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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Explaining a Special Place – Col du Galibier

In a post last week I talked about Col du Galibier in the high French Alps and how it is a place that is very special to me.

Then regular commenter on my posts, AGMA, posed the question;

“Why is it special?”

I started to write a reply for AGMA, then paused and thought that probably it would be a good idea to explain “why” to a broader audience.

We have to rewind the clock back about 50 years…

Young Dookes was exploring the darkest parts of his father’s workshop/garage. At the very back, almost hidden from view and next to the engine of an old BSA motorbike, young Dookes found a man’s bicycle. In the eyes of Young Dookes, this was a prize of great beauty for not only did it have racing style drop handlebars, but there on the rear wheel was a set of derailleur gears – a “Racing Bike!”

To be honest, it was also tatty, well used, in need of a complete overhaul and it wasn’t a “Racer,” it was an old Raleigh Trent Sports Tourer with four gears, 26 inch wheels, a Brookes saddle and a Dyno-Hub, but in my young eyes it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen!

There was a fundamental problem though, it was too big for me to ride and I had to wait a few years before I could safely sit on the thing and turn the pedals!

Once that happy day came there was no stopping me; well actually there was, the old tyres soon gave up the struggle to hold air and I was grounded, literally!

At this juncture my father suggested that it was time for the old bike to have a complete strip-down and rebuild, wise words. Actually, it was much more life-changing than that; for here was my first introduction to the engineering principle of taking something apart, fixing it and putting it back together so it was better than before. It stood me in pretty good stead.

So the old bike came apart and I learnt about bearings, Bowden cables, cotter pins, crank arms and gear sets. Looking back the old girl was is pretty rough shape, but with my father’s guiding hand we made a fair job of restoring her back to road-worthy condition, but oh the satisfaction!

All the time that I was, a) growing and b) rebuilding the bike I was avidly reading everything I could lay my hands on about cycling. In due course I discovered that there was a prestigious cycle race called the “Tour de France” that was run annually and took three weeks to circulate around our near European neighbours.

One day my father returned home from work with a copy of The London Evening News and showed me an article about that year’s “Tour” which had just finished and had been won by a rider from Belgium, his name was Eddy Merckx and it was 1969.

Eddy Merckx

Who was this Merckx?

Not only had this fella just won the “Le Tour,” but he had also won the “King of the Mountains” title, which is given to the rider that gains most points for reaching mountain summits first within the greater race.

That year the tenth stage of the race was held in the Alps where Merckx put down a marker with a storming ascent of a place called “Col du Galibier.” Then he had blown away the completion with aggressive attacking over Col d’Aubisque in the Pyrenees and pretty much sealed his victory.

Oh yes, Merckx also won the best Sprinter Green jersey plus the prize for most combative rider and the most individual stages, 6 out of 24. What a rider!

Cycling had got it’s hooks into me and I had a new hero!

In those days though, Le Tour simply wasn’t covered by British television; in fact it wasn’t covered much by the French either. All our information tended to come from newspapers and cycling magazines; it was all a little bit second hand!

…but also where was this place Col du Galibier?

Now in those days not only had the Internet not been invented, but the guy who invented it had only just started Secondary School! So if you wanted to find out anything, it was a case of looking in books, either at school or in the local library.

It was a good job that I also had a big passion for geography.

I discovered that Col du Galibier is a high, 2645m/8678ft, mountain pass lying at the Southern end of the French Dauphiné Alps. Now this in itself was a revelation, as up until that point I had believed that the Alps solely existed in Switzerland…doh! Anyway, the more a learnt about Galibier, the more I wanted to know.

Looking South from Galibier.

I devoured everything I could about the place, it’s geography, geology, flora and fauna and most of all it’s history.

The first passable road over the mountain was built in 1876 and by 1891 a tunnel had been built beneath the crest, things stayed like this until 1970 when a new loop was added to the road, taking it once again over the high summit. Gradients on each side are formidable, with a maximum of 12.1% and height gain of 2058m/4085ft over a distance 8.5km/5.3miles.

Looking North.


I began to dream of visiting this place.

Le Tour returned to Galibier in 1972 and the mountain was conquered by Joop Zoetemelk, though Merckx again won the overall race; as he also did in 1970, 71 and 74.

The urge to visit Galibier started to become a bit of an obsession…then career and life stuff got in the way, but I never forgot about that mythical mountain in the high Alps and my need to climb it.

Many years later, when life had settled down and I started solo motorcycle touring, I soon realised that here was my opportunity to retrace the tracks of my heroes who rode “Le Tour.” It didn’t take me long to put together a few outline itineraries that encompassed some of the mythical climbs: Col de Vars, Izoard, L’Iseran, Lautaret…but most of all Galibier.

The day I finally set out to head towards Le Galibier I was fussing around Harls, getting her ready for the great adventure ahead when my eyes caught that old Raleigh Trent Sports bicycle in the corner of my workshop. I paused, then pushed my way over to her and ran my hand along her substantial steel frame; silently I told her where I was going and how much she still means to me. Dad had been dead for about ten years and in many ways she was my only tangible link to him

In the French Alps a week later, I sat in a café in Briançon; Col de Vars had been topped, Izoard crested and both were delightful, next was Le Galibier!

I banged out a quick email to a couple of friends, walked out into the midday sunshine, put on my helmet and started up Harls.

The ride to Lauteret was a delight; it’s a pretty quick road with a great surface, lovely sweeping bends and hugely impressive views all around.

The road to Lautaret, just look at those sweepers!

Then we turned right and dug in on the climb to Galibier.

Turn here for Col du Galibier.


It took my breath away.

The road starts passively enough then turns sharply to the left and the gradient kicks you in the teeth. Hairpins follow, a blind left with a sheer drop to the right and the relentless climb continues, thank goodness I’ve got an engine! As we gained altitude, runoff water from the last of the winter snow was streaming across the road. Climbing higher the air quickly became cooler and noticeably thinner; Harls with her carburetor and naturally aspirated engine began to run a bit rich and lose power.

Just before the tunnel we turned right onto the summit loop, we are well above the treeline here. More hairpins, more climbing and soon we reach the summit.

I pull over and switch off the engine.

At the summit looking back where we came from, winter snow still lies by the road.


Silence; save for the gentle ticking of an air-cooled Harley engine cooling down.

The views are….heavenly, but then I guess you are almost up there in heaven as wisps of cloud drift by below!

A couple of other riders walked past and a few very brave cyclists trundled by, I didn’t quite have the place to myself.

I stayed sitting on Harls and just let it all sink in; I was here on Col du Galibier, magical, legendary, Galibier and as I am want to do my mind did a bit of wandering.

I remembered that day discovering an old bicycle, of my late father helping me restore it, of a newspaper article about the Tour de France, of Eddie Merckx…I kept my helmet on and let my tear filled eyes weep in private. Crash helmets are useful like that.

You see, Galibier had become something more than just a famous mountain pass in the French Alps…it had become part of me and me of it.

It represents the melange that we all are inside; that mix of hope, experience, light/dark, triumph, tragedy, sorrow, pain, elation and happiness….above all, happiness!

Snow everywhere!


Finally, I took off the crash helmet and sat in the bright sunlight.

I felt truly at home and totally in tune with this incredible place, it’s probably my Celtic blood that gives me a deep love of high places, but this place was and is, very, very special, call it spiritual if you like.

Galibier had called and I had answered, eventually.

“The mountain’s high,
The road ran steep and winding,
The promises so easily made
Unbearable, yet binding.”

Catch you soon

Dookes

For AGMA – I hope this answers your question, Dookes.

PS I return as often as possible!

Dust

Grabbing some nice shots of the morning Autumn mist a couple of days ago was very satisfying. As you would expect, I took far more shots than just the one that I posted in “Soul Mover.”

To start with it was all looking good, but as I was inspecting my handiwork closely I noticed a blemish in one of the photographs. I checked the next frame. Oh no, same blemish and then again in the next shot and the next one. You can see the wretched things just above “Harls” in this shot.image

On even closer inspection, there were at least three small blotches on every picture. Time for a bit of head scratching!

I checked that the lens was clean. Then had a good look to make sure that there was nothing obviously amiss such a scratch on the lens or anything loose inside the camera. A couple of test shots revealed that the problem was unfortunately still there.

If I was dealing with a 35mm film SLR camera it would have been simple to remove the lens, check the shutter gate, clean as required and that would have been it, but compact digital cameras aren’t that simple. No, the things are sealed up like the tomb of King Tut!

The principle of a digital camera is quite simple. In place of film is an image capture sensor on which the picture is projected and converted into a digital information. There’s also small filter between the sensor and the lens. If any dust or foreign body was appearing as marks in my pictures then it had to be in that part of the camera. I suppose at this point that most people would have made a bee-line to the nearest camera shop and put their device in for a service.

Dookes isn’t like most people.

No, it was obviously time to head off towards the “Man-Lab.” In that haven of joy and peace, where much happiness is to be had amongst a multitude of unfinished projects, electrical components, models of trains, cars and aeroplanes, plus the other stuff that Mrs Dookes doesn’t even try to understand; I set to work!

The camera in question is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ22. It is getting on a bit, but I like it. With it’s Leica lens it performs well and being a compact is great for taking on my travels. One day I know I’ll have to replace it, but not yet.

With a large piece of plain paper on the desk, I began by dismantling the outer body of the camera. Next the three ribbon leads connecting the screen to the motherboard were carefully removed, followed by the board’s protective metal plate. Now I was getting into the heart of the camera and things were getting exciting! The sensor mounting assembly screws were carefully removed and it’s electrical connection released. With some trepidation I lifted the sensor out of the camera; I wonder if bomb-disposal feels like this…except of course without the risk of getting blown-up!

Once the sensor was free I carefully examined it under my desk magnifier and sure enough, there were the offending specks of dust. Now all I needed to do was to gently clean the sensor, reassemble the camera and test it. image

This is the camera stripped down, that’s the image capture sensor at the lower left.

How did the dust get in there? Well, like many cameras the Lumix has a retractable lens assembly that powers in and out on start-up and shut-down plus when using the zoom facility. I suspect that this action has over time worked a bit like a pump and simply drawn in airborne dust particles.

I’m very pleased to report that all went well and I am now enjoying dust free photographs once more!

Not a blotch in sight!

Not a blotch in sight, shame about the power-lines!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Springing Forward and Coast Update.

Hello everyone!

OK, apologies first…

It’s been nearly a month since I last posted on the blog; that old problem of life just getting in the way of everything again I’m afraid! I’m sorry I have been “Off Air” for a bit, but I’m back now and have some lost ground to make up.

So what have I been up to?

Well, the seasons are marching on and here in the South West corner of England Spring is setting in with a gentle vengeance. We have lambs joyfully leaping around in the field behind Dookes H.Q. celebrating their new care-free lives; the trees are bursting into leaf and the early cherry and crab-apple blossom is beginning to show from dormant buds. Birds are busy squabbling over the best nesting sites and I have even had to cut the not inconsiderable acreage of grass at Dookes H.Q. a couple of times too. The last of the post-winter garden tidy up is nearly finished and best of all, the sound of my Harley Davidson’s engine has been singing it’s “Milwaukee Music” around the country roads that I love!

Yep, it’s always good to ride… but sometimes in the Spring is best of all!

A couple of weeks ago I took a long, meandering, ride over Dartmoor. Instead of heading for my normal haunts of the high ground, I thought I’d take in some of the valley scenery before the hoards of tourists arrived!
This is Holne Bridge over the River Dart near Ashburton, taken just before the trees started to really green up.P1030487

I have certainly been clocking up a few miles and not just aboard the ride-on mower either. The world, for me, certainly looks better from behind a set of handle bars. It gives me time to get my head clear of all those things that we often think are important, but in reality are not. Time to concentrate on staying alive and living this one life in the way that I choose.

The longer days bring the bonus of light evenings and the opportunity to watch the sun take it’s daily dip into the Atlantic Ocean in often glorious golden hues. Last Tuesday we popped over to Bude on the North Cornwall coast about twenty minutes from Dookes H.Q. by Harley and were treated to a delightful sunset.

The remaining section of the old Bude Canal enters the ocean by a sea lock and provides interest to the scene.P1030510
Whilst in the bay boats rest on their moorings as the sun disappears into the sea; if you listen carefully you can sometimes hear the hiss!
P1030513

To the left and noticeably lower than the canal, the River Neet runs it course, whilst the old rails of the narrow gauge hay tramway glint in the last rays of the sun.P1030508
All that was left to do then was to mount up and enjoy the ride home, life can be tough sometimes!

“See me ride out of the sunset, on your coloured TV screen.”

Catch you all soon.

Dookes

Motion

Photography 101. Todays assignment: Moment and Motion.

Right, so everyone thought there was going to be a photograph of a Harley or some other motorbike. Well, to be honest that would have been nice, but as I can’t ride one and take a photo of it at the same time we will all have to settle for something else!

Again the old Dookes grey matter has been stretched, but I came up with something that I think fits the task.

The lunchtime train running bunker first on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway, near the wonderfully named “Crabtree Lane” bridge.DSC_0006
My variation on the “Motion” theme was to use a slow shutter speed and “pull” the zoom at the same time as shooting, it’s like panning, but use it for when something is moving towards you. The background blurs, but the subject should stay reasonably sharp.

It sorta works, but not the best in my opinion!!! The shot certainly has blurred motion though.

I have to admit that I’m not a great fan of this sort of photograph, it’s an engineering mindset I guess, I like things to be sharp. I’m happy to hear what you think though!

“Gonna be your man in motion, all I need is a pair of wheels”

Catch you all soon.

Dookes

PS Don’t you all think it’s time for a motorbike type post? 🙂

Solitude

Photography 101. Todays assignment: Solitude – And The Rule of Thirds.

Hmmm. Tricky this one. I spent all morning thinking about solitary trees.

Then maybe a single apple on a plate, but that would have been a bit desperate!

Time for a ride on Harley, that normally gets the old mind back in working order! The light was fantastic, just perfect for taking colour photographs

We trundled around the North East side of Bodmin Moor and then ended up on the old World War Two airbase, Royal Air Force Davidstow Moor.

This is a very special place. It nestles high up in an ethereal corner of Cornwall; though when the mists roll in it can feel cold and sinister, time to leave it and it’s spirits alone.

The silent runways still lie largely intact, as are the ruins of air-raid shelters. Not much else remains, except for the gaunt, block-like, decaying hulk of the old Control Tower which remains as witness to the events of the past.

The Tower seems to stand vigil in sad solitude; waiting to welcome home the ghosts of aircrew who never returned.P1030151There is a tangible presence around the place which is hard to define, it pulls me back frequently, but I can never stay for long…

Per Ardua ad Astra.

Dookes