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.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Spring is sprung, da grass is ris....

It's not officially spring yet, I'm pretty sure we change over to spring in September but the flowers are out in colourful abundance. The annual wild flower extravaganza that brings visitors from all over South Africa and   from other parts of the world, this makes it difficult for us local residents to get seats in our favourite local restaurants!
Last weekend friends Tony and Laura invited us to lunch at the new "Beira Mar" restaurant and because we had to see someone in Velddrif first we decided to take the long way, this was a display on the roadside between Hopefield and Velddrif.
The restaurant is under new management, it has been revamped and a lovely big deck has been built on outside which will no doubt be very popular in summer. Janet and Laura enjoyed their "Espetadas" which they declared to be tender and delicious, my Peri-peri chicken was bland and quite tasteless even though I had asked for it "hot", it was nowhere near as good as that served at the Chapman's Peak Hotel - (Must go back there again soon!)
We had a lovely time with our friends and the starters and desserts were good - been there, done that.
Back to today; As I said; It's not officially Spring but this morning the weather looked fantastic and we decided that after the bottle of sparkling Sauvignon Blanc by JC LeRoux in the spa bath, we would get out on two wheels this time.
Because we procrastinated it was around 11h00 by the time we saddled up, already 20 celsius and very comfortable. As we roared out of Saldanha along the ring road to Langebaan I still had no idea where we were going but it felt good.
Accelerating southward on the R27 I raised my visor and Janet leaned in, "How about we take the long way around to Darling and go for lunch there?" I shouted - no fancy helmet intercom for us! "Great!" Janet shouted back and I wound the throttle open just that little bit more, just enough to increase our cruising speed to around 140kmh, no hurry just relax in the sun and enjoy the ride. Cars moved aside so as not to impede our stately progress and all was good with my world.
Plenty of motorcycles out, a group of about twenty five Harleys heading down to Langebaan passed by but I didn't wave, we have learned through long experience not to bother them. The R27 was very busy, lots of people out doing the same as us except that most of them were not enjoying themselves as much as we were because they were in cages.
I took the "Mamre" turnoff and left all the traffic behind, much better cruising a quiet road on a beautiful day,
The road between Mamre and Darling is a pleasant ride, quite picturesque though a bit rough in places, narrow with a sometimes broken tar edge, not a fast road but rather one to cruise and enjoy which is what we did. Flowers were a bit scarce apart from large patches of white Arum Lillies until we got closer to Darling.
 At a farm alongside the road a lot of people had stopped to wander in amongst a lot of purple stuff, a very delicate colour interspersed with white and yellow all of which was, I must admit, really appealing.
Enough already! Back on the road and into Darling and as I feared the restaurants were crowded out with visitors! It was still quite early so we headed back down towards the R27, I suggested to Janet that we try "Vlakvarkgat" which was closer to home.
After about half an hour of very pleasant riding we parked the bike and went into the restaurant. Roughly translated a "Vlakvark" is a bush-pig or Warthog and a "Gat" is a hole, you figure it out!
We have eaten there on a couple of occasions before and have attended the occasional biker-jol, it is a rather rough and rustic place with tables made out of wooden cable drums with wooden benches and plastic chairs and they play continuous "Boeremusiek" which does tend to get a bit tiresome when what I would prefer would be some good old Rock.
Be that as it may the food and the prices are good and for the second time I ordered "Afval Potjie" or Offal Pot; a savoury stew made from the stomach, intestines, pipes, tubes and feet of a lamb served with "Samp" an African staple,
 served in the cast iron pot which keeps it nice and hot, I really enjoyed my lunch in a quiet and peaceful place away from the madding crowd.
Janet had a Chicken schnitzel, which was really nicely presented and which she really enjoyed and part of which is going into my sandwich for work tomorrow because she couldn't finish it!
We had a very pleasant lunch break, time to get back out there but we will be back.
At the gate as we rode out there were some people taking photos of the flowers, they had come from the Velddrif side and he assured me that there was no road blocks so we thundered up the road towards Vredenburg, I wanted to check if there were any other bikers around before heading home.
Sure enough we found some at "Juffroeshoogte" (I'm not going to try and explain how to pronounce that!) so we joined them for an A.B.F. (Absolute Bloody Final). Six locals had been out cruising enjoying the wonderful weather, in fact as we left after our last drink another two arrived, bikers all over the place!
A very enjoyable day, a fairly relaxed and easy 207km round trip, a great way to spend a Sunday.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I ride the new FJR1300 and review "Motorcycle House"

This past week the weather has been bloody awful, Mother Nature has hit with a vengeance and lashed us with gale force northerly winds and lots of rain so working out on the mussel farm has not been particularly pleasant! Also obviously the motorbike has stayed covered, no riding in this crap.
Friday was no different, we managed to get our work done before the wind came up, but come up it did, so when Craig Welsh from West Coast Yamaha phoned me at midday I wasn't sure what to expect;
He; - "Are you coming through to Vredenburg this afternoon?" he knows that Frank and I usually play pool every Friday.
Me; - "Yes, why?"
He; - "Bring your crash helmet, I've got a surprise for you."
Cool, intrigued but still the weather was bad, the rain had gone but the wind was pumping.
When I walked in to the shop I immediately spotted the new FJR standing by the door, surely that wasn't it?
"Take it for a ride." says he and I needed no further persuading, beautiful in black a 2013 Yamaha FJR1300! This bike has a host of electronics including ABS and traction control (which can be switched off), touring and sport mode, heated grips, electrically adjustable windscreen and it has a "shedload" of power!
I took it up to the St Helena Bay turnoff, only about ten kilometres and unfortunately the wind was blowing so hard that it was causing me to ride along leaning to the left but I could feel the grunt.
Riding back towards the shop I opened it up a bit and easily reached 180kmh, the bike wanted to do much more but I didn't, not in those weather conditions so I tapped off. I must say though that the bike inspires confidence, it felt very nimble and light and I would really like to take it for a run in better weather. I'll speak to Craig again and maybe take Janet along, see what she thinks. This bike is for sale for R160,000 including panniers, the normal price is R180,000 - a lovely machine and I loved it in black.
On other matters relating to my favourite pastime I was introduced recently to a website of a company apparently in California, so it may be known to many of you; http://www.motorcyclehouse.com/ I was particularly struck by the sheer amount of the products that they carry, from clothing and accessories to luggage and to me the prices seem bloody good.

I particularly liked the retro look of this leather jacket which is priced at $79 which in our money is about R790, I cannot get this type of clothing for anywhere near this price here in South Africa. Even having to pay shipping costs it would still be cheaper than local, I shall have to investigate getting one.
Motorcycle House appears to have a very large workshop and spares section as well, it's worth a look.
Stay safe brothers and sisters, keep the rubber side down and we'll talk again soon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Eland's Bay ride and a new restaurant.

Saturday was one of those unbelievable mid-winter days that we get here on the west coast every now and then, warm and calm, no wind with the forecast for temperatures up in the high twenties, one of those days where you just have to get out on the motorbike and see where the road takes you. That is what we did, after a short discussion we decided to head up to Eland's Bay for lunch.
The previous weekend heading back from the Polar Bear run I hit what I thought was an enormous pothole, I didn't see it but felt the shock, it jarred my shoulders and I think that that was where my number plate fell off! I noticed at home that I no longer had a number plate. Talking to the other guys afterwards I learned that several of them hit it and the shock actually damaged Shaun's bike, stories were that someone had come off after hitting it, though not one of our group.
I had slowed right down anticipating that I might have damaged a tire or a rim but everything seemed alright and I carried on but that road has many potholes and I took it easy after that. Perhaps we would be able to find my number plate.
Just after the little seaside village of "Dwaarskersbosch" (I'm not even going to try to tell you how to pronounce that!) there is a new section of tar for about twenty kilometres which is fantastic and which invites fast riding but after that beware! The road is dotted with tar patches some of which have new potholes after the recent rains and it would be foolhardy to ride fast.
We cruised along reveling in the fantastic weather and using the time to enjoy the early flowers that are starting to show, August and September usually marks the brief but famous wild flower season and already there are areas of vivid colour to enjoy.
We rode down into the picturesque "Verloorevlei" and into the seaside village of Eland's Bay without spotting the offending pothole, perhaps we could find it on the way back.
I had heard of a new little restaurant which had recently opened and I wanted to check it out, I love new and unusual restaurants and can't resist them. 
The "Wit Mossel Pot" is all rustic charm, labelled as a Beach Bar, Surf Shack and restaurant it was very inviting and as if to confirm its status when we sat down there were some young surfers at a nearby table talking about waves, breaks and boards, things that are meaningless to me!
The owners had recently started up after losing their previous place; the "Soverby Lapa" to a devastating fire and being un-insured they had lost everything and started from scratch. The tables are made of old crayfish traps with thick wooden tops, the chairs are mismatched and some are damaged, there are benches in odd colours and the decor is an eclectic mix of flotsam and memorabilia but it all seems to work.
We were made to feel very welcome and the wine was reasonably priced and nicely chilled, a good start as far as I am concerned. 
 The menu is small but varied and specials are written up on blackboards.
Abnormal? Me? We ordered our meals and settled down to enjoy our wine. Janet went for a Hake fillet with a salad and they certainly gave her a large salad. I opted for their seafood platter for one at R110 which I thought was very reasonable and I wasn't disappointed;
Four mussels, three portions of hake, three prawns, some calamari and a generous portion of chips, I really enjoyed that meal and I will go back. I will have to anyway, because I did a bad job; I forgot to get their phone number and I didn't ask what days they worked - maybe I just enjoyed myself too much!
We had a lovely cruise home, because of the poor condition of the road I tooled along at around 100km/h so we had time to do some sight-seeing.
The road condition aside it is a lovely ride and sometimes it is nice to just cruise along slowly, we actually found the offending hole, although not a pothole it was a serious dip in the tar, an area that seemed to have sunk and which has been marked by the roads department so they are aware of it.
We looked for my number plate but it wasn't there, I just hope it's not going to be used by someone else and that I'm not going to start getting speeding fines, I don't need any more of those!
We'll go back to the "Wit Mossel Pot" soon and I have no hesitation in recommending it to you, we'll speak again soon.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Polar Bear run 2013

Saturday 27th July was the date for the sixth annual Polar Bear run, I was up early and ready to ride well before the time so I had a breakfast beer. It looked clear but the forecast was for rain, perhaps this would be the first of the runs in bad weather? Des had always hoped for bad weather for the run but the past five consecutive rides had been run in calm, clear and sunny conditions, perhaps he would be happy with this one.
I was the first to arrive at the Engen One-Stop just after 08h00, no rain but seriously heavy, grey clouds and as I got my cup of famous Wimpy coffee I could see that we were going to get wet. After my coffee I pulled my wets on, I have learnt from long experience that it is better to put them on before it starts to rain!
 It wasn't long before the others started arriving, led by Des on his BMW "Police" bike complete with siren!
New Polar Bear runner Greg on his very neat Kawasaki KZ1300. Soon there were eleven of us ready to ride with others coming through later, some poor people have to work on Saturday!
I set off on point and settled into a 130 to 140kmh cruise, we weren't in any hurry and one of the guys was on a scrambler so we took it easy, I was pretty sure that we would soon be riding on wet roads anyway.
As usual with a bunch of bikers there are a few smokers so a smoke break is mandatory, the first one was in Mooreesburg just 80k's away! I am usually very impatient with this, I want to ride but I reminded myself that we had plenty of time so I just bit the bullet.
Our intention was to have breakfast at the Spur in Piketburg which was only about 30kms further and as we rode into the town it started raining in earnest.
We lined the bikes up and went in search of breakfast but the Spur was so busy, there was a large KTM bunch on their way up to Niewvoudtville as well as locals and it seemed that the management had been caught off guard, there were too few staff and we got tired of waiting.
Roellie made a phone call and we eventually found another restaurant in the town; Cafe Latino's, nice enough but they were unlicensed and by then it was nearly midday - Oh well we'd have a drink later,
By then we were all very hungry and thankfully the breakfast was great and a bargain at R40, we'll be back!
On the road again and by then it was seriously raining, also the road condition was not too good with roadworks almost all the way to Clanwilliam. Here we got separated due to a misunderstanding, a few of us pulled into the garage outside of Citrusdal to refuel and the others didn't see us and rode on past.
We were further held up by a long "Stop/Go" section where we were entertained by some fruit sellers who took advantage of  captive buyers,
I had told Des that I wanted the next stop to be in a laybye overlooking the dam on the Lambert's Bay road but he misunderstood and carried on almost to Graafwater, by the time we pulled into the laybye there was nobody there. I checked my phone and sure enough there was a message so I phoned him;
"Where are you? Are you in Clanwillaim?" -
"No we're in a laybye overlooking Graafwater, where are you?" - 
"We're in the laybye overlooking the dam, are you coming back here?" -
"No you guys must come here." Thank goodness for cellphones.
Eventually we found the bikes lined up in a very picturesque laybye and after the usual noisy, light hearted banter; "What happened to you guys, where've you been?" - "Fuck you what do you mean where've we been? You should have been in the other laybye!" - "What do you mean fuck me? Fuck you!" and so on, we enjoyed our cheese and wine party.
The cheese and wine party had developed from the very first run when, at a laybye Graeme took a single bottle of wine and a small piece of cheese out of his case and shared it with all of us, now it is a tradition. 
By then the rain had stopped and we enjoyed a very pleasant chat drinking wine out of styro cups and crunching on biscuits with slices of cheddar cheese, simple but under those particular circumstances very enjoyable.
We rode down the hill and into the little dorp called Graafwater, it was Des' idea to stop for a drink at the hotel and it seemed like a good idea as we were only a couple of K's away from our destination.
 It was a pleasant enough little place and the drinks were cheap, I'm sure the owner (who Des went to kiss on the other side of the bar) was happy with the extra sales.
"Hi I'm Des, what do you think of me so far?" He quickly got out of there when he was shown a photo of how big her husband was!
Two K's down the road is the "West Coast Hacienda" where the party got started as the guys gradually arrived, we held a minute's silence in memory of Freddy and dedicated the party to him.
The first draw and Davrin's number came up, he had to sit for five minutes like this to win a meal for two at the Slipway restaurant in Saldanha. It was a cold evening so it must have been very uncomfortable, I hope he enjoys the meal.
Etienne's name came up next; two lengths of the pool for which he won a bottle of very old "Witblitz" which he immediately proceeded to dish out to the guys.
 It's very strong and, as far as I'm concerned, not very nice but we gave it a go.
That is about all of that stuff that I was prepared to drink, some of the guys enjoyed it though and I saw the last of it going into coffee at breakfast the next day!
 Davrin took over the disco and actually sings very well, he was the winner of the floating trophy for the "Character of the run" this year, a well deserved award because he kept us in stitches!
The party raged through the night, Frank and I were the last ones left and we called it a night somewhere between 01h00 and 02h00, I don't think we were thrown out either. I ended up sharing a room with the "Kreefsmokelaars" and that could be the subject of a whole other story with the comings and goings that went on!
Frank was the last one to wake up the next morning, he still had his rain-suit pants on from yesterday! This is a familiar sight for anyone who knows him.
Marius gave us a really good buffet breakfast to see us right. The accommodation had been very reasonable with a delicious potjie meal for dinner the previous night, he has a special accommodation deal for bikers so if you're looking for a good base especially for the flower season give him a call on 0725379991 and he'll see you right, I'm going back.
The ride home was very pleasant, it was cold but the sky was mostly clear. It is only 140kms to Saldanha so I took it easy and just enjoyed the ride. I rode through a small area of rain near home but nothing like the previous day.
Everyone made their own way so I was alone, Frank was still having his five cups of tea and his breakfast so it would be a while before he got going. The sixth annual Polar Bear run had been a success in spite of the lousy weather, a great bunch of guys partying as only bikers know how to party!
We look forward to the Polar Bear run's continued success, where will it be next year?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

We bury our brother

I was going to write about the sixth annual Polar Bear run which took place last weekend but yesterday we buried our brother Freddy and I thought it more fitting to write about that first.
It turned out to be a beautiful warm, sunny day with very little wind, a perfect day for riding. I met several of the Meeulanders in Vredenburg just before 11h00 and rode through with them to the gathering point in Velddrif.
 Already there was a large group of bikers meeting, greeting and standing around chatting.
 One or two new faces but mostly local bikers, old friends.
 By 12h30 when the mass ride started we had counted 45 motorcycles, an impressive amount for a Wednesday afternoon, had the funeral been held on a weekend the number would have exceeded 100 I'm sure because Freddy was a very popular biker. For a couple of minutes I sat in the car park with all of the motorcycle engines running and the rumble in the air was like music to the ears, a music that moves a small percentage of the population in a particular way, that makes the hairs on your arms stand up and there's no way that you can stop yourself from "blipping" the throttle.
Des led the mass ride through Velddrif escorted by the traffic department who made sure that we had a free run, we stopped en mass outside the church, blocking the entire road and all of us held our helmets aloft in our left hands and revved our bike engines for a moment or two in salute to our brother. It was an incredibly moving moment.
After the church we left the cemetary service for the close friends and family and headed to the Admiral Bar for the wake, I'm a bit of a softy and usually cry at graveside ceremonies anyway!
 Just so there was no mistaking who was here young Llewellin made the mark. The Admiral's bar made some great snacks for us and we contributed to their bar profits, a win-win situation. Somebody ordered tequila for everyone as it had been Freddy's favourite drink!
It's not one of my favourites but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do so I knocked one back as Frans proposed the toast.
Rest in peace brother, we're all going to miss you!
I left at a reasonable time for the 60 (odd) kilometre ride home, I didn't want to overdo it. It had been a poignant and moving day, but Freddy had a good send off, I know that he would have appreciated it.