In the Summertime When the Weather is Hot.

Great weather in Ireland means biking. Hot weather in Clare brings on a need to visit the picturesque village of Doolin.

High temperatures in May in Ireland definitely means bike time.

It’s getting close to my big trip in Europe but the weather has been so warm and dry in Ireland DSC05705 (2)that it would be almost impossible to resist a little motorcycling. The Wicklow hills are in my back yard so myself and Mrs. Rambler did a trip to Powerscourt Waterfall. At 400 feet or 121 metres it’s quite impressive. It’s in a mountain valley near Enniskerry about half an hour South of Dublin. It’s a very popular place to visit and particularly when the weather is warm it gets a large number of visitors. We combined it with a visit to some of the quaint villages in the area. Roundwood, Laragh and Glendalough are only a short distance on the V-Strom and we did a quick spin up to Sally gap and Lake Tay which are only a stone’s throw away as well. There’s always something to see in the Wicklow area and lots of people come out to take advantage of it when the weather is good, and why not. We enjoy hill-walking a lot and Wicklow certainly has a lot of possibilities for outdoor pursuits.

Last Monday I was checking my favourite weather app and noticed it was indicating 23 degrees in Clare so I packed the tent and a few other bits and DSC05733 (2)pieces on to the V-Strom and that’s a fairly easy task as it came with panniers and I added a top box. The trip to Doolin in County Clare is about three and a half hours but I stopped a few times for fuel for the Suzuki and fuel in the form of coffee for me. I was delighted that the app was right in relation to temperatures. The readout on the dash showed a steady increase as I went West. By the time I hit Clare it was staying steady at 23 degrees Celsius. It even showed 24 degrees briefly with a blue sky and plenty of sunshine. I rocked up to O’Connor’s Riverside Camping and Caravan site about 4 pm in the evening and set up the tent. DSC05779 (2)I hadn’t done it for a while but I got it up without too much of a problem. I have stayed at this site before and it’s really smashing. The staff are friendly and helpful and I also noticed a new addition in the form of “glamping” yurts. I had never seen these in the flesh before and they definitely made my little tent look far away from glamorous. I couldn’t believe how luxurious they looked inside and had to take a picture to show Mrs. Rambler. If we get a chance later in the summer we might just give them a go.

I spent an hour or so exploring on the V-Strom. It’s only a few minutes to Doolin Pier where you can take a ferry ride to either the island or to view DSC05756 (2)the Cliffs of Moher. I visited some of the little towns nearby too. Lahinch and Lisdoonvarna are only short distances away. When I got back to the tent I parked up the bike and walked up to O’Connor’s pub which was always a great spot for food and music. By now I had built up a good appetite. I was relying on previous experience and was not disappointed. The food was as good as I had hoped. DSC05767 (2)It’s always a good place for seafood and the service is quick and efficient but I was obviously too early for music. Not too worry though because Doolin is a great place for traditional music and after a leisurely walk taking in the beautiful red sunset I visited some of the other pubs. They were all very busy and the music and poetry renditions were great. It is hard to believe that Doolin could be so busy this early in the year. It seemed like there were twice as many visitors from outside Ireland as from within the country. As is usual in these homely places with nice music and lots of visitors, everyone talks to everyone, and it’s a nice way to meet people and have a relaxing evening.

Back to reality the next morning. I realised why I don’t chose to stay in the tent too often. I was a little stiff to say the least of it. It’s nice to do it occasionally but I don’t think I’d like to be crawlingDSC05730 (2) into a tent for a few nights in a row. I folded away the tent and sleeping bag and packed up the bike. I decided to forgo the pleasure of cooking my own breakfast even though the kitchen facilities in the Riverside site are first rate. I stopped not far from Bunratty Castle and  enjoyed a hearty full Irish and then set off for home. It was a nice trip in brilliant weather but now its time to start getting ready for a longer bike adventure, further afield.

As I mentioned earlier, I am taking the ferry to France shortly so today I visited the AMI (Adventure Motorcycles Ireland) shop in Gorey to have someone else throw an eye on the V-Strom before the big adventure. Of course there was no sign of the lads. Gary, Craig and Derek are off working hard investigating routes for future tours or actually guiding a tour at the moment. David had just headed off somewhere before I arrived. It’s amazing how these guys always find somewhere urgent to go on their bikes to somewhere interesting and exotic, like Portugal or Greece or Morocco, where the weather is good. It’s hard work but someone has to do it. Which left Joanna and Conor minding the fort. Which they were doing admirably. Conor had a quick check on the bike and we adjusted a few things, all with a view to satisfying myself that everything was in order for the anticipated high mileage in the next few weeks that I am really looking forward to.

Adventure Biking to Laconia Bike Week.

Adventurous bikers travel to Laconia on every type of bike from just about every where.

Adventurous bikers come in many different guises.

Someone recently put up this post on a Facebook page I follow called “Adventure Bike Riders”:

This page is exactly what Facebook should be about!
I’m taken by how many people are on here from every walk of life and from every corner of the globe, all joined by one thing with 2 wheels.
No negativeness (usually) and all the nice comments and mutual respect, regardless of who we are or what we choose to ride.
It’s bloody marvellous isn’t it!
Keep it going folks, life is too short X

It’s fair comment in my opinion and it’s what motorcycling is all about. I am really looking forward to this year’s big trip in Europe. I will be taking the ferry from Ireland to Cherbourg in Northern France in about six weeks time and travelling down to the Alps, but enjoying everything in between. Last year I went to Boston and travelled up to Laconia Bike week in New Hampshire and the most important impression I took from it was how overwhelmingly friendly everyone was and how everyone respected their fellow bikers. It didn’t matter if you were into adventure style bikes or cruisers, everyone we met wanted to talk to us and ask where we came from. I saw KTMs and Africa Twins and 250cc scramblers on Weirs Beach Boulevard as well as lots of custom bikes and of course the big cruisers like Harley Davidson and Indians. We met people there from every State in America and from other countries as  well. One guy had ridden his big cruiser from Alaska to New Hampshire. The first part of his journey had been all snow and ice and poor driving conditions. It took him three weeks to get to Bike Week. He may not have been on a BMW GS1200, but that is adventure biking at it’s finest.

I was travelling with Matt, a friend of mine, riding a 2013 Harley Electra Glide I had hired at MOMS Motorcycles in Foxboro, and initially I had found it very heavy and unwieldy, especially as we were hitting some seriously challenging roads. I am not normally a cruiser rider and the roads we had been riding on would be really great for enduro or adventure style bikes, but not for the Lincoln Town Car, as I had christened the Harley. I have to acknowledge though that this bike was definitely growing on me. In fact it didn’t put a foot wrong, and even when the conditions became demanding, I was getting a kick out of leaning it into the corners and it behaved absolutely impeccably no matter what I or the roads threw at it. It had great weather protection and even when it rained, hardly a drop got by the big fairing.

One of the “must do” activities when you are at Laconia Bike Week is to visit Mount Washington and the Mount Washington State Park. It is the highest mountain in the North Eastern U.S. at 6,288 feet (1917 m.) and has a very erratic and dangerous climate. The highest wind speed ever recorded, other than in a cyclone, at 231 mph (372 km/h) makes this a place to be taken seriously if you want to make a bike trip. In fact there is a visitors centre on the way up on the Mount Washington Auto Road and when conditions are bad you are not permitted to go beyond the visitors centre. When we arrived up there we were disappointed to learn that the road to the summit was closed. It had snowed about three inches earlier with wind speed recorded at over 100 mph. The snow ploughs were out even though it was June, and it wasn’t going to be possible to ride to the top. The parking lot would usually be packed at this time but because the road was closed with temperatures at the summit between 15 and 34 Fahrenheit ( -9 to +1 Celsius), taking the wind chill into consideration, and winds too high, there were just a few visitors in the souvenir shop and the restaurant. Mount Washington would have to wait for my next visit. So we went and rode the “Kanc” which is another of the famous attractions for bikers in the Laconia area. The two major highways in the area go North/South and the Kancamagus highway, or Kancamagus Scenic Byway, connects these roads East to West. It is open most of the year, except for during really heavy snow, unlike some other roads in the area. It is a 32 mile or 52 km stretch through the White Mountains, connecting the towns of Lincoln and Conway, that is a favourite with bikers because it is a winding mountain road, that seems to go from one left hand to right hand sweeping bend, interspersed with hairpins and continuous inclines or declines. It you travel east from Lincoln, you enter the White Mountain National Forest following a branch of the Pemigewasset River, ascending until you reach the summit at Kancamagus Pass where there is a viewing point. bridgeThen you start down by the Swift river, all the while enjoying some great riding because of the sweeping bends which sometimes tighten into hairpins. Eventually the terrain begins to flatten until you find yourself on the Main Street in Conway. I cannot emphasise enough how beautiful this whole area is with fantastic viewing points to pull over, rest the weary bodies and enjoy the spectacular forest, mountain and valley views. Quaint small towns, river crossings with covered bridges and many other quintessentially American attractions abound.

Back at Weirs Bridge the highlight for me was Keith Sayers freestyle motocross show. There was a crowd of people watching the show of top class motorbike aerial acrobatics, where Keith Sayers, with Todd Potter and James Carter wowed the crowd, jumping from very steep ramps and doing amazing somersaults and other aerobatics. The show started off with one bike in the air, and culminated with all three bikes spinning through the air at the same time. Before we left we had a look at the fantastic custom bikes at the Infocus Mobile Audio Stand and let me tell you they were so impressive. These custom bikes have massive speakers built in behind the fairing and in the side boxes. The sound systems are integrated so seamlessly that they enhance the appearance of the bikes. I have included some images at the end so you can admire their work.

That was my visit to Laconia Bike Week and hopefully I will visit there again, maybe for the 100th Bike Week. Warmth and friendliness was a common theme throughout the whole visit. Everyone we met on the trip was so friendly and just a note to demonstrate that: on one occasion that we pulled over to enjoy the view of the White Mountains I had parked the Lincoln Town Car in a depression of the ground on a hill. Matt said he would give me a hand to push it backwards out of the depression (as I couldn’t go forward because of a big rock just in front of the front wheel). As he was just about to push, a guy stopped his truck, jumped out, and asked were we in trouble and did we need help. He was probably a biker as that is “the biker code”, but he may have been just a random passer-by. Either way it is indicative of the easy, friendly and helpful attitude we met as a constant on this trip. A great trip and I am looking forward to this year’s adventure in Europe.

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.

Surprised by Spring.

Spring has come but I am not able to get out on my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure.

Spring is here and the temperature is up, but…

It’s spring here in Ireland all of a sudden. You’re wondering why I am so surprised. Well, the seasons here only barely tip their hat at the date or time of the year. You can get full blown winter in June and fabulous sunshine in December. In this instance though, all the signs are there. Blue skies and lambs sunning themselves in the green fields. Ah, Spring is in the air and it’s bloody useless to me. I had surgery last week and I have to take it easy. No lifting or straining for a while. So that means no rambles on the motorcycle. My nearest and dearest don’t go for my argument that the motorcycle does all the work and I just sit there. The arguments are “you’ll burst the stitches and have to go through it all again”. Wouldn’t  you agree it’s so unfair to apply logic in an argument. How can I counter it? In the meantime the Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000cc that I bought from AMI in Gorey, for my own adventures is lying idle in the basement. No adventure motorcycling for me at the moment.

Sunshine and warmth on your back when you go outside. Normally it is what I am really looking forward to. I don’t allow winter to stop my biking but good weather is a pleasure. Today is warm, but not as warm as the weather station on the counter in our kitchen would have you believe. It’s not 35 degrees Celsius, even inside, but rather the warm sunlight is streaming in on the counter warming it up to give that high reading. It’s showing a 15 degrees Celsius outside temperature, and I would say that is fairly bang on, judging by the comfortable and relaxed demeanour of the lambs and their mums in my neighbour Bob’s field, as you can see in the photo. So, just as I am sitting here at the kitchen table, writing my post and contemplating my woes, I hear the distinctive sound of a Milwaukee V-twin burbling towards me on the road outside. I catch a glimpse of a beautiful sky blue Harley cruising by on our little road. “Little road” because there can’t be much more than a dozen houses up here on our hill. It can only be my neighbour who only just traded up to a black and red Harley last year, with this year’s new model, taking advantage of the nice sunshine today. Insult to injury comes to mind. Not that I begrudge him his new bike. Best of luck with it. Just that some of us are in here writing posts when we should be out riding…

So Suzie is just sitting in the basement, apparently oblivious to the arrival of SONY DSCSpring and doesn’t appear to be upset at all. And there was I thinking Suzie and I were going to be natural allies in this debate. Sitting there nonchalantly as if nothing was wrong. I even opened the basement door so the sun would warm her up a little. Nothing. No reaction what so ever. Just sitting there benignly as if there wasn’t a care in the world. I am just going to have to suck it up, I’m afraid and wait until I get the chance to go on fresh rambles in the near future. I have already set the wheels in motion in relation to planning a very big ramble that involves a ferry from Rosslare in the South-east corner of Ireland, and quite a few border crossings. Mostly the best kind. The ones with no customs posts or passport controls. There will be mountain roads and local roads and as much as is possible, little in the way of motorway or highway riding. More about that in future posts though. For now I have to content myself in scheming and crafting a plan to get out on the road with Suzie before Spring descends, in good old-fashioned Irish weather form, into dismal winter weather again. You know, the kind that might even last a whole day…