D-Day and Saint-Mère-Église.

A visit to the Cotentin Peninsula and the D-Day celebrations as my tour of Europe is drawing close to an end.

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D-Day and the Normandy landings are commemorated every year on 6th June.

From Le Mont-Saint-Michel I rode my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure up the Cotentin Pennisula to Saint-Mère-Église. Saint-Mère-Église was one of the first villages in Normandy to be liberated from the German forces, by the U.S. Army 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, on the 6th June 1944, as a result of the Normany landings. I got there in the late afternoon and met friends from home who go to Normandy, specifically Saint-Mère-Église, every year for what proved to be one of the biggest pageants I have ever witnessed, the D-Day Commemorations. I unloaded the tent from Suzie and started to get it set up as quickly as possible in a stiff breeze. I had experienced some showers on the road North from Le Mont and it was clear that rain and stormy conditions were not too far away. I got it up quickly with some help, and sure enough the rain and strong wind arrived right on cue, as I and my friends walked towards the Place du 6 Jun, in the centre of Saint-Mère-Église. You can see from this image, that I took moments after getting the tent set, that the wind was starting to whip up. The bushes are sideways and the tent is under pressure already.

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Saint-Mère-Église is well known because of an incident that occurred during the airborne attack, involving a paratrooper known as John Steele. The paratroopers from the 82nd Division had been dropped over the village while the local population were tackling fires caused by incendiaries dropped before the attack. The Germans were present, supervising the bucket brigade, trying to put out the fires.

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The descending paratroopers were clearly visibly, and easily picked off by the Germans. John Steele’s parachute got caught on one of the church pinnacles and he was a sitting target. I’m told that a burst of machine gun fire was directed at him. He was hit in the foot and feigned death. The wound in his foot caused him to bleed heavily and this convinced the Germans below that he was dead. He survived and was captured but later escaped from captivity and rejoined the fighting. He regularly visited the village after the war until his death in 1969, and was made an honorary citizen of Saint-Mère-Église. An effigy of John Steele hangs from the pinnacle of the church in his memory.

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The Normandy landings and the men that liberated Normandy is the theme of the commemorations and it is just extraordinary how many exceptionally well preserved, genuinely original vehicles turn up here in immaculate condition, exactly as they would have been in 1944.

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The whole peninsula is the stomping ground for a massive variety of military vehicles and the roads and narrow streets of the small villages nearby are chock-a-block with the usual holiday traffic as well as these military vehicles.

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Enthusiasts in precisely accurate battledress uniforms come every year in every type of vehicle you could think of from the era, to commemorate and celebrate the beginning of the liberation of Europe from the Nazi regime. That beginning was the landings at beaches such as Utah and Omaha that are just a few kilometres away and well worth visiting.

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There are museums in Saint-Mère-Église and Utah Beach, and many more that are worth visiting in the greater area of the invasion. I visited the ones in Saint-Mère-Église and Utah but because it was so stormy and wet, I didn’t much feel like going further from base. The museums I did visit were very well worth it.

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The exhibits included original aircraft, realistic battlefield scenes and examples of trench defences.

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There are also a huge number of memorials to the people that lost their lives in the landings and the ensuing battles.

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And as you travel around the immediate area, within 10 or 15 kilometres of Saint-Mère-Église, little villages like Carenten, a village that the Americans hoped to, but failed to take that first day, you meet more vintage and military vehicles.

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When the rain became heavy, it’s not hard to understand why some stopped and sheltered until the latest burst of rain eased off.

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Others braved it even during the heavy downpours whether they were on vintage Harleys or open-top troop carriers.

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One of my favourite bikes on tour in the area was this 1943 Harley that the owner drove around on, and I managed to catch up with him in Saint-Mère-Église. He was kind enough to take a picture of me with his bike. That picture, which he took with my phone, is the featured image. I took an image of him driving through the square in Saint-Mère-Église.

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I wasn’t the only biker that was impressed with this Harley because every time he parked the bike, a crowd of admirers began to gather.

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As well as the pageantry and fun that this annual event creates, there is a serious side to the proceedings. The brave warriors involved in the landings are honoured and remembered by the French civil and military authorities.

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Wreathes are placed at the memorials to those who lost their lives in the endeavour to bring liberty in 1944. While the speeches were in French, it was obvious they were delivered with passion and admiration for fallen heroes.

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The crowds watching were a mixture of locals and interested spectators like my friends and I, as well as many that were dressed up in very realistic WWII uniforms. It also appeared to me that many that attended were currently serving military personnel, intent on paying their respects to their veteran predecessors.

All too quickly my couple of days in Saint-Mère-Église came to an end. It was time to head to Cherbourg for a return ferry trip to Ireland.

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I really enjoyed my trip around Europe and there are too many highlights to pick a favourite. Visiting friends in Austria and experiencing their party atmosphere again was really great. The beautiful Italian Alps and Lake Bled in Slovenia, Gmunden in Austria and Namur in Belgium. Too many great experiences to crown any as number 1.

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An overnight trip on the ferry and before I knew it, Suzie and I were preparing to disembark in Rosslare. A short spin home and time to reflect on a great adventure and of course, time to think about what’s next!

 

Visiting the 93rd Laconia Bike Week.

We finally get to Laconia Bike Week and begin to explore.

Cruising down the Boulevard at Weirs Beach.

Our accommodation for our visit to Laconia Bike Week was at Ossipee Lake which is a popular holiday area. The land surrounding the lake is home to many cottages, cabins, and lake houses, some of which can be rented for holidays. The cottage we were staying at was a beauty and owned by a friend of Matt’s family. DSC04482The family have rented the same cottage for many years and the whole family spend weeks or months there every year. The cottage is about 150 yards from the lake front and there is a beautiful beach and launching area for their pontoon boat from which they swim and fish. The owner, Frank has become a close family friend, and he was more than happy to have us visit for a few days. DSC04665We went for something to eat in Conway and as it was cooler, dark and raining lightly when we rode back up to the cottage, I was glad of the heated grips on the bike and while I had been critical of the amount of heat coming off the right side of the bike, I was glad of it now. The light rain was no match for the massive fairing and it was great to have the chance to give Matt a ribbing about my hands being too hot until I got the setting just right on the heated grips. After a good night’s sleep it was great to sit out on the deck the following morning, and look over lake Ossipee and plan the day ahead. A trip to Weirs Beach was a must, but there is so much more to see in this area that it was hard to know what to prioritise. Matt said, quite correctly, that a trip to Rosie’s had to be our first priority. In America, breakfast is an institution, but when you’re in New Hampshire for Bike Week, Rosie’s is the epitome of that institution. The restaurant is on White Mountain Highway and when we arrived there we parked beside the many other bikes, and some trucks in the parking lot. The booths were full and mainly the occupants were bikers, as well as some local regulars.  Rosie’s is famous for pancakes and Matt ordered one. One? I had never witnessed him order just one before. I soon understood why a man, who is a multiple pancake consumer, would order only one pancake in a restaurant where he professes them to be amongst the best he has ever eaten. This offering was big. Really big. A size or two bigger than the dinner plate it was served on and probably an inch thick.

Weirs Beach, Laconia is the place to be during Bike Week. When I say the place to be, read: the place to be seen. The Weirs is a large sandy beach on the south shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, with a boardwalk and a wide boulevard that is taken over every year by vendors and arcades for the summer visitors. During bike week the boulevard is host to thousands of bikers. A one way system is in place to allow parking on both sides, and the centre, for the huge number of bikes. The biggest difficulty is just finding a spot to park your bike. We cruised down to the Weirs and started our search for parking. A few hundred feet down I spotted a gap, and Matt found one a little further down, and we carefully backed our bikes in. The space for the Lincoln Town Car, the massive Harley I was riding, was just abouDSC04554t big enough, and after a few moments I successfully navigated the back wheel to the footpath. No tug boats or barges were required in this manoeuvre. Jackets, helmets gloves and the kitchen sink disappeared into the cavernous top box and we were ready to wander around. The vendor stalls and larger stores are mainly stocked with clothing and biker stuff. Tee-shirts, leathers, luggage and general bike equipment are the staples. The best part of the visit was the chance to view the fantastic customised bikes and I was delighted with the quality and variety of what was on view on the boulevard. Of course we checked out all the merchandise that the vendors had on display and I got a few Laconia Bike Week 2016 Tee-shirts and Matt got a really nice shirt for himself, and Tee-shirts as presents for some of his biker buddies back home. The hours rolled by and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the cottage. We stopped at the Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant. Hart’s started as a small family farm business in the 1940s, delivering chickens, eggs and turkeys in a small truck. In 1954 they opened a family restaurant that grew into a successful business even after they stopped raising their own turkeys. It is now a 500 seat restaurant, and a catering business, about five miles from Weirs Beach. It is well worth a visit and the food we were served was very tasty and there was plenty of it.

It had started raining hard just as we reached Hart’s restaurant and it was dark and blustery. When we set off back to the cottage the rain had lightened but it was still very windy. I really appreciated the protection I had on Electra Glide. I had put on my rain jacket for this trip but I need not have bothered. The rain didn’t seem to come in contact with the jacket and my boots and trousers were not affected at all. Visibility had remained relatively good because the screen on the fairing mostly prevents the rain from obscuring the view through your helmet visor or glasses. So it was time to plan the next day which we talked about for a while and then we turned in for the night after I took a quick walk down to the water’s edge of Lake Ossipee to enjoy the view.

Summer is Coming…

A look back on a fantastic bike trip to Laconia Bike Week 2016.

Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire.

This year my big bike trip will involve taking the ferry from Ireland to Cherbourg in France and travelling through France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Austria. Nothing is set in stone and I generally don’t book accommodation until the day I need it so I can ramble wherever I fancy. I have to admit though, I am thinking back to the great trip I had to Laconia Bike Week in 2016. I won’t be there this year for the 94th bike week. Last year my friend Matt from Blackstone, Massachusetts, invited me to go over to his home so we could ride up to Laconia Bike Week in New Hampshire. 2016 was theDSC04774 93rd year of this iconic festival of biking. It’s the oldest national motorcycle rally in the U.S.  It began when a group of less than 200 motorcycling enthusiasts toured the lake and mountain region in New Hampshire in 1916. It has evolved over time into an institution of motorcycling that attracts hundreds of thousands every year. I booked the flight to Boston and when I landed in Logan airport, Matt and his two beautiful daughters, Marissa and Hannah, were there to pick me up.

On the way from the airport to Blackstone we stopped near Gillette stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots. It was Thursday night and every second Thursday night there is a “cruise night”, organised by Mass Cruisers atPatriot Place Car Show Patriot Place, a shopping Mall, adjacent to the stadium. Wow! Thousands of beautiful examples of American metal. A guy we spoke to told us that on a good night there could be well in excess of two thousand cars there. Every era of car manufacturing in America, back to the 1930s was on display and we couldn’t get enough of it.

When we arrived at the family home, I met Matt’s wife Cheryl, who was a gracious host for a beautiful dinner. The family’s home is a fabulous house set in a lovely residential, wooded area on the outskirts of Blackstone. The house is very much in keeping with the setting, as it is made of stone and cedar wood. In the garage there were four motorbikes and a 1968 Camaro. One of Matt’s project cars. Two motorcross bikes and two Harleys’ of an older era. The absolute star of the show was Matt’s pride and joy, a 1977 Harley Davidson, customised to give it the appearance of being from an even older era. Matt’s priority was to have sleek lines and perfect paintwork and he certainly has achieved that in this bike. It is a thing of beauty. Cheryl told me stories of the many long journeys they travelled on this bike when they were together first. It is possible to bolt on a seat over the back mudguard on the bike but it must have been hell to travel on for any distance. Both Matt and Cheryl agree that they need a modern tourer to get back into the bike adventures they used to have before house, mortgage, responsiDSC04746bility and their much loved girls entered the frame. I was glad to have met Matt again and to be introduced to his beautiful family. I was also glad to head upstairs and sleep. I was looking forward to the next few days. A trip to Boston to experience the city and a trip to MOMs Motorcycles in Foxboro also, to see the bike I would have for the road trip to Laconia.

Suzie Stars in Dancing On Ice.

A scoot to Kilkenny, icy blast to Mount Leinster and a run to a bike show in Dublin before a date with a man with a scalpel.

About to suffer an absence from biking, I got out on the V-Strom in spite of very wet and cold weather.

I had a date with a scalpel wielding medic yesterday so, knowing there was going to be a period that I would not be able to take Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure out to play, I took the opportunity to get out last week. My first destination on Thursday was  Gorey Business Park in Wexford, the South East of Ireland, to the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland). David had a few spare tickets for customers for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter Show, in the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) Showgrounds, starting the next day, Friday. He kindly gave me my ticket and I had a coffee and a browse through the motorcycles on offer in the AMI shop, and as usual there were many fabulous examples to ogle.  After a chat with Derek, the Patriarch of the Ryanhart motorcycle dynasty, I headed off again on Suzie to Kilkenny.

One of my favourite short rides is to Kilkenny and a quick visit to Sullivan’s brewery Tap-rooom. I wrote about it in an earlier post about medieval Kilkenny (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-K2)sullivans and my feelings on their beer have been vindicated. There is a medal hanging on the beer taps indicating that the experts at the recent beer judging in the Alltech Dublin Craft Brews and Food Fair event, rated it very highly too. I ran into Ian, their Master Brewer while I was parking the V-Strom in the car-park at the rear of the premises. He is also an avid motorcyclist and we swapped a few war stories on our biking adventures abroad before I went in to order my pint of Sullivan’s Maltings Red Ale and Tikka Chicken Pizza. A pint and a pizza for 12 euros is good value in my book and the chef busied himself with their own wood-fired pizza oven making me a gorgeous crispy based offering. Ellen the bartender was kind enough to advise me to move Suzie into the covered area that is the walkway into the Tap-room to prevent it getting too wet. Which I gladly did because the rain was now teeming down. I had a  browse in their excellent wine and liquor shop at 15  John Street, before heading out on Suzie in the rain again.

A quick scoot to Borris, a small town in the general direction of home and I made the decisionninestones to go over Mount Leinster which had a little snow on it when I looked out my front door in the morning but I didn’t think that was going to be a problem. The rain was coming in heavy intermittent bursts but it wasn’t really an issue either. I made it up to the Nine Stones which is the viewing area at the bottom of the road to the Mount Leinster TV Transmitter mast or antenna, and took a snap with my phone showing a wet and misty County Carlow. I noticed that the gate to the TV mast road was open, which it almost never is, but knowing that the road is really only for RTE TV (national television broadcaster) personnel I wouldn’t be going up there. After all, it’s probably not allowed. And anyway there could still be ice and snow and the usual gale force wind so it would be dangerous up there. So, of course I set off up the road to the mast knowing there were a couple of places I could turn so as not to get to the icy, snowy and blowy bit. Which I duly ignored and got the full dancing on iceblast of the icy gale-force wind I was expecting when I rounded the last bend before the mast compound. Even so, it was hard to battle the wind, but at this stage you are totally committed, no turning back, with a nice covering of ice on the very steep narrow road and snow on the banks. The wind kind of picked me up and deposited me in the middle of the compound, wheels and boots sliding gracefully along in our version of “Dancing on Ice”. I think the judges would have been impressed. I was swiftly reminded why the RTE four-wheel drive vehicles have a little shelter built there to protect them from the large lumps of ice that fall off the mast and could easily damage a vehicle. It’s not a pleasant feeling thumping off a helmet either. I killed the motor briefly, and hanging on to the bike with my knees, I managed to retrieve my phone for another quick snap before the old adage: “discretion is the better part of valour” kicked in and I got out of there, rather gingerly.

The next day, Friday saw me heading off in nasty sideways rain. Real rain. If you get straight down rainDSC05578 in Ireland it’s not considered real rain. Straight down rain brings the comment “it’s a grand soft day” instead of a hard day with proper sideways rain. Straight down rain is kind of summer rain, but don’t let that fool you because summer is a moveable feast in Ireland that doesn’t follow any real seasonal occurrences or dates. I rode up to the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter show and luckily found a nice sheltered place to get the bike out of the nasty weather. The show itself was excellent. The AMI & Overlanders, Touratech Stand was one of the highlights and their customised black Africa Twin was a sight to behold. It’s theirs for the year for tours and demo rides and I hope I am back fully fit in time to get a jaunt on it before it goes on a holiday abroad. I am not sure DSC05599how to give you an idea of the scale of this event because it was way bigger than I imagined it was going to be. All the major manufacturers of bikes and suppliers of clothing and protective gear as well as many other organisations were present. There were lots of exhibitions too, custom bikes, vintage bikes and the myriad prizes, cups and medals, as well as the leathers of a certain Mr. Joey Dunlop. A Northern Ireland motorcycle legend, Joey Dunlop was voted the second greatest motorcycle icon ever by Motorcycle News, and many would argue should be considered number one. DSC05666Some living legends were called to the stage in the Main Hall and gave interesting accounts of their racing experiences too. Of course there was food and drink stands and at times when the rain eased off a little it was possible to go outside and see the stunt riders performing their skills in a fenced off paddock. I imagine it is more usual to see four legged steeds being lead around there because the RDS is most famous for equestrian events. I could have stayed ogling the bike beauties for days. All the best adventure bikes from Honda, Yamaha and many more as well as fabulous cruisers from Indian and BMW. Ducati, Yamaha, Harley, Suzuki, Triumph, Husqavarna, Royal Enfield and many more were also showing their fabulous wares. As well as the beautiful vintage Indian in the featured image, the modern “behemoth” Indian Roadmaster was spectacular, but all the manufacturers did themselves proud. Kudos to Carole Nash for a fine spectacle. And that was only Friday with two more days to go in what had to have been a brilliant weekend for all the motorcycle enthusiasts who attended over the weekend.

I met Colin, an old school friend, also a big bike fan, and we nattered away for about an hour and then it was time to gear up and head back out into the heavy traffic and sideways rain. It was a rotten dark, wet evening heading down the M11 on Suzie but it was worth it.  Now lying convalescing in my sick bed (read: being spoiled rotten with beverages and tasty bits) I know I will again be suffering some withdrawal symptoms (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-ST) and worse than the last time, because this time I have a bike in the basement but am just not allowed to use it for a few weeks, or maybe a week, or maybe… We’ll see.

On The Road Again…

Dan, back riding after 20 years.

Dan is a fan of Motorcycle Rambler and has made contact with me to tell me that reading my blog has inspired him to put pen to paper about his life and his adventures in biking. And his adventures are many. Dan is a retired US Marine that met the love of his life, his wife Vangie, when he was on a tour of duty in the Philippines in 1975. His first bike was a Kawasaki KZ650 which he bought in the U.S. when he was a young guy. He rode it around mainland U.S. and then shipped it to Hawaii when his career took him there. He has since ridden all over the world, Bermuda, Thailand and Japan, to name but a few places. Injured during his last tour of duty, he had to retire at the age of 38 years. He and Vangie moved to the Philippines in 1996 to be near her family. He shipped his trusty Yamaha Virago 750cc to the Philippines too. A great shaft driven bike that had given him miles and miles of trouble free adventures. The Customs Authorities initially said the bike hadn’t been received in order, with the correct paperwork. When he could show the paperwork was correct, and all was in order, they slapped massive tax and duties on it.  The charges were set so high that the bike would cost more than a brand new bike, and he had to relinquish it. Every biker can imagine the pain of his loss.

In 1996 there were almost no big bikes available to buy and Dan just couldn’t see himself, a big man, scooting around the Philippines on a 125cc bike or a little moped. Besides, his disability from his injury was not helping where it came to riding, and the roads were atrocious. Recently the roads have improved by Philippine standards and bigger bikes are now a lot more common and available. Dan eventually managed to convince Vangie that he should buy a bike and has already clocked up over 1700 km since July. Even taking a chance to go for a blast now that the rainy season is in. He says that riding in the Philippines has to be experienced to be believed. Water buffalo, goats, cows and chickens are normal obstacles in an everyday ride and the outside lane of a four lane highway is seen as a great place to park or dry your crop of rice.  Oh, and traffic laws are non existent, so nobody is going to bother you, when your drying your rice, or parking in the middle of the street or travelling in the wrong direction, in your lane of choice. Headlights, brake lights and turn signals, either the possession of, or the use of, is totally optional. How to fix a big pothole? Fill it with dirt, light a fire over it and throw a few tyres on top. Then hope the rubber melts over the hole, and seals it for a while.

Dan chose a beautiful Kawasaki Vulcan 650S having looked at Harley, Honda and a few more marques. Initially on a trip back to the States, he  tried and loved the Vulcan 900, but decided it was too big for the tight traffic in the Philippines and settled on the 650. He doesn’t regret his choice because it’s working out beautifully for him, and from the photos I have seen it is truly sweet. So after an enforced absence of twenty years, Dan is back and he is loving the joy of being out on his bike and feeling the wind on his face. He is looking forward to longer adventures in the beautiful landscape and scenery that is available to him in the Philippines. I am looking forward to hearing about them and seeing the photos. Ride safe, my friend. So if you haven’t been out on a motorbike for a long time and are thinking about the possibility of getting back into riding, I hope Dan’s story will inspire you to experience the joy of motorcycling once again. Thanks Dan. Have you got a motorcycling story you would like to share with us?

The featured image is not mine and I don’t have any claim over it. The other images are Dan’s own pictures.

My Riceburners

We boarded the Stena ferry in Cherbourg for the overnight sailing back to Rosslare. Declan, my brother in law and I had met up in France, in the Loire Valley area, and did some touring around together. img_0207We stayed with Alan and Sophie, friends of Declan’s, in  a lovely village close to Amboise, on the bank of the river Loire. Beautifully wined and dined by our hosts,  we had ridden up to within an hour of the ferry the evening before we were due to get the sailing. The next morning we had intended a quick stop at Mont Saint-Michel, but as luck would have it, there was a marathon taking place, so we could only see Mont in the distance. We headed for Cherbourg, and after a short wait, boarded the ferry. There were a lot of bikes there, and Declan’s Triumph America, 2005, was met with a murmur of approval, and some of the French guys came a little closer to inspect it. We met Pierre and Pascal, who were both particularly animated in their praise and interest in the Triumph. Pierre was a burly Frenchman with a big grey  moustache. He told us that he had a vintage Triumph that he had done a lot of touring on, but his current bike was a Harley, as was Pascal’s.  After a short conversation we agreed to meet in the bar, as soon as we were settled.

A short time later we joined the ancient order of froth blowers in the ship’s lounge and soon our new French acquaintances arrived. Pierre was sporting a very colourful waistcoat, not of the type normally worn by bikers and also had a very fetching, red leather handbag, with a strap, worn across his shoulder. “Declan, Pierre has a red handbag”, I said before he came within hearing distance. “He’s French” was the reply. Pascal and Pierre joined us and the conversation continued on a motorcycle theme. Declan’s Triumph America was, once again, the main topic, or at least Triumphs in general. I was beginning to wonder if all French bikers have a fetish for Triumph, or Steve McQueen, or was I missing something? What about my Yamaha? Quite an accomplished machine with a lot more of the continent under it’s belt than the Triumph. I have to admit that I am a fan of Japanese motor cycles, or to use the pejorative term: Riceburners, which is an insult to a group of motorcycle manufacturers, that grabbed a fairly dull industry in the 60s and 70s, and successfully produced the first superbikes, and have caused a revolution in every aspect of two wheel travel ever since.

When I was a young teenager, back when the earth was covered in snow and ice at both ends, forest in the middle bit, and the dinosaurs had only just faded into the annals of history, my method of transport was by means of a bicycle. When I came of age to become a motorcyclist, I visited a local shop that dealt in bicycles, and small motorbikes, to see what might be available. I always worked weekend and summer jobs so I had some cash saved. I had bought my first racing bike in this shop and now it was time to graduate to a bike with the added attraction of a motor. rd125I spotted the Yamaha RD125, a two stroke little beauty, in nice condition, with not too many miles. This was circa 1981 or 1982, I believe, and I made my purchase for the princely sum of £800 Irish pounds. The bike was probably a mid to late seventies model but it was perfect for my teenage needs. I bought a full face helmet and a leather jacket, a lá Marlon Brando style, and became a biker. Or so I thought at least. I went all over the country on this little bike and it always got me where I was going. The only problem I remember having, was on a return trip from Tralee, in the south west of the country, a distance of 125 miles (200km). I checked the two-stroke level, in the little bottle under the side cover, and discovered it was just empty. I was stranded for a little while, afraid to drive any further in case of causing engine damage. I found a little fuel station in the small town where I had stopped, called Cappoquin. There was a young guy, not much older than myself working there. He told me that he had heard that engine oil could be used, in place of two stroke oil, in the case of emergency. Not having a lot of choice, as it was Sunday evening and nowhere else was open, I took his advice and used some. It got me home the last 50 miles of my journey without any problem.

On the outward leg of the journey to the continent I had met up with Paddy Ryan on the ferry, and bikewe had travelled together for the first few days, but Paddy was heading towards Prague and I towards The Hague. I stayed with friends, Damir and Alisa, and their lovely daughter Uma, and then I travelled through Germany for a week, turned West into France, eventually meeting up with Declan in Amboise, France. We stayed with Alan and Sophie, as I mentioned earlier, and did some day trips close by. The Loire valley offers lots of treats, fantastic views and attractions to visit. The weather was showery but still very warm, so occasionally the wet gear had to be worn, which is always uncomfortable in the heat. That’s when the trouble began.We were scooting along on the autoroute when a shower started. We pulled in and donned the waterproofs and set off again. We were on the way to visit Chateau de Chambord, a beautiful French Renaissance castle, chambourdwhen I noticed the Triumph starting to slow down. Gradually it slowed to not much more than a crawl, but in the mean time the shower had dissipated. I noticed the Triumph give a few little chucks and then it started to accelerate again. When we stopped I asked what happened but Declan wasn’t sure. The bike had just lost power. I had a sinking feeling about it, but we enjoyed the visit to the Chateau, and forgot the problems with the Triumph. Not for long. After a coffee break at a rest stop, the triumph wouldn’t start. The ignition was fine but the starter button was dead.  I told Declan to hop on and put the bike in first gear. This was the first time I pushed started the bike for him. The first of many. Within a few minutes the Triumph lost power and gradually came to a full stop. Here we go. More pushing. Very little starting.

I had just spent three weeks riding around Europe on my trusty Yamaha. Up through Northern France, through Belgium and Netherlands. When I got to The Hague I had ridden all day in torrential rain. Just a few extra coffee stops to try to get out of the wet, but I had made my friends’ house, in the late evening, sopping wet. My gear had taken two days to dry while I was given the tour of The Hague. europe-2014-200Down through Germany with a stop in Neunkirchen for a few days, where my friend Thomas Schmitt had looked after me while I toured the sights within striking distance of the clubhouse I stayed in. Occasional rain and any other adversity was easily handled by my Yamaha Fazer 1000. But now, without even having had to check the tyre pressure on the Fazer on my European tour, just a spray of chain oil in the evening, I was the one pushing a motorbike. The Triumph had only crossed the channel a day or so ago and had done a few hundred miles at best. Declan said it was his bike’s way of telling him he had no business going out on a motorbike in the rain. I laughed. For a while.

And so it went on. Obviously an electrical problem. Two it seemed. The starter button just refused to work and the issue of losing power was a different problem. And of course the rain became more persistent. Every time the Triumph spluttered and stopped, or when we were setting off again after a break, I had to push. The heat was a killer. Full motorbike gear, waterproofs on top, and then push a heavy motorbike. Because of the need to keep the throttle open on the Triumph when it started, I found I had to run back to the Yamaha and try to catch up. And then, after a few miles, do it all over again. Eventually it happened. No matter how far I pushed it wouldn’t start. I was exhausted anyway and couldn’t push much more. Sweating so much I was wet on the inside as well as the outside. Declan was nice and relaxed, sitting on the bike, never having had to push. At a quiet rest stop, we wheeled the bike into the public toilets to dry out. It sat there for about a half an hour, with some bewildered looking French people doing a double take, when they walked in to the bathrooms. A Triumph Motorcycle there in the foyer area, looking like it couldn’t decide to go left or right, into the ladies or gents.

So now, sitting in the lounge of the Stena ferry, listening to the conversation about the Triumph,  I was a little peeved. Two Frenchmen, with American bikes, talking to an Irishman about the British bike he was riding. And me there, the pusher of said bike, being too polite to mention the escapades of the last three days. meThe conversation turned to the Harleys the French guys were riding, but at no time was there even a mention of a certain Yamaha. Maybe the problem is similar to what I have heard said about car drivers’ perception of bikes. A lot of drivers don’t even see motorbikes or pedal cycles. Maybe cruiser riders don’t see street bikes. Well, a lot of people didn’t see it coming in the 60s or 70s either, when the Japanese manufacturers went from making nice little motorbikes, like the Honda Super Cub (Honda 50) and turned their attentions to bigger machines. Honda’s CB 750 is thought by many to have been the first superbike. Except by Kawasaki fans. They know the first true superbike was the Z1. They might have been thought of as Riceburners in the early days, but when stalwarts like Norton and Royal Enfields, couldn’t compete with their reliability and went to the wall, there was a new found respect for the Japanese bikes. It was not so with my companions on the Stena boat. Just cruisers, Harleys and Triumphs. Ah well, all I could do was sit there benignly, blowing the froth off another one, and listen to the motorbike experts.