Saturday, 2 November 2013

Europe Trip 2013, Part Two

Well, I can’t believe how fast time flies.  I've been meaning to update this for a while, and before I know it we've been back a month!    I did plan to write it day by day but that would probably have been quite boring, so I’ll condense it.

Day two we woke up a lot happier, having both slept like logs in our lovely air conditioned room.
We had a smashing breakfast, our first experience of continental breakfast.  We tried very hard to make it as English as possible though, being typical Englishmen abroad an all that, so we had cereal, toast, and eggs and bacon.  Yum! 
We decided that we’d stay another night at the hotel, and discuss camping later...  I see now that the writing was on the wall                  for the camping gear! 

We went to a place called Harlingen, on the coast.  There we were again typical Brits abroad, and rolled up our trousers and went paddling.   We expected the sea to be cold, but no... it was really rather warm.  It was a bit disappointing really, as we were extremely hot again and were looking forward to a little chill.  The temperature was mid thirties again, and we were already suffering in our biking gear.

We spent a little while paddling about, then made our way back to Emeloord, total mileage for the day was about 140 miles. 

We had a look round the market, which was very colourful, crashed out for a bit after a shower, then had another lovely meal in the restaurant.  

While there, we discussed camping.  It had become clear that it was really too hot to be sleeping in a tent.   Also, the time needed to unpack and put the tent up, then pack and take the tent down again the next day would seriously eat into our riding time, and as that was what we were there to do, neither of us really wanted to lose time when we didn't really have to.   So we decided not to camp, but to find a hotel at the end of each day - after all that was what credit cards were for, wasn't it?  Then of course there was the question of the camping gear, and what to do with it.  Did we carry it around with us for the fortnight or...?  In the end we asked the hotel if we could store it there, and then send a courier for it when we got home.  The hotel was very happy to do this for us.   However.... when we got back and found out how much a courier would cost, we decided not to worry as a courier worked out more expensive than it would be to replace the kit......  a shame, but we were both a hundred times more comfortable not carrying all the gear.

The next day we set out for Germany.       It was today that we realised we weren't going to take anywhere near as many photos as we had thought we would, as all we wanted to do was ride, ride ride...  so there are no masterpieces from this trip, but a few snaps.  The first one is an example of one of the many times where we had to wait while a boat caused the road to be lifted in the air so it could pass through...  even on motorways... 

This was also the first day we struggled with the GPS,  and ended up getting separated....  Riding along the motorway, Graham says over the intercom “we’re coming off here”, then comes off... I follow him.  Then he says, “oh, no wrong one, it’s the next one”, and jumps back on the motorway...  I try and do the same, but there’s a car next to me and the barrier fast approaching, so I had no choice but to continue down the off ramp.  No bother, I think to myself, I can just go back on the other side.... only, there isn't an on ramp the other side, and just before the headsets get out of range Graham tells me he’ll wait for me at the next junction.  Ha bloody ha.  I'm on my own, no sat nav, no map, not able to read Dutch....  did I panic?  No course not.  I  bumbled around for a bit, looking for an on ramp.  There wasn't one, so I decided the only thing I can do is go back down the motorway the other way, at least I can get on that side, albeit I'm now heading in the wrong direction.  I come off at the next junction, only to be confronted with a huge set of traffic lights and traffic going in all directions.  I turn left.  I don’t know why, I just did; probably because it meant involving the least amount of other traffic. 
I still need to turn round, but can’t find a way of doing that, so I continue down the road a bit more, and on to another set of traffic lights followed by a roundabout.  Hooray!  I go all the way round the roundabout and then try to remember how many sets of lights I've been through, and which road I need to turn right on....  Well I find it in the end, turn right, go past the junction I went off at and breathe a huge sigh of relief.  I come off at the next junction and look expectantly for Graham.  I can’t see him, and more worryingly, the intercom hasn't reconnected either.  That’s when panic rises...  then I see a bike, sat in the central reservation, with its rider waving...    That’s when the intercom reconnects.  I pull over and wait....  then we go for a coffee, in the first McDonald's of the trip.  It’s too hot for excitement like this! 

We got separated in Suffolk a few weeks ago, and that was bad enough, but we had mobile phones that worked and we could read road signs.  None of that applied here, and we didn't even have a destination in mind, other than “Denmark”.  Not really helpful when you’re still in The Netherlands!

After coffee we headed back on to the motorway, heading for Germany.  About 4pm we crossed the border into Germany.  I was surprised, I had half expected to have to stop and show passports and stuff, but not having ever been to Europe before (apart from a day trip to France in my teens) I didn't know that you can just bumble about criss crossing borders... 

We were about to have a bit of a shock.  In The Netherlands, practically everyone spoke English (the only exception was Mrs Grumpy in the BP Garage on the motorway, I don’t know what her problem was), the food was ok, the hotels and everywhere we’d stopped had been ok, the d├ęcor quite nice etc...  
We pulled off the motorway at Westerstede and looked for a hotel for the night.  We found Heinemann’s Gasthaus ( ).  I was partly looking forward to seeing how much of my schoolgirl German I could remember, but I very quickly found that I hardly remembered anything.  The lady in the bar spoke a tiny bit of English, enough to know we wanted a room and somewhere to park the bikes securely.  They have an old barn the other side of the road, just for bikes, special treatment or what.  We put Henry and Wanda in there to sleep the 180 odd miles off and went to try out the shower.    The best way to describe our room was “tired”, like a 70s sitting room with a bed in it.  Big chunky furniture.  Dark old shower room, but that part was forgotten when we tried the shower cos it was brilliant.  Another bonus was the huge patio door which we flung open, as this hotel did not have air conditioning.  It was clean, and the bed was comfortable, but it was a far cry from the posh ‘t Voorhuys ( ). 

We’d made friends with a little ginger kitten when we’d arrived.  Apparently he was making a nuisance of himself in the hotel and they were forever kicking him out, but he soon sussed out that we were complete softies, and followed us everywhere.  He even found our room, round the back of the building, and as the door was open, in he came.  We  had crashed out again, the heat mostly, and when we woke up there was a little ginger mog curled up between us.  He was our little guilty secret cos we knew all three of us would be in trouble if we got found out.  Graham called him Stuka, cos he dive bombed everything, and I could quite happily have brought him home.  He had absolutely no road sense though, so I don’t know how he will have fared living on that busy road...   

Anyway, after our nap, we went across to the bar to have dinner, and there the fun began.  There was a different lady there now, and she spoke even less English than the first lady had.   The menu was all in German too.  This is what you get when you go off the beaten tourist track I suppose.   She gave us a menu each, which might have well been written in Chinese.   Graham and I just looked at each other and laughed....  we could have just shut our eyes and pointed at the menu for all the difference it would make.   One thing that did annoy me was we had no phone signal whatsoever, so we relied on wifi if we wanted to use them.  Our difficulty now was getting the password etc to the hotel’s wifi so that we could use our translating apps... ha-ha we didn't think that bit through, did we!!  I don’t know how, but eventually we got the password, and we were off.  One of the apps was useless, it relied on using the phone’s camera to capture a word then it would translate it, only it kept picking up bits of words and saying it didn’t know.  The other one was more useful but boy was it slow work.  I think it took us an hour to translate the menu (ish) so that at least we knew what we would be eating.  Graham ended up with turkey strips and a funny salad, and I had rump steak with onions and chips.  There was about a ton of fried onions on it !  The steak and chips were alright though, but I shared the chips with Graham as his salad had been contaminated with funny dressings. 
I’d started getting a bit cocky with the translating thingy by then, so I found out how to say “how much is the room please”, and “does it include breakfast” (although I didn't think to ask where breakfast would be served).  The room was 66 euros, so we said we’d settle the bill altogether now.... which is when we found out that Germans don’t do plastic.  Of any kind.  Not even debit cards and certainly not credit cards.  Cash please....  errr... we only have 40 euros between us and the bill was 110!!! 

It was one of those comedy moments.  Graham and I just looked at each other with a “what the heck…!” look.  In this modern age we had expected cards to be universally accepted, but obviously not.  We found out later that in big, busy, international tourist spots, cards are accepted, but off the beaten track cash is king.  The lady behind the bar told us that there was a cashpoint 2 kilometres away, in the town, and it was easy to find.  Graham jumped on his bike, and off he went.  Even allowing for him getting a little bit lost, when he wasn't back an hour later I was beginning to get concerned… I needn't have worried though, as a few minutes later he turned up, along with several hundred Euros.  We weren't going to get caught out like that again!  We paid the lady, now all smiles and retired to our room for a hot sticky night.
We were up early-ish the next morning, and found that the breakfast room was right next door.   Breakfast was ok, much better than dinner had been, and we had to laugh as our friend Stuka found us almost straight away.  We had a play with him while packing up the bikes, then said farewell… cute little kitty, he was lovely!

We decided we were heading for Kiel, as I wanted to see the submarine pens, or at least where they’d been.  To get there in one day meant a lot of motorways, so we settled in for the day.  I was really loving my bike now, it was so comfortable, the only “problem” being a sore bum after 150 miles.  That’s not that bad really!    The autobahns were great…  we had a little race….  Which of course on these unlimited roads you have to do.   It wasn't all unlimited though, just the bits out of town etc.  We had both bikes in top gear, doing 70mph, then opened the throttle.  I am delighted to say that on both occasions Wanda trounced Henry, not that Graham will tell you that.   He reckoned he “let” me win, but he didn't… 

We pulled over mid-afternoon to refuel both bikes and us.  We didn't stop long as were determined to get to Kiel that night, and also as there was a huge storm following us up the autobahns and we didn't want to get caught.  We did though, but just the leading edge of it as we pulled away.  Even that wasn't fun, riding at 80mph in pouring rain isn't fun, and the rain pelting you at that speed is actually quite painful.

We reached Kiel about 3pm.  As we rode into the centre of town, I announced I needed a wee.  As you do.   We found some, conveniently next to a car park, so we parked up and I went in the door.  There were some funny looking things on the wall, and Graham, who had followed me in, reckoned I’d gone in the gents.  No way, I say, it says “Herren” on the door! 

Silly man.  However, I couldn't see any cubicles so I knocked on the door.  The lady who opened it was horrified, but I STILL didn't get it.  She was gesticulating wildly to me, I now know she was telling me to go out the door and round the other side of the block and in that way, but I didn't understand, so in desperation she let me in through her office.  Phew!  It was only while in the loo did I realise what she had been trying to tell me…. So when I came out we had a good giggle about it.  What a daft mare, since when have I been male?!  Do’h!!

Next step was a hotel for the night.  Again we were very hot, very sweaty and very tired, we must have looked like riff raff.  We plumbed “Best Western” into the sat nav, and it dutifully led us to a hotel.  The hotel was “The Yacht Club Hotel”.  It was four star… and I have no idea what the extremely posh lady behind the marbled reception must have thought as I trudged in and asked for a room.  I wouldn't have blamed her if she’d called security! However, thankfully she didn't and we got a gorgeous double bedroom with views over the harbour.  Wonderful.  No air – con, again, but we opened the windows wide and enjoyed the sea breezes and the view.  

We went for a walk before dinner, but we didn't get to see any submarine pens.  Rather, we saw loads of boats.  Everything from tall ships to tiny dinghies and everything in between.  The police there have some rather nice vehicles too, obviously some boats speed.  Kiel is lovely, when they rebuilt it after the war they put a lot of thought into it, and I would not hesitate to go there again.  

We wandered back to the hotel and had the most wonderful dinner, no problems with English here, they must get a lot of English yachtsmen!   

Next day we set off for Denmark.  It wasn't that far, and we had a little cheer when we crossed the border, again no passport control….   We didn't know it, but in that second everything had suddenly got very expensive! 

Our first experience of Denmark was fuel.  We needed fuel, as usual.  Wanda’s tank was only good for 140 miles so it was always me who needed to stop for fuel first.  We found a petrol station, albeit unattended.  We couldn't see any “pay at pump” devices either, so it was only when a local drove up and filled up that we found out what to do.  There was a cashpoint thingy on the wall, which the local visited, filled up her car, revisited and left.  So, we ambled over and had a look.  Firstly, we had to try and get stuff in English.  Fairly easy.  Then we had to find out which pump… yes, that’s pump number 2.  Then it asked for payment, so we put the card (the Danes take cards, hurray!!) in the slot with the flashing green light and waited.  After a second or two, the machine spat the card out.  We put the card in again, only the other way round.   The card was ejected again.  A bit confused, we stuck the card in a third time, short side first.  Again it got ejected.  Again, we put the card in, a different way again.  This time, when the card got ejected it was chucked out so violently that it landed on the ground at Graham’s feet.  It was at this point we noticed that the slot for cards was above the CASH slot we had been using.  I really do hope that there wasn't anyone watching the CCTV footage, at least while we were still there!    Eventually we filled up and paid, and made a quick getaway. 

We were aiming for Esbjerg, Denmark’s main fishing port.  We booked into the Hotel Britannia, in the centre of town.  This hotel wasn't 4 star, but was a lot more expensive than the very plush Kieler Hotel.   However, it did boast air-con so we booked it for a couple of nights.   The air con was aptly named, and it was indeed a con.  It circulated the air, but cool it?  No chance!  We turned it off.            

That night we decided to eat in the restaurant.  Bad move!  Being a fishing port, it was natural that there would be fish on the menu, so after being advised that the fish of the day was Plaice, I ordered it.  My first thought was that it was the biggest plaice I’d ever seen…    It got worse.  When I ate some, it tasted like fishy slime, and nothing like I remembered plaice.  I kept eating, this tasty fish was 230 Kroner so I wasn't about to waste it, but it got harder and harder to eat.  That was when I found out that it wasn't plaice but flounder!  No wonder!  I ate most of it, but the meal wasn't just manky fish.  It also consisted of a pot of sliced cucumber soaked in vinegar, and some undercooked new potatoes.  Yuk.  Put that one down to experience I think!
As we had decided to stay for a couple of days, we spent the next day being tourists.  

We gave Wanda the day off and chained her to the railings in the car park and headed out.  We wanted to find the fishing harbour, as I had romantic ideas of little fishing boats etc.  It wasn't like that at all, and wasn't at all photogenic, although we did find a nice looking boat in a harbour overlooking the town. 

Being on the back of Henry was great fun!  We were still connected by intercom so we giggled and chatted all the way round town and along the coast.  

We then went to the Fisheries Museum, and spent a very pleasurable few hours there.   It was again very hot – isn't Denmark supposed to be cold?! – so we took our time.  Here we managed a few pictures, hooray! 

After the museum we went along the coast until we spotted some wind surfers.  There were also a lot of groynes – tall ones – along the beach, so we spent the rest of the afternoon there, taking pictures at long last. 
After a cuppa we made our way back into town, and to the sculpture.  It really was quite something close up, the pictures don’t do it justice.  
We avoided the restaurant that night and went down the local pub and after that for a walk through the town.  We liked Denmark, the people are lovely, and almost to a man speak perfect English.  The towns and architecture were interesting, and some language differences were quite hilarious!

The next morning we left, having reached half way.  We would have liked to spend longer in Denmark, but we had pushed it getting here in the time we had and so had to leave.  We followed the sat nav who took us back a different way as we had specified “no motorways”.   That wasn't really fun, although we did find some nice back roads at one point.  We didn't at any point really find any of the motorcycle routes that we had read so much about before we left, but although we wouldn't repeat it, we did enjoy what we did.  The sat nav took us to Freiberg, and over the River Elbe. 

This entailed a ferry…  yikes!  It wasn't a huge ferry like the one that had brought us to Holland but a tiny 12 vehicle one with slippery gangplanks – my worst nightmare!  However, as these things tend to be, it wasn't as hard as I imagined and as long as I followed Graham I was ok.

The fun began when we got on board and moved off. Several of the passengers, including me, had decided to stand by the front of the boat and watch our progress.  

This was fine until the boat turned into the wind.  To start with, the waves that hit the front were quite small, as, I later worked out, they weren't full on.  As we continued to turn, the waves got bigger and hit harder..  Each wave was accompanied by a loud squeal from the now wet passengers…  Each time one hit, we all moved back a bit, then as the next, bigger, wave hit, we moved back a bit more.  Eventually we all ended up at the stern of the boat, soaking wet and giggling like loonies.  You just don’t get this much fun on the big ferries!!  Graham of course had to be different, and he stayed with the bikes in the bow of the boat getting wet and laughing at everyone else.  We met some lovely people on that ferry, a couple of them came over specially to talk to the Brit Bikers on their “special adventure”.  Was very nice. 

That night was the only time we couldn't find a hotel straight away.  The sat nav swore blind that there was a hotel down a single track road that was occupied by one grumpy dog and nothing else.  As it insisted that there was a hotel there, we had to ignore it for a bit and ended up in the middle of nowhere getting grumpier and hotter by the minute.  Eventually we found one, although we think we went through a time warp to get there.  This was where we had the second weirdest meal of the trip.  Toast, covered with ham, a slice of pineapple and melted cheese on top.  Sounds ok so far… but then in the hole in the melted cheese caused by the pineapple was strawberry jam……

We had an unsettled night, mainly because every time we moved the beds squeaked terribly.  If the squeak wasn't bad enough, each one was accompanied by a giggle.  I can’t help these things!  We eventually slept, had breakfast, and went back through the time warp and on to Utrecht.

Now, I don’t know why we did this, but at the time riding from Freiberg to Utrecht seemed like a really good idea.  The trip was a smidgen under 300 miles, and as we were heading south again, the temperature was up in the mid-thirties.   

We made it, very sore and incredibly tired, but we stopped at a hotel in Woerden, only to find the only available room was at the top of 6 flights of stairs, and that there was no lift!!!   My lovely bloke unpacked the bikes and brought everything upstairs.  He’s great! We went out that night and sat in a pub on the river, watching the local youth and generally feeling old!  The river was very pretty, especially as night fell.

The next day was incredibly hot, and although we had plans to visit a nearby castle and generally do some sightseeing, the combination of the heat (now in the low 40s) and the exertion from the previous day meant that we spent the day crashed out in the hotel room under the fan.  Not the way we wanted to spend the day, but anything else was too much.  We did go out in the evening, and spent the last of the euros on some clothes and dinner at a local restaurant.  

The next morning was our last on the continent.  The two weeks had gone very quickly, and by this point we had covered about 1600  miles.  We spent the morning in The Hague, which we discovered had loads of attractions, restaurants and the most fabulous sea view.  We had been to The Hague the first day in Europe, but somehow we managed to miss this!  It was actually a bit too touristy for us, but as we were waiting for the ferry, we ambled about, taking a few snaps and having lots of tea                                                                          and coffee. 

Again we had problems with the traffic lights, and at one point Graham nearly got me run over by a tram.  I followed him through some lights which changed just as I got there, and I suppose I really should have stopped as just as I went through a tram came thundering (well whatever sound a tram makes) through.  That was close… 

After that we headed back towards the Hook of Holland, the ferry and home. 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Europe Trip 2013, Part One

We're in Europe.  I've always wanted to tour on a motorcycle, and Graham didn't take much (any) convincing, so we booked the ferry, packed all the camping gear, and off we went.

First surprise was the ferry - I've never seen one so big!!! My most recent experience of ferries was of the ones in the Outer Hebrides, but even the "big" one that went from Oban to South Uist was miniscule in comparison.  This picture shows just one part of deck ten, there were twelve decks in all. 

The next surprise was air conditioning, and en-suite facilities... Guess I should pay more attention when booking stuff! The boat was almost too big, as you didn't really get any sense of being at sea. We went to sleep in the UK and woke up in The Netherlands.  We were very rudely awoken at 5:30 by the automatic wake up call.   We disembarked, and just as I'd found when embarking, all my fears of sliding about proved groundless.

We rode out at about 8:15, to find it raining. It was just as hot as the UK had been, but wet as well; great. It was also rush hour, we hadn't decided where we were going, so we ended up sitting in traffic for ages. Eventually we found our way to The Hague, and tried to find somewhere that did breakfast, as we wanted to gather our thoughts and decide where to go. We found a Ben and Jerry's - closed. Not that you can really have ice cream for breakfast, no matter what Graham says...  

We tried Burger King next, they were also closed.  We then sat in the sunshine for a bit before deciding that we'd try McDonald's  Guess what...They were closed too! By this time we were starting to realise how tired we were so we sat on the steps to the restaurant and settled down to wait until they opened, which was about an hour. We took it in  turns to doze for a bit, and eventually they opened and let us in. I had coffee... Heaven, and a bite to eat and all of a sudden we were raring to go.   We decided to turn left, as we thought it might be a bit cooler that way; Graham's bike was already saying the temperature was 31, and we were melting. We decided on Emmeloord.

We took the fastest route, as where we were was very built up and not really what we wanted to see. Our route took us past Schipol Airport and some very low flying aircraft, through Amsterdam and further north east. We soon got into rural Holland, but it wasn't very exciting. It's a bit flat you know, and there's a lot of water about.

One of the first things I noticed was the way traffic is handled. Cars, lorries etc and big bikes on the main road, separate roads for cycles and mopeds and scooters, with canals running alongside for boats!  The scooters were great. Everyone just whizzed along, no protective gear, and apparently no speed limits. We had to obey the speed limits, and one kid took great delight in overtaking us on his scooter while we could only watch him whizzing past us while laughing!   The other thing I noticed is the number of cycles. Every man and his dog was on a bike, they were everywhere.   I'm still not sure if we're supposed to give way to them or not...

One benefit of all the cycles is that everyone is far more aware of motorbikes than in the UK. Drivers are also so much more considerate; for example, several times I've had cars wait for me to overtake something as they can see we're together and Graham has already overtaken the slow vehicle.

I can't explain how hot it is in bike gear. We were melting. The heat was giving us banging headaches, not to mention everything we wore was soaked in perspiration.  If we went less then 60 mph you boiled, and your visor steamed up. It was impossible to ride like it, we couldn't stay hydrated plus concentrating on anything was difficult. Plus, we had to really concentrate the first day as all the traffic was on the wrong side of the road. Mostly it was ok, but roundabouts blew my mind, and after one incident "why's that car coming towards me round the wrong way.... Oh no, it's me that's wrong and I'm gonna die...." I started saying out loud to look left and go right. I'm just looking forward to driving on the left when we get home cos I think my head will just explode by then. 

Due to the heat, which by 2pm was 33 degrees, we took the decision to swap bike jackets for fleeces. A fleece doesn't give you any protection if you fall off, but it lets the air in and stops bugs dying on your skin.   It was a huge improvement, but still very hot. By the time we got to Emmeloord, we'd just about had enough. 

The plan was to camp... this is our tent...

We pulled in to a large car park to try and cool off a bit, get our bearings, and to find a campsite. We were both very hot and sweaty and the energy boost we'd got earlier had all but worn off, so when we realised we were stopped next to a hotel with air conditioned rooms, hot showers and comfy beds, we decided to stay the night there instead of spending the next couple of hours looking for a campsite and putting the tents up.   The room was lovely, the shower was the best one we'd had for ages, the air conditioning was just what we needed, so when we sat on the beds "for a minute", we both nodded off... what lightweights!  We woke up an hour later, and went down to dinner. The restaurant was very restaurant too.  All in all this hotel was the best all rounder of the whole trip.

We decided that night to give up the idea of camping.  Mainly as it was so hot, but also because taking down the tents and putting them up again, along with actually finding a campsite would take several hours out of the day, and we decided that we would rather spend that time riding.  

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Suffolk, June 2013

We had decided on a camping trial run, so that our Europe trip wouldnt be such a shock when we go in July.
Loading the bikes was easier than I thought.  We took all the kit we had to try it all out, and it fitted beautifully.   The bike did feel a bit weird to start with, cornering felt a bit wobbly,  but as the first part of the trip involved us taking the B645 through Kimbolton, I soon got used to it.  The wind was more noticeable too, specially on flat open sections of dual carriageway.

As a trial run it worked really well.  First thing I learned was to KEEP UP with my other half as he has the sat nav..  We got separated on the A14 when I saw a bike come off at a junction, well in the distance.  I wasn't sure it was Graham but followed it anyway.  It wasn't him.  It was a Triumph Tiger with two up which promptly fell over as soon as I stopped behind it.  Made sure they were ok (they were, but she didn't deserve to be, with 4 inch stilettos on!!), then tried to get back on to the dual carriageway only to find it was one of those rare junctions that you could only come off from.  Ho Hum.  Quick phone call to Graham who told me where he was, stuck the name into my now deleted sat nav app. which tried to send me to Ohio, and then Scotland.  In the end  I used my common sense, got back on the A14 the wrong way, turned round at the next junction and caught up with him that way.

We had programmed Graham's sat nav to get to the campsite using the shortest route, knowing that would keep us off dual carriageways and main roads.  3 & 3/4 hours to get there, using roads that probably haven't seen any motorised traffic in years...  I learned lots on Friday, all sorts of road surfaces, roads with hardly any road markings.  I found that braking on that gravelly sandy stuff at the side of roads ISN'T a good idea, and that roads with grass growing on them don't tend to have petrol stations on them, which became an issue at one point although I didn't actually run out.  That's another thing I learned;  Super Teneres have a much larger tank than my bike does...

We stopped off at a lovely pub in the middle of nowhere for a break and a bite to eat, where the landlady raved over my bike and the fact that I was a girl!!

We then got to the campsite.  It was a huge site!  I think in future and given the choice, I'd stay at a smaller one, but it had everything we needed.  Except towels, which we'd forgotten, d'oh.  It did have a lovely bar and restaurant, and everything was super clean.  I'd heard a few horror stories about camping, so was quite relieved.

Our pitch was about 30 yards from the sea.  Tents went up very easily for me, as all I did was hand out tent pegs.  Sleeping wasn't as big an issue as I thought it would be, although another thing I learned was that airbeds work far better if you inflate them fully.  I also discovered that having to get up at 2am was worth it as at that time there were no sounds other than the sound of the waves crashing on the shore and of owls calling each other...  was very serene and almost the best moment of the trip.

The real best thing was the view from my tent first thing in the morning.

I also learned that the mirrors on my bike make good cup holders :-)

We did make an attempt at taking some photos but we were both really more interested in riding.  We did stop at Leiston Abbey, but all I'm prepared to post is this one!

All in all, a really good trip.  We did about 300 miles which is the most I've done so far, over two days.  We were toying with the idea of finding another campsite on the Saturday night, but the weather was a bit cold and miserable so we came home.

We've spent today cleaning about a ton of flies off the bikes!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

... And in with the new

Well, I've had a wonderful weekend. The weather has been a bit kinder to us with the sun even poking its head out of the clouds for a few minutes.

On Friday Graham picked up his new bike, a Yamaha Super Tenere 1200. Huge thing it is. I think he's only gone for one this big so he knows it's safe from me... I did get on it, but it was a struggle and my feet were several inches off the ground. I know it was on the centre stand, but even allowing for that I'm still way too short.

On Saturday, after getting back from Dad's, we went for a trundle, no idea of destination, just somewhere we could have a cuppa. Firstly we went out towards Corby, and stopped at Fermyn Woods for a little chat. I was a bit anxious at this point. I think it's because I know it's a big bike and it could easily get me into trouble, and I'm determined it won't. I'm also wary of road surfaces and how much grip I have so I slow down a bit... And bends!! Yikes, now those are scary!! I know all this will come with experience but I want to get past this tense stage as its killing my muscles!!

We decided we'd stay out until we'd had enough, so set off again, going from Corby to St Neots. Now that's a nice road...! We went there the other day, when I was as tiff as a board and held the traffic up. Not today... I told myself off for over thinking; I had my instructor's voice in my head, "look where you want to go!". This is always followed by the image I have in my head of him doing the waltz round the training area at the school to show me the slalom isn't difficult, which always makes me laugh, and therefore relax. I wouldn't say I was fast, but I didn't hold anyone up, felt more confident and safer... It was also a lot more fun!! We had another cuppa by the river then came home. The sun had buggered off by this time so when we got in I was freezing!

Today we went out again, not as far but an improved ride again, I even had a little play, doing a pretend slalom down our road. Apparently my chicken strips have shrunk from yesterday!! Graham's bike looks really good, big black mean machine in my mirror, and he looks good on it, but of course I can't always see him properly as I keep leaving him for dead coming out of 30 limits... Not cos my bike is that fast, but cos his is being run in and he can't go over 3000 revs. Shame..... I'm making the most of it while I can!

After all this riding this weekend, about 120 miles, and with the weather improving, I've decided I'm going to ride to work... This will probably prompt the next ice age, but I'll give it a go. Been dying to ride to work for ages!!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Out with the old...

Due to the weather, I've not been able to get out on my bike (I love those two words!) since Tuesday, so today, we went out.  Poor Graham, being forced to come out with me when sensible people stay in doors and wrap up warm!  Graham is changing his bike next week, so today is really the last chance for me to go out with him on the BMW.  I love that bike, we did hundreds of miles on it a couple of years back, when we toured all round the Surrey & Wiltshire.  Couldn't move afterwards, but it was good fun. 

Within a few seconds of leaving home I thought I'd been a bit keen as it was bitter!  The wind made my eyes stream even before we'd got off the estate.  Carried on though, had a mosey up the A6, in the snow... We didn't stay out long, but did about 30 miles all in.  We stopped at Nene Valley Motorcycles on the way back for a cuppa and a natter with Ann of AJ's Diner.  

When we got back home, we had to wash both bikes as they were plastered in salt.... all in all utter madness;  I really should wait until the weather's warmer!

These two photos were taken at Nene Valley in the bit where I murdered a few cones a few weeks back :) 

What a Week That Was!

Well what a week that was! This time last week I was a learner and owned a Suzuki GZ125 Marauder and didn't have a full bike licence... Today I have both a full licence AND a lovely shiny (soon to be even shinier when it's been washed) Honda CBF1000.  

I've wanted to ride a motorbike since I had a little play on a 50cc Suzuki when I was about 17.  I've never had the means to do it before, and it became one of those things that you would like to do but accept that you never will.  Until I met Graham, that was.  Meeting Graham revived this dream, and last year I did my CBT - just to see if I'd enjoy it - and passed that.  Then we got the Suzuki, and I did several hundred miles on that, which convinced me that I really did want to ride a bike...  In December I went for a two hour assessment at Nene Valley Motorcycle Training Centre in Wellingborough,  signed up for a few lessons, and now, 10 weeks later I am the proud owner of a piece of paper that allows me to go out and have enormous amounts of fun.  

Last weekend we went over to Stratstone Triumph in Leicester to look at an ER6F and a Versys.  I'd been training on an ER6F so it seemed sensible for my first bike to be one.   The Versys was way too tall unfortunately, but they also had an orange CBF1000, and since I had sat on one three years ago and loved it, I had to sit on this one.  Comparing the two bikes was no contest, so after a little bit of sensible thinking, I signed on the dotted line and the bike was mine.  Fancy having a 1000cc bike for your first bike!  I am getting quite a few incredulous reactions from people when I tell them this... but I am quite sensible really.  Most of the time anyway.  To get the bike home involved some personal sacrifice from Graham, as I couldn't ride it home as at that point I still didn't have a licence.  Graham hadn't come prepared to ride, so he bought the cheapest helmet they sold and a pair of gloves and rode home with both our coats on.... Didn't work though, he was still frozen stiff when he got back! 

I got my chance to ride it on the Tuesday, the day I passed my test.  I'd already spent 2 1/2 hours riding in the morning, but thought it would be a good idea to go out in the afternoon as well.  We rode over to St Neots, in the sunshine.  We had a cuppa and bacon buttie by the river... lovely.  Just the sort of trip I'd been waiting to do for years :)