Long Nights, Short Days

It strikes me that just about the one thing that is “normal” about this crazy world just at the moment is the seasons.

I’m very glad about that.

To me one of life’s simple and indeed greatest pleasures is watching the seasons change. Not that I sit wishing my life to run away like grains of sand in an egg timer, no it’s just the way each season ticks over bringing fresh, yet reassuringly constant, vistas, smells and colours.

I’ve said before that the Autumn and Winter are probably my favourite times of year, which is probably linked to me being born in deepest Autumn. OK I could do without so much rain and wind, but a starkly freezing day with gin clear skies and iron hard ground takes some beating!

Then there’s that low lazy sun that can hardly be bothered to climb much above the horizon, the long shadows that it casts and the gaunt starkly bare leafless trees. I love to watch the last light of day disappear on the Western sky and the stars appear through those naked branches.
It’s all magical stuff to me.

Living in Cornwall, and sticking out into the North East Atlantic, we are never far from the influence of the sea. Dookes H.Q. is now only five miles from the coast and when there is a big storm blowing you can taste the salt in the air.

The sea, it is often said, defines Cornwall and standing near the shore facing a force nine gale, it’s hard to argue with that!.

Catch you soon,
Dookes

Riding Through It All

It’s been a while since I posted anything.

It’s also been a while since I was out on one of my beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Are the two linked?

I suspect that’s very likely!

Lets face it, 2020 has been a crazy year and I’m quite numb from the constant bombardment of World Politics, Pandemics, Ecomonics and plain stupidity.

Following my somewhat nasty brush with the C19 virus I have been concentrating on getting well and getting fitter and in the usual Dookes way this has been done on two wheels; though this time man-powered two wheels!

Discussing my medical situation with the doctors treating me I came to the conclusion that there were two different paths that could be followed:

1. Sit back and hope that medicine would find a way.
2. Get of my backside and do something about it, make my body work back to health.

Now it just so happened that two of my Medics are pretty mad keen cyclist themselves. One of them is six months older than me and a couple of years ago she cycled up Mont Ventoux for goodness sake! Now I’ve motorcycled up Ventoux and that was tough enough, it’s not known as “The Beast of Provence” for nothing, but cycling, at our age? Do me a favour…

Mont Ventoux


Anyway, from small acorns mighty Oaks do grow. I started out on pedalling on two wheels.

I don’t mind admitting, those first rides were tough, very, very tough. Small gradients stopped me in my tracks, I was gasping for breath and coughing up all kinds of muck. The early rides were low on miles, high in time, but also high on determination…this wasn’t going to beat me.

Gradually, through hospital visits and x-rays, I could sense not only was I getting stronger, but my endurance began to climb.

One day it all seemed to click in place and then after many months it all suddenly got a whole lot better. Though a largely wonderful summer certainly helped.

Now the days are growing colder and shorter my enthusiasm is undiminished. I hate the wind though!

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I fancied a ride out with him.

My wonderful Cannondale.


Now Merv is pretty hardcore when it comes to cycling either on road or mud-plugging on a mountain bike, oh and he loves nothing more than wild swimming in any available cold water,; actually, the colder the better for him. He’s also ten years younger than me!

Anyway out we went, on a none to exciting dull day.

Twenty Eight miles later we were back at Dookes H.Q., 1852feet of elevation gain, average speed of 14.5mph and dealing with 16mph winds. Not bad for an old geezer, declared Merv!

….and the best part of cycling?

When I’m out there pedalling, all the crap in the world disappears!

Sure, I have to have serious conversations with my legs and tell them to stop complaining, but when you have faced the terminal alternative, it’s a small price.

Catch you soon, stay safe.

Dookes

Red Rocks and White Waters

Hello everyone!

It’s been a long time since I sat and wrote a Blog Post.

A lot has happened in the world since then.

Many years ago this started as a motorcycle blog, a way to record my travels and if other people wanted to follow, comment or just have a look then I was very happy about that!

Over time the Blog has morphed into something a bit broader than just “This is a trip I did on my motorcycle.” It has become more of a look inside the mind of a chap who is growing older, possibly more cynical, but still has an enthusiasm for pushing the envelope…whilst at the same time ever more embracing the concept that he doesn’t have to/want to take any more cr%p from anyone!

It’s also a way of facing one’s own finite mortality and realising just what really is important in life.

Last week, Mrs Dookes and I were hoping to be in France. Unfortunately, the present Covid19 situation screwed that idea, but all was not lost as we took lovely holiday at home…admittedly living in a beautiful part of the world certainly helped!

One of the things that we did was to take Mrs D’s Dad out for a day. He’s been a widower for some years now and generally does OK. A diagnosis of prostate cancer and subsequent radio therapy earlier this year has knocked him sideways a bit lately. The good news, however, is that the quick and quite intense treatment appears to have been a success and he is now in remission.

A proud Cornishman, he was born and raised on the Lizard Peninsular in the very extreme South of Cornwall, so it seemed only apt that for his day out we should go there.

Lizard Point


Lizard Point lies at the Southern tip of the peninsular. It is the most southerly point on mainland Britain. Thats a lot of South and Southerly stuff!!!

The point has for centuries marked the start and end of great Ocean voyages, being the last and first land that ships encountered.

On nearby Bass Point stands the former Lloyds Signal Station where, in the days before radio communication, semaphore signals were sent and received from ships in passage.

Lloyds Signal Station on Bass Point


It’s also the graveyard of many ships and the final resting place of their crews as the rocks, reefs and currents here can be lethal to the unwary mariner.

A lighthouse, to warn seafarers of the dangers of the Lizard, has been present here since 1619.

The current lighthouse dates from 1751, though obviously has been constantly modernised since originally constructed. The lighthouse was automated in 1998, along with all others around the British Isles along with the splendid foghorns that date from 1908.

The foghorns.

On a lovely day such as we enjoyed it’s hard to imagine how savage the weather can be on the Lizard. No trees grow here; it’s just grass, some wind stunted gorse, rugged drystone Cornish hedges and rugged Cornishmen… like my father in law!

“Although I wasn’t born here, it’s always home for me,
I love this land where red rocks and white waters greet the sea.”*

Catch you soon,

Dookes

*Frank Yonko

Still Rolling

Hello everyone.

Where has this summer gone?

The world is truly a strange place at the moment. Whilst the human population is being ravaged by a planet-wide pandemic politicians across the Continents seem to display a mixture of greed, incompetence and plain ignorance. In exchange, many of the population appear to live in fear, whilst others carry on in a self-centred bubble of denial!
As the song says,”Two men say they are Jesus, one of them must be wrong.” It sort of sums up how I feel!!!!

For lots of reasons my motorcycle activity has been somewhat limited of late.

It’s partly due to other more pressing matters, such as building work at Dookes H.Q., but also a reflection of how the current global situation makes me feel; I honestly don’t really feel that I can justify pleasure rides on a motorcycle whilst people are both dying and working so hard to contain the C19 virus.

That said, I am lucky to live in a beautiful part of our island country.

I’m only five miles away from one of the most stunning coasts in the world. Ok I’m biased, I admit!

A small shopping trip the other day morphed into an extended loop on some tourist avoiding back roads which was nice.

It really doesn’t matter if I’m on two motorised wheels or two Dookes Pedal-Powered wheels….it doesn’t take very long to go somewhere to really lift the spirits!

Then there’s Dookes H.Q., sitting outside having an evening gin and tonic the view is, frankly, delightful, I’m very lucky.

Stay safe people and I’ll catch you soon.
Dookes

Two Wheeled Time Machine

When our British Government announced the “Covid Lockdown” they were quite specific, that whilst the population must stay at home for all but essential journeys, we were allowed/expected to go out and exercise for up to an hour a day.

In other words, stay fit and healthy!

I had I think about this.

Obviously motorcycles didn’t count as “exercise” no matter how physical some rides are. Walking is OK and round Dookes H.Q. there’s lots of nice countryside, but in an hour, you can’t really go far.

Nothing for it, gotta get out the pedal bicycle!

This ticks all the boxes; two wheels, wind in your hair and covering the ground at a good pace and quite a variety of scenery in an hour!

So for the past few weeks that is what I’ve been doing.

I have a long history with bicycles. I can still remember my first, a delightful little thing with solid tyres, no danger of a puncture there! My father fitted it with stabilisers when I first had it, but they soon came off and so did I, a few times, until I got the hang of balancing on two wheels!

When I grew out of it, my Mother thought it was a good idea to buy me a used Raleigh R.S.W. 16. Yeah great, nice thought and good of her to buy it for me….but she never tried riding the wretched thing!

Raleigh RSW 16

These bikes were part of the 1970’s craze for small-wheeled utility bicycles. Do you see any around today? No you don’t, says it all really, they were heavy, uncomfortable and just awful!

Then one day at the back of our garage I discovered my Father’s old Raleigh Trent Sports.

To my young eyes this was cycling heaven. True, it was heavy as hell, but it had a four-speed derailleur gear set and drop-handle bars, it looked like a racer,I fell in love!

The old bike was dragged into daylight and it’s condition assessed.

It needed new tyres and inner tubes, all the bearings taken out cleaned and/or replaced, new brake cables, new gear change cable, new brake blocks, all the bright-work seriously cleaned.

A Trent Sports, but mine was red!


I remember Dad looking at me and just saying “ Well, if you do the work, it’s yours.”

Two weeks later, I proudly pushed the bike out of the workshop and road tested it.

The love affair continued.
I rode that bike everywhere and racked up hundreds and hundreds of miles on it.

At the back of my mind I hankered after a “ten-speed racer” and that dream eventually came true with a hand made Orbit machine.

Oh dear. Never have I been so disappointed; I just never clicked with that bike…

In a way… about 30 years ago actually, that’s where the story ground to a halt,

Until last autumn.

Call it a rush of blood to the head, call it a realisation that I needed to get fitter, call it a return to a simpler time…I wanted, no needed, a bicycle in my life again!

That’s how I became the proud owner of a Carrera Crossfire 2 hybrid.

The Crossfire


OK, it’s not he coolest looking thing on two wheels and not the lightest either, but I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go, off-road or road bike?

I started off riding round forestry tracks near to Dookes H.Q., but really I couldn’t resist getting out on the road.

Fast forward to this Spring and “Covid Lockdown.”

I’ve always felt a tad “invincible” and never thought that any silly little virus would get me…

Well it bloody nearly did for me!

I went down with all the symptoms about nine weeks ago and as it progressed…well let’s just say I wasn’t too good. No, I didn’t need hospital treatment, but it came close. I’m still not quite right; I took ages to shake off the shortness of breath and a really tight chest…but something I found helps, cycling!

Since I’ve set out to make cycling my convalescence, things have taken off for the better. I can honestly say that each time I ride I can feel myself getting better, fitter and stronger.

There’s one other thing I’ve noticed…

I’m riding a time machine.

With this lockdown, there are fewer vehicles on the road and in many ways it’s how I remember the roads nearly 50 years ago. Things are quiet, life seems to have taken on a slower pace, people smile and wave too; it’s nice.

Quiet lanes!


In my mind I’m back on that old four speed Trent Sports riding the country lanes of my youth.

There is only one downside.

I’m hankering after a road-bike now, maybe a carbon frame, 20+ gears, you know… sexy!

“I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike”

Catch you soon

Dookes

Dreaming

It maybe a bit of an understatement to say that the world is pretty screwed up at the moment!

Lockdowns and Social Distancing are in place in many countries to try to control the Coronavirus that is sweeping the planet, claiming lives at an alarming rate.

Life is not “Normal” wherever you live…normality seems a distant dream and almost certainly the future new “Normal” is unlikely to resemble anything that we have enjoyed in the past.

Now please don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a selfish, “Poor me, I can’t do what I want,” blog post. People are dying of a disease that mankind may have brought upon itself, it’s a horrible virus. At times like these one of the most important things to do is to hold onto hope; sometimes it’s all we can do.

Hope and to dream of a better future…

My two beloved Harley Davidson’s largely rest in the workshop at Dookes H.Q. True there has been some work for them of late, but that is outside this blog and as such they await the call whenever that may come…as for simply riding for the sake of riding, well that’s sadly a long way off.

Lockdown here in Cornwall isn’t so bad, compared to many folk we are very lucky. Our little corner of the planet is lovely, very, very rural and in it’s own way bucolically beautiful. The birds sing and the season moves on.

At times, in my mind, I drift away to far places, mountains, rivers, coasts and make plans to visit them again.

I’m resigned to not riding the high passes of the Alps this year. I can dream, hold onto the memories of the past and hope that one day I can return to those iconic peaks.

One day…

In the meantime the view from here isn’t too bad really!

Lets all dream a little, pray a little and hope for better things.

Catch you soon

Dookes

Sunnier Days

I’m sitting in our log cabin at Dookes H.Q. and looking out at the world.

The view from the cabin.


All is quiet, still and largely silent, save for the birds singing and the odd noise from sheep in the field.

Our Planet is getting quite a bit different from what it was a few short weeks ago.

Are we managing what is happening, or are we looking at extinction from the wrong end of the telescope?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that thinking of better days helps!

Earlier today I was scanning through some photos taken on my Pyrenees trip last year, they made me smile. Sunny days, people mixing freely, people enjoying themselves.

I spent my first night in the Pyrenees in the small village of Sare, which apart from agriculture and lovely scenery doesn’t have much else except campsites catering for the annual summer influx of visitors.

Just back down the road though at Col de Saint Ignace was the reason for me passing this way and after breakfast I set out to investigate “La Petit Train de la Rhune,” The Little Train of The Rhune.

This is an historic metre gauge rack railway at the Western end of the Pyrenees, which over 4.2km/2.6miles climbs to the summit of the Rhune Mountain.

The plan to build the line was first drawn up around 1908 and local Government law was passed soon afterwards with construction starting in 1912. Opening didn’t happen until 1924 though, World war One got in the way!

The railway climbs 736metres/2415ft from the base station to the summit and for the technically minded is equipped with the Strub rack system, which allows the train to literally pull itself up the mountain by a gear wheel engaging with a rack that is laid between the rails. Normal railways are pretty useless at climbing steep gradients, as the coefficient of friction between steel wheels on a steel rail is not high! The rack and pinion system gets round that problem.

One feature that makes this railway pretty special is that it is powered by three-phase electricity and there are only three others like that in the world! That’s pretty cool for an engineering geek like me!

The Complicated 3 Phase Current Collection Gear.


Services are operated by a four wheeled electric locomotive that pushes two passenger coaches up the mountain, peculiarly each coach has a four wheeled bogie at one end but only a two wheeled axle at the other; I haven’t been able to figure out why!

The railway normally operates from Mid-March until the end of September.


I considered having a quick ride, but the first train of the day was fully booked and I really didn’t feel like hanging around to see if I could get on the next one…but hey I saw it and got a few nice photos!

Just the thing to look back at and raise a smile to sunnier times!

“There is no more new frontier
we have got to make it here”

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life!

I originally started this post writing about how the whole Coronavirus situation is globally pretty much out of control.

Then it descended into a rant…, which isn’t really what is needed, or indeed what I want to post!

If we didn’t know before, we now have conclusive proof that he world truly has gone mad!

It all started, or at least was first reported, in China back in December.

Unregulated free movement of people between Continents facilitated the worldwide spread of the disease. Leaders around the World first either dithered or claimed denial; either way they failed to take action and possibly now it may be too late.

It’s certainly too late for the thousands that have already died.

Last night, at 20:30 UK time, our Government effectively put our Country, the United Kingdom into lock-down.

What does this mean?

Well, basically, unless you are going shopping for food or have a medical emergency everyone must stay at home. Initially this situation will last a minimum of three weeks, and then it will be reviewed. Obviously essential services and medical staff are given more latitude.

In essence this is a good idea, to stop people mingling and therefore, hopefully, restrict the spread of the virus.

To me, it does appear to be action well overdue.

Whilst at first glance it may all appear a bit draconian, but there are, as ever in any situation, definite plus points.

At present the UK is largely blessed with glorious early Spring weather and whilst we are in effect starting a period of “house arrest” here at Dookes H.Q. things are not bad at all. Mrs Dookes works from home anyway and I’m retired.

Cherry Blossom at Dookes H.Q.


It’s a time to count one’s blessings; we live in a beautiful part of the world, we have a lovely home and we have sunshine!

Wild Primrose, (Primula Vulgaris) at Dookes H.Q.


Stay safe out there, wherever you are. Look after yourselves and hopefully we’ll all make it through to the other side.

I have a feeling that the world is going to be a very different place in future.

Catch you soon

Dookes

Time To Breath Again

Sometimes I feel that the world is getting more scary and crazy by the passing of each day.

When I was younger we lived under the seemingly permanent threat of nuclear oblivion in four minutes time; it was the height of the Cold War and all it apparently needed was one crazy finger on the button….!

I guess we sort of lived with it and just dealt with it. Probably most of us were so blissfully ignorant about exactly what and where the threat was coming from that we were able to get on with our lives in that isolated state. Indeed any news that did filter to the general population was either very old by the time of publication, newspapers, or restricted in its broadcast, via television and radio.

These days things are just about as different as you can get. News is instant, a social commodity and generally totally unrestricted, unedited and uncontrolled.

Hysteria by media seems now to be the norm!

Over the last few weeks the world has been gripped by the spread of a virus.

Now please don’t think that I’m making light of the situation, I’m not; I am however totally fed up with the industry that feeds, leech like, on this and any other “Bad News Story” that may be circulating.

This evening I watched a news piece on British television that dealt with hard facts and real information, it took about three minutes; then we were bombarded by a succession of journalists, not scientists nor doctors, but mere wordsmiths who spent the next ten minutes speculating and hypothesising over what “might happen next.” Please people, give us facts not gossip!

Thankfully today dawned fine, very, very mighty fine!

You know what comes next….Time to get out on two wheels!!!

I’ve realised that probably the greatest thing about retirement is the ability to say at the drop of a hat, “Stuff it all, let’s ride!”

I rolled Hettie out of the workshop and hooked up with a mate of mine; Mark is also retired…sort of, he’s an artist, but he’s also a biker who loves the Cornish countryside.

At his suggestion we headed West, to the stunning Sennen Cove.

Sennen Cove


Our ride was superb, dry roads, blue sky, fresh cool air in our faces and an almost warm sun on our backs.

Sennen lies a couple of miles from Lands End at the extreme Western tip of Cornwall, if you put to sea here and turn left, it’s next stop Newfoundland, Canada.

Canada is that way!


It can be wild in Sennen, but on a day like today it’s the nearest to heaven you can find around these parts. I sort of take the view that there is no point in living in a beautiful part of the world if you don’t enjoy it!

Sennen Cove is also home to a famous Lifeboat Station. Here two boats are manned by volunteer crew, ready to go to the assistance of any in peril on the sea at any time of the day or night, whatever the weather or sea state. These are truly very brave and dedicated people.

The lifeboat launches down this slipway.

Just what I needed to keep the old life perspective in balance!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Making Hettie Mine.

Hi Gang, sorry I’ve been off air again, but I’m back now and raring to go!

Regular Blogonaughts will probably realise that in many things I tend to be a bit of a stayer, once I find something that I like, I stick with it. Things like a comfy pair of shoes or a favourite pullover will last me for years and I’m just the same with motorcycles too.

My beloved Harls and I have been together for a long time now and over the many years we have evolved in each others company. I’ve added little things to make our ride experiences more refined and more comfortable for me and easier for her too.

Harls

It’s funny, but for some reasonI never really fully “clicked” with Big Blue, perhaps in the back of my mind I knew that she wouldn’t be around with me for long. On the other hand I’m getting along just fine with Hettie, my lovely Heritage Classic, who joined us at Dookes H.Q. in April 2018; in other words nearly two years gone by, where did that go!

The decision to part with Blue and buy Hettie wasn’t hard after I’d test ridden some of the new Harley Davidson Softail range just before their general release, they were stunningly good. It also didn’t take me very long to realise that I was onto a winner once I took delivery of Hettie either! She is one fantastic motorcycle.

Hettie

If you had told me a few years ago that I would purchase a “Heritage” Harley I would have just shook my head and walked away. The old Heritage Softail was to my eye the very typical stereotype caricature of what lots of Non-Harley riders think of when you mention the marque, all chrome and tassels! Definitely, not me. Then along came the new Softails and things were different and to my eye, different in a very good way. Although it’s fair to say that the bikes retain a certain classic period look, it’s understated and functional, but more than that, they are just sublime to ride.

At least Hettie would be, if I ever manage to get out on her!

Once I took delivery of her I quickly racked up 500miles and gave her an oil change. Now I know that Harley Davidson’s have their first service at 1000miles, but I’m an engineer of the old school…. oil is cheap, engines aren’t!

Since that 500mile oil change things slowed up quite a lot, life stuff got in the way, but now I’m starting to play catch up with Hettie, we’ve managed about 2000miles since then; that’s 2000 smile-filled miles, I’m really loving this bike!

As she looses that “new machine stiffness” I have begun to appreciate just how nice these new Softails are. Although Hettie “only” has the 107cubic inch engine, that’s 1745cc in metric, it’s more than ample for the job in hand and the way the power smoothly feeds in when asked for is lovely, there’s no bad habits with this engine.

As I get to know Hettie, I’ve begun to notice what’s missing and to make the little improvements that will make her my motorcycle.

Some things are very small and simple. I like to know the time when I’m riding and although the multifunction display will show me that, I like a real clock, so there’s an analogue clock on the right hand side of her handlebars now. With a matching air temperature gauge on the left.

On the engine bars I now have a pair of what Harley calls “Soft Lowers.” These are simple slip on wind protectors that keep the weather off my lower legs very nicely, yep, I’m getting older and liking my comforts! I have a pair of “highway peg” footrests that I may just mount on those engine bars in due course.

I’ve fitted a sport luggage rack to the sissy bar, it’s reasonably small, but just big enough to take a Givi tank-bag mounting ring like I’ve fitted to Harls. The Givi “Tanklock” system is really designed for adventure bikes and features a docking ring that is screwed around the tank filler, various different size bags can then be simply locked onto the ring as the user wishes. This system is not designed for Harley Davidson’s, but I figured out a way of attaching one of the rings to Harls’ rack and I have found the ability to have a quick release small bag to be invaluable. I’m now going to do the same with Hettie, there’s no point in having engineering skills if you don’t use them! I’ll show you that in a future post.

The latest shiny things to go on have been a pair of Screaming Eagle Street Cannon slip-on exhaust mufflers. These are the first part of what Harley Davidson call a Stage One tuning package and although they give the bike a nice low bass exhaust note, they are not noticeably louder and best of all they are street legal! We followed that with a “Stage One Tuning” engine re-map and a new air cleaner to help her breath easier.

Next up I looked at more luggage options. The original equipment panniers are ok, but Leather Pro make some lovely bags that are stylish, slightly bigger that the OE ones and have a better lock arrangement than Harley’s design, which frankly gets in the way. The Leather Pro’s have been fitted, along with a pair of luggage protector bars.

Finally, for now anyway, I’ve splashed out on a Garmin Zumo 595 Sat Nav and Touratech mount. Yes, shock horror a SatNav!!! Actually I’ve had one on Harles for a couple of years now, they can be very useful dodging the traffic!

I’m now having a think about what else is needed…as opposed to what I’d like to add!

For now, that’s enough to be going on with, other than just enjoying this wonderful addition to my riding life.

“If you start it up
Kick on the starter
Give it all you got”

Catch you soon.

Dookes