Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Butte du Lion. IBA UK February 2012 RTE in Belgium

"Love you Dad"

"Love you sweetheart"

Just hearing those word's, feeling those little arms wrap around me from behind and give me a great big squeeze was almost enough to make the numb bum and aching back all worthwhile.

Yes Ben & I were on the road again this weekend, riding over to Belgium to attend the IBA UK's, & Ben's for the fact, first European Ride to Eat of 2012 at the Butte du Lion the memorial built on the exact spot the battle of Waterloo was fought.

As Ben was at school until 3.30pm on Friday I decided to make it a really special "Dad's & Lad's" trip by booking us on the Hull to Rotterdam overnight crossing. This included en-suite cabin, dinner on arrival/boarding and a full breakfast before departure.  I'd also booked us into the Ibis Waterloo Hotel for Saturday night so even before leaving home all accommodation was set. I find this takes off so much pressure of not knowing whether there will be rooms available and you can usually get a great room rate if you plan well in advance. On the occasion it reduced the room from 62 Euro's a night to 40 Euros so with all the logistics planned it was just a case of sorting a route.

The ride over to Hull from Rochdale is a real doddle straight across the M62 making it a straight hour and half ride. Looking at MapSource I realised this was going to be a great ride for Ben as Waterloo is only 120 miles from Rotterdam.

At first I planned  to head over to Arnhem and visit the WW2 museum, then I plotted a wet weather rouet straight to the Waterloo hotel and then the alternative, sightseeing route island hopping due south down the coast road. So with a selection of routes uploaded into the Garmin 660 that was another box ticked.

As ever the last job to be sorted out  is personal  kit. The panniers always have my "Emergency Kit" packed in them.  My "Emergency Kit List" comprises of:-

·         First Aid Kit

·         Tool Kit

·         Puncture Repair Kit

·         Bivi Bag

·         Jet-Boil Cooker

·         1Litre Flask of Water

·         Boil-in-the-bag Food Selection

·         Assorted Instant drink Mixes - Hot Chocolate/Tea/Coffee (pre mixed sachets)

·         Spare Head-Over

·         Spare Waterproof Gloves x two pairs

·         Fleece Jacket

·         Long Sleeve High Visibility Jacket that fits over my bike jacket

·         Tinted Visor or Clear dependant on which I have fitted at the time

·         Bag of Tricks -  which could have its own list.

After Ben's little mishap with the Gerbings Heated Gloves on Sunday, I called Martin on Monday -first thing. Martin at Powered Adventures was straight on to Gerbings UK Supplier who in turn called me directly on Wednesday morning. I had a very good conversation with Dan who after asking what set up I had and how the gloves had been before the problem of overheating said he was happy to have a look at the gloves and get the problem resolved as the gloves even on full blast should not exceed 55 degrees.   

I explained that Ben & I were heading out this weekend and Dan did no more, he couriered a replacement set of gloves out over night. Now that's the sort of service worthy of a positive mention. Last job pack a few clothes for the weekend, Gazelle's - check, Fred Perry - Check, sock's - check, grollies - check, well you get the idea.

So Friday 3.30pm arrived and Jeannie picked Ben up  from school, when they got home I could sense there was something amiss. Ben was a little apprehensive about going away and leaving Lilie Rose & his Mum for a full weekend. After a little chat he realised they would be fine and got his clobber on. The gloves went on but he asked if he could leave them switched off at first as he was still nervous about using them after last week. Fair comment and the gloves remained off, not the heated jacket mined, he loves that jacket.

5pm our goodbyes said we headed onto the M62 straight into the Friday rush hour traffic, bliss! Mind with a 50 mph average speed limit all the way from just before Huddersfield to well past Leeds the traffic was moving quite well and it only felt like a couple of minutes later that we were filling up just past the dock, doing a U-turn and being loaded onto the Pride of Hull. Mind you, I did make the mistake of going to the terminal thinking I had to pick up the tickets but was sent straight to the loading area.

Onboard it was a "Tie your own bike down Sir" scenario from the deck hand. As we were the only bike on the ship I had more rope and space than you could shake a stick at. Still wish I had taken a couple of ratchet tie-downs though. My knot tying is not up to much at the best of times.

After walking back to the bike as I'd left the boarding passes and the all important room key in the handlebar bag, I went back up stairs to Ben who'd already been harassed by three drunken youths asking him if he was "Disabled!" There are some real planks about at times.

Finding the two quilts screwed up on the floor with the pillows on top of them and fresh bedding lying on the bed did not impress me one iota but being the way I am I just got stuck in and made the bed. After a few minutes chilling out and getting changed  we headed out to explore what the Pride of Hull had to offer.

Two very noisy bars, full of "Hen Party Girls" & what looked to be a fair few "Stag Party Chaps".

"Looks like it's going to be a lively night in there tonight Ben"

"What, what did you say, I can't hear you for the shouting"

"Shall we go and have some dinner?"

"When I've had a look in the shops" that's my Boy, like farther like son!

Dinner was a rather nice buffet with a couple of roasts and a couple of tasty curries which we went for. That was after having a couple of popadoms with chutney, mint yogurt and red onions to start.  Ben tucked into a nice slice of chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream for dessert all washed down with a diet cola. I partook in half a bottle of the House Red which turned out to be a very nice Merlot.

Dinner polished off it was rapidly heading to 8.45pm and time for another look around the ferry. As we left the restaurant we were both very pleased we had gone in so early as the queue was 4 deep and well over  20 foot long.

The bar's were now so noisy we had one cola and a pint in my case and found a couple of seats near the TV to watch the new series of Benidorm. That was a waste of time as neither  of us could hear a word due to a "Singer" in the bar giving it their all. Much to the delight of the afore mentioned party goers.

"Time for bed me thinks' Ben"

"What already, it's only 10 O'clock"

That said we were off up to deck 10 passing quite a few teenagers who were being chaperoned around by  their teachers.

As soon as our heads hit the pillows after a nice relaxing shower it were out for the count. Mind Ben did get the best bed as mine was slanting to the floor on one side so I had to face up hill all night.....

Breakfast was great if not a lot busier that evening meal, being woken at 6am UK time was a shock though, don't you just hate losing that hour? Breakfast done, kit packed back into the bag and the call came for drivers to return to their cars. I wondered at that moment how many were still in the breakfast queue. Whilst we untied and loaded up there were three calls for drivers to return to their cars as they were now causing a delay. Strange that as 2 minutes later we in the queue for passport control! "Who was holding who up?" I said to Ben.

As the sun was really shining bright after pulling through Passport Control I pulled over and swapped my visor over, (roll on the release of the new Shoie Neotec).

Pulling away from the control into a series of S bends we were immediately stopped by a squadron of police. There were about 20 of them and for the very first time in my entire life I was breathalysed!  I could not believe it they were checking every single driver that left the ferry.

On board I had asked Ben which route he would like us to take and he had chosen the coast road so that was where we went. A sharp right once 100 meters down the road and we began our island hopping tour of the Belgium coast.

It was not long before Ben spotted his first windmill and so it was a quick detour into the village of Goedereede to "Bag" our first windmill.

Best picture of the weekend
Ben "Bag's" his first Windmill

Arriving at the Delta Paviljoen to find an electric barrier across the entrance was a bit of an anti climax. We tried a few times to gain access but it was not going to let us in. As we pulled away a couple of coaches arrived and up it went. "Git!"

Halfway round the coastal ride I realised we could cut off a fair amount if we just drove straight across the island (there not really islands in the true sense of the word as they are still connected to the main land, but they're not fiords either so I've chosen to call them islands, no offence meant Belgium!).

It just does not get any better than this
Fantastic weather for the end of February

"What do you think Ben, shall we cut straight across and head straight to the hotel?"

"Is it quicker?"

"Yes it cuts out 50KM and saves us a good hours travelling"

"Yer, let's go to the hotel, I've seen enough sea now!"

An hour and a quarter later we rode into Waterloo after travelling along the quietest motorways I have ever ridden on.

Now Waterloo struck me as being a really nice, clean, fresh town, not too big and not too small. I liked it straight away. The Ibis Hotel was really easy to find and pulling up outside the adjoining restaurant to see a blue FJR1300 adorned with all types of IBA Stickers I knew we were not the first to arrive. In reception Werner & Doris were just checking in having arrived minutes earlier. Once checked in the receptionist advised us to park in the Blue Painted Disabled Parking Spaces by the reception window so they could keep a close eye on the bikes for us.

The rooms are clean and tidy with great en-suite facilities. I jumped straight into the shower and Ben got his biking clobber off and settled down to watch TV in jeans and t-shirt. Once I was dressed we headed to the restaurant and a beautiful freshly stone backed "Four Seasons Pizza" with a couple of diet Cola's. I had the common sense to order one between the pair of us having spotted the size of the pizza's one of the other occupants was eating. I was right to do so as Ben struggled to finish his and I was too full to help.

Fed and watered we headed back to the room and donned our biking clobber once more for the short 2.2 mile down to meet the other IBA UK folks at........

The " Butte du Lion"  

Before we had even left the side of the bike Uncle Ron appeared to give Ben a great big hug.

 "Great to see you again Big Lad, good ride over"

"Yer, not bad"

And with that we all headed over to meet the rest of the attendees. It was a great turn out with riders there from all over the UK, Germany, France, Belgium and as ever my good friend Philip from Switzerland who arrived a little later.

We all had a good old natter, Ben was kept entertained by Uncle Ron's "Blackberry Play-Pad" (I think that's what you called it Ron, sorry if I got it name wrong). Then it was off up to the top or the "Butte de Lion" well at least for the brave or should that be fool hardy, I'm not too sure.

At the top we all took a mad flurry of pictures with Ben chomping at the bit to run back to the bottom and climb the 220 odd steps again, for some inexplicable reason!

The intrepid few that did the hill

IBA UK Feb 2012 RTE
Waterloo in Belgium

Outside we took the all important IBA UK RTE Photo, then everyone does as they do headed off in all directions. Uncle Ron, Kevin, Lyn, Deb's & Steve all headed back to the Euro Tunnel, about 10 of us headed back the Ibis Hotel for a great night of swapping stories, eating good food and having an all round brilliant night in the bar. Even Ben enjoyed it, learning to count to ten in German really made his evening fly by. Mind it was soon 9.00pm and it time to go up the wooden hill to bed for Ben,  half an hour watching TV while Dad had his last beer in the bar (popping up every 10 minutes or so, as you do, to settle you mind) then I followed in Bens footsteps.

Having had a thoroughly enjoyable evening it felt a little sad to be saying good bye to the remaining "Party Goers" but all good  things have to come to an end. However for Ben & I there was one last interesting thing to do. We were heading over to Ypres to visit the WW1 sites dotted around the city and to see the Hooger Crater, Hill 62, The Menin Gate & Flounders Fields(the museum is closed till midyear so we left this off until later in the year).

Arriving at the Hooger Crater we parked up and I could not believe it there was a Mitsubishi Pickup with a RBLR Member sticker on the back window. Within minutes we were chatting with three English chaps, one of which lived just up the road, two of whom had marshalled the 2009 RBLR 1000 which had been the start to all my IBA escapades,  what a small world hey!

Hooge Crater Museum

Hill 62 Canadian Memorial

Sanctuary Wood Cemetery

The Menin Gate

Well, having toured around the area taking in so much history we were both in need of the loo. Now trying to find a service station open in Ypres on a Sunday afternoon is nigh on impossible. Pulling into the central square car park for the third time I spotted a biker at the side of his black and chrome beast having a "tab".

"Excuse me mate, do you know if there are public any loo's about" I asked in that "matter of fact, everyone should speak the Queens English approach all Brit's abroad have"

"No, you will have to go in one of the bar's" he replied in a "hacked off for being spoken to" tone

"Oh, fair enough, can you do me a favour and take a picture of us on the bike please" (manners are the way forward, works every time).

"Grunt, Yer will this do" moving away from his bike to get us in the picture.

"That will do great, Ta"

"Dad's n Lad's in Ypres

Picture taken he handed me back my camera and turned to walk back to his beast of a bike with the Chrome Skull mounted on the front mudguard. It was only then that  I noticed he was a "Full Patch Member"

Whoop's, now I know why he was so gruff but fair dues he took a cracking picture. Many thanks' if your reading Mr Angel!

After a spot of rather nice lunch and a wee, we once again climbed aboard Mr. T and headed for the Euro tunnel.  We arrived at 5 minutes to 3 and left at 3.20pm through the "Time Machine" as Ben calls it as we arrived back in the UK half an hour earlier than we set off, now how cool is that then!

Filling up at the terminal, we made great progress all the way to just north of Grantham, a massive 205 straight miles in the saddle for one real true grit Iron Butt 10 year old little boy called Ben .

Ben you are an absolute Gem and I love every bone in your body. Thank you from your soft old Dad for making this weekend one of the most enjoyable experiences we have had together in forever.

"Now get up stairs and tidy your bloody room, it a chuffing tip"

"Only kidding sweetheart, only kidding" x x x

Here's a cracking shot of Uncle Ron
heading to the sumit of
"Butte du Lion"

So to summarise.

The Gerbings Jacket Liners and gloves did a brilliant job with no reoccurrence of the last weekend. So much so that I tried the new gloves on the way back. They fit a treat and have since bought them so we are both fully kitted out.

Ben rode his biggest straight mileage without stopping a whooping 205 miles, which I am so proud of him for. Even if his bum was numb and he couldn't feel his legs. Just remember our little saying Ben.

"Wiggle Your Bum so it doesn't go numb" and you will be OK.

Now to get sorted for my next little adventure.............................. but more of that later! TTFN Folk's!

"We will remeber them"

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