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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!!


Anonymous said...

Nice pics but did you have to show my bald spot.
Go to bed now you have a busy day on Sat.

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Sorry but it was the only pic I had of you dealing with that egg single-handedly! Saturday...whats happening then?

Anonymous said...

Another milestone in GBC`s and Cubbies lives.
Cubbie is getting a home of his own so he dont have to sleep with the animals! Or is it a roumer?
Have u rounded up the troups ?

Bantam Cub said...

Excellent! Can't wait for the book.

A bit off-topic, but I'm trying to work out what's behind that Rickman fairing, Kawa. Is it an early Z1, but with wheels from a later model?

Anonymous said...

Pics are no bad, but too many wi Kawa in them, haha. Good write up to a good weekend, how did we manage to fit so much in?


ps like the kitchen sink

Mrs. B.C. said...

Did i miss the caption about everything but the kitchen sink?

The Romans are usually hiding in the bushes!

No, you're not supposed to climb on the cairn, most disrespectful. But..... don't it make a brilliant picture.

I think it's nearly time I took off for my tour round Eire looking for the rellies. Now where did I put my passport?

Anonymous said...

Better not tell them you`r comming Mrs B.C.

And besides I am hoping for some of your lovely soup on Sat.

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Slick, I think you've just ruined your chances of being fed! And what was on the menu is way better than soup!

Mrs. B.C said...

I've just noticed that Slick is a man who can break an egg with one hand. Now that IS impressive!
Were you a chef in a previous existence, I wonder.

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

That's nothing, you should see him when he gets his pack of ciggies from his pocket, removes one, pops it in his mouth, lights it and smokes it whilst riding a motorcycle. A sight to see.

Anonymous said...

During my long (too long) and varied career, I was once did the cooking on a fishing boat.
That required cooking a FULL breakfast every morning for 5 of a crew. I had to learn fast how to hold the pan with one hand and tilt it with the roll of the boat and crack eggs into the pan without setting fire to the boat.
Anyway this is not my story it`s G.B.C.`s.

Shorty said...

At last Cubbies Counties has been Done
And the argument, would she wouldn't she has been won
Now the question is will she do it in reverse
Not until the feeling is back in her backside

Very well done, you are my hero.

Mrs. B.C said...

I thought that was going to be a poem Shorty!

Mrs. B.C said...

Hey Kathy, re: your previous comment - you can comment all you like. Go for it! If you do take your CBT, best of luck, if you don't, how about a parachute jump for charity?

Anonymous said...

Bantam Cub, thanks for the interest, the only Kawasaki parts are the engine (Z1000) and the wheels, the rest is Rickman. If you're interested I'll drop you an email with more info

Mrs BC sorry bout going up on the Cairn but I just had to see what type of roof windows they used back then ;-)


Anonymous said...

Congrats...and the Cubbie rebuild could take a few more episodes, until you take it down to the Sammy Miller museum of course... owe Geoff an apology since his and Julie's glasses are superimposed and they are both toasting young's also good to see that just about everyone has another pint ready for when they finish the one in their hand!!

Keep up the good work and I can't wait for the book and DVD...


Anonymous said...

Congratulations from GRAMPIAN CLASSIC MOTORCYCLE CLUB on completing your Cubbies Counties.
You are an inspiration to us all and we are proud of you.
Long may you lead us and thanks for all you have done,are doing, and will do for the club.

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

I just did that to get your attention BigBob, see if you were looking at all the pics ;-)

Thank you Grumpys, much appreciated.

Book? Ah yes...well...I er...better get writing again then!

Anonymous said...

I see Kawa has done the Cairn`O` Mount then.

Anonymous said...

Well Well, Bill Falconer looking at the blog site, he will be getting a mobile phone next !

Mrs. B.C. said...

I think you'll find he's already got one, Slick, he just doesn't switch it on!!!!

We're working on it though.

Thanks again for all your efforts yesterday, very much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Mrs BC, nearly did a parachute jump once in my younger more adventurous days, decided may not be best plan after all I have been through last number years. Leave that one to Bantam Cub who seems
to be seeking adventure after many long years of bringing family up. He is a garandpa now too
but that wont stop the catching up with all the things to do before you die list (sorry that sounded morbid but you know what I mean) Kathy

Mrs. B.C. said...

Best to do it before you die, Kathy, you never know what'll happen after that!!!

Go for it, and keep us in the loop.

Anonymous said...

Once again, great photos and write up

Many, many congratulations on completing Cubbies Counties.

Well done that woman ! :o)

Graham B

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Thank you Graham, I was wondering where you were hiding! Now, about Cubbie's speedo....

Anonymous said...

Ready and waiting to get to work on it.

Might help if you posted it? ;o)

Graham B

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Oh drat, yeah, will remove it and send it off..soon...

Lynners said...

Well Done you!! Excellent amount raised and you had a ball doing it!!

English counties now? Haha

3 Cheers for GBC



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