A Little Star of a Village in Wicklow.

Mrs Rambler and I visit Grangecon, with some friends. A little village with a big heart.

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Grangecon is a little village with a big heart.

Wicklow is a great county for scenery and mountain walks just south of Dublin city. It’s top notch tooSONY DSC for scenic roads and tracks for motorcycle adventures. We discovered a gem of a village, with a population of about 200 recently when Mrs. Rambler booked us and friends into Moore’s oSONY DSCf Grangecon. Grangecon (Irish: Gráinseach Choinn / meaning Granary of the Hound), is just a couple of miles from Baltinglass. Moore’s is a traditional old time pub and grocery store and also a Tapas Restaurant with accommodation. It’s a very old business that’s been in the Moore family for generations. When we arrived we inspected our accommodation and it was two perfect  little offerings in the courtyard of the restaurant. They were quaintly painted up and sign written to be a post office and a shop. Both were equally well laid out inside with a double and single bed, en-suite bathroom and all the nice little touches that make the difference.

We ventured out on the street and the street was very busy. I don’t think we have seen so many sandwiches, currant buns and large vats of tea in one place for a very long time. There was a SONY DSCtractor run taking place and there was much excitement involved in the proceedings. I don’t know if tractor runs are a uniquely Irish thing but they seem to be very popular here. Young children in particular seemed to love it, some sporting their favourite tractor manufacturers peaked hats and overalls. There were people gathered around the sandwiches and tea emporium, which was a few tables set out close to one another on the street, with the ladies of the tea and sandwich committee making sure nobody was hungry. There were also some people blowing the froth of a few cold ones in the seating area outside the front of Moore’s. SONY DSCYes, I know it’s April in Ireland but it was a warm day and it looked comfortable there. We left Grangecon and headed off into the Wicklow hills for a walk out in the fresh mountain air to work up an appetite. The choice of places to visit is endless in Wicklow. Lugnaquilla, the highest peak in Leinster is not far away, Laragh,  Sally gap and Glendalough are a bit over the hill. Stately homes such as Russborough House and Avondale House are close. There are too many attractions to list. After a walk in the hills we paid a quick visit to Baltinglass.

When we got back to Grangecon, the party was in full swing. The intrepid tractor drivers and their groupies were ensconced in position, holding up the bar in Moore’s, discussing the merits SONY DSCof tractors, vintage and new. Horses, winners and losers at recent races were also a topic being mulled over. There was a great deal of discussion relating to mysterious farm equipment and tractor diff-locks, whatever they are. One guy was giving a full blown commentary on a race he had seen. He was holding his binoculars, which were actually two empty pint glasses, to his eyes, following the action on the track and informing his audience of the progress of the runners and riders. Another guy was pretending to be one of the more successful steeds and was galloping in front of the man with the binoculars. There was a man SONY DSC“playing the spoons” and we also spied an old metal drinks tray that we were told doubled as a bodhrán, a drum to beat. The make-shift band is apparently referred to as “Christy and the Quare Ones” in jest, or so we were told. A couple of girls were telling us of their mishaps that day. One had driven a truck containing horses to an event in a neighbouring county and on the way back had been told of a complaint of her driving. “Sure the size of the thing on them country roads”. Her friend told us of her mishap with a Honda 70 or 90. She had got a spin on it and managed to wheelie it into a garden hedge, with a passenger in tow, I think. Anyway, it was all exceptionally good humoured and everyone chatted away to us as if we were long time friends. Salt of the earth people who loved any excuse to get together and have a party and a chat with old friends or new.

The food we had in the Casa Tapas Restaurant was fantastic even if my companions didn’t share my conviction that we should get one of everything on the menu. It was probablySONY DSC a good thing because there was a lot of food, of the very tasty variety, in what was brought out to us. Calamari, pulled pork, sweet potato fries, chicken wings, patatas bravas and prawn dishes, to give you an idea of what we did sample. SONY DSCThe Desserts on offer were top class too. The breakfast the next morning was very tasty and there was plenty of it. I’d advise anyone who finds their mouth watering at the food, as well as the location, to book early. Apparently they are often booked out many weekends in advance. As well as the obvious reasons that I have described, the proximity of Rathsallagh, which is a popular golf  and wedding venue, means that it is not always available. If you get a booking and go there I think that you will find that Paul and Karen  are great hosts, and like me you will definitely want to pay compliments to the Chef.

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.

Happiness is a girl called…Suzuki.

Getting in some trips on the new V-Strom 1000. Laurie loves the comfort…

The new V-Strom exceeding expectations.

My wife Laurie was not a fan of the seat on my Yamaha Fazer. It was a reliable bike and brought me on some long trips and back, safely without and issues, breakdowns or fuss. dsc05573-2When I decided to change, Laurie’s comfort was one of the highest priorities, and the V-Strom Adventure I got from the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcyles of Ireland) to test ride, came first in her rating. It got an immediate thumbs up with a special reference to how comfortable the seat was. So, we picked the Suzuki V-Strom up, all shiny and new, in Gorey Business Park in the first week of January. To say the least, she is loving it. I think the number of miles we covered on it together has probably already exceeded the number covered on the Fazer.

Last weekend we did some nice miles, heading to Duncannon beach in Wexford, in the dsc05574South East corner of Ireland. It’s a lovely beach with great views of the Hook Pennisula and the Waterford coastline. It’s one of Laurie’s favourites, having spent all her childhood summers there. Duncannon has some great pubs and restaurants and we hookstopped on the beach, which is firm enough to drive on. The “Ta-Dah” moment in the featured photo is when Laurie found a suitable piece of driftwood to put under the side-stand so we could park up for a little while. We headed for the Hook which is another of our favourite stops. Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. After a visit to the Lighthouse restaurant we were off again. Waterford City and The Copper Coast was next on our agenda.

We got new Scott jackets and pants along with Schubert helmets that are very comfortable and we are very happy with them. I am particularly happy with the communication system because I can’t hear a word she says. Probably down to my bad hearing. Perfect.

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Bike Warm.

It’s important to stay safe when your out on your motorcycle. This is what I wear.

What I wear biking in cold weather.

Someone asked me recently how I manage the cold weather on my bike. I think it was in response to a post I wrote where I mentioned that when I started out in the morning it was minus 2 degrees Celsius, which is fairly nippy. I think the reader comes from a warmer climate than ours here in Ireland and couldn’t contemplate getting on a motorcycle in that kind of temperature.  dsc05510So my advice is, just move somewhere warmer. I wish it could be so! For now I’m stuck here where, although it hasn’t been a cold winter by any means, we have had some frost and temperatures down at minus 4 and a little lower in some places. That’s not that cold, and I’m sure if your from a country with a much colder climate you are wondering what the fuss is. The reason I think it’s important to talk about temperature is that it’s my opinion that if you get too cold, you are a danger to yourself and others when your out on a motorbike. When you start to feel numb it’s an indicator that things aren’t right and before long your muscles start to become weak and you can even start to become sleepy or drowsy, which is never to be recommended, particularly on a motorcycle.

The fact is, I never knew how cold it was on my last bike, but the V-Strom has a digital air temperature read out, dsc05539as you can see in the picture above. Up to now if the fields were white with frost when I looked out, well then I knew it was frosty and I put on an extra layer. I am going to go in to detail and explain exactly what I wear. My preference is a base layer, my wife and I have merino wool long thermals and they are very good, dsc05566but there are plenty of sports base layers that are great too.  A t-shirt comes next or in very cold weather I would then put on a light fleece. Two pairs of merino wool socks, one of which is long, goes on next, and the long ones tuck nicely over the legs of the base layer. We both recently purchased ultra light feather and down jackets and they are brilliant. They roll up into tiny stuff pouches but are warm enough to wear as outer layers when your out and about walking, except in really cold weather. I am wearing one and holding another in the picture to show just how small they can pack and it’s amazing just how much warmth they create under your bike jacket.

We got new Scott suits when I bought the new bike and though we haven’t used the new gear much yet it’s already clear how snug and warm they are. dsc05559Double layered and Gore-tex lined. We are very used to rain in Ireland though, and I always pack a waterproof jacket and pants, because I have experienced “waterproof” clothing before. My wettest experience in years was a trip from Northern France, through Belgium and all the way up through the Netherlands to The Hague, to stay with my good friends Damir and Alisa. Hard to believe that an Irishman had his worst wetting in another country. I have some good heavy duty thermal gloves but the Hot Grips on the V-Strom mean that my hands are unlikely to be a problem. I have a few pairs of boots for use on the bike but my favourite ones are the Daytona Traveller boots that are warm and waterproof. My feet have never been wet and the wet trip to The Hague there was barely a drop even got past the zips into the first folded layer of Gore-tex material and absolutely not a drop got inside. My preference is for full face helmets for warmth and safety, though I did bring an open face one with me to the States last year for my trip with Matt up to Laconia Bike Week last year. I have fleece neck warmers and neck buffs and even buffs with a fleece section that does it all in one. The last thing to go on is the reflective jacket that is another layer against the cold and improves the rider’s visibility.

Kicking up dirt on the V-Strom 1000.

Muddy roads are not stopping the fun I’m having on the V-strom 1000 Adventure.

Roads are filthy but the bike rides are fun.

I am really enjoying my new scoot, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure and getting out on it as much as possible. I have it three weeks now and am appreciating it more every time I get to ride it. It’s due it’s first service at 1000km and this morning whendsc05510 I rolled it out of the basement I knew it was gone over 1000km so it was time to head to AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland) in Gorey, County Wexford to see if the guys were able to fit in the service, which is essentially an oil and filter change. I think you should be able to read the dash, immediately under the 0 for speed. The reading was 001140 kilometres this morning before I set off. Thankfully Craig told me that it would be tomorrow morning before they can do it, which is great! I don’t even have to think up an excuse to go for a blast on the V-Strom again tomorrow morning.

So having been in AMI and enjoying a coffee there I decided to go visit a young man who is crazy about motorbikes and loves when his Grandfather comes to visit so he can get on one. My grandsondsc05525 is three months old today. Páidí was born on 31st October and today is 31st January, so it was only right and proper that I took the bike out to visit him and his Mum and Dad, and of course he insisted on taking a close look at the bike to make sure I am caring for it properly. I think it passed muster because the only comment he made was a few  approving gurgles and that was good enough for me. So after that seal of approval I headed back towards home and stopped in Nolan’s garage for the obligatory power wash. The roads are just filthy at this time of the year, caused by a combination of the very changeable weather and the increased agricultural activity because the farmers are ploughing every chance they get, and rightly so. The road surfaces are so muddy that the muck is kicking up even without going off road. It’s not too much of a chore to give the bike a blast of the washer anyway. dsc05528I am really enjoying the bike’s ability to sail along on all road surfaces, whether it’s wet or mucky. The bike seems to take it all in it’s stride and even the once or twice I’ve had it out when the low temperature warning was flashing, I felt very confident that all was well and traction was good. And doesn’t it look well when it is washed? It will be out in the morning again. Another spin back into Gorey and our friends in AMI and let’s hope they won’t be concerned that the 1000km service is going to be done at over 1200km, because we passed that figure on the digital read out on the way home from visiting Páidí.

Trip on the New Steed.

First long ride on my new bike.

Back in the basement after it’s first day out.

I took out my new bike today for it’s first long spin. Did about 450 kilometres (280 miles) from home to Cork and back. It was really enjoyable in spite of a few showers. The temperatures varied a bit but mainly between 7C and 9C (44F to 48F). There is going to be a lot of trips and information to share in the future about rambling on this great new scoot.

Withdrawal Symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms and loyalty to a great bike (or not).

No motorcycle in the basement where they should be at least one.

Happy Christmas and a great impending New Year to everyone, but I am suffering withdrawal symptoms. Self-inflicted of course. Not the usual, aftermath of Christmas type symptoms. From over indulgence in food and beverages consumed with the Christmas fare, and not even from visits to the purveyors of fine beers and liquors. In the form of the local publicans. No, none of the expected outcomes and consequences of the holiday period.

I sold my Fazer (1000c.c.) a few weeks before Christmas and now, strangely, the basement is entirely bereft of motorbikes. An unusual problem. It is usually a case of trying to squeeze between the handlebars of several bikes. I sold my vintage Z about a year ago and the Fazer has been sent on it’s way too. I sold it a few days after handing over a bundle of greenbacks, coinage or dough. Whichever is your favourite moniker for your hard earned funds, for a new bike. A new bike that I won’t get possession of until 2017.

Of course now, every time I have reason to leave the house I meet motorcycles and motorcyclists. When I was on my way home from delivering the Fazer, for onward transmission to it’s new owner, I stopped at a garage and met two fine gentlemen with the shiniest of shiny sportsbikes. Think Kawasaki with 1400 c.c. and BMW with a bloody jet engine. The riders told me they live in Dublin but originate from Russia. And isn’t it a fine day for a blast. Well it would be if you had a motorcycle. So that was a week or so before Christmas. Everyday since I have met buddies on cruisers or adventure bikes. Hasn’t the weather been really great? Nice to get out of the house after all that turkey. Get lost you teasing pain in the…

Sympathisers such as my wife say it won’t be long until there is a brand new shiny bike where the Fazer was. That is no consolation. None whatsoever. That’s like saying to someone that is going through a break-up that time is a great healer. Never say that to anyone who is going through a rough time. Well, I always believed that the Fazer and I would be together forever. dsc04838-2_liI suppose it’s not the first relationship that seemed destined to be forever that didn’t survive. Now every time I go through the basement of my house, which is very often, because I keep that other form of transport that I use, that shall remain nameless, outside the basement door, all I can see is reminders of what used to be. Helmets, open face and full face; bike jackets and pants, leather and textile; biker gloves, goggles, buffs, scarves, balaclavas, chain oil, tool sets and all the other accoutrements that a biker collects over the years. And most especially the vacant spot dedicated to and supposed to be full of bike. Or bikes. They are a reminder of my loss. So stop trying to console me. Specially on a day that everyone is saying is so fine, and the holidays are still here, if you are a normal person who gets holidays when there are supposed to be holidays. Even my brother-in-Law Declan told me he would probably ride up today on his Triumph America. Well guess who isn’t riding “bitch”. Walkers talking about walking. Runners talking about running. Even swimmers talking about swimming. Get thee behind me Satan!

Fazer and I had some great times together. In the featured picture I was on one of my blasts to Hook Head in the South East tip of Ireland. One of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. In the other image I had Fazer packed for a blast around Europe. Never once did it have as much as a slight mishap or leave me down in anyway. Totally reliable. Oh, what times we had. I am now the person that I have occasionally made a slightly disparaging remark about. A biker without a bike. And I am not in the least bit happy about it. Roll on the early days of 2017 when the folks at AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland) in Gorey can register my new purchase for me and I can try to start a new relationship. Oh what a coquettish, cheating, fickle person am I…