The Galibier

Yesterday, my good blogging friend AGMA published a post about her love of the Tour de France cycle race. Please pop over to her blog by clicking here and check it out.

Regular blogonaughts may remember that Hogrider Dookes is also rather partial to the “Le Tour” and it is certainly one of my guilty pleasures to sit inside on a bright summer day watching the action on television. My excuse is that live Tour action simply did not exist when Dookes was a lad!

Chris Froome attacks in the mountains.

Today the weather outside is OK, but not great, so not too much guilt is involved…but today is a very special day for “Le Tour,” today the race crosses the iconic Col du Galibier!

Col du Galibier

This was a mountain that I always dreamed of climbing. The domain of Merckx, Zoetemelk, Coppi and Jiméez, it stands at 2645metres, 8678ft, above sea level and has featured in the tour since 1911.

This year “Le Tour” is crossing Galibier from the North side, 18km of climbing at an average gradient of 6.9%….that’s bloody tough! Oh yes, I nearly forgot, they also had to climb Col du Télégraph first, 11.8km at 7.3%!

Galibier is to me the home of “Le Tour” in the high Alps and also for me a place of great spiritual significance. The first time I rode up her glorious majestic slopes I had serious tears running down my cheeks and to be honest it’s not changed much since! I love the place.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go watch a cycle race!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Trip Planning

Regular visitors my blog, The “Blogonaughts,” may probably be wondering why I haven’t been hitting the road for another epic type trip.

The months of June and July have, sort of, become my default time for going off exploring, with long hours of Northern Hemisphere sunshine and school holidays still a month or more away. Yes, I avoid school holidays!

So why am I not heading out exploring?

Well, there are a number of different reasons…

First up, I’ve just been crazy busy over the past few months. The maintenance of Dookes H.Q and various bits of charity work that I do have certainly kept me off the streets, literally.

Then there was G’s crash and injury, which has seen me zipping back and forth to support him and has left me feeling a bit flat about the whole business of riding motorcycles.

It wasn’t just G.

My oldest mate “Vifferman” took a tumble and wrote off his Honda, in atrocious wet conditions, just before Christmas and recently nephew Chris had a crazy woman step out in front of his trials bike one evening after dark; fortunately no-one was seriously hurt in either case, however as a result, I’ve been feeling a little like “the last man standing!”

Viff’s second-hand Honda.


It’s all OK though, having freed myself up from over commitments I can see the light at the end of the tunnel; G is on the mend, Chris is young and unshaken, Viff is, well, just Viff!

Which is why my thoughts have been turning towards trip planning!

At this moment I can hear Mrs Dookes sighing. You see I’m a bit of a map nerd; I’d rather spend an hour poring over a map than reading a magazine or newspaper…it’s the Navigator in me! As a result I’ve always got inspiration for future trips running through my head and embryonic plans just waiting to be developed, cunning eh?

Where are you thinking of going, then Dookes? I hear you say.

Well the list isn’t as long as you’d think…

Home Nations wise I’ve long harboured a wish to do a tour of the UK taking in Wales (naturally), Scotland, England and Ireland.
I always seem to have some unfinished business somewhere and the Alps and Dolomites are in my mind on that score.
I’d quite like to take a gentle foodie trundle around Spain and Portugal’s non-touristy areas.
Parts of Eastern Europe have always appealed to me, such as Hungary and Romania, so I’d throw in some of the Balkans there as well.
Finally, I really want to go explore Scandinavia, especially North of the Arctic Circle.
Needless to say, my beloved France would almost certainly be included in most of the above!

That’s about it really…for now.

Now, where to????


I did ponder whether I should have called this post “Route Dreaming,” but a dream stays that, just a dream – an abstract swirl of misty ideas. No my friends, these are places that I will really ride to and as such I have the plans to prove it.

So how do I go about putting together a route plan?

Well, I start with the basic target of somewhere to go, the final destination. Taking Dookes H.Q. as the starting point, that gives me the beginning and end. Next I do some research on interesting or historic places to visit along the way, like the Chapel at Ronchamp, Aigues Mortes or Pont du Gard.

Aigues Mortes

Then its just a matter of finding interesting twisty roads and joining up the dots; simple really. If any of this comes across as ‘teaching Grandma how to suck eggs,’ then I apologise, but I really get lots of people asking how I do my route planning.

Pont du Gard, It’s Roman and very old!


Oh yes, factoring in accommodation is pretty important too and detours have been known to sample particular food delicacies; as my late mate Floyd once said, “To know a country, you must eat a country!”

Only the French serve food like this…


So there you are, the Dookes route-planning machine is alive, well and currently very active.

The question is:
Which one of the destinations on the list above will I attack first?

Well I’m not going to give anything away at this stage, build the suspense and keep you all guessing eh?

I’m thinking that 2600 miles and six countries should do it…

In September.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to do a spot of map reading!

“I just know where I want to be,
Forever wandering, forever travelling.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Ride a White Swan

Ten years ago I sat on an East-bound Boeing watching the bright stars shining high above the Atlantic before the speeding sun brought an early dawn. Our contrails pointed back towards Chicago. I was heading home after visiting family in the Windy City; family who mean so much to me as the years pass by.

I love flying, but that short night I was troubled.

Just prior to leaving for the USA I had almost concluded a deal to purchase a motorbike, a lovely Pearlescent White Harley Davidson Centenary Softail, but there I was sitting in a 400 tonne cigar tube questioning whether I was doing the right thing….it was a lot of money!

The hostess invited me to close the window blind, I always get amused by that…do they think that someone is looking in from the outside at 30,000 feet altitude at night? I politely declined and explained that I was Astro-navigating, I was left alone, probably classed as a nut case…and back to my pondering.

In due course the wheels touched down at London Heathrow and we were launched into the machine that all long-haul travellers have to endure; emigration, customs, bureaucracy and of course queuing and standing in line…then it’s off to baggage reclaim.

At London Paddington station we gratefully sank into out First Class seats on the Westbound high-speed train back to Cornwall and relaxed. Mrs Dookes drifted off to sleep as I tackled a bacon sandwich and a cup of black coffee whilst admiring the pleasant English countryside speeding by at 125mph.

Mrs D’s phone buzzed with a text message; I picked it up and glanced at the words on the screen. I gently nudged my wife awake, “Message, not good.”

The text message was to tell us that one of Mrs D’s dearest and oldest friends had died.

Trudie was just 35 when she was taken by cervical cancer.

We knew that she was seriously ill before we flew out to the USA some weeks previously and had spent a beautiful day in her company; but it still came as a shock. No, it was shit….

Trudie; beautiful, delicate, lovely, wonderful, happy, loving Trudie….gone.

I wanted to scream, cry, sob and I host of other things…instead I stared out of the window and saw Trudie’s face in the clouds above the ripening wheat fields speeding past our carriage.

The rest of the journey passed in a blur; then the next two days merged into a mess of jet-lag and grief.

A few days later I was back in my office. The phone rang, it was 09:15.

Mrs Dookes was calling. She cut straight to the chase, “Dad had just called me, my cousin Andy has been found dead!”

It turned out that Andy had suffered a major heart attack in the middle of the night and had been found by his father, collapsed in the bathroom at his home.

Andy had not long turned 40.

I liked Andy, he was a bit of an odd-ball, but we shared many common interests like old machinery and trains; he was a nice bloke.

I put the phone down and stared out of the window. Life is too bloody short and at times bloody unfair.

I picked up the telephone again and dialled the motorcycle dealership.

“About that bike…I’ll pick it up on Friday!”

Ten years later I’m still riding that beautiful white Harley Davidson, that you folks know as “Harls.”

I’m just sorry that Andy never got to hear the rasp of her engine through those shot-gun pipes; and I’m desperately sad that Trudie never got to ride pillion behind me, I’m sure that Mrs Dookes wouldn’t have minded…!

…but you know sometimes I see a shadow in the workshop when I’m working on that bike and start the engine….and on other occasions when I’m riding I could swear that I get a hug, like someone is sitting behind me and has their arms around my waist.

Ten years on, I’ve ridden just about everywhere I’ve ever wanted to on that wonderful bike. I’ve also got a powerful bunch of very special memories forged on that lovely machine, but most of all I still feel that connection with two very special people taken too soon and for them I ride in their memory.

Andy. Trudie. I miss you both and love you still.

Catch the two of you one day.

“Ride it on out like a bird in the sky way
Ride it on out like you were a bird.
Ride a White Swan like the people of the Beltane.”

Dookes

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

A Little Bit of History Repeating

When I’m off on my little motorcycle adventures, there’s nothing I love more than riding new roads. Actually, that’s what its all about, new roads, new vistas, new places and new people.

There are times though when I retrace my steps. Sometimes it’s because of necessity because there is no other practical route and other times it’s just because I want to.

Now I’m not talking not those grand places that call me back, like for example Col du Galibier in the French Alps. No, I mean those back roads that just need to be ridden at a leisurely pace without a care in the world.

A few weeks back, as I trundled across Brittany heading for the ferry home, I had one of those moments. I wasn’t in a hurry and the D764 road to Pontivy just sort of called me to enjoy a steady trundle across the gentle Breton countryside.

I couldn’t resist stopping to try to recreate a photo that I took of “Harls” a couple of years ago on the same road.
Heres the first picture:

Harls in Brittany 2014.

Harls in Brittany 2014.

And here we are with “Baby” in the same spot two years later!

Baby, Brittany 2016.

Baby in Brittany 2016.

Apart from the difference in the weather and the height of the crops in the field behind the bikes, I don’t think too much has changed.

“Harls” looks a bit dirtier than “Baby,” but that’s probably got a lot to do with her being a naked bike and all exposed to the elements, as I am when I’m riding her!

All I know is that it’s a privilege to be able to own, ride and enjoy two lovely machines such as these and take them to the many wonderful places that I do.

It’s what keeps me sane in this crazy world that we live in!

“Yes I’ve seen it before,
just little bits of history repeating.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Testing The Slim

With planning for an imminent road trip well underway at Dookes H.Q., I thought that I’d better get Baby Blue sorted and serviced before hitting the highway. She’s just turned over 9000 miles and is due her next service at 10k, so if I set out to ride any respectable distance she’s going to pass that easily; better get a service in first and whilst we’re at it a new pair of tyres too!

Soooo, yesterday morning I dropped her off at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the work to be done. I had hoped to wait whilst the technicians did their work, but for various reasons things got a bit stacked up and it was obvious that a quick turnaround wasn’t going to happen. The Dealership Manager Chris Iris appeared and after apologising for the delay offered me the chance to try out a new Harley Davidson Softail Slim on an extended overnight test ride.

I’ve got to admit that I was a tad peeved about the delay, but Chris’ offer was very fair and well the chance to test out a brand new model with only 160 miles on the clock was too good to miss.

The Softail Slim model has been around for about four years now and is the modern successor to my beloved “Harls,” a 2003 Softail Standard Centenary Model. Harris and the Slim share the same frame layout which really shows off the bulk of the V-twin engine. The Slim has “Fat Boy” type inverted front forks with a chunky great 16 inch wire spoked front wheel between. The engine is the 103B twin cam, that’s 1690cc of air-cooled grunt! In the classic way of all Harley Softails the rear suspension is hidden underneath the bike. The wire spoked rear wheel matched it’s front partner and looked super, I love “wire wheels!”image
One thing I took an instant dislike to was the “Hollywood” handle bars, I’m more of a “Semi-Ape” man myself and the wide flat bars are just not my thing at all!image

Harley Davison are making all sorts of statements about how this bike is 1950’s retro-styled and that it nods in the direction of the original custom bikes. I think the modern parlance is “Old School.” Now I’m as partial to old bikes as anyone, but I really feel that 1950’s or any other decade’s styling belongs in it’s original decade. I’d rather buy a genuine old bike, than a new one that’s pretending to be from another age!

The Softail Slim is certainly a smart-looking machine, if a tad Spartan. The seat is only a single, so no room for a pillion. Everything is minimalist, little things like combined rear brake lights and indicators are impressive, but I was left feeling that it was all a bit austere. image

The twin stock pipes look great and give the Slim a nice throaty rumble.

Once I started riding that things started to really get disappointing. I’m very used to riding Softails and this one just didn’t feel “right.” The riding position may look as cool as you like and be ok for a short hop to the local café or shop, but you won’t want to be covering great distances on this machine. The saddle wasn’t at all kind to the Dookes derrière and the knees up under your chin position is frankly uncomfortable.

At low-speed the Slim handles crisply and responsively, turns in nicely on corners and sharply accelerates with swift throttle response. Above 45mph the naked bike and appalling riding position both combine to make for a teeth gritting hang on tight experience. Harley claim a top speed of 110mph, if you can get anywhere near that and still hang on, I wish you good luck!

Overall, I got to say that I was disappointed with the Slim. The on the road price is £14,995, it’s a lot of money for what is basically a posing bike and lashed up from parts of other models at that! So no I won’t be adding one to the Dookes stable anytime.
image
Thanks again to Chris at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the opportunity to try out the new model.

Back to the planning now, catch you soon!

Dookes