Taking it Easy With Memories

A couple of days ago, I was sitting on a ferry returning from France. It’s quite a long crossing at the Western end of the English Channel, so over an espresso I sat idly fooling around with my iPad looking at photographs and only half aware of the canned Muzak emanating from a speaker on the ceiling just above me.

It all changed when “Hotel California” by the Eagles began.

The album of the same name was one of the companions of my youth and I still love it now as much as when I first heard it. It’s also become one of my companions when touring on two wheels and today I guess it represents the sense of freedom that motorcycle travel gives me.

Having left the port of Roscoff in Northern Brittany, we were enjoying a glass smooth passage. The various Islets that rise out of the sea off the coast here fascinate me every time I sail by and over the years I’ve passed this way over fifty times now!p1070978

Now we were on the open Sea and the French coast had long disappeared in our wake over the receding horizon. I sat up and looked out at the passing ocean, the sun was rapidly setting. It’s always fun to anticipate the big hiss as it sinks into the water, but that never happens…!

A large container ship was passing through the lengthening golden rays, it’s decks and hold crammed with shipping boxes carrying goodness knows what. For a moment it seemed to pause, silhouetted against the horizon; what a shame it wasn’t one of those classic liners from the past, such as the Queen Mary, Normandie or France. I was fortunate, years ago, to have actually witnessed the last of those graceful ships before the scrapyards claimed most of them, what a memory to have!p1070994

Yes, the old Dookes mind was definitely wandering…

When I’m at sea I find I can have space to think, probably because there’s not much else to do and watching the endless waves go by has a wonderfully calming effect on me.

The Eagles continued as we left the container ship in our wake.

In my mind I was now back on my big two-wheeler, sweeping across the fertile plains of Central France and catching that first breath-taking glimpse of the Alps. I could feel the warmth of the summer sun on my face and the scent of wild flowers as we passed verdant meadows of blooms nodding in gentle summer breezes. The drum of the ship’s engines became the soundtrack of the road, or at least a pretty good substitute.

It’s been lovely to be back in Brittany, if only for a short time. The weather has been kind to us and the early colours of Autumn quite enchanting. For a change I’ve not been chasing the miles and have been quite content to stay in one place, visit some local towns and villages, catch up with friends and of course enjoy the local food and drink.

The season has been relentlessly turning, with the trees slowly fading from verdant greens to gold and brown.p1070960 In the dense forest around our friends château we found sweet chestnuts dropping from the branches of ancient trees, one of natures tasty gifts to be eagerly gathered and enjoyed a long with wild mushrooms and other edible fungi.p1070964 By the pretty village of Huelgoat the glassy lake looked stunning, framed by majestic autumnal colour.dsc_0060

The medieval town of Josselin has a street market that always captivates me and to have the time to stroll amongst its bustling stalls is a real treat. p1040879As with most things French, food takes centre stage. We stocked up with tresses of smoked garlic, air-dried sausages, onions and olives. Mouth-watering aromas hung on the air; there were spit roasting chickens, outsize pans of tartiflette, grilled ham and a host of other tempting goodies all being freshly cooked and available to eat now or later. I let my senses take in the atmosphere and I realised that each passing moment is another precious memory to look back on, enjoy and savour.

The Brest - Nantes Canal at Josselin.

The Brest – Nantes Canal at Josselin.

Yes, memories are wonderful things, though like many people I have some that I’d rather erase, but memories of travel I cherish. It’s really the heartbeat of my life, travel and memories. I guess that I’m just one of those people that is constantly called to keep moving by voices of the road.p1070789

“…and still those voices are calling from far away….”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

In memory of Glenn Frey, 1948-2016, with thanks for all the music and memories.
– Take it Easy.

Soul Mover

I have friends who ride and friends who don’t. 

Someone once wrote that a car moves the body, but only a motorbike can move the soul.

Clearly that person was an officiando of two-wheeled transport and those of us who have been blessed with the motorcycling bug know exactly what they were getting at!

It’s often difficult to convey to a non-rider just what it is that us two-wheelers get from our machines. 

Many folk say it’s all about speed and certainly that rings true for some riders; I’m not going to deny that travelling at 100 and silly mph is one big adrenaline rush!

To others it’s about the fluid motion of the machine through bends and twisty sections of road when you ride it well, whilst to some it’s the “wind in your face” thing. Just ask any dog why they stick their head out of a car window?

I fall into the total package school, for me it’s a bit of everything and with the addition thrill of winning the daily battle against the idiots out there on the road who seem hell-bent on trying to kill you! Oh and of course there’s the noise….!

I must also add that to me riding is such an immersive activity that I really can forget everything else in the world whilst I am out on two wheels. It really does move my soul!

Last Wednesday I was in need of a bit of soul lifting. I was up early, three spaniels generally make sure of that at Dookes H.Q. normally it’s a good sing-song as the sun comes up, but with such things come great benefits. This was a classic early Autumn morning, crisp sunlight breaking through early mists that still hugged the landscape and hedges. image

The urge to ride suddenly became very pressing, I didn’t just want to ride; I needed to ride!

Dogs and breakfast sorted, I got into my riding gear and wandered out to “The Man Cave,” which also passes for my workshop. What a lovely conundrum now faced me, which of my two faithful Harley’s should I take out?
No contest this morning, it had to be Harls, my beloved Centenary Softail. I needed that rawness she possesses, her crisp handling, open to the elements riding position and most of all that staccato exhaust growl! 

I made a pact with myself to keep off the major roads, the day was about riding for pleasure not for working hard, at least that was what I thought….!

We set off East, skirting Launceston and dropped into the valley of the River Tamar, passing into Devon as we crossed the old bridge at Greystone. I decided that the high tors of Dartmoor would be our first target, on such a beautiful morning the scenery there should be spectacular.

Trundling through the ancient Stannary Town of Tavistock we turned right and began our climb towards the high moor.

Wisps of cloud hugged the hillside ahead and the air took on a distinct chill, it looked like things were going to get interesting. We climbed some more and sure enough were soon enveloped by thick wet Dartmoor cloud. So much for the stunning views, I spent the next twenty miles trundling along trying to spot white sheep in dense white fog whilst wiping the enveloping water droplets off my visor every few seconds! So dear blogonaughts my apologies for the lack of wonderful scenery photos, here some in the fog instead.image
One of the biggest problems with riding in fog or mist is the way that the water droplets deposit themselves on helmet visors, it’s a bit like trying to look through wet tissue paper! In rain you never have the same problem as the water droplets are bigger and flow off the visor with the slipstream, but riding sensibly slower in fog there’s less slipstream as well.image
We swung through the small and pretty village of Moretonhamstead before briefly pausing at Okehampton where delightfully we passed back into warm sunshine!

Heading North West now, my heart was lifted by both the warm sun and the contented roar from Harls’ exhaust as we ate up the miles considerably faster than over Dartmoor! 

Our route was following the old railway through the delightfully named village of Halwill Junction and on towards Holsworthy. This was the line over which part of the romantically named “Atlantic Coast Express” once trundled behind gleaming steam locomotives near the end of its 300 mile journey from London.

The old railway line, once the Atlantic Coast Express ran along here.

The old railway line, once the Atlantic Coast Express ran along here.

Now there’s an idea for a future ride…

We stopped to take in the view over the bucolic Devon landscape and then it was time to push on. image

With delightfully quiet roads, it was clear that most of the summer tourists have slipped home with the return of children to school. It’s one of the downsides of living in such a beautiful region, we can hardly move for visitors invading during the peak holiday season of July and August, but like the swallows they fly away at the end of summer and we get the place back to ourselves again!
I stuck to the plan and by the time we returned to Dookes H.Q. after 140 wonderful miles and not one major route had been touched by our tyre rubber.

Life had been refocused and all was good in the world!

“I have seen rings of smoke through the trees and the voices of those who standing looking”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Taking The Long Way

The wonderful summer weather is fast becoming a mere memory as we slip firmly into autumn. Sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean our county of Cornwall certainly gets more than its fair share of storms and gales, this last week we got the first one of the season. To be fair it was more like 24 hours of squalls, but the leaves started to spin off the trees as the rain came down in whipping sheets.

Not surprising then that Harley and I haven’t been out much in the last two weeks. I’m not at all bothered by whatever the weather is when I ride, but sometimes if it’s just for pleasure and its chucking it down I’ll pass and wait for the clouds to scud by. Coupled with other life pressures I really have not had time to get out on the road. Actually its the longest period of time that I have not ridden her since March this year, shocking, absolutely shocking!

This weekend I have made sure I got everything else done and today I carved out some time to go get mellow, on my beloved Harley.

We needed a few supplies, so I took a right and headed up the A30, crossing the border into England and pointed to Okehampton on the northern side of Dartmoor. It was good to blow the cobwebs away, but hell there were some real jerks in cages out there on the road! A quick stop for supplies and a complementary coffee, some of you will guess which supermarket I shop at, then time for a decision.

I really wanted a chilled out ride, without having to street-fight the cages, so I took the West Devon Ride back towards Cornwall. This is the old A30 road, the one that existed before the dual carriageway trunk route was built. In fact it follows the old trade route that dates back before the Romans. It runs from Sourton on the west edge of Dartmoor to Launceston on the east edge of Bodmin Moor and is twenty five miles of really enjoyable riding. Today it was empty, very like some of my favourite French roads. Harley was able to sit at a legal yet quick pace and I was able to get stuck into some nice corners whilst enjoying the changing autumn colours and the great scenery. The air is beginning to get a bit of a chilly bite to it and I was pleased to be able to adjust my heated jacket to stay snug. Passing through a couple of villages the smell of wood smoke showed that we were not the only ones with the heating on! After Launceston we kept to the back roads, taking the long way and just enjoying ourselves. Those bends were just great! No photos, I was too busy having fun!

OK you want a picture? Not the best but hey, I’ve spoilt you all in the past!

Well, last Thursday evening at Plymouth Harley Davidson we were invited to the launch of the 2015 models. Big emphasis was the new Road Glide, which to be honest doesn’t really do it for me. There is a big boxy faring on the front that I just can’t quite appreciate, but each to their own. I do however, like the Rushmore Electra Glide and also the new metallic blue colour for this year. This is the blue on a V-Rod muscle bike.

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…and this is the 2015 model of the Electra Glide Ultra Limited.

P1020643.JPG Silver and black looks nice, but for me it really needs to be a solid colour. These are big bikes, 103cubic inch (1690cc) engine, dry weight of 398kg, 2.6 metres long and a top speed in excess of 120 mph. Nice!

Gotta say I’m pretty smitten, I think I feel a test ride coming on. Can’t hurt to try one, can it????

P1020644.JPG I can just see myself sitting here!

“I always find my way somehow, by taking the long way around”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Autumn Sunshine

What a cracking weekend we just enjoyed here in the sunny southwest.

Gotta admit that Saturday was largely spent tidying some of the expanse that forms the grounds at Dookes H.Q… There always seems so much to catch up on at this time of year. The raised vegetable beds were focus of quite a lot of attention, cleared three and planted out more leeks in another; you can never have too many leeks you know! Then came the grass cutting and…yeah OK,  I know, enough about all this “Good Life” stuff…what about the biking!!!!!

Quite so; lets get down to business.

Harley and I slipped out on the road late Sunday morning, just as the early mists were burning off and the sun’s warmth was getting going. Our excuse was to pop out for some top-up shopping, well you can’t carry much on a bike, even a Harley, so better get good stuff to make it worthwhile; off to Okehampton then. Not many minutes later and about 25 miles away eastwards on the A30 we parked up and dutifully grabbed the shopping from a well know supermarket that is part of the John Lewis group (other supermarkets are available!).

Time for some twisty bits now, head for Hatherleigh then hang a left towards Holsworthy. West Devon was certainly looking good, the air was gin clear and bright sunshine bathed the landscape along our way. It occurred to me that not many of the trees have started to turn colour yet in this part of the world. Everything seems very green for the moment, which kinda disappointed me, but hey that’s something else to look forward to, I love those golden trees and the sweet smell of autumn leaves! Anyway, we had a super blast and at Holsworthy turned north, crossed back into Cornwall and aimed for Bude, which is quite a nice place, in a seasidey sort of way, but best avoided in the peak tourist season.

I couldn’t resist a visit to Widemouth Bay to see what the waves were like, cos it’s one of my favourite surfing beaches and I haven’t been out with the board for ages. Just as well I didn’t fancy a surf, flat as a mill pond and the tide out almost to Wales!!! Image

Even worse, the ice-cream kiosk was closed!

Lovely run west along the A39 Atlantic Highway, enjoying the gentle sea breeze, virtually no traffic and the purr of twin cylinder Milwaukee Music, before cutting across Davidstow Moor and back to Dookes H.Q. In all about 100 miles, just enough to keep the old head sane and earn a cup of tea!

Hey, Happy Birthday Vifferman!

It’s all I’ve got to keep myself sane baby, so I just ride, I just ride…

Dookes

Mists and Mellowness

Just for a change, we have certainly had a proper summer this year! Here in the extreme South West corner of the British Isles the harvest is almost over, sure there are still some crops to get in, but largely it’s all done. Quality and quantity in this part of the world have been tremendous. The silo sides are creaking under the load of the settling grain and the machinery is almost able, like me, to take a breather! I am really looking forward to the chance of getting out on Harley for a relaxed pleasure ride, rather than a quick and frantic commute across Bodmin Moor; not that there is anything wrong with my route to work…wouldn’t swap it for 22miles across London at all!

Back at Dookes HQ we look set to enjoy a bumper harvest of our own. The trees in our orchard are laden with the most amazing crop of apples and medlars, whilst the hedgerows are full of blackberries, rowan and sloes. Just take a look at these beauties!DSCF2825

This is a Medlar, very popular in the time of Elizabeth the First, you have to let them go almost rotten before you can eat them! They taste like a baked apple with cinnamon.

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These fellas are pretty special and rare; Cornish Gilliflower apples, first discovered in 1813 near Truro. Happy 200th birthday you beauties. I grafted this tree myself, no, not 200 years ago either…!DSCF2820

Blackberries, of course!DSCF2830

The mornings are getting colder now and a myriad host of spiders weave duvets of silver webs that catch the dew in the grass each morning. Autumn is steadily arriving. It really is a wonderful time of year. John Keats called it “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” I think he got it about right too. Riding a motorbike your senses get bombarded with the smells of any season, this time of year they always seem so much nicer!

I posted a sunrise picture the other week, how about a sunset this time?  This was the view from Dookes HQ a week ago, pretty stunning eh? No filters, it really was that colour.
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Right ho, that’s all for now; I know it’s only rock n roll, but i like it!

Dookes