The Coast

Today, in the South West corner of the UK, it has been absolutely heavenly. Some people call these early spring days the “False Spring,” as we all know that the winter hasn’t really gone just yet…but its nearly gone!

At Dookes H.Q. those wonderful little harbingers of Spring, the snowdrops, Galanthus Nivalis, have thrust themselves up through the cold ground to brighten our days with their happy flowers. If you flatten yourself to the ground they have a delightful scent as well!DSCF3779
So with all this optimism around it seemed a tad silly not to get out on two wheels and drink in the loveliness!

As part of my recently completed Blogging 201 course, I have undertaken to publish a monthly theme post. Living where we do, in a County that is virtually surrounded by the sea, it seems to me that using “The Coast” as the theme is a pretty good idea? What do you good people think of that?

It’s also a pretty good excuse to hunt out those special seaside foods, Dookes ain’t daft you know!

Last month I posted some photographs of the rugged North Cornish Coast, so today by way of a contrast, I thought I’d take you on a trip to the South East corner of Cornwall.

This is the small beach at Cawsand Bay, it faces East out across Plymouth Sound. I’ve been past it many times on ships leaving for France and Spain, but this was the first time I have actually visited. Quite delightful, but not a surfing hotspot!DSCF3754

After chilling for a while on the beach wall, Harley and I headed South and picked up the old Military Road which high above the sea gives stunning views from Rame Head across Whitsand Bay. It was one of those days when the sea and sky merge together in a gentle fuzziness without a clearly defined horizon. Not exact misty and not really clear either, but gentle and embracing nonetheless.DSCF3774

The sea lay glassy and still, with barely a breath of wind rippling the surface. It’s benign beauty concealing the fate of many ships and men who lie here in salty graves beneath the cold surface. These are dangerous waters.

Two specific losses spring to mind. In January 1914, Submarine A7 sank here with the loss of all her crew and the American liberty ship SS James Eagan Layne went down in March 1945 after being torpedoed by a German submarine. In more recent times the former HMS Scylla was purposely sunk, to create an artificial reef and diving site.

Rame Head and Polhawn Cove. Excuse two into the sun shots, but I kinda like them!DSCF3762

The Military Road was built in the mid Nineteenth Century to link coastal defence forts that were built to protect the coast and the important naval city of Plymouth. Today, only Tregantle Fort is still in military use and is regularly used for live firing with small arms; the big coastal guns have long gone. The views from the road are invigorating, with or without a Harley Davidson!DSCF3769

Even though it is only mid-february, you can see the yellow gorse flowers of the gorse breaking out and filling the air with its heady coconut aroma. We are about 360 feet above the sea here.DSCF3764
I do believe that Harley was glad to get out as well, she purred along, well OK, Growled Along, eating up the miles with ease. My chassis feels a little more tired this evening! I’m definitely not riding fit at the moment, fortunately the answer to that is more riding…
Life can be tough!

I don’t quite know how, but I managed to fail on the food front, probably because I was far to busy enjoying myself in the sunshine on two wheels! So, dear reader, I’ll endeavour to rectify that on our next Coastal Odyssey!

Until next time.


“I’m gonna head down to the coast, where nothin’ ever seems to matter…”

Testing! Testing!

As regular blog followers will know, I’ve been banging on for some time about how nice the new “Project Rushmore” Harley Davidson touring motorcycles are.

‘Very,’ is a word that seems to comes to mind.

One slight problem… I’ve blathered on about the bikes, but had yet to ride one.

Driving home across a foggy Bodmin Moor last Tuesday, the hands free phone in my car burst into life with a call from Kevin Tomlinson at Plymouth Harley Davidson. I pulled over into a convenient lay by and Kevin told me that the Dealership had just taken delivery of a new Electra-Glide Ultra Limited Low model, it was road ready and would I like to test ride it?

Does Pinocchio have balsa bollocks?

Dead right I’d like to ride it!

Arriving at the Dealership this morning, I reported to Salesman Tim Williams, filled in the requisite paperwork and was led to a gleaming Ultra Limited Low.
“Feeling excited?” asked Kirk, the Service Manager.
“Nah!” I lied. “It’s just another bike.” Oh boy, I was telling whoppers!

I could hardly wait to get out on the road.

Tim took me through the niceties of the ‘Low’ as the engine warmed up.

imageThis baby had only four miles on the clock and was absolutely pristine, literally just out of the box!

I threw my leg over the saddle, kicked in first gear, let out the clutch and off we went. As I moved onto the A38 and headed West my first thought, “This bike feels…lovely!”

True, the machine was new and understandably a bit stiff, but she was throttle responsive and rode beautifully. I headed towards Dookes H.Q. on roads I know well and which would give me a good comparison to my beloved Softail.

As the miles rolled by, I became more and more impressed with the lovely machine that I was riding. On the twisties, she was nice and stiff; the front end stayed true to the road, though I wasn’t trying anything extravagant as the tyres were brand new as well! Throttle response was more than impressive, it was bloomin’ amazing! This is a big bike weighing in at nearly 400kg, but it felt light and crisp.

After covering about fifty miles I thought it would be good to pull over, take a breather and evaluate this neat machine.

Now just a word to explain this “Low” tag that Harley Davidson have given the model. The bike is based on the standard Electra-Glide Ultra Limited, but to make it more attractive to, shall we say more ‘vertically challenged’ riders, a number of modifications have been applied. The suspension has been lowered and likewise the seat has also been modified to lower the riding position, all this making the machine about 55mm lower than it’s bigger stablemate. The handlebar has also been moved back, to allow for shorter arms and the grips are a tad thinner, actually H-D have just simply omitted the heated grips which is a bit of a cheat in my view. The primary drive cover has also been slimmed down, which begs to question why on the standard size machine it has to be so big? Unless of course the ‘Low’ has something different inside there that I don’t know about.

So what do I think of it?image

Well, for me it’s a tad small, which might seem a bit bonkers for such a big bike!  The low seat modifications push my knees a bit high and it all makes things quite cramped around the foot controls. The close handlebar is just that for me, too close. In addition, the low seat has less padding and these days so does the Dookes derrière, which made it a tad uncomfortable! The pillion seat is, however, just about as plush as you can get on any motorcycle. Final downside is that as a tallish chap the screen is a bit too low, leading to some wind buffeting at mid-range speeds, but this could be fixed as different screen sizes are available.

On the plus side, which to be honest far outweigh the fit issues, it rides beautifully. Cornering is precise and feels like you are on rails. Acceleration, wow, just breathtaking for such a big bike, but then with a 103cu inch (1690cc) engine it should be! Power is, however, tractable, right through the range and the sixth gear a delight for highway cruising; talking of which, the cruise control is superb and so simple to engage and manage. Incidentally, the engine is twin cooled, air with liquid around the valves ports. The hydraulic clutch surprised me by being light to use, yet also still having that undefinable ‘feel’ that to me is so important. Brakes are the best I’ve ever experienced on any touring motorbike by any manufacturer; they are linked above 25mph and really sit the bike firmly on the road when applied, ABS is standard. Twin disks on the front wheel and a single disk on the rear. The LED head and auxiliary lights are nice and bright, although I didn’t ride after sunset they certainly lit up the Saltash Tunnel quite well!

The bike is fitted with a super Satnav/Information/Entertainment module that Harley have dubbed an ‘Infotainment’ system. I never thought I’d like a stereo on a bike, but I loved this! Good clear sound, that cleverly increases the volume as engine noise increases! I’m not a great fan of SatNavs, but this seemed ok and I could get to use it in addition to the legendary Dookes sense of direction! The system will also link to mobile phones, iPods and other USB devices, neat. Supplied as standard are in helmet speakers and microphones. These enable rider and pillion to talk on the move, as well as using the stereo system without the external speakers and utilising voice recognition for SatNav commands. Dials for speed, engine revs, fuel and volts are well laid out, clear to read and light up effectively. The various switches and controls are placed logically on the handlebars and soon become instinctive to use.

As you can see in the photos, there is bags of luggage space…bad pun! Two hard panniers and a cavernous top box, which will itself hold two full face helmets and more. All are lockable, which will give extra security to the touring rider and all are made to be opened and closed when wearing riding gloves, a nice touch, well done H-D! Finish is top quality.


By the time I got back to the Dealership I had ridden nearly 120 miles and had a big stupid grin on my face. This is one fantastic motorbike!

To conclude, I loved this bike and I really feel that Harley Davidson have made a good move by identifying a potential market and going for it. I am sure that they will sell a lot of this model by taking that chance. At a tad over £22k for the two tone colour version that I rode these bikes are not cheap, but I believe that they do return very good value for money and H-D used prices always remain high. If you want a comfortable, stylish, yet performance minded mile muncher and you stand somewhere below six feet tall, this is the bike for you!

Many, many thanks to Dealer Principle Chris Iris, Kevin Tomlinson and Tim Williams at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the opportunity and loan of the test bike.

Now where can I get my hands on it’s bigger brother???


Goldfinger: Day 2

Good evening everyone from a delightfully warm and dry Macon. Harley and I have just enjoyed a super day romping westwards across France.
The first 120 miles were largely on Autoroutes, not ideal, but hey it munches miles fairly quickly and Harley is just the job when it comes to cruising.
I’ve got to say, that regardless of my comments about Parisien drivers earlier, one of the many things I like about France is the standard of driving that one generally encounters; it’s pretty good! I really feel that it generally knocks spots off the appalling standards one frequently sees back home. For example, lane discipline on dual carriageways and motorways; in the UK lane hogging has now got so bad that a new law has just been passed to try to deal with the problem of the “Middle Lane Owners Club” and the “I’m driving in Lane 2 Because I’m far Too Important/Fast/Lazy to Pull Over Into Lane 1 Club”. Here in France the only time you see a vehicle in lanes 2 or 3 is when they are actually overtaking; oh sorry I forgot, or when an ignorant Brit in an Audi is cruising ingoring everyone else and is too pig stupid to move over, like I saw earlier! Rant over!

So, back to the trip. Chinon to Bourges, autoroute. Then D976 to Nevers. The road passes by Avord Airbase, but some very grumpy looking armed guards persuaded me not to take any photos, but in the nearby village I found this old Mirage IIIB on display.


At La Grenouille the Canal Lateral-Loire crosses the River Allier.


Harley and I then popped into Magny Cours Circuit for a nose around. There was a track day in progress for sport bike types but otherwise it all looked like a prisoner of war camp and felt about as welcoming. James Hunt was right, it is just about as far from anywhere that you can get in France!
We took the D978 and enjoyed a super ride through hills and pine forests of the Morvan National Park. The hairpins entering Chateau-Chinon were delightful, shame about the rest of the town though!
Autun is a fascinating place, quite busy with modern, ugly, French apartment blocks rubbing up alongside Roman ruins. There is also a delightful medieval quarter and an impressive cathedral as well. As an example, here is the Roman Amphitheatre, into which the cunning French have put a football pitch! Brilliant, I love it! Perhaps the Romans invented football as well?


The view over the town.


Just outside Autun is a real oddity, the remains of what is thought to be a 1st Century Pyramid. What purpose it actually served seems to be subject to some debate, there have been burials found nearby but nothing in the edifice itself. Unfortunately there’s not that much left, as most of the stone has been nicked by the resourceful locals who have used it as a help yourself quarry over the centuries. Still looks pretty awesome to me though!


Next up was Le Creusot and something I have wanted to see for a long time. Many of you know that a bit of industrial archeology is always guaranteed to get me going, especially when powered by steam. So get a load of this baby!

It’s a 100tonne steam hammer, last used about 1930 and now mounted on a traffic island on the entry to the town. By 100t, that’s not what it weighs…that’s the force that it could pound metal with! It has a five meter drop on the hammer part as well; it is said that a skilled operator could shell nuts with it, such was the control that was available. I love it! This whole area was once alive with iron works and coal mines, now nothing except a few museum pieces…Funny thing is, I once studied this area as part of my Geography A level; bit of a bugger that I didn’t come here when I was doing it, cos it makes it real and I would have been able to relate much better. Kids should go see the places that they are studying, not just watch videos or read books.
Anyway, we slipped nicely into Bourgogne, Burgundy to the Brits. Wow, it’s lovely! That’s all, lovely and mellow and lush and nice! This is Chateau Birze Le Chatel.

20130622-223836.jpg Harley liked it too!


Tonight’s billet is Chambres D’Hôtes Clos de Flace, just outside Macon.
Very nice, very traditional French and with lovely owners. Then blow me, along rolls a couple from Ebbw Vale…I ask you, South Wales! Need my mate Greg here, sorry, “year”, to translate valley speak tidy like! Je peux faire face à la langue Francais!


That’s it for today, you up for it tomorrow? Good, breakfast at eight then.

The roar of the engine I love that sound.

Goldfinger: The Start

OK, so James Bond 007 is a secret agent, but this mission isn’t, so it’s time to share the first part of the route briefing, pay attention all you ’00’ agents.

The film is initially true to Ian Fleming’s book, with Bond following super-villain Auric Goldfinger across France to Switzerland. Both Bond and Goldfinger’s cars are transported to France via air ferry from Kent, but as these days the air-link is long gone and as I live in Cornwall, we are going to have to bend the rules a bit, anyway I end up driving more miles than Bond as a result! So first up, it’s the ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff in Brittany.

Bond, in his Aston Martin DB4, follows Goldfinger across northern France to an overnight stop in Orléans;Bond Aston

“Bond had never cared for Orléans. I was a priest and myth ridden town without charm or gaiety.” Good enough advice! Harley and I will stay in my regular billet near Chinon and pick up the trail near Nevers.

From there the antagonists head south on the N7, before picking up the N79 to Macon. In the book, it is here that Bond runs into Tilly Masterson, literally! In the film we will see it is a fair bit different.gf_goldfinger_fleming_map_france_02-01a_900

Bond traversed Bourg en Bresse and passed through Pont-d’Ain then picked up the N84, which is now the D1084; we will cut the corner on the D979 and link into the old ’84 near Nantua. I’m going to take a check then how I feel about things. In the  book, Bond goes into Geneva and finds Goldfinger’s lair at Coppet on Lake Geneva; the film is different…so ride along and find out!

Catch you down the road…

Under your feet the grass is growin’!