Last Wednesday was a day that a few months ago I thought would never come.
Rewind to mid-February.
G had just indulged in his mega horror crash and was propped up in his hospital bed. Tubes came out of him from various places, some of which make my eyes water just thinking about. His wrists were literally held together by bits of metal that poked out through his skin in a crazy lattice of stainless steel and titanium, whilst his leg and knee was supported by a black Kevlar and nylon brace. His bruised face and body gave him the look of a multicoloured Giant Panda… Things, and indeed G, didn’t look great!
Certainly, in those first dark days the last thing on G’s mind was riding a motorbike again….though even on that first morning he still had the need for excitement running deep in him and mused that maybe a sports-car was his way forward.
The days inevitably turned to weeks and the weeks to months. Along the way, he had further operations and procedures, then he got referred to an absolutely brilliant physiotherapist who doesn’t take no for an answer….then the world changed!
Oh wow, has it changed!
Last week I took G for a short ride on the back of Harls, that was a bit weird for both of us really, he doesn’t ride pillion and I’m not over wild about having a passenger on the back either; but it was in a good cause, he was going to collect his new bike!
His brand new Yamaha Super Tenere 1200 has been given a few little tweaks by those nice people at Yamaha UK and the engineers at Bridge Motorcycles in Exeter; little things to make it easier for G to use the controls and a factory Cruise Control system to give him a breather on longer trips.
Best of all though, it put a serious smile back onto my friend’s face and a glint in his eyes that had been missing for too long.
Unfortunately the day was dull and grey, with intermittent rain showers; not at all the best for getting to know a new machine, let alone on fresh and very slippery tyres. Nonetheless, we looped North West from Exeter and chalked off about 70 leisurely miles before returning safely to G’s castle.
This week though, things were different.
I rode East from Dookes H.Q., filled up Baby Blue in Crediton and met up with G just outside his house, high above the Exe valley. Our destination was the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, about 50 miles away.
I’d be lying to say it was a thoroughly enjoyable ride to the museum; challenging and frustrating would be more like it. The roads were busy and a tad hectic; the A303 in Somerset is notorious for its congestion, but where we were going we really couldn’t avoid it. On the plus side, it didn’t take us very long as our two blue machines ate up the miles in the early morning sunshine.
The Fleet Air Arm is the aviation arm of Britain’s Royal Navy and the Museum is Europe’s largest collection of naval aircraft with helicopters and fixed wing machines. It lies alongside an active Naval Air Station, so there’s always lots of action!The collection tells the complete story of naval aviation from its embryonic beginnings to the present day. The museum is also the final resting place of supersonic transport prototype Concorde 002, so definitely worth a visit.
Yes this really was going to be a great boys day out!
On arrival at the museum we quickly got changed out of our riding gear, it was far to hot to be in that all day!
The museum is split into four different halls, each presenting a different facet of Naval Aviation, though not really in a cohesive chronological order.
There were examples of many famous naval aircraft on display and a few old favourites of mine such as this dinky little Dragonfly helicopter; I can remember these as a lad and I had a really nice push along toy of one too!
One of the display halls is set out as a mocked up deck of an aircraft carrier, which is great and the special effects of aircraft landing and taking off are impressive. The subdued lighting though made it quite difficult to actually see much of the assembled aircraft as their dark grey camouflage colour made them almost disappear into the darkness! The accompanying tour around the various operations rooms of “the carrier” was interesting, though one had to remember that this portrayed a vessel operating in the late 1970’s. Things have moved on massively since then!
The final hall was, for me, the highlight of our visit.
Dominating all around is the imposing Concorde 002 prototype G-BSST. As a lad I well remember the first flight of this stunning aircraft, way back in April 1969, just three months before the first Apollo moon landing…what exciting times they were!
A joint Anglo-French project, Concorde would go on to be the first and to date, only, successful supersonic airliner. The tragic events of July 2000 in Paris when an Air France Concorde was damaged by debris on take off and subsequently crashed would eventually lead to the types withdrawal from service, but for decades Concorde represented the very pinnacle of commercial aviation.
Concorde 002 was the aircraft that proved all the theoretical mathematics correct and the data it collected as it smashed through the sound barrier at Mach 2.0 at an altitude of 60,000ft paved the way for the pre-production aircraft that were to follow.
Visitors are allowed to pass through and inspect this iconic aircraft up close. Inside most of the original test equipment is still in place, itself quite an eye-opener as this was well before the age of miniaturised electronics! The flight deck is just as it was left after the last flight in 1976, what a wonderful place to go to work!
Alongside the supersonic marvel are a number of other interesting experimental aircraft. Some, such as the Fairey Delta Two and the Handley Page 115, played a part in the development of Concorde.The Hawker P1127 was the forerunner of the incredible BAC Harrier, the worlds first vertical takeoff and landing fixed-wing aircraft, it could not only hover, but could fly backwards too!
I could have spent hours in this one hall alone.
In due course and after lunch it was time to move on. In scorching sunshine we pulled on our riding gear and hit the road.
As it was too nice to just turn West towards home, we headed South to Weymouth and followed the lovely Jurassic Coast through Abbotsbury, West Bay and Lyme Regis.As yet the peak visitor numbers haven’t been reached, but the coast road was definitely busier than normal and slowed up by motor-homes and caravans, not too much of a problem for a couple of motorbikes though!
Following on behind G as we roared out of Lyme Regis, I mused how things could have turned out so differently, yet here I was riding with my mate again, life can be good sometimes!
“On a summers day, when thoughts are drifting far away
And life is good and real to see…”
Catch you soon.