Monday, 6 December 2010

1st Monday Music Movie - Wee Willie Harris

The legendary Wee Willie Harris, as mentioned in Ian Dury and The Blockheads song Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3. He was the second act on the stage in the Old Market Square on Saturday 29th May, still going strong in his seventies.

He came to fame in the 1950's when he became known as Britain's wild man of rock 'n' roll. TV appearences on BBC's Six-Five Special leading to concerns in the national media as the BBC was promoting "teenage decadence". Rock on Charles William Harris!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

2007 It Had to Happen Sometime-Drivin' South

Breakfasted, Guzzi back out of the garage and loaded, farewells farewelled, we were back on the road. Playtime.

Today’s route included some of the roads that had recently been recommended in Motor Cycle News, a weekly paper in the United Kingdom. The route we took had excellent scenery, married with the local wildlife and paragliders.

We first headed for Briançon and followed the D902, Le Col d’Izoard. This road is often part of the Tour de France. The day could not have been better for motorcycling and the scenery was breathtaking.

As we were in no hurry today Ian let the other road users pass,

thus letting us enjoy the views in peace.

If my memory is correct all of the photos were taken on Le Col d’Izoard, however there are many similarities between that particular pass and the Col de Vars. Like

Le Col d’Izoard, this mountain pass has also been used for the Tour de France, 33 times in total.

Completing our ride over the Col de Vars we headed west on the D900 at St Paul before adding the Col du Labouret to the collection of completed passes. This brought us to our destination, Digne-les-Bains.

With a short visit to the tourist information centre the Hôtel de Provence was selected as our base. The hotel had an area off road at the front for parking, which is in short supply for the town centre hotels.

Relaxed, showered and ready to hit the town, however, something is missing. It was almost like boarding the Mary Celeste. Many of the town’s restaurants were open for business, but the hungry hoard consisted of Ian, Guzzisue and myself. Digne, where the action isn’t!

Monday, 1 November 2010

1st Monday Music Movie -The Grinnigogs

Belatedly inspired by Ten-Inch Wheels occasional series entitled Lazy Blogging, I bring my version of this. The one difference is that the musical interludes will be filmed by yours truly.

Bank Holiday in Nottingham, the rain comes down and we are getting ratty with each other. Doing our, what was to be final lap of the stages, we come across the Grinnigogs. Medieval music with attitude! Despite the weather they had a pretty good crowd and a great sound. Medieval electric rock with a hammer dulcimer, hurdy-gurdy, fiddle and drum. The tune being played is the 8 step trance.

The Grinnigogs were one of many bands playing over the holiday weekend as part of the City Pulse event. The Robin Hood Pageant was drawing to a close at the castle and it was fitting that a medieval music event drew peoples' attention to this.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

2007 It Had to Happen Sometime-It's Cold Up Top

We awoke with clear blue skies and Ian did what he does best, put on the TV. In the early morning there are a few channels that show the mountain passes via a camera located on the top of restaurants or ski lifts. The live pictures are often accompanied by accordion music. This certainly was not music to our ears when the passes that we wanted to ride were closed as they had six inches of snow on them! Travelling east was therefore out of the equation. Up north the weather did not look too promising, travelling west would only take us back the way we had come, therefore south was the only answer, besides Ian had never seen the Med.

With our plans rescheduled it was time to hit the open road. Our route to the south was over Grimsel Pass, a road that we have travelled before and enjoyed. Looking back down the pass did nothing to prepare us for what lay ahead.

As we climbed higher the temperature began to fall. The results from the previous days weather fronts were becoming visible.

With Ian’s sometimes legendary map reading skills not required due to there being no junctions to negotiate, it was just as well if this information post was a sign of things to come.

We passed by a group of bikers that had parked up to take a photo for their holiday album.

Eventually reaching the summit and carefully bringing the Guzzi to a standstill, cups of hot chocolate and a warm snack were certainly welcome. It was so warm in the restaurant that we were almost falling asleep.

Returning outside we took a photo of perhaps the most photographed motorcyclists in Switzerland.

Crossing over the road there is a small enclosure that is home to a family of marmots.

This is reached by going up some steps, not surprisingly covered in ice. Ian managed to scale these without problems, finding himself knee deep in snow!

A group of tourists from one of the parked coaches also tried to walk up the steps have a look, only succeeding in sliding all over. When will people realise when to change into appropriate footwear?

Returning to the Guzzi we had a welcoming committee. Waiting by their coach, camcorders at the ready, we became minor film stars as Ian and Guzzisue mounted the Guzzi, gunned her into life and rode away. Travelling down the pass and out of the snow we had to do a quick country check. Yes we were still in Switzerland.

Warmer climate and our world’s back in balance.

Away from the Grimsel Pass we were able to cover ground at a steady rate, passing near Mont Blanc and surviving the rush hour in Grenoble, we picked out the N91, heading for Le Bourg d’Oisans and a welcome overnight stop.

Some hope! This was like a Goldilocks moment. The first B&B, Guzzisue almost suffocated herself trying the mattress as it wrapped itself around her, the second was very cheap, very tatty with a dubious clientele. The next was full.

With daylight fading we eventually came to Le Freney d’Oisans and the Hotel-Restaurant Le Cassini. Although it seemed to be expensive at €69 each for half board and another €2 for having the Guzzi under cover for the night, we had no option but to accept.

Having unpacked it was time to have our evening meal. Not knowing what to expect the set menu was handed to us.

Roast Chicken Salad

Venison with sauté potatoes and vegetables

Cheese Platter

Chocolate Mousse

Coffee was offered in the lounge to those requiring a caffeine fix.

Good company with a couple of American cyclists made for a pleasant end to the day.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

2007 It Had to Happen Sometime-Did I Mention The Rain?

The day was planned to travel slowly east through Switzerland towards the Austrian Alp region, managing to complete three passes on the way. These were the Col de Corbier, Col de la Croix and finally, Col du Pillion.

Stopping at the summit of the Col du Pillion there is a cable car that can take punters up to the world’s highest Alpine Coaster ride. We were tempted to try this however the price 6 Swiss Francs (CHF) for the coaster but another 33 CHF for the cable car. A trip to the nearby could be taken for a mere 54 CHF. All these went under the banner of Glacier 3000. With the cloud coming down and obscuring the mountain tops this helped our decision to move on.

Travelling along the A8 towards Interlaken there were a few spots of rain in the air so we turned towards the town, booking in at the Hotel Derby. The Guzzi was placed in the garage for the evening.

Then the rain came down. It was time to shelter in our room for a couple of hours. With the need to eat becoming stronger we headed towards the centre of town and

decided on Bebbie’s tacky burger bar. Inside there was a group of Japanese tourists getting the complete Swiss “Experience”. The décor was a mixture of wood panelling, pictures, various flags from around the world, wooden figures holding a glass of beer or an Alpen horn and a ladder suspended from the ceiling festooned with various bells, which the owner shook on occasions to try an liven up the place. A few of the Japanese tourists then became the floorshow as a selection of Alpen horns were brought into the centre of the restaurant, not very tuneful but taken in good spirit. Some of the members of staff then showed us how they should be played. At least this took our minds off the rain.

Back in the warmth of the hotel Guzzisue had a play on the hotel’s internet to check out her blog and the weather forecast. Rain was expected for the next four days across Austria and Germany, heavy rain for Tuesday in Southern Switzerland. We are seriously thinking of changing our plans, but for now we will sleep on this and see what happens in the morning.

Any idea of going further east disappeared, like the sun, from the start. We were woken up by a dawn chorus of the heavy spotted thunderstorm. Having checked out the weather forecast on the morning television, the weathermen had indeed got it correct last night. It did not take much of a decision to stay in Interlaken for another night.

Eventually the rain abated and we went for a walk down to the lakeside. On the way this little mountain goat came up to their enclosure fence

and told us to look at the mountain tops.

There was some fresh snow on the high ground. We had been so engrossed in looking at various items along the way that the snow had not been noticed by any of us. It did not appear to be too much to worry about, so it was soon forgotten about.

As its name may suggest, Interlaken is situated between two lakes, Brienz to the east and Thun to the west. The river Aare connects the lakes. Our walk took us to the local sailing club, situated close to Lake Brienz. Several yachts were moored up in the harbour, sheltering from the incoming weather. The clubhouse was all locked up so there was no chance for a warming drink.

And then the rain came down again. Fortune was on our side as there was a bus shelter nearby with one due in ten minutes.

Back in the town centre we found the local museum, situated behind a fountain in a quiet area.

Eventually there was a small break in the deluge and Guzzisue managed to take a few photos. As we have come to expect, many of the building are brightly painted with the occasional mural thrown in.

Hiding in some local foliage was this woodcarving titled Potscheboum.

With more rain coming down it was back to the hotel and hide for a while. This persisted into the evening when we trudged back into town for a meal. Not wanting the same as last night Hooters gave us lads some beautiful scenery to look at. Guzzisue even thought that the fayre was not too bad either.

No matter where you are rain literally puts the dampers on everything. It would be too judgemental to give Interlaken the thumbs down because of this. In the vicinity

there is the Schilthorn, advertised as the top of Europe and used in the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This is a must for us in the future, however because of the cost it may well be way into the future.

Roll on tomorrow and we will be rolling on whatever happens.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

2007 It Had to Happen Sometime-So Far, So Good

We awoke at the crack of mid-morning after the excursions of yesterday, the sun was beaming, sky was blue and the view wonderful.

The remainder of the morning was spent relaxing before heading towards Morzine for lunch. Stopping off at a lake for a Sunday stroll and a few photo sessions for Guzzisue plus a very rare shot of Guzzisue and Ian together!

Mozine is the nearest large town boasting of…not much really. Although it boasts plenty of winter sports and mountain biking for summer, we had gone there during the ‘in between’ season.

Noticing the Luge d’été, a toboggan run designed for plastic sledges with wheels, we left Elaine as the helmet attendant and proceeded to have a go. We got to the top of the run by the same method as the sledges were returned,

giving us a good view of the town and the toboggan run.

Returning to the apartment Ian let Andrew and Elaine take the Guzzi out for a spin to show her different styles of motorcycle pillion comfort. Andrew certainly enjoyed the experience judging by his Cheshire cat grin.

The evening was spent at the local pizza parlour/bar before retiring early. Andrew and Elaine were travelling on to Paris in the morning and we were going to ride a few mountain passes, crossing into Switzerland before further east.

Next day saw us up bright(?) and early. Elaine did some last minute cleaning

Before joining all of us putting the last touches loading the bikes.

With farewells said we departed St Jean d’Alps and went our separate ways.

So far, so good….

Friday, 3 September 2010

2007 It Had to Happen Sometime-The Beginning

Always in life there are tasks that are put off for as long as possible. There are different reasons for this, for example, it might be a job that is dirty, or tedious, or no benefit can be appreciated on its completion. The task in question here is our 2007 trip over the water.

We were only a few weeks from setting off and none of us had any idea on where to go. Work matters for Ian and Guzzisue had taken priority over everything. Then at a bike rally down in Essex a chance meeting with a friend, Andrew, accompanied by his fiancée, Elaine, mentioned that they were going to be in a ski apartment during the weekend that we were crossing the Channel. Would we care to join them for the first weekend? Well we didn’t need to be asked again!

With the address details forwarded to us in good time we depart Nottingham on a Friday night for Dover. Arriving at the hotel shortly after 22:00 we had our customary bedroom picnic whilst watching television.

Saturday dawns and Ian and myself take the luggage down to the Guzzi. Keeping our steed company was a smart BMW RT that belonged to the night porter. It turned out that the porter is a member of Dover 69 Motorcycle Club and we have mutual friends from near Gloucester. Small world indeed!

Having proceeded to the ferry terminal without problems, we boarded with three Harleys. Guzzisue took pity on the P&O men that were strapping down the machines as the owners were most concerned about their paintwork. During the crossing we discovered that two of the Harleys were bound for the European Bike Week, a large convention that can have around 50,000 people, as we discovered last year riding back through Austria after visiting the Czech Republic.

With the Guzzi’s wheels once again turning on foreign roads we took our usual route away from Calais, first heading through Reims and then onto Troyes. Having passed Troyes we passed a convoy of ‘movie makers’’ vehicles including dressing rooms, costume wagon and the inevitable portaloo. Many months later we discovered this was part of the ‘on location’ bandwagon for the new Merlin series being produced by the BBC. Riding onwards, we passed Langres, although this time there were no patchwork quilts to be seen. Besancon came and went, followed by the Swiss border. The obligatory stop for the purchase of road tax was made interesting as there was a car being stripped by the border guards.

We were permitted to enter Switzerland without any delay and headed for Lausanne and the motorway around Lake Geneva. Travelling east we stopped at the same service station as our previous visit. Fuel in the Guzzi and a much needed chocolate fix for the three of us, having travelled over 400 miles, disaster strikes. Complete electrical failure. When confronted with a problem the usual British answer is a cup of tea, however, Guzzisue went and got more cups of hot chocolate! Having removed the seat, Ian checked all the fuses and relays before finding the problem – a loose connection on the battery. If only everything was this simple.

It was starting to get dark as we entered Evian, complete with its grand hotels and casino, built on the profits of bottled water (?) It certainly looks like a place to come and have a look around in the future.

Ian is now faced with the daunting task of driving the final 15-20 miles on a road climbing into the mountains with a headlight that could be related to Lucas, Prince of Darkness. On a couple of occasions he nearly went into the mountainside as it was almost the same colour as the road! Ian’s plan was to ride slowly until a car overtook him and then follow the tail lights for as long as possible.

Eventually we reached St Jean d’Alps and remembered Andrew’s instructions, the third block after the ski lift. The sign for the ski lift was seen without a problem, however on leaving the village behind going into total darkness and going into the mountain we thought that we had passed the landmark, so back down we go. On returning to the village a quick phone call to Andre for more directions gets us going back the same way but taking a left turn onto a one way street. This time we end up at the top of the village! Third time lucky, as the saying states, back on the original route we see Andrew standing by the roadside. If only we had travelled an extra half mile the first time…

It was now 22:00 and we had travelled over 500 miles since the morning, food prepared by Elaine and wine were waiting on our arrival and conversation like the wine flowed until the early hours.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Uttoxeter Motorcycle Show

Although the 4th Uttoxeter Classic Bike Show and Autojumble, organised by the VJMC opened its gates to the public at 09:30, Ian and myself did not arrive in the parking area until 10:00. The reasoning behind this is simple. Let the early queue to get in disperse and to have a look around the bike park to see some fine machinery.
The Triumph, or should that be BSA? Trail Blazer seen below was one of many British motorcycles to be seen in the parking area.

Back in 1975, Ian was just a zit faced sixteen year old lad. On returning home from a family holiday his father stopped off at a motorway service station. In the car park on that rainy day there just happened to be a motorcycle, on its sidestand, away from all other vehicles,

and so thank you Kawasaki for producing the Z900 and setting one young oik* on the winding road of life with a target to aim for. He had no money in the bank and one year to go before he reached the age to ride a motorcycle. The rest as they say is history.

Honda were well represented in the parking area. Two machines that caught my eye were this very tidy CL450

and this CBX1000 that manages to out ‘Sei’ the Benelli 750 Sei. The Sei was the first production six cylinder road motorcycle, based on Honda’s CB500, it was stunning with its 6-6 exhaust system. The production model of the CBX had a 6-2 system, however this particular example was something else!

Rapidly fading into history are the old prejudices and the “Jap crap” remarks, as could be verified by the fact that many British motorcycles were on display inside the show.
This was obvious from first setting paw and foot into the show ground. Immediately on the left, in the Paddock Pavillion building was the Vincent HRD club. They sandwiched the Parade Ring, where during the day several owners were interviewed and their machines run, with the BSA Gold Star Club. It was an oversight on my behalf that I forgot to get any photographs of any of these machines.

Swiftly moving on, Ian and myself entered the Staffordshire Stand building. Just to the right of the doorway was a sad looking machine with its machine details card stating ‘This bike was saved from the skip, people ask why!!’

I recall that previously Affer and myself have had a little discussion on this motorcycle(?). The owner was not to be seen. I wonder if he has heard about the Ariel 3 Museum in Bristol?
Occupying the area next to the Ariel was a small collection of GPO Motorcycles owned by John Lawrence.

These were accompanied by the helmet, gloves and telegram satchel from the correct era.

A brief history of the telegram messenger service can be found here.

Ian and myself spent a while chatting with John about his collection and also discovered he was once a messenger himself.

Ian and myself then continued to look around the other exhibits in the room, taking photos of one of the motorcycles in particular, more of which at the end of this post.

There were several trade stands immediately outside the Staffordshire Stand building that we perused before entering the Exhibition Hall. Once inside we glanced at several of the different owners’ club stands before noticing this pair.

This RE 5 we have met before at the Castle Donnington Show in 2008,

however I was more drawn to the 750 Honda below.

Owned by Fred Brown, the motorcycle was bought new in 1971 when he was working in Saudi Arabia for transport. When his contract was completed, in 1972, he decided to ride the Honda home, a distance of 5000 miles completed in eight and a half days.

Next door in the Exhibition Marquee there was an interesting combination, the MZ Club next to the Kettle Club.

The early 1960’s Suzuki racers were copies of the MZs after their rider, Ernst Degner, defected during the Swedish Grand Prix in 1961. I wonder what Walter Kaaden would have made of this pairing as Suzuki went from strength to strength while on December 12th 2008 the MZ factory in Zschopau closed, bringing a halt to motorcycle production that had lasted for 88 years in the same town. The old 'East German' factory became a night club, called MZWerk.

Crossing over the race course we entered the aptly named Centre Course Marquee. Inside was an assortment of VJMC sections’ stands manned by their members.

This particular machine had Ian reminiscing over the television series C.H.I.Ps that was produced between 1977-83.

Hiding in the far corner of the marquee was this 1948 Corgi. Developed from the Welbike, which was built for parachute drops and around the airfields during WWII, was produced until 1954, during which time it had helped to get Great Britain back on her feet.

No show would be complete without an auto jumble, today was no exception. Ian is still looking for the elusive badges for his Suzuki. There was no fortune for him again, one day…. Slowly as NOS (new old stock) dries up for certain machines undergoing restoration, prices rise. This in turn pushes up the price of restored motorcycles, for example, the RV 125 below.

At £3750 it may be some time before it is sold.

Returning to the perimeter we had a look in the Railway Stand Marquee. Recently several clubs have opted to show a cutaway of an engine. I’m pleased to say that the CBX Riders (UK) Club have joined the ranks. This rotating display took a few attempts to get a reasonable picture.

Although the show was open until 17:00 to the public many were departing by 15:00. By the time that we returned to the Suzuki the bike park was two thirds empty. Will we go again? Yes. The show clashes with a motorcycle rally that we often attend so it will be a couple of years before we attend again.

One final thing that I must do is this:

Two posts ago I set a little task with this picture

The motorcycle is a

and the model is

Congratulations to Affer at getting it correct at the second attempt. All that is required now is to the identity of the owner.

That is revealed HERE.

*An unsophisticated, uncultured and objectionable person.