Six months eighty thousand kilometres for what?
Armidale, New South Wales
The ABC's of motorcycle travel formally began on Wednesday 28th March 2018 with a flight from Australia's highest City ,Armidale, in New South Wales , Australia and finished on Sunday 16th September at 120pm when my Qantas Link aircraft touched down again at Armidale.
Outside of this time frame there and still is much still to do to complete this trip.
My thanks goes fully out to Greg & Kerrie Lane who were instrumental in planning the European section of this adventure and then allowing me to accompany them.
The year before was seen in them and the expected other riders preparing where to go, how to get there and what special events could be included. The two MotoGP's one in Spain and the other in Germany where along with a return visit to The Isle of Man to be the must do highlighlights and indeed they did turn out to be just that.
Our shakedown run to Sydney via little used routes and incorporating a visit to The Syney International Motorcycle show saw our full compliment of 5 bikes participate. However this dwindled to 2 actual bikes doing this ride and one bike with no rider arriving in England.
The trip for me was extended as I chose to have my bike shipped into Athens by Dave of Get Routed and then ride to the top of France after a visit to Italy to link up for the Anzac Day service at VB on their 100th anniversary.
I also added a 4 week extension with my sister joining me in the UK and a further 4 weeks in Canada.
The 80,000kms is based on GPS readings and speedo readings but will never be fully accurate due to GPS distances over water being via straight lines and odd deviations.
However my Triumph speedo recorded 22108kms of additional milage from when it left Austraia until I returned it to Flexistowe for shipping home.
A new bright yellow MG Type 3 hire car also showed 7743kms of travel in England Scotland and Wales.
The Ford Transist Hi Roof showed 1176kms of usage in Canada.
The trip began with the Armidale flight and involved a total of 8 flight, of these 6 were international and two domestic together they covered just on 40,000kms. The flight that offers the best memories is to Iceland where for some time very clear views of the glaciers were commonplace.
I also did 14 boat crossings of which 3 were over night trips. The most memorable of these was the crossing between Sweden and Finland where for much of the journey we were in fjiods less then 80m from mountains.
The trip had however an added historic direction. This being the 75th Anniversary of The Dambusters Raids Greg had programmed in a series of unique visits. We saw The Derwent Valley the practice area for the perfection of the Bouncing Bombs and pilot skills, then it was the three actual dams in Germany where his fiirst hand knowledge was shown and the opportunity to walk each dam wall prevailed. The final resting place of Wing Commandor Guy Gibson in The Netherlands was visited including the actual crashsite and his grave. I was fortunate then to be able to follow up with a visit to Bomber Command in England to see his flight details and witness a Lancaster with Spitfire escorts take off on a commentative flight. The story was completed (well only time will tell) with a visit to Bomber Command in Nanton, Alberta ,Canada and the opportunity to see their Lancaster fitted with a Bouncing bomb and the mechanisms developed to propell it acturately.
Bomber Command UK offered me the opportunity to acquire perhaps my most important souvenier of the trip, a original work of art depiction of the Dambusters Raids signed by two of the then living members of Guy Gibson's crew.
Bomber Command in Canada could not quite match but did send me away with a book telling of the Canadian involvement in these raids and a full embrioried 75th anniversary patch.
The overall highlight is hard to limit to one but despite the previous visits the Isle of Man mountain at speeds in excess of 162kph on the lonely climb up the mountain never ceases to put man in his place.
This speed while fast pales to the 262kph laser measured speed I obtained at Knockhill raceway when driving a Lamborghini Hurricane (the Triumph did manage its usual 200kph on an autobahn).
The IOM this year saw the non racing but attendance of legend John McGuiness. After a serious crash in the 2016 North West 200 John had a leg in traction for 12 months and his racing licence was suspended. We did see him on demonstration laps aboard the SG7 Norton the marque he now represents. I did actually manage to catch up 3 times on this trip the highlight being a cuppa with John. Incidently he did get his racing licence reinstated and competed aboard the Paton that Australian Josh Brookes had won on in 2017 at the Classic TT in August.
John entered in the Senior Classic TT and qualified second a great effort after a 16 month lay off. In the same race also on board a Paton was Maria Costello this being the bike I had highlighted in a previous blog when at Aidensfield (Heartbeat Garage). In a fairy tale finish John McGuinness not only had the fitness level to last the four laps but won by a comfortable margin remarking later "I never thought I'd be able to pull back into this (IOM) winner's enclosure ( he has 23 previous victories) here, but I've worked really hard and it's feels very special."
No trip covering theses distances and events would be without tragedy and this year was hardly different to others.
My blogs reflects the deaths of fellow motorcycle riders such as Dan Kneen,Adam Lyon,James Crowton,Clive Ling & William Dunlop..
William now joins his father Robert Dunlop and his uncle Joey Dunlop as victims of the sport they lived and died for. We completed the trilogy on this trip by visiting Estonia to see the spot where in 2000 Joey Dunlop was killed after previously seeing the memorial gardens in Ballymoney Northern Ireland and the memorial on the mountain top at IOM.
Tragedy is not always motorcycle orientated and so I reported twice on the Humbolt Broncos when 16 team members, two coaches, the team physio, the bus driver and two media reps were killed when their bus was taken(in Saskatchewan) out by a Semi Trailer based at Calgary my usual home base in Canada and the follow upstory on one of the survivors who comes from Airdrie a city to the North of Calgary that I frequently visit. A short follow up on the blog about their first game in the new season playing the same team they were to play before the enroute accident. They scored the first goal before a record sell out crowd but lost 2-1.
Outside of motorcycles this trip had many highlights. I will always remember my attendance at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo where two significant features leave haunting memories. I sat in the Royal box and the Evening Hymn broke with tradition and we all sang Amazing Grace (my request).
This was to say the icing on an Amazing trip as in England I and my sisiter had returned to St Peter and St Paul Church Olney for evensong and they adhered to my request and the services first hymn was Amazing Grace in the very church where its writer John Newton had first released it.
Also outside of two wheels it was great to witness horsepower on four legs with first a visit to Hickstead UK to join the crowd at the All Nations Cup and then sometime later to attend Spruce Meadows in Calgary for The Masters and spend time with Rowan Willis and his parents after sponsoring Rowan as a junior around the Northern Tablelands show jumps and then watch him in the International competitions was a circle unbroken.
Familywise this trip allowed me to again complete a trilogy as I went camping in Alberta with Jody,Megan and Wyatt. This now means I have been privileged to have camped in the wilds of Canada with three generations of the one family.
Was there are things that didnt go to plan or desire. Yes I had 6 breakdowns which included 4 tows at some great expense and one free tow the problem was reoccurring electric issues that finally were traced to overheated wiring probably going back to a 2015 breakdown in Romania. That issue solved and an epic overnight ride in the dark with only one stop for fuel in 6 hours of riding was the last time mechanical issues interfered with the trip.
Yes I didnt get over the Artic circle and no I didnt get into Russia but given all the other places I did get to they can wait for another trip. Yes I did get to Canada,,Greece,Italy,France,Portugal,Spain,Gilbraltar, Morrocco, Andorra, England,Scotland,Wales,The Isle of Man,The Netherlands,Norway(the pick of the crop as far as scenery), Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia,Lithuania,Poland,Germany, Belgium, and of course Australia
There was much more on this adventure and that's the reason I have published over 70 chapters on this epic and over 15000 photo's for you to view.
Was I satisfied with this trip well yes and no of course it was great and the experiences will form lifetime memories but gee it's too hard now to settle down so in a few months join me as I head off again.
The Triumph Sprint ST 1050 is again the bike of choice and after extensive repairs and replacements of chain, sprockets, clutch plates, tyres and a good service it will be off to the WATOC (World Association of Triumph Owners Clubs) first rally in the Southern Hemisphere in Hammer Springs New Zealand plus a host of other events.