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Welcome to Paul and Tracy's main blog. Here you can keep track of what we've been up to, and join us on our adventures.

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Monday, December 8, 2008


Severe Weather Warnings, and an early appearance by Santa...

What a week...

First, the ride up to Edinburgh last Sunday... I set off shortly after posting the last blog entry and made my way up the motorways North. It was a beautiful sunny day, crisp and cold, but otherwise simply perfect. Until I got to Lancaster, when the fog decended. Freezing fog, naturally. But with my heated jacket on, and the heated grips keeping most of my hands warm, I was quite happy. I'd have been even happier had it not been for discovering my MP3 player had a flat battery just before I left. Still, I packed the charger so I'll have it for the way back! Riding through freezing fog is no worse on a bike than being in a car, with the slight exception of the concern that comes from knowing I've no rear fog light to warn dopey motorists of my presence. And there were plenty of the dopey kind of motorist between Lancaster and the border - including several who didn't seem to think that putting their lights on was necessary despite practically zero visibility. Still, I was content with straining to see and was just enjoying being out on the bike. I stopped at Gretna (no, I'm already married, this was hunger calling!) for a bite to eat and to let Tracy know how I was progressing, and then it was back on the Motorway until Moffat.

When I first discussed riding up with my colleague Neil, who is also attending the course, we had an exchange that went like this:

"Take the Moffat road"
"The Moffat road?"
"yes, the Moffat road"

Now, the first thing that sprung into my mind at that point, was an image of a one-legged gingerbread man (the one from "Shrek"). Read it again in a high-pitched voice and you'll see what I mean...

So, naturally, I had to take the Moffat road (the Moffat road?, yes, the Moffat road - sorry, I couldn't resist!). By now the fog had cleared, and I was once again dashing across the landscape under clear blue skies and surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. There was white everywhere (except on the roads, thank goodness). The trees and fields with the backdrop of the rolling hills looked like the picture from the front of a traditional Christmas card (with sheep in the fields and the odd stable dotted about). I'd have loved to have stopped to take a picture, but by now I was concerned about the dropping temperatures and the idea of getting into Edinburgh in the pitch dark - that, and the desire to press on, and the need to concentrate hard on reading the road and avoiding the slush and ice patches...

Before too long, just as it was starting to get dark, I arrived in Edinburgh. With the sat-nav already programmed with the hotel, negotiating the traffic was no problem, and I soon found myself pulling up outside. I don't think they were expecting many bikers, at least not judging by the expression of distate on the concierge's face as I walked in all dressed in my bike gear... but once I'd asked about my reservation, things improved no end, and I was told to ride my bike round the back and into the undergound car park. Normally, the concierge or another member of staff would park the guest's car, but as they're not insured to ride bikes (and I don't think the old fella liked the idea of trying to ride mine all loaded up!), I got to do it myself.

And so with the bike safely in the car park, I checked in and had a long warm shower before heading out in search of food. The rest of the week consisted of grabbing a lift to the office with Neil, and attending the course, the details of which I'll spare you, which you should be grateful for, given how tedious I found it. The main entertainment during the week was watching the weather forecasts. They started on Monday with the "it's going to get worse by Thursday" before becoming more and more like the prophecy of doom. When they started with the "Met Office Extreme Weather Warning" I started getting a bit concerned. I was due to ride home on Thursday when the course finished. By the look of the weather maps, I'd be lucky to get out of the hotel car park. Still, whilst I was in Edinburgh I took the opportunity to meet up with my sister's better half, John, and we went out for a couple of beers and an absolutely fantastic curry. All the while wondering about the weather and whether I'd be able to get home (John offered to find a garage for me to leave my bike in, but I was determined to at least try and get home!).

So finally Thursday came. And I woke up early and gingerly opened the hotel curtains to discover... nothing. No whiteout, no drifting snow, no ice-covered roads. Just a normal, cool and slightly damp morning. Perhaps it was the "Edinburgh effect" the taxi driver had told me about when going back to the hotel after the night out with John, when it was sleeting quite hard... he'd said that Edinburgh was in a micro-climate area that was always much milder than the surroundings and "oot a toon twill be whit all o'er" or something like that. Anyway, I got to the office and attended the final portion of the course before we finished early for the day just before 1pm. Dressed in all my gear I set off to see what the "extreme weather" looked like. Heading out of Edinburgh along the A702 (avoiding the Moffat road, the Moffat road?, yes, the Moffat road - which was more likely to be snow-bound) I quickly discovered that everyone else had been frightened off the roads except for the snow-ploughs and gritters who had done such a good job there was no sign of snow anywhere except in the fields and on the hills. So I made "progress" and before long got to the M74 and turned southward, stopping at Gretna (no, I'm still married) for a quick re-fuel before hitting another bank of sleet and rain around Penrith. This lasted for a good few miles before I emerged once again into clear air, arriving home around 5pm, having covered 240 miles in just 4 hours - so much for the "extreme weather"...

Saturday offered a further chance to put my winter riding skills to the test, as I headed off for the Bike show at the NEC. Tracy and I had arranged to meet up with some of the Globebusters' trans AM 2009 team for a Christmas get-together in Birmingham that night, so she would be travelling down by car later. At the show I met up with Andy, who'd also ridden down on his F800GS and then promptly lost him as soon as we entered the NEC (think he might have been avoiding me!). Richard and Karen were not so lucky, and it took them quite a while to get rid of me, during which time we'd spent some money and had moulds taken of our ears for custom-made ear plugs. Whilst they were having their moulds taken I went and got my helmet modified with a special visor insert designed to stop it fogging up (a problem I'd had on the trip to Edinburgh), and promptly lost contact with them. With time running by I went and had a chat to Kevin & Julia on the Globebusters' stand and met up with Phil. He was even less able to get rid of me, and when we left the show we rode back to the hotel together - which was just as well as my sat-nav started playing up as I was trying to find my way round Birmingham city centre...

But we found the hotel without further problem and I joined Tracy, who had arrived a couple of hours earlier and checked in. Or at least, tried to, only to discover that I'd booked a single room (I hadn't, honest!). Using her natural skills of persuasion, she convinced them to give us a double room (despite them first claiming to be full), and so when I arrived all was sorted. A quick shower later and we were in the hotel bar drinking Guinness with Phil and Richard, with the others arriving sometime later. After a few more drops of the black stuff we made our way to La Tasca and met up with the rest of the party - some 13 of us in total. With beer and red wine flowing freely, and various tapas covering the entire table, a good night was had by all.

Now, it wouldn't be a Christmas Party without Santa, would it. So here he is:

Phil, known for some obscure reason as 'Santa Phil'...

Sorry, Phil, just couldn't resist!

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