Welcome to my blog, these are the ramblings and musings of an (upper) middle aged biker and if you enjoy braais, (barbeques) beers and motorbikes then hopefully you will enjoy what Janet and I do; we do lots of braais, we drink lots of beer and we tour South Africa on our motorbike, which at the moment is a BMW R1200RT. Join us, read about what we do and please leave us your comments.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Diet and revised Sturgis plans

I have been back at work for a week now, the holiday is just a wonderful memory. I am also on a diet, I was overweight when we started the holiday and of course it only got worse so now I want to lose at least 20kgs! Janet has got us both on the "drinking man's diet" for a couple of weeks and then we are going onto a detox seven day diet out of hell.
We will clear our social calendar, retire to our home with the curtains closed, discourage any visitors and just go to work and then back to the house to drink mixed juice made up of fruit and vegetables for each meal, there will be no alcohol or coffee either - I think I may have to pad the walls of the house! We'll see how it goes. Janet I will probably try to kill each other after the first day, let alone seven!
We have also decided that 2010 is the year of saving money, no more spending large amounts of money on restaurants, so this blog is going to go back to detailing braais and potjies as it was intended. We will still be doing lots of biking and on those rides there will obviously be the occasional restaurant for breakfast etc., but no more evenings wasting money on mediocre meals.
The reason for this year of almost monastic living is to save money for the Sturgis trip in 2011, after much discussion between Janet, my daughter Christie and several friends I have decided that the Sturgis trip is still on but with one major difference.
We were recently chatting about the trip and Christie was asking questions like;
"So, are you going to be camping for the whole trip?" innocent smile on her face.
"Yes," I replied "apparently the ablution facilities are first class."
"Will you have a chair for Mom to sit on in the evenings?" laughing now.
"Well no, but I'm sure there will be benches around."
"So when Mom wants to go for her afternoon nap, she will have to go to a tent?" almost hysterical laughter.
"Well yes," by now I'm beginning to see the light, Janet has a slight smile on her face.
"And when she gets home from the rally every night she's going to have to climb into a tent?" both of them almost falling about now. "I think you should let Mom stay with us and you go to the rally."
"Yes!" the first word from Janet.
I was guided, mostly by my lovely daughter, to see that what I had been doing was insisting that Janet take part in my dream because we always ride together. What I failed to appreciate was that what is a dream for me would be more like a nightmare for her, Janet is not a fan of motorbike rallies at the best of times but, bless her she is happy for me to go so this how it is now going to go;
We fly to the UK where I will spend a couple of days with my family, then I fly out to the US for my adventure of a lifetime after which I return to the UK laden with tee shirts and photos to collect my wife and return to South Africa.
Don't despair about what I have written here, there will still be lots to write about; in my last post I mentioned the upcoming Freedom Road rally and last night I got a call from Des about the 3rd annual Polar Bear run which will take place in the second half of July, there will be lots of riding!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stellenbosch and Franschoek

As I said on my Facebook page; "I haven't had enough riding yet" - so on Saturday morning we packed a few things into the panniers which included a spare pair of underpants (each), a toothbrush (each), and Janet's hairdryer and off we went in search of more adventure. I figured that I only have two more days before I have to go back to work, the weather is beautiful so let's ride!I had to park in front of this sign because that's what lots of people call me!
It has been many years since we have ridden the R315 from the R27 through Darling, where Pieter Dirk Uys and his alter ego Evita Bezuidenhout have a theatre/restaurant "Evita's se Perron", and now I remember why! It is a terrible road, incredibly rough and even the BMW's adjustable suspension had a hard time of it so we cruised the 50 some kilometres and just enjoyed the scenery and the calm, warm weather.
From Malmesbury the road improved and we were able to open it up a bit, the weather was warming up and we were starting to feel the heat. We sped along the R302/304 with motorists very obligingly moving over to the side for us, which I always acknowledge with a slight wave of my left hand.
After about an hour we cruised through the University town of Stellenbosch and into the wonderfully picturesque "Morgenhof wine Estate" for lunch.
It seemed to be alright that we were bikers, at least nobody seemed to mind and we got a table even though the waiter asked us "Did you made a reservation?" and I was like "No!"
The food was outstanding, but it was to get even better as I was to discover later on that day. My starter at Morgenhoff was "Salmon gravadlax served on a herbed blue cheese shortbread, mushroom panna cotta and baby greens dressed with aspargus coulis" (R50) and it was delightful, the mushroom panna cotta was sublime and Janet's "Smoked tomato soup with kingcrab mousse and avocado foam" (R45) was delicious - I had some so I can vouch for it.
The mains were just as good; My "Springbok loin served on prune gnocchi, braised cabbage, glazed pears and coffee and walnut puree" (R135) was unbelievably good and there was plenty of meat too, Janet had a cheese and fruit platter which was too much for her to eat so I also had some of that! This you might think a bit excessive for a couple of bikers who might normally be happy with a burger but we had decided that as this was the last weekend of our holiday we were going to enjoy it.
By then it was unbelievably hot so (even though Frank would not have approved!) we packed our jackets into the topcase and rode in tee shirts back to Stellenbosch for petrol and then into the fantastic "Hellshoogte Pass" on the R310, about halfway though we pulled into the parking area of the 5 star Delaire wine estate where a tasting of four wines cost R35, I did buy two bottles of their really good Rose' to take home with us though.
Just look at that setting! The scenery around Stellenbosch and Franschoek is absolutely beautiful and the roads are made especially for bikers to enjoy, wide and smooth with lots of twisty mountain passes! From Delaire we rode through to "Boschendal", a well known estate where the wines and the tasting is a lot more reasonable; R15 for 5 wines.
Now before you all get on your "high horses" about us biker scum drinking so much wine while we are riding our motorbikes, let me just point out that five tasting glasses are the equivalent of one regular glass of wine, so after lunch (where we had two beers and a bottle of wine) we only had two more glasses of wine each.
Pretty soon it was time to find accommodation so we rode through to Franschoek, a ridiculously popular tourist village and it was crowded with foreigners; I saw gloriously attractive young Dutch girls and German girls in flimsy, short skirts and clinging tops barely concealing pert breasts............but enough of that! I had to concentrate, we needed a place to sleep and eventually we parked the big red machine next to "Orchard cottage at Bo La Motte Estate" (R700) for the night but we had no alternative and it was very nice.We got settled quite early so Janet had a bit of a snooze and I relaxed with a book and we just tried to cool down a little and just after 5pm we went into the village, our first visit was to "Reuben's" where the bar counter is made from the wing of a Douglas DC3 Dakota, pretty cool and the beer was cold.
We tried to book a table there for dinner but I was told that it was fully booked, this turned out to be a blessing although I was beginning to doubt that we would be able to get into any of the restaurants that night. We spent a very pleasant evening wandering around the village, had a couple of beers at "Taki's Place", a pub on the main road where I was able to watch more of those pretty young foreign tourists wandering around and eventually we ended up at "Le Bon Vivant" for dinner. What a fantastic experience that was!
Here's my starter; grilled scallops, tomato confit, black pasta, dried onion and squid ink jus. (R90) I cannot decribe how good that was, I have never had "Squid ink" before but it was delicious! Janet had a prawn starter which was just as good and then the mains;
I had Norwegian Salmon, basil and marscapone stuffed calamari, potato beignettes with a mango sauce (R115) and now I get it; This food was a bit more expensive than the usual but it was outstanding food!!!!!! Usually we go to restaurants where the food is not as good, or just as good as we can do at home, now we need to go less often - like once a month - to this kind of place where the food is prepared by a chef, and it is definitely not what we can do at home. Just look at the Tiramisu that we shared.We relaxed on the veranda after our meal and finished our bottle of wine, it was a wonderfully calm and warm evening and riding the motorbike back to our cottage was particularly enjoyable later that evening. We had a comfortable sleep and over a cup of coffee the next morning we packed up early and got on the road.

It is not a long way from Stellenbosch to Saldanha so we took it easy and just enjoyed the cool morning weather, there was not much wind and we could feel that it was going to be hot later on.
We stopped along the way for a bit of a leg stretch and the obligatory photo opportunity and then cruised on home, all in all a tremendously enjoyable few days on the motorbike. There it is; Saldanha 6km - the ride's over and we have to go back to work. Pity about that! My next scheduled ride is the weekend of 12-14 February when I will be going to the Freedom Road Rally in Stilbaai - already looking forward to that! I am sure we will ride before that so I will keep you posted, stay on two wheels and stay safe.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Four days on the road

We got back today from a really good road trip, we only did about 1,000kms in the four days but it was a very enjoyable ride and we renewed an old friendship.It was a rather cold, foggy morning as we set out on the road, we had to leave early because I was taking the big red machine to the BMW dealership in Capetown for its 50,000km service and the earlier I could get there, the earlier they would be finished. It was an epic battle with Capetown's rush hour traffic but I quite enjoy that so we had no trouble lane-splitting and we got the bike in on time.
Rather conveniently the BMW dealership is at the famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront so we spent the morning there, we went to see the fantastic movie "Avatar" which we both enjoyed tremendously and for lunch I tucked into a delicious pan of prawns.Mid afternoon saw us on the road, we took the N2 as far as Somerset West, through the Strand and then onto the wonderfully picturesque Clarence drive which hugs the coast all the way to Betty's Bay. Perhaps because it was Monday that fantastic road was not very busy and we were able to enjoy it.
We arrived in Hermanus at about 16h00 and got settled into our accommodation, the place was very ordinary except for the fact that the stairway was so steep and narrow that I decided not to even try to carry the suitcases up!
This picture was taken from the landing next to the bedroom, looking down the stairs - can you imagine trying to carry a couple of suicases up those stairs?! We left the cases downstairs and ferried our clothes, toiletries and whisky up, much safer that way.Then we went to meet our old friends John and Tina, lovely people that we hadn't seen for at least 37 years, maybe even a bit longer! We sat together at their favourite spot on the shore and chatted over a couple of drinks and soon it was like we hadn't even been apart, it was wonderful and we will be seeing more of each other. How valuable is friendship like that?
Later that evening they took us to one of the most fantastic restaurants that I have ever been to; the Quayside Cabin in the harbour - Man I have to go back there!
The kitchen is in a container and I think the whole place seats only about 40 people, it is busy almost every night so you have to get there early or try to book a table. It is a seafood restaurant only so if you want meat don't go there, it is in the harbour with a beautiful view of the bay and the mountains over Hermanus and the food is amazing! The whole atmosphere, the place and the setting is just right, you just know the food will be great.
John and I had a starter of "Whitebait" which is the deep fried anchovy, I haven't had it for ages only because it is so hard to get and it was delicious. My main course was a fabulously fresh fillet of Kob (Argyrosomus hololepidotus) an underrated but very flavourful fish, especially when fresh. It was a truly memorable evening, the highlight of our trip.
Tuesday morning we woke up to the sound of rain! "Don't worry," I said to Janet with more confidence than I felt, "it won't rain for long, you'll see, after breakfast it will be over." Hah!!! We had a good breakfast at the "Mug and Bean" and when we walked out it was still raining, we pulled our rain suits on and got going - do we care? Actually we got caught in pretty hard rain and the visibility was extremely poor at times so we rode about 75kms and sought refuge at the Caledon Hotel and Casino, this turned out to be rather expensive refuge because Janet couldn't find her Mojo, she was convinced that the machines were out to get her! Normally Janet does quite well with the slot machines and has often paid for the evening from her winnings, not this time! I will have to take her to the local Mykonos Casino so that she can get her Mojo back.
After a good breakfast the next morning we mounted up and rode back down the R316 towards Napier, only because it is such a wonderful piece of road and I hadn't been able to enjoy it the previous day, we turned onto the R326 and enjoyed the 26km stretch to the N2. It was an overcast morning but according to the forcast there would be no rain, the bike was performing beautifully after the service, smooth and powerful - a sensation that is hard to describe but easy to enjoy.
We joined the N2 highway and surged along the easy 70kms to the town of Swellendam where we stopped for petrol and beer. Whilst enjoying the beer the landlord remarked on something that I had heard about from someone else but had not seen; a fresh water spring in the Tradouw's Pass where someone had long ago cemented a pipe and the water trickled out next to the road, clear, cold and fresh. I determined to find it, I had a bottle of whisky so off we went.
The Pass is tricky, tight hairpin bends and a narrow road that requires concentration. I had a rough idea where the spring was but it still took me two tries before I found it, we had to turn back for another slow search but it was worth it!
Johnny Walker Red and fresh, clear mountain spring water! Come on, how cool is that? As I have said before; "Life is too short for cheap whisky." and if you can mix it like that then what could be better?
Don't worry it was a very watered down whisky! We sat there for a while and just enjoyed the quiet, peaceful mountain pass - it was a magical time.
Soon it was time to get going, we could easily have stayed there for another dop but that wouldn't have been a good idea and anyway we wanted to check in at the "Karoo Saloon" on the R62.Cape bikers know this place, it is a biker pub on the famous R62. We pulled in and had a beer but there was no one there so after a brief stop we were on the way again.
From there we rode all the way through Montagu, then we took the R318 to the N1 highway and I must admit that by the time we stopped at the intersection with the N1 I was seriously saddle sore, Janet assured me that she was as well as she laboriously climbed off the bike. We walked it out for a bit, "Which way do you want to go?" I asked her, "55kms to Worcester or 83kms to Ceres?"
She opted for Ceres which was what I had had in mind too, so we mounted up, I kicked up the side stand and we powered out onto the N1 heading north - Man I was in my element! It was just over half an hour that we cruised into Ceres and booked into the Ceres Inn for a comfortable night. That had been just over 400kms, not a lot for us but we hadn't ridden any major distance for quite a while so I think we were not quite "bike-fit".
The last day was an easy ride home, I was quite sorry to end the trip. I took it easy because it was only a two hour ride although I did get a "finger-wag" from a traffic cop who was stopping traffic going the other way - Who me, speeding? No way Man!
We still have three days leave, back to work on Monday - maybe there will be time for another ride before then?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Son - the artist.

All of our children have now gone back home, the holiday was fantastic but the airport "Goodbye" scenes are heart wrenching, but what a fantastic three weeks it has been and for those of you who know me on Facebook you will have seen the family photos and the wonderful time we have had.
Having my son here was special and while he was here he took the time to do a pencil rendition of our favourite picture. In the sidebar photos there is a copy of a picture that he drew freehand in 1995 and it was amazing to see how much his technique has improved since then, particularly since he has had no formal training or instruction at all.
That actually looks like us! And the detail of the motorbike is fantastic, so if you want a pencil drawing of your favourite picture send it to me and I will get him to do it for you.
My daughter came for a ride on the bike, how lucky and privileged I felt to be able to do that! She has always been keen on motorbikes ever since junior school when I used to pick her up for the weekend on my Yamaha 1100, she's a relaxed and easy rider and we had a lovely cruise around the area.
Janet and I still have a week left of our holiday, tomorrow we are going to Capetown to get the bike serviced, at the end of this month the bike is four years old and I am having the 50,000km service done. That is 12,500km per year that we have averaged, just over 1,000km per month or 33km per day for a 30 day month - I think that is quite a lot of riding, what do you think?
After the service we will spend three or four days doing a bit of a ride around, apart from Monday evening in Hermanus where I will meet up with an old BSAPolice buddy whom I haven't seen for some 37 years, we have no agenda, we will just go where the mood and the bike takes us.
Stay with me my friends, I will take lots of photos and show you some of the scenic areas around the Cape. I also have more news about my Sturgis plans, this is going ahead for 2011.
"Gone riding - back on Thursday."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Zip-lock bag omelettes

I want to tell you about a really clever recipe that I received via email recently, it was attributed to "Kitchen Monkey" whoever that might be, but I figured that as it is going out on email I can pass it along via this blog. It is for omelettes made in a ziplock bag! Fantastically quick and easy although I intially had trouble trying to crack the egg into the bag on my own!
After that we figured out that it is easier if someone else holds the bag and you crack two eggs into it.

After writing your inital on the bag with a felt tip marker, you then "squish" the eggs around in the bag.

Then it's just a matter of adding a few extra ingredients, small pinches of chopped tomato, ham, onions, cheese etc., you "squish" them around a bit more to mix the ingredients, seal the top of the bag after expelling as much of the air as you can and then pop the bags into a pot of boiling water, put the lid on and leave them for thirteen minutes.

Take them out of the pot, cut the bag open and a perfectly cooked omelette slips out of the bag onto the plate as a really tasty and individually prepared accompaniment to your other breakfast items. What a brilliant idea - thank you "Kitchen Monkey".
I did a lunch - not on the same day - of braaied leg of lamb and as I have already posted that twice, I will not go into the details but I thought that the photos are worth showing even if only to get your taste buds going;
The side dishes that you see here are sweetcorn soufle', creamy Aromat potatoes and a green salad.
Isn't food great? We love it! Janet and I were involved in the Open air Seafood restaurant business for ten years, I used to do all of the cooking for sometimes up to 200 people but that's a story for later.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back on the bike

Boys will be boys! As soon as my grandsons saw the big red machine parked in the garage they said "Wow, cool!" or words to that effect and they both wanted to sit on it.
They haven't wanted to go for a ride yet but I'm thinking maybe we can do a little tootle up and down the road outside the house before they go back to England.
Yesterday was one of the hottest days we have had for ages and we had already arranged to go down to Capetown, the temparature got up to 34 to 37 celsius which is 96 to 98 fahrenheit so we baked. Janet and I took the opportunity to go down on the motorbike while the family drove down in the car, we had a very enjoyable ride even though the R27 to Capetown is a rather boring road. It was incredibly busy for some reason and it was a pleasure to be on the bike, most cars moved aside to let us past and even if they didn't (you get the occasional idiot!) I have enough power to sweep past even if the gap is small. I love it!
We pulled over in a shady laybye to wait for the family to catch up and I took this photo so that you can all see how Janet's jeans seriously clashed with our colour scheme, she was unconcerned. We all stayed overnight with Linda and the next day the guys all went to a theme park while the ladies had a make up and fashion underwear day, Janet spent quite a lot of money on some really cool bras - I'm not complaining!
The ride home was also very nice and pretty quick, I just hope there weren't any speed traps!After dropping Janet at home I ended up at the Phoenix bar in Vredenburg for a cold one.
The Phoenix bar is a relatively new place in the same premises as the old "Blue Diamond", if you have been reading this blog for a while you may remember that we were able to ride our bikes into the Blue Diamond and park them next to the bar counter, this was extremely cool but was destined not to last due to Health and Safety regulations.
The new bar is very well laid out with six pool tables and they play very good music, the owner is a biker so the local bikers are supporting him already - let's see the Capetown bikers back up here.
I thought I would end up with some good examples of "Engrish", this was on the box of some water pistols that we bought for the boys, don't you just love it?