Liebster Award

Way on back in the earlier days of their blog my dear bogging friend Lili, of fantastic cakes and rock climbing fame nominated me for the “Liebster Award.” I was pretty chuffed at the time (Chuffed = British slang for pleased) and duly did what was required of me and posted a response as required by the award; you can link to that here.

Fast-forward to the present and out of the blue that USA based Scottish Photographer, Blogger and International Chocolate Connoisseur, Alba has challenged me with another “Liebster.” This is of course both very cool and a bit humbling; after all it is an acknowledgment by another blogger that you must be doing something right, therefore thank you Alba!

As part of the deal with the award I have to answer a series of questions set by Alba; so here goes, this should be fun!

1. Why do you blog?
I started blogging as a way of recording some of the motorcycle tours that I do. I used to tour around and send friends emails to let them know where I was and what I was up to. It just sort of seemed the logical thing to progress to, I hate “Face-Twit” and blogging enables me to capture thoughts and moments that I can look back on and relive the moment. It has also enabled me to develop some posts into magazine articles, which is pretty cool!
The blog has developed into something more than just being about touring on motorbikes and I’m pretty pleased with that. In the not to distant future I’m looking at overhauling the site, changing a few things around and maybe going “Premium.” So I may need the considerable skills of Alba in the field of Website development!

2. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’d like to be able to visit anywhere in the world that I wanted to and have the freedom and peace to be able to do that without the restrictions of Politics, Fanatics, Race-hate, Dictators and Wars…
…as John Lennon said “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

Broadly though, I’ve pretty much gone everywhere that I really want at the present, my only current “Itch” is to go to Nordkapp/Northcape in Norway, it’s the most Northerly point in Europe. I would naturally have to go on a motorbike.
Why?
Well, because it’s there of course!

3. Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Trek. No doubt at all.

4. Favourite Movie?
Diamonds are Forever.
Pure escapism James Bond before it all got too commercial.

5. Favourite Book.
Tricky this one.
I’ve a number of railway and engineering technical tomes that I really enjoy dipping into from time to time, but would be far too boring (and specialist) to recount here.
Fiction-wise I like Ian Fleming’s “Goldfinger” and I had a lot of fun retracing some of the route described in the book on one of my trips a few years back.

In the footsteps of James Bond.

If you click here you can read about it, there’s more than one post though!

6. Favourite Song
Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen.
“Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau,” the Welsh National Anthem – I have tears running down my face every time I sing it at a rugby international!

Do you like to Cook and what is your best dish?
Yes, I adore cooking. Best dish, well I make a pretty ace Game Pie!

My Game Pie.

8. What makes you laugh?
I’m very British when it come to my sense of humour, so I love irony and satire. I like laughing at myself too!

9. Most embarrassing moment?
With skin a thick as mine, embarrassment doesn’t come into it!

10. Singing or dancing?
With my Welsh Blood, naturally it’s singing!

11. T.Rex or Dragons?
Hmm really tricky.
I loved T.Rex in those far off Glam-Rock Days of the 1970’s; Marc Bolan was just fantastic and amazingly it was 40 years ago this year that he died in a car crash.
Dragons live in my beloved, magical, Welsh mountains…if you know where to look! The Red Dragon/Y Ddraig Goch is found on the flag of Wales.

The Welsh Dragon at Mametz Wood, The Somme.

I’ve got one on each of my bikes too, Dragons that is.
I’m going to have to say Dragons…!
Did you know that T.Rex made an album called “Futuristic Dragon”?

There you are then, I hope that answers your questions Alba.

Now at this point I’m supposed to come up with my own string of questions and pass it on in a chain letter sort of way, but ‘cos I like breaking the rules I’m just going to suggest a few sites that I follow and are well worth dropping in on!

Two Wheeled Life

Midihideaways

Old England to New England

Finding Myself Through Writing

Louise’s World Travels

Aging Gracefully My Ass

My Ride Blog

Motorcycle Rambler

My Own Private Idaho

2 Wheel Travellers

If anyone feels like having a go themselves and linking me in on their answers here’s a few questions from me:

1. How do you decide on a subject for a blog post?

2. What has been your own favourite blog post.

3. Vinyl or digital?

4. Have you ever been surfing? (No not the internet – real surf, as in the Ocean!)

5. Where are you planning to go on your next adventure?

6. If you could go back in time to witness something in history what would it be?

7. Have you ever seen a ghost or UFO (or both)?

8. Rolling Stones or Beatles?

9. Most precious item that you possess that has no monetary value?

10. Who do you most admire and why?

11. I have a spare pillion seat on the back of my Harley, where shall we go?

Catch you soon.

Dookes

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A Golden Anniversary – Or 50 Years of Roller-Coaster Emotions!

Sport is a funny thing and one way or another is pretty much guaranteed to polarise people.

With Sport you generally find that there are two kinds of folk; those that are largely indifferent and those that are passionate about it.

So cards on the table, I’m definitely one of the latter!

Which is a bit strange really, as pretty much no-one else in my immediate family is at all sports orientated…that is except my late Uncle Pete. He was like me, sports mad!

In his younger days Pete played football, lots of football (that’s soccer in some parts of the world!) and he was by all accounts pretty good at it. Good enough to be in the squad of a professional football club; until sadly a knee injury cut short his playing career. Ironically if he had the same injury today he would be fixed up and playing in a matter of weeks, such are the advances that sports medicine as made.

Uncle Pete was also my Godfather and he took things seriously enough to not only take me to buy my first pair of football boots, but also to my first football match – a very lowly non-league affair. The seed had been sown though and I began to hanker after going to a “proper” football match, a league game!

That’s how, exactly Fifty Years ago, my late Father took me and a few of my young friends to my very first “proper” game.

Watford F.C. v Grimsby Town

Football and indeed football grounds were very different in those days, particularly in the third tier of the English Leagues. The home of Watford Football Club since 1922 was and still is, Vicarage Road Stadium. To be honest, calling the place a “Stadium” in 1967 was tantamount to breaking the laws of Trade Description; glamorous it was definitely not!

In this aerial photograph from the time you can see that the ground was shoe-horned in between residential suburban housing and to the extreme left Shrodells Hospital. I remember queuing to go through the rickety old turnstiles on Vicarage Road itself, that’s the road cutting across the top of the photo. We stepped onto the banked concrete terrace behind the goal at the Vicarage Road end and I fell in love with the place!

At the far end was the “Rookery Stand,” that’s the light grey shed-like structure at the bottom of the picture, actually it was simply more terracing with a roof over it! To our right was the Shrodells Stand, which had some seating and on the opposite side of the pitch stood the grandly named “Main Stand” that also was about 50% seating. From that dear reader, you may be able to deduce that the majority of Vicarage Road Stadium was for you to watch football standing up and largely without any protection from the weather. Happy days!

For some reason we made our way to the area in the bottom corner of the photo, between the Shrodells and Rookery Stands. This was football at it’s most basic, the area was simply a compacted bank of ash, but it was magical.

In those days the pitch was only loosely described as grass; it appeared to be around 60% mud, 30% sand and possibly 10% grass/weeds, but to my young eyes it was the original field of dreams. As the sun dipped in the early winter sky and the simple floodlights came on, it got even more magical.

The game itself was a thrilling affair to a first time supporter, as I was suddenly becoming. Little did I know that the peculiar thing about supporting a team is that it gets into your very DNA. You share the euphoria of great victories and promotion with the despair and depression of defeats and relegation. All this was still in the future though…

Watford went on to win 7-1! Could it ever get any better than that?

Well, yes it could, but it would take nearly 15 years when eventually my beloved “Hornets” as Watford are known, eventually won promotion to the top-tier of English football, the old “First Division.” The next season, 1982-83, they finished runners-up; still their best ever finish.

I still have the programme from that match and it’s interesting to look at the team line ups for that day 50 years ago. Playing at full-back for Grimsby and wearing number 3 is one Graham Taylor, at that time a young 22-year-old. The same Graham Taylor who later would become manager of Watford, guide them to successive promotions and the glory days of the early 1980’s and subsequently manage the England national team. Sadly Graham passed away suddenly earlier this year.

Over the years though it’s been quite a roller-coaster of emotions. Yes there have been incredible highs, but oh my, those low points have also been very dark places too!

Today Watford F.C. play in the Premier League, the highest level in the English football league system and the team squad is drawn from a wonderful mix of nationalities. The club was founded in 1881.

These days living 300miles away I don’t get the opportunity to visit Vicarage Road very often, but I diligently follow what my beloved “Hornets” are up to every time that they play.

Yesterday then was the 50th anniversary of my very first Watford F.C. experience.
The Hornets hosted Tottenham Hotspur and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Vicarage Road Stadium today is truly worthy of the name; it’s a wonderful amphitheatre with an all seating capacity of 23,700 and great facilities, quite a change from the days of standing on a mound of ash!

Vicarage Road Stadium today; from roughly where I first stood 50 years ago! Photo by Jbb503

Why back in 1967 did we go to watch Watford F.C.?

Well I told you my late Uncle once played for a professional football club…

Guess which one????

Yep, Watford!

As for me; well I never really was much good playing football, except as a Goalkeeper and you don’t need many of them in a team.
With my Welsh blood, it was always going to be rugby that I embraced and excelled in. I played for a number of clubs, at a reasonably good level, before finally hanging up my boots in my mid-thirties after 24 years of playing the game!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Time – It’s Relative

I have had a brilliant career, or as I’m now retired, perhaps I should just say I had a brilliant career!

No, I’m not bragging, I’m just one of those incredibly lucky people who have been fortunate enough to do things that didn’t seem like work and as a bonus I got paid for doing them!

When I was younger, one thing that I remember happening fairly frequently was bumping into colleagues who had retired and hearing them extolling the virtues of retired life.

“I’m so busy, I don’t know how I ever had time to go to work!”

That was a line that I heard often and which normally caused me to turn a quiet smile and gently shake my head…but guess what?

Those old fellas were right!!!

Retirement is a funny thing and I guess is different for different people, but for me it’s, well, hectic! From time to time I do some voluntary stuff, try to sneak in a few motorcycle rides, attempt to keep on top of the acres and trees here at Dookes H.Q., maintain the 300year old pile that is Dookes H.Q. and goodness knows do a host of other things that frequently leave me wondering where the days and weeks have evaporated away to!

Which is a round about way of explaining why Dookes has been “Off the Air” blog-wise yet again!

Keeping a Promise

Our nephew Christopher (Chris) is a super chap, I’ve written about him previously.

He’s one of the folks that life has dealt a pretty rough deal, but with the love and support of his family he has ploughed a pretty good furrow, despite a number of medical issues.

He works as a mechanic in his other Uncle’s garage and specialises in off-road motorcycles. To have some independence Chris lives in a chalet in the grounds of his parent’s home, whilst still conveniently in reach should he need help.

Because of Christopher’s medical situation the authorities won’t allow him to have a car driving licence, but will let him ride restricted motorbikes, which is just as well, because he’s pretty good at it!

Here in the UK we have a thing called a CBT, Compulsory Bike Training. It’s normally for people just setting out into the world of two-wheeled transport, or those who really only want a machine up to 125cc for a bit of local commuting and travel. No pillions are allowed for a CBT rider and the bike has to display red ‘L’ plates (for “Learner”). Once completed the CBT certificate lasts for two years, then either the rider has to do the course again or go pass the proper motorbike test.

For Chris, the CBT is ideal. He only needs a small bike for the distances that he normally travels and with a review every two years it means that he gets a regular independent assessment of his riding.

The great thing for Chris is that he is surrounded by motorcycling relatives; his cousins ride, as do two of his Uncles, so we all keep an eye on him!

I make a point to ride out with Chris every now and then, partly to see how he is getting on, but mostly because I enjoy spending time in his company, I think that’s how it should be with nephews and nieces.

Earlier this year Chris visited us at Dookes H.Q.. He really was desperate to ride his bike to us, it would have been his longest trip ever, about 70 miles and he wanted me to ride shotgun alongside him. As it was then in the height of summer and our Cornish roads get stupidly busy with visitors, I didn’t think it was such a great idea, so I put him off until the autumn.

Now the thing about Chris is that he doesn’t forget…so a few weeks back he reminded me of my promise and we rearranged things. That’s how a couple of Saturdays ago I found myself setting off at the crack of dawn to go and collect him.

Needless to say, he was raring to go when I arrived. He greeted me with a big grin and proudly told me that he’d washed his bike especially for the occasion! We packed his bags into Baby Blue’s ample top box and panniers, then hit the road; he takes after his Aunt, Mrs Dookes, just how much stuff do you need for a weekend away?

As his Yamaha 125 will only just about hit 50mph (downhill with a good tailwind) I chose a route that avoided the main trunk roads and settled in for a leisurely trundle, thank goodness that my big touring bike has a rather good music system.

Just over halfway we stopped to enjoy a sandwich and cup of coffee; Chris was worried that he needed petrol so we topped up the bikes, his took just under two litres… talk about economic riding! My Harley needed about ten times that amount!

Eventually, after nearly three hours, we arrived safely at Dookes H.Q..
Then next day we did it all again, but in reverse.

Chris and his bike wait to ride home with Baby Blue.

True this wasn’t the most taxing thing I’ve ever done on a motorbike, but just to see the look on my nephew’s face after he completed the two rides it was undoubtedly one of my most fulfilling.
Promise delivered.

Riding motorcycles is a bit like life.
It isn’t always about how far or fast you go, sometimes it’s about sharing the journey with someone else and watching them enjoy the ride!

Thanks Chris, for sharing some of your journey with your old Uncle; lets ride again soon.

“Those are the memories that made me a wealthy soul”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Learning to Fly

“I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings.”

I knocked “Harls” out of gear and let her roll to a stand on the edge of the car park. I let the engine idle freely for a minute or so, letting the valves cool a bit after the arduous climb, then switch off and … silence, save for the gentle metallic “tinkle” of an air-cooled engine cooling down.

Time to take stock.

We were sitting on top of the Nufenen Pass, at 2478 metres/8130 feet above sea level. It’s the second highest paved pass in Switzerland and the eleventh highest in Europe. There was early snow lying around, the air crisp, cold and blown by a keen North Westerly wind was just enough to catch your breath.

Nufenen Pass

We had just climbed from Airolo in the Bendretto Valley; 1319 metres of climbing over a distance of 24 kilometres, average grade 5.5%, maximum grade 10%. No wonder her engine was warm! The panorama of the Bernese Alps before us was magnificent, a fair reward for the effort of the climb.

It had been a long day with seven passes collected, a fair distance covered and hideous traffic on the Gotthard Autobahn, but we now had only 14km and 1108 metres of decent down to Ulrichen and our stop for the night. I was almost blowing the froth off the top of a cold one!

First though, I just needed to drink in the scenery and bask in the satisfaction of crossing another high pass…

It’s been just about a fortnight since Harls and I got back from our Italian travels and I think that I’ve almost recovered. If I’m honest, for the first few days after I got back I could have done with a holiday to get over the trip, these long distance adventures don’t get any easier with age!

That said, our schedule on this last excursion was pretty punishing, even with a day off from riding, but you know I never seem to learn! The trip was pretty epic; 2736 miles in total, 40 “mountain” passes, 7 countries, one return sea crossing.

The thing to focus on though, is those mountain passes….that’s where I have a bit of a problem.

I’m hooked on them!

I’ve always had a love of high places, right from an early age stomping around the beautiful Welsh mountains in Snowdonia. It’s something I can’t really describe adequately, other than “Put me on a mountain and see a happy Dookes!”

As I result, when I got into this motorcycle touring habit it just seemed such a natural thing to head for the high passes and then keep going ever higher. Please understand that I don’t necessarily have to go touring in the mountains, it just makes me a bit happier. I written before about my quest to ride Galibier, but by visiting that magical place it sort of opened up a “Pandora’s Box” of other possibilities; the more I pondered the map of Europe things just got even more interesting.

What started out as a whimsical idea began to grow into a list of targets!

I made a few rules for myself along the way, otherwise the whole thing was going to get totally out of control.

1. The road must be paved, no dirt tracks.
2. Dead end roads do not count.
3. The road must be open to all public traffic.
4. Military or private service roads are not allowed.
5. Closed or disused roads also not allowed.
6. Europe West of the Carpathian Mountains only (at the moment).

Oh yes, whilst I think of it. For those of you who may be wondering what old Dookes is on about with a “Mountain Pass”…..

A Mountain Pass is a route through a mountain range which often crosses over a ridge, gap or saddle. Mountain ranges make formidable barriers to travel and transport, even in our modern era, so passes have through the centuries become vital for trade and defence. They are also some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Albula Pass

Looking at the options from my self-imposed rules, the highest road is the Cime de la Bonette, 2802m, which is near Jausiers in the French Alps; the highest Pass being Col de L’Iseran, 2770m, which is near Val d’Isère also in France.

Cime de la Bonette


Now because I’m not the sort of chap who settles for the easier option, it had to be the big ones that I went after first, but no it’s not at all been downhill from there! At the beginning I didn’t make a conscious effort to chase the list, but it’s sort of evolved and become a bit “semi-organic” …almost with a life of its own. To be honest, one day I started crossing out the places that we’d been and it sort of took off from there!

Back to the recent trip. I have to admit that “Pass-Hunting” was part of the planning process and that we were pretty successful with it too. Of the highest paved passes on my list I’ve now bagged the top nine, 24 of the top 30, 40 out of 50 and a whole bunch of “lesser” passes too; the really great thing though is that most of them have been done on my beloved Harls and I can’t be happier for that.

Cole de Mont Cenis 2083m.

What’s next then?

Well, I had been thinking of a trundle around Scandinavia to Nordkapp sometime next year, after the snow has melted. The thing is, I’m torn, there’s still unfinished business in the high mountains and that little obsession is gnawing at me again. The other consideration is the small matter of age. Riding some of the passes is hard work and whilst I love the scenery and flying around the clouds, but I’m not the greatest fan of really tight hairpin bends, they are far too much hard physical work on a big bike with an impingement in one shoulder and arthritis in the other!

Learning to fly around the clouds…

BUT…

There’s a tourist itinerary in France called “Le Route des Grandes Alpes.” It runs from Lake Geneva to the Mediterranean Sea and takes in some of the best mountain roads and passes in Europe; it caught my eye a few years ago. For sure there are a number of the “big ones” on the route that we’ve done in the past, but hey going back to Galibier and dropping down to the Med would be no hardship at all! In addition, we could put in a side trip just across into Italy and grab a couple of targets that have eluded us so far and whilst I’m still half capable.

Notice I keep referring to “We” and “Us” in my narrative?

That’s because “Harls” and I are a team when it comes to those Passes. Sure, big “Baby Blue” is more comfortable on the transits and she has got a few Passes to her name, but she’s sooo heavy when it comes to doing the business in the mountains.

Déjà vu.

It’s a no brainer, there’s only one bike for me and anyway I want “Harls” to have the glory when we finally clear the list!

Déjà vu two!

Looks like that’ll be the plan for next year then, with suitable domestic approval of course.

“I’m learning to fly, around the clouds
But what goes up must come down.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

In memory of Tom Petty 1950-2017

Red Sky In The Morning.

Sometimes it’s worth getting up the first time the alarm sounds and not hitting the “Snooze” button. Yesterday in Brittany was a case in point.

Surprisingly the evening with Denis didn’t get out of hand and I slept “The sleep of the just,” with only the alarm disturbing me. I got out of bed and threw open the shutters, dawn was breaking in the Eastern sky with rich hues of amber, red and gold; it was too good to miss, so I sat I the window taking in the show that the sun was giving.

In the back of my mind I pondered the old adage,”Red sky in the morning, sailors warning.” Hmm, oh well, we’ve taken pretty much everything that the weather clerk has thrown at us this trip, something else won’t matter. Will it?

Denis was waiting when I wandered downstairs, his smile every bit as warm as the sun.
“Bonjour Gallois, bien dormi, ça va?”
“Oui mon ami ça va et merci, j’ai très bien dormi!”

He broke into a rare bit of stilted English,
“Bacon and eggs? Zee full English?”

He roared with laughter as I shook my head…he knew what I was going to say.

“Merci, non. J’aurai une omelette, comme d’habitude!”

More laughter, Denis knows I always have an omelette for breakfast with him; it’s because they are the best, which I frequently remind him. Anyway he gets fun out of the bacon and eggs routine!

Of course there’s the usual French breakfast fare to go with it; bread, croissants, pain au chocolat and as this is Bretagne, little Madeleine cakes…which just beg to be dipped briefly in your cup of coffee to give sublime breakfast happiness!

Soon, too soon, it was time to hit the road again and in the French way there were hugs and kisses all round. Ann stood on the steps of the Château waving me goodbye, Denis had disappeared off to feed his horses, he doesn’t do the actual departure bit very well.

I turned Harls North West and headed for our ferry port at Roscoff, just over 100 miles away through delightful Breton scenery. True, Brittany isn’t as spectacular as the mountains that we’ve been in for the last fortnight, but to me it has a homely feel. It’s the region of France where I first “got it” about the country and the people, that’s wholly down to Mrs Dookes; she worked here years ago and imparted her love of the place to me. I’ve never really looked back since!

Then there was the weather, what a lovely day it had turned into and stayed that way right to the ferry. Thank you La France, I’ll forgive you the downpours we had to endure previously!

….and so to sea. The ferry link between Brittany and Plymouth is really convenient for me as Dookes H.Q. is only about 25 miles from the port and usually a doddle to cover.

I like travelling with Brittany Ferries, that’s not an advert for them – I’m just a satisfied customer. I always get a cabin, irrespective if it’s a day or night sailing, as it makes a good base to securely dump things whilst I enjoy the facilities of the ship and also because I appreciate getting some sleep. No difference this time either!

Getting near to the U.K.the weather closed in and by the time we docked it was full-on driving rain. Oh joy in the darkness!

Then, just to add to my overflowing cup of happiness on the way home, the highways authority had decided to dig up the road and install diversions…then we ran into fog and still it rained…bear in mind that these are rural roads with no street-lighting, not fun. That blasted red sky!

Grumbling aside, it was good to roll Harls into my workshop, shut the doors, turn on the dehumidifiers, thank her for a job well done and promise in the next couple for days to wash the considerable amount of road grime off her.

2736 miles without missing a beat. “Pas mal,” as Denis says, yes not at all bad for an old lady, the true star of the show!

Incredibly big thanks to Mrs Dookes for the latitude that she gives me to go travelling, whilst she keeps H.Q. ticking over; yeah I know that I’m a lucky chap in so many ways.

There’s more to tell about this trip dear reader, so please pop back again soon when I post more pictures and stories of things we saw along the road.

“Let me be a travelling man, I’m a roadrunner baby, roadrunner.”

Catch you soon

Dookes

Denis – Le Grand Chef!

Yesterday evening Jacques suggested that the sunshine was so nice it would be a good idea to sit outside with the wine….five minutes later it started to rain! To be fair it was just a short shower, but wetness falling from the sky nonetheless.

The weather forecast said that today would be nice, lots of sunshine and warm after a cool start. So how come I woke to a thunderstorm?
Breakfast, still raining.
Pack bag, still raining.
Load Harls, still raining.
Start up and move off…..yes, still the blasted rain was falling!

I rode for fifty miles in grim wet stuff, heavy spray and general murk, then there was a line in the road and “Ping!” Dry.
About time too!

Having been spoilt by the back roads for the last couple of days, hitting the Autoroutes again was a bit of a culture shock for me, but I swear that Harls was enjoying it; cruising really is her thing.

We called at Bourgueil for fuel and to get a bottle of one of Mrs Dookes favourite wines, then it was back to mile munching the asphalt.

I don’t know what it is about the City of Angers, but every time I pass that way I seem to find one of the “Idiots of the road” out on exercise and today was no exception….”Street Fighter” mode it is then!

The D775 road between Angers and Rennes is gradually being rebuilt, where the new bits exist they are sublime, but some of the old sections are rough, hellish rough. Fortunately these days, there are more new bits than old and the dry new(ish) smooth black-top is good, very good indeed. Harls and I loved it!

I took a coffee and comfort break at Segré then pushed on and refueled just South of Rennes. The old centre of the City of Rennes is truly lovely, but take my advice and go there by train as the traffic is always a snarl up, right from La Périphérique inwards. Today though, we just sort of did a tangential ricochet from South East to South West and hunted out the N24, a good old-fashioned French dual carriageway.

Frequently the old ’24 is a pain in the backside, but today we hit it just right; not too much traffic to slow us down, but enough to have some fun overtaking and letting them hear how Harls on full-chat sounds – which is fantastic….at that point I remembered that I didn’t put my ear plugs in after our coffee break and that is why, my dear Blogonaughts, my tinnitus is screaming tonight!

The reason for this 300 mile dash was to see my old friends Ann and Denis at their lovely Château in the heart of Brittany. Ann is one of those French women who don’t really age, they just improve; Denis, he lights up a room with his smile and is never happier when he’s with his horses or cooking for friends, he plays the amiable buffoon well, but is a shrewd operator really.

The view from a Breton Château, pas mal/not bad!

Harls was ushered into a garage and for some reason Denis parks his car outside, strange as he has three other garages!

He pours me a cidre, this is Brittany after all.
“OK Gallois, j’espère que tu as faim!”
After a hard day’s riding I am truly starving, trust me. The shower washed away the road grime, but now the road hunger is kicking in.
Denis is, as I frequently pull his leg, “Un Grand Chef!” – A great chef!
He knows it, but it’s more than that, it’s more about the love he puts into his cooking.
The French, it is said, live to eat and the rest of us…well, we just eat to live!

Anyway, after more cidre, nibbles and merriment, Denis disappears into the kitchen and wonderful smells start to waft out. Ann smiles, she knows what alchemy he gets up to in there!

In due course, large duck breasts appear sizzling on stones, Denis like cooking on stones!
The frivolity continues, except that the food isn’t frivolous and the company is great.

More cidre, this might hurt in the morning.

Apple tart, Tarte aux Pommes, like only the Bretons can make, follows on.

Then it’s coffee and Lambig, a type of Breton Calvados and now I’d better go as Denis is giving me stick about loving my iPad more than him!

I tell him that he is a great chef – “Un grand Chef!”
He laughs, “Non Gallois, Denis c’est le petit Chef.”
We laugh like friends do, he knows that I know that he is talking rubbish!
Ann just winks at me.

Catch you soon. Bon soirée.

Dookes

Bridesmaids

Hello Everyone.

It’s been another splendid day for riding motorbikes. Lots of sunshine, a bit of a chill in the air…but best of all, no rain! With all the trials by weather that we have been subjected to, it was the sort of day to savour and do something special and that’s exactly what we did.

Continued apologies for the lack of photographs, hotel WiFi is still being a pain, so I’ll keep this report reasonably brief and save the photos for a longer post in the not to distant future.

Because of the weather issues I’ve rearranged our schedule a bit and dropped some of the lesser Dolomite Passes, actually that’s just an excuse to come back here again….please Mrs Dookes! There were however three passes that I really wanted to bag (that’s slang for riding over them), initially they had been scheduled for our entry to Italy, but yep the weather stuffed that idea. The trouble is that they are all so high that even in the height of summer and precipitation can fall as snow. Over the last week all of them have seen quite a bit of the white stuff and only yesterday snow chains were required on two of them! As you can imagine, there was still a fair bit around today making things look quite superb.

Oh yes, I nearly forget to tell you which passes I’m rambling on about, I’ll give you the German names for them, as we are in the South Tirol after all, in order that we rode them:

Penserjoch 2215m/7267ft
Jaufenpass 2099m/6887ft
Timmelsjoch 2474m/8127ft

I set out with a blank canvas, sure I knew where I wanted to go, but I hadn’t planned a return route. That was good really, because I enjoyed the outward ride so much over the first two that once we had done the Timmelsjoch High Alpine road, I turned around and came back the way we went out! 😎

I’ve got to say that although the Timmelsjoch is supposed to be one of the classic alpine routes, it didn’t do much for me; I much preferred the other two. A case of the bridesmaids out doing the bride!

Yes, I promise I’ll write much more in future about all three routes with, if I say so myself, some really nice photos as well; please stick around for that.

In the meantime, keep the rubber down and the shiny side up!

Catch you soon.

Dookes