Bike Nights and Near Normality

The world remains strange, though there are the beginnings of green shoots of normality slowly starting to emerge.

Here in Cornwall, as one of the most popular UK tourist destination areas, we are used to visitors during the summer months, but nothing like the invasion that we are experiencing this year! The prime driver of this is the continuing restrictions that the UK government have placed on all but essential foreign travel, as a result most people who would normally holiday abroad have swarmed to popular UK hot spots….and don’t we know it!

Local journeys are on average taking twice as long as normal. Narrow roads are choked with motor-homes, caravans and bewildered drivers who seemingly are unable to reverse when faced with a large tractor hauling silage; yes there is more to Cornwall than just the beaches!

The great thing is, with a motorcycle and a bit of local knowledge, you can avoid most of the holiday making madness!

Not very far from Dookes H.Q. on the stunningly beautiful north coast of Cornwall, lies the small town of Bude. Originally a harbour and fishing village, like many small coastal towns it developed into a holiday resort in the 1800’s and with the arrival of the railway in 1879 became a firm favourite of affluent Victorians.

Today the railway is gone, closed in 1966. The harbour just a shadow of it’s former glory. As a holiday destination Bude is no longer on the “must do” list for visitors to Cornwall, but it still retains a certain charm and in places, elegance.

Each Wednesday evening through the summer Bude hosts “Bike Nights” when motorcyclists of all sorts gather on the quay to drink coffee, eat donuts, hang out together and talk motorbikes in a relaxed atmosphere.

It’s great fun to see the holiday-makers giving us a wide berth; if they looked closely though, they’d notice that most of us are drawing our pensions!

It’s also great fun to have an evening out with motorcycle mates, plus a nice ride there and a nice ride back, you can’t beat it!

Pop down and see us if you are in Bude on a sunny Wednesday evening in the summer.

Catch you soon,

Dookes

It’s Not All Bad!

Today is the Summer Solstice and here in the Northern Hemisphere our longest day of the year. It should be warm and sunny, but instead it’s miserable…which sort of matches my mood. Actually that’s been caused by a dose of computer grief, always guarenteed to wind me up!

Normally in the Dookes calendar, this time of year I would be riding Harls on the high mountain roads of the Alps or Pyrenees.

Er..don’t tell Mrs Dookes that I rode up here!!!


At present though, life is still anything but “Normal.”

It’s virtually impossible to travel abroad from the U.K. at the moment and like a lot of sensible people I’m also feeling very much less than enthused with the idea. Apart from the trifling matter of health and travel insurance, there’s also the balls-ache and cost of Covid tests before travel and the same in reverse….and that’s assuming that your country destination of choice will even let you in!

Oh and yes, I’ve had my two shots of vaccine!

Foreign travel is just not worth the hassle when I live in such a beautiful place and can enjoy riding around here.

Cornish roads, you can’t beat them.


Which is exactly what my mate Mark and I did last Friday.

First a gentle trundle to Port Isaac to collect an order of shellfish for Mrs Dookes.

Port Isaac is a working fishing village on the North Cornwall coast and if I take the direct route, only around 25 minutes from Dookes H.Q….we didn’t take the direct route!

The harbour, Port Isaac.


It’s a lovely little place with tight streets and alleys that has been made famous by a television drama called “Doc Martin.” Needless to say this has had the effect of attracting thousands of tourists, most of whom understand that the village is not solely a film set.

Hmm, tight!


There are however who, well let’s just say don’t understand and wander aimlessly around blissfully unaware that business and life is still happening.

In other words “Get out of the way!”

Fortunately, Harls rather meaty engine exhaust note has the effect of drawing attention to the fact that they are standing in the middle of the road…

Once the visitors were avoided and the food was stowed in one of Harls’ panniers, it was time to ride off and find some good coffee.

Can you spot Dookes???


A hundred miles later a very happy Dookes arrived home.

Yeah, it’s not the Alps, but it’s not half bad round here either!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

The Cycle of Life

When I started this blog, amazingly nine years ago, it was very Motorcycle Travel heavy.

In essence it was a blog diary of my travels around Europe on my Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Well the world has certainly changed a fair bit since 2012 and over the past year my focus has been on just about anything except freely travelling around on a motorcycle.

Almost exactly a year ago Mr Covid paid me a visit and for a few weeks survival became the main goal! This was then followed by months of rehabilitation in a bid to regain some semblance of health.

I’m pleased to say that this was largely achieved on two wheels…man powered two wheels…Dookes powered two wheels!

Hybrid Carerra, utility and good off road.


I have commented previously about my love affair with bicycles, it goes back a long time and was, I suppose, the precursor to my passion for motorcycles.

Since those early days I’ve always had at least a couple of bicycles in the garage and sadly that’s largely where they have stayed. Two years ago I started cycling again, but it was the Covid thing last Spring that really gave me the impetuous to get out there regularly.

Cannondale Synapse. Endurance bike, alloy frame, carbon forks, good on Cornish lanes.


Initially it was my own idea to start cycling and get my lungs working properly, I floated it to the medical staff who were treating me and it turned out that I was in the care of a bunch of cycle mad medics who couldn’t have been happier for me to get pedalling!

Those first post-Covid rides were tough, very tough.

The reward for getting out.


Three miles, that’s one and a half out and one and a half back, were the limit to start off with. Then over time and just by taking it steady things sort of grew and with the lovely countryside around Dookes H.Q. the incentive is always there.

Now?

Well I smashed out a 51miler last Friday, so I guess I’m making a bit of progress, not bad for an old geezer if I do say so myself!

Forme Pro Carbon.
Goes like lightning, only comes out in the dry!


The strange thing is that if I have a few days off cycling, I feel my breathing getting a bit laboured and the old chest tightening up, then its time to get out and work it all again!
It’s nice to give the bikes some serious use too; they are there to be ridden, not just to sit in the garage looking good.

Now, if only I had 20 year old legs again….!

Catch you soon, ride safe.

Dookes

A Little Green Cross

It occurred to me that recently I have been singularly bad at posting anything on this blog.

In a way that isn’t very surprising, after all this originally started out as a motorcycle based platform with some other thoughts and interesting stuff thrown in on the side.

With everything that has been going on in the world over the past year, you’ll excuse me if motorcycling has been quite a long way from my mind.

A quick look at my logbooks shows that since January 2020 my two lovely Harley Davidson motorcycles have done just 378 and 513 miles respectively…

Harls

The only plus side is that they both are sitting in the Dookes H.Q. workshop looking extremely clean and shiny!

Hettie

With the terrible global pandemic it just doesn’t seem right to go motorcycling. Pleasure rides are certainly a no go and even though I am a volunteer rider for medication deliveries, it’s just too risky to use the bikes…Our hospitals have enough sick people, without having to deal with some motorcyclist who has had an “off!”

Looking around for something to lift my spirits I found that today is Imbolc.

Imbolc in the traditional Celtic calendar marks the beginning of Spring and a celebration of new life with the Earth waking from the depths of winter. It’s the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Equinox. It’s also the time to start your Spring-cleaning!

In the ways of all good Celtic/Pagan festivals it spreads over two days and is very conveniently encompassed in the Christian Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ, which lands on February 2nd.

Imbolc traditionally honours the Pagan Goddess of fertility, Brigid, who was also intertwined in the Christian Church as St Bridget. 

February 1st is also St Bridget’s day.

Over the Centuries Imbolc has been celebrated in many different ways. Altars were set in homes and adorned with the earliest flowers and breaking buds of the season.

In Ireland, Brigid Crosses were traditionally made. These are formed from reeds, woven into a four armed equilateral cross and hung from doorways and windows too welcome Brigid and for protection from fire, evil spirits and illness. The crosses are generally left until the next Imbolc.

There are various thoughts about the origin of these crosses, but consensus seems to be that they pre-date Christianity, even though they have been widely adopted by Christians in Ireland.

With the current state of the world and in need of a little cheer I sat down today and made my own Brigid Cross for Dookes H.Q..

My Brigid Cross, not bad for a first attempt!!

I’m hoping some of the old ways and protection rub off with this little symbol.

Now all I have to do is hang it over a door and let Brigid do her stuff for the coming year! 

Happy Imbolc!

Catch you soon, stay safe!

Dookes

PS …Brigid, can I ride my motorbikes soon please?

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

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

Waiting in a Dealership

Today “Harls” and I should have loaded onto a ferry and sailed off to France beginning another two-wheeled road trip adventure.

Should have…

Instead, due to the World Wide Coronavirus Pandemic, all passenger ferry services between the UK and mainland Europe are cancelled and non-essential foreign travel is discouraged by our Government.

I am currently sitting in our local Harley Dealership, Plymouth Harley Davidson, waiting for my other Harley, “Hettie” to have her slightly overdue annual service.

Hettie

It’s an efficient use of an unexpected vacant day I guess. I’m very grateful to the dealership for getting up and running again and sitting in a motorcycle showroom surrounded by lovely bikes isn’t normally a great hardship for me, but it isn’t France!

In the dealership everything is “Socially Distanced,” there’s no sitting on bikes or trying on clothes, but at least they are open for business.

I can’t say I’m greatly impressed with their choice of a Country and Western radio station though….!

I’m not sure about this paint job…!


It’s a grey day outside and cool enough to warrant my heated gloves for the ride in here this morning. In a way, it sort of helps ease that our trip is on hold for now; had there been blue skies and sunshine I definitely would have been climbing the walls!

No point in dwelling on it, things are just how they are and after my own brush with the virus I’m just happy to be!

This one needs a dust!


As for future trips, well who knows? I certainly love the whole planning experience and at least have this year’s itinerary that I could re-activate in the future…then again there are other options.

My mate Thierry, from Thonon les Bains, said in an email to me the other day, “C’est l’occasion de redécouvrir son pays” – “This is an opportunity to rediscover your own country.” You know, I think he may be right.

Heavenly: On Galibier.


Let’s see what happens…

The main thing to remember, is that the sun will come up tomorrow, just aim to be there to enjoy it.

Sunrise in the Bay of Biscay

Catch you soon.

Dookes

In a Way, It’s a Relief!

What a crazy world we live in.

A pandemic is sweeping the globe.
Governments and Leaders flail, bumble and deny.
Mass demonstrations and riots are triggered by man’s brutality to fellow human beings.
Wars continue to be fought.
The global economy is teetering on a precipice.

Then in Washington DC, a politician, with small hands, decides to have a photo opportunity by a boarded up church as he holds a Bible…only he holds it upside down!

If I had written a book with such a storyline I would have been laughed out of the publishing house…you just can’t make this stuff up!

The serious side to all this though is that it’s all painfully true and people are dying. All we can collectively do is hope and pray that one day it will all end.
Hopefully, mankind and our Planet, will come out of it better. Just maybe.

Sunset at Dookes H.Q.


Here in the UK, our Government, led by a mop-haired buffoon, are World Leaders in the “Bumble” approach and lurch from one questionable decision to another. Some of the population seem to believe that it, the virus, is coming to an end and that life is rapidly heading back to normality, what ever that is. Scientists are quietly saying otherwise and are firmly warning of a second wave of infections if people don’t observe social distancing and hygiene precautions.

One of the restrictions the Government has just introduced, from Monday this week, has been a requirement for travellers arriving from overseas to the UK to self-quarantine for 14 days.

One is tempted to say, “It’s a bit late!”

In reaction to the UK stance, France has also imposed identical quarantine requirements on travellers arriving there from the UK; so much for the ‘Entente Cordiale’ I hear you say!

Add in a UK Government missive advising against making unnecessary foreign journeys… and my plans for a motorcycle trip back to the Alps later this month were effectively torpedoed!

“Harls” on Col de l’Iseran, the highest paved pass in Europe.


In a way it’s a bit of a relief!

To be honest, I had pretty much effectively called the trip off.
I really couldn’t work up the enthusiasm for a self-indulgent trundle around mainland Europe whilst, frankly, people are dying.

The mountains have been there for millions of years and they will be there again when this nightmare is over.

From Col du Galibier.


In the meantime I have my memories and photographs.

“Is this the world we created?
We made it on our own
Is this the world we devastated, right to the bone?”

Catch you later

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

Habits and Rituals…Plus a Bit of Planning!

I’m one of those funny folks who has to follow certain rituals and if you spoke to Mrs Dookes she’d probably tell you that I have a number of habits, most of which she finds annoying!

Certain things I do, I do because that’s how I always have done them. One such habit is how I put on on my motorcycle boots and gloves. In this particular case it has to be left hand or foot first, never the right first. Crazy, I know and not at all based on any superstition either, it’s just the way I do it!

Another habit I have is the “End of Trip Photograph.”

For years now I have always marked the end of one of my Mainland Europe trips with a commemorative photograph taken by the sea in Brittany and just before getting the ferry back to the UK.

There’s actually a little common sense in this habit. It’s a way of taking a quiet breather before heading to the ferry port, a place to gather thoughts and yes probably kill a little time to avoid a long tedious wait before boarding and probably realise just how dirty my beloved Harls has become!

It’s honest dirt, riding dirt!

For years I used to negotiate the tight streets and alleys of Carentec, to a small harbour on the North Brittany coast, before I found a better spot nearby and so that’s where I now head for.

It’s great to park up there and breath in that lovely seaweed and salt laden air that only an estuary can deliver.Then to take time to reflect on the trip just completed and possibly begin to form some ideas of the next little trundle on two wheels….of course take the obligatory photo and maybe pick up a couple of shells off the foreshore!

Last time I found this lovely scallop shell.

I thought that was pretty apt, as part of our route through the Pyrenees had followed the Camino de Santiago pilgrims trail, which is marked by the symbol of a Scallop Shell, like this one in Cahors.

Bronze Scallop Shell in Cahors


Then it’s mount up and head for the ferry. get on board, get into my cabin, do some onboard shopping, then have a nice meal. Possibly then have a sleep and next thing is we are arriving back into Plymouth!

The final ritual is the chore of getting back into the UK via immigration control and customs…it’s been painful enough whilst we’ve been part of the European Union, goodness knows how bad it will get after Brexit!!!!

Now about those next trip plans….

“As long as we’re moving man I don’t care where we are”

Catch you soon,

Dookes