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.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A memorable ride

Sunday was another one of those lovely winter days that I've been telling you about; calm, clear and crisp and I couldn't wait to get out on the road and take a long round trip home, but I'm getting ahead of myself;
We wanted to go to the Good Food and Wine Show in Capetown and had earlier in the week decided that we would go on Saturday afternoon, typically the weather leading up to the weekend started to deteriorate and it rained! Friday night it rained and early Saturday, while we were enjoying our bottle of JC le Roux sparkling Sauvignon Blanc in the spa bath, it rained.
We are bikers, we're going! But determination wavers when faced with putting on the rain suits and heading off into the rain, it's all very well when you are out on a trip and get caught but to cold-bloodedly mount up and leave a warm dry house when it's raining?
We procrastinated a bit and by the time we mounted up, sans rain suits, the sky was starting to look like it might clear, it was 11h00 by the time we rode out of Saldanha and we got a few little spots of rain  but I could see blue sky to the south. We both had our winter jackets on, they are water repellant but not water proof but as we thundered south the sky started to clear as the clouds broke up and the weak winter sun started shining through.
It was cold but it was good, I waved a greeting to a few other intrepid bikers heading up our way as we cruised down the R27 and by the time we rode into the outskirts of the City and through to Linda's house the sky was pretty clear and it was no longer quite so cold.
We took a taxi to the show and back so that we could partake of the wine tasting and the beer tent without having to worry about road blocks, we spent about four hours there and by the end of that time I had had enough, it was so incredibly crowded as to be very unpleasant - been there, done that, got the tee shirt. Talking about tee shirts, I was wearing a rally tee shirt as usual and was greeted by three brothers during the afternoon, also wearing various rally shirts, reinforcing the brotherhood that exists between us even though I did not know them.
Sunday; We decided to take a ride up the N7 to Mooreesburg for a brunch at "Die Oude Stoep" which I have mentioned before, we have often stopped there for a drink, let's see what the food is like.
The N7 is a pleasant ride, especially on a Sunday as there is not too much traffic, it is the national road leading through to Namibia so is usually very busy with lots of heavy rigs.
Once we joined the N7 it was only about 80kms to Mooreesburg, I set up a steady 140 to 150km/h and we relaxed into a comfortable cruise through the farmlands, the pale wintry sun was by then starting to warm us and also apparently the little lambs frolicking next to their mothers in the veld, they would stop every now and then to nibble at the succulent green grass shoots which had been teased up by the first of the winter rains. Thousands of Sheep and Cattle grazing contentedly on hundreds of farms bordering the N7 as we sped happily by.
Now is the time when the normally dry Western Cape comes alive and green fynbos carpets the hills and valleys through which we rode, it was sublime, sheer pleasure and I cannot remember enjoying a ride so intensely as I did that one. It was with a slight sense of disappointment that I saw our destination drawing nearer through the pale, hazy sunlight.
At "Die Oude Stoep" in Mooreesburg a chalkboard propped in the doorway bore the legend; "Sorry kitchen closed." - bad news because hunger pangs had been with me for some time!
There is nowhere else to eat in Mooreesburg on a Sunday, at least that we know about so nothing for it but to press on, the next place is in Langebaan some 80kms away. We rode slowly along the link road some 20kms to the R45 because it is such a bad road but then wound it up to 16okm/h once we joined the R45.
Cruising along my thoughts revolved around food, I was hungry and there were a lot of options in Langebaan but I was leaning towards the Chinese restaurant; A & J's at the Laguna Mall, two weeks ago we had had the best prawns there and I fancied a Salmon hand roll as a starter. Salivating into my helmet I opened the throttle wider.
They did not disappoint, the prawns were crispy fresh in a sauce that made my fingers taste good, my starter Salmon hand roll was perfect and we finished off with a chicken dish with egg fried rice which we washed down with a bottle of cold Sauvignon Blanc. A & J's are having winter specials with as much as 20% discount on meals, sushi specials and buffets that really make it worthwhile, it's a great place to eat, we'll definitely be back even if only for the prawns!
A great day, a truly memorable ride and a delicious meal - really what more could one want? Maybe a winning ticket in the lotto?!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Winter - pros and cons

Winter is upon us! It has been pretty cold these past two weeks and we have had some of our first rain, we get winter rains on the Cape west coast so riding days are cut down a bit. Fortunately it is a relatively short winter and there are often wonderful balmy days right in the middle of the worst weather so we have to choose our riding days, you can't count on good weekends so planning a ride is difficult.
Having said that, our fifth annual Polar Bear run is booked for the last weekend in July! If you have been reading my stuff you will have seen that every Polar Bear run up until now has been held in the most wonderful weather even though they have been right in the middle of winter, let's hope the luck holds.
This year the run is to the Porterville Hotel which is only some 100kms from home but the idea is to do a long loop arriving at the hotel in the mid afternoon. That way it is only a short ride home after the party! I am going to plan the route and my buddy Dave has agreed to set up the cheese and wine stop on the way, we'll make it a good one and you can bet I'll tell you all about it.
I have had a couple of short local rides including a trip down to Capetown to get the new battery fitted, I enjoyed the ride so I'm not going to mention how much the battery cost!
A lot of our short rides take place around the Western Cape area, and particularly the area where we live so I thought I would show you how beautiful our area really is;
This view (over the fresh oysters) is of the Langebaan Lagoon stretching down towards Church Haven, this is a very popular tourist area and is always crowded in summer and the holiday season, the lagoon and the bay is a particularly popular area for kite surfers and wind surfers and some international events take place here. Langebaan is twenty minutes from home around the bay.
Behind the happy looking rider is the resort and restaurant "Weskus Plek" (West Coast Place) at Jacob's Bay, a very picturesque spot on the planet and only ten minutes from home. Other nearby coastal resorts which are often included in our rides are Paternoster, Saint Helena Bay and Velddrif on the banks of the Berg River where my friend Des has his rustic little shop the "Ek en Jy Visserye" which is a tongue-in-cheek take on the I & J Fishing Company.

Saldanha Bay is in its self a picturesque and pleasant little town but it loses out as far as tourism is concerned to the nearby places like Langebaan and Paternoster but perhaps that is better for us residents anyway. If you are interested check out Google Earth to get a look at the "Lie of the land" to see where we are, Saldanha is pretty much a fishing town with a couple of big industries like the Sea Harvest Factory and the Rock Lobster processing factory. It is also home to the mussel farm in which I am involved and also a large oyster growing area.
We have also got the export terminal for the iron ore which comes down from the Sishen area and which is loaded onto bulk ore carriers right here so we have quite a busy harbour.
At the moment the small subsistence fishermen are very busy with the shoals of Snoek (Thyrsites Atun) which are running and some beautiful specimens are being offloaded at Pepper Bay, the price seems to have come down to about R25 per fish so I think I'll get myself a lovely fresh one for the weekend.
The word soon spreads that the Snoek are running and the crowds come down to the jetty to buy some fresh fish direct from the boats, there's not a hell of a lot better than that.
From then it almost becomes a race for the boats to come in, tie up and sell their catches, most of the early boats sell the entire load to individual buyers,

Some of the later ones sell to the public, either in the local area or they park next to the road down in Capetown and sell them down there.
Look at those big fish, now at the start of the winter they start having a lovely fat stomach lining (much like mine actually!) which is absolutely delicious on the braai, I'm gonna buy me one. I love a Snoek braai with a bunch of freinds, Janet makes some garlic or creamy Aromat potatoes and a salad, not a hell of a lot better than that!
Maybe my next story will be about the Snoek braai - stay on two wheels and stay safe! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Riebeek Valley Olive Festival

It was Friday afternoon, about 15h00 by the time we had got our luggage packed and loaded, we had both been able to get off work early and I left the choice of transport up to Janet; the bike or the bakkie? There's more space to carry the things you buy with the bakkie but happily Janet chose the big red machine, I was hoping like hell she would but I was prepared to drive there if that was what she wanted. I really don't like going anywhere in the bakkie, why drive when you can ride?
It was fairly chilly as we headed out on the R45, around 17celsius and the sky was clear but with a little bit of cloud hanging over our destination. According to the weather service it would clear, Janet didn't even ask, she doesn't trust me or the weather service!
The R45 is boringly straight but fast and it wasn't long before we were slowing down for the left turn to Mooreesburg. There were three eighteen wheelers lined up on the side of the road, the drivers standing chatting as I blipped down through the gears and swung a stylishly low left turn. One raised his hand in greeting as I accelerated up again, I knew what he was thinking; "Man that Beemer sounds sweet!" because my bike does sound great with the new zorst pipe.
I blipped the throttle for their enjoyment (and mine) but then had to slow down because that's a terribly narrow and bumpy stretch of road, we continued at a more sedate pace and it was very pleasant just cruising along through the late afternoon sunlight, there was no wind and very little traffic which made it even more agreeable.
Alongside the fence a tractor was pulling a plough, churning up the ground and as we passed the earthy, evocative smell briefly filled our helmets
In Mooreesburg we stopped at "Die Oude Stoep", a pleasant bar and eatery with a wooden deck right next to the pavement, for a beer which turned into two.
While we were sitting there chatting two different SAP vans made several slow passes, watching bikers? One of the policemen nodded to Janet each time they went past.
After a very pleasant break we got back out on the road, a short 40kms to our destination for the weekend; the picturesque little town of Riebeek Kasteel and our friend Amanda's house. It was a lovely ride, there was just one heavy grey cloud backed up against the mountain which gave us just a few little spots of rain, nothing to worry about, it would be gone by morning. A great start to our weekend at the annual olive festival.
Saturday morning our friends all arrived and we spent most of the rest of the day exploring the festival, it was crowded but very well organised although this year there didn't seem to be any places where you could just sit down and have a drink!
We bought some delicious olives, bread, various supplies and then drove through to "Allesverloren" wine estate where there was a serious vibe going on, after a couple of bottles of wine, (bear in mind there were now eight of us!) we moved through to "Ed's Diner at The Barn" where there was a very good party going on.
There was a duo playing classic Rock favourites, much more to our liking so we settled down at a table to relax.
We spent about an hour and a half or so soaking up the vibe and then the band packed up! Time to move on, back to the house for a braai, lots of laughs and good times with good friends.
Everyone was up fairly early the next morning, not too many hangovers in evidence. Janet and I made breakfast for everyone, I made a fry-up with the leftovers from the previous evening's braai and Janet fried eggs.
After that it was pretty much time to go, the weather was beautiful and I was looking forward to the ride, first though it was time for the "Ladies by the Elderly people sign" photograph.
In 2010 it was just Janet in front of the sign, last year it was Janet, Caroline and Amanda and this year there were five of them with Janet and Pat - how many will it be next year?
We took our leave of our friends with promises to get together again as soon as possible, and of the lovely Riebeek Valley which is a very popular breakfast run venue for bikers, every Sunday the restaurants are busy with lots of gleaming chrome and metal machines lined up outside.
After 32kms to the N7 I turned south to Malmesbury instead of north to Mooreesburg, I wanted the slightly longer ride and the N7 is a good fast ride. 32kms to the R45, going that way adds about 80kms to the ride, but hey isn't that what it's all about?
We arrived back in Saldanha Bay just after 13h00 after a really enjoyable cruise, I was taking it fairly easy, and  went to the Beach Club for a cold one. What a day! What a weekend! The bike performed flawlessly even though it needs a new battery.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May Day ride

Monday 1st May, a public holiday and the last day of my five day break started out a bit cold with a very heavy fog. The plan was to do a mass ride with a bunch of local bikers and end up at "Spionkop" for a braai and a bit of a fun day.
Janet took one look out of the window and said; "You go, I've got lots of things I want to do today; my fingernails, my feet, shave my legs - I'm staying here." I left her to her girly stuff and fired up the big red machine.
The guys (someone) had chosen to meet in a carpark outside the high school in Vredenburg, nowhere to buy a coffee or anything, we just had to stand around and wait for others to arrive, Janet would have been complaining about that for a start!
Still fog but the bikers are undeterred
Time to chat as more and more friends arrive

The fog gradually started to lift and the sun came through, warming us up with the promise of a better day ahead.
Time to get going, it had been raining during the night but that was a thing of the past and due to the fact that there was still pockets of thick fog it was decided to ride straight through to Velddrif rather than do the mass ride through the towns.
 Us west coast riders are a disciplined bunch (sometimes!) and because it was only some 30 kilometres to Velddrif we settled into a nice staggered formation and just cruised along through the early Autumn morning.
Fortuitously, or perhaps it was by design, we arrived at "Die Wielhys" pub just after opening time and everyone parked in a disappointingly haphazard jumble of bikes, not thinking of the potential for photographs but rather of the first bitterly cold beer!
It was a fairly large group of bikes, I didn't count but there were more than twenty and a sudden, lively, and I'm sure very welcome cash injection for the owners of the biker friendly pub.
For a while the bar counter was a bit crowded but the lady coped very well and soon we all had our beverage of choice in hand and moved out back to the braai area.

Nice decolletage in pink!
Bikers - some may avoid them, or avoid the places where they gather, but they are good solid people with whom I am proud to associate and of whom I am happy to be a part.
I took my leave, I was taking my lady out for lunch, inside Diedre was celebrating having passed her motorbike licence with Frank, congratulations Diedre!
It was a fast ride back to Saldanha where I substituted two wheels for four, I would have at least one more beer and over a leisurely lunch we would share a bottle of Robertson's delicious Sauvignon Blanc, what a great day! What a great weekend, back to work tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bonnievale weekend getaway

After nearly having to cancel our intended weekend away I eventually managed to secure accommodation in the little town of Bonnievale, up until then wherever I tried I got the same message; "Sorry we are fully booked." and it wasn't because we are bikers, I hadn't mentioned that! It was just because of the long weekend, it seemed that herds of people were getting out of town.
Friday 27th is a South African holiday and Tuesday 1st May is also a holiday, I put in a day's leave on Monday so I have a five day break, wonderful! I had spoken to Frank and our friend Janet who was very keen to get on the back of a motorbike again so they were both going to join us although Janet would be travelling to Bonnievale in her car.
Friday dawned cold and grey! We were meeting Frank at the Engen One-stop at 11h00 and I was hoping that by then the weather would clear but it didn't seem to be getting any better as we loaded the bike and saddled up. We arrived at the meeting place before Frank and had a cup of Wimpy's famous coffee, man it was cold! There was no rain forcast but we couldn't count on that either and as we headed out on the R45 towards Mooreesberg the clouds looked even lower and heavier. No matter, we were on two wheels and out on the road.
Our first stop was in the town of Wolseley where I filled my tank, it's not much of a town but it is in the middle of our favourite biking country so I was beginning to enjoy myself, also the weather was starting to clear, things were looking up!
We rode the remaining 60-odd kms through to Worcester where it was time to have something to eat, we decided on a brunch because we were planning a braai for the evening, our usual eating place at the "Whistle Stop" was absolutely crowded, more evidence of people wanting to get away for the long weekend so we went to the "Dros" in the town, not my favourite eating place but the burgers were good and the wine went down well;
it went down so well in fact that it made my head glow!
From Worcester to Robertson the 67km stretch of the R60 is one of my favourite roads, it is not particularly winding but it is a fantastic wide, smooth road and there was minimal traffic, most of which moved over to let me pass. Janet elected to ride the rest of the way in the car with her friend who had joined us in Worcester so I blasted off alone setting a fast 160-170km/h pace and thoroughly enjoying myself under a by then partly cloudy but mainly blue sky, how wonderful to be out on two wheels - if you don't ride then you don't know.
 The wine farming area is incredibly picturesque with the road winding through verdant valleys and vineyards with the smells varying from floral pleasant to fertilizer pungeant, but the experiences are all the better, more intense from the saddle of a motorbike.
We eventually found our accommodation in the town and settled down for the evening, I had previously wrapped potatoes and onions in tin foil and had brought some sirloin steak, lamb chops and boerewors from home for the braai.
While the potatoes and onions were cooking I prepared some steak tasties, of course we had earlier purchased the necessary beverages at a local bottle store and we settled down for a relaxed evening after some 320km on the bike.
It was a good braai, we all had a fun evening peppered with the usual bullshit and all agreed that it had been a great start to the weekend.
After a good night's sleep we eventually saddled up under a leaden sky and by the time we got rolling there were a few spots of rain but we didn't let that deter us as we headed down another favourite road towards Swellendam, we were obviously not in any hurry but I couldn't help increasing my speed a bit to enjoy the wide, undulating ribbon of tar winding through the Langeberg mountain range, I was in biker heaven.
"The Cheese Shop" is on the left hand side of the road shortly before Swellendam and in my haste, or perhaps just because of the fact that I was enjoying myself so much, I overshot the turnoff and we had to "U" turn. We bought a selection of delicious cheeses and spreads for dinner and then continued on our way.
We passed Swellendam and had a really good breakfast at a popular cafe, by then it was starting to rain a bit and we wondered if we were in for a downpour. By the time we got back on the road it appeared that the sky was clearing from the west so we decided to head that way.
We took the narrow R324 which winds its way through the little village of "Suurbrak" and then to the incredibly narrow, winding Tradouws Pass leading to the R62 and the town of Barrydale.
I mentioned in an earlier post that we had stopped in the pass to drink whisky mixed with the spring water that flows from the mountain and Janet asked if we could stop at that spot, unfortunately we did not have any whisky with us this time but Janet drank the water anyway.
This water is awesome!
We had a minor glitch where I left my ignition on and my battery nearly let us down, while we sat and chatted in the pass,
Frank loves an attentive audience!
after trying unsuccessfully to push start the big red machine it decided to start anyway, much to our relief and soon we were on our way. Out of the pass and on to the R62, ten kilometres to the Karoo Saloon for an ice cold beer.
From the Saloon it is a fantastic ride, some 50 kms along the R62 to Montagu, as you leave the Karoo Saloon you enter an uphill pass that starts you off on a wonderful fast run that is over all too soon. We cruised through the little town, famous for its hot springs resort, and headed through towards Ashton,
the incredibly beautiful section of road between Montagu and Ashston where we dived through the hole in the rock,
and rode slowly through the town because I've had a speeding fine here before, then back through to Bonnievale,
We took the bikes to the house and then all clambered into Janet's little car to go down to "The Outdoor Arena", the only drinking hole in the little town, it turned out to be a very pleasant little pub,
where we enjoyed some of the locally produced red wine befor heading back home for our own cheese and wine party.
It was shortly after this that the party started to deteriorate, the "ladies" (and I use the term with great respect) went off to bed and Frank and I got into rally mode,
A while later, after Frank had finished his Cane and my Whisky was also depleted, we turned in for the night, another very enjoyable day and the ride home to look forward to.
The next morning we were all up pretty early but Frank was still asleep and as I wanted to get going I had to wake him up, this was the sight that greeted me;
Frank cannot get going before he has had his five cups of tea and four cigarettes so I had to get him up and about if we were going to get away at any sort of reasonable time.
After saying our goodbyes to Janet we saddled up and got on the road, we took the previously unexplored section of the R317 that winds interestingly through the farming area to the R60 just short of the town of Ashton where I filled my tank. Next time we go back to Bonnievale I will use that same route, isn't it lovely to ride previously unknown roads?
The sky was again clearing nicely as we pointed our machines towards the west and home, our plan was to ride through to Worcester and then bypass Wolseley and ride up the Mitchell's Pass to have a brunch in Ceres.
An unbelievable ride! The R43 winds past the turnoff to Wolseley through amazingly, almost breathtakingly beautiful farmlands to join up with the R60 which then climbs up through the even more beautiful Mitchell's Pass. It's almost an anticlimax to arrive in the town and drive through the congested streets but the Wimpy breakfast was very good.
From there we parted ways, Frank said that he was going to fill up and take it easy home, he would have a few smoke breaks along the way so we said goodbye and made our way out of the town. The ride back down the pass was just as good and soon we were threading our way through the heavy vehicle traffic which is always a feature of the R46, luckily because it was Sunday this was not too heavy and we were able to maintain a reasonable speed.
We kept up a good pace, enjoying the clear weather and the open roads and stopped for a bum stretch in Mooreesburg just forty-five minutes from home.
We arrived home at 14h00, tired but elated after a fantastic weekend, the big red machine had performed flawlessly inspite of a suspect battery which I must now replace before we do any more long trips, but what a wonderful touring machine it is, very comfortable and powerful enough to cruise effortlessly at high speed all day. I wouldn't even consider doing the same trip in a car.
Frank's text message saying that he was home safe came through pretty much exactly an hour later, all's well that ends well and now we look forward to the next ride.