Just One More Mile - Initial Planning
A diary blog, covering details of the initial planning for our Round The World motorcycle trip in 2008...
31 July 2007
My Dirty Weekend...
… married for just a month and I’ve already had a dirty weekend!
Not the kind that springs to mind first, but the kind that involves big motorcycles, a Welsh forest playground, the wettest summer on record and instruction from a Dakar rally expert… yes, I’ve just done the BMW Off-Road Skills
level 1 course… the same one that Tracy did 3 weeks ago, only this one wasn’t a “Ladies Only” course (obviously!).
Following Tracy’s unfortunate accident when she did the course, we opted to travel down by car – at least that way if I had a similar misfortune we’d be able to get home! Leaving work just after 4pm on Thursday we drove down to South Wales and rocked up at our hotel – the excellent Castle Coaching Inn
at Trecastle – just after 8pm. Whilst the butterflies in my stomach were starting to make themselves known they didn’t prevent us from enjoying a delicious meal in the Inn’s restaurant before retiring relatively early to try and get some sleep. Up early and stuffed with an excellent cooked breakfast we set off for the Unit where we met up with the instructors. Tracy dropped me off and left to entertain herself for the day (read about what she got up to on her blog…) and I went and introduced myself. After completing the formalities of filling in the forms, showing my driving licence and getting changed into my off-road gear (complete with KTM-branded trousers…) I was given the key to my steed for the 2 days – a rather large R1200GS in black… it looked like it had already seen a fair amount of action, but started first time and we were off to the playground…
Once there the 4 instructors – Nick, Rob, Chris and Zippy – split the 19 of us into 3 groups… to do this, they asked who had any off-road experience and were met by awkward fumbling as my fellow “non-virgins” and I reluctantly admitted that we’d at least ridden on dirt before… worrying about what we’d let ourselves in for was unfounded, as our instructor for the 2 days, Zippy, quickly put us at ease. In my group were 4 others – Martin (doing the course for the 2nd time with his wife, Jackie, who was in another group), Gaz (also doing the course for the 2nd time) and Don & Dennis (2 mates who take frequent trips abroad). Martin, Gaz and I were on the R1200s with Don & Dennis on identical F650GS.
The first few exercises were all concerned with getting us confident with the bikes – learning to pick them up (I dropped mine as soon as I’d picked it up!), learning about the balance point (which involved walking round the bike whilst holding it up with just 1 finger!), walking the bike, getting on and off, etc… after a short ride round in a big oval to demonstrate our (lack of) clutch control we moved from the muddy area where we started down to a separate area of the park for some braking exercises and more practice at getting the balance and clutch control right. The braking practice was great fun – first locking the back wheel at ~40mph to get used to how useless it is, and how the bike feels when it locks. Then locking the front. Anyone who has ever ridden a motorcycle will know that this is something you never want to do, as it’s usually followed by the sound of scraping and searing pain… The exercise involved locking the front whilst pushing the bike by keeping the power on – leading to a sort of muddy “rolling burnout”… I loved it, and despite the smell from my clutch, managed to leave a very long rut across the land we were playing on… cool!
After a few more exercises it was time for a trail ride and then lunch. After lunch we progressed on to riding up and down steep banks including stopping part way, learning how to control the bike and get up and down safely. Some more trails later and then we rode through some deep water – where Llewellyn (Simon Pavey’s son) was taking photos – I’ll post them as soon as I get a copy. Finally, we learnt about hill recovery (what to do if the bike stalls on a steep incline) and did some more trails before heading back to meet the other groups and return to the unit.
It had been a superb day, and I’d learnt absolutely loads. My confidence in handling the big bike was pretty high, and I’d only dropped the bike twice – once when picking it up (see above) and once during the “hill recovery” exercise, where I went down with it, uninjured, fortunately!
That evening we had the customary meal in the Abercrave, and Tracy joined us as well, so a lot of the meal-time conversation was about travelling by motorbike. We were even joined by Simon Pavey towards the end of the meal, and Tracy got her own back on him for when he phoned her to find out how she was - and accused her of not knowing who he was!
After calling it a night early (well, we did have an extra half-hour’s journey to our hotel!) we woke to improving weather for the 2nd day's fun. At the end of the previous day, Zippy told us that we’d done “all the stuff we needed to cover” and so the day would be free for “hooning about”, so I knew we had some fun in store!
Once back on the bike and in the playground we wasted no time in heading off on a ‘gentle’ trail ride, down very muddy and rutted lanes (eh, Gaz!), in glorious sunshine. Simply perfect. The day included some very challenging sections as Zippy continued to build our confidence and stretch us – but never by too much. I’ve never felt so good for so long when doing something like this. Normally there’s a point where my confidence drops and I start to question whether or not I’m capable, before things pick up. Zippy must have got the balance exactly right, as my confidence remained high throughout, even when faced with very steep climbs, slippery descents (having stalled the bike at the top!), very narrow paths, and big, deep puddles.
It was a shame when it all came to the end, which was precipitated when Martin’s bike gave up the ghost after a particularly slippery downhill section (so much for the reliability of the 1200…). That only cut our course short by about 15 minutes, and it didn’t detract from the enjoyment. The lucky sod got to ride Zippy’s R1200GS Adventure back to the unit, though – hardly fair when he’s the one that broke his bike!!
Back at the unit we were all presented with our certificates before saying our goodbyes. The end of 2 days of simply fantastic motorcycling, in superb countryside, with great company and excellent tuition. Well worth the money – give it a go and you won’t be disappointed!
Our final night at the Castle Coaching Inn proved the excellent food from the 1st night was no fluke, and we left on Sunday morning having had a great stay.
Now I’m considering getting some knobbly tyres for one of my GSs and finding some green lanes to play on!
24 July 2007
A honeymoon would have been nice...
Boy, do I need a holiday... work has been fairly manic over the past couple of weeks since I returned after the 2 days off following our wedding. Whilst I was in work for 3 days after the last blog entry (returning on the Wednesday after we'd done the rounds, telling our families we'd got hitched...), the following weekend we were off to Wales for Tracy's trip to the BMW off-road school (for details, see her diary). That kept me away from work for the Monday and Tuesday, so that was another 3-day week... so last week was the first 5-day week for a while and it's kept me busy... and then my work laptop crashes today (Tuesday) just as I was working from home and getting somewhere... all work will be lost as they rebuild it tomorrow... not a happy bunny!!
Anyway, enough about that. There have been a couple of developments that might be of interest. First, I've been spending money. All in a good cause, as I found a pair of Touratech Zega panniers for my bike on ebay... just the ones I wanted and I got them for a couple of hundred pounds less than new, so I'm pleased with that. Then I splashed out on a new MP3 player - a solid state one with capacity for additional memory cards as my iPod keeps crashing due to vibrations on the bike. Am now loading as much of my music onto it as possible (it's got 8Gb of space so I should get a reasonable amount on there). I've also bought a power lead so I can wire up the bike-to-bike radio on my bike, allowing us to try them when we head off round Eastern Europe in a couple of week's time. These radios are supposed to be much better than the cheap ones we've used previously, but as always, I'll reserve judgement until we've seen how we get on... and at the weekend I bought some new tyres for my bike, ready for the trip...Finally, we bought a set of adjustable levers (brake & clutch) for Tracy's bike, as her delicate hands (!) are too small to reach the standard ones comfortably - just need to find time to get in the garage and start fitting all this stuff now!
So now we'd better curb the spending again as we need to get focused on our savings!
On Saturday my family had arranged a bit of a party at my sister's house, so we popped over - forced to take the car as Tracy's foot is still too swollen and painful for shoes, never mind bike boots. At least that made it easier to transport the remains of our wedding cake over to share with them! When we arrived the house was festooned with "Just Married" banners and balloons, apparently for us (Nikki and John are resisting the urge...) - and the house was full of kids - mostly my grandchildren, I think! The bouncy-castle in the front garden was a neat touch, even in the rain, as wet children filled the air with shrieks of laughter, whilst inside the adults made polite conversation and began trying to make a dent in all the booze Nikki and John had laid on (including several bottles of champers that deserved a better toast than I gave!). All of this was of no interest to my 2 youngest grandchildren, George and Alf(ie) (Danielle insists I should call him Alfie, but I prefer 'Alf') - who were engrossed in playing with the toys brought from my elder sister Kim's house (she's a full-time childminder and part-time saint)...
It was really nice to see all my family together in one place, and to watch my mum's face as she presided over 4 generations of the Beattie clan (me and my 3 siblings; our 7 children and my 4 grand-children [yes, I'm the only grand-parent so far!]).
It had been our intention to camp in Nikki's garden to give the tent an airing, but as her daughters and their friends we camping out, in a tent the size of my house, we took the opportunity to grab a spare bed inside... the heavy rain having nothing to do with our decision, of course!
And so after that hectic weekend, we look forward to another one. This Thursday we head down to Wales again, as I'm booked on the BMW Off-Road School course on Friday and Saturday... just hope I have better luck than Tracy, especially as we're off on our holidays just a week and a half later!!
03 July 2007
Well, after almost 6 years together, Tracy and I tied the knot on Friday… without telling hardly a soul…
It’s come as quite a shock to both our families as we’ve both said in the past that we would never remarry (we've both been married before), and that we saw no reason for marriage as we have both had children and don’t want any more… However, like so many of our plans, things change. Over the past few years we’ve been through a lot together, and wanted to make a firm commitment to our future, so we formed a new plan… desperate to avoid the usual problems that a wedding causes (not least the expense) and recognising that I would probably miss David too much if we did go for the big wedding, we quickly decided to do it quietly… so quietly that Tracy didn’t tell anyone even after I formally asked her whilst we were passing through a “kissing gate” during a walk in the Yorkshire Dales way back in February (a fact that didn’t even make our blogs…).
Our plan was simple, and for once we managed to carry it off perfectly. We’d already arranged to host a Thai Banquet for our friends on Saturday 30th June – to mark the “one year until we set off on our Round the World Trip point” , and so getting married on the Friday – the actual date of our departure – seemed ideal. The banquet invitations were sent out with the deliberate mistake of inviting our friends to attend the “Zero Anniversary Banquet” but no-one spotted the connection… then we had to choose some witnesses, and pick where we wanted to get married. As I’m from the Blackpool area, we decided upon the registry office there, and picked my old mate Pete and his wife as our witnesses – ideal as they don’t know my friends from home – and it gave us a great excuse to get back in touch as I’d not seen them for a couple of years. With them signed up and sworn to secrecy, and the registry office booked, our focus turned to domestic arrangements. Clearly we needed to get Katie and Carlie (and the dog, Jake) away from the house so we could get ready and hitched without them being suspicious… so, using the excuse of the banquet, we packed them off to Tracy’s mum & dad’s for the week, and put the dog in the kennels. How nice to have the house all to ourselves again!
Come the big day we got up and I set off for Blackpool on my bike, with Tracy driving up and we all met up at the registry office. The ceremony was a bit odd – just Pete, Helen, Tracy and me together with the registrar and her assistant. The registrar even started the ceremony without any warning, and it all passed very quickly, even with us having written our own vows. We took some pictures of us faking signing the register (having already signed it and being pronounced husband and wife), and then we rode/drove to the De Vere Hotel to take some photos against a more picturesque backdrop than the registry office car park – lounging on the bike, naturally!
Having had a drink with Pete & Helen we then returned home – a really odd feeling with me riding my bike and Tracy driving her car – and once back in our empty home we were able to relax with a bottle of champagne, followed by a really good steak washed down with a bottle of good wine from the cellar (despite having to throw away the first choice which was sadly corked).
Saturday was an early start as we had to prepare the food for the evening’s banquet. We’d already made the spicy sausage on Monday evening, and the curry paste for the duck dish on Tuesday, but it still took us over 7 hours to prepare the remaining ingredients - with a menu comprising 5 starters (spicy sausage, son-in-law eggs, pork & noodle parcels, spicy ground chicken and steamed scallops with garlic), a soup dish (crab and asparagus) and 4 main courses (red duck curry with pickled ginger, jungle curry with deep-fried shallots, wok-fried beef with long beans and chilli, and chicken noodles with basil leaves) – it was a marathon session! We still managed to get an hour’s break to watch Rossi win the Assen Moto GP race, though!
Our guests started arriving just before the allotted time, with Colin and Helen turning up 25 mins early, which served us right for making the point of asking everyone to turn up promptly! As they (like everyone else) didn’t know about the wedding we had to keep them occupied until everyone else arrived… no easy task as our wedding rings were on display, and we had “Just Married” written in big fridge-magnet letters on the fridge! Soon our other guests arrived, Helen, Ian, Wendy, Andy and Sam and I got the champagne from the fridge before setting them the challenge of spotting what was different… it took a while before Helen spotted the wedding rings, then someone asked if I’d got married (I replied “Yes”, naturally) and then someone else asked Tracy if she’d got married too!! (She replied “Yes, to him…”).
The rest of the evening ran smoothly, and the food was appreciated, which was nice (although I personally thought I’d made the jungle curry too hot and the duck was too rich). We even had a “cutting the cake” ceremony in our front room!
When they finally all left around 3am, we were left in no doubt that they all wished us well with our marriage!
Sunday was to be the day we told my family, but as Laura had been called in to work from 10am – 4pm, we decided to head over to Blackpool to tell my mum and sisters before going to see my kids… first I took the pannier rails off the bike so I could swap over to the standard GS ready for our forthcoming weekends away, then contacted Nikki to arrange the swap – only to be told they were planning on going out for the day… with no time to loose we rushed off on the bike in the rain and arrived at Nikki’s just in time to catch them… and then kept them talking for a good 15 minutes before revealing our news! Suitably surprised, we left them to go out and rode over to my mum’s – now on the GS having left the Adventure tucked away safely in Nikki’s garage. Mum was naturally surprised to see us, but we didn’t keep her waiting and told her about the wedding – she was absolutely thrilled, which helped calm our nerves a bit. After a short stay we headed to my other sister Kim’s house and told her the news, before heading all the way back towards home and then over to Halifax to call in to see Laura and Chris… only they were not in!! So much for surprising them…
Somewhat unhappy that our plans had been thwarted we headed over to Danielle’s house on the other side of town, and saw Chris’ car outside… 2 birds with one stone… and so we told them our news – at first they could not believe that we’d got married without telling them first, but when we explained our reasons to them, they understood. And so, leaving them still in shock we popped over to Katy’s and gave her and Stewart a surprise – their reaction was instantaneous and congratulations flowed straight away (Katy said she wasn’t surprised that I’d get married without telling anyone as that’s “just the sort of thing” I’d do… guess she knows me pretty well!!).
We finally got home quite late and I rustled up a chicken fried rice to help quell our hunger before we collapsed in front of the TV before retiring for the night, worn out… but with still more to do the following day…
On Monday, Tracy had arranged to go down to her mum and dad’s to pick up the girls, not telling them that I’d also be accompanying her. The drive down to Haverhill was not only long but also not very enjoyable as it was still raining very hard and there were sections of the A1 and M11 that had long stretches of deep standing water making the car aquaplane – but at least we’d not decided to go by bike!
For the story of how we told Tracy’s family, see her diary…
And so now we’re back home again, things are settling back to normal, but I’ve a ring on my finger and my wife is sat typing on her laptop not far away…
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