Friday, 28 June 2013

‘THE BIG 1000’


What can I say? I’m the proudest Dad on the planet. At 11 years old my son Ben has successfully become the youngest pillion ever to complete the the RBLR1000 in it’s 5 years history. This is his story!

It was a Friday afternoon and I was just setting off from school with mum, getting ready for my big adventure. "So are you looking forward to your ride?" asked Mum. At the time I was just smiling at her telling her that I was nervous and Mum said "Dad’s got something to help you relax” and I looked at her and replied "the swimming pool!". "How did you know, I thought that Dad hadn't told you yet".

We got in the car and set off, ready for what was to come. When we got there Dad had already got the bike out and was raring to go. "Right Ben, get your clobber on and we'll set off straight away" so I rushed inside found all of my gear on the sofa ready and waiting for me. So I set to work putting on my trousers and my boots when I heard my Dad’s boots stomping through the garage shouting "Liliepobs is here".  So I went to the door and nearly got ran over by Lilie in her wheelchair. "Come on” said Dad get dressed. Five minutes later I was dressed and saying bye to Mum for the 'thousanth' time.

"Do you want to get on first or shall I?”  Now this was a question I'm used to so as usual I got on first and we waved our goodbyes to Mum and set off for Squires Cafe. 

It took about an hour to get to the hotel that we was staying at and I found out that there ‘was’ a pool!

When we arrived we parked the bike up and went into the hotel and got ourselves a room 212. Once we got our room we went back to the reception and gave our keys back. "Have I ever taken you to Squires Ben?" Dad asked me. "No dad but you have talked about it loads". 

Now this was true my Dads always talking about that place. When I got their I understood why. It was brilliant! There was about a hundred bikers there and when we got off my Dad was met by a hoard of people who I have never seen before. I've never seen Dad say hello to so many people and you know what? Dad didn't know half of the people until they said "I know you, your the Wandering Walton's!" 


We went inside and signed our names on a sheet of paper and tried to set off to go back to the hotel  when we met another one of dads long lost friends and this one he actually knew him. Dad told him about how I was attempting to do the RBLR1000 and he told us that his son did the ‘End to End’ when he was ten and he wished us good luck and we set off back to the hotel. When we got there we got our keys back and dropped our stuff in our room so we could get a rest and then go back to Squires. 

This is one of my dad's friends
On another one of my dad's friends bikes!

Dad asked if I wanted a swim once we got back. Obviously I said yes straight away and you know what? I really think Dad regretted it because when we got back to Squires I was pulling at his arm saying " Daaaad I want to have a swim! Can we go now. Hurry up! What time is it?" for the whole time there, until he gave in and said "fine, fine it's only 8 though!" At the time I thought it was quarter to ten. So that's why I wanted to get back so quickly! It was worth it though. Even Dad agreed. It was like a bath in there! We swam around for a while until Dad said "right one more lap and we are out”. 

I asked Dad why and he told me it was because we needed a big sleep. So we got out, had a lovely warm shower and went back to the room. Dad looked like he didn't even go in because he was bone dry, unlike his son who was dripping wet! We clambered back to the room to get our jim jams on so we could get a good night sleep. We watched Miranda and went to sleep.

I've got to admit I had a brilliant nights kip and so did Dad but we had to wake up some time and sure enough that time was 0400am. We got ourselves a shower and got our teeth scrubbed and our clobber on and got to the reception and handed in our keys and went to Mr T and got on him and set off for Squires to get in line for the beginning of “THE BIG 1000!” Of course I was a little nervous but settled my nerves when some people came up and started wishing us luck and saying how cool it was riding at only eleven years old.

All ready to go!
Squires Cafe 0 miles 0500

THE BIG 1000 started off with a roar of engines and an eleven year old nearly wetting himself with excitement! (maybe I shouldn't have said that?!) Anyway me and Dad was at the front of the pack so we had an extra advantage so the first stop was Berwick-upon-Tweed. My Dad started off saying "Berwick on Tweed look out, we are coming for you!" 

That was easy, not!
Berwick-upon-Tweed 160 miles 0715

The first stop was easy. It was 2 hours and 45 mins. It was only easy because it was the fist ride and I was all pumped up (didn't fart!) (joke) and I was full of energy. We also got to see something I've always wanted to see, the ‘Angel of the North’. I've got to admit though that wasn't the easiest ride we had the next one was and it was the one I was looking forward to. I was looking forward to it because it was only an hour and we got to see the Scottish border and I LOVE Scotland! The next trip was one of the ones I was dreading Edinburgh to Wick! 4 hours 45 minutes! 

Brilliant I'm in Scotland!
Edinburgh 240 miles 0800 

The trip was long and hard but I made it and by then I did 500 miles! We had a lovely stop and had a lasagne, chocolate and a coke to boost up my energy. You know what, once I had that stop I felt as fresh as a daisy. 

Full Tum - Numb Bum
Wick 500 miles 1300

The next ride was from Wick to Fort William that was 3 hours 30 minutes. I didn't mind though because on the way their was about thirty AWESOME bends all of them where twisting and turning all the way and I loved it. We also kept on over taking the other cars on the road. 

We made up for an hour by doing this technique we made it to Fort William for about 6 pm only to meet some other ‘Iron Butts’ and they were nice and friendly. 

Tuna buttie time
Fort William 670 miles 1710

Soon we set off to our final destination Birch Services. We would get their for 2400. So we did but it was like torture every time I blinked I fell asleep! It was horrible, it was chucking it down and it was cold. We got a ‘tsunami’ when a lorry rode past us in a giant puddle nearly knocking us off the bike. 

Snack time, Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows 
You can keep your Bacon 'n' Brie Panini's
Killington Lake Services - Kendal 920 miles 2230

We finally stopped at Birch Services and we set off half asleep (three quarters in my case). Once we got back I was feeling dead!       

Wet, warm and very tired.
I love my heated jacket!
Birch Services M62 990 miles 2320

Job Well Done!
Squires Cafe Sherburn-in-Elmet 1034 miles 0024

The morning after the day before

RBLR1000 Youngest Participant Award
Spot the real IBA shirt
I couldn't buy till I'd done it!

Dad's not the only one 
who can make some friends ;-)

Home safe and sound
Ben 'Iron Butt' Walton
(and Dad of course)

Just Brilliant!

by Ben Walton aged 11

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Expedition Centre Experience with Nick Sanders & Nick Plumb

“Are you happy with your lot Ray?” Asked Nick in the Owl’s Nest car park, whilst the rest of the guys polished off their ‘Full English’ breakfast’s. I’d eaten my  cheese burger already. I like to be different plus, not even I can cope with two Full English breakfasts in one morning.

“I am Nick, Europe suits me just fine”

“Are you really?”

“Yes!  There’s still many places I want to visit, plus it means I’m never more than 24 hours from home”

Nick searched my face for an explanation, there was non forthcoming!

It was last minute , (well 3  days previous actually but who cares) that I got the nod from Jeannie to book a B&B for the Thursday night. Unsure of the mileage we would be covering on Friday, I thought better of getting up at 0300 hours to ride the 4 hours to Touratech Head Office in Ystradgynlais in South Wales. 

Now if you have just passed your test or you are a veteran biker who just wants to renew your belief in 'biking' then I urge you to just take a ride through the centre of Wales. I had forgotten what a wonderful feeling it is to ride my bike as if on a downhill slalom course. The A483 is simply stunning. From the quality the roads surface to the way it twists and turns through the forever changing landscape, it is an unbelievable place to ride. One minute your being buffeted by the wind riding past miles of open fields. The next you are twisting and turning through hill climbs up towards the Brecon Beacons where the mountain scenery is enough to take your breath away.

Calling into the Motor Museum at Llangollen turned out to be a stroke of genius. I arrived with fingers like semi thawed ‘chipolata’ sausages that had been taken out the freezer the night before. My Klim gloves were soaked due to the deluge I'd just ridden through all the way down from Manchester. Still the Dainese Bike Gear had kept me warm and dry in the massively fluctuating weather conditions. For one brief moment as Jeannie had said goodbye on the drive the sun had stuck it’s head through the clouds. That was to be the last I woulds see of the heart warming orange sphere until it eventually reemerged as I dismounted in front of the museum doors.

Another one in the bag for the
"Grim Riders Motorcycle Museum Challenge Ride"

How best do I describe the museum to you? Well, it's a sort of an 'Rich old mans garage’ really. About the size of a small factory it’s tucked away some 150 yards off the A542 heading out of Llangollen. If your planning to call in be prepared for 50 yards of dirt track with front wheel swallowing pot holes full of rain water. 

The sign read £4 entry with last admittance at 1630 hours just half an hour before closing time having opened at 1100 hours. I jumped when one of the exhibits I was looking at very slowly got up out of the chair near the window and moved towards a high stool behind what turned out to be the counter. Jumping a second time when the other male exhibit nodded in my direction! I honestly thought the old couple where part of a displays! The lady was very nice though which gave my heart time to calm down a little. 

The place is rammed with old motorbikes, bike parts, about a dozen cars, a few remote control planes strapped to the ceiling and loads of motoring 'memorabilia'. If your ever passing and see the signs for the Motor Museum personally I'd advise you to call in and take a look. Make sure you have your camera with you mind, as there’s lots to see. 

What a small world it is!

I spent an interesting 45 minutes wandering around the museum. This gave my gloves plenty of time to dry out on the seat outside. With my 'chipolata’ fingers now thoroughly  thawed I bid fair well to the moving exhibits and continued my journey South, bathed in glorious sunshine, perfect.

With the temperature gauge now showing an impressive 17 degrees, up from 10 I could see the steam rising from my jacket as I rode down to the B&B. Being in no rush it gave me all the time in the world to take everything in as the ever twisting A483 turned into the River Wye crossing A470 I was already having a ball and  the fun was yet to start.

Pulling over to take a picture of the Ystradgynlais Arms at 1710 hours I could feel the anticipation of tomorrow already rising within me. Once unpacked, I had a nice hot shower. The pint of Rev James cask ale was rather special, not really the best drink to compliment the traditional Prawn Cocktail followed by the Hickory Chicken which I had chose for my evening meal but nice all the same.

Arriving at the Touratech Head Office at 0805 hours some 25 minutes early just goes to show how exited I was about the day ahead. The weather was overcast but the sun was trying its damnedest to burst through the grey clouds overhead. Not that I gave a damn about something as trivial as the weather. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment” simples!

Nick Plumb arrived at about 0725 hours, parked up out front, introduced himself and asked me to bring my bike around to the front of the shop, he then opened up.  Two minutes later a few more guys arrived all on BMW GSA's, after a couple of photographs I joined the others inside.  

First and last time
Yamaha out number BMW

The Touratech Head Office is simply unbelievable, I was in awe. What an amazing place, it felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. So many bikes kitted out to the hind teeth with every kind of Touratech accessory available. The Ducati Multistrada stood out against the entire BMW Adventure Bike range plus the solitary Yamaha XT660Z Tenere. Nick was using its big brother the Super Tenere XT1200Z so I had plenty of chance to view all the nice accessories available for my bike over the coming days. I even got chance to test the Touratech front seat which was very kind of you Nick. At least Mr T would not be the only Super Tenere in attendance today. 

The selection of equipment available in the shop is out of this world. Encompassing everything from covers and guards for all the delicate switches on the bikes to hefty bash plates, pannier's, top-boxes and lights to Satellite Navigation Systems mounted in bespoke holders.To finish off the interior of the shop there is a mezzanine where Nick has his Dakar Bike and gear. Throw in a nice selection of books and a selection of 'Overlander's' equipment including tents, sleeping bags, solar chargers, water purifiers and well you get the idea. 

It's not everyday you get to ride
with a 4 times Dakar Rider

Anyone who as ever flicked through the Touratech Catalogue will have an idea of what this company has to offer but seeing it all in the flesh is just mind blowing. Well it is if your a ‘Farkling’ bike nut  like me. Add to this a huge range of quality clothing and your coming close to a 'Bikers Utopia'.  I could have easily spent an absolute fortune without even breaking into a sweat and loved every second of it.  

Nick P (as I will have to distinguish him from Nick Sanders, Nick S, from now on) made us all a brew and introduced everyone to each other. After half an hour or so we were all putting our gear back on ready to head off to meet Nick S at a cafe somewhere towards the South West of the Brecon Beacons. The weather had taken a change for the worse and what had been the road had turned into a full blown stream. Luckily the weather changed yet again just as we walked outside. After the obligatory photo shoot we were on our way. 

Riding away from the shop we were soon winding our way along the southern part of the Brecon Beacons, twisting this way and that through so many unpronounceable named villages. There were 6 of us at this point as one guy was running late and one had pulled out at the last minute. I was really surprised as we rode past a police camera van at the side of the road heading into Cwmgarw. Nick P later told us that that was the first time he had ever seen a police camera van in all the years he had been riding in that area. 

Turning right at Brynaman we set off along the famous A4069 Black Mountain road which is now at position  3 in my all time top 10 favorite UK roads. With its sweeping s bends down into the Towy valley of Carmarthenshire, traveling North along the banks of the river Towy. The views over the village of Llangadog from the tops are spectacular. 

After a short wait at one particular junction Nick P headed back the way we had ridden to collect the late arrival, it turned out he had ridden over from London that morning. We all set off to the cafe some 10 minutes further North West of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

We arrived at the Owls Nest Tea Room Diner just off the A4069 South of Llandovery. The owner was a really nice guy who took a couple of photo's of our bikes before heading in to cook for us. I had a cheese burger with fried onions as I'd already eaten a Full English at 0700 hours at the B&B. 

As we were being served, Nick P arrived with the late comer and 2 minutes later Nick S walked in followed by another rider who was on a Pan European. So our group consisted of 10 bikes, 6 BMW’s, 3 Super Tenere's and 1 Honda Pan European. We were set!

“Why only, 24 hours from home Ray? Would you not like to go further?” Nick S continued

“It would be nice to go further but with Nordkapp still to visit, Ben and I have our hands full for now” I replied honestly.

Sat here reminiscing, I now realise it must have been an odd answer to receive. Especially coming from some one who was just about to spend the next three days riding around Wales with him. 

If you also take into consideration I have ridden to places like Gibraltar and Lithuania just for lunch and a photo, it just compounds further what an odd answer it was, but that is simply how my brain is wired.  If I receive a call from Jeannie asking me to come home, mentally I need to know I can get there within 24 hours. So OK I know, Lithuania took me 27 hours but that was not in response to a call from home. In addition I did take a nap at the side of the bike in a car park off the A1 near Grantham, as you do!

So what has all that got to do with spending a weekend in the presence of two of the most prolific motorcycle riders alive today,  well it’s this. Having a daughter with Cerebral Palsy puts untold strain onto every aspect of your life, from where you go to what you do. If Lilie Rose  cannot attend, take part or access is simply impossible then the Walton Family as a whole just do not bother. So to receive such a wonderful Father's Day Prize knowing all of this will help you understand how truly special this weekend away really was. Anyway I digress as ever, “Back to the job in hand Raymondo”.

Looking Good Guy's, Looking Good

With that we headed back into the cafe like a pair of ‘old mate’s’. You see that is just how Nick S made me feel. Like we had know each other for years. How does he do that? I’m not complaining that is for sure it is a very nice skill to have, whats more, I appreciated it.

After the obligatory photo shoot with half a dozen cameras, thanks once again to our cafe host the adventure began.

David,  James,  Gwynne, Tony,  Martin, Me, Nick P,  Guilherme, Nick S and Tony

With Nick S taking the lead we all followed on. Riding one of the most beautiful, leisurely rides I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in. I could ‘wax lyrical’ for 10,000 words or more about our route but on this occasion I will just opt to post up the Garmin track which will tell you all you need to know.

Now that's a Tour Route

A4069 Black Mountain Road

Stopping off at Pen Y Garreg gave us all time to get to know both Nick P and Nick S a little better. Photo’s abound but this is one shot I’m really quite happy with what’s more I think Caroline will agree, her chap looks rather pleased with life right at that moment. As for Nick P, well he looks like he just fancied a swim! 

The smile says it all!

Onwards and upwards, literally heading North we took coffee at ‘Devils Bridge’ which I got a little exited about initially as I thought we were having a  quick blast up to Kirby Lonsdale! “Get a grip Raymondo, your touring Wales with the two Nick’s. Why the hell would they want to shoot off up to Kirby bloody Lonsdale?”. 

It was well into late afternoon when we eventually arrived at the Expedition Centre after  weaving our way through miles upon miles of single track country lanes.

My first impression was one of “Bloody Hell Nick’ this places is absolutely stunning, why the hell would you want to invite a load of strangers into your perfect world?” Not that I voiced this opinion at the time but you just have to see the place to believe it exists.

A traditional Welsh partially whitewashed farm house set into the side of a hill, surrounded by nothing other than fields, sheep and stunning view. OK there is the odd cow or two pottering around but you get the idea. It is one of the most idilic locations I have ever visited. Even as you climb the winding dirt track through the field in front of the farm the whole place just wraps you in it’s arms and says “Welcome to our little piece of paradise in Wales”.

Honey we're home!

The farm is picture perfect and I really hope Nick, you do not mind me posting a few of the photo’s I took. Rest assured when I return with Ben I will bring my all new and improved camera because these photo’s just do not do your home justice and for that I apologise in advance.

A Stunning View from the Yurt over 

The Barn, if you can call it that, has been rebuilt from foundations up. Inside is the largest dining table I have ever seen which over sees the hub of the operation, Caroline's purpose built kitchen. This comes complete with sensuous cooking smells of home baked cakes and delicious herbs. There’s the all important ‘wet room’ tucked away in the corner. Further back we find Willow and Juno relaxing on the settees on the raised mezzanine accessed by open plan staircase.

I love that kitchen

The railings at the rear over looks the all important Nick Sanders Cinema, with three of his globe trotting motorbikes being harassed by table tennis ball abuse. Especially when we all took to the table to be thrashed by Willow and Juno, the resident table tennis pro’s. On arrival we were served home baked cakes which was delicious with coffee or tea. Sitting around the huge table gave us all chance to have a good natter. Once refreshed it was time to settle in and find somewhere to sleep. I say it like this as settling into the accommodation is an adventure in its self.

Now that's what I call
A Cinema

Spread across the whole area the accommodation is so diverse, its brilliant. The Yurt is tucked high up on the hill at the top of the ‘Stairway to Heaven” (well thats how I would describe it) up behind the farm house. There is a Timbuktu trailer cabin complete with double bed and an expedition truck which Nick P felt very at home in plus a couple of wooden lodges.

Insert Your Own Caption Here!

I chose the first wooden lodge out of the barn surrounded by aromatic raised herb bed with stunning views of the valley. One particular thing I have to mention about my room is the bedding, it was divine. I could have just curled up and gone to sleep there and then, sorry James but you really did draw the short straw as comfortable as you single bed may have been. 

Home from Home, Perfect

A little later when we had all unpacked and had showered, dinner was served and well what can I say. Caroline can cook and I mean really cook.  Fresh produce all the way from outside the front door. Home grown herbs and vegetables, local lamb, local cheese just about everything came from within a 30 mile radius even down to the ...... from the local estuary. Everything that left the kitchen was spot on. However at 2300 hours Nick S made an executive decision and politely as possible, advised us all to head to bed as tomorrow was going to be a ‘full on’ day of riding. Just how ‘full on’ I for one was not expecting!

Mint Tea any one?

Saturday saw us up at 0730 hours, well some of us that is! Tony arrived whilst we were eating our freshly prepared breakfast of porridge, croissant topped with ham, bacon sandwiches, I plumbed for a BLT with lettuce which I picked myself from outside my bedroom door. Now who else can say that about their breakfast on Saturday morning?

The group split into two with Nick P and Tony taking myself and three others ‘off road’ riding on Nick S supplied Yamaha XT660X. After a relaxed discussion about where we were going Tony took over the group. First off we were to head to a forest track where Tony would asses our off road riding skill level. After which we would head out onto a few green lanes and take it from there. Here’s a few photo’s and a video to give you just a taste of what we got up to. Needles to say I had an absolute ball and thanks to Nick P and Tony picked up some really useful tips and skills. Now who says you can not teach an old dog new tricks? You’re wrong because you can, as long as the ‘old dog’ wants to learn that is.

Light Off Road Riding, Bring It On!

Nick doing his stuff
And Yes we all rode down there!

Playing in puddles as never been so much fun
Tony how dare you swear!

The morning just flew by and before we were expecting it we were heading back to base to switch with the other half of the group who were out touring the North of Wales with Nick S.

After a light lunch again prepared by our wonderful hostess Caroline we had had a couple of games of table tennis whilst Nick S found a new route back to base.

Having had such a buzz on the 660’s getting back onto Mr T and heading out with Nick S could have slipped down a gear. But how can it? I’m riding with Nick bloody Sanders for **** sake! What this man does not know about long distance biking can be written on the back of a postage stamp.

The loop of North Wales and Snowdonia National Park was brilliant right down to visiting Eric’s Cafe. Nick S was keen to gather as much feedback on our stay as possible as we were the very first group to attend the Expedition Centre Experience. From what I could gather we all felt the only thing that could do with tweaking was the off road riding split day. Rather than half a day we all felt a full day with Nick P and Tony and a full day with Nick S would have been a slight improvement. 

All too soon we were back at base but in reality it was well past 2000 hours and dinner was awaiting our attention. The evening flowed just as Friday night had done. Sat in the cinema watching exerts from Nick S book at midnight was a perfect way to round off a brilliant days riding. 

Sadly Sunday was to be our last ride out up around Lake Vyrnwy. Caroline came with us on the back of Nick S. That was after yet another delicious breakfast of croissants topped with ham, tomato and cheese finished under the grill and yet another two cups of coffee.

Time to leave

All too soon we were pulling into the hotel car park, dismounting and heading through a very luxurious hotel reception and lounge onto the balcony with a back drop of Lake Vyrnwy. The weekend was drawing to a close. I felt a little pang of disappointment at that exact minute. I would have loved to have shared the whole experience with Ben and Jeannie but life is not like that and sometimes you just have to get stuck in on your own.

Thank you to our hosts
Caroline, Nick and Nick

Spending 3 days away from home meant major organisation, calling in paid help for Friday morning. All of Lilie Rose’s personal cares rested on Jeannie’ shoulders as we get no help what so ever from any quarter, thats just life I’m afraid to say. So Jeannie, for sorting everything out and for holding the fort whilst I was away having fun, thank you so very much. 

The weekend was an absolutely wonderful Fathers Day Prize. The Expedition Centre Experience with Nick Sanders and Nick Plumb has to be the highlight of 2013 for me personally. Now who would have thought that coming from some one who often describes himself as “Does not mix well with others” Not me that is for certain!

Can I just pass on a huge personal thank you to all involved, Nick Plumb, Nick Sanders, Caroline, Willow, Juno, Tony, Tony C, Tony H, Guilherme, James, David, Gwynne and Martin without whom the weekend would not have been half as enjoyable as it was.

As a foot note, yes there were 7 other guests who I attended the centre. I have purposely not mentioned any of them during the write up for one simple reason. I would hate to have offend anyone in any way shape or form. Having  learned the hard way from previous write ups it can happen all too easily. Please accept my apologies for this decision but rest assured if any of you ever find yourselves in the Rochdale / Manchester area our doors are always open to you. Just drop me a line and there is always a room and garage space available for you. That applies to you too Nick, Nick and Tony. 

You were all great and and I really enjoyed the camaraderie over the all too short 3 days. Feel free to stay in touch and I wish you all the very best for the future. 

“Ride well, Stay safe”

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Expedition Centre Experience with Nick & Nick

Thursday 13th June

Well it had to happen didn’t it? I got up to rain this morning, mind it is backing off a little now at 0940 hours. Still a drop of the wet stuff is not going to stop me having the weekend of weekends, no way!

I’m so pleased I chose to read the email from Touratech UK thoroughly and not delete it as I do with so many other emails from suppliers. Why? I really have no idea, I think it was purely down to the fact that, although it was selling something it was not presented in that way! If that makes sense?  

Now if that does not warrant further investigation then your not wired the same way as I am, it’s that simple.

So fast forward a week and here I am typing a quick update of how I feel. You see my Blog's are not just about what I or in fact ‘we’ do,  it’s about how I feel, good, bad, indifferent, warts and all!

Right this minute I am absolutely buzzing with anticipation right now. My Twitter account @Jap_STi_3 is kicking off royally with comments from close friends, Twitter friends and in fact folks I’ve never met but purely interact with through Tweeting! Sorry to admit this but I’m a Twitter Freak, plain and simple.

So with the weather brightening by the hour, my mood being somewhere up amongst the stratosphere I really ought to get Mr T sorted! I’ll be sticking the panniers on for the ride simply to make life easier  I have the small Touratech pannier bag which to be honest are too small to fill the huge 45 litre right hand side but work perfectly so will remain my bag of choice. However just looking up this link I now see Touratech make a 41 litre Zega pannier bag which looks interesting. I can see this shop visit costing me a small fortune if I'm not careful! #ShopaholicsAreUs 

Packing normally takes me 15 minutes tops. Wash kit is always ready in the garage just to pick up and go. Clothes, who needs cloths? Jeans, T-shirt, grollies, socks and my Berghaus 200 Fleece which lives in my top box and thats me. However I may have to take 'The Cardi' just in case it gets a little chilly at night.

All 8 participants of the inaugural Expedition Centre Experience received an email yesterday (well I guess they got the same email as me) with confirmation of the meeting place and time Friday morning. Other information included, advising us that bedding will be provided and to bring a torch so we can find our way to the accommodation in the evenings. How cool is that? I’m sat here grinning from ear to ear in anticipation of the whole weekend.

Meet-up, late breakfast/lunch with Nick and Nick, ride outs, light off roading on XT660Z Tenere’s, meals, sleeping in a Yurt or Timbuktu Trailer Cabin plus the chance to meet 7 other like minded riders. It is going to be brilliant! Even if it has just started tipping it down with rain again!

Right I really should make a start and get myself in gear. I intend to call in at one of ‘Grim Riders Motorcycle Museums’ on the way down through Wales as I pass just 8 miles from Llangollen Motor Museum. It’s an hour and a half from here and 2 and half hours from the pub I’ve booked for the night.

I gave the idea of getting up at 0300 hours tomorrow some thought and made the sensible decision to ride down today. The Ynyscedwyn Arms looks great on their website, a twin room Bed and Breakfast costs just £39.95 and as long as I get there before last food orders at 2030 hours I will be fine. My initial plan was to wait and say good bye to Lilie Rose and Ben at 1530 hours but that would just upset them both. With the weather being as shocking as it is plus adding my slight detour I’ll be setting off just after lunch and so with that in mind I will say farewell for now and Blog you all again ‘hopefully’ tomorrow. 

Look out Wales here we come........

Friday, 7 June 2013

A week of ‘Silver Lining’s’

Saturday afternoon in the Walton household unfortunately was not a great place to be!

I was in a foul mood brought on in part by our unexpectedly premature departure from The HUBBUK Meeting but more so by Ben watching “Tracy Beaker” on TV. At which point I lost the plot! 

“I am sick to death of Mr T just being sat in the garage doing nothing, I may as well just get rid!”

Not my finest hour I must say but at that very moment it was exactly how I felt. Sadly I brought the mood of the house to its knees,  something I now feel some what apologetic for. Looking back, I now understand what Jeannie meant by her reply

“You cannot sell Mr T! Your bike is a part of you!”

I spent what was left of the day unpacking our gear and replacing the food I’d taken back in the fridge. 

Sunday morning and my mood was still black. I was struggling with the events of Saturday but I needed to sort myself out as I hate bringing everyone down. Even Lilie Rose was giving me the ‘evil’s’ as I got her dressed ready for the day.

“What are your plans for the day?” Jeannie asked.

“I’m going to cut the lawn then go for a ride to Rivington Barn” I replied bluntly. Then did just that!

As ever the lawn took far too long but I do like to see stripes in it so there is no one else to blame but myself. 1400 hours saw me mount up and after a quick round of “see you later’s” I was away.

The ride up towards Bolton over the tops is one of my favorite routes and before long the idea of selling MR T had well and truly vanished from my mind.

It was great to see so many bike out and about ‘Rivi Barn’ as it’s know locally, the place was buzzing  which gave me a real lift. After grabbing a coffee from the outside stand I sat on the low wall that surounds the main parking circle and started to chill out.

It was not long before I found myself being asked lots of questions by a lady sat further along the wall. Why are you all here? How long had they been coming to Rivington? Why Sundays? She only stopped quizzing me when luckily Phil spotted me and came over.  Looking very business like, if not a little hot and bothered, in his one piece leathers. We escaped to have a look at his amazing Ducati 749S which when I pulled Mr T up along side was almost dwarfed. It was great to catch up as I’d not seen him since he popped down with the family a few weeks back.

After a steady ride out towards Blackburn I headed home for a  late dinner and and early night.

Monday had me sanding the garden shed ready for repainting. That done I headed out to Lytham St Annes for Monday Bike Night. It was  rammed, the ‘Boy’s in Blue’ were everywhere as there was a local ‘Speed Awareness” campaign in full flow. I met a really nice RBLR Chap called Chris who introduced himself as soon I stopped ‘Tweeting’ for two seconds. Until that point my RBLR waistcoat had done a good job of putting folk off talking to me. I really have no idea why as if they just take the time to read the patches it is very obvious I support our armed forces. There is still a way to go in educating folk's on that side of life.

Tuesday I was going to take off up to Newcastle to check out a bike cafe meeting but thought better of it at the last minute. 

As we  sat down for our mid morning coffee I took a look at an email I’d received from Touratech on Friday, whilst I was down at the HUBB UK Meeting. It read 

“Jeannie what do you think to this?” I asked sheepishly

“What’s that?”

“It’s a weekend in south Wales, meeting at the Touratech shop at 9.00am Friday morning with Nick Plumb”

“Who’s he? Do you know him?”

“I think I met him at the HUBB in 2011 or it could have been 2012! Anyway after that it is off to meet Nick Sanders for breakfast”

“The guy you took a photo of Ben with at the BMF Show?”

“Yes that’s him, then a ride out on our own bikes followed by a 3 course dinner, over night in a Yurt, some off roading on baby Tenere’s on Saturday morning and on, and on. What do you think?”

“Sounds great when is it?”

“OH! look there’s only 8 places. It’ll be full. Mind I could give them a call” I said changing the subject.
5 minutes later after finishing our coffee’s I was on the phone to the shop.

“Sorry, what did you say? There’s one place left, just hold the line two seconds”

“Jeannie there’s a place left what do you think?”

“Get it booked!”

“Sorry about that, Yes stick me down!”

“That’ll be £200 please”

“I’ll just get my card!”

So next weekend I will be one of the 8 inaugural ‘Expedition Centre” attendees. To make the whole thing even better,  as I came off the phone Jeannie said

“I’ll pay for that! It can be your Farther's Day present from us all!” What a fantastic Farther's Day Prize!

Wednesday after repainting the shed and doing a bit of gardening I was planning on heading to Squire as it’s Bike night there on Wednesday night but having attended numerous Wednesday evenings I stayed home and had ‘Snuggle Buggle’s’ with Lilie Rose and Ben instead.

Thursday after getting Lilie Rose off to school and enduring an eventful “Sleep Over” by Ben’s mates.  Which culminated in me escorting them back into the house from the tent at midnight as they’d been spooked by a fox in the garden. I set off over to Derbyshire to see my Dad & Ang.

The ride was perfect. The weather blisteringly hot and not a soul on the back roads to hinder my ride. I stopped in the same spot as I’d photographed in February. 


What a difference a few months makes

After a good hour or so with my Dad & Ang catching up and hearing some bad news I rode the couple of miles to Clay Cross to CMC Motorcycles for a look around and to get some photo’s for my Biker Cafe Review which will appear on Keep Britain Biking soon.

Ross came over to me in the car park and took a photo. Asking what I’m up to next. I told him about next weekends adventure in Wales with the two Nick’s. Following it up with the next ‘Huge Ride’ which Ben & I will be doing the following weekend 22nd June the RBLR1000.

'If it's bikes, it's CMC'

Nuph Said! 

I explained how Ben will become the youngest pillion rider ever to complete the ride at just 11 years old (that’s as long as the ride does not beat us) and how we are trying our best to raise £500 sponsorship for the RBL.

“So how much are you on now?” Ross replied

“Well with the £40 my Dad & Ang have just given me we are on £350, so we’re doing really well”

“Right let’s make that up to £500 right here and now!”

“Pardon? That’s £150!”

“I know, get your brew & I’ll come over and have a chat in a minute”

I was absolutely astounded, we’d done it! £500 raised and still a week and a half to go to the start of the event. 

CMC Clay Cross Cafe with the 'Main Man' Ross

True to his word Ross came over with baseball cap’s, one of which I need to get Nick Sanders to put on for a photo, a fist full of stickers and a business card with Ross’s personal mobile number on (which I promptly lost as soon as I got home!). 

What an absolute gentleman you are Ross. Ben sends a huge Thank You and cannot wait to meet you the next time we are down your way.

YZF, Quad, Super Moto & Monkey Bike
The 'Four Amigo's' 

The ride home took me over Stretton Top down to the back of Matlock, hanging a left to take me through Matlock back where I spotted the ‘Four Amigo’s again parked up. Then it was right towards Ashbourne  and another right towards Buxton. I took a small detour when I spotted a sign for Carsington Water

Great Views

Amazing Stone Sculptures

Bike Eating Dog's

All at the side of 

Friday brings things bang up to date! Tonight Jeannie and I are off to see Eddie Izzard at the MEN Arena which we are both looking forward to.  

So as you can see, this week as just be one roller coaster of emotions going from rock bottom to bouncing off  the clouds.  As I said ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’. 

If you would like to sponsor Ben and I here is our Dad’s ‘n’ Lad’s Big Adventure RBLR1000 2013 Just Giving Site. Many thank’s for all your  support.

Not a cloud in the sky, perfect!