It’s Just a Date on The Calendar!

I’m going to get straight down to it…I hate New Year!

It’s just a date on the calendar.
For example, when was the last time anyone wished you “Happy 28th March” ???

I know, lots of things have happened on the 28th March:

In 1801 the Treaty of Florence ended the war between France and the Kingdom of Naples. – Interesting.
In 1802 the second ever asteroid was discovered, it was named 2 Pallas. – Cool.
In 1910 the first seaplane took off from water. – Also Cool.
In 1942 British Commandos raided St Nazaire and disabled the Normandy Dry Dock. – Legendary.

….but my point is New Year is just another date on the Gregorian calendar and really has no special significance. You can choose any one of the other 365 and find significant things in history, yet for the most part we just ignore them.

Around the world tomorrow, on each local stroke of Midnight things go silly; bells ring, fireworks are let off and people jump into fountains! Then for the next month or so we have to put up with cheery “Happy New Year” from everyone we speak to whether we know them or not!

I even got wished “HNY” today, a full 38 hours before midnight on the 31st/1st!!!

I guess if it makes you happy, go for it.

Me? I’ll be tucked up in bed and asleep, dreaming of Harley days to come….which leads me on to today.

As a bid to take my mind off the impending date change I got the two girls out of the workshop. Hettie needed a wash and polish.

Hettie

Harls just needed checking over and telling how much I love her!

Harls

Once Hettie was beautified, I started them both up and let them warm through before tucking them up safely in the workshop again.

Yes OK, there is a New Year coming and yes I’m looking forward to it, if only to get out and do some Harley miles again!

Catch you soon

Oh yes, I nearly forgot…..Happy New Year!

Dookes

Remembering Teresa, Ellen and John who rode on ahead in 2019.

Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned.

Take last Monday for example.

It was a lovely day, the sort of day that just screams at me, “Go ride motorcycle!” and to be polite, I accepted nature’s invitation.

My plan was to visit my old friend Vifferman, who lives about 50 miles away from Dookes H.Q. and to ride a nice circuitous, leisurely, route in the glorious sunshine.

Going out all was well for a few miles, until I got onto the A30 main road. That’s where we had our first inclination that this could be an “interesting” ride. Overtaking a VW camper van I had to smartly take avoiding action as it gently eased onto my lane without any indication. Yes, thought so… the driver was busy talking on his mobile telephone!

After that Hettie purred along nicely and we enjoyed the new lush greenery that always erupts into growth this time of year. It truly was the most perfect English Spring morning and a perfect time to be on two wheels.

Mr and Mrs Viff were on fine form and we did that most British of things, we drank tea outside in the sunshine; lovely.

In due course it was time to bid farewell and hit the road again. I decided to take in part of the A39 Atlantic Highway, mainly because it’s one of my local favourite roads, which is as good a reason as any.

That’s when the fun really started, not.

Traffic wasn’t too busy, but in one or two spots it was slightly bunched by some heavy goods vehicles, trucks to most of us. It wasn’t that these trucks were hanging about, but rural Devon roads are not straight Autobahns, they have bends and hills, lots of them. Add into the mix some hesitant car drivers, speed restrictions through the pretty villages and there you have a mobile traffic jam; except if you are on a motorcycle!

The thing I always watch out for when overtaking traffic in such a situation is jealous car drivers. You probably know the sort, they can’t/won’t overtake themselves and don’t see why anyone else should either. Sometimes they try to block by moving out across the road, or another trick is to try to close out the gap that the overtaking vehicle is moving into; either way they are annoying and very dangerous!

When making an overtake I always plan my passing move considering where I am going to, that I can abort and move back in with plenty of time and have a back up plan “B” if needed, this last one usually means somewhere else safe to go…! Oh and I also plan not to cause anyone else on the road problems with my actions.

Needless to say, as I carefully began to move through the traffic I was keeping very alert to any possible stupid antics….and sure enough to driver of a Mercedes 4×4 took exception to me passing him and attempted to accelerate to block my exit by closing the gap to the car in front of him; hmm clever, not! Fortunately at this point it was a nice straight empty road and Hettie easily cruised past him and the next two cars without any problem, but what the *@^# was that for?

Later on the same road on another overtake, another 4×4, a BMW this time, accelerated as I passed him and I mean really accelerated! Oh yes, the clown was another mobile phone user too, with one hand on the steering wheel and one firmly pushing his phone into his ear!!!

Now can anyone tell me just why some people think that it is acceptable to use a mobile telephone whilst driving?

I found some space on the road away from traffic and tried to enjoy the ride again, but in all honesty I couldn’t. Those three examples of crass stupidity, aggression and selfishness had left me more stressed than when I set out; time to cut the ride short and head home.

“Look all around, there’s nothin’ but blue skies.
Look straight ahead, nothin’ but blue skies”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Time – It’s Relative

I have had a brilliant career, or as I’m now retired, perhaps I should just say I had a brilliant career!

No, I’m not bragging, I’m just one of those incredibly lucky people who have been fortunate enough to do things that didn’t seem like work and as a bonus I got paid for doing them!

When I was younger, one thing that I remember happening fairly frequently was bumping into colleagues who had retired and hearing them extolling the virtues of retired life.

“I’m so busy, I don’t know how I ever had time to go to work!”

That was a line that I heard often and which normally caused me to turn a quiet smile and gently shake my head…but guess what?

Those old fellas were right!!!

Retirement is a funny thing and I guess is different for different people, but for me it’s, well, hectic! From time to time I do some voluntary stuff, try to sneak in a few motorcycle rides, attempt to keep on top of the acres and trees here at Dookes H.Q., maintain the 300year old pile that is Dookes H.Q. and goodness knows do a host of other things that frequently leave me wondering where the days and weeks have evaporated away to!

Which is a round about way of explaining why Dookes has been “Off the Air” blog-wise yet again!

Keeping a Promise

Our nephew Christopher (Chris) is a super chap, I’ve written about him previously.

He’s one of the folks that life has dealt a pretty rough deal, but with the love and support of his family he has ploughed a pretty good furrow, despite a number of medical issues.

He works as a mechanic in his other Uncle’s garage and specialises in off-road motorcycles. To have some independence Chris lives in a chalet in the grounds of his parent’s home, whilst still conveniently in reach should he need help.

Because of Christopher’s medical situation the authorities won’t allow him to have a car driving licence, but will let him ride restricted motorbikes, which is just as well, because he’s pretty good at it!

Here in the UK we have a thing called a CBT, Compulsory Bike Training. It’s normally for people just setting out into the world of two-wheeled transport, or those who really only want a machine up to 125cc for a bit of local commuting and travel. No pillions are allowed for a CBT rider and the bike has to display red ‘L’ plates (for “Learner”). Once completed the CBT certificate lasts for two years, then either the rider has to do the course again or go pass the proper motorbike test.

For Chris, the CBT is ideal. He only needs a small bike for the distances that he normally travels and with a review every two years it means that he gets a regular independent assessment of his riding.

The great thing for Chris is that he is surrounded by motorcycling relatives; his cousins ride, as do two of his Uncles, so we all keep an eye on him!

I make a point to ride out with Chris every now and then, partly to see how he is getting on, but mostly because I enjoy spending time in his company, I think that’s how it should be with nephews and nieces.

Earlier this year Chris visited us at Dookes H.Q.. He really was desperate to ride his bike to us, it would have been his longest trip ever, about 70 miles and he wanted me to ride shotgun alongside him. As it was then in the height of summer and our Cornish roads get stupidly busy with visitors, I didn’t think it was such a great idea, so I put him off until the autumn.

Now the thing about Chris is that he doesn’t forget…so a few weeks back he reminded me of my promise and we rearranged things. That’s how a couple of Saturdays ago I found myself setting off at the crack of dawn to go and collect him.

Needless to say, he was raring to go when I arrived. He greeted me with a big grin and proudly told me that he’d washed his bike especially for the occasion! We packed his bags into Baby Blue’s ample top box and panniers, then hit the road; he takes after his Aunt, Mrs Dookes, just how much stuff do you need for a weekend away?

As his Yamaha 125 will only just about hit 50mph (downhill with a good tailwind) I chose a route that avoided the main trunk roads and settled in for a leisurely trundle, thank goodness that my big touring bike has a rather good music system.

Just over halfway we stopped to enjoy a sandwich and cup of coffee; Chris was worried that he needed petrol so we topped up the bikes, his took just under two litres… talk about economic riding! My Harley needed about ten times that amount!

Eventually, after nearly three hours, we arrived safely at Dookes H.Q..
Then next day we did it all again, but in reverse.

Chris and his bike wait to ride home with Baby Blue.

True this wasn’t the most taxing thing I’ve ever done on a motorbike, but just to see the look on my nephew’s face after he completed the two rides it was undoubtedly one of my most fulfilling.
Promise delivered.

Riding motorcycles is a bit like life.
It isn’t always about how far or fast you go, sometimes it’s about sharing the journey with someone else and watching them enjoy the ride!

Thanks Chris, for sharing some of your journey with your old Uncle; lets ride again soon.

“Those are the memories that made me a wealthy soul”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Digging The Past

Living here in Cornwall, at the extreme South West of the UK, I am frequently reminded just how lucky I am to be a resident in one of the most beautiful parts of our country. Actually I go a bit further, just living in our country is pretty OK too..despite Brexit and a host of other things!

You see the thing about Cornwall is that it’s a land of moods and a matter of choosing what you fancy today. If you want rugged cliffs and stunning coastal vistas, then head for the North Coast. High Tors and rolling moorland are on Bodmin Moor, whilst more pastoral scenery nestles on the banks of the River Tamar and the Roseland Peninsular. Not forgetting the sun-kissed miles of golden sand and some of the best surfing in the world at Gwithian and Praa Sands….we’ve got most needs covered!

The other thing that we’ve got in abundance is history, it’s everywhere and again there’s something for everyone’s interest, from the Stone-Age to Twentieth Century stuff via the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution.

So when the opportunity comes up to mix a couple of these points of interest together and throw in a bit of motorcycling, Dookes is always available…! So last Monday I started up Harls and hit the road.

Over on the North Coast, about 20 miles from Dookes H.Q. stands the bastion of Tintagel Castle. Perched on a high cliff-top above the wild Atlantic waves these mysterious and evocative ruins are, legend says, the birthplace of the mythical King Arthur.

Tintagel Castle

The reality is a bit different, in that the remains of the castle we see today were built in the 13th Century by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, who was brother to King Henry III. On the headland where this medieval castle was constructed evidence exists to show that the area had been inhabited for many hundreds of years previously. The problem is that no-one really knows what was happening here!

You see, apart from the 13th Century castle, the only other remains have been dated from what were once euphemistically referred to as “The Dark Ages.”

At this point I can almost hear the sharp intake of breath from various archaeological friends…these days, apparently, we must say “Early Middle Ages!” All I know is that it was a bloomin’ long time ago, between the 5th to the 10th Centuries to be precise!

One of the reasons that this period gained it’s “Dark” moniker is that following the decline of the Western Roman Empire very little literature or cultural output occurred and few relics have been found, especially in North West Europe; that’ll be here then!

Since the 1930’s Tintagel has been subject of a number of archaeological investigations into its unknown “bits,” that’s the stuff not including Richard’s castle. The view as to what was going on has varied from; Monastery, Trading Port and has now shifted to “possibly a Royal Palace,” delete as applicable and the mood takes you!

This summer staff and volunteers from the Cornwall Archaeology Unit have been undertaking a “Dig” to try to piece together some of the jigsaw. They were building on work that had been started last year, following a new geophysical survey of the headland that had given some interesting pointers where to start digging.

To say what they have found is impressive sort of depends on your viewpoint, but certainly there’s been a lot of hard work put in to uncover another tantalising glimpse into the past. Hence why I popped into to see for myself.

The excavation site lies on the very Southern edge of Tintagel headland, in a sheltered spot under the lee of higher inland cliffs. The view our 6th Century ancestors had can’t have changed very much and must have been as impressive as today.

The dig team have unearthed substantial remains of walls, giving an interesting perspective of what must have been a most impressive structure. What exactly it was, remains to be unearthed, if you’ll excuse the pun, but being positioned on a sloping cliff-side I’m not at all surprised that it’s walls were substantially built!

Amongst the stones they have also found a veritable treasure trove of pottery shards, oyster shells, animal bones, charcoal, fragments of glass and possibly the remains of a metal blade.

Is this a 1600 year old blade?

The media have been quick to enthuse that this “suggests” that “early Cornish Kings” once lived and dined lavishly at this place… only it doesn’t – and that came from one of the archaeologists!

What it really does is add more weight to Tintagel being an important trading point; precious local metals out; wine, oil and spices in.

5th Century Pottery shards from the Mediterranean.

It was fascinating to talk to some of the team and watch them at work. There’s clearly a lot more to be discovered and here’s hoping that they will be back next year to keep digging. I spent a happy couple of hours on site and left with a head more full of questions than answers, but archaeology is like that.

Then it was time to fire up Harls and head home… and take a lot longer route than the 20 mile hop to get to Tintagel!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Two Up – Again!

In my last post I said how I’m not wild about having a pillion ride with me on my bikes.

Well, just like waiting for a bus, nothing for ages then two come along almost at once!

First it was G, to go collect his new bike and then last weekend nephew Chris twisted my arm to take him for a ride on Baby Blue. I’ve introduced Chris previously, but if you want to read a bit more about him and his back story then click here.

For the non-riders amongst you let me try to explain…

When I ride a motorcycle solo, it’s just me, the machine and the road.

I suppose it’s a bit elemental, but I definitely get “in tune” with the bike and can “read” the feedback it’s giving me as we progress along our way. Little signals from the bike give me an indication as to how much grip the tyres have, what the road camber is doing as well as how gradients are affecting things. Because I spend so much time riding solo, all this information goes haywire as soon as someone else climbs on the back and the bike feels….weird!

The most obvious thing is the extra weight, even on a big touring bike such as the Harley Davidson Ultra Limited it’s very noticeable. Sometimes there have been pillions trying to ride the bike for me and leaning this way and that, usually at the wrong time. Then there’s that other matter that I call “Wriggle Bum” and that’s basically when the pillion just won’t sit still, particularly at critical moments, such at junctions and intersections; it can quite easily lead to “interesting” domestic conversations!

When I agreed to give Chris a ride, I must admit that lots of thoughts about the above went through my mind.

Chris usually rides a Yamaha 125 on the road and a various trials bikes off it, so he’s well used to the niceties of motorcycling, but this would be his first time as a pillion.

Last Saturday morning we set off from Dookes H.Q. and had a nicely varied ride-out covering around 55 miles of beautiful North Cornwall countryside. We Stopped for petrol and collected some Cornish Pasties for lunch from Aunt Avis at St Kew Highway, before a spirited, though sensible, loop back home.

All smiles, Chris tries out the front seat….
Hands off nephew!


Well I needn’t have worried, Chris was a dream to have sitting on the back!

All the time he sat perfectly still, allowed the motion of the bike to flow under him and basically trusted me to get on with my job of piloting the beast!

Chris, you can ride pillion on Baby Blue anytime!

“I’m cruising fast on a motorcycle down this winding country road.”

Catch you soon

Dookes

Greasy Leather

One great thing about living in Cornwall is the weather…Yes I did really write that!

Someone once said that the UK doesn’t have a climate, we just have weather and that is divided into ten months winter and two months bad weather!

Personally, I tend to take the view that there is no such thing as bad weather, just a bad choice of coat!

Now a confession…I like wearing leather…

…when riding motorbikes!

Sure I have a variety of riding gear and modern synthetic alternatives are extremely good, certainly some of the stuff with Kevlar woven panels perform impressively, however my apparel of choice is good old-fashioned traditional cow skin. Riding clothing has to perform a multitude of tasks, prime of which is protecting the wearer in the event of a tumble, but it also is the first line of defence in keeping you warm, dry and comfortable.

That last one is a prerequisite for me, I have a set of Harley Davidson FXRG leathers that are so comfy to wear and that I’ve had for years.

Like many other things associated with motorbikes, there is a degree of maintenance required to keep your leathers not only looking good, but also to ensure that they don’t let you down when you need them. Leather being a natural material needs “feeding” to keep oils in it’s pores and therefore retain its water-resistant properties.

Last Saturday I took a ride up to Bideford on the beautiful North Devon coast, it’s just over 50 miles from Dookes H.Q. and my mission was to drop in and see my oldest pal “Vifferman.”

“Viff” and I go back a long way, well over half a century, in fact the only living person that I have known longer than him is my Mother…wow that’s scary! “Viff” had recently lost a good friend, in fact he had read the eulogy at his mates funeral only earlier in the week, I had to go see him.

Riding along the wonderful A39, the Atlantic Highway, in the morning was simply fantastic. Traffic was light, weather nice and clear, road dry, what was there not to like!

After spending some time with “Viff,” inspecting his son George’s model railway and enjoying a Devon pasty for lunch it was time to head home…and ride into darkening skies!

The trouble with coastal living is that the weather changes just like in the mountains, at the flip of a coin. We were heading straight into black towering Cumulonimbus storm clouds and true to fashion after ten miles we rode into it, one second it was dry, next, bam, rain!

I settled into a tedious further 40 miles of standing water, driving rain, gusting wind and spray. Lovely, not!

Once back at Dookes H.Q. and after putting Baby away in the workshop I got out of my riding gear and discovered I had…a slightly wet crotch!

OK, I know it I’m getting older, but I’ve not yet lost control of things down there just yet…well I’m pretty sure I haven’t anyway!

Sure enough, close examination revealed that my leather trousers had evidence of a bit of water ingress and this got me thinking; when was the last time I had treated my leathers to some waterproof dressing?

Guiltily, I concluded that it was at least two years ago. Whoops! As the FXRG leathers aren’t made any more, they’ve been replaced by hybrid leather/synthetic, I’d better look after these a bit better!

So yesterday there I was in the workshop with the radio on and leather gear spread out on the workbench. Using a pair of disposable gloves I spent a happy couple of hours thoroughly rubbing leather dressing into the leather. imageBy not using a cloth the warmth of my hands helped the greasy dressing penetrate deep into the leather and after a good going over the jacket and trousers looked a lot better for it as well.
image
I must admit that not wasn’t an unpleasant thing to do, certainly more enjoyable than the wet crotch anyway! I’m just kicking myself that I’d left it so long, but hey at least I wasn’t in the middle of a big trip when I found the leak.

I’ve just thought, there’s another pair of trousers that need doing…better dash and sort those now!

“Hell bent, hell bent for leather.”

Catch you later.

Dookes

Bike Night

Motorcyclists in our part of the world are a lucky bunch; not only do we have stunning scenery, twisty roads and wonderful coastlines, but during the summer months we also enjoy a selection of events known as “Bike Nights.”

The basic principle of a Bike Night is very simple, riders and their machines gather to admire each other’s bikes and socialise with like-minded people. In scale the “Nights” range from small gatherings at a local café to impressive events with live music, bars and shops. (Though having a bar must be of questionable sense for people riding home afterwards!)

At this point I must confess to being only a very occasional visitor to “Bike Nights.” It’s just that if there is a nice evening to enjoy I’d much rather be actually munching the miles on two wheels than talking about it!

A couple of weeks ago I had arranged to hook up for some supper and ride to Bude, on the North Cornwall coast, with my oldest and dearest friend, known on these pages as “Vifferman.”

“Viff” works across the Devon border in Barnstaple and by taking a rather circuitous route on a beautiful afternoon I was able to enjoy just over 100 miles of delightful sunshine before meeting up with him at a convenient service station. We then enjoyed a spirited run to Bude and took on board that food of all British Bikers – Fish and Chips!

On arriving at Bude quay, we were pleasantly surprised to find “Bike Night” in full flow!

Can you spot Baby Blue?

Can you spot Baby Blue?

Bude Bike Night one of the smaller events, centred on a local café and as a result it’s very laid-back and relaxed…which pleased “Viff” as his Honda is well used and sometimes a tad grubby!

We parked up and had a cursory look at some of the bikes before enjoying our fish supper whilst putting the world to rights on a quayside bench.

Summer waning away with the ebbing tide.

Summer waning away with the ebbing tide.

It was a glorious evening with heavenly warm light from the dipping sun. The air was, however, tinged with that peculiar sadness that comes with summer closing fast and the knowledge of long dark nights of winter rapidly heading towards us.

Sunset at Bude.

Sunset at Bude.

Leaving Bude on my big blue Harley, I rode the Atlantic Highway into the setting sun and had time to muse.

Evenings spent with friends like “Viff” are like the light, golden, precious and to be treasured. I’ve known my mate all my life, well over fifty years, we’re the brothers that choose to be brothers and d’ya know, I don’t see enough of him these days…we need to change that!

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields.
You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find …
Running into the sun, but I’m running behind.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes