Saturday, 15 December 2012

Christmas - What's All That About?

Christmas is on its way. I know this because my school choir has finally nailed their first performance, the only serious hiccups coming courtesy of my over reliance on technology. Meanwhile in class it's all about Advent and the associated preparation. My Teaching Assistant has done a superb job of draping the displays with all manor of sparkly things and the piano in the hall is beautifully decorated with evergreen and fairy lights. Oh yeah, and I'm crying at the outcomes of the end of term assessments. What could be more festive than that?

Of course, it's been Christmas outside school and for rather longer. Christmas markets have been springing up everywhere since Halloween and the National Trust have been selling Christmas since September over at Fountains Abbey. Perhaps it's the emerging grumpy old man in me but I really do feel there is way too much Christmas, that it goes on for far too long and this is helped by the need of shops to use it to maximize sales. That's not a criticism, just an observation. I'm trying to avoid criticism these days. 

At the same time, I've been amongst those who feel it's a shame that materialism seems to push Christ further and further out of his own birthday each year. Even in a chuch school, I hear far more discussion of Santa and what he brings to the table than I do about the Baby Jesus. Thank God this hasn't happened to Holy Week. Again, this isn't criticism of anyone but seen though my eyes, it's sad when you stop to think about it whereupon there is an easy assumption to make: that consumerism is responsible for pushing Christ out of Christmas as people satisfy their natural instinct to indulge and spend at Christmas. 

I'm getting there now so don't just give up just yet. 

This morning, my regular Saturday morning coffee guy spontaneously gave me his take with the added flamboyant gesticulation that only a true Italian could get away with. Now he's a bit like me when it comes to the extent to which he gets excited about Christmas. You can tell from the fact that the token Christmas decoration in his cafe consists of a single 90cm synthetic tree with non flashing fairy lights and a few evenly spaced baubles. There are also some Christmas cards neatly placed about the tree, one of which bears some vague reference to the original meaning of Christmas. He's not, as far as I can tell, a man of any particular faith. I've been buying my Saturday Morning coffee from him for years because he is great with the kids and makes my latte exactly the way I want it, every time, without fail. That's hard to find. 

Stefano is more than just a small businessman though. He's lived in this country for a while though well travelled  is married (I think) to and English woman and has done a few jobs. Seven days a week he is in his cafe and five of them he opens it. The man knows all his customers well, not only in terms of their coffee preferences but also their personal interests, life story and so on. You only get that when you get people talking. So, even though I don't tend to go about talking to anyone who will listen about what happened to the Baby Jesus, he caught me on it. 

And now I'm there.

Stefano's take is simply that consumerism doesn't push Jesus out, it is simply filling the gap. As society is less and less Christian (remembering that whatever it is now, this was a Christian country), they naturally leave Christ out. He thinks that they feel guilty because they have enjoyed Christmas without, 'going to church,' so they spend to compensate. Within his flowing, almost musical lecture, Stefano even took the time to define compensation as money paid to make a wrong thing right. "That's why charities get so much money at Christmas," he offered as proof along with two steaming perfectly made coffees to go.
Is he right? Heck! How should I know? All I know for sure is that once again I've proof I'm in no place to judge because I'm once again guilty of make assumptions. I'll try and remember that next time I look at my mantle piece and wonder why only a third of the Christmas cards mention the opening scenes of the greatest story ever told (in my opinion). 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Broad and Balanced

I had a bit of an awakening over the past few days. It seems I've been being secretly judgemental without any right. There's probably a word to describe me and it won't be complementary.

It started while I was waiting for my bacon sandwich with black pudding (thankfully, they seem not to have received the memo from my doctor). I noticed on the table an obviously popular newspaper. Surprisingly, despite the important events following the US presidential election and the Chinese Communist party conference, they had mainly gone with the existence of someone's breasts and some apparent BBC bashing. It left me wondering what kind of person would willingly admit to reading such a publication. Doubtless they would be shallow and of limited intelligence. Wouldn't they?

That evening, I was directed by Motorcycle News on Twitter to a documentary about the Isle of Mann TT. Called 'Isle of Man TT: A Most Dangerous Addiction,' it was excellently put together and presented by a typical English chap (by typical here I admit to meaning a white, middle aged, middle class bloke). However, this seemed odd as it's an Al Jazeera program.
Now, there are many things I accidentally let myself think I knew. Firstly, Al Jazeera is a news network prone to broadcasting beheading and inciting the Islamic world to jihad. Also, the people who watch the Fox news network would happily set the full force of the US military machine on anyone who has ever watched Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, people who watch the Channel 4 news (and Channel 5 for that matter) are a little like I think people who read the Daily Star must be, shallow and insular. I of course tend to get my news from the BBC who are above reproach, broad and totally balanced.

But it turns out, I don't know anything. It turns out I'm the shallow one for making judgements based on people's news providers. At the end of the program about the TT, secretly wondering why there was no obviously Islamic slant, I went onto the live feed of the Al Jazeera English channel. I caught the end of someone being hugely critical about the USA in general while summing up a discussion I otherwise missed. Then there was a great deal of coverage of current affairs across the middle east and a teaser for a program about the ordeal of refugees in Israel. Actually, it came as no surprise and was mostly what I was expecting. However, I learned about things that were happening to people that the BBC didn't tell me. I feel quite well informed about the crisis in Syria for instance. Mind you, I thought I was before.

What could I learn if I regularly got my news from other networks? What am I missing? Perhaps I need to look around. Rather than expecting my news provider to be broad and balanced, maybe I'm the one that needs to be. One thing's for sure, I'm in no position to throw the first stone and I'd better remove the plank from my eye. That said, I'm not sure I'll start broadening my horizons by reading the Daily Star just yet.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

I've Discovered My Perfect Day

Not being the sort of person to dwell on such things, I'd no idea until today what my perfect day would look like. Now I know and just on the off chance anyone wants to know without the requirement to make small talk, here it is.

Sorry fellow devoted parents, but it started with dropping one child off at nursery and handing the other off to Grandma (thanks Mum). Then Ang and I got on our bikes and headed out. It wasn't perfect weather for riding as the roads were a little damp and largely strewn with wet leaves. But any day that starts with a rideout, no matter what the weather, is bound to be a nice day.

Ang has built a lot of confidence since she spent the summer riding to work. I led the way up to Patley Bridge, across to Lofthouses then north towards Masham. They're narrow roads with tight curve after tight curve, steep hills, tired tarmac strewn with gravel and the odd sheep. Add to that the autumn leaf fall and the roads get tricky. Ang took it all and handled her little YBR125 beautifully. When we did stop for coffee high up on a stunning moor, Ang was still smiling and so was I.

After coffee, we carried on to Masham. It's a wonderful place where instead of pay and display machines and patroling 'Traffic Enforcement Officers,' there's an honesty box and a suggested parking fee of 50p. Usually, I wouldn't bother paying to park my bike unless I know they ticket bikes which haven't. But in Masham, parking is a matter of Honesty. I couldn't Steal parking.

As I dropped the full whack, a whopping 50p per vehicle a passing local, who must have thought Ang looked hungry, pointed her in the direction of the Suncatchers Cafe. That place is awesome and is a metaphor for multicultural Britain as I like to think of it. I was served a full cooked breakfast in a Yorkshire Market town, by a woman who was not apparently of European decent and had a broad Scottish accent while surrounded by what seems best described as loads of Arabian type stuff. Even the toilet was kind of cool because they made room for a wash basin by digging into the thick stone wall. Ace!

After that we pretty much rode home and spent time together pottering about Harrogate, drinking more coffee. The new Baltzersens Cafe is also rather good, particularly because it's spacious, has some very comfy seats and the actual coffee is superb. It's a perfect place to while away the afternoon and catch up with the world, sitting by your wife as she catches up with whatever they feel important enough to publish in 'Prima' magazine.

Thus my perfect day began to draw to a close. I'd had a ride out though my beautiful Yorkshire Dales. I'd found new and wonderful places. I'd had a full cooked breakfast and superb coffee. And all of this was quality time spent with Ang (as opposed to time spent placating children with my wife). However, this would not have been enough on it's own.

At the end of my perfect day I was alone in my garage, just me, my bike and my power tools. I'd bought a metal work vice because I needed to modify some M8 bolts and the woodwork vice I've already got is no use for grinding. Unfortunately, I rather cleverly used the last of the M8 nuts attaching the vice to a wooden block making it impossible for me to complete the job on the garage door. That's fine though because next time I have a perfect day, I will have a good reason to finish it off in the garage, with my bike, playing with power tools.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Hello Old Friend - Xubuntu Back in My Life

Many moons ago now I bought a little netbook for the purpose of having something I could use to write my blog and generally surf with while Ang used our main laptop to surf, shop and generally do whatever it is she does. Though it did travel to the states with me, it hasn't otherwise see a whole lot of use but I think it probably will now.

When I bought it, the little Samsung N145 came with Windows 7, a sizable enough hard drive and an impressive battery life. Unfortunately the Atom processor, though frugal, isn't great with Windows 7 and things could take rather longer than I like. It booted very slowly and applied updates slowly. Being disinclined to wait for it to start when my phone (usually) does most of what I want my laptop to do, I started it seldom and when I did, ended up waiting ages for the darn thing to apply updates.

Then I saw Windows 8 with its swipey, tappy, appy mobile style interface and hated the idea. In part I hated it because I'm starting to get old and stuck in my ways so fear change. However, it also seems to me the whole idea is not going to work on a traditional PC or laptop, of which I have many. Fortunately I have Windows 7 (or had) and that is actually really rather good in that it's shinier than XP and isn't Vista.

It did get me thinking about the other options though. There was a time, when I was poorer and had more time to build my own computers from the scraps thrown out by others, when I played with various Linux distros. I always liked one in particular for its simplicity and, um, well, its simplicity really.

Xubuntu is like the most popular distro Ubuntu Linux but with fewer system requirements. It meets my requirements more quickly than plain old Ubuntu and is an awful lot quicker about it than anything with the prefix MS. What's great though is that the current version has improved without appearing any different. I installed it on the N145 expecting to have to mess with wifi drivers, figure out why the sound wouldn't work, find all sorts of workarounds and be eventually frustrated by stuff generally. But no! It really did just work. I've yet to find anything that doesn't work. Even DropBox works. The simple, straight forward XFCE desktop interface is there along with the the simple file system. It's not shiney but it works great.

Clearly, I'm not fully hip, down with the kids or with it. I still can't see why people get addicted to Apple stuff having owned an IPad (though I am hugely concerned by my offspring's obsession with it). However, I know what I need, and right now, I need something that gets me on the net, checks my email, feeds me my twitter and when absolutely necessary lets me do work. Xubuntu appears to do that very well indeed so I'm very happy and so is my netbook.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

In which I Watch Many Movies & Go To The Butcher's

Today I've been watching movies. It's the last Thursday of the summer holidays and that means the last day that I get to myself. Now, obviously, I should be going into work on such a day being as I've not really got anything like enough done. However, life's too short for that and I wasn't going to to miss the opportunity. Usually, I head out for a ride but this day I pretty much just watched movies. Mind you, I did pop out to a local butchers to replenish our black pudding supply. 

When I woke up this morning I could already hear that any plans I might have had for roaming the Dales upon my trusty Wee Hamish would only be accomplice whilst doing my impression of a drowned rat. Rain audibly lashed at the windows of my bedroom and on closer inspection, could be seen running as a river down the tarmac that would be the start of any rideout. That wouldn't put me off riding to work or somewhere I had to be but I'm not going to wade the strom all the way to nowhere in particular when there are other equally enticing options. 

Instead, I spent the morning watching movies. I started with 'Battle Los Angeles' which was surprisingly good. Having watched 'Battleship' the previous day I was on the hunt for similar movies, namely SciFis comprising aliens, firefights and general slaughter. Neither film disappointed and I found myself rather enjoying the Gung Ho, Who Rah and God Bless America feel of the movies. It rather makes you feel fictionally proud to be American (by birth). 

Of course, the real Gung Ho, Who Rah and God Bless America theme of real life, in the middle east and throughout the post September 11th world is rather less unarguably admirable. Not that I have an opinion of that because I have no clue where we go forward as a world from where we are now. It would be much easier if could unite against a common extra-terrestrial enemy. Perhaps they missed a trick there. It would have been great if at the end of 'Battle Los Angeles' they showed the rest of the world tackling the aliens together. It would include some Taliban fighters/terrorist (you choose) fighting side by side with US Marines. Hell, they could even invite the French, if that wasn't too far fetched. 

Following that and having run out of recent movies from the genre, I checked for similar and came up with Starship Troopers, a film from my youth and one I had once enjoyed. I recalled the wholesale slaughter of bother aliens and humans as well as some pretty girls. I got it and watched it. Turned out I had remembered correctly (though I've no idea how I'd forgotten about the fact the girls occasionally went topless). The slaughter was indeed wholesale. Aliens died eventually, riddled with bullets with occasional others blown up for expedience. The humans however died much more interestingly. There is it would seem, an incredible variety of ways in which one can be dismembered, impaled or decapitated. 

What I wasn't expecting, doubtless because I hadn't noticed it in the past, was the politics of the movie. Set in a future, federal world, the political system and culture of the world it was set in was different, very different indeed. In it, citizenship had to be earned. Parents had to be licensed. Gender roles were totally removed. I could probably go on but I've probably not appreciated all if the, um, thingys. It wasn't subtly done either. The writer or director or whoever is responsible for the issues raised, they were pretty blatant. I think that was often the case back in the 90s when Hollywood just loved dealing with issues and it could be painful at times. What got me though, was the fact that I'm absolutely certain that I never noticed it before back in 1997.

That was 15 years ago now. It hasn't changed, so I guess I must have. I'm not sure how. It's not like I can now speak authoritatively on such issues as middle east relations, the role of women in the military or how to tackle stagnation in the economy. Nope, it's just that I am just a little more aware of it all. I'm no wiser. A little more experienced perhaps, but certainly no wiser. I'm pretty sure I'll carry on missing the obvious and doubtless make mistakes but in doing so, I'm more able to worry about it all, especially if I should be working. 

I'll also keep wandering. I did today after the second movie. With an afternoon and drying roads, I did get out on my bike. One thing I had noticed was that we were running low on black pudding so I needed to get to the local butchers, in Settle. It was a lovely ride and 80 miles later, with the children home and in bed, I am watching 'Forrest Gump' which doesn't deal with issues. It just tells a story in the words of a simple man, who's outlook is utterly enviable. Anyway, that's more material for another blog, one I probably won't write.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Buttertubs Pass On A YBR125

I haven't yet written about the biggest rideout since U-Ride2012. When I do, it will no doubt include at lease some small mention of my first ride up Buttertubs pass. This gist is that it wasn't what it could have been. I wanted to do it again and got the opportunity earlier than expected thanks to a very lovely wife I happen to have. 

I did it on Angie's YBR125 for a couple of reasons. One big one is that the rear tyre is getting very low on my V-Strom. Another is that I quite like putting along on a littl'un. Finally, after hearing about my brother in law's epic ride from Lincoln to somewhere near Kingston on Thames (190 miles on his YBR125) I felt like putting a big ride in on one myself.

Unlike a lot of my rides, this one started with me knowing exactly where I was going. Having recently returned from a 900 mile jaunt fully loaded and carrying a pillion on the Wee, it was a real joy riding the tiny little bike. It steers so easily in comparison. Actually, you pretty much just think a direction and off it goes. The brakes on the other hand, take a lot of getting used to after the Suzuki. But my chosen route was just 115 miles of superb riding and beautiful Yorkshire countryside, perfect for the little learner machine. 

Part of the beauty of the bike was that it is so easy to handle. You're never having to heave it about, on or off it. On my way up the pass I hopping on and off like it was an old London Bus. There are a great many reasons to stop on the pass; the stunning views over the dales, the butter tubs themselves and even just to contemplate the winding road ahead. When you are riding it, unless you want to rag the nuts off the poor thing, it takes you up and down the pass at a very sedated pace, perfect for just passing gently through, enjoying the cool air and long views. 

There is another road up there that is worth a look in. I took the pass north then rode to Reeth and took another high road back south to Askrigg. It's a much less used single track road. Not as high but very quiet and windy. It's not for the feint of heart but I imagine that probably keeps it quiet. 

The only thing that wasn't much good was the Samsung Galaxy S I decided to trial instead of my usual HTC Wildfire S. On paper the Samsung kicks the backside of the HTC but when it comes to getting a mobile  signal and picking up GPS sats, the HTC win hands down. Good thing I had a map in the box and a very good idea of where I was going really. 

Anyway. It was a good day and I would recommend this route to anyone. 

Buttertubs Pass Rideout (Sorry, you will need to zoom out a bit to see the whole route). 

View Larger Map

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Getting Ready to Wander North

I'm so excited. It's almost time for us to go touring on the new bike. I've not blogged for ages because I have a job and children and, well, a new bike. Gone is the YBR250. In it's place is a Suzuki DL650 V-Strom. We wanted something we could tour on and ended with the 'Wee,' now known within the family as 'Wee Hamish' (despite it's comparatively colossal size). 

Soon, it will finally be used in earnest, doing what it was bought for. The plan was to recreate the first days of our honeymoon but on a bike. Then, we stayed in a lovely boutique hotel in Edinburgh before travelling up the A9 to Laggan to see the set of 'Monarch of the Glen.' This time we have less money and more time so we'll give the big city a miss and stick to reasonably priced accommodation. Camping or Glamping were considered but they aren't that much cheaper, require a lot more kit and are less conducive to a great night's kip. The thing about staying in a bed and breakfast see, is that you get a bed and you get breakfast. This negates the need to carry a bed or purchase breakfast. 

So on day one we will spend the night in Peebles. I chose that one, if only for the name. I hear it's also nice and that's enough for Ang. The route up there is planned and highlighted on the map. It avoids big roads and is a full 188 miles. Sure it'll be a long day but boy it looks good. It traces a straight (read 'very curvy') line towards our destination taking in parks and forests but not a single metre of dual carriageway. It's the kind of route that has more farm shop tea rooms than Costa Coffees and that's just the way I like it. I figure we ride from early doors stopping for breakfast, lunch about Hadrian's wall with a brew somewhere in-between. Then afternoon tea and finally, fish and chips or similar in Peebles. We won't be able to use fuel as an excuse to stop because the Wee will do that comfortably on a tank so sampling tea up the spine of the British Isles will be our excuse to stop, take pictures and generally be.

View Driving directions to Peebles in a larger map
Now, that's enough blogging for now. The whole packing thing didn't go as expected and I need to get both of us plus tools and other essentials into a tank bag and a tail pack. It shouldn't be a problem as long as Ang doesn't need too many pairs of shoes. However, I want the bike prepped and writing about it won't get it done. 

Monday, 18 June 2012

Commuting Happy

I'm so bad at blogging. I do it seldom and then write way too much. If however you are still reading after that statement of intent to disappoint, then you should know that I am writing today about bikes. That will probably come as no surprise. I mainly write about motorcycling and just recently there has been lots of bikey things to think about.
New DL650 and last view of the YBR250. 

The most significant event recently was the purchase of the biggest bike I've ever owned marking, I assume, the end of my 250cc era. The new bike is a Suzuki DL650 V-Strom, often referred to as a Wee being the smaller sibling of the DL1000 V-Strom, usually called the Vee. The Wee is already competing strongly for the, 'Best bike I've ever had,' award. Ang Loves it to, which is great. The bike is tall, the seat is uber comfortable, the controls easy. While it has the power to overtake with ease, it's also pretty gentle. Really, it's everything I wanted including all the bits I didn't know I wanted. We've already been up the Dales with it and around the local area. It's superb, even with a passenger, which is pretty much why we got it.

In other news, though perhaps related, Ang rode her bike the other day. I knew she enjoyed riding pillion on the wee but it caught me by surprise when one night, with work looming the next day, she wanted to know if her bike was ready to go. This came just as I was assuming that she probably never would ride solo again having shown no interest whatsoever for months. Then, she did. The following day, Ang rode to work and back. Though this will sound condescending, I was actually proud (and a little concerned when it seemed to take years before she arrived home). The best part was the mood she was in on return. I could tell she had enjoyed it. Then, the lady who, even though she owns one, didn't know the YBR125 is made by Yamaha, was discovered researching the Kawasaki Ninja 250 and bike test. Saying that, Ang is already thinking a Bandit would be more her thing. No accounting for taste I suppose.

Then, today was Ride To Work Day UK. Naturally, I got stuck in. Why not? I was riding to work anyway. I do 11 months of the year. Somehow, today was special though. I left at 5am on the YBR125. There's really no need to use the Wee, except perhaps two extra minutes at work, a more spacious riding position and a whole lot of protection from the elements. The YBR on the other hand has 105mpg, is actually more comfortable than the 250 was (so really not bad), and is light as a feather (which counts as a bonus when you're getting it in and out of a cluttered garage at the top of the slope).

I'd followed @RideToWorkDayUK on twitter and tweeted a couple of times on the subject of #commutehappy even though, for me the day had little to offer on the face of it. I wasn't riding anywhere there would be an event and even if I was, arriving at work at 0530 would probably be little early for most. It still felt good to be doing something, even if it was on my own. Twitter helped me feel part and I kept an eye on, even sent in a picture for the competition. Which brings me to the cool part. My picture won a prize! What it won I have no idea. A Yamaha product I believe. I'm guessing not an R1 but a Super Ten would be nice. Probably not that either to be fair. Still, it was nice to be part of it all and all the while I just had to do what I always do anyway. I rode to work and I rode back and I loved every mile.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

I realised that I've never actually posted the video I made of your trip on here before which seems somewhat remiss (first time I've ever used that word before. Hope I got it right). Anyway, here it is. It was filmed with a GoPro Hero2 and edited the whole thing together with Windows Live Movie Maker.

There is a combination of rear facing tank mounted and helmet mounted. The footage shot from the tank was a long shot but I'm glad I did it as it's the only stuff with worthy sound. Also, it's kinda cool, if a little fun of me.

The rest is OK and has some good roads. They weren't the best roads though. We turned out to be great at not using the camera every time we found amazing roads and then getting it out just as they got slightly sub-amazing (but still worth filming). Also, the helmet mount isn't the most dramatic view you can get. Since then, I've experimented with mounting low which makes the view more exciting but too late for this video.

I found out something when I uploaded this to YouTube that was a pleasant surprise. Thanks to the GoPro Hero2 not living up to it's claims of perfect sound with all exhaust note and no wind noise, the dominant sound of howling wind needed to be replaced with something. I went with two tracks from Zac Brown band. Didn't really think about the copyright issues as I hadn't really considered that I was uploading it to the Web. When I did, YouTube sent me a lovely email explaining that they had detected the music but not to worry, my account wasn't suspended. However, people viewing my video may have to watch an advert. Seems everyone's a winner. I get to use my choice of tunes in my video and the owner gets paid.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Tuesday 10th April 2012 - Wrecker Truckin'

It needs to be noted for anyone reading this who thinks I'm blogging on the road, I'm not. I write this four days after the fact and don't plan to upload it for a couple of days. I've been writing too much for it to go up in one go. Also, I've just not had the time or energy to write it all in the detail I want to. Today, I've got very important school work to do which is why I'm doing this instead. Besides, it's getting to the point where I'll forget bits, my memory not being what it never was in the first place. Also, Mum got the rest in advance and wants to know how the story ends. (I felt bad for shouting, “Sorry, you'll just have to wait,” before driving off and leaving her with the kids.) Anyway, here goes.

Tuesday 10th April 2012

This was the day that left Dan a bit gutted and I can see why as it was meant to be our last riding day. We should have been tearing up the Catskill Mountains on our way to his pad ready for celebratory shower, shave and sleep. So, it didn't work out that way. The road trip wasn't over though. Dan left Happy Acres alone early in the morning to collect a 14 foot moving van from U-Haul, a short ride away.

Relaxing alone, I enjoyed watching the news which focused mainly on the conflict between the Latin and African American communities after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. It really brought home how I was in a similar country but utterly different at it's grass roots. The adverts that came up every few minutes added to this. Two that stick in my memory the most would be unthinkable in Europe. The first, sponsored by the coal industry, attempted to convince the viewer that coal is our only hope, that without it our children would starve and that alternative energy sources were unamerican (sort of). Another, sponsored by the fizzy drinks industry of America, was pretty much the same sort of thing. They wanted credit for ensuring that school children have the option of low calorie fizzy drinks in school. How blessed American parents must feel, and how well informed. It left me wondering how people who live here and always have, would take this. Would they chuckle cynically? I can hope.
When I figured Dan would be setting off back with the truck, I was checking out of the 'Resort.' The lady behind the desk agreed to take me down to their souvenir shop, not usually open at this time of year. I picked out a flashing football, a pink t-shirt (for Beth) and a ratchet strap. All that was needed was my driver licence and I would be welcome to sign someone else's credit card charge slip. I loved the complete disregard paid to authentication everywhere in America, until that is I realised I had lost my credit card. It never crossed my mind that this would lead me spectacularly close to a full blown heart attack some hours later. (I'll come to that, some paragraphs later).

Dan came back with the van much sooner than I had expected and we were off, two up in a U-Haul truck, the SV tied down in the back with paracord. A short drive later, we were back at Lyrians carefully loading both bikes and tying them down with a combination of cam-bands, paracord and the one cheep and nasty ratchet strap from a gift shop. It seems somehow meaningful that the same equipment that held the luggage to the bikes ended up holding down the bikes when they themselves became freight.

Lyrian wasn't finished being a complete star though. She wasn't letting us leave without feeding us. Over hot dogs, beans and potato chips we talked. A seasoned traveller, there was so much to talk about and the time flew, too fast. We had a huge distance to cover ahead of us and it was already getting past mid-day when we said our goodbyes and declared our undying gratitude. My one regret, we never stopped to get a picture of the three of us. I don't have a Christmas Card List but I will be sure to send something the Pine Creek some time soon.

The journey back to Connecticut wasn't bad at all. It had none of the excitement of the previous miles. In truth, it also had none of the aches or fatigue. A U-Haul truck doesn't lend it's self to attacking curves but it has things like cup holders and, well, arm rests. You just can't eat a burrito while riding the SV (though it's probably possible with plenty of practice and the right helmet on the RT). You can also take turns driving and even when you are the one driving, you still get to enjoy just gently passing through America. The fuel economy of what was in essence, a 75mph shed, was less impressive but that doesn't make you cry quite as much as you would if you were doing the same thing back in the UK. The final thing about that drive was, I've never gone cross country in a U-Haul truck. Now I've been there, done that and incorporated it into the t-shirt. In a way, the trip wouldn't have been complete without a challenge.

We completed the journey just over a single tank and two driver swaps (impossible on the bikes). When we arrived at our destination, a warehouse containing a gymnastics school, I needed something from my man bag. I don't recall what it was but remember, on this trip I had managed to loose my credit card, three pairs of sunglasses, neglected to bring several basics with me and had generally been an admin nightmare. We had a word for it, taken from sayings commonly used in the ARMY and thus unprintable. Still, we were back in Connecticut and I couldn't loose my eticket if I tried. All you do these days is present you passport. That's the passport in the same travel documents wallet containing my licence. (I told you I'd get back to it in a few paragraphs).

F@@K!” etc and so on. I'm not proud of the language but when you suddenly think that the last time you saw your documents wallet was when you handed it to the lady to photocopy for checkout hundreds of miles back, less colourful language just won't cut it, especially when there are perhaps 20 hours before you need those documents to get home.

Thankfully, to cut a short story long, I at least had the presence of mind to check the carrier bag which contained; a flashing football, a pink t-shirt, the packaging for a ratchet strap and, thankfully, a document wallet. Eventually heart rates returned to normal and thoughts of having to jump in Dan's car and drive like all heck back to Pennsylvania came to nothing. It was, even on a motorcycle trip, the most scary moment of the whole journey. Finding unexpected gravel on the apex of a fast right hander with a dumper truck coming the other way just slightly on your side of the road has nothing to thinking, just for a minute, you've lost you passport. Something wrong there.

I loved that we finished by picking up Giovana (Dan's daughter) from her gymnastics class. That girl is just incredible. She does things on the high-bar I wouldn't be able to do dead slow in zero gravity. I'd be stuck at the point where you have to stand up on the low-bar. Crazy! It was great to see her dad swell with pride when the coach asked his little girl to demonstrate to the other children. That night the three of us slept at Dan's.

I'm not sure there's enough story for one more blog from there. I shall finish now.

The following day Giovana went off to school, excited to tell her teacher that her English uncle had taught her about alliteration (I can't remember for the life of me how that came up). We dropped the bikes off at Dan's or Dan's mechanic depending on just how kaput they were. Then it was time to return the truck to the U-Haul depot in Willimantic. Dan made us some superb lunch, the first cooking we had done in days. I showered before we headed to the airport. We stopped at Framingham to get dad a Kindle Fire and put me on the bus to the other side of rush hour. Nothing is quite as mechanical as doing what needs to be done to bring to a close that which you don't want to end.

The shared journey ends in truth at the point of separation. I like being pushed a bit for time in those situation. It had been such a journey that we shared so goodbyes can be hard. I guess, we both had a lot of our own lives to get back to. Dan would be at work the next day while I had my family and job to get back to. He needed to strip the gear box from the RT and I had to, well, there's other blogs for all that. We hugged, thanked each other and headed on our different paths. I just hope I can do the same for Dan one day, Scotland, Northern Spain. Perhaps the Balkans trip will really happen and we will be there hunting for clean fuel and good eating on our way up the Adriatic coast years from now. Who knows? I just know, I can't leave it at that.

Thanks Dan.
(for now).

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Monday 9th April 2012 How We Ended Up At Happy Acres, Pine Valley

You should by now have used your powers of deduction to surmise that we weren't going to Happy Acres Holiday Camp in Pine Valley Pennsylvania. We were really heading north. Rather than face the Iron Buttocks challenge that was the ride from West Virginia to East Connecticut on the last riding day, we had chosen to make our way more gradually north, mostly avoiding highways and trying to ride the bendy looking roads, as you do. This meant leaving West Virginia a day early but I liked that better than a mad dash on the last riding day.

It was a good plan as well. The ride started with an amazing road that reminded me of home. It twisted and turned and felt like a road that people didn't tend to use if they weren't going to somewhere on it. The poor road surface also reminded me of many of my favourite Yorkshire roads. By the time we stopped to fit the Hero to my helmet, the best part was over but these things happen. From the end of that road nothing was quite as technical (Dan's favourite riding) or dramatic (mine) as we had previously experienced in West Virginia, but it was scenic and I at least was enjoying it. We breakfasted in a seemingly typical small town diner, cruised through Small Town USA and I just loved watching America go by.

As usual, we swapped bikes at fill ups and I found my self with a long ride on the SV. Strangely, perhaps because there was so much to look at, it didn't hurt as much as usual. It didn't leave me quite as stiff and I was happy enjoying the whole slog.

Dan had also badgered me into navigating from maps rather than depending on the GPS. Several previous user errors on both our parts had proved that we just needed to be old school. The SV had the only working Satnav but also the only tank bag (and therefore map case) thus whoever rode it ended up leading. It felt good to actually navigate properly and it also meant that I was further distracted from any discomfort.

In truth, the necessarily cramped/sports riding position is the only fault I would claim for the SV which is otherwise a superb machine with an amazing motor, gearbox, frame and controls. In fairness, how can you list as a fault, something it isn't intended for. I wouldn't have one but I'd quickly recommend it to someone who wants a sports bike.

Anyway, after a long slog, including some dual carriageway, we stopped for coffee and cake (turtle cheesecake, yum yum yum!) Then we headed out for the first road that promised real technical challenge. The bikes were getting low on fuel and we were hoping to find some in what looked to me to be a underpopulated part of the woods. I was doubtful that such a forest would be a great place to find fuel but Dan was hopeful. I just figured, 'What the hay. We're on an adventure!' I'd studied the route and carefully folded the map. We had 100 miles to go before we planned to treat ourselves to a motel and there was a good two hours before the light started to fail. Everything was fine, if a little tight.

The first thing that went wrong was my fuel light came on just as we were really getting into the state forest. Then, I missed the turning, noticed it far to late, attempted to slow enough with just the front brake and then flew past in the certain knowledge that I couldn't. I could see in my mirrors that Dan seemed to be stopping, I thought because he had spotted my mistake. A safe place presented it's self and I turned the SV around. Dan however was still where he had stopped and I to pulled up. I was about to find that I wouldn't ride the RT again.

Dan had lost drive. The steep down hill into a fairly tight bend, my rapid deceleration on realising we were about to fly past our turning and old age proved too much for the RT. As I write, the unconfirmed diagnosis is that the input shaft spines have sheered so the clutch is spinning freely. Either way it was the end of the road for the RT. No one could fix that in the field.

Dan was gutted. I was gutted. I loved that bike and didn't want to see it fail. I didn't want our trip to be over either but in a way it wasn't anyway. For a start, it's how we met Lyrian. It just so happened that in that wilderness, we broke down next to a private road leading to hunting lodges and one or two permanently occupied residences. The door Dan knocked on was Lyrian's and she couldn't have been more helpful. Without hesitation she let us keep the RT at her home. Then she booked us a cabin at Happy Acres. Then she packed our things in her car and drove Dan over. She waited patiently while we fuelled up the SV and then took us to the lodging she had organised.

So it really wasn't over. It was just turning into a real adventure with a greater variety of twists and turns than we had bargained for. Sure one bike was stuffed and the other showing signs of fatigue but really; we were safe, we had made a new friend in a time of need and we had a few options as to how we would get me to the plane on time (roughly 48 hours from when the bike broke down). We could hire a car and carry on as we had been doing but swapping from bike to car. I could fly back from near where we were. We could just hire a Uhaul truck and carry both bikes back that way. The only thing we couldn't do was call the AA as my membership is pretty limited. Either way, the trip in whatever form it would take, was still very much on. It had to be. I had a flight to catch and was really beginning to miss my family. 

Easter Sunday 8th of April 2012 Curvaceous Mountains

What a day we had. I woke up not long after Dan today and he was there in his bag comparing iPhone to map to satnav, plugging in as it turned out, the first section of a route suggested to us by FJR man the previous day (I feel guilty having to call him FJR man as he most certainly introduced himself fully but I forget now what he was said it was). We left the camp and only took what we needed for the day allowing us to set off pretty early, after a cup of tea.

I had the pleasure of the RT. With it's leaking fork seal, it was easier to nurse than the SV on which we had to avoid using the back brake. All that was needed on the RT was to avoid bumps, heavy breaking and be ready for a little uncertainty in bumpy corners. No problem. The only problem was, for the third day running, I needed new shades as I had left mine in the tent. Buying a pair of shades every day was starting to get a bit silly. Still, we needed coffee and most stores sell both and we stopped at a nice place with a view of Senneca Rock.

Straight out of the store and onto roads that are almost certainly the most exciting I have ever ridden. We went up mountains and down mountains, seeming like we were never in the same gear for more than a few seconds at a time. Throughout the whole trip I lacked confidence where there was even the suggestion of gravel. Here, I was enjoying myself but regularly having a severe word with myself about poor approaches and stiffening up mid corner. Always out in front, Dan seemed to be having no problems making full use of the SV's superior handling and was clearly having a ball. As the morning progressed I was getting better but fuel and blood sugar were getting low.

Fuel wasn't too difficult to find as we came out of the first state park pass. We changed bikes as usual before setting out to find food. Before we left, Mum had insisted that I buy a lovely breakfast and even provided the funds. However, there were no suitable eateries open as we discovered after several miles of slowing down every time we saw one, only to be disappointed. It had not escaped my attention, (or that of my conscience) that there were no deserted churches, so I guessed we were on a looser there.

Eventually we had to settle for a very grumpily served Subway sandwich. Mine went a bit like this.
Server: What can I get'cha. (Frowning face.)
Me: May I have a BMT please.
Server: No response. (Frowning impatient face.)
Me: I take it you need more information.
Server: No response. (Frowning, increasingly impatient face.)
Me: I'm sorry, I've never had a Subway before. What to you need from me?
Server: You can have it on any kind'a bread. (Pointing at the list of bread.)
Me: Oh, thank you, I'll have this one please.
Server: No response. (Frowning impatient face. Possibly also a little resigned.)
Me: Still not enough?
Server: Do you want six inch or foot long? (See above)
It continued along those lines with further frustrations regarding cheese and salad but you get the idea. It was clear to me that, as is so often the case with me, we don't all seem to enjoy our career choices all of the time. Poor thing.

While breakfasting we did get some inside info about which Sheriff didn't like bikes and then set off for more mountain passes. This time I had the SV and did my best to make full use of it (while not using the back brake). My goodness that bike is fast, and so user friendly. By the end of the ride, Dan seemed to think I had got to grips with it. I'm not sure that is or will ever be the case as it's not the kind of bike I would ever choose but it certainly has it's place, in West Virginia, high on a mountain and for a bout 40 minutes at a go.

Eventually, I had to stop. We had made amazing progress when I noticed an old train by the side of the road in a town called Durban. Noting that it also had a cafe, it was clearly time to stop. We had a superb fruit cobbler with icecream at the cafe over which we planned a photoshoot using the train's two cabooses as scenery. Each bike would be pictured with each rider in front of each caboose (all Dan's ideas: I don't have that kind of artistic bent).

Getting the pictures was hard work as it meant getting both bikes down the railway line between two tracks, swapping them and in one case, dropping one, gently. I can't wait to see how the project comes out. Doubtless, the four pictures I took will be the ones that let it down.

The rest of the day consisted of equally awesome roads, a swap back to the GT and a return to camp in time for a chill, shower, tea and natter. Dan found us a local ski resort pub to go to for dinner. They had an all you can eat Tex Mex special on and as it turned out, one plate really was all I could eat. As the only customers, it wasn't looking good for their business, especially with people telling us that West Virginia didn't get a winter this year.

It just so happens that as I type Sunday up, it's just stopped snowing. There is a long, long ride ahead of us. Monday is just beginning. Tea is brewing and it's time for me to get on with enjoying the here and now. 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Saturday 7th of April 2012 Down That Dirt Track Road

Breakfast casserole. That's what Dan's googling found us (or whatever jiggerysearchery he did with his trusty iPhone) on our first day in the West Virginia area. It was just the place we wanted though. Aunty Someone'r'Other's cafe had a car park full of pickups, a client base who wore camo, cowboy boots and Nascar t-shirts. It also had a bubbly lady who was keen to let us know that their special breakfast casserole was, “real nice.” Naturally, we had to have it just so we knew what made casserole at breakfast time possible. This after all is a country where they confuse pork burgers with sausages. I'm not sure how to describe what was served but suffice to say, it was more baked goods than slow cooked. Nice but not overly filling. As Dan pointed out, it left room for lunch, a meal we had managed nicely without on the previous day.

Set up for the morning, we headed out for Skyline Drive, a beautiful piece of road that travels through the Shanadoah National Park (and much more I believe). Actually, that's not true. First we went to Walmart, again, to get me more shades and some serious cold drugs as I had be hit pretty hard by Man Flu. When we did hit Skyline Drive, the views were spectacular and the road surface was perfection its self. Not being prone to belting it about on motorcycles, I probably should have enjoyed it and did, for a while. However the monotonous 35mph speed limit, infrequent passing places and crawling sight seers made it somewhat dull. At the first exit onto the highway we left the park behind and pushed out to find our way about West Virginia.

We rode around on roads that looked twisty on the map until we were ready for lunch. A sign promising fried chicken drew us into a petrol station where the lady clearly felt that Dan was some kind of idiot from the north as he tried to convince her that chicken wings are were in fact dark meat. Another lady told us that our proposed route was state maintained gravel road but then was a badly maintained track. Nobody was aware of anyone who had gone along it for years and that left me excited. I've seen far too many adventure motorcycle videos to let that go. It was a chance to see if a route was open and if Dan was up for it, I surely was too.

As the road turned from gravelly tarmac to gravelly gavel, we stumbled across a man who seemed to be dutifully pushing around a wheelbarrow full of gravel. He hadn't gone along the road in two years and informed us there were two streams to cross and a car wouldn't do it but a truck could. He paused, looked at our bikes, a sports bike and a tall, lumbering touring bike and said with complete authority, “Hay, but those bikes are practically dirt bikes aren't they. You'll be fine.” Once again, we smiled, trying not to laugh. As Dan later surmised later, he may believe that if it ain't a Harley, it's probably a dirt bike.
And so our journey began. I enjoyed every minute and didn't find it that hard to keep the SV in check. The long ascent up the mountain was a piece of cake really. Following Dan, it was a lot of dust to ride though so I kept a good distance. At the top I noticed a road sign declaring we had arrived at Cow Knob, a photo opportunity that could not be missed. Besides, as the tail end charlie, I needed to wet my whistle and clean the thick layer of dust from the Hero.

The descent was made easy by the awesome engine braking provided by the v-twin. Having easily completed the route, it did occur to me that
  • Anything that isn't a Harley really is a dirt bike
  • People probably haven't gone down that route because their map is marked, 'Here Be Dragons' (or foreigners or unionists or worst).
  • Dirt track roads are worth it, especially if you're on the lead bike.
  • Wings are dark meat.

We soon found our way back to the road and oh what a road it turned out to be. We had pitched up on route 33 which is tremendous. We could finally give the bikes some real stick. The road threw corner after corner at us and before long, the last of the fuel was gone and we were seriously thirsty.

Once again, stopping, bumping into another biker pointed us in the right direction. We were just sitting down for a drink on the veranda of a gas station when an FJR pulled in. The owner grabbed an ice cream and we talked over the map. He wasn't local but kept a bike in West Virginia just so he could ride it around the same circuit. By the time he left we had a good idea of where we would be camping and where we would ride the next day.

Oddly, the rest of the day was a sort of repeat. We somehow ended up back on a dirt track road but on different bikes this time, courtesy of my poor use of the GPS. When we eventually stopped to figure how we would reach the camp site, we discovered that; the back brake on the SV was shot and the left fork on the RT was leaking. None of it came as any real surprise and in both cases we could carry on with care.

So that's what we did. Miles and miles of dirt track and with it's fair share of oncoming pickups kicking up dust and stones as the sun made it's way out of the picture. Finally, tarmac. We were so excited. I followed Dan in snaking the bike to clean the dust from the tyres, ready to ride them like they were meant. It was almost heart breaking when the tarmac ended again and we were back on potholes and gravel.

Eventually, we did pitch up on roads and they were good. They took us through twist and turns to the state park at Canaan Valley where we pitched our tent and were directed to Big John's family restaurant for dinner. It was late and dinner, calzone, was somewhat insufficient so Dan got us the worlds biggest ice-creams to make sure we had the calories to get through the cold night ahead. Me, I rode off to find milk, to make tea, to get us through the cold night ahead. Somewhere between those measures and the extra layer of long-johns, I was much more comfortable and slept well ready for the very different but equally superb day's riding we had ahead.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Friday 6th of April 2012 A Long Ride South

What a day. But first, back to yesterday. I finished writing my blog, actually during when it was happening (which isn't the case now as I'm playing catch up and it actually Tuesday now). I have to say how the rest of the flight went or I'll feel like I've left things out.

First of all, the approach to Boston is just the most beautiful scenery ever. We came in low and slow over spectacular New England coast line. I wish I could have taken pictures and if I ever come back I will be sure to bring a disposable camera with me and get a window seat on the right side of the plane. Previously I haven't had a favourite airport approach but now I do and it's Boston.

Arriving didn't prove as straight forward as hoped. Even with my US passport I was required to provide an address where I was staying, something I had rather neglectfully failed to obtain. Cell service was patchy to say the least but eventually Dan answered and I was through.

Dan met me on the road outside the airport, something you just can't get away with anywhere in the UK. It was into his Mazda and off down the road, fast. We seemed to be there in no time really and set about packing the bikes up ready for the road. We would stay at Cassandra's house that night though. She has a lovely house and does amazing things with spinach.

However, on the way there we stopped at Walmart to get a new tent. The canvas of the somewhat palatial 6 person dome fit rather tightly into one of the panniers on the RT. I also got my first pair of shades, an 18 dollar pair, which proved to be my first mistake.

Which brings me to the first day of riding. Though we had talked about getting going super early in the morning, we didn't roll until sometime after six, Dan on the RT and me getting to know the SV650. It was easy enough to handle though I wasn't used to the sporty steering and didn't get used to it for a few days. It's not the style of bike that has ever appealed to me though I did have an absolute ball with it later.

Today though, it was just about getting us and the bikes there. We just needed to keep going as there was a seriously long way to go. The format was generally, swap bikes every tank full (they both ran for roughly 160 miles on a tank) and take a rest in between. We did three and a half tanks all together so it must have worked out at a little over 500 miles. I'm not sure. The truth is, that's a lot of miles for one day and though Dan put us on one or two interesting bits, most of it was just dual carriageway and not much fun. In fact, it got positively painful on the SV with it's sports riding position.

We were really flagging but with about 100 miles to run when I got on the RT for my second go. Eventually, tired, worn even, we pitched up in our 'ops area' and started looking for a suitable dining experience (defined as somewhere we can park the bikes where we can see them and isn't McDonald’s or similar). That proved a challenge but one at least that saw us doing some mildly interesting roads and seeing beautiful rural West Virginia.

Eventually, we pitched up somewhere called Strasbourge. It didn't look to promising but we were getting tired, hungy and desperate. When Dan spotted a local on a porch with nothing better to do than give out tourist information, he stopped and asked. It turned out that the local hotel had a pub with food as well as the more obvious fine dining experience. Soon we had a 'Mushroom Swiss' burger each (a truly tasty burger) and were chatting to a local lady biker who kindly pointed us in the direction of a good camp site.

Which is when I lost my first pair of shades. By the time we left, it was twilight and I no-longer needed my new sunglasses which I was already in the habit of hanging from the windscreen of the RT (also the home of my ear plugs). They were still hanging there when we found ourselves making 'brisk progress' along a bit of dual carriageway. I noticed they weren't hanging on very well just as they flew off into the darkness, gone forever. This would turn out to be something of a feature of the trip.

The campsite was OK. We eventually got a pitch by the river and were greeted by a man who can't go unmentioned. Dan thought he was drunk but I'm not sure he was anything other than... Well, let me just tell you what he said:
Hi, I'm Steve. My name's the maintenance guy.” He would be quoted often from then on. It was clear to me that this was going to be a truly authentic experience and was not likely to quash too many stereotypes. Broad smiles spread across tired faces hidden in the dark. Clearly, this was going to be fun. For now however, it was most certainly time to sleep.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Thursday 5th April 2012 Going on an Adventure

I'm on my way. As is usually the case, it seemed eons away until I finally got in a taxi, headed to the airport and left on my big adventure. As I type this I'm on a Airbus A330. It's an outbound plane, heading west at 578mph and benefiting from a 111mph tail wind at 11,323m. It's certainly very chilly outside and there are just 1,339 miles left to run. We should be there in 2 hours and 45 minutes. I'm writing this because I'm bored. Right now the flight information display in the seat-back in front of me pretty much tells me that we're going very fast, faster than expected, and there even so, I'm not there yet. So, I'm typing.

This little net-book is just about perfect for the job at the minute. I'd be kind of lost without something to write on and watch mindless telly on. It's also with me because I wanted somewhere to dump video. Editing or even reviewing video from the GoPro Hero wouldn't be an option with this thing though. Shame really.

Meanwhile, I'm writing literally because I've nothing better to do and I'm no good at sleeping on planes and may as well start some sort of a journey log. To be fair, it's all been very uneventful. I got in a taxi this morning and left my family behind. At the airport, it took a while to check in because the 'system's down,' and then the flight out to Amsterdam was a little late because they had to de-ice the wings (that was fun to watch).

I was looking forward to that flight because I'd never been on a Fokker 70 before and like to add different planes to my list of 'Done That.' It was very uneventful, quiet and comfortable thus doesn't make the top 5. Sorry. This Airbus A330 I'm on now made a right racket on starting the engines but is very tidy and spacious within. Still nothing exciting. Not sure anything is going to knock the Egyptian Dash 7 and RAF Tristar off their joint first place position any time soon.

Fatigue is my main worry in life right now. I got maybe 4 hours sleep last night and the previous four nights were no better. Now I'm failing to sleep on the flight out to a trip that will almost certainly prove to be the most exhausting road trip since I did Padderborn, Calais, Dover, London, Leeds and then all the way back in 52 hours on my Kawasaki 550.

Dan will be meeting me at the airport when I arrive, or perhaps on the road outside. Then we're going back to meet the bikes and get some sleep. I'm going to need that sleep and think it shouldn't be a problem as my jet lag will have me way past bed time. Unfortunately, it's looking like I did everything wrong for dealing with the jet lag. Helpfully, KLM give some helpful hints in their in-flight magazine telling you how you can mitigate the effects. If only they had sent it to my home for perusal before I took Ang out on a date, ate three good courses and drank heartily. Oops.

The first day's riding is looking like it will be quite considerable. I've not done anything like the required reading for this trip but Dan mentioned that the Spring weather may make us head south and that would mean getting past New York and Washington DC along with everything in between. That's a full day of riding before it gets interesting (I imagine it wouldn't be hugely interesting anyway). Hopefully after that we will have arrived somewhere worth exploring and taking time over. I would like to be as free and easy as possible.

As such, if there is the possiblilty of going north, that's good to and I'm prepared for cold weather riding. My 250 is in the shop at the minute (and is likely to be for the chop), so I have been riding Angie's 125 (which is uber reliable and dirt cheep and only a pain in the backside in a headwind. On Tuesday I was really badly snowed/sleeted on coming home from work. To be fair, the weather forcast was very clear about the probability of snow on higher ground but with highs more akin to summer and the news that hose pipe bans are imminent in parts of the country, I wasn't taking snow seriously.

For that reason, when packing my bag, I may have mainly packed cloths for the ride as it would be around Yorkshire, in the snow. After all, it's easy to shed layers or even leave them at Dan's. I'm wearing the only real civvies I am bringing and I will probably treat myself to a new t-shirt or two on the road. So if we were to head north and try to fit in some skying at the same time, I'll cope on the bike. The problem with going somewhere cold is actually down to the fact that camping means cold cold nights and I'm not as prepared for that. In either case, I think it may be sensible to treat us to a hotel for a night at some point.

That's where I'm at I guess. The future is an uncertain one in a good way. The only thing I'm sure of is that we're gonna have fun and make memories worth keeping. Ang has insisted I put together a scrap book for the Tom and Beth when I get back. In a way that's what I'm doing now, but not for them. This isn't for anyone really but there are less than two hours left to run and we should be on the ground in Boston. But now, we have a headwind. Oh well.