Monday, 31 October 2011

If you read just one book this year make sure it's "Tortillas to Totems" by Sam Manicom

Having spent the last few years reading many, many motorbike based travel books I have just got to tell you about Sam Manicom's latest and in my opinion, greatest book to date "Tortillas to Totems".

I was lucky enough to meet and speak to Sam at the NEC Show back in 2009 and to say the guy made a massive impression on me is the understatement of the year. I know my limitations; a description I often use about myself is "Does not mix well with others!" However, spotting this energy filled character talking about his three books at the side of an adventure bike kit stand made me stop and listen.

Eventually I caught Sam's eye and he told me a little about his adventures, I waffled on about my Iron Butt Association (IBA) rides, proud of the fact I could ride 1000 miles and 1500 miles in 24 hours. All be it not in the same 24 hours that is! (How stupid do I  feel now knowing what Sam has achieved over the 8 years and 200,000 miles on Libby. I take my hat off to you Sam and to Birgit who is an absolute star in my eyes). After what felt like a matter of minutes I had bought all three books and Sam was kind enough to sign each one in turn for me. There was no pressure to buy the books but I just knew there and then I had to know more about this extraordinary, ordinary man and his travels. After a good walk around the show I headed home.

That evening in bed I read the introduction to "Into Africa", placed all three books in my bedside table and that's where they stayed for a whole year. In October 2010 I took "Into Africa" and "Under Asian Skies" on holiday with me and read them both cover to cover. I was hooked! to the extent that as soon I I got home I started reading "Distant Suns" but life got in the way and just a few pages in I stopped. Only to do the same thing again but only 4 months passed before holiday reading mode saw "Distant Suns" being read from cover to cover along with another two books.

In September I was having a good look at Sam's website and I spotted his latest book "Tortillas to Totems" and wondered if Sam would sign me a copy, placing an order anyway I chose to drop Sam an email to ask just that very question and this is what happened.

From: Sam Manicom

Sent: 03 October 2011 09:15
To: Ray

Subject: Re: Notification of Payment Received

Hi Ray, many thanks for the order. Your copy of T2T will be in the post to you today. Signed of course. Many thanks for buying the full set!

I hope all's good with you.

All the best,


Book News! Sam's books are all now available in e-book format.

Check out Kindles on and

For useless information about Sam,

and some very helpful information on his Adventure Motorcycle Travel Books.

Excerpts, Readers' Feedback, Reviews, Photos and much more on all of his books

'Into Africa', 'Under Asian Skies', 'Distant Suns' and now...

The latest book - 'Tortillas to Totems'

Please do link up with Sam on Facebook - lots going on on his pages.

From: Ray F Walton

To: 'Sam Manicom'

Sent: Tuesday, 4 October 2011, 21:04
Subject: RE: Notification of Payment Received

Good evening Sam,

Just a quick line to say thank you for the signature. T2T arrived and is in its right of place on my read list in the office. You will be pleased to know it’s been placed next in line , sorry Ted, Dreaming of Jupiter, has just been set back a book. LOL

Hope you’re going to be at the NEC in November, I’d like to say hello again. Hopefully having read T2T.

Well all the very best and ride safe.

See you around some time I hope. Europe next year don’t forget!

Kind regards


From: Sam Manicom

Sent: 05 October 2011 08:40
To: Ray F Walton
Subject: Re: Notification of Payment Received

Hi Ray, many thanks for letting me know your T2T has arrived safely. I do hope you enjoy it. NEC? Too right. Do drop by. I'll be on TraveldriPlus. If you have any book reading/buying friends, drag them with you would you

See you soon then.

All the best,


From: Ray F Walton

To: 'Sam Manicom'

Sent: Sunday, 30 October 2011, 21:14
Subject: RE: Notification of Payment Received

Hi Sam,

Just a quick line to say.......................

My God! T2T! Is bloody fantastic my dear sir. You really have surpassed yourself with your latest addition. I have not been able to put the damned book down and have loved every single word in it. Everything about T2T is just right in every way. I love the way you bring the whole experience to life, I almost felt as if I was there with you both.

My heartfelt thanks’ to you for sharing everything so openly with everyone who take the time to read T2T. In the past I have taken my time reading your work but this book just had me hooked and I just had to finish it the minute I had started reading.

Well done to you and I look forward to your next instalment.............................. Europe the great well known................... LOL

All the very best & I will track you down at the NEC next month just to say thank you in person.

Kindest regards & lots of respect

Ray F Walton

From: Sam Manicom
Sent: 31 October 2011 08:06
To: Ray F Walton
Subject: Tortillas to Totems

Top of the morning Ray, well at least, top of the day : )

I'm sitting here with a huge grin! What a great way to start a day and your email has done just that. I'm absolutely delighted. And thank you VERY much for writing to say that you enjoyed T2T. Brilliant. And you know, I nearly didn't write it.

Birgit will see this as soon as she gets home and I'm sure she's going to be equally delighted. The story wouldn't have happened without her and the book would probably never have gone to print without her.

A thought. I'd be honoured if you'd allow me to quote you in Readers Feedback on T2T on the website and any other places that your words light help. May I?

I'd put this:

My God! Tortillas to Totems! Is bloody fantastic. You really have surpassed yourself with your latest addition. I have not been able to put the damned book down and have loved every single word in it. Everything about T2T is just right in every way. I love the way you bring the whole experience to life, I almost felt as if I was there with you both.

My heartfelt thanks’ to you for sharing everything so openly with everyone who takes the time to read T2T. In the past I have taken my time reading your work, but this book just had me hooked and I just had to finish it the minute I had started reading.

Well done to you and I look forward to your next instalment.’

Ray - UK

I hope you are up for it as I'm sure it'd encourage others to open their wallets : ) Your words read as being completely genuine and I know that people sense that when they read such things as feedback. BUT, if you aren't happy, please do just say. That's absolutely ok!!!!

Thanks again for emailing. I'm really chuffed you enjoyed!!!!!!!!!

All the best to you. See you at the NEC.



PS Thanks also for the mention on your blog!

Book News! Sam's books are all now available in e-book format.

Check out Kindles on and

For useless information about Sam,

and some very helpful information on his Adventure Motorcycle Travel Books.

Excerpts, Readers' Feedback, Reviews, Photos and much more on all of his books

'Into Africa', 'Under Asian Skies', 'Distant Suns' and now...

The latest book - 'Tortillas to Totems'

Please do link up with Sam on Facebook - lots going on on his pages.

I am no book critic and as you will have noticed I have made no pretentious claims about any of Sam's books that’s because in my humble opinion "You need to read them yourselves".

I have learned so much over the last year from Sam's books and I am really at a loss as to what to do. Sadly at the moment Sam is no longer on his travels but I wish him all the very, very best for the future.

Now Lois, you really do have a tough book to follow.......................

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Time to try out Mr. T's new toys........... Colditz sounds good!

I've  spent what feels like most of the summer buying and selling all manner of Super Tenere XT1200Z parts both Yamaha and after market, the time came to see if all the expense was worth it!

"Escape to Colditz"

So having seen the October European Ride to Eat (RTE) on the UK IBA site "Escape to Colditz" I thought I would join them for the obligatory photo and evening meal at the infamous Colditz Castle in what was once East Germany.

Destination - Colditz Castle

A quick email and chat with Ron and our plan started to come to life. Ron & Ray were to ride again but this time we would be taking our time and making a few detours along the way.

Chatting with Nadine one evening it came up in conversation that I would be visiting Germany in October and would she mind if I was to visit her and Patrick. She was over the moon so I quickly added the Harz Mountains to our route. As it happened when my son Sven found out I was visiting he also wanted to meet me which was fantastic news. Having not seen Sven & Nico for 17 years I was over the moon, sadly Nico is busy working in Switzerland but I hope we will meet soon.

Ron booked the Friday off work as he wanted to visit JHQ Rheindahlen War Cemetery to find his grandfathers’ grave and pay his respects.

With this information I plotted the route, Rochdale down to Thurrock Services off the M25, down to Dover ferry terminal, taking the ferry as I knew it was going to be a long old day. I was not keen to keen to take the Channel Tunnel, much to Ron's dismay as he would have only ridden an hour but agreed to take the ferry, which turned out to be against his better judgment in the end.

The rout continued from Calais to JHQ Rheindahlen Cemetery, then on up to Gottingen Centrum turning off the A7 where I had arranged to meet with Nadine and Sven. Nadine would then take us to her flat in Munchehof in the Harz Mountains where we would spend the night. Saturday would be a nice steady ride down to Colditz Castle some 30 miles South East of Leipzig and only 148 miles from Munchehof.

Thursday I spent packing the panniers with my usual touring kit, plus sleeping bag, bivi bag, and a few more odds and sods. The other side I used for my cloths, keeping the weight in the smaller near side pannier hoping not to have another “tipping over” reoccurrence like in France. Tank full, oil checked which to my surprise Mr. T had used half a litre of in 4000 miles! Top box had just my Fleece and high visibility vest in to keep our French friends happy.  Mr. T was ready, well more ready than me that was for sure!

I got to bed around 2230 hours on Thursday which I was really impressed with as it was my birthday and we had been entertaining family. Before I knew what had hit me my mobile alarm went off, it felt like someone had just hit me at the side of the head with a flat shovel. 1.30am, it’s no time to be getting out of a warm cosy bed that is for sure but up I got, into my  long johns, T-shirt, sock’s, ex-arm Gortex boot liners, and finally down stairs my new birthday present. Dianese Gortex Touring Suit which J had bought me for my birthday, brilliant.

2.00am saw me pulling out onto a dark, cold but clear evening road, destination Thurrock Services to meet up with Ron, whom I had not seen since the Isle of Man TT1000 earlier this year. The M62 East bound was clear and turning onto the A1 South bound I knew I was in for a great ride.

I had my Go Cruise Throttle Control fitted and wow what a difference it made. Up to 70 mph and just press it down onto the clutch lever and there I sat for the next 2 hours. Mr. T was returning 200 miles to the tank plus 40 on reserve at a constant 52 mpg at these speeds. Sadly this would drop to 45mpg on the return continental trip; it’s amazing what an extra 20mph does to your fuel consumption.

I filled up at Shell Birchanger on the M11 just as the petrol gauge started to flash. Once full it was off down to Thurrock Services to meet Ron. Greetings exchanged over a coffee just off to one side of the pumps and Ron then lead the way down to Dover Ferry Terminal, calling in at the Dover Services to top up with fuel before loading.

Full English breakfast on the Ferry was outstanding, 7 items for £7.95 it’s a shame all the staff were not wearing masks! (Dick Turpin Style). Still it filled a gap and set us up for the ride ahead. Chances of a sleep were well and truly dashed by the racket being kicked out by the 100’s of children tripping over to France. It was like being in the middle of a school playground. Does anyone know why teenagers feel the need to talk so loud that anyone within 30 meters can hear every syllable?

I’ve been reading Sam Manicom’s latest book Tortilla’s to Totems and the way he describes the surroundings and the roads is just fantastic.  All I can say is the roads from Calais to Dunkerque on the E40 on towards Brugge, Brussels, left at Leuven up towards Maastricht Airport then left again to Wegberg is so boring it defies description. Other than to say it is a strip of black tarmac that is so well maintained that half the planets starving children could eat for 50 years on the amount of money lavished upon its silky smooth surface.

Having to ride around JHQ through all manner of towns and villages made for an interesting finally to the first section of are three part trip. The weather was outstanding with sun on our back and a fair breeze in our face we arrived around 2.15pm.

"We will remember them"

3.00pm I text Nadine to inform her we would be arriving at the Burger King around 6 come 6.30pm all being well. It wasn’t, in fact it was so far from well that I could hear myself screaming in my helmet.....................................

“Where the ****ing hell have all this lot come from” The Autobahn was almost at a standstill. It was heaving, no one had told me it was the first night of the children’s school holiday and the whole of the German population was heading to the Harz Mountains for the next two weeks. I could have cried, in fact at one point I did, sat looking at 3 lanes of stationary traffic with 25 miles to ride from Kassel to Gottingen. It was 7.00pm and I was gutted. We eventually arrived at 7.50pm what should have taken no more than 3 hours took us almost 5 hours.

Still the warm welcome I received from Nadine, Patrick and especially the great big hug from Sven made up for it tenfold. Nadine led us away through the industrial park back onto the main road towards Gottingen were I was “Zapped” at the very first set of lights; I’ve no idea why as I was not speeding and the lights were on green when I started to cross! I’ll just keep watching the post now I suppose for the next couple of months.

Sven’s apartment is tucked away in the central part of Gottingen which made for some interesting riding as it was pitch black by 6.45pm. We all sat and had a nice coffee and a catch up then it was off over the Nadine’s. Now to say Nadine can make her Citro├źn C1 move would be an understatement so with Ron and I in hot pursuit we were taken on a whirl wind tour of just about every hamlet and village in the Harz. Sadly it was pitch black but if only we had “bike to bike” I could have given Ron a tour guide’s perspective.

Munchehof in the Harz Mountains

Supper came in the form of Bockwurst and brat Kartoffel which hit the spot. Bed at midnight, up at 8.30am breakfast with Nadine and Sven at 9.30 and back on the road for 11.30am

Sven and Nadine

Ron had brought my Air Hawk with him so I fitted it quickly adjusted the air content, removed the Throttle controller and it was time for the off.

Once past Osterode, down past Nordhausen and then over what was once the East / West German boarder which we both spotted and did a quick U-turn to take a couple of pictures.

Amazing how time changes  everything.

A memento of the former DDR

The rest of the ride down to Colditz was great as I have never seen the East side of the Harz and as much as the fog tried it could not hide its beauty. Sadly we then joined yet another Autobahn and before long were on the outskirts of Colditz town.

Arriving at Colditz.

Another quick photo shoot stop and we headed to the guest house to find Phil and Dave sat on the veranda, making a coffee in Dave’s JetBoil, now how was that for a welcome. After unpacking and changing into something less bike we all headed to the Colditz Castle at the top of the square only to find almost everyone else in attendance at the local cafe, outstanding!

IBA UK RTE "Escape to Colditz"

Numerous greetings exchanged, we all made our own way up to the castle where after a short delay the “Escape to Colditz” October IBA RTE official photo was taken. We had a quick look around the castle before it closed then off to the cafe for “Kaffee and Kucken” with a bowl of very tasty “Kartoffelsuppe” thrown in for good measure. The soup and Blackforest Gateaux were very tasty to say the least. Dinner was booked for later that evening and so it was  time for a quick 40 winks before having a shower and heading over to join the rest of the IBA Riders. It was a great turn out with members from Germany, Belgium, South Africa, Switzerland and of course the UK. Food eaten, drinks drunk, conversations had it was off to bed at 11.00pm ready for the long haul ride back to Calais and then on up to Rochdale.

Take a really close look!
And it wasn't even Halloween....

As it happened, Daz suggested tagging along, as he was on the similar time ferry to us from Calais. So at 5.30 am after taking a photo of -2 degrees showing on Mr. T we headed out straight onto the Autobahn and into some of the thickest fog I have ever seen. The temperature plummeted to -4 and as we rode through the fog, ice built up on the crash bars, screen, and even ourselves. After just an hour and a half we pulled over for a well earned coffee and a warm up.

And it was to drop to -4

The fog vanished and the weather went from freezing to simply tropical 10 degrees. We even stopped to take layers off at one point. Making such good time Daz took us on a “Magical Mystery Tour” of the Mohnesee and a building site near Iserlohn, which is where Daz had been stationed some 20 years previous.

The final push took us straight over to Calais Ferry terminal, Daz at one gate Ron at another and me at the side of Ron at another. “Go to lane 199 and they are boarding now” So off I rode straight to the ferry, up the ramp, pulled up, removed the Air Hawk, had the bike tied down and stood waiting for Ron to appear over the ramp. After 10 minutes I checked my mobile, missed call.

I’d been loaded onto the earlier ferry, Ron hadn’t! So ended our October RTE!

I thought going up the M1 for a change would be a good idea, I was wrong! Road works all across M25 and from Luton to Leicester 50 mph average speed limit. With the throttle control and the Air Hawk off I really felt it when I got home. My wrist was aching and my back side felt like I had been sat on a park bench for a month.

So what did I learn about Mr. T?

The seat is shockingly hard!

The screen needs adjustable nuts back on and the hole in the front of the MRA screen needs blocking somehow.

Mpg drops massively over 75mph.

The throttle control is a great bit of kit.

Panniers and fog lights are amazing.

All in all, I’ll need to sort out the seat and the screen so I get more protection but other than that Mr. T performed fine. Shame about the 200 mile tank range mind but that’s another story!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Mr. T is ......Done!

Well after the final part arrived from Adventure Designs in the U.S.A. the AltRider Skid Plate & I had picked myself up of floor after reading the staggering import Tax, V.A.T. and handling charge bill!!!

Don't you just love living on an island!

I set about fitting the AltRider Skid Plate this morning which went on a breeze. The only issue I had was with the front nearside fixing bracket. I fitted the side bolt before the front one which made tightening the front bolt impossible and so I had to remove them both and start with the front one firstsas the spanner access is very tight. However the finished item looks very impressive. I do not think I will be leaving it on when Mr. T goes in for a service mind as it will add at least 30 minutes removal time to the servicing bill.

Well sorted!

This is the final "Farkle List" 

Keith Dixon Motorcycles supplied
Mr. T a Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200Z
Yamaha Heated Grips
Yamaha LED Indicators
Yamaha Wind Deflectors 
Yamaha Tank Protector
Oxford Gloss Black Paint Protection Film (self made tank side protectors)
Fender Extender on front mudguard

R&G Racing supplied
R&G Crash Bobbins on front spindle
R&G Shock absorber Cover

Zen Overland supplied
Kriega Fork Seal Protectors

Kit I transferred from my FJR

Pazo Stubbie Clutch & Brake Levers
Starcom One Intercom
Garmin Zumo 660
Touratech UK Zumo Mount

Nippy Norman supplied
FuzzBox Fitted for all auxiliary wiring

Metal Mule supplied
Metal Mule Pannier Rack

Metal Mule 38 and 45 Litre Panniers came from a great guy in Cambridge, a Paris Dakar Rider no less.

Adventure Designs supplied
AltRider Crash Bars
AltRider Skid Plate
Mk3 Wide Pivot Pegz

Touratech UK supplied
Fog Lights
Handelbar Bag
Screen Adjuster
Garmin Zumo Mount
Hand Guards & Red Wind Deflectors
Anodi to replace the Yamaha rubber rubbish
Heal Guards left and right
Lambda Sensor Cover
Side Stand Base Extension (which I think cases the bike to tip over more easily)
Anodised End Caps to replace the Yamaha rubber bungs
Side Stand Switch Protectors
ABS Sensor Protectors
Rear Brake Reservoir Protector
Zega Topcase Rack Top Box Rack)
Zega Rapid Lock Topcase (Top Box) Plus Locks

Yamaha Panniers, Top Box & Rack, Crash Bars, Skid Plate, Hand Guards plus PIAA Fog Lights all removed/replaced.

The Panniers almost fouled the rear wheel when the bike fell over at the stand still (see previous posts). The hand guards twisted round in the fall as they were attached to the bar end, mirror mount and worst of all the brake and clutch lever pivot pin's. I would hate to see the damage these would cause in an accident at speed. The lock in the top box disintegrated whilst out riding, I have no idea why, what so ever!

PIAA Fog lights had to come off as they looked like a pair of Mickey Mouse ears added as an afterthought and looked crap. Crash Bars and Skid Plate well, they just didn’t inspire confidence with the skid plate being bolted to the sump with 10mm Alan bolts.

So Mr. T has gone from this.......

To this!

and from this................

to the finished item ....... Done!

& I for one am really pleased with the outcome!

I have a great time sourcing all the parts from various places around the globe and so without further ado, here is the walk around video.

Mr. T "There are many like him but he is mine!"
Yahama Super Tenere XT1200C