Back into retirement, for a while anyway…

You should apply for this role, it will be a piece of cake my friend said.   Haha, I was conned all right!  I will admit that I worried at one point that my job as project manager for Qld Health in Torres and Cape, TCHHS, was going to kill me, the stress was like nothing I had experienced in my entire life, and I thought I would be really annoyed if it did!  

The idyllic photos I took while on TI, Thursday Island for non Aussies, do not reflect the horrendously hectic time my team and I went through that week. But like always, some good always comes out of every challenge. And that was the teamwork and bond we forged to get ourselves over this ‘hurdle’! We worked until midnight that week and too many times for another couple of weeks after that. But we had wonderful laughs too!  

Leaving Horn Island where we land from Cairns to go to Thursday Island

TI hospital where we were based for a week – pretty amazing spot!

TI hospital helicopter pad on the left

Managed a walk up to Green Hill Fort on Thursday Island with my colleagues after work

Went from TI to Bamaga for the day – it’s quite a long boat ride

Leaving beautiful TI for the last time – for now…

Our flight to Cooktown

Being in Cairns had some unexpected bonuses such as catching up with a few special people – my sister who had made Cairns one of their destinations on their Aussie trip, biking friends who returned home in Cairns, an artist friend and discovering some of Cairns’ beauty and wilderness spots with my love over a couple of week ends.

Great distraction seeing my sister Diane in Cairns

Babinda Boulders

Saw our first cassowaries, a male with its chick, at Etty Bay

Another male cassowary at Etty Bay

Loved Etty Bay

Enjoyed some amazing walks around Lake Eascham

We saw some magnificient trees in Crater Lakes National Park

Bananas in pyjamas!

Met Anne in Cairns – amazingly we grew up in the same little town in Northern France – we just met 50 years later!

I am typing this at 11,200m on my Virgin flight  back to Brisbane.  It will take a bit of time to recover and unwind and I can’t wait to be back with Anthony. I would not have managed to keep with this job without his support. Anthony kept me sane and distracted when he came up to Cairns and did everything at home, yes, even all the cooking – he now makes the best ever apple and rubbard crumble!  And he did all the planning for our upcoming trip. 

I will remember my time on this project, both while in Brisbane and then in Cairns, fondly because, as always, life is about the people and I worked with 2 amazing teams. I could not have achieved what I did without the amazing support of the most awesome teams. I will miss them but it’s time for some family time now. Thanks the memories Cairns and TCHHS, it really has been awesome.

Bye-bye Cairns, the building marked with the arrow is where I lived for 3.5 months

Bye-bye Torres & Cape, we’ll be back

Chat to you all again soon. Next stop Abu Dhabi!

“Five years”

A phrase from the David Bowie album, “The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” that resonates with me is a fitting title to this relatively short blog entry.  It really has been five wonderful adventure filled years since the first tentative blog entry I made back in April 2014.  Who would have thought, certainly not me, that we would still be blogging some five years later, even if no-one is reading anymore. Two RTW trips, two shorter trips to Spain/France and Southern Africa, albeit in a 4WD, have taken place in this time totalling over 62,000 miles / 100,000 kilometres.  We cannot say what the future will hold or how long we will travel by motorcycle, but 2019 will see the 2slowspeeds on the road again motorcycling to new and interesting locations.  Not as far flung as previous odysseys, as we will only ride for a couple of months this year during the northern hemisphere summer due to Anne’s work commitments. We also wanted to spend more time in one or two locales rather than sometimes seemingly continuous riding to meet a visa or seasonal weather limitations.

So where to this time?  As you know we are warm/dry weather riders who like a hot shower, good food and cold drink at the end of the day. Well I am, Anne is made of tougher stuff. So logical places for this year would include, Spain, Italy or Greece, but no, we are off to the Faroe Islands and Iceland in July and August.  We fell in love with Iceland last March when we visited and presented to the BMW Icelandic Motorcycle Club at their AGM. The lure of the dramatic landscape, the apparent isolation and potential for camping have added to an irresistible call.

Love paper maps!


We said we would come back, and we are.  We are looking forward to meeting with and hopefully riding with some of those we met and especially our loyal Icelandic blog followers.  We will also get the opportunity to camp which did not feature nearly as much as Anne would have liked on our RTW trips.  We are furiously planning and booking flights and ferries.  We know that wet/cold weather gear will need to be packed but at the end of June we will be airborne from Australia and ‘Streak’ and ‘Storm’ will be on the road in early July.

– Anthony

Air Canada “Fly your bike” 2019

Air Canada’s motorcycle shipping season between Europe and Canada is in full swing. The same cities as last year have all been retained as pickup and delivery points.

Having uncrated “Streak & Storm” in airport carparks in Delhi, Santiago and Seoul, I have a soft spot for the simplicity of the Air Canada “Fly Your Bike” program. Having used it twice, once on each of our two RTW journeys, and seen the ease and helpfulness of the Air Canada staff, I like to give an annual plug for what I think should be the standard for all motorcycle air transportation.

While packing your motorcycle it is important to remember the dangerous goods provision to avoid having items removed at the receipt point doing the inspection. Just before the end of our first RTW journey, we had to leave behind the rubber glue and CO2 canisters from our AirPro puncture repair kit, Loctite, Sendrite (an instant adhesive), WD40 and ScotOiler oil. (brake fluid /oil was OK). Since we only had some 100 miles/160 kilometres to go after arriving in London, it was not much of an issue. We also took our Sena intercoms with us because of the lithium batteries. Since you are arriving either in Europe or Canada those type of items will be fairly easy to obtain. So you can leave them out and obtain on arrival.

Here is Air Canada’s 2019 Fly Your Bike brochure:

flyyourbike_brochure_en.pdf

Enjoy the travelling.

– Anthony

Streak, Storm and Brexit

As I write this in early May, memories of all the events since my arrival in the UK are starting to fade and unless I capture them now they will be lost in mists of my synapses forever.  

After two relaxing days with friends in Fort Worth, Texas, it’s wheels down at Heathrow after an uneventful flight from Atlanta on probably the last A340-600 I will travel on as the days of the four engined passenger jet is rapidly coming to an end.  The A340 and B747 are gradually being retired.  I must admit I still like four engines 4-1 = 3 whereas 2-1 = 1. But technology, efficiency and fuel economy rule the day.

With only two days ‘til Brexit, I am not sure what to expect – queues at the airport waiting to leave, empty shelves at the supermarkets?  The next few days may be an interesting experience.  In 1997, Anne and I flew into Hong Kong ahead of the handover of the former British Colony to China.  We followed each of the ceremonies and were there on the docks at midnight as the Royal yacht Britannia sailed into the night.  An interesting experience to be part of History. Will this be a repeat performance?

The Hilton Doubletree had me in my room by 9:30am, a real early check in! Great staff and the benefits of Diamond Status with Hilton Honours, which expires at the end of the month, but that is another story. We have found that staying at an airport hotel for the first night allows us to recover from the overnight flight better before we start catching up with family and friends.

Everything seems very normal. No panic buying, or people fleeing the country. Has it been cancelled? No, it seems that all the activity is within Parliament at Westminster but the MPs cannot reach a consensus on anything.  Those freeze dried breakfast meals I purchased at REI in Salt Lake City for emergency rations will be for the next motorcycle trip after all.

A trip to Oxford street, which is very normal, sees me secure a new mobile phone for 0.99 pence and two bottles of Anne’s favourite perfume which is no longer available in Australia!  So back to Brexit and I make my way to the centre of everything, Westminster.  The crowds are there, but mostly tourists.  A few hardy souls, appropriately dressed according to their Brexit belief are outside the gates of Parliament. Slogans are shouted, but it is very cold and these must be the most hard core and enthusiastic of people to be here.  A car covered in fresh snow goes by to emphasise the cold.  I head back to the warmth of the London Underground.

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The Remain supporters

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I think they support Brexit

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Parliamentary debate with no agreement

Streak and Storm.  The reason why I am back in the UK. Since engines off in October 2017, Streak and Storm have slumbered quietly in storage.  My cataract surgery in 2018 precluded any adventures that year, but now 2019 the feet are starting to itch again. With the last service in Almaty in Kazakstan, the first item of business is to have the bikes serviced and obtain an MOT so we can put them on the road again.  With Matt, the service manager at BMW Mottorad in Oxford having left and the warranty period well and truly expired, we decide to use a local motorcycle business who had previously worked on Anne’s side-stand, to undertake the work. 

I arrive at the location where we store the bikes, equipment and clothing. Alan has the bikes out and ready, I pull out my motorcycle clothing, which has travelled twice around the world – all those memories it evokes!  I am back on Storm, engine splutters to life and dies, probably the fuel stabiliser, it needs a few revs but I am off.  The weather has been kind to me and although cool, the sun is shining and blue sky prevails.  I am riding again through the New Forest in Hampshire, avoiding the ponies, watching the dappled light stripe the road as all those great feelings that motorcycling evoke in me flood back. This is glorious, bring on the summer.

Unlike Jack, a friend’s son who rides two horses standing up in the Australian Outback Spectacular, I have no such way to ride two motorcycles, so it takes most of the day to move both bikes, since the only local taxi has existing bookings, but it all works out in the end.

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Streak heading for an MOT and Service

The full service for both bikes will take a week as they need to be fitted around other work being undertaken.  No problem as I have a few things I would like to do amongst catching up with family and friends.

I have followed Chelsea FC since returning from South Africa as an 8 year old in 1963.  While not a fanatical die hard supporter, I have kept abreast of what is happening and watch games on TV when I can.  On our many times in the UK in the past decades, I have looked for tickets, but always found them sold out to members. I would love to go to a game but the prices for the ‘special packages’ are AU$ 400-500.  I am not paying that price.  Purchase of tickets on the secondary market is illegal in the UK, and those tickets are over AU$ 200 each.

I suddenly find tickets are available for a Premier League match against Brighton and Hove Albion in a couple of days.  Brighton’s progression in the FA Cub has meant a rescheduled midweek date.  I get a ticket in the fourth row for AU$100, Stamford Bridge here I come! Match night sees me heading south from Olympia, spotting a Chelsea blue scarf ahead, I follow, winding my way towards the ground, merging with the ever-growing stream of supporters.  The stadium looms large and in a form I do not recognise, except from pictures.

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Stamford Bridge April 2019 Chelsea vs Brighton.

I realise that I was last here for a soccer match in 1977, some 42 years ago, Chelsea vs Millwall. Wow time really does fly! In those days, grounds had standing sections and I would be in “the Shed” where the Chelsea faithful & hard core supporters would gather under what was a real shed, posts and a roof only. All that remains today is the old back of wall, which has become a monument to great players of the past. A fitting tribute I think to the “Shed”.

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Back at the Bridge after 42 years!

It’s great to be inside, I grab a drink bottle before heading to my seat, the first time I will have ever sat at a football match.  No you cannot keep the lid of the drink bottle as you may want to throw it on the pitch, Health and Safety,  How far can you throw the top anyway? What a great match 3-0 to Chelsea. I could see all those names from the TV match right there in front of me and loved the atmosphere and chants – not sure about away supporters in the Shed area, but that is progress I guess.  Yes I will go again, probably in another 42 years if I can get a ticket at a reasonable price.  Note to owner, please get on with building bigger capacity stadium.

The Shuttleworth Collection is an amazing aeronautical museum with both civilian and military aircraft, cars and motorcycles from the 1900’s to the 1950’s, located at Old Warden aerodrome some 50 ml./ 80 km. north of London.  I had heard of the collection but knew nothing about it.  The collection was started in 1928 by Richard Shuttleworth, an avid aviation enthusiast who  later died in a plane crash in 1940. His mother established the Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth Remembrance Trust in 1944 and the trust has continued on since that time.

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The DH88, Winner of the 1934 England to Australia air race in 70 hrs 54 mins.

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1904 Aurora, the origin of the motorcycle is clearly evident

What differentiates this aviation museum from many others I have visited is the fact that the trust aims to maintain the aircraft collection in flying condition and a number of times year they hold flying displays of part of the collection.  There is is a huge engineering effort to keep these historic aircraft flying, some require detailed engine overhaul every 20 hours! One is able to see this work undertaken and talk to those involved.

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Supermarine Spitfire Vc – allocated to 310 Czech Sqn in 1942

I was fortunate to meet a former trustee and pilot, who I understood from others at the Shuttleworth Trust, was instrumental in keeping the Shuttleworth Trust as a flying rather than static museum concern.  He and a friend were kind enough to let me tag along with them as he provided anecdotal information from flight characteristics to acquisitions on the various planes we walked past. A big thank you to both of them for sharing this experience with me.  I see the Shuttleworth Trust via its website does capture some such information. I hope they and others continue to do so as sadly, with the passing of time, this is lost if not recorded and provides a direct link to the planes and the lives of those who flew them.  

The most vivid memories I have of historical sights I have visited, such has Pearl Harbour or Monument Valley was being guided by someone with an intimate connection, a retired US Marine who was on a battleship in Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 or a day long private tour off the beaten track, just the two of us with a Navajo guide discussing their culture. We were lucky to have such experiences.

Back to the matters at hand, I was looking forward to riding Streak and Storm back to storage, but they were not ready before my departure from the UK so I had to forgo that pleasure.  An overnight stop in Hong Kong to soak up the local atmosphere, then back to Brisbane, home & Anne.  Good to be home.

– Anthony

One more Cherry Pie for the Road

My last day skiing and in front of me as is a slice of our favourite Cherry Pie.  Sadly only one slice, Anne’s smiling face is thousands of miles away back in Australia working hard while I feast at Deer Valley Ski Resort in Utah for the last time after two weeks of skiing with Australian friends.  So unfair you say and I agree, it is not nice to eat cherry pie alone.

Deer Valley’s famous (in my view) cherry pie

How did we get into this strange predicament you may well ask.  Are we not the 2slowspeeds, not a single version?  In mid 2018 we agreed with good friends David and Marianne that we would ski together in Utah in March 2019, nothing on the horizon could cloud this excellent plan, accomodation booked, flight tickets booked, all we needed to do was sit back and wait for the powder snow to fall on the Wasatch mountains, however it was suggested to Anne shortly afterwards that she apply for a short term Project Management role on a health project in Queensland.  Low and behold she secured a contract and returned to the workforce after 5 years of frivolous travelling the world enjoying herself and 12 years prior running her own business.  Yours truly used some pitiful excuse about keeping the home fires burning to avoid undertaking such a similar arduous future.

With the project not concluding until April 2019, Anne said that I should still go and our friends believed that they could survive just my presence although Anne would be sorely missed, which she was. Still the skiing has to go on.

We have spent two enjoyable weeks skiing a number of locations around Salt Lake City, including Deer Valley, Park City, Alta, Snowbird and Solitude, the last two of which I had not skied before. We were blessed with a number of Bluebird days and even though US Colleges’ ‘Spring Break’ was in full swing, we were able to find less crowded slopes. I have included a few pictures for those who like snowy outlooks. 

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Atop the divide at Snowbird, Utah

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Aussies ready to go at Alta

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First time in Solitude, worth the visit

What about Anne languishing back in Brisbane?  Well not exactly.  On the day of my departure Anne transferred and flew to a new role based in Cairns with responsibilities in the Cape and Torres Straight, which will extend her contract until the end of June 2019. When I return to Australia at Easter I will look to spend some time in Cairns and we are thinking of maybe take both Australian motorcycles, “The Bird” and “The Bee” up to Cairns to do some riding in the region, which neither of us has done before.

Between now and Easter, I will be in the UK, both to visit family and friends plus look at getting ‘Streak’ & ‘Storm’ roadworthy for our next adventure(s).  The precise format of the adventure(s) has not been determined but no doubt we will be poring over maps and blogs to identify possible opportunities for a number of shorter journeys to focus, as we said previously, on spending more time in a country or region.  

– Anthony