Streak and Storm ride again?

After languishing in a dark, temperature and humidity controlled environment on trickle charge for almost three years, Streak and Storm are wheeled out into the preparation area. Excitement mounts with the possibility that the 2slowspeeds will ride again. Where to and for how long?

Meanwhile, a short distance away in the village of Verwood, two very dead Senna S20 headsets (for rider to rider communication) are being encouraged to take a charge. They have not been fed a meal of electricity for three weeks since they came with us from Brisbane and have not taken kindly to this.  We sometimes forget that many of the items that we use while motorcycling have been with us for up to eight years and, like us, can show signs of their age. One Sena S20 is revived but with an uncertain life expectancy, the other sadly did not make it out of the emergency room. Since they are an integral part of our riding, we pondered what to do next.

Contingency plans developed as we headed to pick up Streak and Storm included buying a new one today, costing some 250 UK pounds, or extending our car hire and not riding at all.  After deciding to take the hire car option and rebooking over the phone, success!!!, Anne finds a spare set of Sena S20’s she was sure had been left behind amongst a plethora of spares including brake pads, clutch cables and fuel pumps. Anne had found the spare Sena’s while removing extraneous parts from a pannier. Those spares we really do not need to carry on what will be the shortest trip taken by Streak and Storm, no more than 500 miles, and the first that does not involve a ferry, plane or train as part of the journey and is wholly in the UK.

After a nervous departure through the loose gravel path and as we get used to the feel of the bikes again navigating through the New Forest, I feel a mixture of pleasure, elation and slight nervousness as I become accustomed again to the handling of Storm again. Having been used to riding only the Triumph Thunderbird for so long, I have to get used to changing gears to gain power, not just a simple twist the throttle!  

A quick fuel stop to dilute the old stabilised petrol with Esso 99, which we have been told is the best fuel to use after such a long storage period, and we are ready to leave the quiet backroads of the New Forest. As wend our way through the traffic on the A31 west of Ringwood, we realise that being on Streak and Storm brings back all the positive feelings we have enjoyed over the last four trips. 2Slowspeeds are back!

We have no plans as to how far we might get on the first day, not departing till around 2:45 pm it might be the campsite a couple of miles beyond where we have been staying with Tansy.  Luckily traffic is fairly light and we are able to make good progress towards the western borders of Dorset.

A split second decision at a roundabout sees us descending towards the coast at Lyme Regis. Ignoring capacious “Park and Ride” facilities, we arrive in the centre of town, having navigated narrow streets without a sign of parking, an open gate and motorbikes are neatly parked along the sea wall in the centre of town. Perfect – we stop for tea. We will stop here for the night having covered only 65 ml / 102 km since 3pm.

Perfect waterfront parking in Lyme Regis

A campsite at Uplyme, which is over the border in Devon, provides us with a private location to set up the tent and we enjoy our first night on the road. An easy downhill walk to town for dinner and nice meal then sadly a long walk back to the campsite uphill! 

Our own private campsite

Anne had identified a couple of locations on Dartmoor National Park where we could see ancient forests, so this is our next destination. We have to cover a huge 50 ml. / 80 km in a day. Start slowly they say but this is ridiculous.  We do not even leave till 11:00 am.

For navigation, I am using what by now must be obsolete Garmin Montana GPS.  I was lucky enough to find that it contained the maps of the south west of England as I have long forgotten how to download the free maps from the internet and then upload them onto the GPS.

After a fast transit down the M5 and A38, we stop at Bovey Tracey, a quaint town on the eastern edge of Dartmoor.  This is a name Anne has difficulty remembering and I probably do not help by providing alternate names whenever asked so Anne would come up with Bony Tracy, Stinky Tracy etc.  Tourist Information provides us with useful local knowledge on where to camp and sells us an ordinance survey map of Dartmoor.  The size unfolded makes me think that it may be close to 1:1 scale, but it does contain an enormous amount of detail which could prove useful as we search for a campsite for the night.

Yarner Wood purchased in 1952 by nature conservancy becomes England’s first National Nature Reserve. We only take a short walk as the riding gear does impose some weight and heat limitations on our activities, which we had forgotten about, although I would not swap the blue skies for clouds while riding. We meet a local Ranger who suggests a better camping location than the one we already had. Thank you!

Yarner Wood walk

Dartmoor National park allows wild camping in certain areas as long as you camp away from the road and car parks to avoid use by campervans, for a maximum of two nights in any one location. With the directions provided by the ranger at Yarner Wood we come out of woodland with spectacular views in both directions – this will be the area to camp tonight.

Leafy Lanes on Dartmoor contrast with the open spaces.
“Storm” looking over Dartmoor.
Breathtaking view eastwards from campsite.

We lug, tent, sleeping bags, mats and camping chairs the prerequisite distance from the road. As advertised our location has stunning views eastwards over Yarner wood, Bovey Tracey and we can see as far as the sea some 20 miles/ 32 km away. This is perfect. No one else is camping near, we have the place to ourselves and the long summer evening to enjoy. Pure bliss, this is why we do what we do, for experiences like this.

All set for the evening, high on Dartmoor
Wild camping at its best

After a leisurely breakfast in Bovey Tracey, given the current dry conditions, we did not want to be known as the couple who started the great fire of Dartmoor in 2022 from using our camping stove.  Across the moor, yes video will follow, we wend our way towards Two Bridges in the centre of Dartmoor to visit Wistman’s Wood, another special woodland area. The roads are perfect for motorcycles: undulating, open vistas, steep climbs and descents, up to 25% in one case and yes Anne could smell my brake pads at the end of that one. 

Two Bridges is just that, two bridges and a hotel, nothing else added expect for the police radar van up the hill.  The speed limit on Dartmoor is just 40mph or 65kph which I would forget from time to time due to the beauty of the place.  “Honest officer I was just a little over”.  Will I have to check the mail for any offical “notice”?

The “old” bridge at Two Bridges

Having morning coffee, we meet a lovely gentleman who has just returned to motorcycling after many decades who we learn is on his first longer distance day outing. Great to see someone return to riding after such a long break.

First time out in Devon and enjoying it, good on ya

As I make a lunch booking at the hotel and I am mentally preparing for the fast walk to Wistman’s Wood, lunch and then ride to select a campsite when Anne, not wanting to rush her Wiseman’s Wood experience, suggests staying at the Two Bridges Hotel, appropriate for the Two Slow Speeds I suppose.  Her argument is very sound:  we had an un-repeatable experience last night, let us do something different tonight. 

At lunch we learn more about the local area from a member of staff who does guiding on the moors and suggests a route that will not only encompass Wistman’s Wood but three of the over 150 “Tors” on Dartmoor and a “stone throne” that locals like to say was the inspiration for “Game of Thrones”.  I asked about the interesting apparent overlap of “wild camping” areas and the military training ranges.  Yes they do and if you do not check before entering them you could have an unexpected interaction with the British Royal Marines.

The “Game of Thrones” chair?

Wistman’s Wood is made up of mostly “Quercus robur” or common oak, a bit of Latin for culture, in a granite bolder filled South West facing valley.  Here they grow to no more than 4.5m /15 ft. tall. What also makes it so interesting apart from the fact the trees survived being turned into firewood or fence posts is the variety, up to 120 species, of lichens that cover the trees giving Wistman’s Wood an almost mystical appearance. Visitors are asked not to enter as some of these lichens are slow growing and hundreds of years old. Our enthusiasm to explore and enjoy needs to be tempered with the damage we can cause just by our presence, no matter how well meaning. 

Anne with Wistman’s wood in the background
The lichen covering in Wistman’s wood
One of the inhabitants of Wistman’s wood
Closeup of lichens in Wistman’s wood

After a long and enjoyable walk and restful night’s sleep, we prepare for another long day in the saddle.  We are meeting friends Pat and Andy at the “Jamaica Inn” made famous by the book of the same name by author Daphne Du Maurier . Our adventures will continue in Cornwall about 20 ml / 32 km away.

– Anthony 

Family Exploring

Having been separated from family and friends in Europe for over two and a half years, we have wanted to spend time with them catching up as well as exploring familiar and new locations. Having sampled champagne, refreshed our riding skills and confirmed that the Eiffel Tower has not rusted away, it was time to explore some of what the south of England has to offer with family.

We had planned to go to Yorkshire to go down memory’s lane with Anne’s mother, but the weather forecast promised 3 days of heavy rain.  Quick change of plan and we decide to explore more of Kent instead.  Choosing a coastal destination in Kent gives one a plethora of options. From estuarine towns the Medway around to the White cliffs of Dover the choice varied, each with a long history and variety of attractions.

Our first trip was to Broadstairs, a town of which we had never been to before. It is located in an area called the Isle of Thanet. When I first cane across this name, I naively thought was there an island off the Kent coast of which I was unaware. In one sense, I was right. The area referred to  as Isle of Thanet, now a contiguous part of Kent, was in fact an island with, at one time, the Wantsum channel some 2,000 ft/ 600m wide separating it from the rest of Kent. This channel gradually silted up with the last recorded ship sailing through in 1672. Today the isle is firmly part of Kent, although rising sea levels could at some time in the future restore its island status.

Looking across the beach at Viking Bay, Broadstairs.

For those with a literary bent and interested in Charles Dickens, the English author visited Broadstairs frequently over a 20 year period from 1837. He wrote his book “David Copperfield” there. An annual Charles Dickens festival is held in Broadstairs every year in June.

Criminals can be found in all shapes and sizes.

Tenterden is a pretty town in mid Kent and of interest to me as one end of the Kent and East Sussex heritage railway. While not the reason for a visit this time, I am sure that the town benefits from such a tourist attraction. 

M’my and Anne enjoying the Main Street in Tenterden

I was interested to note that the Lemon Tree Restaurant in addition to providing good meals and service also looked to source as much of their food, including wine, as possible from local suppliers, not the cheapest conglomerate. We had hoped to visit a Kent winery and sample the reported excellent wines now coming out of Kent and Sussex, but “Road Closed” thwarted us. Another time.  

While travelling westwards towards Dorset to see my sister, lunchtime beckoned and we pulled into the car park of “The Selsey Arms” at Coolham which appeared from the outside to be just another english pub. Upon entering the pub, we are transported to another era. The walls are decorated with memorabilia including uniforms covering the short history and operation of RAF Coolham, a former Royal Air Force Advanced Landing Ground. RAF Coolham was built as part of Operation Overlord and was only operational from April 1944 to January 1945.   Units based there included 306 and 315 Polish squadrons which is reflected in many of the photographs and paintings. A fascinating slice of history, and the involvement of Polish flyers in WW2. The pub also has a gluten free fryer!

English village pub in Coolham
Interior of “The Selsey Arms” Coolham.

Refreshed and educated, we travel on to my sister’s in Verwood where a Aussie decorated welcome awaited us in case we were feeling a little homesick. I am not sure I like the inflatable shark circling above my head.  As long no “Jaws” movie music starts playing, I will be fine.

An Australian welcome in Dorset, watch of the Shark!

The weather for the past few weeks has been warm and sunny and provides an excellent opportunity to walk to along Hengistbury Head which provides good exercise and a fantastic view  of the Needles, a rock formation on the western end of Isle of Wight. For those who walk all the way to the beach beyond Hengistbury Head, a variety of food stalls will provide sustenance.   

Tansy, John and Anthony near Hengistbury Head, Dorset.
Hengistbury Head

Sunday morning saw a country drive for coffee at Compton Abbas airfield. An interesting name made up of  Saxon word “cumb-ton” meaning village in a narrow valley and  “abbas” meaning land owned by an abbess of an Abbey, Shaftsbury in this case.

A regular stream of two or four seater aircraft both landed and took off, joyrides, visitors and club members I presume, enjoying the beautiful weather and the fantastic views of the Dorset Downs. The location is a local stopping point for motorcyclists and car enthusiasts out for a Sunday drive with a well stocked coffee shop to refresh them before a homeward journey. Unusual aircraft include an Auster, Harvard and I believe a Boeing Stearman, my guess based mostly on the blue/yellow colour scheme.

Boeing Stearman taking off from Compton Abbas.

I was wondering what was the largest aircraft that this undulating grass airstrip could handle when right on cue in came a Pilatus PC-12, which is a single engined turboprop seating 6-8 passengers with a range of some 1500ml/2400km.   After landing, a single passenger disembarked with his briefcase and the plane then departed showing its excellent short take off capability.  An impressive sales advertisement for the PC-12.  An examination of the flightradar24 website showed the plane had come from Cannes to Bournemouth, customs and immigration I presume, then flown on to Compton Abbas some 25ml./ 40km away from Bournemouth Airport, presumably due to a dearth of taxis at Bournemouth Airport?

Only US$4 million for your own executive plane.

A wonderful couple of days with my sister and her family in Dorset comes to an end with a meal with some of her friends who have been aware of our motorcycle travels since the beginning. 

Now we we must prepare for re uniting Streak and Storm.

– Anthony

When I am looking for additional information on a place or event for this blog, My search often leads to Wikipedia to enhance my scribing.  I must thank all those who contribute to Wikipedia, for taking the time and effort to document a small piece of history or knowledge that otherwise may be inaccessible to many or worse lost. This makes our world a richer place for the authors efforts.

Reims

Packed and ready to go to France. For all our skills as experienced global travellers hah hah!, we had not foreseen that our trip to Paris was on the first day of the British Summer holidays! As we snaked for the second time in the multiple lanes of Eurostar passengers at London St Pancras (we found out we queued too early and had to leave the queue and go to the back again) we had concerns that we would not make our train to Paris.  We should not have worried: while the initial organisation was confusing, the processing moved forward at a pace, although my nine and a half year old UK passport again failed to work with the passport reading technology.  Have I really aged that much? I guess the technology is saying yes! I do now have a French stamp in my UK passport curtesy of BREXIT, no more whisking through the EU members channel. The French immigration officer was observant and while perusing my passport asked where I lived, probably due to all the South and Central American entry and exit stamps from our first RTW journey.

A short walk between Gare de Nord and Gare de l’Est allowed Anne to indulge in that great French tradition of coffee and a plate of anchovies in olive oil, really? Not my kind of snack but everyone to their own.

A quick snack of anchovies and bread at a Paris Café

After a short delay to replace our broken train, we are off snaking our way out of Paris. While travelling through France by train, I am struck by the dearth of locomotive hauled trains.  As we pass rail yards, the occasional tired looking diesel or electric loco, BB and CC classes, sit forlornly amongst the weeds. I missed the demise of the steam locomotive era due to youth, but this must be similar with newer Diesel multiple units (DMUs) and Electrical multiple units (EMUs) replacing locomotive hauled trains.  I always enjoyed seeing a locomotive being attached to its rake of coaches in a station and considered it a part of the journey. Another era is passing.

Modern French trains at Gare du L’est.

Reims is in the heart of champagne country where we have gone to spend time with our niece Marion.  We arrive at 6:30pm and the sun is still  high in the sky. We are treated by Marion on arrival to Champagne from the Co-operative where she works.

An excellent bottle of chilled Prestige Des Sacres Champagne

As we walk to a nearby local favourite restaurant of Marion’s, people are eating, talking and laughing outside, music is playing and it reminds me how much I enjoy the long summer evenings that are absent back in Brisbane. Oh for daylight saving… 

Anne and Marion

Marion facilitated a tour of the countryside finishing where she works for a Champagne co-operative. This Co-operative was founded in the early 1960’s by René Lamblot and other winegrowers from road Janvry who wished to promote champagne produced from the western slopes of the Montagne de Reims. They have successfully done so since that time.

Marions workplace near Janvry

Surrounded by grape vines we enjoy being out in the countryside which seems so quiet and peaceful, which will change as soon as the harvest starts in a few weeks, earlier than usual due to the recent heatwave.

A view across the Champagne vineyards near Hautvillers

Driving back towards Reims I was surprised to see dilapidated and abandoned motor racing pits on one side of the road and a similar looking grandstand on the other. Had we inadvertently driven onto a race track?  In a sense we had.  We were on the start finish straight of the Reims-Gueux road circuit that hosted the French Grand Prix during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  The circuit had some of the longest straights in Europe in its time. 

I noticed that the front of the pits had a long continuous wall separating the track from the mechanics areas. Could this be were the term “Pit wall” came from?  Today in modern circuits no such barrier exists.  Was it for safety?  Anne remembers the racing car makers and petrol brands, long past, from her childhood.

Anne walking on the old track at Reims- Gueux
Time Keepers Building at Reims-Gueux racetrack.

As we try to imagine how it must have been when races were run here, a rumbling behind me makes me turn to see a black Porsche coming up to us.  I have to give it a starting flag flourish, and it accelerates away, obviously keeping to the speed limit, and we get a little taste of what must have been. Ah nostalgia.  

All too quickly, our time here has past and we are waved off by Marion as we depart Reims. Thank you Marion for your wonderful hospitality, till next time “au revoir”.

As I write this, Anne is furiously adding photos and commentary on facebook which makes me wonder if my tapping away on my ipad to craft this muse is adding any value, apart from having a long term record of our travels.  Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook amongst others provide a much faster and more succinct way of communicating.  Will the blog eventually fade for use? But for now it is my way of communicating so onward we will go.

– Anthony