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Saturday, 30 May 2009

Happy Shed Day to Me


Well Saturday was a most exciting day. Slick was here first, bright and early, arriving as we were dealing with Flying Fred, who had escaped from the steading the previous afternoon. Before we had finished securing Freddie, Slick was huffing and puffing and shifting bits of shed around. Iain and his good lady, Mary turned up next, and while the boys lifted the first two panels to the site, Mary and I held them in place until they could be secured. The wind was quite strong so it was no easy task. The last time I was involved in doing something similar, the panel fell on me and broke my pelvis. Hence, when the back panel started to shift in the breeze, I was out of there! Captain Bill was soon on the scene, and bless him, he came bearing a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the culmination of Cubbie's Counties. Mrs BC had things to do, plants and seeds to tend to and cups of tea and coffee to make, and as I wasn't allowed anywhere near proceedings, I decided to get on with some strimming. Then Kawa arrived, although he was mainly here to help with the shed, the three guys had it all under control, so he set about fixing the van for us, and then the car. And then he moved on to inspecting Cubbie's valves and did all that teeth sucking thing, doubly so when he discovered the valve guides were, how shall I say, a tad slack. Um, oops. Funny, cos there hadn't been any rattling or other such nasty noises. At around 5pm, the guys asked where the roofing felt was. Well, I hadn't even imagined in my wildest dreams that A) they would get as far as requiring that, and B) they probably wouldn't want to do the roof even if they did get that far. So Iain sent me rushing off to B&Q to purchase 90metres of the stuff, good job Kawa went with me as we worked out between us that
we could cover the entire B&Q building with 90metres. Still ended up with 3 spare rolls (of felt, before you say anything), but there are always chicken houses and sheep sheds to patch up so it won't go to waste. So between them, they put the whole shed up and got it water tight, bar the door, which I'll have to make, and I got the van's alternator belt replaced and the boot lock on the car fixed, and Cubbie's head dismantled and diagnosed, so now all I've got to do is kit the shed out and move all my junk, er, bike bits and wood working equipment into it. Thanks Slick, Iain, Mary (she makes a good supervisor), Bill and Kawa. And over in New Zealand, good ol' Diggy was right all along, Cubbie does need a valve job. How he knew that from all those miles away I'll never know.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Counties 31, 32 & 33. And maybe 34. MORE TEXT ADDED

My pre-long trip maintenance procedure -

Time has flown since last May. Since then I've ridden around a whole lot of Scotland, been to some of the far flung islands, met some weird and wonderful people and have been humbled by the support and help from friends I didn't even know I had. I would have thought I might have learnt how to adjust a motorcycle chain too, but I still can't master it. Which was proved when I rolled Cubbie out from the steading (where Old Blind Golly Sheep lives) into the Fresh Air Shed at 9am on Thursday, when the weather was glorious, and I was still out there tweaking and fiddling in the torrential rain, hail stones and thunder storm at 2.30pm. What's so hard about it? Well I put it down to the adjuster on the right hand side not working very well, and my lack of confidence, and probably a manky, stretched and abused chain. Might treat Cubbie to a new chain one day. And new adjusters.

I had Cubbie's last ever (maybe) County journey planned in my mind; ride up north on Friday stopping off in Nairnshire, and then taking in the county of Ross on the way. Camp at Dornoch in Sutherland, and ride all the way to the land of Caithness on Saturday. Then I sort of forgot about the homeward leg. I invited Grampian Classic club members and friends to make it a more jolly event, and in total we had 5 GCMCCers plus me, one from the Highland classic club and one from the, er, well I was going to say Stirling Castle section of the VMCC but he hasn't joined yet, have you Kawa? Hehe. With my tent and associated items, *NEW* sleeping bag, clothes and tools all packed and loaded (yes, life would be easier if I had that luggage rack fitted) and I was preparing to leave, bang on time, ahem, on a very sunny Friday morning. It was so sunny and warm that I had to find room to strap my waterproofs and thermals on the bike, rather than wearing them. Just as I was leaving, the phone rang, and I expected a bit of abuse from Slick - he had it in his head I would be late! I had to publish this here for the world to see, his BMW wouldn't start. He sounded rather sheepish. So I set off at a leisurely pace to meet Kawa in Cuminestown, he had ridden up from somewhere near Stirling that morning and was enjoying chatting to a local until I rescued him. We stopped at the garage in Turriff for fuel and waited for Slick, who arrived some 45mins behind schedule. Notice I didn't use the I word. The sun stayed with us all the way to Keith, where we met Alan on his (not quite classic) Triumph Bonnie, and we also met the rain there too. Waterproofs on, we set out on the back roads to Rothes, before using some even smaller lanes and tracks to circumnavigate the busy town of Elgin. The guys on big bikes were getting a little bit bothered by the mud and gravel and dead ends, but Cubbie was lovin' it. We had to do a stint on the A96 to get to Nairn for fuel, food and a County Photo Shoot. Went down to the harbour to see the boats and the statue of a rather large lass with her creel slung across her back. Nairn seems to be famous for something called a 'Spelding', presumably something akin to an Arbroath Smokie - you can correct me if I'm wrong. All the bikes were still running splendidly, so we pop-pop-popped our way through Nairn and had a most dreary trudge along the A96, whereupon I spotted the sign for Culloden Battlefields. Never been there before and it's not in Nairnshire but who cares. Not much to see, just a field with various coloured flags, ripped and torn, fluttering dejectedly. Found a house for Shorty, see pic. The agreed plan of stopping at Tesco just on the outskirts of Inverness for lunch and petrol didn't go as smoothly as I'd hoped, what with me seeing a gap in the traffic at the busy roundabout and 'going for it', and the others being unable to follow me. So they ended up going over the Moray Firth while I waited in the car park. Eventually Kawa came back and we had lunch while Alan and Slick waited in a service station just a few miles away. Need to cut the next bit short as somehow we lost 2 hours eating, fuelling up and trying to find each other. Sun was shining though so once we were reunited we set off over a big hill called the Struie, as suggested by Sid from Nairn. Nice bit of single track road and some good sweeping corners. Some of which were a little gravel smattered but overall rather good fun, and again, those big bikes were sitting a little bit further back. Down into Edderton round the roundabout and over the Dornoch Firth. A group of bikers were parked up on the bridge (in the lay by, obviously) and seemed to be posing for photos with a guy dressed in period Highlander gear. Turns out he was walking the length of the entire country raising money for injured members of the armed forces from recent conflicts, so I gave him my spare change and got a piccy of him with Cubbie. I know I'm the one raising cash for charity, but what can you do? Finally made it to the campsite at Dornoch around about 6pm - right on time. Have to give Billy, the campsite manager a BIG THANK YOU for supporting Cubbie's Counties and your website will be added to my list of corporate sponsors just as soon as I've done this write up. Captain Bill arrived in his little Ka just after we got there, unfortunately his Armstrong is off the road with a lack of compression, and Geoff & Julie had been there since Thursday with their mobile bacon bar - aka camper van. Then Mark from t'Black Isle arrived on his most subtle lemon coloured Guzzi Le Mans. With the tents pitched we trotted off to the village to find a pub and some grub.

You don't want to know about the snoring.

Saturday morning and Slick dutifully cooked the bacon and free range organic eggs that I'd carried all the way there. A fine way to start the day. By 09:22 we were away. Original plan was to go north straight away, but I'd taken a fancy to seeing Skibo Castle, wedding venue for someone called Madonna. So I surprised them all by turning left instead of right, and then I couldn't find the castle. Then it was time to go north, Bonar Bridge for petrol but the garage was shut, so on to Lairg via a very nice little road. You guessed it, more single track twisties through Achany Glen and past the Harrods of the North - Falls of Shin visitor centre. Dem boys on da big Moto Guzzi, Rickman Kwakkisakki, Bonnie Trumpy and a Beemer couldn't keep pace with me. Hehe, fun fun fun. Into Golspie, a stop at Dunrobin Castle, through Brora - well, not quite through as we had to stop for an ice cream at Harry Gow's (he's famous apparently), and up the A9 to Helmsdale for lunch. Nearly forgot, met a guy in Brora who came all the way from Australia to meet Cubbie. Only kidding, he shipped his bike over to the UK to ride around our lovely country -said the best bit is the weather. He had a sense of humour. Lunch ended up as being some sarnies in a pub, and then we set off again. After Helmsdale we tackled the very very steep Berriedale Braes (2nd gear all the way for Cubbie), and then, just up the road, was The Final Border - that of Caithness. Phew. Bit of a double relief to have made it to the most northerly county on the mainland and for that county to be my last one. The last one. THE LAST ONE. The 33rd one. Or it might have been the 34th, I seem to have got a bit muddled with my counting. I feel quite bad about the next bit. I think I made Slick miss out on meeting up with his friends from Wick as I didn't think we had enough time to go there - my plan had been to go to Thurso (and hopefully meet Slick's friends there), turn left and head to Bettyhill and then come down a truly fantastic Cubbie road before scooting back to Dornoch, but we were so late getting to the Camster Cairns (on the way to Thurso) that Slick's friend had given up on us. Putting the route options to the vote it was decided that we should just head back. We stopped in the glow of the evening sunshine to do a bit of filming for the Cubbie's Counties video, just about 5mins from the campsite, and as we rode the last stretch of the journey it absolutely hammered it down. Rain drops the size of cannon balls. Geoff & Julie were ensconced in their camper van so we all bundled in for hot drinks - apart from Slick who ended up in a pub. Hmmm. We joined him there later. Sorry you can't have any more details on this day but I've got to write my last Cubbie's Counties column for Old Bike Mart, and a general press release for the local papers, and...AND the book - well you wouldn't want to buy the book if it was just the same as the blog, would you?

You don't want to know about the snoring!


Sunday was a more laid back affair, having completed all the counties I didn't really mind which route we took home, as long as we got there in time for tea. Mark from t'Black Isle led the way on his Guzzi, sticking to a Cubbie friendly speed, but I annoyed everyone by stopping for a few piccies now and again. A nice ride round the back lanes ended in a refreshments stop at Mark's and a tour of his bikes, and his neighbours' bikes - Ducatis, or maybe I should say Ducatii. Some yummy stuff. Cubbie had a funny five minutes when it came to time to leave, and just wouldn't start. Or if it started, it wouldn't run. Well with Kawa, Mark and Alan all sitting watching, it was bound not to. Eventually got it going and sped off, thinking I would pull into Tesco at Inverness with the others if they wanted fuel, but would keep the engine running, just in case. That didn't work and it cut out in the car park and then wouldn't start. The only thing I could think of was to check the plug, so I did, and there was nothing wrong with it, but I gave it a clean up using my nail board. Then the problem dawned on me. That swishing noise when I kick it over, and that lack of compression....ah....something that has gradually snuck up over the last few rides and I've ignored....ah....well if I could start it I should make it back to Elgin for petrol and at least that would be within 'rescue by Mrs BC' distance. Happily I was unaware that the van sick again with a nearly broken alternator belt. With a lucky kick Cubbie started, Alan kept it running while I packed up my tools and Slick helpfully pointed out I was looking a bit stressed. With serious doubts in my mind I didn't want to push Cubbie too hard, so we sat at an indicated 45/50mph which I gather from the gang was actually only about 40/45mph. Got to Nairn and what were we greeted with? The biggest traffic jam the town has ever seen, broken traffic lights and policemen everywhere! Keeping Cubbie going was no easy feat, as at low revs it just wanted to die. But there was no stopping, so we filtered to the front, revving and popping rather loudly, and the nice officer waved us through. I know Kawa got through at the same time, but I'm not sure if Slick and Alan got caught up in the madness. The next 20 miles to Elgin seemed to take forever. Why is it, when you know you can't stop, everything hurts more? Past the BP garage on the right hand side of the road - was hoping to be able to use one on the left to avoid stalling in the middle of a road crossing manoeuvre and on to Tesco (what a lot of free advertising I'm giving them). Unfortunately for them half of the pumps were closed and a long queue stretched back on to the roundabout, so after the others had filtered past me, I turned round and went to the Shell garage at the far end of town. But petrol there was 103.9 or something equally criminal, so it was round another roundabout to the Esso one, where it was only 99.9. Kawa and Alan pulled in, discussed the situation, and decided to check Cubbie's valves. So I let them. And they were fine. Just as we were about to leave, I spotted a lady trying to blow the petrol station up - fuel was pouring out from under her car as fast as she could put it in. I pointed this out to her and Alan and Kawa pushed her car away from the spillage - she thought she could just start it up and drive off! Thankfully Cubbie started and we were out of there pronto! Meanwhile, Slick had gone past and we assumed he was going home. Alan went his own way and Kawa followed me to make sure I got home. Which I did, and then Slick phoned to say he'd waited for us for an hour up the road....Mmmmm, smell that? Just what the weary travelers needed, a Mrs BC full roast chicken supper, plus a wee card and pressie - not for Kawa, just for GBC and Cubbie for having completed what is to them, an epic adventure. Kawa had grand ideas to go and strip Cubbie down there and then, but I declined his kind offer of help, being rather too tired to even contemplate the idea, so he set off home, ran out of petrol and got in some time after 1am I do believe, unfortunatly, we don't have pics of that.

Monday...up and out, pour some oil down Cubbie's plug hole and low and behold, we have better compression, although the swishing noise still persists. So that indicates rings, right? And would explain the small puffs of white smoke when the throttle is blipped, right? Sounds possible, so next its off with it's head. Literally. Or it would have been had I been able to undo the exhaust clamp. Luckily Slick was coming to collect some free range organic goose eggs, so I persuaded him to bring his blowlamp. That didn't work and the bolt head sheared off, but we were able to lever the clamp off and remove the zorst. Next step in the book was to remove the front and lower engine mounting bolts, easy, they were hardly even spanner tight. Then the rocker boxes and feed pipe came off, had already removed the carby while I was waiting for Slick, and with his help, the head and barrel were freed up and taken off. With a rag underneath the piston, Slick removed the circlips and off the piston came. He informed me to be careful not to move the bike as we worked or the timing would be all askew....and then somehow, got moved. Oh well, I need the practice anyway. To my untrained eye, the barrel looked ok, still got that score up one side that was there when I rebuilt it three years ago, and the piston, although it had a build up of carbon on top and some staining on each side, looked fine - no holes in it, which is something that had crossed my mind, the rings too were intact. The inside of the head is pretty gummed up with carbon, so I'll need to clean it up and check the valves, but I'll have to cobble together a valve spring compressor using the G-clamp and some bits of wood like last time. I can't tell anything from looking at the head gasket, so that, along with all the other bits went in bags in a box and then indoors, much to Mrs BC's delight.

Tuesday....local agricultural engineer, Gordon, the guy who supplies some of our hay in the winter, suggested I took the bits to him (I just happened to be in asking about hay and mentioned Cubbie's illness), so I did. He cast his time served eye over the barrel, commented on the score up the side but said if it had been like that for three years then it probably wasn't the cause of the problem. He then deglazed it, washed it in his degreaser, blow dried it, stuck it back in the box and walked off with the piston. He removed all the carbon in about 30 seconds using a wire wheel thingy and cleaned out the ring grooves. Then he tossed a small wire brush drill attachment in to the box for cleaning the inside of the head. So we're all sorted. Oh, he said there is mucho evidence of the head gasket having been blowing for some time...probably due to me failing to tighten the bolts enough. Well, c'mon, I didn't want to crack anything or strip the threads.

Time for a Gong Speech but I don't want to miss anyone out - THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO HAS HELPED, SUPPORTED, MOCKED, BEEN INVOLVED, DONATED MONEY, TOOLS, CHOCOLATE, MORAL SUPPORT, COMPANY, LAUGHTER AND IDEAS. You're all wonderfull. Well, some of you. No, that's not fair, most of you. Oh dear, I'll keep diggin'! ALL OF YOU!!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

All done.

That's it. Cubbies Counties is COMPLETED. All finished. Over. Done. Phew!

Full story over the next couple of days - need to spend a bit of quality time with Cubbie in preparation for the Intersectional meeting this coming weekend.

ZOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm POPOPOPOPOPOPOPOPOPOP CUBBIE!

***OK OK NEARLY DONE, just going through the photos - but have to nip out and collect the Blog Tee shirts in a bit.

Thursday, 21 May 2009


Right then, now that I've found Cubbie's key, I can go fire the wee beastie up and get ready for the Big Day tomorrow. I cleaned it yesterday. You wouldn't believe how shiny it is. Lovely. Wheels and all. Looks like I'm meeting Slim in Turra, Alan in Keith, Kawa somewhere near Inverness, Mark on the Black Isle, Geoff & Julie are going up today in their camper van for a long long weekend, Captain Bill wasn't able to fix his Armstrong in time so he's going to meet us there in his car and Fido doesn't like the look of the forecast so is taking his bike in his van - well we did have a thunder storm and hail stones yesterday. Can't get in touch with ma man in Nairnshire, Andy, who was going to give me the guided tour, so I think we'll pop in at his house and surprise him. Sid was up in Dornoch last weekend and said it was cold, wet and windy and doesn't want to go back again quite so soon. And Ian said we have to call in for a cuppa on the way home. Bring it on! Pop pop pop pop pop pop....................................

Oh go on then, I spose I'd better check the Cubbie's Counties Paypal Account, just in case.

And then dig out my *NEW* sleeping bag, blanket (just in case), spare clothes for when I get a soaking, stick some polish on ma beets, sorry, boots, and dubbin on ma gloves.

Ooooh, just found out Mrs BC is going to be a bit merry by the time I get back, those nice people at Aspall Cyder are going to send her a load of alcoholic apple juice as a result of her alerting them to a faulty bottle. S'alright for some.

Monday, 18 May 2009


No sooner am I back, then I'm off again. This time though, it's for Cubbie's Counties business. The last 4 counties need to be ticked off sooner rather than later, which is a shame, 'cos if I left it a while, then Little John from would be able to join us. By 'us' I mean me, Cubbie, Slim, Alan in the GCMCC, Kawa, maybe Captain Bill if his bike is fixed. Just gotta add Geoff & Julie to the list now. I can't seem to get anyone else to want to join us. Maybe it's the word CAMPING that's putting them off, but Alan's not bothered, he came to Skye with us on the very first Cubbie's Counties leg and simply found himself a B&B. Maybe it's Cubbie's perfume putting them off ???? Talking of bad little Cubbie, I idly flicked the light switch as I walked past, just to make sure all is well in that department, and the main bulb has blown. I mean, when I left it there before I went to Skye on my WORK trip, it was fine. Maybe Mrs BC has been fiddling with it. Or maybe it was the lambs. Now where am I going to get one of those before Friday? I've nearly planned the route. Not quite sure where to stay yet though as I can't make my mind up between Tain, Dornoch, Golspie and Brora. Dornoch was my first option, and it's only 125miles away, but the B&Bs in the area look a bit pricey. Then as you get further north, the availability of campsites and B&Bs with websites gets a bit thinner making it harder to find somewhere. Not only that, but I've got to stop off in Nairn on the way. There doesn't seem to be much in Nairnshire, apart from quite a political history to do with districts and regions, but I'm sure I'll find something of interest.

The bits circled in black are the last 4 counties...the red dots are the intended route, well, sort of.

So that's this weekend taken care of, then on Sunday 31st I think I'll head to Crieff for the VMCC Intersection meeting. 'Tis a new event the Stirling Castle section are organising to fit in every other year between the 'official' round the sections rally. I reckon Mr Prodger might accompany me for that one. Just in case anyone thinks the VMCC Area Rep for Scotland is slacking, the 7th June is the Ayr Classic Show, and although I won't be exhibiting Cubbie, I will be presenting the Awards in my Official Capacity as GBC so you can come along and say 'ello and talk about all things VMCC or anything else to do with bikes, or sheep, or sheds, or whatever you like. The weekend after that - yes, it's me birfday - is going to be a bit busy. I quite fancy going to the Caithness club's 40th Anniversary Jamboree, but it's also the Loch Ness rally, to which I haven't been for a few years as it normally clashes with Ayr. I wonder if I can be up north on the Sat and make it down to Inverness on Sunday....hmmmm.....probably not on Cubbie but maybe on the old Skorpy....if I had it on the road....have o put a new pair of BT92s on my birthday list I think, and an MoT, tax and insurance, ha ha. Might get a weekend off after that, but was toying with the idea of going south to see the guys in the Clyde Vally VMCC section, I'll have to check what they've got on. The Northumbrian Gathering is at the beginning of July, but the Twister is racing at Knockhill on the same weekend, what to do? Don't know yet. Haven't entered the NG as I seem to have misplaced my chequebook - wonder if they take a card payment over the phone. Well I could go on, listing events I want to go to, but you're losing interest by now, and I've got other topics to cover.

This was the last time I went to the Loch Ness swim-athon.
The poor guy who volunteerd to give me a lift ran out of petrol. In the rain.

I was most surprised, not to mention very pleased, that while I was away, life on the blog carried on - the comment button must have been red hot! Mrs BC managed to publish both comments AND posts - and she even did some Internet banking for me. If I'm not careful she'll be taking over....or maybe she'll get her own blog on the go now she's had some experience of running one... Thank you and hello to Kathy Bantam Cub - great to know you pop in from time to time, please feel free to comment more often. And you too Shorty, nice to hear from you again on here, it seems like years, decades even, since you last left such a nice little note for me.

In case you're wondering where the pic of the Photo Comp Winner, sporting his Blog Tee Shirt is, then just to let you know the tee shirts are due to arrive in a week or so, and for all the lady readers, I'll be making sure MZ Mark sends in some shots of him modelling it. Maybe draped over a bike. Seems only fair when you see the garbage in some bike related magazines.

I think it's time to go and do some paperwork. Hope you all like the new piccy I posted of GBC on the left hand side, scroll down a bit and you'll find it.

PS, Skye was very nice, 23degrees on a couple of the days and 21 for the others - the hottest place in the UK during the week I was there. My days were long and hot and hungry, leaving the B&B before 10am each day, not having time or being able to find anywhere for lunch, and not getting back until 10pm, having driven a hundred or so miles during that time and managing to achieve a very good response to my work.

I still haven't got my head around the Free Church Continuing, or the Wee (Wii?) Free Church or the Free Presbyterians, or the Church of Scotland, although I did meet a very nice Minister man who tried to explain without converting me, only wish I'd had more time to quiz him. Met a guy called Norman who invited me in for a cuppa, only I don't drink cuppas, but we put the world to rights and he's looking forward to a visit by the Grampian Classic club in the future, and then there was the lovely elderly couple who speak Gaelic and tried to teach me some. Oh, and the guy at the local garage was a gem - he kindly offered me cups of tea every time I went in, and when I said I didn't drink tea he then offered me biscuits - no choc ones sadly. The family owned JJ's Bistro in Struan deserve a mention for accommodating me when I turned up just after service had finished....sorry and thank you, food was great too, especially that pyramid thing. Glad to get home though, and RIP Nutty who was ill while I was gone and Mrs BC had to make that really hard decision to send her on her way to the big meadow in the sky. I hope it's greener than our meadows.


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