Lazy Days and Sunny Rays Will Guide Me

It’s raining today, not heavy rain, but persistent and actually quite refreshing. After nearly seven months of the stuff through Autumn and Winter you’d think I’d be fed up with it, but in a way today I’m really enjoying it!

For some reason it’s reminding me of those road trip days when I get up, it’s raining and there is no choice but to ride in it…and I’ve suddenly realised that I actually like riding in the rain, a bit, except when the road gets slippery and I can’t see where I’m going! I like the way low cloud brushes over the hills and through high forests and woodland and the gossamer strands of the cloud tell you that there’s wet road ahead, yeah I like it!

Well, sort of like it….


With the continuing World-Wide pandemic of Coronavirus, there are definitely wet roads ahead…but sometimes it’s the crap in life that makes people realise exactly how much good they have.

Lets go to the French Alps…

Sit in L’Entrique bar in Bourg St Maurice and take in the scene.

Bourg is a buzzing town deep in the French Alps. In winter it’s the hub of snow sports, whilst summer sees culture and nature taking over.

In the evening, there will be live music in L’Entrique, often driving rock with great guitar riffs. The food is good and the staff friendly. During the day, outside meal times, it’s a nice place to grab a coffee and chill.

Then walk outside and climb on your bike. Hit the starter, let the engine warm and then kick in first gear, hang a left onto the wonderful D902 and head for the sky!

50 kilometres Southwest lies Col de l’Iseran, at 2770m/9087ft the highest true paved Pass in Europe.

It’s a funny road from Bourg, wide and fast in places, tight in others.

There are tunnels; I hate tunnels, mostly.

The road climbs, relentlessly.

All the time are the views; ahead the expanding peaks, on each side the valley moving in, tightening, the river being pressed into a gorge.

Near Tignes is the hydroelectric dam, a dichotomy of natural beauty and intrusive industrial architecture.

The Dam.

The Lake.


More tunnels; then comes the famous ski station of Val d’Isere, which like many of the Alpine ski resorts largely slumbers during summer months.
Probably the best thing about the place is the road out…

Val d’Isere


…and what a road it now is.

Forget the previous 33 kilometres; you had to ride that to deserve this!

The road climbs and climbs and climbs. It narrows and things begin to get serious.

We are above the tree line now. The views open impressively.

The gradient shifts ever upwards, 2.8%, 5%, 8% then for the last 7k to an average of 10%.

There are hairpins, but not in any great number, just a relentless gradient like driving up a wall.

The air is thin, a carburettor motorcycle like Harls begins to struggle; how the cyclists cope is beyond my comprehension!

Just below the summit are a couple of sharp switchbacks, “Lacets,”
the French call them.

The wind always blows here and adds to the stunning views to literally take your breath away.

I like to park away from anyone else and find a solitary place.

A place to take in the view and reflect.

A place to find peace.

A place to give thanks.

A place to reach out and touch the face of God.

A place to return to soon.

“Lazy days and sunny rays will guide me
Back home where I belong”

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Ride a White Swan

Ten years ago I sat on an East-bound Boeing watching the bright stars shining high above the Atlantic before the speeding sun brought an early dawn. Our contrails pointed back towards Chicago. I was heading home after visiting family in the Windy City; family who mean so much to me as the years pass by.

I love flying, but that short night I was troubled.

Just prior to leaving for the USA I had almost concluded a deal to purchase a motorbike, a lovely Pearlescent White Harley Davidson Centenary Softail, but there I was sitting in a 400 tonne cigar tube questioning whether I was doing the right thing….it was a lot of money!

The hostess invited me to close the window blind, I always get amused by that…do they think that someone is looking in from the outside at 30,000 feet altitude at night? I politely declined and explained that I was Astro-navigating, I was left alone, probably classed as a nut case…and back to my pondering.

In due course the wheels touched down at London Heathrow and we were launched into the machine that all long-haul travellers have to endure; emigration, customs, bureaucracy and of course queuing and standing in line…then it’s off to baggage reclaim.

At London Paddington station we gratefully sank into out First Class seats on the Westbound high-speed train back to Cornwall and relaxed. Mrs Dookes drifted off to sleep as I tackled a bacon sandwich and a cup of black coffee whilst admiring the pleasant English countryside speeding by at 125mph.

Mrs D’s phone buzzed with a text message; I picked it up and glanced at the words on the screen. I gently nudged my wife awake, “Message, not good.”

The text message was to tell us that one of Mrs D’s dearest and oldest friends had died.

Trudie was just 35 when she was taken by cervical cancer.

We knew that she was seriously ill before we flew out to the USA some weeks previously and had spent a beautiful day in her company; but it still came as a shock. No, it was shit….

Trudie; beautiful, delicate, lovely, wonderful, happy, loving Trudie….gone.

I wanted to scream, cry, sob and I host of other things…instead I stared out of the window and saw Trudie’s face in the clouds above the ripening wheat fields speeding past our carriage.

The rest of the journey passed in a blur; then the next two days merged into a mess of jet-lag and grief.

A few days later I was back in my office. The phone rang, it was 09:15.

Mrs Dookes was calling. She cut straight to the chase, “Dad had just called me, my cousin Andy has been found dead!”

It turned out that Andy had suffered a major heart attack in the middle of the night and had been found by his father, collapsed in the bathroom at his home.

Andy had not long turned 40.

I liked Andy, he was a bit of an odd-ball, but we shared many common interests like old machinery and trains; he was a nice bloke.

I put the phone down and stared out of the window. Life is too bloody short and at times bloody unfair.

I picked up the telephone again and dialled the motorcycle dealership.

“About that bike…I’ll pick it up on Friday!”

Ten years later I’m still riding that beautiful white Harley Davidson, that you folks know as “Harls.”

I’m just sorry that Andy never got to hear the rasp of her engine through those shot-gun pipes; and I’m desperately sad that Trudie never got to ride pillion behind me, I’m sure that Mrs Dookes wouldn’t have minded…!

…but you know sometimes I see a shadow in the workshop when I’m working on that bike and start the engine….and on other occasions when I’m riding I could swear that I get a hug, like someone is sitting behind me and has their arms around my waist.

Ten years on, I’ve ridden just about everywhere I’ve ever wanted to on that wonderful bike. I’ve also got a powerful bunch of very special memories forged on that lovely machine, but most of all I still feel that connection with two very special people taken too soon and for them I ride in their memory.

Andy. Trudie. I miss you both and love you still.

Catch the two of you one day.

“Ride it on out like a bird in the sky way
Ride it on out like you were a bird.
Ride a White Swan like the people of the Beltane.”

Dookes