Clouds

Clouds

It’s just about three months since my friend G had his horrendous crash.

For G it’s been three long months of pain, discomfort, worry and frustration.
For his family, well, let’s just say that its been difficult and there have been lots of dark clouds..

For my part, the time has been a bit weird and it has taken me a while to process in my mind just what happened. During that time I’ll be honest, I haven’t ridden much and haven’t really been in the mood to ride. True on one of the occasions that I popped over go see G I took my trusty Harls, but other than that…well I’ve just not really been feeling like taking to two wheels.

Until one evening earlier this week.

The phone rang, it was G.

During the early dark days immediately after the crash G made up his mind that his future petrol fuelled adrenaline fix would come on four wheels, not two. Initial thoughts centred on possibly a Lotus or Caterham Seven sports car; one of those things that look and feel like a go-cart on steroids! Then his fancy switched to a Mini Cooper; not any old Mini Cooper though, oh no, we were talking John Cooper Works and nearly 300bhp with twin turbo-chargers!

He knows what he likes does my mate G.

G’s recovery has now progressed to serious physiotherapy and by all accounts he has a top man on the case, with an attitude along the lines of, “The surgeon put you back together, now I’m going to make it all work again.” Fair play to G, he has embraced the whole rehab thing and not only is he being a good lad and doing all the therapy exercises, but he’s doing gym work and swimming as well, which is brilliant! Even more brilliant, he has progressed so well that he can now drive a car again, with the full permission of his doctor.

Anyway, I digress…

I answered the phone.

G was in ebullient form. He excitedly told me of his latest physio progress and how much more he was able to do since I had seen him last. Then out of the blue he hit me with it:

“I can twist the throttle and start to pull the brake with my right hand, left one for the clutch is no problem….”

I sat down.

“Run that by me again.”

“I’m going to ride again mate.”

Part of me sort of went into shock, while the other part just broke out into a big stupid grin. Even over the phone connection G’s enthusiasm was infectious, he chattered away with a happiness that I had not heard for some time.

G went on to explain that he and Mrs G had discussed the matter fully. Being a pretty switched on lady, she had noticed that whenever G had been talking to his motorcycling mates that his spirits were always lifted; two wheels or even the thought of riding two wheels was where he wanted to be. With his new Physiotherapist things had taken a serious turn for the positive and Mrs G could see that having the goal of riding again could only be a good thing. She also understands that crash was unfortunate, but not G’s fault and if he wanted to ride again…well that is OK by Mrs G!

….and so that was why last Thursday afternoon we were found in the showroom of a large motorcycle dealer in the heart of Cornwall.

It was a good choice, as the place is not only a Yamaha and Honda concession, but has a large and varied selection of nearly new bikes of many different makes. G and I were in our element going round and sitting on the different offerings! From my point of view it was, you understand, purely academic…but G wanted to size up what future options would be. G likes Adventure bikes, so the Honda Africa Twin came under scrutiny, but top of the pile and much to my surprise was a BMW GS; the handlebar and lever geometry seems to work best for G’s wrists, but who knows what he’ll end up with.

Back in the saddle, how about a smile G?

OK, its early days yet and G has a whole bunch more therapy to go through, but the future is looking much brighter, it’s like clouds have lifted!

Talking of which, we get some pretty special clouds here on Bodmin Moor…

How about this fantastic lenticular cloud formation.

“Ice cream castles in the air.”

Or high level fern like cirrus, a sure sign of fair weather, seems a good one to end on!

“Rows and flows of angel hair.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I really, really, really now feel like going out for a ride!

“Do not stop me, do not try,
cause I’m a motorcycle man
I get my kicks just when I can.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Big Sky on Bodmin Moor

OK, I have to plead guilty of living in a beautiful part of the world. True it’s not on the scale of the Alps, The Grand Canyon or the Norwegian Fjords, but you know in it’s own way Cornwall is right up there with the best of them!

The 80 square miles of Bodmin Moor lies in the heart of Cornwall’s geography and life. To explain, a Moorland is a type of habitat found in upland areas that are generally characterised by low growing sparse and tough vegetation on acidic soil. The United Kingdom hosts approximately 15% of the world’s moorland, which is great for me because I just love the wildness of this type of hard country. Best of all, Dookes H.Q. is right on the edge of the high moor; my moor.

I don’t intentionally take our easy access to the Moor for granted, but occasionally I have to give myself a slight kick on the backside to get out on the wild side and let my senses drink in the landscape. The beauty of the moor can be deceiving, this is truly hard country when the weather takes a turn for the worse and although you are never really very far from civilisation its easy for the unwary to get into trouble. On a day like this though, when skylarks soar and sing and the plaintive mew of the curlew drifts across the landscape all is well in the world. I find that even a short excursion onto the peatlands clears my head, both literally and spiritually, but then I always have loved the high country landscape. On a clear day it is possible to spot the other high moors of South West England, Exmoor and Dartmoor, from the slopes of Bodmin Moor.

Looking East at distant Dartmoor.

Like many moorlands, Bodmin Moor is almost totally bereft of trees. It is believed that clearance started in the neolithic era, between 12,000 – 6000 years ago. Those trees that remain are usually isolated and stunted by the poor soils and constant winds. This particular hawthorn, Crataegus in latin, always fascinates me.

I couldn’t help taking a few shots in black and white just to experiment.

I hope you agree that I am really lucky having all this just five minutes from my front door!

“On the hills where the wind goes over sheep-bitten turf,
where the bent grass beats upon the unploughed poorland..”
John Masefield

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Earth Day

I have my good friend Alba to thank for reminding me, via her stunning blog photography, that last Saturday was Earth Day. Click here to visit her blog and see what I mean!

OK, so I’m late, blame thirty years of running railways on that habit!

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on 22nd April. Worldwide, people come together to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970 and today Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of equinox was later sanctioned in a proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in recognition of his work. While the 22nd April Earth Day was focused on the United States, by 1990 it had spread to an international event involving 141 nations.

UN Secretary-General U Thant supported McConnell’s global initiative to celebrate this annual event; and on February 26, 1971, he signed a proclamation to that effect, saying:

“May there be only peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life.”

A beautiful sunset at Dookes H.Q. in Cornwall on Earth Day 2017.

On Earth Day 2016, Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed by the United States, China, and some 120 other countries. This signing satisfied a key requirement for the entry into law of the historic draft climate protection treaty adopted by consensus of the 195 nations present at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

By Earth Day 2017, the new President of The United States had turned his back on the treaty. It appears to me that short-term profit and political appeasement are seemingly more important to him than the future existence of our Planet as a viable place to support life.

Wake up and get real people.

We only have one planet, isn’t it time that we started looking after it a bit more?

“We’re killing everything that’s alive
And anyone who tries to deny it
Wears a tie
And gets paid to lie.” Joe Walsh

Catch you soon.

Dookes

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone,
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell

Keeping My Mouth Shut!

Hmm. There’s been a notable lack of posts from Dookes for the last few weeks. No, it’s not writers block…I’ve just not really had much to say.

I believe that Mark twain once said,
“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think that you are a fool, than open it and remove all doubt.”

Thinking about it, I’ve known quite a few folk over the years that fell into the latter category!

As folk say here in Cornwall, “What’s on?” Meaning what’s been happening then?

Well, the season is marching forward and Spring has firmly taken charge. Wild flowers are filling our hedgerows, birds are busy building nests and only this week I spotted the first migrating swallows cutting across a clear blue sky at Dookes H.Q.. In many Cornish gardens magnolias and camellias are in full bloom, their blossom may only last a few days, but I think they are worth the space that they take up for the rest of the year!

Magnolia in bloom at Launceston Castle.

On the motorbike front things have been quiet-ish. ‘Baby’ has a new set of brake pads; the old ones lasted 15,000 miles and included two Alpine adventures, so I guess that’s pretty fair for a bike that weighs over half a tonne! ‘Harls’ has been serviced and is pretty much looking as gorgeous as ever, but hey I am biased!

So sexy!

For one reason or another I always seem to be pretty busy and unfortunately that’s been eating into riding time…but I have been out and about on ‘Harls’ for a couple of nice head clearing ‘fifty milers.’

It’s been pretty weird though, riding a motorbike with G’s major crash still very fresh in the old memory. The whole thing has really shaken me, not the least seeing the photos of the scene and also riding past the very site. I was recounting this to another friend the other day. I was sort of trying still to make sense, is there is such a thing, of what happened. He listened intently, then told me that he believed that as I was what he called a “logical” person he was sure that if I only stopped and thought about it properly, without emotion, that I could work it out.

You know what? He was right!

I accept that riding a motorcycle has it’s inherent risks; add into the mix a large dose of idiot/inconsiderate/impatient other road users and the odds start to stack up against any two wheeler, powered or pedal. It’s part of a bunch of reasons why I keep up my advanced riding qualification and have regular assessment rides; it’s all about managing the risks as low as possible. The unexpected can and as G proved, does happen. I’m also a bit fatalistic and every time I ride out of our drive I steal a look over my shoulder, just in case…

Talking of G, he is making steady, if very slow, progress. I try to see him every week and really look forward to my visits with him. We are a proper pair of “Old Gits,” putting the world to rights over cups of coffee, grumbling about just about everything and also fiendishly plotting future adventures.

 Of course a lot of our plans are based around and depend on G’s recovery.

Lets not under exaggerate it; G’s body is pretty badly smashed up. Add into the mix the continuing treatment he’s going to have, it’s going to be a long haul and that’s without the stress that he goes through thinking about it all. Last Tuesday G had to have some of he wires holding his right hand together removed; he told me that the surgeon used a tool like a high-tech pair of pliers to pull them out, no anaesthetic was used, ouch!

Understandably, G has good days and not so good ones. I try to be upbeat, which generally is my nature anyway, but I do find it pretty hard sometimes when he gives me a bit of a grim reality reminder. Fortunately our sense of humour is pretty similar, “warped” was the word Mrs D used once. I have thought on a couple of occasions that I should have been a little less hasty with my suggestions…such as offering to loosen the screws in his arm…!

Oh well, its only what mates do!

On another matter, planning has begun for my next big solo road trip and that’s always an exciting time. More details to follow…

“Call me the breeze
I keep blowin’ down the road…”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

The Cloak of Invisibility

“Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You.”

That’s a phrase that most motorcyclists hear from time to time!

It’s usually uttered by an apologetic car or truck driver just after they have pulled some mindless manoeuvre right in front of your moving motorbike. If you are lucky it’s a case of ‘no harm done,’ but often the consequences can be a whole lot more serious for the bike rider and result in an unexpected hospital visit…or worse.

As part of the advanced motorcycle training that I am known to bang on about we teach riders to create a ‘Safety Bubble’ around themselves. By that we mean to create a zone on all sides of your machine where you can manage the risks that may present themselves the road as you travel along. So if you are following another vehicle, don’t get too close; if something moves towards you from either side then move the other way and if something comes up from behind be aware of it and maybe accelerate or simply get out-of-the-way.

Of course another point to bear in mind is, “Can other road users see me.”

Some of this visibility, call it attention grabbing if you like, is again all about where you position the bike on the road. As riders, there are other things that we can do to help; things like riding with our headlights on and wearing clothing that draws attention to ourselves. It’s a strange thing though and I frequently muse through personal experience that all this gear must form some sort of “Cloak of Invisibility.” I’ve truly lost count of the number of times that people have bumped into me in supermarkets when I’m wearing my riding gear!

W.T.F.? You really can't see me?!?!?!

W.T.F.? You really can’t see me?!?!?!

Most modern bikes don’t give the rider any option with the headlights as they illuminate as soon as the ignition is turned on. It’s not just bikes that can be hard to see in poor visibility, I remember having a major argument with my mother on one occasion when she drove her silver car at twilight in falling rain….without any headlights on! Her excuse was that she could see where she was going, the trouble was no-one else could see her as the car blended into the road colour and general murky atmosphere!

The riding gear that we bikers buy is often black and that’s not necessarily the best to be spotted in, however durable it is for hiding road dirt. I frequently wear a hi-visibility tabard, with reflective strips, over my leathers. A colourful or white crash helmet is another good way of drawing attention to yourself; I used to ride in a very striking Simon Crafar race-replica, one of the best helmets I ever used, if a tad high on the posing front! – I’ve still got that old helmet, it’s way past its ‘use by’ date and now retired, but it still looks great on display in the workshop.fullsizeoutput_fd

I started writing this post a week last Friday, then on the Saturday got news that my old mate G, him of the leukaemia battle, had been victim of a moments carelessness by a car driver who pulled across in front of him with no prior indication! G slammed into the side of a Peugeot and flew 25 feet through the air, before crashing to the tarmac. The pictures of the scene are grim and I won’t be showing them on-line.

G had been riding his Yamaha on the edge of Bodmin Moor and minding his own business at a legal 60mph.

Two totally smashed wrists, one broken vertebrae and one smashed knee later, he got a totally unplanned helicopter evacuation to hospital thrown in for free! Thank goodness for the Cornwall Air Ambulance and also testimony to the excellent gear that G was wearing.

On the Monday G had six hours of surgery to reconstruct his broken body and have numerous bits of metal inserted to hold him together. I visited him in hospital twice last week, it’s not good to see one of your best mates in that state.

It’s of no comfort at all that the car driver has admitted responsibility….

Today G has been in the operating theatre again, this time for further work on his wrists; if he is lucky he will get most of the use back in his left hand and about 20% in his right. Next week he will have further surgery on his knee.

There’s a long difficult road ahead, but he’s Welsh and a true Celt so I have every faith that he won’t accept the surgeon’s prognosis and will work to beat the odds.

I took the Big Blue Ultra Limited out for a ride this afternoon.

Aside from the squally weather, it felt very weird and maybe a bit scary…I really can’t put my finger on it… Then just a few miles into it a bunch of “Slippery Road” signs, light rain and the strong smell of diesel fuel got me concentrating on the job in hand pretty quickly! Yes it’s good to ride, but even better to be alive.

Get well soon G.

“The road is long
With many a winding turn…”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Farkles

Within the greater motorcycle community there are many sub-cultures; trail-riders, sports bikers, trialers, tourers, rat bikers and 1%ers, to mention just a few. It can all be pretty confusing from within the world of two wheels, let alone for those who live outside it!

Alongside these various groups there is also a veritable dictionary of words and phrases used to describe bikes, bike activities, parts and accessories. From baggers to bobbers, cruisers to custom, semi-apes to shotguns and then there are farkles….

Today, let’s have a look at “Farkles.”

When a motorbike owner fits accessories onto their machine, in essence to customise it, the newly fitted parts are often referred to as “farkles.” The word is generally accepted to mean a combination of function and sparkle, hence, farkles.

These added parts can cover a plethora of accessories from Sat Nav devices, heated grips, touring luggage, alternative exhaust pipes; the list is frankly only limited by the imagination and wallet size of the owner!

At this point I have to admit that old Hogrider Dookes is not immune to adding the odd “farkle” on his bikes.

The big blue Ultra Limited is very well equipped as standard and really doesn’t need much in the way of enhancement, however there is one thing that has been on my “to do” list almost since I bought the bike and that’s the windscreen.

As supplied, the screen on these bikes is best described as ornamental, rather than functional; which is a shame as the fairing to which they are fitted does an excellent job in keeping wind and weather off the rider and pillion. image

My friends at Harley Davidson are very cute when it comes to selling accessories for their motorbikes. They advertise that your bike can be customised and altered to your personal taste and fit….of course at a price!

Anyway, back to the screen.

Basically the as delivered screen was to small for my liking. I noticed that at certain speeds the slipstream was catching the top of my crash helmet and giving my head a bit of a rattle! Harley Davidson make a range of alternative screens that they call “Windsplitters,” which they claim can cure the problem. I popped into my local dealership earlier in the year and borrowed a couple of different sizes to try out. Yes winter riding again!

As I tried out the different options I got pretty good at the fiddly process removing and refitting the screens too!

In the end I found one that suited me and as so often happens in my local Harley dealership… cash changed hands…. it’s always from me to them though!

In due course my new screen arrived and it’s been on Baby Blue for a few weeks now, long enough for me to assess it’s performance. p1080249

Was it worth getting?

Yes I think it was. It’s wider than the original which offers greater wind protection to my hands and arms. It’s top edge has a clever little profile change that pushes the air up higher over my head and cuts out the wind buffeting, which is exactly what I wanted.

Excuse the background!

Excuse the background!


I must admit I am a tad disappointed with the thickness of plexiglass that the new screen is made of, it’s nearly 2mm thinner than the original, which meant that I had to make a neoprene gasket to ensure that it was firmly gripped when mounted in the slot on the top of the fairing, minor, but very annoying!

So there you are…

F.A.R.K.L.E. — Fancy Accessory Really Kool Likely Expensive!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

p1080250

Better Days

The Great Weather Clerk must have been reading my post last week; minor grumbles about the damp, grey misty days were answered with bright blue skies, sunshine and crisp dry air. Oh yes, I almost forgot, freezing temperatures as well.

…and that suits me just fine.

You see I had a few “errands to run,” as my dear late Grandmother was want to say and what better spirit lifting way to do it than on two wheels of course!

First up I needed to take my laptop into the Apple Store for a memory upgrade. I really love my Mac computer, but one thing that bugs me about Apple is the way they bombard users with operating system upgrades. Yeah I know that this includes security improvements, allegedly, but each upgrade inevitably makes the computer run a little bit slower until, eventually, the thing becomes a dithering, if somewhat expensive desk lamp! There are two Apple stores near Dookes H.Q., one in Plymouth, 25 miles, and one in Truro, 45 miles away. Better go to Truro then and take the longer route too!

Truro is the County town of Cornwall, actually it’s a city, though quite small as cities go, with a population of only 18,750 people. It’s also the only city in Cornwall. Until politicians started handing out “city” status to all comers, a City in the UK could only lay claim to the title if it had a Cathedral and Truro has a gem.

The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or just Truro Cathedral to most people, was built between 1880 and 1910 in the Gothic Revival style. It’s also one of only two Cathedrals in England to possess three spires; the other being Litchfield in Staffordshire. Nestling amongst a rabbit warren of narrow streets it’s quite difficult to get a decent photograph of this delightful building, but the West facade shows itself nicely! image Annoyingly the Christmas lights were being taken down so hence the “cherry picker,” but I don’t think that it spoils the view too much.

Just around the corner from the Cathedral is Coinage Hall Street, still covered in wonderful granite setts, which are a bit tricky on a motorbike especially in the wet, but look lovely!image The Coinage Hall at the end of the square was built as the Cornish Bank in 1848 on the site of the old Coinage Hall where twice yearly tin was brought to be assayed and taxed.

I really like Truro and one day I’ll do a proper post about the city when the sun is a bit higher in the sky, but for now I hope that this little taster will whet your appetite.

As is usual when I have time on my hands I took the even longer way home, after all better days like this are to be savoured and enjoyed. Once back at Dookes H.Q. I even had time to walk the dogs and take in some more of the lovely county in which we live.

Blue sky, crisp clean air and right on my doorstep!

Blue sky, crisp clean air and right on my doorstep!

“These are better days
Better days are shining through”

Catch you soon.

Dookes