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, November 29, 2010

Toy Run 2010

Sunday we were up good and early and at the Engen One Stop by about 07h45, while I filled the tank my lovely lady went into the Wimpy to get me a cup of coffee and a hot chocolate for herself.
Unfortunately the "Cape Doctor", the south easterly wind had already started pumping and I think that put quite a few people off the ride, there were far fewer than anticipated.
By the time we roared out of the forecourt and settled into a staggered formation for the ride south we were twelve motorcycles, maybe eighteen people with a good lot of toys tied onto the bikes or packed into panniers for underprivileged children.
Frank met Janet in Capetown, she was to be his pillion passenger for the ride, and we headed to one of the gathering places at the Ratanga Junction car park.
My buddy Frank was more than happy to have an attractive pillion passenger on his Yamaha FJR for the day. One of the first changes that we saw was that there was a bar and boerewors rolls on sale, they were doing a brisk business! We have had to carry a cooler bag with a couple of cold cans of beer on previous runs, this was far more convenient.
The place was filling up quickly with all sorts of people on all types of motorbikes and there were all types of toys in evidence.
They start them young here, in a few years she will be doing the toy run herself!
At 10h30 the ride started led by the "Harley Owners Group", why they have to start it off I don't know, maybe it is the only time they don't get overtaken by other motorbikes on the road? It's chaos at first and we normally hang back for about half an hour just to let the huge bottle-neck at the gate clear before we tag onto the end of the throng of eager bikers.
The idea is that the crowd at the Ratanga Junction car park would be starting shortly before the mob at the Ottery Hypermarket so that we would not all converge on Maynardville at the same time, this apparently didn't work because the traffic was very heavy.
There was a lot of slow riding, lots of stops and my left arm got very tried pulling on the clutch all the time, also by the time we reached Maynardville my temperature guage was reading higher than I have ever seen it before! I was glad to park the bike and let it cool down. The place was absolutely crowded! Many hundreds, if not thousands more than last year, it was literally shoulder to shoulder with happy revellers. What I did notice was that there appeared to be many non-bikers in the crowd this year, this is great and they are all welcome as long as they bring at least one toy.
Our first port of call was to the trailers to get rid of the toys, as you can see the first one was already full and the second was nearly there. Janet handed our toys in and then we made our way to the beer tent, the band "Joe Public" was already rocking the crowd.
We found ourselves a spot just near to the entrance and soon met up with friends passing through,
Jean the El Presidente of the infamous "Kreefsmokellaars" went past with a slightly better crash helmet than he had on at the "Vlakvark" rally!
Once I got my first cold beer in hand I was alright, we hung around for about an hour or two, meeting and greeting old friends and finishing off the second beer and then we decided it was time to go. We had a much easier ride through town this time and headed for the Viper Lounge, one of our favourite Capetown biker pubs where we met up with Linda. After a quiet drink there and a chat with the locals we went around the corner for a wonderful seafood lunch at one of our favourite places; the "Ocean Basket"
We ended off a very pleasant day with a good, fast ride home along the R27 and an A.B.F * at the Phoenix Bar in Vredenburg. It had been an enjoyable and a rewarding day spent with good friends doing something that felt good.
This one was our thirteenth consecutive year on the toy run and it will certainly not be our last, we really love being involved in such a worthy project. I am convinced that the organisers; the Italian Motorcycle Owners Club achieved their target of 30,000 toys this year, I certainly hope so.
I have since heard that there is to be another Toy Run in our own area next Sunday, this is great and we will definitely be there. Any excuse for a jol!
* Absolute Bloody Final

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Annual Toy Run

Tomorrow is the annual Toy Run, an event that we look forward to each year. It was started in 1983 by the Italian Motorcycle owners club when something like ten motorcycles took part, now they are estimating that something like 65,000 motorcycles all over the country will gather on the same day to donate toys to needy children.
It says something about bikers doesn't it? Who else gathers to do something like that? The hatchback owners club? Any car clubs? Bikers will gather to raise funds for any brother in need, they gather to donate blood, they gather to give blankets to the homeless, they gather to donate pet food to the SPCA. Bikers are big hearted and will give generously to any deserving charity when called upon.
Tomorrow we will be taking part in our thirteenth annual run and I wouldn't miss it for the world, the feeling and the atmosphere created by the bikers and by the people who gather to wave and applaud us is heady stuff and it just feels so good to be there. The organisers are hoping to collect 30,000 toys this year and I am sure they will, the large majority of bikers carry much more than one toy and some bikes are absolutely festooned with them. We have a topcase full of toys, puzzles and colouring books as well as the obligatory teddy bear who will ride on the bike.

The local bikers are gathering for a mass ride down to Capetown so we will be riding with them, I am looking forward to another really enjoyable day with a nice lunch somewhere before the ride home, I will tell you all about it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chapman's Peak Drive

With the big red machine due for its 60,000km service I managed to get the day off to take it down to Atlantic Motorrad at the Waterfront in Capetown, what a jol, a mid week break and a long ride and they lent me an R650GS to play with!
Janet was already in Capetown having a reunion with her five sisters in Kommetjie so I decided to go there to see them; Alayne from New Zealand, Heather from England, Gael from Richard's Bay and Beverley from Johannesburg all at Lesley's place.
I decided to take the scenic route over the iconic Chapman's Peak road as I had plenty of time to get there and I wanted to take some photographs.It was a lovely day to start with but the wind came up later in the morning which tended to shove me around a bit. I rode through Camps Bay past the 12 Apostles mountains to Hout Bay and then up over the pass.
I made a few stops to take photographs, the F650GS was a very nice, fun bike to ride, if a little underpowered it is very nimble and flickable with its wide handlebars and upright seating position right over the front wheel. I certainly wouldn't mind having one as a second bike.
Chapman's Peak drive is an amazing engineering feat, an incredibly picturesque road carved out of the mountain. Work began in 1915 and the road was officially opened in 1922, it is popular with cyclists (whom I consider to be crazy people), motorists, tourist buses and of course due to its winding and picturesque nature - bikers, however because of the large volume of traffic it is not a fast ride and you usually find bikers just cruising along enjoying the view.
Rock falls were a constant threat, especially in the winter months, and a series of unfortunate events lead to the closing of the road in January 2000. R145 million was spent on reconstruction and eventually the road was reopened as a toll road in December 2003, here you can see one of the myriad rock catching fences on the left of the picture.
Incidentally, and I stand to be corrected here, this is the only toll road in South Africa which charges a reduced price for motorcycles; R18 as opposed to R24 for cars.
The flag on the corner is the Shark spotters flag and the blue one must mean it is safe because there were surfers in the bay below. I stopped again just to enjoy the view overlooking Kommetjie beach, perhaps also to summon the courage for my upcoming visit with the sisters-in-law!
It was with some trepidation that I parked the bike outside Lesley's house but it turned out to be a lovely visit and I spent a very pleasant couple of hours with Janet and my in-laws.
I returned the little GS and collected my beloved RT, which felt a little big and heavy for just a couple of minutes until I got used to it again, and then hit the West Coast road and had a good fast ride home.
Since we bought the bike in February 2006 we have averaged over 1,000kms per month which I think is a fair bit of riding and there is still a heck of a lot more to do - stay with me my friends.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A moving tale, for me anyway

"She won't remember him but he's given her a lifetime of memories."
I was busy at my computer and I heard that one sentence come from the television in the next room, it is an incredibly powerful and evocative sentence and it certainly invoked a wonderful memory for me - if you don't mind I will tell you about it, it was in the end an incredibly moving experience for me;
Many years ago, shortly after moving to Saldanha, I was strolling on the beach with one of my brothers-in-law and a good friend when suddenly we heard anguished shouting further down the beach, "Help my daughter, I can't swim!", this panicked fellow was shouting repeatedly for help as we ran towards the spot and saw a guy in the water up to his chest pointing away from the shore.
I looked around and saw a tiny little girl sitting in a little inflatable toy boat about 100 metres from the shore, there was a slight offshore breeze and she was gradually drifting further away. Now I am a fair swimmer but in those days I was a working scuba diver in the bay so I was used to a bouyant wet suit and flippers!
I struck off towards her, taking it easy so as not to get too tired by the time I reached her but as I did I noticed that the little boat was deflating quickly and she was about to topple out, just as I caught hold of the boat and reassured her that everything was alright she fell out of the damn thing! This is the stuff of nightmares!
I caught hold of her under the water and brought her to the surface but now I had to swim back with only one arm and the shore line looked very far away. By the time my feet touched the sand I was absolutely shattered and had begun to doubt that I would make it, the relieved Father took his daughter and thanked me profusely, I just sat on the sand for a while recovering my breath.
The years passed and I had all but forgotten the incident when a little while ago there was a knock on my door and that same Father introduced me to his eighteen year old daughter who had just passed her Matric exam!
I tell this story not for self-aggrandisment but for its poignancy, her Father need not have brought her to meet me, she did not remember the incident but he told me that his family prayed for me every day. I was so incredibly moved by his action that I was reduced to tears.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Local ride

The first chance I got to ride again after the rally last weekend was this morning, Janet is now in Capetown having a reunion with her five sisters and she is going to be there for the week so this leaves me at home alone trying to cope again!
I got the big red machine out of the garage this morning and gave it a really good wash and polish, this is a labour of love and it gives me a chance to check that all is ok - like the back tyre!!
I rode down to Paternoster which is a little fishing village some 30kms from Saldanha, the name means "Our Father" and what started out as a fishing village is now a very well established holiday town.
The Lobster (Crayfish) season has opened and now you can buy them on the side of the road from the locals, this is not strictly legal but I have it on good authority that if you only buy one or two for your own use the compliance officers will turn a blind eye, but don't quote me if you get caught!. There have been some really serious stand-offs between the subsistence fishermen and the authorities in this little town in the past and I think they tend to stay away, we have bought here before without any trouble.
I found out from Frank that the rest of the guys were in Velldrif where there had been a memorial run for Dudley and Carolyn who had died exactly a year ago, I rode out there and met them at the "Admiral's Pub" and after a beer there we went through to Des' shop on the Berg river.
There were already quite a few bikers there and we had another beer or two, while we were sitting on the veranda quite a few cars drove by and I asked Des; "What about these people driving past who see a lot of bikers here and decide not to stop?"
His reply was brief and to the point; "Fuck them." We spent a very pleasant hour or so there, several of the "Kreefsmokkelaars" were there too and as much as I was enjoying myself I had to go off and get something to eat. Also it started to rain and I was a bit pissed off that I had just washed the bike that morning!
Des' shop is a treasure trove of things to see and things to laugh at, check out his CCTV set up! The sign below "Verwoed Road" says "Non whites only", where the hell he got those nobody knows! Throwbacks from the apartheid days obviously and those are now collectors items. From there we went through to the Phoenix bar and as Danny was having a club meeting we helped ourselves, a couple of beers there and it was time to head home,
I had previously taken the big red machine home and put it in the garage, I figure that it is more difficult to fall off four wheels than two and trust me, I am a very responsible drinker..............I mean driver!
Wednesday I am going to Capetown to get the big red machine serviced and then I am going to see all of the sisters-in-law, all five of them! Keep me in your thoughts!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 Beaver Rally - Heidelberg

For me the best part of any rally is the ride there; usually on a Friday afternoon as soon as I can get off work, and the ride home on a Sunday morning. Oh sure I enjoy the party on Friday night, I enjoy the fact that on Saturday I feel like shit and just want to sleep most of the day and I enjoy the feeling of just wanting to get the rest of the weekend over with and go home!
I really enjoy meeting old friends and making new ones and just interacting with the usual biker scum! I love being biker scum!
I managed to get finished and met Frank just after 1230, we actually got out on the road at 1250 and it was a lovely day for riding, slightly overcast with a 30 percent chance of rain - to me that is a 70 percent chance of no rain and I had my rain suit with me so I didn't care. I took the lead and set a fair pace at 140 - 150kmh, just enough to feel bloody great!
Our first stop was at Wolseley for Frank to have a smoke break and it had been good until there but the traffic was heavy, especially the big rigs avoiding the toll tunnel - really annoying! I seriously feel that any vehicle with more than six wheels should be restricted to the National roads; the N1, N2, N3 etc and should not be allowed to use any Regional roads until they are within 10 or 20kms of their destination, this would stop the incredible damage these behemoths are causing to our beloved regional roads which were not designed for such loads, and it would also leave them open for our enjoyment.
We spent a great afternoon riding through some wonderful countryside, we stopped for a break and a plate of slap tjips at Soprano's in Robertson which was very nice as we were both quite hungry by then and then continued on our way. It was pretty much around 17h00 by the time we arrived at Heidelberg, entered the rally at the Heidelberg Show grounds and found a site for our tents.
The wind was blowing quite strong by then so we cruised around looking for a sheltered site and this is what we found; a great spot inside some livestock pens, it wasn't long before we had our tents up and our mattresses inflated and by then it was time to go and investigate the rally.
Dinner was a meal of beef curry and rice with whisky and water, what a pleasure and by then we had met quite a lot of people.
This guy was Andrew from "Dawn Patrol" and he was there on his bachelor party, getting married the following weekend and here you see him getting some sympathy from Frank. We were all giving him advice and commiserations: "You can't stay happy all your life, you have to get married sometime." I told him that Janet and I were happily married for 37 years, she's happily and I'm married! I hope that we gave him some food for thought!
The bar was buzzing, doing a roaring trade, the band was playing some good Rock and Roll and the booze was cheap.
Here you see Frank in earnest conversation with Allan who that night declared himself to be a candidate for the next President of South Africa! What wonderful news this is, it presages a new beginning for our country and we assured him that he would have our vote, Come on folks - a biker for President! It can only be an improvement!
Our good friend Dalton arrived, if you have been reading this blog you will remember that he runs a very good restaurant at most rallies, here we was attending as a guest and a member of "The Posse" so he was in relaxed mode and determined to enjoy himself.
From then on Saturday night became a bit of a blur, I do remember the Cops arriving to kick us out and close the bar at about 04h00! I crawled into my tent and tried to sleep, balancing on top of the rugby ball that is my stupid mattress and woke up at about 08h30. I was surprised to find Frank up and about as well, we headed downtown to the Wimpy for a greasy breakfast. Here's me sitting outside my tent later in the day, I was definitely feeling a lot slower than I was on Friday! I took a ride around the town, had something to eat and then later returned to the site to see if Frank was up and about, he had gone back to bed after his breakfast!
We wandered around taking some photos of the camp site and then reluctantly headed back to the bar in the mid afternoon. There was quite a crowd assembled in front of the wide screen for the rugby game and gradually the crowd moved in as the time for the lucky draw drew nearer.
Dalton arrived in his "Speedo" because it was a hot day, you gotta admire him, he doesn't give a shit about what people think, he just does his own thing and the people love him.
Gradually the tables and chairs filled up, the noise level and the enjoyment increased.After the rugby the band took over and they were really good, playing all of the old rock classics which us older bikers really love. It was a great evening but I was wrecked, I was so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open and at 22h30 after an ABF I said to Frank that I was going to bed and that I would be leaving early in the morning.
"Don't worry," said Frank, "I'm just going to finsh this last drink and I'll be along, trust me!"
Yeah, yeah!
I hit the sack, balanced on top of my rugby ball and tried really hard to sleep. It took about an hour and a half but I did eventually get to sleep and was awakened at about 04h00 by Frank muttering, cursing and burping as he got into his tent!
That was my sleeping over with, thanks very much Buddy! As the first light of dawn started brightening the tent I got up and packed all of my stuff. By 06h30 I was drinking a cup of coffee at the restaurant and by 06h45 I was riding out of the gate. Just me and my shadow. Head West young man, head west! (Not so much of the "Young"!) It was a fantastic, fast ride. I am pretty much a lone rider, I prefer it and I ride fast with few stops. By the time I got to Barrydale it was 07h30, too early for breakfast so I decided to press on. I really enjoyed the 62km ride along the fabulous R62 to Montagu and by the time I arrived in Robertson I was hungry, Breakfast at the Wimpy was great and just what I needed. Back on the road and 160 - 180kmh through to Worcester, mush less traffic this time and the big red machine was performing flawlessly, enjoying the demands that I was placing on him.
The early morning sun gradually removes the shadows as I carved my way through the pass, thoroughly enjoying myself. It was just before 11h00 that I arrived home and as I was putting the big red machine in the garage my phone rang, it was Frank; "Hi Pal how you doing, where are you?" I told him I was at home, "Oh are you? Bliksem!" (which is an Afrikaans swear word, difficult to translate!) "I am just about to pack my tent away and get on the road." Typical Frank!
It had been another good rally and it took me two days to fully recover, which is a sign of a good jol. Next is the annual charity Toy Run on 28th November and in the meantime I have booked my baby in for her 60,000km service next week Wednesday, the agents have a courtesy bike for me to use so I'll have a day in Capetown...........it's all good!