Tanks a Million!

The rehabilitation of my mate G continues at an almost frightening pace, particularly as he is now able to ride his motorcycle again. By that I don’t mean that he is riding his bike at a frightening pace! The great thing is that he has regained his zest for life again and two wheels are largely responsible for that.

We seem to have slipped into a weekly routine of having a worthwhile ride to somewhere specific and take in some good riding roads along the way.

Last week’s excursion saw us on another great “Boys Day Out” as Mrs Dookes is now calling them. Where previously we visited an aviation museum, this time we kept our feet firmly on the ground and set our destination as The Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset.

The museum traces the history of armoured fighting vehicles and particularly tanks, from their invention over 100 years ago right through to the present day. There are over 300 vehicles on display and it is the largest collection of tanks in the world.

First though we had to get there.

I met G in Exeter at his favourite motorcycle dealership and after a good double espresso we hit the road. I took Baby Blue, partly because she is so comfortable on a transit run, but also because I’m back in love with riding her after some months of mixed emotions, but more of that in another post…

The road east out of Exeter, the A30, is largely fast dual carriageway and although it runs through pleasant enough country it’s pretty boring. At Honiton, once famous for its lace making, we turned onto the A35 and followed it for about 40 miles to Dorchester. Now I always get frustrated with the ’35; it runs through lovely scenery, has enough bends to make it interesting on a bike, but it’s always snarled up with traffic and this morning was situation normal!

On a bike it’s true that you can usually make progress where other vehicles struggle, but even so it becomes hard work and if you are constantly looking for the next overtake opportunity it’s a tad difficult to also look at the scenery!

By Dorchester I was ready for a change and taking a more looping route away from traffic we soon arrived at Bovington.

The museum is located ay Bovington Camp, home of the British Army’s Tank Corps and the place where most tracked vehicle training and repair is carried out by the Army. It’s a busy place and you are just as likely to find a tank scurrying along the surrounding roads as a mail delivery van.

A tank in the car park!

In other words this is big-boys-toys country!

There are seven display halls in the museum. The first, called “The Tank Story Hall,” has a collection of key vehicles displayed in chronological order to show the evolution of tanks through the last 100 years. I found it fascinating and dallied so much that G soon wandered on ahead of me!

“Little Willie” the very first tank.

Incidentally, do you know that the name “Tank” stems from when the British Army were building the first vehicles in 1915? At the time, fearful of espionage, the prefered name of “Armoured Landship” was replaced with “tank” as a subterfuge to explain why vast amounts of boiler plate steel was being built onto track laying chassis….and the name has stuck ever since.

Another hall is dedicated to showing the very first tanks in the context to which they saw action, on the battlefields of France in World War One. This part of the collection struck particular resonance with me after tracing the footsteps and experiences of both my Grandfathers during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. If you missed those posts then please click here to read more. One of the tanks here, which actually saw action during those grim days, is posed in a particularly striking way, as if crossing No-Mans Land and attacking enemy trenches.

Across No-Man’s Land in WW1

As World War 1 tank as seen from the receiving end!

Looking at some of these early tanks, I was struck by their primitive nature and even though they were clad in boiler-plate they were not at all impervious to penetration by anything but the lightest bullet.

Bullet hole in WW1 tank.

They were brave men who took these machines into battle.

I went a bit crazy with my camera, but after a while realised that apart from colour difference one tank begins to look pretty much like any other after a while….I hear sighs from Mrs Dookes in the background! So I resorted to up close and personal stuff, just for entertainment!

Prize exhibit at the museum is Tiger 131, the only original working German Second World War Tiger Tank in the world; incidentally, the majority of the tanks here all still work, how brilliant is that! The added bonus with these being working machines is that they not only look great, but they smell good too…yeah, I know, it’s a bloke thing; axle grease, diesel fuel and gear oil, magic!

Tiger 131, 63tonnes of trouble.

Amongst all this engineering and heavy plant, it’s important not to forget that these are killing machines; they bristle with guns, armour and missiles. Amongst the machismo of ever bigger and more deadly machines there a quiet corners where extraordinary, often tragic tales of bravery and sacrifice are recounted and give the chance for remembrance and contemplation.

Finally, for those of you that are either film or Brad Pitt fans, the tank “Fury” from the 2014 film of the same name is also on display in “as filmed condition, along with some interesting props from the film. The Tiger also appeared in the film unsurprisingly playing the part of one of the bad guys, such is Hollywood!

Fury

Anyway, top marks to the Tank Museum, not only is it a great day out and I highly recommend it, but your admission ticket can be used again as much as you like for up to 12 months; I think that G and I will be back!

Any great day out deserves a great ride home, so once again we struck out to the Jurassic Coast, grabbed an ice-cream in Bridport and just rode the twisties back West. 250miles all in when I got back to Dookes H.Q..

Here’s to the next time.

“I put a Tiger in your tank.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Greasy Leather

One great thing about living in Cornwall is the weather…Yes I did really write that!

Someone once said that the UK doesn’t have a climate, we just have weather and that is divided into ten months winter and two months bad weather!

Personally, I tend to take the view that there is no such thing as bad weather, just a bad choice of coat!

Now a confession…I like wearing leather…

…when riding motorbikes!

Sure I have a variety of riding gear and modern synthetic alternatives are extremely good, certainly some of the stuff with Kevlar woven panels perform impressively, however my apparel of choice is good old-fashioned traditional cow skin. Riding clothing has to perform a multitude of tasks, prime of which is protecting the wearer in the event of a tumble, but it also is the first line of defence in keeping you warm, dry and comfortable.

That last one is a prerequisite for me, I have a set of Harley Davidson FXRG leathers that are so comfy to wear and that I’ve had for years.

Like many other things associated with motorbikes, there is a degree of maintenance required to keep your leathers not only looking good, but also to ensure that they don’t let you down when you need them. Leather being a natural material needs “feeding” to keep oils in it’s pores and therefore retain its water-resistant properties.

Last Saturday I took a ride up to Bideford on the beautiful North Devon coast, it’s just over 50 miles from Dookes H.Q. and my mission was to drop in and see my oldest pal “Vifferman.”

“Viff” and I go back a long way, well over half a century, in fact the only living person that I have known longer than him is my Mother…wow that’s scary! “Viff” had recently lost a good friend, in fact he had read the eulogy at his mates funeral only earlier in the week, I had to go see him.

Riding along the wonderful A39, the Atlantic Highway, in the morning was simply fantastic. Traffic was light, weather nice and clear, road dry, what was there not to like!

After spending some time with “Viff,” inspecting his son George’s model railway and enjoying a Devon pasty for lunch it was time to head home…and ride into darkening skies!

The trouble with coastal living is that the weather changes just like in the mountains, at the flip of a coin. We were heading straight into black towering Cumulonimbus storm clouds and true to fashion after ten miles we rode into it, one second it was dry, next, bam, rain!

I settled into a tedious further 40 miles of standing water, driving rain, gusting wind and spray. Lovely, not!

Once back at Dookes H.Q. and after putting Baby away in the workshop I got out of my riding gear and discovered I had…a slightly wet crotch!

OK, I know it I’m getting older, but I’ve not yet lost control of things down there just yet…well I’m pretty sure I haven’t anyway!

Sure enough, close examination revealed that my leather trousers had evidence of a bit of water ingress and this got me thinking; when was the last time I had treated my leathers to some waterproof dressing?

Guiltily, I concluded that it was at least two years ago. Whoops! As the FXRG leathers aren’t made any more, they’ve been replaced by hybrid leather/synthetic, I’d better look after these a bit better!

So yesterday there I was in the workshop with the radio on and leather gear spread out on the workbench. Using a pair of disposable gloves I spent a happy couple of hours thoroughly rubbing leather dressing into the leather. imageBy not using a cloth the warmth of my hands helped the greasy dressing penetrate deep into the leather and after a good going over the jacket and trousers looked a lot better for it as well.
image
I must admit that not wasn’t an unpleasant thing to do, certainly more enjoyable than the wet crotch anyway! I’m just kicking myself that I’d left it so long, but hey at least I wasn’t in the middle of a big trip when I found the leak.

I’ve just thought, there’s another pair of trousers that need doing…better dash and sort those now!

“Hell bent, hell bent for leather.”

Catch you later.

Dookes

Equalising the Equinox

There are some days when you just have to get out there and celebrate the sheer joy of life and if you can share that with one of your dearest mates then so much the better.

If that mate is battling cancer…

Well, it’s sort of inspiring and at the same time frankly humbling.

The Autumn Equinox, 22nd September this year, dawned bright and sunny.

I had arranged to meet G in the historic city of Exeter, about 50 miles from Dookes H.Q., just enough miles to warm up both man and machine. At our rendezvous G was on good form and after fueling both riders and machines we set out Eastwards along the beautiful South Devon coast. p1070794

We trundled along in glorious early autumn sunshine; OK I’ll be honest, I trundled along whilst G flicked his Yamaha Super Tenere effortlessly through the corners. These days, knowing what he has been going through, it always makes me smile when G does that with a motorbike; you see I know that underneath his crash helmet will be a big grin and that makes me happy too!

The beautiful County of Devon soon gave way to its equally lovely neighbour, Dorset and the famous world Heritage Site of the “Jurassic Coast.” The area cuts across nearly 190 million years of geological history, covering the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Fossilised remains found in its rocks testify to the land having changed over the millennia from tropical seas to desert and marshland. The region is a magnet to fossil hunters from around the world whilst the mellow yellow rock is very easy on the eye and the gentle hills a delight to a motorcyclist. There are many interesting features along the coastal landscape with the natural arch of Durdle Door being probably the most famous.

Durdle Door -  Photo by Saffron Blaze

Durdle Door – Photo by Saffron Blaze

Between Abbotsbury and Portland the impressive shingle bank of Chesil Beach extends for 18 miles (29Km). The beach is 200 metres wide and 15 metres high and shelters a broad lagoon known as The Fleet. It is fascinating that the size of the shingle pebbles on the beach varies from West to East; they range from pea size at West Bay to around the size of an orange near Portland.

Chesil Bank

Chesil Beach

We paused high above Chesil, partly for a breather, but also to take in the stunning view and enjoy the gentle sea breeze. When a Westerly gale is blowing here the place changes out of all recognition and takes on a ferocious face as the many shipwrecks that litter the seabed here bear witness.

From Chesil we turned inland and skirted the county town of Dorchester before heading north onto the chalk downlands. At Cerne Abbas it was time for another stop, we needed to discuss the important matter of lunch, but also to grab a cheeky view of the famous Cerne Abbas Giant, a massive fella, (in more ways than one!), carved in the chalk hillside.p1070814

This old chap is a bit of a mystery. Some people believe he is a Celtic fertility symbol and dates from around 10 AD, others say that he is Roman and represents Hercules, whilst a third school of thought is that he dates from the 17th century and is a caricature of Oliver Cromwell. My shot of him shows that he needs a bit of re-chalking so thanks to Pete Harlow for the use of his aerial picture.

Carne Abbas Giant - Aerial shot by Pete Harlow

Carne Abbas Giant – Aerial shot by Pete Harlow

We decided on lunch in Sherborne, a short ride from the Giant and after a gentle stroll around the old castle settled down to a relaxing meal. p1070818

Sherborne Old Castle was built in the 12th century as the fortified palace of the Bishop of Salisbury; it seems a tad strange for a Bishop to live in a castle! p1070824Later the castle was home to Sir Walter Raleigh and following its siege during the English Civil War was left in ruins by General Fairfax of the Parliamentary Army in 1645.p1070848

Today Sir Walter is said to return to his castle each St Michael’s Eve, 29th September, to roam the grounds and check up on his beloved former home. I don’t blame him, it’s a lovely place.

Refueled by our lunch we turned East and soon were crossing the Somerset Levels. This region of around 160,000 acres is an ancient coastal plain and wetland area of tremendously important habitat and biodiversity of international importance, plus rich agricultural land. It has been inhabited since at least 4000BC.
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The levels mostly lie only about 20 feet above mean sea level, but in some places only manage 10-12 feet. With peak spring tides of around 25 feet you can see the area is frequently in trouble from flooding. Drainage and land reclamation has been going on here since the 12th century, but every now and then nature shows who is still really in charge!

I like to think of the levels as our local equivalent of “Big Sky” country, it certainly is a pretty special place.

Burrow Mump is a hill and historic site that lies towards the Western levels. Our road passed the base of the hill and I couldn’t resist squeezing off a quick moody shot looking towards the ruined church on top of the hill.p1070857

Our route to deliver G back home swept over the lovely Blackdown Hills at Whiteball where on sweeping roads we crossed back into Devon. We parted just by G’s house, set in rolling rural loveliness between the Rivers Exe and Creedy.

My friend looked a tad tired as I rode off, tired but happy. I still had another 50 miles to ride, 50 more glorious twisty miles to enjoy my lovely big blue Harley and reflect on special times shared with special friends.

The equinox had been equalised, everything was balanced up nicely.

“It’s easy watchin’ seasons go
As sunshine turns to new-born snow.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

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Golden Days

The first storm of the Autumn set in over Cornwall yesterday. Winds along the North coast peaked at gale force eight, that’s around 46mph/74kph. Rain was pretty relentless and quite unpleasant.

It’s been a couple of weeks since we returned from Brittany and I suppose we’ve been spoilt as the weather has generally been pretty fair. This year the golden colours of the season have been stunning; so many people have been talking about it that I’m sure it’s not just my imagination. – Well Mrs Dookes says so anyway!

When Monday dawned bright and sunny it occurred to me that if I was to believe the forecast I really needed or get out, ride and simply enjoy. In other words, a typical Dookes day on two wheels, all legitimised by Mrs D asking me to pick up some shopping!

First stop was the ancient market town of Launceston, which really deserves a post all of its own one day. Once provisions were purchased it was time to gently hit the road.

I say “gently” because it was that sort of day; soft golden light, a slight chill in the clean air, azure blue sky and golden leaves all around. No need to rush this ride, just sit back and enjoy.image

I have a bit of a love affair with the old “London Turnpike” road out of Cornwall. It has been one of the most important British roads since the 17th century, when it was a major coaching route. It’s a road that’s seen plenty of history over the centuries, in 1805 the news of Admiral Nelson’s victory and death at Trafalgar was conveyed by carriage along it’s 284miles. In 1923 the road was given the grand title of “A30” and official recognition of it’s status as the major trunk route from London to Penzance. Then, when traffic became too heavy for it’s cart-horse based civil engineering, it was replaced by it’s modern dual carriageway namesake. Today the old road is classed as a minor route and certainly the lack of traffic reinforces this, it’s been given the delightful title of “The West Devon Ride” and what a lovely ride it is on two wheels!image

With the sun on my back I let “Baby Blue” purr along at around 55mph, like I said I wasn’t rushing around at all. Mostly the road lay dry in front of us, but in places, where the shade was deep, damp leaves lay lurking ready to lubricate the road as good as any oil slick…oh the joys of Autumn motorcycling!image

We looped through the small village of Bridestowe, which lies right on the edge of Dartmoor and paused by the old railway station. It’s amazing how many places in Britain have a “Station Road,” but sadly these days, no railway. Bridestowe’s station closed in 1968 and today is a private house shielded by high conifer trees. The old line is happily seeing use as a footpath and cycle trail allowing access to stunning scenery on gentle gradients; Cool eh?image

Our trundle back home was directly into the bright setting sun, tricky stuff on a winding road, so my Schuberth helmet’s integral sun visor was very much appreciated; having the right equipment pays-off you know!image

So, OK a fifty-one mile trundle is by my standards pretty small beer, but you know it’s not about how far or how fast you ride it’s all about the journey and what a Golden Day we had.

Baby Blue rests in Golden Shadows. Heaven on two wheels!

Baby Blue rests in Golden Shadows. Heaven on two wheels!

“May the good Lord shine a light on you
Make every song you sing your favorite tune
May the good Lord shine a light on you
Warm like the evening sun.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Soul Mover

I have friends who ride and friends who don’t. 

Someone once wrote that a car moves the body, but only a motorbike can move the soul.

Clearly that person was an officiando of two-wheeled transport and those of us who have been blessed with the motorcycling bug know exactly what they were getting at!

It’s often difficult to convey to a non-rider just what it is that us two-wheelers get from our machines. 

Many folk say it’s all about speed and certainly that rings true for some riders; I’m not going to deny that travelling at 100 and silly mph is one big adrenaline rush!

To others it’s about the fluid motion of the machine through bends and twisty sections of road when you ride it well, whilst to some it’s the “wind in your face” thing. Just ask any dog why they stick their head out of a car window?

I fall into the total package school, for me it’s a bit of everything and with the addition thrill of winning the daily battle against the idiots out there on the road who seem hell-bent on trying to kill you! Oh and of course there’s the noise….!

I must also add that to me riding is such an immersive activity that I really can forget everything else in the world whilst I am out on two wheels. It really does move my soul!

Last Wednesday I was in need of a bit of soul lifting. I was up early, three spaniels generally make sure of that at Dookes H.Q. normally it’s a good sing-song as the sun comes up, but with such things come great benefits. This was a classic early Autumn morning, crisp sunlight breaking through early mists that still hugged the landscape and hedges. image

The urge to ride suddenly became very pressing, I didn’t just want to ride; I needed to ride!

Dogs and breakfast sorted, I got into my riding gear and wandered out to “The Man Cave,” which also passes for my workshop. What a lovely conundrum now faced me, which of my two faithful Harley’s should I take out?
No contest this morning, it had to be Harls, my beloved Centenary Softail. I needed that rawness she possesses, her crisp handling, open to the elements riding position and most of all that staccato exhaust growl! 

I made a pact with myself to keep off the major roads, the day was about riding for pleasure not for working hard, at least that was what I thought….!

We set off East, skirting Launceston and dropped into the valley of the River Tamar, passing into Devon as we crossed the old bridge at Greystone. I decided that the high tors of Dartmoor would be our first target, on such a beautiful morning the scenery there should be spectacular.

Trundling through the ancient Stannary Town of Tavistock we turned right and began our climb towards the high moor.

Wisps of cloud hugged the hillside ahead and the air took on a distinct chill, it looked like things were going to get interesting. We climbed some more and sure enough were soon enveloped by thick wet Dartmoor cloud. So much for the stunning views, I spent the next twenty miles trundling along trying to spot white sheep in dense white fog whilst wiping the enveloping water droplets off my visor every few seconds! So dear blogonaughts my apologies for the lack of wonderful scenery photos, here some in the fog instead.image
One of the biggest problems with riding in fog or mist is the way that the water droplets deposit themselves on helmet visors, it’s a bit like trying to look through wet tissue paper! In rain you never have the same problem as the water droplets are bigger and flow off the visor with the slipstream, but riding sensibly slower in fog there’s less slipstream as well.image
We swung through the small and pretty village of Moretonhamstead before briefly pausing at Okehampton where delightfully we passed back into warm sunshine!

Heading North West now, my heart was lifted by both the warm sun and the contented roar from Harls’ exhaust as we ate up the miles considerably faster than over Dartmoor! 

Our route was following the old railway through the delightfully named village of Halwill Junction and on towards Holsworthy. This was the line over which part of the romantically named “Atlantic Coast Express” once trundled behind gleaming steam locomotives near the end of its 300 mile journey from London.

The old railway line, once the Atlantic Coast Express ran along here.

The old railway line, once the Atlantic Coast Express ran along here.

Now there’s an idea for a future ride…

We stopped to take in the view over the bucolic Devon landscape and then it was time to push on. image

With delightfully quiet roads, it was clear that most of the summer tourists have slipped home with the return of children to school. It’s one of the downsides of living in such a beautiful region, we can hardly move for visitors invading during the peak holiday season of July and August, but like the swallows they fly away at the end of summer and we get the place back to ourselves again!
I stuck to the plan and by the time we returned to Dookes H.Q. after 140 wonderful miles and not one major route had been touched by our tyre rubber.

Life had been refocused and all was good in the world!

“I have seen rings of smoke through the trees and the voices of those who standing looking”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Sea Fever and Steam Trains

I don’t think I get the dreaded writer’s block, but sometimes I feel that I have so much to say I don’t really know where to begin, call it muddled thoughts if you like!

The Dookes life is remaining busy, perhaps sometimes I should just say “no” when I get asked to do things, but hey busy is good cos you’re a log time in your wooden box! As a result though “thinking time” is a rare commodity just at the moment. I was like that today and really needed some space to think; what better than a spell sitting on a Cornish clifftop overlooking the Ocean?

There’s something about the sea that clears the old Dookes head. It’s a combination of the smells, the sound of the waves, the motion of the water and … well, just about everything! It’s a real tonic for the senses.

It wasn’t the sunniest of mornings, but the air was clear and sharp with the tang of sea salt. A hundred feet below me the lazy waves of the approaching high tide sighed as they lapped at was left of the small sheltered beach.
The famous poem “Sea Fever” by John Masefield came to mind. It’s one of those lovely pieces of literature that over the years have inspired me and if I’m honest been a comfort at times too.

I believe that the power of good literature in any language is a wonderful thing. For me it doesn’t have to be a long monologue from Shakespeare, it can be something quite brief, but it has to hit that nerve that causes an emotional response.

You see, I told you that the sea clears my mind and a free mind is able to wander…

Last week I had the pleasure of a very enjoyable motorbike ride with my leukaemia battling mate G. Great fun and brilliant to be out with my friend again. G is hanging in there, his aggressive treatment continues, but when he’s good he does OK and riding motorbikes is one of the best treatments he can have. For my part, seeing him comfortably flicking his Yamaha through the bends as I followed on ‘Harls’ lifted my spirits too. There have been dark days in hospital for G over the last months and to get out and ride together again was fantastic!

We took a long looping ride from the historic city of Exeter, Northwards tracing the valley of the River Exe towards its source high on Exmoor. Swinging West and passing through Barnstaple, Torrington and Holsworthy we certainly covered the miles, well over 250 in fact!

Northern Exmoor

Northern Exmoor

On the high Northern edge of Exmoor we stopped at the delightfully named Woody Bay station where the resurrecting narrow gauge Lynton and Barnstaple Railway can be found. As its name suggests, the railway once stretched from the port of Barnstaple across a meandering route to the small town of Lynton, a distance of 19 miles. The single track line opened in 1898, but by 1923 ownership passed to the Southern Railway who operated mainline trains and were not really in the business of rural narrow gauge railways. In 1935 the L&B was closed after a scandalously short operating life of just 37 years.

Woody Bay Station

Woody Bay Station

Interestingly, this beloved narrow gauge railway has gained more fame and interest in the time since it’s closure than it ever achieved when open. Today a group of dedicated enthusiasts have begun to rebuild the line and Woody Bay station is the main centre of activity. Brightly painted green steam locomotives are once again chugging along part of the old route, with plans afoot for further extension back towards Barnstaple. I can’t wait!

Living Steam on the L&B.

Living Steam on the L&B.

When the line closed a wreath was found on the buffer stops at Barnstaple with the message, “Perchance it is not dead, but sleepeth.” imageIt looks to me like it is now very much awake again!

Funny thing the sea, just like a motorcycle it takes you to such wonderful places……image

….and then the sun came out!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Sea Fever
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
John Masefield. 1878-1967.

Ice in my Morphine.

Just recently it’s all been bit strange in the world of Dookes. In many ways everything in my life has ben well sorted, ordered and under control, which for an untidy sod like me is a bit of a minor miracle!

Then along come the curved balls, you know those things over which we have absolutely no control and things go, well, crazy!

I don’t know if it’s a function of getting older, or if because I have more time these days to think about the little things, but sometimes I do feel like I’m trying to swim against a tide of treacle!

Now don’t worry, I’m not slipping into any sort of depression, nor am I unburdening by way of the Internet, but at times when the world really all seems stupid I’m so glad of my two-wheeled friends.

Regular blogonaughts know of my mate G’s ongoing battle with cancer. I’ve come to hate that bloody condition, not just for the dirty way that it attacks and eats people, but also and probably more so, the effect it’s pernicious tendrils have on the people surrounding it’s victim. 

Just lately G hasn’t been at all good. Because his immune system is being attacked by the cancer he is extremely susceptible and vulnerable to all types of infections; the sort that healthy people can shrug off with a couple of over the counter tablets could easily kill him. Unfortunately my pal has picked up a couple of these infections and has been spending quite a bit of time in hospital plugged into IV antibiotics, morphine and a cocktail of other drugs.

To make his discomfort complete his larynx has been damaged by the chemotherapy and he can’t talk.

Earlier this week he was feeling a bit better and was desperate to get out for a bit of two-wheeled therapy. We tentatively arranged a meet up for yesterday and we were both looking forward to sharing some quality time together on our motorbikes.

Then came the bombshell; G had developed a temperature, quite a high temperature at that. His wonky immune system seems to only kick in a temperature when he’s really ill and then it goes bonkers. In addition he’d developed raging ear ache and totally lost his appetite, yep my pal was on his way back into hospital again; back to isolation and no visitors except his immediate family, back to that IV drip as well.

It’s strange, I felt numb about the whole situation and needed to find some space to get my head around things. I’d arranged to ride out with G, so the best thing to do seemed to ride out for him now!

As I pushed Baby out of the workshop I resolved to ride steady, ride to savour the day and ride to park things out on the highway.

It didn’t take long before the deep roar of Baby’s engine and the rumble of the road beneath us had me smiling again, bikes do that to me!

I decided to loop around the West of our neighbouring county of Devon, where the gentle and beautiful scenery always seems to welcome me. I stuck to secondary roads, I didn’t want the hassle of too much traffic getting in the way. Passing through small towns like Okehampton, Halwill Junction and Holsworthy life was definitely beginning to look a whole lot better.

I stopped for a coffee and exchanged text messages with G. I didn’t dare tell him I was out riding and when he reads this I’ll be in deep s**t!

Setting off for home my mind travelled back to just over a year ago, before G was diagnosed with leukaemia. We rode the same route together one evening and in my mind I could see him in front of me on his beloved little Triumph Bonneville, flicking the bike through the bends with consummate ease and trying to out-run my bike’s superior power on the straights. What fun we had that evening.

Passing back into my county of Cornwall I paused at the wonderfully named New Bridge, which I suppose it was once but as it dates from 1504 I think that must have been a long time ago! The River Tamar marks much of the boundary between the two counties and at this spot it is beginning to meander in its wide lush valley, just the spot for a bit of quiet contemplation and time to be grateful for many special things.

I mounted up and twenty minutes later was home at Dookes H.Q..

Swimming against a tide of treacle is hard work, but just occasionally you get to surf a little roller and things can start to look up a bit!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Oh yes, the “Ice in my Morphine” comment came from G when I told him to take more ice in his whisky to bring his temperature down! G thought that it would do more good in his painkiller!!!