place down by the beach, La Franca. Had some traditional Spanish fayre, caught up with a few familiar faces from the UK, listened to the Flamenco guitar before finally persuading the same taxi driver who had dropped us off, to take us back. Thing is, due to our Spenglish, we ended up being dumped at the other hotel up the road where he had hailed him originally. I'm sure the guests thought we were nutty when we started walking off into the gloom..... Thanks, by the way, to the guy who lent me his blanket. And no, it’s not what you're thinking. I was cold, ok? I'm allowed to be cold and borrow a blanket if I like.

Saturday 11th.

The 'main' day. Autojumble in Colombres town centre, a hill climb, a giant paella. General chit chat and meeting and greeting. Lots of hard work for me. No rest for the wicked GBC. This was my main chance to get everyone in one place, to interview owners, take photos and gather info for my report for OLD BIKE MART. Must have been there from 10am to 7pm. Had an ice cream but missed out on the famous paella - you should have seen the queue! It's amazing just how much info can be gleaned using hand signals and gestures, writing things down in English very often helped the Spanish guys grasp what I was trying to ask them, and if that still didn't help, they would grab a passer by until they found someone to translate. But that’s the world of old bikes for you, a common passion and a will to swap to tales, by any means. Great to see kids out there mingling around the classics too, not to mention the odd family pooch. Back to the tent for, er, noodles. I do believe I might have had some sweet corn with them tonight, or perhaps it was tomorrow. I must apologise for missing the meal in the evening, a few things added up to not being able to make it, and thanks to Harry for ordering me what he ordered me. He knows what I mean.

Sunday 12th.

Gawd, Sunday, what happened then? Oh yeah, thats right. Started off with good intentions of following the route but took a wrong turn and ended up higher and higher in the hills. Road got narrower and narrower, steadily climbing and gradually going from tarmac to concrete to, er, mud and grass and stuff. Never let it be said MZers shirk a challenge, we carried on and on, going back was futile as we would never find the route we should have been on, once you start taking wrong turns it sort of goes downhill, only we were still going up. Ended up in what looked like someone’s front yard, before the road widened out and took us spiralling down into the valley.

Soon after we were back on a 'main' road and heading up into the clouds again, just following our noses really. Around the bend was a rockslide on the road, cattle sunbathing around the next corner, goats wandering to and from their accommodation after the next bend.

Birds of prey floating overhead, cloudless blue sky, wizened old farmers plodding along the road with a rake or scythe cast over their shoulder. The sights, smells and sounds are hard to list without making it sound like poetry. Nearing the end of the day, and my energy gap, we stopped off at a beautiful little beach in Llanes where I thought I was going to lose Robbo to the Atlantic. Off with his boots and socks. Trousers zipped in half (er, the equivalent of rolling them up) and off he went. Brrrrrrr!!!! Think it were a bit nippy out there, he didn't stop long!

Stopped for a little shopping on the way back to camp, left the bikes on a yellow line, got a shock when a plod car cruised by rather slowly, then signalled to turn off opposite them. Must have been our lucky day, he disappeared and by the time we got back with what should have been savoury bread but turned out to be something of a sweet nature, he'd gone, and no tickets or clamps! More noodles for supper, accompanied by some not very nice sausages. Good job I had some ketchup with me. Due to our misadventure, we got back too late to go to the prize giving, so spent the last hour or two of the day in the campsite pub, chatting to a lovely Irish couple. I only found out on Monday morning that I'd won a prize. I mean, I ain't no pot hunter...(oh well, ok, I am really)...but winning an award for 'Lady Rider' out in Espania is slightly different to the usual concors things we have over here. I was fair chuffed. They must have heard about my 'green laning' skills hehehehe. Got back to my tent to find a cute little froggy climbing up the tent. Poor chap, or chapess.

Monday 13th.

No rush to get to the ferry. Didn't have to board until 2pm local time. Leisurely brekky (no, not noodles) and pack up. Bikes were loaded, farewells to our fellow campers. That’s why I like camping, you meet some really decent and interesting people. Mick and Chrissie were pitched just opposite us, with their Moto Guzzi California. Nothing unusual in that you might say. Except the luggage piled on the back. Two suitcases, huge tent, cooking gear, sleeping bags and so on and enough clothes for a ten week tour of France, Spain and Portugal. I think Mick said he estimates a total of 35/40kg of luggage. They set off from their home in Isleworth (wherever that is!) at the end of July and have clocked up over 4,500 miles, just cruising and exploring. I take my lid off to them, that’s an amazing feat and considering neither of them had done very, much, if any, long distance touring, they're doing swell. An interest in classic bikes had led to them popping in to the Moto Piston rally. Time to bid them adios, and we were off to Santander. Bombing along the motorway my baby blue MZ just suddenly cut out and cruised to a stop. A few seconds later, some guys in a pick up truck and trailer pulled in to see if they could help followed shortly by my hero, Robbo, who brought with him another knight in armour who had pulled off the m'way behind him, and again when he'd turned round to find me. Luckily, t'was only a new plug that was needed. Arrived in plenty of time, interviewed a load more people, queued up a while, had to have a bump start (the bike, not me) got on board, bike strapped down, grabbed my fleecy sleeping bag and pillow and set off to spend another 18 hours on a boat. The evening crossing is slightly more bearable, once on board, grab some food and kick back with a good book for a few hours. Or chat to all my new found friends. At least this time we avoided the cabaret area. Note to self: never sleep, or try to sleep, near to a drinks machine.

Tuesday 14th.

Woke up to find I had been sharing my accommodation with none other than Jack Galloway. And if you don't know who he is, you should be ashamed. Pulled up in Plymouth 10am UK time. Had to wait one and a half hours, yep, you read that right, 90 minutes, to get through passport control. How dumb is that. All the cars through and then oh, heck, look at that, we've got 200 bikes here to process as well. Glad it wasn't raining.

By contrast, when we arrived in Santander, they had officials going up and down the queue checking details and speeding it all up. Out of town we filled up with surprisingly cheap petrol, good to see the price had continued to fall while we were away and set off north. Stopped in a quaint country pub for lunch, The Welcome Stranger. Back up the motorway for a short stint before heading off to the smaller roads once again. Through Bridgwater and then onto the A38 (??) to Bristol. Oh me oh my, Bristol was fun. Rush hour and time to filter. Just follow Robbo and go. No way I was getting left behind. Stopped for a pic of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

It took 80 years to go from dream to the first foundation stone being laid in 1831, and a further 30 years to complete it. The bridge now carries 12,000 motor vehicles every year, compared to a few horse drawn carriages in the olden days. Bursting out of Bristol and back across the Severn saw us so close to the end of our adventure. Bar a bit more green laning, er, sorry, took a wrong turn and went through a bit of mud and some leaves on the road. A final injection of adrenaline. Back to Robbo's, greeted by Carolyn and the kids, and a huge plate of adventurers food. No time for relaxing though, got cleaned up, re-packed my bags, off to bed and up again at 5am Wednesday for my flight home.

Finally got home just after 4pm.

A most enjoyable week. 9 modes of transport to get to Spain, and 9 again on the way home. That'll give Boreman a run for his money.

OFFICIAL THANKS must go to ..... Robbo for the use of his MZ TS150 and full camping gear, his family for allowing me to stay a couple of nights en route, Guillermo and his band of helpers for organising such a great event, and the guys and girls who all took the time to talk to me and allow me to take their piccies.

<<<< Cubbies Counties update....nothing much to update you on really, still searching for a 6v 3 wire stator, might have to stick the old one back on and make do for a while longer. Just awa' to tot up the promised about a month ago!!! >>>>

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Did yar miss me?

The GBC is back! Will be compiling a full Spanish report just as soon as I a few hundred piccies to look at and sheep to catch and and and all the usual boring stuff to do....

Saturday, 4 October 2008

The Very First Ever (and hopefully not the last) Haggis Run

Well this is it...In just under 12 hours the riders will start to sign in for the first ever Haggis Run, hosted by the North East Scottish section of the VMCC. I've got everything sitting here ready to go....wish us luck with the weather, its a bitty chilly out there but forecast to be sunny....

Make sure you log back on tomorrow evening to see how it went!


Its now tomorrow absolutely so won't be updating this now but you can see how it went from some of the comments. Glad you all seemed to enjoy it - I'll try to pop the full goss on here tomorrow before I head off to bed is a calling. Thank you and goooooood night.


And now its tomorrow 'tomorrow' and I haven't even packed yet. The trains are on strike so how do I get to Edinburgh for my flight? Blimmin' bus I spose. Anyway. Up at 6am on Sunday, pitch dark, can't see to check sheep. Very cold. 7am, started to rain as we set off for Alford. Looked pretty miserable all the way out to the west but we just crossed our fingers and carried on. Malcolm at the museum was there at 8am to open up early for us, we set up, the marshals started to arrive, then cor blimey wotsit, Haggis people started to arrive too! Quite exciting really, nerve wracking too, specially when Shortie and other notable people from the other VMCC sections came to sign on. That all went smoothly, had a few "mispers" but hey, you always get some of them at these events.

By the time they had all arrived the sun was very firmly set in the sky.

Sent them off, that all went to pot really, need to sort out the start next year. Trouble is, they didn't listen to me they just went vrooooming off!! Can't say what happened after that, well, not on the run. Mrs BC, Briano, Ian2 and I stayed behind to set up the special test hahaha, no one knew about that, should have seen their faces when they all got back and were told to go and weave through the cones, do a U turn and balance their balls on cones hehehehe. Got some good video footage of that. Disclaimer - they weren't actually balancing their own balls, we supplied tennis balls for the occasion. Some little oiks nicked 2 of the balls too. Cute.

Totted up the results after Captain Bill arrived with the score cards from checkpoint 2 (thanks to Ian2 for collecting the CP 1 ones) and while the riders were all scoffing cakes and tea, did the awards ceremony.

Overall Winner - Stephen Campbell on his Haggis HRD.
Best Lady Rider - Mary Whyte on a Cub!
Youngest Rider - Alistair Mackie on a Triumph T90
Furthest Travelled by bike to the event - Peter Oram on a Velo Viper
Oldest Bike to complete course - Sid Leitch on his home made AJS thingy.

Right, I'd better go and pack. Wonder if there will be an internet cafe at the campsite in Spain....


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